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]

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (5) Conclusion!

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie and George Kneese became a formidable duo, winning elections, and wielding political power in the county for a decade. But the power came at a price as each day brought skirmishes with political foes.

1n 1929, the “10 years war” came to the surface, a fight over the allocation of funds between Elizabeth Kneese and J.J. Shields, the county auditor. It flared into the open when Shields refused to honor a $172 claim “for services rendered” by Elizabeth Kneese.

On the surface it seemed petty but the underlying struggle was deadly serious.

Approved by the board of supervisors, Mrs. Kneese’s invoice was for delivering election supplies to 172 precincts in the county for the 1928 presidential election. District Attorney Franklin Swart weighed in, asserting that “the claim was not property itemized.”

“The Kneeses have been bleeding the county right along,” charged Auditor Shields. “My investigation revealed that at least two bunches of those supplies were delivered by Kneese to Pescadero in a county automobile, propelled by county gasoline. I want to know how, and by whom, the other 170 packages were delivered.”

The auditor’s war on Elizabeth Kneese continued. “According to law, the amount paid for such service is left to the judgment of the Auditor, and I intend to know the details.”

Under attack, Elizabeth Kneese, the seasoned politician, brushed it off. “Just the old personal squabble,” she said. “Shields has been warring with my husband, who is county engineer, and me, ever since we took office ten years ago. I delivered practically all of those election supplies myself in our automobile, not because I wanted the money, but so I would be sure they were properly delivered. A dollar a trip to each precinct is cheap enough. Anyway, the Board of Supervisors thought so.”

The voters made their choice at the ballot box, opting not to re-elect the powerful team of Elizabeth and George Kneese.

The precocious Coastside youngster, who became “the most popular teacher” and then one of the County’s powerful women, retired from politics.

Elizabeth Kneese cared for her mom, Meta, until her death in 1935. Two years later Lizzie died at age 54. George Kneese remained active in civic and business affairs, passing away at age 79 in 1964.

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (4)

I wrote this in 1999.

[Do you have a photo of Elizabeth Wienke? of Joe Nash? Please contact me: ([email protected])

Lizzie Wienke Nash was 35- years-old when she was appointed to serve out her deceased husband’s term, the first woman in California to hold the important office of county clerk. Voters enthusiastically returned her to office in the next election.

Lizzie’s aging parents, Jurgen and Meta, moved into the Redwood City home, and a year after Joe’s death, her father passed away and was buried in famous St. John’s Cemetery in San Mateo.

A few years later, Lizzie became romantically linked with County Surveyor George Kneese, a widower. They had much in common. Born in San Francisco in 1885, George Kneese was the son of German parents, as was Lizzie. Six years later, the Kneese family, then operators of a San Francisco hotel, moved to South San Francisco where they opened a grocery store.

After attending local schools, George Kneese studied civil engineering in Germany. Returning to the U.S., he joined a San Francisco engineering firm.

Later he surveyed and platted the town of South City, becoming its city engineer and superintendent of streets. Reportedly, he held the same positions in Daly City, San Bruno, Hillsborough, Atherton, San Carlos, Belmont and Colma.

Committed to improving the county’s roadways, George Kneese was appointed County Surveyor in 1918, while still engaging in private practice.

At the county courthouse in Redwood City, Lizzie and George had adjoining offices; in the course of routine business their romance blossomed, culminating in a marriage proposal. County residents enjoyed her sense of humor when Lizzie announced she would be issuing herself the marriage license.

(Next Part 5)

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (4)

Lizzie and Joe Nash’s Short Life Together & Some Things Never Change

After the 1906 earthquake and fire, bids were put out for repairs to the damaged Redwood City Courthouse. The board of supervisors awarded the contract to the J.J. O’Brien Construction Co. at a total cost of $165,000, an impressive amount at the time.

The scandal started when Nash discovered the minutes of a Board of Supervisor’s meeting which mysteriously appeared on his desk, authorizing additional expenses for the courthouse dome. Nash knew no such meeting had taken place.

Under great pressure, Nash revealed the true facts to P.P. McEvoy, the new supervisor who brought it to the attention of the Grand Jury, sparking an official investigation leading to a dramatic shakeup in county government.

Joe Nash emerged from the controversy with a solid reputation for honesty, courage and integrity. All the while Lizzie had a front row view of the County’s rough and tumble politics.

Joe and Lizzie breathed politics, and he considered running for the state senate. But tragedy struck: Joe fell ill and died during the 1919 influenza pandemic.

(next Part 5)

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (3)

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie Wienke, the most popular teacher in San Mateo County, meets Joe Nash, the well-liked County Clerk.

Like Lizzie, Joe Nash was a “true Coastsider.” Although born in San Rafael, Joe and his family moved to Half Moon Bay, where he attended the local schools. His father served on the board of education, and before turning to politics, Joe taught school. He met a wide variety of people, helping build his political base, while working for Levy Bros. at their string of general stores in Pescadero, San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay and San Mateo.

Elected County Clerk in 1906, Joe Nash quickly became highly regarded as a public servant. On one occasion, a couple anxious to “tie the knot” woke him up at midnight seeking his signature on their marriage license. Nash graciously complied and even served as the best man for the spontaneous ceremony.

A year later, Lizzie Wienke and Joe Nash themselves were wed at the Moss Beach Hotel, with only relatives present.

After the nuptials, the newlyweds departed for San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel aboard the Ocean Shore Railroad, reportedly the first bridal couple to travel over the breathtaking scenic route.

A six-week honeymoon took the Nashs to the East Coast and Toronto, Canada, where Joe represented California at the Independent Order of Foresters’ convention. Upon their return to San Mateo County, Lizzie and Joe settled down in a Redwood City home constructed on the lot Lizzie won two years earlier in the popularity contest.

The honeymoon was barely over when Joe Nash became a central figure in the worst political scandal in San Mateo County’s history.

(Part 4 coming next)

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (2)

Lizzie Wienke’s first job was teaching at the Montara Point School. The position earner her local celebrity status, and in the early 1900s she was invited to read the Declaration of Independence at an annual Fourth of July celebration held in Half Moon Bay.

But there were bigger things in store for Lizzie. When she was 23-years-old, Lizzie’s name was entered in a highly publicized contest, sponsored by the San Mateo Times, to determine the most popular teacher in the county.

The Times acknowledged the contest was a promotion to boost circulation. Anyone wishing to cast a vote for their favorite teacher had to first subscribe to the paper.

As the early votes were tallied, Miss Agnes Gilligan of San Mateo, appeared to be a shoo-in, with more than 11,000 votes. Miss Victoria E. Roussell of Belmont, her closest competitor, amassed but 4,000 votes.

And then the competition evolved into an exciting horse race, with the results uncertain. Thirty minutes before the contest officially closed, Lizzie Wienke’s friends rallied, and the votes poured in non-stop for the Montara Point schoolteacher.

At the final count, it was a landslide. With more than 40,000 votes cast for Lizzie, she now proudly wore the mantle of “the most popular teacher in San Mateo County.” Her prize was a building lot in Redwood City’s Wellesley Park, valued at $700.

It seemed fitting the congenial Miss Wienke would fall in love with a man equally well-liked. The lucky fellow was San Mateo County Clerk John Nash.

[Next Part 3]

Lizzie Wienke’s Story: From Coastside Teacher to County Politician (1)

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie Wienke followed in the footsteps of her dad, the “mayor” of Moss Beach

In the 1890s the guests came from all over to enjoy the Moss Beach Hotel, and they were enchanted by Elizabeth Wienke,  the resort owner’s precocious daughter. Later, Elizabeth used her positive impact on people in the bare-knuckle world of San Mateo County politics.

Called “Lizzie,” she was born in 1883, the only child of Meta and Jurgen F. Wienke, proprietors of the Moss Beach Hotel on the San Mateo County Coastside. The resort’s extraordinary location near the crashing surf allowed the child to wander on the nearby unique beach, playing among the exposed reefs at low tide. Looking back at the sea cliffs through the mist, she could barely make out the roofline of her family’s hotel, which resembled a large home.

On her way to and from school, Lizzie walked along the cypress tree lined avenue, planted by her father, and called Wienke Way in his honor.

As a young man, Jurgen Wienke worked as a gardener, landscaping estates in Germany, the place of his birth. On the Coastside, hotel owner Jurgen Wienke was so highly regarded that he was called the “mayor” of Moss Beach.

In the 1880s, the Wienke’s hotel was so remote passengers arrived by stagecoach. The coming of the Ocean Shore Railroad changed that, bringing guests from San Francisco and beyond. A tidy stone and wood train station, just steps away from a small commercial sign, directed passengers to the cypress tree-lined lane leading to the Wienke’s popular resort.

Some guests came tor relax in the refreshing climate, renting a rowboat at the Reefs, a seafood cafe situated on the sandy dunes. Others, like Stanford President David Starr Jordan, whose interest was marine biology, studied the varied and abundant sea life.

Whether lured by the crashing surf or the isolated beaches, coves and caves, all agreed you dare not miss the abalone, eel and fried chicken dinners prepared by Meta Wienke, assisted by her capable daughter Lizzie.

Part 2 next

Remembering Dan’s Motel & Restaurant: Story by Elaine M. Teixeira, with Lena Parks***

(In this photo you can see the sign for “Dan’s Place which was located on the hill [look for the big windows] overlooking Moss Beach.

Remembering Dan’s Place

Story by  Elaine M. Teixeira, with Lena Parks***

The Bortolotti family moved to Moss Beach from Orland, California (approx. 1924) where they owned a turkey farm.  Because Dan suffered from asthma, they left to live on the coastside.

Dan and Kina  the family first lived in a house, up on the hill, across from the Moss Beach Grocery Store.

Later, they moved into the service station, along side of the grocery store.  From there, (in approx. 1930-31) they moved into the structure which became known as Dan’s Place.  Previously, in the building, there was a church and a dance hall.

Dan and  Kina opened a restaurant and bar, with Kina doing most of the cooking.  Dan tended bar and his brother John helped out.  Dan’s sister also came from Italy with her son Domenic, but she soon returned to Italy; her son later opened up the hotel and  restaurant in Half Moon Bay known as Domenic’s, and which now is known as the San Benito House.

In time, Lena Park’s older sister, Laura, was helping with the cooking, Lena (Parks) waited on tables, and their brother, Barney, helped tend bar.

There were approx. 11 rooms upstairs, which members of the family occupied, though Dan and Kina, also lived in a home, on the room north of the restaurant facing the post office. Later, Mrs. Tyler, a school teacher at the Moss Beach grammar school, lived in the house, and then, Barney and his family.  On the other side of the building, below Dan’s, is another house which at that time, faced the grammar school, and was owned by Dan and rented out.

They also opened a grocery store in the corner of the building, near the grammar school, which later, during WWII, became a hamburger shop, run by Lena and husband Kenny Parks, a service man stationed in the area.

On the north side of the building stood an auto repair shop with gas pumps, operated by Tony Claudino, and then Tony Bettencourt. There was also a barber shop on the side.  Dan’s Place was enlarged and blue windows were installed to cut down on the sun’s glare.

At some point, Dan had a motel built on the cliff, near the ocean, by the Catholic Church; the motel could be seen from the coast road.  It was a popular spot for some of the customers at the restaurant; fishermen wanting to stay overnight, and travelers passing through. Both Laura and Lena had to make up beds and clean the rooms after school. Uncle John would tend to the motel business, and later, a sign was posted to tell customers to sign in at the restaurant.

(Dan’s Motel overlooked the Pacific in Moss Beach; it was an example of the classic 1940s-50s drive- in motel)

In 1947, the parents were in a very bad auto accident, and Dan died a day later in the hospital; Kina was severely injured and never fully recovered.  The  two older children, Laura and Barney married and their spouses (Laura married Frank Bertolacci ,and Barney married Frank’s sister, Josephine) worked in the business. Frank Bertolacci tended bar, and his sister, Josephine (Tye,) worked as a waitress and cooked in the kitchen.

Laura tended bar sometimes. She was one of the few women who could tend bar. In those days, no woman could tend bar unless her name appeared on the official licenses and if she had an interest in the business.

At some point they hired a cook; eventually, Barney and Josephine were the only ones left running the business.  When they retired, their three daughters, Donna Lou, Janette and Debbie ran the restaurant. Their Mom, Josephine, continued to help in the kitchen and Donna’s spouse tended bar until the building was sold.  Barney’s son, Danny,opened an auto shop built down near Hwy One, which he ran.  Later it was sold and is currently where the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Dept. houses their vehicles.
***Lena Parks is the youngest child of Dan & Kina Bortolotti who owned Dan’s Place in Moss Beach.  She was 2 yrs old when they moved to Moss Beach and she atttended the grade school in Moss Beach and graduated from the high school in Half Moon Bay.  She married Kenny Parks, a service man, on the coastside during WWII and they raised three daughters.  They lived with their family in Redwood City, she is now widowed and lives in the San Jose area.

***Elaine Martini Teixeira says: I worked when Tony and I first married, for about five years or more, until I started a family, lost first child, so returned to work, then was off for about 15 yrs raising the two children. In the early part of marriage, I worked in HMB for a couple of different government, farm organizations, PMA, Soil Conservation and Farm Advisors. I also worked for the County of San Mateo in Recorder’s office and School Dept. When I returned to work after raising family, worked for a laundry rental company and then the County of SM for 22 yrs.

(Photo: Elaine M Teixeira, wearing white, with sister Loretta).

To read Elaine’s other stories, click here

1930s: Lillian Renard Tells Us What It Was Like Working At The Moss Beach Post Office

[Photo: Lillian Renard at Half Moon Bay Joe’s Restaurant]

A Typical Day working at the Moss Beach Post Office in the 1930s

Story by Lillian Renard

When I graduated from the Half Moon Bay High School in 1931, I was offered a job at the Moss Beach Post Office by R. Guy Smith, the Postmaster.

I was glad to get the job as there weren’t many jobs available in this small town. Picking peas and wiring and bunching strawflowers were a few of them.

The mail arrived by truck at the Post Office n the morning and was sent out in the afternoon. I distributed the mail to the mailboxes, sold stamps and money orders and weighed packages to be mailed. Also sold the daily papers that came on the mail truck.

I soon found that not only did I work in the Post Office but the Postmaster was also a Telephone Company Agent. There was a Telephone Switchboard at one end of the Office. Automated Dialing had not been installed yet on the Coastside. . So besides being a Post Office Clerk I was also a Telephone Operator.

I soon found that I was a Jack of all Trades. There was a branch of the County Library in the side room where books were available to be borrowed. To this very day my niece, Elaine Teixeira gripes that I wouldn’t let her take out certain books.

The Postmaster was also an electrician who did electric wiring so there were electric items and some hardware there to be sold. There was usually an electric refrigerator and or a radio to be sold also. I actually sold a refrigerator once but didn’t get a commission. I guess that wasn’t done at that time. When the radio didn’t sell the Postmaster gave it to me for Christmas and I was glad to get it. That more than made up for the lack of commission.

The Telephone Switchboard was another story. There were local lines and party lines but only 2 Long Distance Lines . One party line had 7 parties on it so when some one was using it too long and another person wanted to use it an argument would start and “Get Off The Line” and more would be heard.

During the World War II years I moved to San Francisco to work at Southern Pacific. When the war ended, my fiance returned from the Pacific area. He had been gone for 4 years, 4 months and 4 days. We were married Dec. 9, 1945.
A little silent video called ” Lunch with Aunt Lil and Elaine M. Teixeira at Joe’s Half Moon Bay. Burt is in it, too. Also, Bev Cunha Ashcraft and her friend were lunching behind us. Coincidentally, Elaine Teixeira and Bev Cunha Ashcraft went to school together in Half Moon Bay.


Coastside WWII: “We did see lots of convoys, army trucks,” says Elaine Martini Teixeira,

a child at the time. Elaine lived with her family in Moss Beach near Sunshine Valley Road (the lovely “connector” road between Montara and Moss Beach.) Dad owned a bar frequented by the sailors at the nearby naval station. Mom took care of her children and helped her husband.

“I guess the military men came down from SF, on their way to Fort Ord in Monterey. Sometimes only a few drove by, but often, there was a very long convoy, and they had the right of way,” explained Elaine.

“You did not get in between the vehicles. So, if we were coming on to the main road, Highway 1, from a side street, such as we did from our garage on Sunshine Valley Road, we had to wait for the convoy to finish, and it could be a long wait, maybe as long as 15-20 minutes. If you saw them coming, the best thing to do was to get out on the road, ahead of them.”

“There were mainly trucks,” remembered Elaine, “covered with canvas tops, with soldiers in the back, and an occasional jeep, in between. Some vehicles were around because they were stationed at local military installations, such as the airfield and Coast Guard in Princeton.

“On the coast road, at Devil Slide, there was a small army post up on a mountain top. You could see it from the highway. It was rather small; I believe it was there to track airplanes. There was a long narrow stairway leading from the road to the building. I have no idea how the men walked up and down that steep stairway without falling into the ocean, especially if they had been out celebrating!

It was there for several years after the war, and you can still the foundation of the structure. My then future sister-in-law, Hazel Dooley, married one of the fellows who was stationed there, O. B. Dooley.”

Top Photo: (At far right Elaine Martini Teixeria with sister Loretta.)