Turturici-Cancilla Family
and extended familia






Santa Clara County - Willow Glen, San Jose

March 12, 2003

Juanita, Pine, Willow Glen Way - a quiet slice of life
By Amy Jenkins

Photograph by Jacqueline Ramseyer
Comforts of Home: Of all the residents of Juanita Avenue, Sal and Rosalie Turturici have lived there the longest. They purchased their home in 1941 and have been anchors in the community for 62 years.

When Sal and Rosalie Turturici moved into their Juanita Avenue home in 1941 their street looked very much as it does today—with an eclectic mix of architectural styles and an abundance of trees—but since those World War II days the surrounding area and city have changed tremendously. In those early years there were fewer homes on Pine Avenue and Willow Glen Way, and Louise and Ellis avenues didn't yet exist. In their place were beautiful apricot and cherry orchards, Rosalie says.

Although all the other original owners of Juanita Avenue homes have passed away or moved, the Turturici’s have remained. They moved in 12 years after their house was built and are now the avenue's oldest residents. But the turnover in the area hasn't affected the residents' desire to get to know their neighbors.

Every year Juanita Avenue holds a block party in the small "park" in the middle of their street—a grassy area with a few trees. The neighborhood also holds birthday parties and Christmas open houses.

"It was great raising kids on this street because I knew Sal and Rosalie or other neighbors could watch them informally while I ran to the grocery store," says Kathy Harwood, 58, who moved to the street in 1972.

Her neighbor Greg Yoder, 44, says the neighborhood is very secure. But he mentions one negative aspect of living on Willow Glen Way and Pine and Juanita avenues—the home remodeling.
Residents complain that the construction is noisy and that the resulting "monster houses" are invading their privacy and changing the feel of the area, with people in the larger houses able to see into neighbors' yards more easily.

But construction in the neighborhood is being done not only to make houses larger. The area's status as a wetland also requires residents to fix their house foundations.
Because the Guadalupe River has flooded the area in the past and water is just beneath the surface of the ground, house foundations are sinking, says Dennis Connally, 50, who has lived on Willow Glen Way for 27 years. Connally points out that the chimney of his house, which was built in 1937, is crooked due to the sinking.

"We had our house [worked on] last year, but it's just something we continuously accept," says Willow Glen Way resident Debbie Malone, who has problem with house sinkage as well. "The positives of the area outweigh that, like having three redwoods in the backyard and sycamores in the front and living near the park." Many of the homes on Willow Glen Way sit on lots 50 feet wide and 160 feet long. The lots are narrow but deep, Connally says.

The area's swampy wetland wasn't a problem for very early Willow Glen residents because the first settlers in Willow Glen were the California Indians of the Costanoan tribes. For them the land held an abundance of fish, geese and wild berries in the creeks and marshy area, according to The Willow Glen Neighborhood: Then and Now, by April Hope Halberstadt.

The area's attraction
Residents say it was River Glen Park and the abundance of greenery that drew them to the neighborhood. Located on Parkside and Pine avenues, the park has a baseball diamond, basketball courts and playground structures.

Bob Labeau moved into his house on Pine Avenue 22 years ago, which was built in 1946, because he wanted to live near a park to walk his dogs, he says. Labeau says Pine Avenue residents don't have block parties but some attend the party that's held in late fall on Juanita Avenue.
For his neighbor Steve Abney, the attraction was the variety of architecture in the area. "I like the proximity to the downtown area and that it feels like a town rather than a big city," says Abney, who has young children. "The homes aren't tract¬ type; they have personality." Like many of his neighbors on Pine Avenue, he has added onto his house, he says. "Everyone here really cares about their home and keeps the yards nice," says Abney.

The demographic on Pine Avenue varies from young families like the Abneys to longtime residents like Trinidad Valadez, 77, who has lived on the street for more than 40 years. "I raised my children here, and they loved going to the park," Valadez says.

River Glen Park is a major reason families look for homes around Willow Glen Way and Juanita and Pine avenues. The basketball courts and the playing fields are enjoyed by residents and nearby schools.

The sewer issue
Many homes in Willow Glen were built in the 1920s, when there was a population increase. This is when most of the homes on Juanita Avenue were built. Although the city of San Jose had a public sewer system in place by 1880, some Willow Glen homes, like the Turturicis', had a septic system.
This came as a surprise to the Turturicis. Shortly after moving into their English Tudor¬style house in 1941, they called a plumber to have a pipe fixed and discovered they had a septic tank in their backyard.

The need to get hooked up to San Jose's sewer system was one of the primary reasons Willow Glen chose to unincorporate as a city and voted for annexation into San Jose in 1936. Willow Glen became an incorporated city in 1927 but it only lasted for nine years—largely because of the sewers. With the population growing in the 1920s, a sewer system was needed, according to Halberstadt's book on Willow Glen.

"Most people hooked up to the city of San Jose's main sewer line after Willow Glen was annexed into San Jose, but someone was renting our house at the time and didn't want to pay the money for the sewer, which was about $1,000 at the time," says Sal Turturici, 82, who was born in Willow Glen.

Hooking the plumbing up to the city's sewer system was the couple's first big expense on the house, Sal says. They haven't remodeled anything on the outside of the house except to install a new roof, which cost more than the price of the house in 1941.

The early years
In 1853 the city of San Jose was divided into four quarters, with Willow Glen known as the Fourth Ward. Sal Turturici was born in the "Goosetown area" around Willow Street, where many Italian immigrants settled in the 1800s.

There weren't many high schools in San Jose when the Turturici’s went to school in the 1930s. Willow Glen High School was built in 1950. So Sal attended San Jose Technical High School, where he learned automotive skills, and Rosalie went to San Jose High School. The couple was married when they were 21 years old.

"When we married my high school principal lived in the corner house on Juanita Avenue, and he was amazed one of his students was buying a home because Willow Glen was a really classy area," Sal says.

But Rosalie says at the time "they simple fell in love with their house and were determined to make it work." The couple took out two loans and committed to paying two mortgages as they struggled to make ends meet because Sal was only bringing in $30 a week. Neighborhood homes during that era sold for well under $10,000, but in today's market many of the houses sell for close to $1 million.

When they moved into their house, every house on Juanita Avenue had a "beautiful" fish pond in the backyard with bridges. But many people took them out in the 1940s when they started to deteriorate and when the frogs jumping in the streets became a nuisance.

As the oldest residents in the neighborhood, the Turturicis are godparents, adopted grandparents and babysitters for various neighbors. They also hold parties for which they cook authentic Italian food. "Everyone respects each other, and it's a very close neighborhood," Rosalie says. "We attend lots of neighbors' baptisms, baby showers and graduation parties."

Harwood recently put a sign on a neighbor's front lawn that read, "It's a boy" as they welcomed a new grandson's birth. "It's the kind of neighborhood where we all know each other's schedule and can tell if someone is home without even knocking on the front door," Harwood says.

While the Turturici daughters were growing up in Willow Glen, Rosalie says, they shopped at Bergmann's Department store and watched movies at the Garden Theatre. Both closed more than a decade ago and are now occupied by other businesses. They also shopped at other old stores on Lincoln Avenue. Rosalie bought china from Robert Sawyer China and Gifts and Sal shopped at George and Inman Clothiers—both opened in the 1940s.

When the Catholic diocese was founded in 1981 in Santa Clara Valley, it too was given his name: Diocese of San José.

Catholics see St. Joseph as a powerful intercessor with God because he was the foster father of Jesus. St. Joseph’s Table originated in Sicily because his intercession is believed to have ended a famine there. St. Joseph’s Table is actually multiple tables loaded with breads, cakes, and cookies in symbolic Christian shapes, such as crosses and staffs. A statue of St. Joseph with the Christ Child stands at the center. Flowers and fruits abound. Gifts to the needy are also part of the tradition. Work to prepare the table is performed as a way to give thanks for favors, make reparation for sins, and ask for future help.

On February 11, I talked about the custom with some second-generation Italian-American grandmothers and great-grandmothers. We met where the ladies gather for coffee after daily Mass, at Rollo’s Doughnuts, across from Holy Cross Church in northside San Jose. Holy Cross started as a mission to Italians in 1906, and many Italians still attend the church.

Eighty-eight year old Mae Ferraro makes arrangements for the Mass that usually is said before the feast. Mae told me that chairperson Rosalie Turturici and volunteers were already at work to prepare and freeze food for the event. The pastor, Fr. Firma Mantovani, C.S., told Mae they cannot say a Mass this year, since the feast falls on the Wednesday of Holy Week, but he will bless the table. Even though the diocese has moved the celebration of the feast to March 15, the group was permitted to host St. Joseph’s Table on the traditional date.

Pauline Ciraulo, Mabel Maninna, and Rose Santanocito spoke about pasta served with a traditional marinara sauce made with fennel (sweet anise), anchovies, and bread crumbs sprinkled on the top. Some say the breadcrumbs symbolize sawdust, because St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because of Lent, no meat is served.

Everyone gets a sack with an orange, and a blessed bun and fava bean. Mae pulled a blessed fava bean out of her purse for me. Pauline told me a few years ago that if you keep one in your wallet, they say you will never run out of money. Rose showed me a card that says if one is in your pantry, you will always have food. The Catholic Church frowns on “lucky charms,” but fava beans can be used in a non-superstitious way, as a reminder to pray.

Several ladies remembered St. Joseph’s Tables in homes. Children, called “the saints,” would dress up as the Holy Family. Mae remembers her brother played Joseph. The three saints would be given a place of honor and a taste of each dish. Pauline recalled that the saints would knock on doors, and they would be turned away until they reached the third home.

In an interview this week, Chairperson Turturici, another 88 year old, told me that three volunteers are from Santa Clara: Camela Gullo, Bessie Nicocia, and Frances Magio are also in their 80s (“one is 88, and the other is 89”). They worked on “every [table] we have had since Day One.” Turturici told me, “Every year I’m in a pinch. I decided I could handle it again this year only because my daughter retired and could help me.”

Because the volunteer pool is aging, the custom is in danger of dying out. Four years ago, two groups were still hosting public St. Joseph’s Tables, St. Clare’s Parish in Santa Clara and the Italian American Heritage Foundation. Now only one group is left. If you are interested, this year’s event might be one of your last chances to take part.

Italian American Heritage Foundation
425 North Fourth Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: 408-293 -7122

Below: The Italian Church Ladies in 2005. Rollo’s owner Paul Keonakhone pours coffee for
Mae Ferraro,
Mabel Maninna,
Pauline Ciraulo,
Dolores Spada (recently deceased), and
Rose Santanocito


Below: Northside Ladies

Sal Pizarro column:
Younger blood needed to keep free feast going [San Jose Mercury News, Calif]

Mar. 20--Some traditions die hard, and I hope that's the case for the Italian American Heritage Foundation's annual St. Joseph's Table feast.

Volunteers -- led by the family of Rosalie, Sal and June Turturici -- served fish, pasta Milanese and countless Italian pastries and breads to about 300 people Wednesday, which was St. Joseph's Day.

"We're trying to keep this old tradition alive, but I don't see many younger people here," said Rosalie Turturici, who's in her 80s and has been volunteering at the event for years.

The meal's free for anyone who comes through the door -- you don't have to be Italian or Catholic. And any leftovers are donated to shelters. But the IAHF's Ken Borelli says he's confident the group can keep it going. "We're going to have it again next year no matter what."

Read on - Posted 3/19/2008 www.northside-sj.org/pdf/NNA_Newsletter_Fall_2005.pdf.


December 26, 2001 Willow Glen, California

Remember When
Street signs give family names lasting immortality

By Cookie Curci

The early settlers of our Santa Clara Valley have left their mark on our area's cultural history and, in many cases, their names as well. Whether it be inventions, commerce or agriculture, these early contributors to our valley have been honored by the city with streets baring their surnames.
Stevens Creek Boulevard was named for Captain Elisha Stephens, the first man to lead a wagon train through the Sierra Nevada in 1844. McKee Road was named for Henry Mckee, who along with his son, Joseph, ferried Santa Clara Valley's first shipment of fruit from the port of Alviso to the bustling little town of San Francisco. Willow Glen's Coe Avenue bares the name of the man who created the invaluable process of dehydrating fresh fruit. Henry Willard Coe's innovative process brought a great economic boom to our valley's fruit industry.

Some streets, such as Race Street, were named for an event rather than a person. This original 76-acre plot of land was the scene of highly competitive bicycle and horse races, ergo the name. It is said the racetrack was a favorite racing spot for Leyland Stanford's prize stead "Palo Alto."
Our valley street signs tell the story of our area's heritage. For example, Blossom Hill Road once represented an incredible view of a fruitful valley covered in pristine white blossoms. Today, the name of the street is the only reminder of the beauty that once was its view. Cherry Avenue, like so many other streets, was named for the plentiful fruit trees that once graced the area.

In addition to the more famous street names, there are others not so readily recognized, but whose contributions were equally as important. They were named for the early farmers and ranchers who successfully worked their little plots of land. They produced the labor, fruit and vegetables that contributed to our valley's early success. This all took place around the turn of the century when San Jose's population was a mere 29,300. There were seven banking institutions, 40 church organizations, 627 acres of public parks and numerous fruit canning companies, among them The San Jose Fruit Packing Company--at that time the largest cannery in the world.

San Jose has the climate of Italy and the latitude of Washington making it ideal for the growing of grapes, olives, and fruit trees. The rich soil was exactly what the young immigrants needed to shape their new lives. Of these early immigrants, many were young Italians who came to this country during the great European migration. Numerous streets bear their names--among them: Albanese Creek, Azzorello Court, Battaglia Avenue, Bruno Drive, Brunetti Court,Campisi Court, Cheichi Avenue, Di Napoli Drive, Di Solvo Drive, Geovani Court, Cribari Lane, Ferrari Avenue, Rubino Way, Spadafore Drive, Speciale Way and Teresi Court.

As I drive along the outer perimeters of Willow Glen proper, I can see these names dotted on road signs along Almaden Expressway and on the quiet side streets of town.

After the Gold Rush, San Jose became a place known for its remarkable "sunshine, fruit, and flowers." It was this popular description of our valley that reached the ears of a generation of Europeans and enticed them to leave their homeland and make the journey of a lifetime.
Longtime valley residents like myself recall with a certain reverence those more simple days in our valley's history when Almaden's backroads were lined with fruit orchards, fields and livestock. It was a time when most of our families and friends worked these thriving fruit and nut orchards, a time when a "chip" was something the cow left behind, a "window" was for looking through, a "menu" was something you ordered from in a restaurant and a "mouse," well, a mouse was something the cat dragged home.

The unique history of these early ranching families is preserved today in the street signs bearing their surnames. Most of my own family, including aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins were among the people who owned and worked these valley fruit ranches. However, few of them have had streets named for them because they sold most of their property prior to urban sprawl.
When my great aunt Rose came to this country from Tricarico, Italy, at the turn of the century, she brought with her the same desires shared by all of her generation--to marry, raise a family and to prosper in their new land. Like most of her generation, her dreams were eventually realized. She married Rocco Mazzone, they purchased a small Almaden prune ranch and together raised five children. Her children--Jimmy, Louie, Ben, Theresa and Nick--like most of their peers, dedicated their lives to ranching in the Almaden area. Much of the original Mazzone properties have been sold or parceled out now to accommodate new multi-home projects.

But as their land becomes more scarce, their name will always remain behind in the form of a street sign, "Mazzone Drive," a kind reminder of a bygone day and a family's contribution.
As young Italian immigrants, my uncle, Vincenci (Jim) Curci, and his wife, Anne, began their life together on a cherry ranch on Meridian Avenue. They planted and nurtured rows of bing cherry trees, which, year after year produced the valley's richest, reddest cherries (my mouth still waters for the taste of that superb fruit).

Today, the Curci cherry orchard has long since been devoured by urban growth. However, in recent years, when the city cut through the land to create a new roadway. The street was judiciously named for my great uncle Jim and his family, who, for so many years, worked that bountiful ranch land. And, yes, I must admit to feeling a sense of pride and family achievement each time I drive past the street sign. "Curci Drive," like many of our local street signs, bears the name of an early valley settler and remains a reminder to us all of the young immigrants who so generously dedicated their way of life to our valley's days of "sunshine, fruit and flowers."

Immortal Names: The Curci family name has recently joined the ranks of the many Italian-American settlers whose family names grace local street signs. Curci Drive, on Meridian Avenue, marks the area where Jim Curci once farmed a prolific cherry orchard in the days when the area was known worldwide as the "valley of the heart's delight."

Cookie Curci can be contacted at cookiecurci@mymailstation.com.

Turturici (Tortorici, Turtureci) Family Webpage


Cancilla Family Webpage


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