Coastal Post Online


January, 2004




Those Were The Days

   Having the distinct pleasure and unique experience of co-moderating a KWMR Radio program with Jeanette Pontacq on December 10 was truly a dream come true.

   Jeanette, with her ringlets of red curls, is very quick-witted, has a marvelous sense of humor, and is very astute at what she's doing.  The one word that comes to mind in describing her is perky!

   Always having the hankering to write a book about the characters of Point Reyes Station and adjacent areas, this project was truly right up my alley and around my block. The Pt. Reyesins and the Invernessians have quite a few stories to tell.  Owning The Old Western Saloon for over 30 hears has given me a lot of material. Having lunch with Donna Sheehan and Jeannette, I was telling them about my "dream" book and I said, "I'd sure like to go around and tape some of these old-timers before it's too late," and Jeannette offered to help me.

   What really did it for Jeanette was when she drove myself and Nola Rodoni over the hill to a meeting at the Civic Center and Nola and I were having a hilarious time telling stories about the past. Jeanette was laughing so hard she was crying. After that she started doing her weekly show called "Epicenter" on KWMR at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoons. Calling me one day, she expressed her desire of wanting to do radio shows with infamous ranchers and locals who knew a lot about the past (just like the conversations in her car that Nola and I had) and if I'd help put some of our local yokels together and interview them on her show. We both agreed to allow them to speak freely with no political correctness and we were off on our mission.

   The first lady I contacted was Nola Rodoni, but due to health issues she couldn't make it; then Edna Petroni but she had an appointment that day; then Isabelle Peppers who was home convalescing from back surgery. Then a dozen light bulbs went off in my head and I thought about Chi-Chi (Cheech) Giambastiani, one of the most colorful Damon Runyan characters these parts have ever seen; Suzanne Rocca, one of the most-liked ladies in our community who has seen a lot and worked a lot in Point Reyes Station, and then Marion Morris, one of the matriarchs of our society whose kindness is well known among the locals and a trove of knowledge especially being born a Gallagher in those old days of the wild and woolly west.

   Chi-Chi Giambastiani always reminded me of a Charles Bronson type only more flamboyant, definitely more muscular, and deliciously more naughty. His family dates back to the 1800s out here and his best friend was Ferdie Sanchez, one of Suzanne Rocca's brothers. Ferdie, as well as Suzanne, are half Miwok Indian. Ferdie has since passed but the capers he and Chi-Chi used to pull off were nothing short of astonishing feats of chicanery and mischief beyond merriment and piracy on the high plains of Tomales Bay.

   Chi-Chi played the trumpet and Ferdie had a wonderful singing voice and they were both very strong men. There's a famous painting of them with their band down at the Olema Farmhouse.

   Chi-Chi came from a long line of building contractors (father, grandfather, etc.) that worked on a lot of buildings in Pt. Reyes Station and he himself was in construction, also destruction having a great affinity for dynamite, bar managing and boxing. In fact, he talked about Toby Giacomini in his old red barn (which has been renovated and is owned by Marshall Livingston) used to house a boxing ring and a work out room just for Chi-Chi in his boxing days. And believe me, Cheech could ring a few people's bells in those days and now at 70, he probably still could. Ferdie was referred to as "The Big Indian" with much respect, a name that was started by my late husband Bob Borello who was also a good friend of Chi-Chi's. Ferdie could lift, carry and hoist those big metal cans of milk that weighed 110 lbs. each, one on each thumb. Chi-Chi verified the story and Toby told us what the weight of the milk cans was when full. Needless to say, you did not want to mess with Ferdie and Chi-Chi!

   Marian Morris, 86 years old and born on Pierce Point at the Kehoe Ranch, was born a Gallagher so it's no wonder she's tough having been raised with all those brothers. She talked about the dances in the Old Grandi Building and Forester's Hall which is the huge Victorian-looking building kind of kitty-corner to the Red Barn. She recalled how Fred and Regina Rodoni would love to dance and never missed a one!

   Suzanne Rocca pointed out that President Eisenhower once slept at the Grandi Hotel and that the old post office was right beneath the building -- a little to the side. Also how the deli at the end of town used to be a grocery store before the Palace Market.

   Well, the radio show was so much fun that Jeanette and I will hopefully do a series of them come the new year. Please listen in, you can learn so much about the history of our area and the people who made it happen for all of us. You'll laugh a lot and get an education about Point Reyes Nation.

   P.S. A Happy New Year to all West Mariners especially the Pt. Reyesins (pronounced "raisins") and the Invernessians and also the Bo-Bo Landers!

   P.P.S. Jeanette, it was a real joy to work with you on this project! Thank you! 





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