A Little Corner of Moss Beach: An Email Conversation With Elaine Martini Teixeira

lorettaelaine.jpeg(Photo: Elaine Martini Teixeira at right, with her sister Loretta.)

I asked Elaine Martini Teixeira (whose family lived in Moss Beach as early as the mid-1920s) to tell me what she could recall about the photo below, the building once called the Moss Beach Social Club. To acclimate you, today the building is home to St. Seraphims Hermitage.


Half Moon Bay Memories (HMBM): Hi Elaine. I have a photo of the Moss Beach Hall–is this the same place as the Moss Beach Social Club?

Elaine Martini Teixeira (EMT) : Yes, I believe it is, surely looks like it. There was a storeroom on either side of the front entrance doors and that door on the side probably led out from the store room on that side. I sent it on to my Aunt to see if she recognizes anyone. I also spoke to my brother; Raymond Martini, he is going to try and think back, as to who owned it before my Dad bought it. Just called my older sister, Gloria Bernardo, and she told me that Pete and Lillian Francesconi lived there before and may have sold it to my Dad. Lillian was a Bracciotti, family lived on property which is now the HMB airport, she was sister to Lena Matteucci (Dina Meyer’s Mom) in Half Moon Bay and Gino Bracciotti, of El Granada. In the back area, was a bar room and a separate room for cooking area, with a counter. There was a small hallway, which lead into the dance hall area, which had a stage and restrooms on each side of the building. Along each side of the dance hall, a bench lined the walls. I believe I recognaize two of my Mom’s sisters, sitting on a bench, and possibly some of the younger fellows, appear to resemble her cousins, from the Torre family who lived on Sunshine Valley Road, above my Mother’s family home. The gentleman in overalls, back to camera, may be my grandfather, Ottavio Torre.

HMBM: Do the Russian Nuns live there today?

(EMT): I do not know if they live there, today, but the building that was the Moss Beach Club, owned by my Dad, Angelo, is the place the Russian Nuns purchased. I believe they made some changes to it, and of course, it’s a bit hidden from view, now, because of trees, etc. growing on the property.

HMBM: What was it originally called?

EMT: I’m not sure, it might have had a different name, before my Dad had it. He called it the Moss Beach Club. I have forgotten names of some of the streets; the building my Dad had is alongside of the creek, where there are cypress trees, bordering the property and the building (since destroyed in a fire) that was the Moss Beach Grammar School.

We used to live in the grocery store, on Etheldore and Sunshine Valley Road.


Then, after WWII, my parents built a home on Etheldore and Vermont, on property across from the store, he also built two other homes to rent out, on the property. The side of the family home is across the street from the entrance to the Club property. The grocery store was sold to a family, Berg’s, who ran the grocery store for several years until they sold it to someone who lived in the building, but did not have the grocery store, anymore.

HMBM: When do you think your Dad sold the building to the Russian Nuns? What did folks do at the Social Club?

EMT: Sorry, just noticed you had more questions on a previous email. I missed them. I believe, and my younger sister, Loretta Santini confirmed it, was my Mom who sold it to the Russian Nun, after the death of my Dad.. Loretta said she recalls, in-between, my Mom rented it out to someone who lived in the building.

HMBM: When did Dad die?

My Dad died in a truck accident in 1949 and I was married that year, lived on the Coastside for several years, in to of the homes my dad had built for rental, before moving to Redwood City. So, not being at home, Loretta remembers some things I do not remember too well. Loretta believes the Russians either sold some of the property or had a house built and sold it; the house is across the street from the family home on Vermont, which was originally, the entrance to the Club property..

The original Club had lots of empty space around it and a shed or garage off to the side by the creek. When my Dad died, it was difficult for my Mom (had closed store) to keep up the taxes on all the lots, etc. that my Dad had bought over the years. So she sold off the lots very cheap (had to buy some down by the Lighthouse bldg., below hospital, so that she could sell the lots that my Dad bought). She bought the one’s in-between those he bought at tax auctions; the lots were small and could not be used to build homes.

My Dad had a bar in the Club and on a couple of occasions, his brother, Fiorino Martini and family, lived in the building. This brother tended bar for him, during the 1930s, as my Dad was farming, raising sprouts on rental property, in a canyon across from the present airport. My Dad also owned property across from the store, and raised string beans and potatoes there, I remember rather well, having to PICK the beans and dig potatoes! Later, think about when WWII started, he closed the Club and the bar was moved up into the grocery store my Mom was running, where the family lived.

The store was moved into an adjacent, vacant room. Recently, a woman ran an antique store in the building. My Dad, also, held dances, boxing & wrestling matches, and roller skating evenings in the dance hall area.

I have seen photos of wedding parties being held in the dance hall area, probably while owned by Pete Francesconi, he and his wife were known to be good cooks! My Mother’s youngest sister, Lillian Torre’s wedding reception was held at the club while owed by my Dad. My sister, Gloria’s was held at Nerli’s, in Princeton, in 1942, mine at Dan’s Place, Moss Beach, in 1949.

HMBM: Thank you.

(Note to readers: We will have more conversations with Elaine soon.)

….Meet Bay Area Author Lynn Peril….

Got an email from Bay Area author Lynn Peril–she’s the founder of “Mystery Date”: One Gal’s Guide to Good Stuff, click here

and having been a social science college major, I was drawn to her book subject matter.

Take a look: This one’s called: “Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons,” click here 212hg2ftajl_pisitb-dp-arrowtopright21-23_sh30_ou01_aa115_.jpg31pys71hupl_pisitb-dp-arrowtopright21-23_sh30_ou01_aa115_.jpg

And this one’s called: College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens and Co-Eds, Then and Now, click here

About her new book: “Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Social History of the American Secretary,” (to be published by Norton in 2009), author Lynn Peril says:

“My goal is to write good history that’s enjoyable to read; I want general readers to have fun and academics to appreciate the research. The new book, ‘Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Social History of the American Secretary’ will be published by W.W. Norton in 2009. I’m interested in the subject because I did office work for 20 years, the first three as a secretary, the remainder as a word processor. As always, I’m interested in gender roles, and the ones surrounded the secretary are lulus.

“Once she was on the job, the secretary, in the words of historian Alice Kessler-Harris, was expected “to possess all the sympathetic and nurturing characteristics of a good wife.â€? She “radiated the office with sunshine and sympathetic interest,â€? said the Ladies Home Journal in 1916. The Efficient Secretary (1917) counseled the wise worker to “carefully, tactfully protectâ€? her boss “from himself and from his inclination to drift away from his work.â€? In 1931, the New York Times proclaimed the office “A New School for Wivesâ€? and the secretary “doubtless the nearest thing to the old-fashioned wife … modern civilization affords.â€?

“She was “paid to attend to the bothersome details with which he [her boss] cannot concern himself. … She may be counted upon to smile appreciatively at his jokes, even to hold his pencils admiringly …â€? If she was depressed or sad, “office etiquette requires that one be as cheerful as possible,â€? noted The Successful Secretary (1951). A 1970 Business Week article on office workers and drug use noted that according to “numerous anecdotes,â€? a doped-up secretary could fly under the radar of a boss who confused “her dazed condition for love.â€? Yikes.”

….Meet Montara’s Collin Tiura….

Story by June Morrall

Do you know Collin Tiura? You’ve got to meet him. Yesterday he visited us at our home. He’s an adventurer with the best stories to tell—a man who’s done and seen everything and could survive anywhere he wanted to be.

When he was 20, and “this close” to being drafting into the Vietnam War, he asked the draft board how much time he had left before being called up. He was gonna go but he and his two buddies wanted to see Europe first.

He wanted to play by the rules. He asked the Draft Board if he could go on his trip to Europe for

“Two years?”


“One year?”


“Six months?”


Heck, Collin just walked out of there, screw the draft board, and, with his pals, sold what they had, which wasn’t much, maybe $120 bucks of stuff total, so they could hitchhike from California to the East Coast and board a German tanker for Hamburg.

It took a lot of hitchhiking to get to the East Coast. And some of the drivers were, well, I don’t have to tell you that some of the drivers shouldn’t have been driving, and, Collin and the boys were ready to grab the steering wheel should the sudden need for it come up.

This was the mid-1960s, the cultural revolution was upending everything stodgy, and it was fun and Collin and his friends were really free and nobody was going to stop them from having the time of their young lives.

You can imagine the good times a trio of clever, strong “go-for-it” 20-year-olds had in a tanker, the cheapest way to get to Europe, a two week trip by water. There were a total of 9 passengers on aboard, including a couple of pretty American girls—and, when they got tired of looking at each other’s faces, there were enough cases of Beck’s Beer on board to drink as well as squirt at each other, apparently some sort of German tradition.

In Europe they hitchhiked and rode the train to France, to Spain and finally settled down in the Canary Islands, where they got paid to teach tourists to water ski and learn the finer points of underwater diving.

There was just one thing: Only 1 of them had ever water skied and it wasn’t Collin: truth be told, they were learning on the job but you can bet the tourists got their money’s worth.

The boys stayed in Europe a year-and-a-half and when they got back to California, the Draft Board was waiting with orders for them.

I, like Collin, have always enjoyed traveling to places few have seen. In a way, Europe was still like that in the 1960s—the continent was not a place where everybody traveled as if they were commuting to their daily job—as they do today in this global economy.

The only places I can think of that remain mysterious as a travel destination are Outer Space or Beneath the Sea.

I’ve only touched briefly on the flavor of Collin’s stories; we are hoping Collin will share his adventures with all of us in a book, or a movie—. Be sure to ask him about Alaska

Oil Man Ed Doheny Looked For Black Gold on the Coastside

oil25.jpg (Photo: Oil wells on the Coastside?)

Peter Kyne’s Encounter with the Penniless Oil Man (fashioned after the character Daniel Plainview–played by Daniel Day Lewis–in the 2008 Oscar-nominated film “There Will Be Blood“)

Story by June Morrall (1977)

Coastside writer Peter Kyne worked at DeBenedetti’s General Street on Main Street in Half Moon Bay sweeping floors, running errands, and meeting the cast of characters that lived in town in the late 19th century.

From the start, young Peter noted the unhurried way of life that prevailed on Main Street. He was amused as locals in their buggies observed the daily ritual of swinging wide to avoid striking George Wyman’s hound dog, the lovable animal that always lay sound asleep in the middle of the dusty road.

The customers, who, all day long, walked in and out of the general store, often passed the time of day exchanging good gossip which also passed for the latest news. By the end of his first week, Peter learned that not all of the clientele spoke English. So Peter, the future world famous author, quickly picked up just enough Spanish, Portuguese and Italian to get along with everyone.

According to Peter, the two general stores were more than willing to extend credit to anyone–including Satan himself. And if he failed to pay, Kyne joked, they might even consider extending him additional credit.

Still Peter recalled the only time his employer instructed him to cancel somebody’s credit–and that somebody would be the later super-rich oilman Ed Doheny. Doheny stood out among these fortune hunters who drilled for black gold around Half Moon Bay in the 1880s and ’90s.

While Doheny boarded his crew, he bought dry groceries at DeBenedetti’s General Store on credit. But his wells failed to produce oil and soon Doheny’s funds dwindled. Besides already owing several hundred dollars, the best of the gossip said Ed Dohney was broke, bankrupt.

Continue reading “Oil Man Ed Doheny Looked For Black Gold on the Coastside”

1950s “Pete’s Cafe,” A Half Moon Bay Novella by Erich Viktor von Neff

Note: To read Mr. Erich von Neff’s entire piece, go to “Other Work, VI,” or click here

About the Author:

Erich von Neff is a San Francisco Longshoreman. He received his masters degree in philosophy from San Francisco State University and was a graduate research students at the University of Dundee, Scotland. Erich von Neff is well known on the French avant-garde and mainstream literary scenes. he is a member of the Poetes Francais and La Societe des Poetes et Artistes de France.

The author dedicates “Pete’s Cafe” to Dan Durgian of Durigan’s Nursery in Pescadero.

Pete’s Café

Somewhere Near the Great Khan

In Half Moon Bay

A Novella

By Erich Viktor von Neff

Pete’s Café

Chapter One

The Pierce Arrow

The motor of the Pierce Arrow purred. Walt, my grandfather, let it warm up, engaged it in first, and we headed down the old Coast Highway toward Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful road overlooking the sea. Salty air blew through the open windows. We sucked it into our lungs. We drove by fields of artichokes and Brussels sprouts. Broad brimmed hats faced us…occupied by Mexicans, Filipinos, and other farm workers. The Pierce Arrow passed row upon row, field after field of ripe green vegetables.

Our lungs continued to drink in the fecund coastal air. Walt turned off at Half Moon Bay. He drove down Main Street and parked in front of Pete’s Café.

“Buon giorno,�? Pete said in a hearty Italian voice as we entered. “Buon giorno,�? my grandfather replied. They laughed and slapped each other on the back. We found an empty table, amongst the tables of men speaking Tagalog, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. Their voices chiming into one another, clashing, then trailing off.

Pete brought us two bowls of minestrone soup, two Dos Equis beers, Larraburu French bread and butter.

Walt cut off a slice of butter, and dropped it into the soup. He also broke off a piece of French bread which he dipped into the soup from time to time as he ate. I did the same. Was there any better way to eat minestrone soup?

Continue reading “1950s “Pete’s Cafe,” A Half Moon Bay Novella by Erich Viktor von Neff”

Who was Iwan Dolgorouckoff?

Story by June Morrall

Who was Iwan Dolgorouckoff?


There is something in me that welcomes mysteries. That want to solve them. Maybe that’s why I like the past so much. Mystery thrives in the past because if I have a fragment of an event, the people involved, the people who know, are usually gone. That turns it into a mystery. That means I have to put together what little I have and track down what I don’t have. Admittedly, I probably never solve anything; I just create a new mystery but I feel satisfied.

Like me, my dad kept stuff from the past. I don’t know how he managed to keep as much as he did. He had to move from WWII Berlin to Shanghai to San Francisco. My mom kept nothing. I’ll never fully understand her. The fact that she didn’t keep anything is a key to her personality. Just move on, nothing lasts, don’t hold on, or you’ll feel too much pain. She might have come to that conclusion after voluntarily leaving her home in Berlin to join the man she thought she was madly in love with, my dad, a half-Jewish man trying to survive in Shanghai.

She couldn’t have been certain that he loved her. In him, she may have seen the father she lost, shot dead on the last day of WWI in Alsace Lorraine, when she was just a girl.

My father,Charles, was an unusual man. Sensitive. Genuinely thoughtful and concerned, warm but careful in his selection of words.

Like me, dad kept scraps of paper, business cards, letters and envelopes with exotic foreign stamps. He kept the memorabilia for decades, and now I am the lucky recipient, and how I love the mysterious scraps of history that I have inherited. There are invoices with Chinese characters, good as modern art to me. There’s stationery from one of dad’s businesses, blank cream colored paper except for the name at the top: In bold black, “Continental Company,” followed by the Shangahi address.


And there are visuals, too, b/w photographs, plenty of them that lift the curtain of another t : In Europe, Berlin, London, Prague; In Asia, Shanghai, Hong kong.

A treasure for me.

One business card my father carried with him for decades fascinated me as much as the aquamarine ring my mother wore on her right hand. As a kid, the aquamarine ring always captured my attention. Its translucence, elegant square shape, the heavy frame of gold surrounding the soft blue stone. The ring seemed so big to me; I wanted it but thought there was no way I would ever get it. She told me dad had given it to her– and one day, to my total surprise, mom gave me the ring.

Dad kept a business card from Iwan Dolgoroukoff, an eccentric fellow he met in the famous Public Park (where Chinese were not allowed) in Shanghai. There, on the park bench, at one time, or another, my father encountered many of the fascinating exiles living in the international city. Iwan, a Russian, stood out for many reasons but on eof the things my dad couldn’t forget about Iwan was the expensive walking stick he always carried with him. The handle was a gold snake’s head, and when removed revealed a weapon, a sharp dagger.

As a mystery seeker, I could immediately understand the attraction to Iwan Dolgoroukoff, the man who carried a walking stick with a gold snake’s head.

That wasn’t the whole story, though. In time my dad learned that Iwan was in Shanghai, he said, on behalf of Pope Pius XI. My father was of the view that he might have also been a spy.

Continue reading “Who was Iwan Dolgorouckoff?”