Story

Scardina Santo 1882-1955 and Maria Scardina 1891-1967

Scardina Santo  1882-1955 and Maria Scardina 1891-1967
Written by Helen "Scardina" Plummer and Robert (Bob) Scardina

Our grandfather, Santo Scardina, was born on March 20, 1882, in San Nicola L’Arena, Trabia, Sicily.  He was the son of Pietro Scardina and Angelina Balistreri and the sixth child of ten.

Grandmother Maria Scardina was born on October 11, 1891, in San Nicola L’Arena, Trabia, Sicily, as well.  She was the daughter of, ironically, another Pietro Scardina and Angela Lo Buono…and a third cousin to my grandfather.  Maria was sixth in a line of 12 children.

Santo and Maria were wed on February 23, 1907, in Trabia, Sicily.  Within three weeks of their marriage they ventured off to America, making their way up to Naples, Italy, to sail on the Brasile on March 15, 1907. They arrived at Ellis Island 16 days later; once they were cleared for debarkation, they were met by family and escorted to Chicago, Illinois.  There my grandfather worked for the railroad, and my grandmother helped with other immigrant families trying to settle in Chicago. Two children were born to them in Chicago--Angela Maria in 1909, who died in 1911, and Pietro (Peter) in 1912.

Stella Maris I

The family left Chicago toward the end of 1912 and migrated to San Pedro, California. Here Santo did what he loved—he fished! After almost a year, he was asked to come to Monterey to fish; he accepted the offer. In 1913, he moved and settled his family at 451 Jackson Street on the promise of a better life. In Monterey, the family grew to include son, John, born March 15, 1915; daughter, Angela Ann, born July 14, 1917; son, Santo “Chick”, born April 25, 1923; and daughter, Maria A., born November 27, 1925.

Santo Scardina Sr. was a member of the Fisherman’s Sea Farers Union of the Pacific. He worked on local boats until 1920, at which time he acquired The Francis and one other boat which had no name and was registered just with numbers.  In 1930 the family acquired the Santa Ana, a 55’ half-ring seiner, which was also used for trolling salmon and albacore.  She was sold in 1939 to build the first Stella Maris, a 78’ purse seiner.  Stella Maris I was built in Tacoma, Washington, by Martinolich Ship Builders in China Basin, San Francisco, and when WWII broke out, was among the fishing boats seized in Monterey by the government.  She was returned to the family at the end of the war in a sad state of disrepair.

Sea King, Skipper Johnny Scardina, crew Joe Pepe Balesteri, Nino Sacci, Filippo Palazolo, Luciano Balesteri, Jack Sacci and Luther Baroni

 

In 1940 Santo acquired the Fortress and the Sea King. The Fortress was a 60’ half- ring seiner.  (They say Nanu’s best catch was with The Fortress.)  The Sea King was a 48’ half ring, then lampara, for squid fishing, salmon trolling and albacore.  She was built in San Francisco in 1929 at George Neese Boat Works.

Stella Maris II built in 1945

The Stella Maris II, was an 87’ purse seiner built in 1945 by Martinolich Ship Builders.  She was powered by a 400 hp Enterprise diesel engine and was one of the fastest boats of her size, doing approximately 13 knots and consuming 22 gallons of fuel per hour at that speed.  Uncle John De Franco and cousin Peter Balestri both fished on the boat and helped with all-around maintenance and engine repair.  They kept a maritime log on her, which contained many interesting details of the boat’s trips out to sea.

The names of some of the men who fished on Santo’s boats from 1920 to 1975 are listed in a boat log/register found by Robert Scardina. The list, which reads like a Who’s Who among fisherman,  includes, in addition to Santo himself, his sons Peter, John, Santo Jr. (Chick); brother-in-law Emanuel Balesteri; nephews Santo (Duggie) Tarantino, Luther Baroni, Santo Curreri, Sam Balesteri, Peter Balesteri, Sal (Tuddi) Balesteri, Luciano Balesteri, Benny Balesteri; son-in-law, John De Franco; cousins and friends Moses Hunter, Vernon Auyoux (Razzy), Frank Verga, Thomas Mouat, Melvin Jorgenson, Milton Jorgensen, Arne Jorgenson, Claude Krebs, Jack Canciamilli, Tony Balesteri, Frank (Junior) Balesteri, Tony De Franco, Joe (Pepe) Balesteri, Neno & Jack Sacci, Filippo Palazolo, Jimmy Harkless, Gus Bruno, Pietro Visendi, Claude (Smitty) Smith, James J. Mihlinich, Edward Cunningham, Tony Abate (Balloon Tires), Tony Longuera, Dr. Pepper who was a Randazzo, Peter Davi and Frank Davi.  Along the way, several of Santo’s grandsons fished on the Sea King as well--John Scardina, Jr., Tom Scardina, Mike Scardina, Robert Scardina, Marco Scardina and Carmen Scardina, as well as John, Sal and Sandy De Franco.

Santo and Maria helped to sponsor many fishermen and their families that moved to Monterey.  They would settle the family in one of the apartments at 451 Jackson Street—then, our grandfather would put the husband to work on one of the boats. As for the wife, if there were children, she would stay home to care for them. If there were no children, our grandmother helped her find employment with one of the local canneries. 

Our grandmother also had a grocery store in the cellar of the main house.  She would extend credit to the family while they were starting out. Then later, generously write off their debt when then got settled in their own home.  Erasing the debt so the family could start fresh was her special and loving gift to them.  To this day, whenever someone recognizes that I am the granddaughter of Santo and Maria Scardina, he or she will tell me what good people my grandparents were and how they helped so many of the families that came from Sicily to gain a head start in this community.

As my uncles Peter, John, and Santo (Chick) grew up, they all worked on the boats.  The eldest son Peter did not last very long at all: He preferred land jobs-first as a cab driver, then as a caddie at Pebble Beach golf course.  Responsibility for maintaining the family’s fishing tradition landed squarely on the second eldest son’s shoulders–John Scardina. John was eight years older than his baby brother, Chick.  As a youngster, Chick helped out for a short time, then joined the Navy during WWII.  When he was discharged, he returned home and joined the crew of the Sea King and the Stella Maris II.

The family’s ownership ended in 1974 when the Sea King was sold; John Scardina then went to fish for Monterey Fish Company, which was owned by the Tringali family.He stayed with them for 15 years, retiring at age 74. Chick fished locally and in Alaska with his cousin Frank Balesteri, better known as Junior.

Santo Scardina Sr., was considered a master net builder of lampara nets and a master at using them. His nickname was “Little Fish”.  He was a very humble man and highly respected by his peers. For a lot of the fisherman, it wasn’t just about the money they earned; it was about the catching of the fish and working on the best-producing boats. Luckily, Santo was able to hire and keep a lot of fishermen working. 

Robert (Bob) Scardina contributed a wealth of information gleaned from the priceless documents, employee pay ledgers, photos of various family boats and union pay books that he has accumulated and preserved over the years.  Additionally, Marco and Mike Scardina contributed more family history and additional photos to make our family story come alive. Recounting the Scardina family story was a true labor of love for us all.

Santo was the sixth child of 10 siblings.  His brother Giovanni married Rosalia Lupo; sister Vincenza married Santo San Filippo; sister Antonina married Salvatore Balesteri; sister Marina, married Michael Angelo Baroni; brother Salvatore, married Maria Curreri; brother Giuseppe, married Jenny Baroni, and sisters Angela and Rosa and brother Pietro did not marry.

hild of 12 siblings.  Her sister Lucia married Giovanni Rizzo; her brother Sebastiano, married Angela Corona; brother Giovanni died at early age;brother Ignazio married Girolama San Filippo; brother Pietro married Antonina Aliotto; sister Giuseppa married Emanuele Balesteri; sister Rosa married Antonio Lupo; brother Giovanni (second one), married Ignazia Tardio; sister Antonina married Francisco Tardio; brother Salvatore married Rosalia Abate. Unfortunately, the firstborn Giovanni died at an early age and sister Maria was born in 1884 and, died in 1885.