The Sylvia Parker Story: Early Moss Beach

[Image below. The Moss Beach Gas Station (that stood on the east side of Hwy 1) Mrs. Parker refers to in her letter. My neighbor, Mrs. Pacini, a longtime Coastsider, now in her 90s, believes some of her relatives are pictured,]


[ Thank you Mrs. Parker, who is Elaine Martini Teixeira’s cousin. More pix coming.]

[Image below: “My father and his two brothers lived and worked at this ranch when they first came to America.” Mrs. Parker’s father is the last man standing in the back row.]

Dear Ms. Morrall,

As you will see I am not a writer.
I will do the best I can.
I wish I could tell you more.
May name is Sylvia nee Belli Parker.
I’m now a widow living in Cameron Park. I was born August 21, 1920. At that time we were living in one part of the house of Peter B. Kyne [the author] where my father farmed the land nearby.
[Image below: “My father loved his cars. This was in front of the Kyne house, Moss Beach.”]
We later moved to a house, he (my father) had built on Etheldore (in Moss Beach) –
[Below: Images of the house then and now. I hope I got them in the right order]
It’s across the street from the grammar school.

Also across the street –later– a bocce ball was situated In the background

is the home of my mother’s brother, Roy Torre, and his wife, Pia, nee Nerli and children, David and June.

[Image below: “Torre Home on Sunshine Valley Road.” It was also a grammar school at one time.]

My father was born in 1889 in San Donato near Lucca in Tuscany, Italy. In 1906 he came to Moss Beach. He was sponsored by a local farmer.
[Image below: “Father farming near the railroad”]

He became a USA citizen in 1917. He was quite ambitious and later farmed artichokes and sprouts on some of the land that now is the airport near Princeton. In 1917 he married my mother, Rose Torre.

My mother was born in 1898 to Octavia and Eugenia Torre
[Image below: “Love this picture of my grandfather Octavio Torre.]
in San Francisco. After the San Francisco earthquake, the family moved to Moss Beach on Sunshine Valley. I’m sure that my aunt Lillian (Torre) Renard will tell you more of the Torre family.

I failed to mention he (Mrs.Parker’s father) built the service station in Moss Beach.


You have a picture of it and of him in your book, “Half Moon Bay Memories.” The other two people I’m not sure; I think they rented and operated the station.

In 1932 –we–my father, mother and I traveled to Italy where we stayed with relations for three months. When we returned he built the Half Moon Bay Inn.
[Image below: The Half Moon Bay Inn on Main Street, before and today.]

He leased it to Charles Carlini (not a good idea). So–my father took it over–I think it was in 1936.

The Moss Beach house was sold to my mother’s sister Eva and her husband Albert Quilici (ed. I have to re-check the spelling] and we moved to an apartment in the Half Moon Bay Inn.

I attended Half Moon Bay High School and graduated in 1935. I commuted to San Mateo Junior College. Before I even completed the first year he (my father) converted one corner of the Half Moon Bay Inn into a soda fountain and made me the proprietor at the age of 18 and a half. I operated it all through World War 2–quite an experience. Also very successful.
[Image below: “My cousin Raymond Martini home on leave.”]
In 1944 I married Jack Parker, a local young man. We lived in the apartment above the fountain. Son Jack was was born in 1947. In 1949 we moved to San Bruno into a new home.

My husband worked for RCA in San Francisco and was an excellent professional musician (trumpet). My daughter Janet was born in 1953. She was a well known journalist with the San Mateo Times. She married James Beck from San Bruno. Sadly, at the age of 41 she died, leaving a five-year-old daughter Amanda.

Our son, Jack, graduated from San Jose State. So did Janet. He became a music teacher and married Sally Graham. They have two sons—22 and 28 years old.

After [my husband] Jack retired, we moved to Cameron Park in 1981. I continue to live here. My son, Jack and his wife lived Rancho Murieta. I wish I could tell you more but I think you have more in your book, “Half Moon Bay Memories.”

Forgot to mention —-I can’t recall the date my mother and father were living in which is now called Pacifica (at that time it was Edgemar). He had a bar there. In May 1956 he was trying to repair a garage door. The spring broke loose from the wall and hit his skull. He died two days later. After that mother lived in Burlingame and later with me. She died in a convalescent home in 1963.

Sylvia Parker June 2009
[Image below: Family picture]

I hear from Deb Wong (New Spring Mountain Gallery Opening Coincides with the Chamarita)

While visiting the Chamarita, drop by Deb and Michael Wong’s Spring Mountain Gallery Opening tomorrow, Saturday, at 890 Main Street, a short walk from the historic festivities. 
Hi June,
Been busy at the gallery since we moved there, and little time on the PC, except for when I’m doing jobs for clients!  Just finished a poster of a graduate with her new car – Michael took the photos, then I worked on all the images, & made the poster. Did a lot of scans/restores for another client today, in addition to the framing jobs.  Re-did Fayden Holmboe’s business cards for his officiant business (I designed them using one of Michael’s wedding shots) & when Fayden came in to pick them up, he mentioned you, said that you have a photo of him in your blog when he was younger, wearing basically the same clothes as he does today. We are that way, as well…we’re just plain folks, I guess.  Fayden has been performing weddings at the Oceano, says that Nancy Neerhan is great to work with. 
O.k., you asked for some hot pix, but right now I have nothing really exciting.  Attached are pics of some of the jobs we worked on today, and of our new lighted OPEN sign, with our Grand Opening banner made by our friend Art Jurado.  I also took a shot of the big office space that Scott Frazier is letting us use for our opening party, as our gallery is too tiny to host it completely.  Michael put up a lot of our photos on the walls, and we set up a table where his daughter Kaitlyn and her friends will be pouring the wine & sodas. 
What we didn’t know when we chose the 30th is that it coincides with the 138th Annual Holy Ghost Festival.  Well, if anyone gets bored at our place, they can stroll up the street – 1 block up – for carnival rides and other festivities.   
 Right now, Michael is talking to his daughter Kaitlyn about what food to bring…….he’s asking me what I think…gotta go….more later!
Take care,
[Images below and above from Deb and Michael Wong. “Workload” and “Big Room”

Silvia Scheibli’s Tequila Adventure…A Five-Hour Ride Across the Border, Through a Remote Mural Covered Canyon, Well, I’ll Let Her Tell the Story




Story by former Coastsider Silvia Scheibli, who now lives and heads the English department at a school in Arizona. Silvia is also a well known published poet.

[Note: This weekend  Silvia and four “experienced” friends, fluent in Spanish,  traveled across the border into Mexico to buy special tequila– like “moonshine,” she told me because the alcohol is homemade. This is not illegal, and it is well known,  but not a recommended adventure for amateur American tourists. Along the way, they passed through a fantastic canyon, that in February  showed no sign of the huge murals she saw on this trip, her first. When they got hungry, the friends stopped at a small house and asked where they could have lunch–they were sent to an old woman’s home where she prepared a meal for the tequila-seekers.]

silvialeaningSays Silvia: I  have some pictures from our trip to Banamichi, Arizpe and Cucurpe. All fascinating, sleepy little towns south of the border close to the foothills of the Sierra Madre where the marijuana is being grown, also known as the profitable crop. Saw a few narco homes, but mainly we stayed out of the dangerous areas.


 I took pictures of old churches, pictographs, a modern hotel and murals in a canyon with wild horses and burros. The tequila we brought back is known as bacanorra and is home-made in the mountains.  It can not be purchased anywhere else other than in this region. The business was in a house next to a cemetery. 



A woman and her twin girls poured the stuff into a gallon water bottle for us and gave us a shot for the road. Instant buzz!
When we pulled out of the driveway, three adult males left by the back door. We had not seen them at all while we were in the kitchen and it was a very small place. The probably left to buy beer.


Joseph w Guillaume: Aloha Half Moon Bay

jwgrightlauhalaStory by Joseph w. Guillaume

Email Joe:


I grew up in Half Moon Bay. Well at least from 1966 to 1978. In 1978 I returned home to Hawaii. I was hanai (adopted Hawaiian style by my great-grand-mother). My mother growing up in Papakoleo (lands squatted on by Hawaiians) she learned Portuguese from going to Nuuanu stream, which cut directly through  the prominent Portuguese community of Punchbowl.

I am sorry to say all I can remember of the coastside was FOG! 1972 you must remember FOG. It was even thicker when I was younger. How many of those Silicon Valley yuppies would stay 5 minutes once the fog hit? I go to HMB now to visit and there is sun, incredible! HMB has a beautiful history and seeing your article about Chamarita was heart warming. My mother would always eavesdrop on the Portuguese and found it wasn’t that much harder to eavesdrop on the Spanish speakers.

I remember getting out of school half day to go to Chamarita on Friday. The horse race was the big thing. Anybody who was a pillar of HMB society had a Horse Clock won at the Chamartia. I believe it was impossible to win the clock in one year, so you would trade up every year to you reached the horse clock.

It is funny because the California coast has so many Portuguese, it was rumored that the Portuguese that were to be taken to Hawaii got sea sick an jumped ship (which left them in Cali). That makes sense because looking at the local (Hawaii) Portuguese and the Cali Portuguese you see the same strength and farming abilities. Bet because Hawaii is such a multi-cultural place Portuguese know they are Portuguese! In Cali they think they are Hoale (white-people). Take it from me Portuguese are HARD workers!

Have you ever heard of Frank Delima? I admire your web site and the type of work you do. I would like to say I have fond memories of Chamarita, but to be honest they were just drunk fun times! HMBPD didn’t want us to parade Willie da midget down Main street on a hand truck. How about the bowling alley next to where Gilcreast drugs use to be. I remember Angeline’s store (kitty corner HMB Inn) he looked just like the guy from Mission Impossible.

In time my classmates will be living treasures. Pete Peterson (his wife Janice Boralloti) and Mateo Pacheco. It wasn’t just the Portuguese, the Italians made great contributions. It not we wouldn’t of had Mr. HMB (Salamone’s) Bakery (Kandi another classmate).

Aloha and keep up the good work,

Joseph w. Guillaume

Erich von Neff: Bohemian Fiction: “Lunch Expresso”

Lunch Expresso by Erich von Neff

Joe Lauracella said that deep within the forest near Skyline Ridge there lived a danseuse named Karin Yamakawa who was rumored to have pouty lips and perhaps much more. At the time (the late 1950s) beatnik artists of various persuasions lived in little enclaves in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

We were about to have one last drink at Pete’s Cafe in Half Moon Bay when Pete said, “Why not have a San Miguel? Why not have a Rainer Ale?”

We each had a San Miguel, climbed in the Red Lancia, headed for La Honda, and then toward the ridge. About half a mile from Skyline we turned off on an old logging road which wound through the redwood forest. Presently we came to an A frame which had seen better days.

Joe parked the red Lancia. We knocked on the door. Could he be right? Would we soon find out?

Soft footsteps approached. Hopefully she was alone. Shortly a woman with penetrating black eyes opened the door, said something quietly to Joe, then motioned us both inside.

Speakers, some large, some very tiny, were in asymmetrical arrangements in the walls. Egg cartons were also on the walls, as were coffee sacks: Colombian, Kenya, Guatemala, Costa Rica….

There were in those days, supposed to be very important empirical reasons for these arrangements. The hi-fi worked better that way. And you found this out by constantly rearranging various permutations, of speakers, egg cartons, and coffee sacks, until you found the right mix. Though there were always some adjustments to be made.

The speakers, amplifier, and turntable were all built from Heath Kits, modified, of course.

In keeping with the times, the overall mood was Zen. The speakers egg cartons and coffee sacks were on the clean surface of the redwood walls…Lines. Forms.

“O-kesa*” (Priest’s robe).

I had seen Alan Watts on T.V. discussing “The Way of Zen.” “The Spirit of Zen.”

“Sodesuri.” (cutting the sleeve.)

We sat on “tatami” (mats) listening to Japanese music. The samiseen** played quietly, quietly. 

This was the era of cheap wine. We drank Gallo Sherry.

Karin spoke with a trace of Japanese accent; her father had come from Osaka and was now a longshoreman in San Francisco. She wore: black Leotards, a grey sweater….hand-knitted, perhaps by herself. Her hair was straight and black.

Karin’s legs were stretched out in front of her, like a ballerina resting. She was, in fact, in an avant- garde  company in Palo Alto: Group 10.

The Leotards were definitely alluring. The sweater a little loose fitting for my taste. The Japanese music a little more subdued than I was used to.

Was she “Die Frau ohne Schatten?” (The woman without a shadow).

And what was Group 10?

Supposedly she had danced in “Lunch Expresso” in Half Moon Bay. Black leotards had crisscrossed each other as had arms. For those who had seen it, “Lunch Expresso” seemed nothing more than various human beings in disorganized groups. Which may have even been the point.

Joe and Karin began a conversation which I punctuated at odd intervals.

Ryo kuruma” (Pair of wheels)

Finally, we passed out from the wine. We woke up in the morning. The sunlight sifting through the redwoods. 

“Kurumasaki” (The end of the wheel).

The speakers, egg cartons and coffee sacks on the redwood walls were like Japanese block prints. Reproduced. Reproduced.

“Namu Amida Batsu” (Homage to the Amida Buddha)

Karin was gone. “Lunch Expresso” was playing in Half Moon Bay.


Note from June: There were some *** in the above piece by Erich, and I have now misplaced the story but I will fix it soon.

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 student 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. In the course of thirteen years he has had the following publications in France (in French)

Poems: 903

Short Stores: 135

Small press books: 8

A Victor Hugo prize was awarded to Erich von Neff’s novel, “Une Lancia rouge Devale Lombard Street A tombeau ouvvert,” 1998

Cliff Pierce: 1932: Taking the High Road to Half Moon Bay

Story by Cliff Pierce

The year was 1932. Late on a July afternoon a low level mixture of clouds and fog moved in from the ocean off Half Moon Bay, swirled up the Pilarcitos Valley and settled on the hills and mountain ridges to the east in less than an hour what had been a bright, sunny day become gray and dreary. By seven o’clock it was almost dark and getting darker by the minute.

On the other side of the mountains in San Mateo, Ludmilla Pierce waved a final goodbye to her husband and watched his train pull out of the station. Her son, Stanley, was with her. Her thoughts shifted to the long drive back to their vacation cottage in the Santa Cruz mountains, It was over on the coastside in the Butano Canyon near Pescadero; the first part of their trip would take them across Crystal Springs Lakes, up the mountain through the pass and down the old road to Half Moon Bay. She put the car in gear and headed for the hills.
At nine o’clock that night high on the mountainside near the summit, Ludmilla suddenly hit the brakes and came to an abrupt stop. The road in front of her had disappeared! She could see nothing beyond the headlights. The sat there for a minute, then fourteen year old Stan opened the car door and stepped out into darkness and chilling, dense fog. His mother sat tensely behind the wheel.
Stanley moved cautiously. He saw dirt under his feet, not pavement Sliding one foot past the other, he felt his way forward. He hadn’t gone ten feet, when realized exactly where they had stopped. What he saw was to stick with him for the rest of his life as one of his most terrified moments. He was on a ledge. Three feet from his toes, the ground dropped away into black space. Between the fog and the darkness there was nothing out there to be seen. They had been that close to going over the edge!
He moved back to the car and found the pavement a few feet to the rear. His eyes became more accustomed to his surroundings, and he could actually see where he was walking. He and his mother came up with a plan. He would walk a few feet ahead of the car on the edge of the asphalt and guide her down. It wouldn’t be too far before they would break out beneath the clouds. With Stan’s help, they got the big family Caddy back on the pavement and began their slow descent. Would they meet other traffic? They hoped not, and they didn’t.
But, we have to remember, it was 1932.
A hitchhiker on this road might have to wait an an hour before seeing another car. They eventually broke out into the clear and made the rest of the trip with no more thrills. It had been a night to remember!
Remnants of the “old highway” that my mother and brother were on that night still cling to the mountainside high above today’s #92. Driving east out of Half Moon Bay, starting up the hill to the summit, a driver can see traces of the roadbed still evident far up the hillside on the left. And he can be thankful that he’s down here instead of up there!
When you spot it, you will be seeing the former San Mateo and Half Moon Bay Turnpike. In the 1860s it was carved out and graded by hand, horsepower and dynamite. In deep dust or at its muddy, slippery, twisty worst it was used by horse-drawn wagons and coaches to haul cargo and passengers over the mountain. Considering that a team of six horses pulling a stagecoach or freight wagon would take up fifty feet of space, front to back, there must have been some dicey confrontations up there on that mountainside when two such rigs met headon at a hairpin turn.
What if they meet in such a spot? Which one backs up? How do you throw into reverse six horses attached to a 2,000-pound wagon? Add to this that the road at times was little better than a wide trail hanging on the edge of the mountainside with a 500-foot drop inches away from the wagon wheels.
Travelers lurching down this narrow, stomach churning road in horse-drawn carriages had probably given up any previous thoughts of lunch or dinner long before they reached Half Moon Bay!
As it neared the bottom, it crossed Pilarcitos Creek nearly a mile back in the canyon and finally joined today’s highway where it flattens out in the valley. As motor cars became popular, the old road was finally paved in the early 1900s, and horse traffic on it became history.
By 1920 nearly every family in California had at least one car, and loved to use it. By 1939 the former “Spanish Trail”/Spanishtown & San Mateo Road just couldn’t handle the road anymore, and the present roadway from the summit down through the canyon was built. The old Turnpike west of the summit to the valley floor was abandoned in 1939. In spite of a whole dictionary of words to draw from, the official label for the new stretch on County maps was “105A.”
Visiting portions of the old highway today, I can’t think of a better word for it than “abandoned.” Short stretches of crumbling asphalt are overgrown by brush and poison oak. Much has completely dropped away down the hillside. The only tracks in the dirt are of deer and small animals. Standing up there on a windblown remnant of this old turnpike, knowing who had been there before, looking down and watching four lanes of traffic speeding pell- mell through the canyon below on the highway that had made this one unnecessary.
I felt world apart from what I was seeing. And I wondered: What’s next?