Ivano Franco Comelli‘s La Nostra Costa (our coast) sticks an Italian flag in the coast north of Santa Cruz. Ivano Comelli is “un figlio della costa (son of the coast), born and raised on a brussel sprouts rancio.”
Ivano’s family lived on the Coast Road from 1937 to 1953 amongst other ranceri and amici della costa. “Italians who lived on or near the Coast Road would often say that they lived su per la costa, up the coast.” The family home was located on The Gulch Ranch, Il Golce.
“Our single-story batten and board-house had only about 1,200 square feet of actual living space and was separated from the Coast Road by a small patch of lawn, which in turn was surrounded by three sides by a hedge of tall juniper plants. These thick, woody plants shielded the house, somewhat, from the dusty wind, but did little to mitigate the constant noise that was generated by passing vehicles. There were far fewer vehicles on the road in those days; however, it still had a significant amount of traffic.”
Southbound cement trucks traveling the Coast Road to Santa Cruz from Davenport’s Portland Cement Plant would “descend into the gulch and climb a steep grade on the other side. Our house was located right at the top of the grade where the trucks completed their climb. Many times a truck going by was so noisy that our single wall house literally shook on its foundation. Mercifully, when the highway was rebuilt in the latter part of the 1950s, this particular portion of the gulch was mostly filled with rock and sand. The present roadway has a slight dip, but no longer does it have that steep descent.”
La Nostra Costa provides old photos and tells stories of daily life along the coast ranches and in old Davenport. Some things change, some things remain the same: access to beaches bordered by privately-owned land, nudism and sex on the beach while being spied upon from above by boys on the bluff, automobile accidents on the Coast Road, good food and Localism.
During World War II, being immigrants without U.S. Citizenship, these Italians were not allowed west of the Coast Road. “The entire coast from the Oregon border to just below Santa Barbara was declared off-limits to enemy aliens effective February 24, 1942.”