My Great Grandpa and Grandpa, are the original Paul and Eddies. They both passed away right when I was born, but luckily,  My grandpa, Eddie wrote a book of short stories about his life, and even our history from Italy. I am going to care with you, a few of the stories he wrote in this book. One of his first stories called, EARLY STRUGGLES OF AN IMMIGRANT 1904

My paternal grandfather, Giovanni Gaviglio came by ship to the United States in 1904. He came to San Francisco with his brother, Jim. They went to Jackson, California to work with pick and shovel in the gold mines. I think it was the Kennedy Mine.

Grandpa his brother Jim, and two other men lived together in an old shack. They worked hard for their money, the old fashioned way, they earned it.  Soon, each of them had six hundred dollars in the bank. All but Mateo. The money was to get their families over here from Italy.

The banks went broke and grandpa and uncle Jim lost their six hundred dollars. They were devastated. Sitting in the cabin, heads in hand, Mateo spoke. “Cheer up, he said, I will help you, my friends.” He took a shovel and his lantern and disapperared in the darkness. Soon he returned carrying a #2 lard can full of $20 gold pieces. He did not trust banks. He gave each man $40 and they all took off for San Fransico.

Mateo went to Madrone, California and bought 50 acres where he became a wealthily farmer. I’m no sure that he ever trusted banks.

Grandpa, and the others arrived in San Francisco just in time to get caught in the 1906 earthquake on April 18th. Grandpa was living in a boarding house on Greenwich in North Beach when the quake hit. He escaped with the clothes on his back and nothing more. Uncle Jim and he decided to walk over to where it was safer. The Potrero district wasn’t as damaged as North Beach. On the way, they passed a saloon that was evacuated. They looked inside and found a 10 gallon barrel of whiskey. They began to roll it along Columbus Avenue. When they came to Kearney Street, the Army men stopped them and broke the head of the barrel. Whiskey poured down the gutter. The soldiers let them go and they were lucky. Looters were being shot on sight in those desperate days.

Almost broke again, grandpa, his brother Jim, and Nucento Rossi decided to take the train to Santa Cruz to the South. They were met by old uncle Batista, who was from the same town in Italy. He’d arrive in Santa Cruz in the early 1800’s and was well acquainted in the vicinity. After a few days uncle Batista sent the men to “old man Philippo” who also came from the old town in Italy. He had a ranch atop Boulder Creek as an early settler. Through him they got work with the now Santa Cruz Lumber Company.

They went to work in the woods. That would have been about 1908 or so. They worked and saved so they could send for their families. It wasn’t until about 1914 that he was able to send for his family; six years after moving to the woods.


My father, Paul Gaviglio was ten when he boarded the ship Regina d’Italia destined to come to America. His mother, Vittorina, had waited 10 years for her husband to send the passage money for her and their three children, August, Paul and Rita. They disembarked at Ellis Island, New York. Vittorina carried a Singer Sewing machine wrapped in a blanket along with a few clothes for herself and the children. My father thought he was in California when they arrived at Ellis Island. They were held there for about ten hours while they were physically examined for disease and innoculated.

From Ellis Island they were directed to the train station where they would be taken to Santa Cruz direct. Of course, that wasn’t true. Their first stop was Buffalo, New York. It was cold. They were hungry. My grandfather, Giovanni, had sent a few dollars to his wife from time to time. She saved every one of them for the trip to America. She gave her sons, Paul and August, some money to find food while they waited in the station. The storekeeper spoke Italian. They were shocked to think that they had traveled so far, only to find that people in this distant land spoke their language.

The train stopped again in Kansas City for twenty hours. It was freezing. During the trip across America, Vittorina and her children survived on donuts. For 20 cents they could buy enough to feed the four of them. When the Gaviglio family arrived in Oakland, they embarked on the ferry to San Francisco. Fortunately, they were befriended by an Italian man who spoke English. He took them to the Roma Hotel on Broadway Street, where they had a boarding- house style dinner; soup, big platters of steak, big bowels of stew. They eat until they couldn’t eat anymore. “If this is America, we’re glad we are here,” they said.

There hotel was their haven for the night. Then the following morning took a street car to the train station to board the 8:05 a.m. train to Santa Cruz. My grandmother got the directions from a “Barfly” after she bought him a drink at the hotel that night. Vittorina saw her husband, Giovanni, from the train window when it pulled into Santa Cruz. She pointed to a group of men and said,”Children, there’s your father with the yellow shoes.” He was a big man.

Finally, after ten long, hard years my grandparents were reunited. They were together once again as a family. After a long greeting, kissing and hugging the family climbed aboard a buckboard with a team of horses. They climbed up the mountain and into a tall stand of redwood trees to a two-room logger’s cabin. They had to plug up holes in the roof to stop rain from coming through. The floor was dirt covered with redwood chips. There was an old wood- burning stove in one room. That night Vittorina looked at the walls covered with old newspapers and thought she would never complain again about the two story stone building they left in Italy.

She also though of the sewing machine she carried all the way to this mountain cabin. If they lived in a populated area she could have earned money as a seamstress, but never in the forest! Giovanni Gaviglio worked in the woods and was an expert tree faller. He could fall a tree up to 6′ in diameter exactly where he wanted it to go. One day, five years after the Gaviglio family were reunited, Giovanni was working in the woods. His son, Paul, then fifteen, was close by. The top of a huge tree broke off, the rest of it snapped back. These are Paul’s words in retelling the tragedy. ” I could see this tree coming at us, close to where my father was standing. I hollered for him to get out. He didn’t even answer me. The tree hit the truck and rolled right over him. I ran down there and picked him up. He gave up a mouthful of blood. He was crushed inside and died right there.”

“We lived up the creek about a mile. My mother heard the commotion, and knew something was wrong. She ran up the hill only to find it was her husband who was dead. Everyone was crying at the funeral. I could not shed a tear. After I was married in 1922 I dreamt my father’s death every night. My wife would wake and calm me down. The dreams lasted twenty years before they wore out.”

Giovanni and Vittorina Gaviglio are buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Santa Cruz.




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