The Italian Vegetable Gardens

Historical Essay

by Mary Ada Williams


1943 shot of Victory Garden west of Twin Peaks, off 7th Avenue, Laguna Honda in right rear. Victory gardens were spearheaded by local Italians, and ultimately led to today's community gardening movement.

On Saturday mornings, the two brothers, Gene and Charlie, had several chores to do. They cleaned the barn, taking the horse dung to their mother's garden. The barn was washed out and the horses brushed and curried. Then the boys were on their own until dinner time. Sometimes the boys would go out together.

Favorite places to go were the Lagomarsino's or the Piccetti's ranch. The ranches extended to what is now West Portal and farther along to Westlake. Many kinds of vegetables were grown, and the wonderful new red potatoes were grown north of Sloat Blvd.

Sometimes on the way to school, the Lagomarsino or Picceti boys would meet Gene and Charles and say, "Hi, Charlie. Hi, Gene. It's time to dig for the leftover potatoes."

How wonderful it was after the potatoes were hand dug and sent to market! Many times, a driver of the huge vegetable wagons would fall asleep on the way back from market. It was early morning when they had started out for market, and the men were tired from working in the fields the day before. The big dray horses knew their way home, but often they got caught in the streetcar tracks. Then the drivers would awaken with a start and straighten things out.

Many children were allowed to reach under the sand where the potatoes had been cut. A lot of small red potatoes were gathered this way, and some large potatoes which were missed by the diggers. Charles and Gene loved to get these potatoes, and later have a potato bake in the sand dunes. When the boys presented potatoes to their mother, they knew they would be boiled, rolled in butter and chopped parsley. Yum! Yum!

--Mary Ada Williams, North Scale Institute, San Francisco, CA

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