Rina’s father set up a vegetable stand half-a-mile north of Half Moon Bay on the “Lopes Ranch.” As a teenager, Rina often worked there. Her future husband “Italo used to stop and visit. One time he gave me a ride. I was walking to Half Moon Bay with a heavy pack filled with clothes I was going to send to my grandmother in Italy.” After that Italo stopped by the vegetable stand regularly.
When they wed in 1931, the “padrone” John Patroni loaned his Cadillac car to the happy couple. Italo ‘s brother, Egisto, who later owned gas stations in Moss Beach and Princeton, drove them to Half Moon Bay–in style–for the wedding ceremony held in the “little” [by little, she meant the old, now gone] Catholic Church.
At their first home in Princeton, Rina and Italo farmed 75-acres in artichokes and sprouts. They rented the land from the Danieri brothers, who lived in what is today the San Benito House on Main Street. Two or three men worked for the Pacinis; Rina did the cooking.
At Pete Gianni’s saloon, Rina’s mother met her father. They married and moved to a farm in Princeton across the way from the airport. Rina was born there in 1911.
“We were poor farmers; we never owned any land,” Rina said. Her family later moved to another house near Denniston Creek.
Diversions were few in those days. Even riding the Ocean Shore Railroad to San Francisco for entertainment was expensive. Friends and family gathered in Princeton “to play the accordion and they used a tub to play the drums. When they made red wine, they made gallons of it.”
Rina fondly recalls the “sour bread” her uncle made–and the delicious focaccia. “They put raisins in it God it was good!”
Before 1941 and for a time thereafter Dianda and John Patroni were called “the padrones or the “bosses.” Patroni owned the Patroni House in Princeton near the present site of the Half Moon Bay Brewery Co.
“He [Patroni] and Dianda owned most of the property” in El Granada and Princeton,” said Rina.
In 1910 Rina’s mother came from Italy to work as a cook in Miramar for Pete and Iacopina Gianni, who ran a lively saloon where “all the Italians went dancing.” The building with a false front and bedrooms in the back is a private residence today.
“Pete Gianni’s wife was my mother’s paisano,” explained Rina. Iacopina and Rina’s mother had lived in the same Italian village, bonding their friendship.
“My mother was 18,” Pacini said. She was short, 4’11”, and as a child was called “the little blondina. She was poor. She lived up in the hills where they had cobblestone streets.”
Rina found it ironic that tourists now find her mother’s Italian village picturesque. Her mother was anxious to escape to America in the early 1900s.
…but now (the exterior) of the new & expanded Ocean Studio is done at last (whew!)
Below: Here’s another image from our building of the new Ocean Studio, of my
son Marc with the burl we are going to cut to make a beautiful
conference table for the new studio – yet another fun adventure!
It was the 1940s, the beginning of World War II and the army was building a several million dollar airstrip at Princeton. When Rina and Italo Pacini received the official notice to vacate their condemned two-bedroom rented house nearby, they did not take it seriously.
“Italo was from the ‘Old Country,’ explained Rina, “and as old-fashioned people we didn’t believe we would really have to move.”
The first notice had given the farming family a comfortable three months but they were taken by surprise when the three-day order to vacate arrived in the mail. “We had to get out because they needed our site for the new airport,” Rina said.
Although they didn’t have much time to pack their personal belongings, gather the tools and round-up the horses, the Pacinis would hardly miss the old house that once stood behind the Princeton Inn.
“The water came in when it rained and the wallpaper buckled when the wind blew,” she recalled matter-of-factly. Skunks were serious pests and sometimes they died beneath the house.
“One times friends came a rat was rotting between the walls. My husband said, “Thank God, it’s not a cow!”
The remains of Amesport Pier (at Miramar) built circa 1865 and repaired in the 1900s. And when the Mirada Road locals enjoyed their drinks around sunset at Albert’s Miramar Hotel, they made bets on when they wouldn’t see the pilings any more. I never did find out who won.
During Prohibition rumors circulated that the escape artist Harry Houdini had been hired by the US Treasury to dive for a hidden cache of booze at Princeton bay. In the mid-1920s the indie Peninsula Studios, located in Burlingame, made a film at Princeton called “Let Women Alone,” starring Wallace Beery. Printed on fragile nitrate film, the “Let Women Alone” is assumed lost, but if found might provide scenes of early Princeton.
In the “Continental Op,” a collection of pieces by Dashiell Hammet, the author includes a story about Half Moon Bay called “The Girl with the Silver Eyes.” A young woman is missing and she’s tracked down to Half Moon Bay, to a place called the “White Shack” run by “Tin Star Joplin.” The “White Shack” is a prohibition-era roadhouse and the place where booze is picked up and distributed to San Francisco.
“The dope is that,” writes Hammet, “half the booze put ashore by the Pacific rum fleet is put ashore at Half Moon Bay.”