Marie Del Bondio

Marie Del Bondio

Interviewer: Susanne Salvestrin                                                                                                                        Interview Date: 5-17-2006


MARIE DEL BONDIO: Marie Del Bondio

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: This is Susanne Salvestrin.  I’m pleased to welcome Marie Del Bondio, who I am interviewing on behalf of the St. Helena Historical Society’s Oral History Program, “Voices of St. Helena.” We are conducting this interview at approximately 10:15 on May 17, 2006, at the home of Marie. Welcome Marie. Can you tell us how you first came to St. Helena?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Well, I was born in 1925 at the St. Michael’s Villa on the highway between St. Helena and Calistoga. My parents both were born in Calistoga. My father was employed in the wine industry by Charlie Forni who had a small winery in Calistoga. He and my mother lived for a short time at one of the houses on the St. Michael’s Villa property, just a short distance from where my father grew up, on the highway between St. Helena and Calistoga. My parents were married in 1924. I was born in 1925. We moved to St. Helena when I was about four yours old.


MARIE DEL BONDIO: So, by then I had a sister. We lived on Tainter Street in St. Helena. We lived in the little red schoolhouse down the highway next to Sutter Home Winery.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: Was that the Vineland School?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Yes. And we became acquainted with the Leuenburgers who lived in the home that is now Sutter Home. They had a chauffeur, Mr. Peters, who drove an outlandishly long car.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: Was that like a limousine, or a Cad–?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: It was a limousine, uh huh.

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Growing up in the area was kind of fun. New people were sort of coming to town, and we eventually evolved to Main Street, across the street from Alexander Court, and –

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: On that corner of Pratt, or –?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: No, it’s right on the corner of Crinella now, because our house was removed. There were two house exactly alike right across from the Alexander house. They took one of the houses down to put in the driveway to the apartments that are now on Crinella, so our house eventually was torn down.


MARIE DEL BONDIO: I grew up there.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: Do you remember any neighbors, or anyone–?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: The Beneteaus were neighbors of ours. The Harrisons, Frank Harrison.


MARIE DEL BONDIO: And his family were down the street, and I babysat Frank Harrison.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: Oh, for goodness sakes.

MARIE DEL BONDIO: –when I was a kid. My sister babysat Leroy Anderson, who lived just also down the street. We were across the street from Martha Alexander and her sister.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: And that was the Paul Alexander family?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Yes. Mary Louise Volper and her sisters and her parents were all living in the Alexander Court area. It was just a nice time, really a nice time.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: And you lived there for how long?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Until I was married.


MARIE DEL BONDIO: I was born in 1925. We were married in 1947. We lived there all through my going to the Ursuline Convent for eight years and then (attending) the high school for four years.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: Umm. And how did you meet your husband? What then – tell me—

MARIE DEL BONDIO: St. Helena High School

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: Ok. And your husband’s name is—


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:   Al.  And is he from St. Helena?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:        Rutherford.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:         Yes.   Grew up and  born at home in Rutherford,  went to Rutherford Elementary School, was fortunate enough to be taught  by  Daisy V.E.  Steves.



SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:           Oh,      Daisy V.E. –


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Steves.  That’s Warren Steves’ wife.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:    Wife…oh,  right.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   She was a tremendous person — just a tremendous person.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And she taught  in  Rutherford.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Uh hmm.     Yeah.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, my goodness.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   They had a two-room schoolhouse, and there were two teachers, and the  schoolhouse was divided  — each  one  took  a  share, and  tried to teach.      (laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, my goodness.

MARIE DEL BONDO:     It was  a  —  I  don’t  think  Al  will  ever forget it.   I mean, it’s just — he just remembers a lot about those two teachers and what they used to do for the children.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And so, Mrs. Steves was one.  Who was the other  teacher?



MARIE DEL BONDIO:   I think it’s spelled  R-O-U  H-A-U-S.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   She was younger of course.    Mrs. Steves was a lot older,

but Mrs. Steves used to  pile the kids in her car, take them all the way to Yountville to play baseball after school. It was like, I  guess, their first Little League experience. (laughter). Then she would stop  at  the  —  there was  a little bar, just south of Yountville, which was removed when the highway was built, and she’d stop there and buy them a little popsicle as a little treat, and Al can remember everybody piled in this car, trying to eat their popsicle.       (laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, my goodness.

MARIE DEL BONDO:     When we were married, Mr. Steves presented us with a — I don’t know what they call them now — pressure cookers.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:           Oh, really?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah, yeah.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:    Yeah,  yeah.  He  was  a very formal man, even at the store.  But he made a great presentation of this pressure cooker, which I used for twenty years. (laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh. (laughter)

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   He was a really nice man — just really a nice man.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh,  that’s good  to hear about Mr. Steves, because Gary Menegon has a couple of artifacts from Mr. Steves, and he let me copy a couple of letters.  But it’s good to hear you talk about someone, you know, that was so important to this community.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   He was.  He was.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember anything else about him that might –?

MARIE DEL BONDO:    Well, of course, our early childhood was still Depression tainted,  sort of, you know.  People didn’t have a lot of money.  You’d go into Steves,  even then,  and  say,  “Charge it,” and, you  know, that was good enough for him.  It was the same thing with Goodman’s.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do  you remember Mr. Goodman at all?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yes.  Oh yes.  Betty Goodman.  Of course, they lived up the street from us, on Main Street.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   And Betty Goodman — all of us belonged to the Junior Women’s Improvement Club.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   It was kind of nice.  It  was  just  kind of nice.  Her son, David, has always  been a personal friend of our son, Brian.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   So, our association with them goes back, you know, a long, long way.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     So,  the Goodman family still is involved in St. Helena?  

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     David Tiedeman and his wife have the natural nursery at the end of Fulton Lane.  They unfortunately were flooded out this year, but I’m sure they’re trying to re- —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  So, David is a relative of the Goodman family. 

MARIE DEL BONDO:    Yes, grandson.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Grandson.    Oh, hmm.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  David Tiedeman now.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Tiedeman now, right.  OK, well let’s get back to high school, where you met Al ..



MARIE DEL BONDIO:   When we graduated in 1943, Paul Alexander called me and said, “I have a  job for you at The Bank of America in Napa. All  you have to do is catch a ride (laughter) every day, which I did.  A couple of young women from Calistoga also worked at the bank, so they picked me  up on their way and away we went.  It was a nice time.  Peter Travis was there.  Angela Turquette, Mr. Dillon.  It just was a nice time, and it was a nice association,  and I learned a lot, and about three months later, I got a call from Louis Stralla saying that he was going to open the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, and he needed somebody to weigh grapes for the crush.  My father had worked for Louie Stralla before, at his winery when he started Krug– or started it up after it had been closed.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, and when was that,  do you remember?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     No?  That’s  OK, we can find it.  That’s easy to find out.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Anyway, I then decided it was easier just to get to Oakville than it was to get to Napa, and so I went to work for Louie Stralla in 1943.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And that winery is now

MARIE DEL BONDIO:      Now Napa Wine Country.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Napa Wine Country.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Andrew Hoxie


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.                                                                                                               


MARIE DE BONDIO:    It is a full, working winery with about eighty clients.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And you worked there for how many years?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:           Uh — that’s important.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, we graduated in ’43 and two days later, Al was  on his way to the Army.They let him graduate,  and then  you had to go, as did all the boys in our class.     ’43 — we were married in ’47,

and I was still working there.  About ’52, Judge Palmer –Lowell Palmer — called me and said that his girl wanted to go on a two-week vacation, and would I come and fill in, and so I did.  I left the winery, for two weeks anyway, and I stayed for ten years.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  (laughter) So you were working for Judge Palmer when I came to St. Helena in ’59.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I don’t remember that.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.  Brian was born in ’54, and I was working there. I was working there when Amy was born and when Brett was born.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     My goodness, so you probably have many stories from working for Judge  Palmer, don’t you.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   (laughter) Yes.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  But we won’t go into all those, because those are probably very private stories. (laughter)  That must have been very exciting, though.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I mean, he was such a unique person.  I mean, was he easy to work for sort of?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Uh —  he  was  demanding, yeah, well he should have been.



SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Yes, that was an important —

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  He  represented this upper area, really — the justice court in Calistoga, St. Helena, Oakville,  Rutherford — I think he did a great job.  He helped a lot of people.  His family couldn’t have been nicer and he treated his employees quite well.  I remember being very pregnant  —  the hottest August I’ve ever gone through.  I had been taking dictation for about six  hours.  Judge Palmer said, “I  think, instead of you trying to do this typing right now, go home — just go home and cool off and rest.” By then, I could hardly get out of  my chair, and  he  said, “That’s OK.  Just relax, and I’ll help you.”  And  when we went to get up out of his chair, he couldn’t get out of his chair.  (laughter) been a real long day of dictation.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:           I mean  —  that was  solid  six hours

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Six hours, yeah, yeah. And it was shorthand — you know, just shorthand and then transcribing on a manual typewriter at first, before we had the electric typewriters.  So, with it –(laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  I’m surprised you didn’t have your baby right there.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   I am  too.  I am  too.  So, of course, I didn’t have any children,  you  know,   for seven years, so it was a lot of time spent with the Junior Women’s Improvement Club, the Men’s Baseball League, and then, after the children came, it was children’s baseball and swim team and — so, if you didn’t have a baseball team, then you got one together. That’s how things worked here.  If you had a pool and you had children who didn’t know how to swim, you ‘d get together with Virginia Toogood,  Doreen Qualia and Barbara Bommarito and you form a swim team.  All of a sudden, your children are competing all around, and it’s — that was just the way St. Helena was.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   If you wanted to do something,  get  it started, and a lot of people were there to support and help.  It worked, I thought really well.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Where did you and Al first live after you got married?  You said 1947.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   We bought the house about six months before we got married,  in November of ’47 — this house where we’re still living, fifty-eight years later.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh,  right here!   I didn’t realize that.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     My goodness.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   So,  nothing  much  has changed on this street.  (laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:    Oh. Due to your diligence.

MARIO DEL BONDIO:    Yeah. We’re lucky, really.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Oh,   it’s  a  beautiful  street — dead-end.    So, tell me what are the names of your children, and how old are they now?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, Brian was born in ’54.  Amy in ’56, and Brett in ’58.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  OK.   And, tell me a little bit about your parents —  what you know about them, when they came to St. Helena and —

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, my  parents were both born in Calistoga.  My father grew up on the highway, just past, uh —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And give me his name.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  Jacob  — Jack Heitz.  Now, he was the eldest son of Michael and Louisa Heitz. 

My mother was Clotilde Ghisolfo.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Would you like to spell that for me for when I’m transcribing?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And her first name.

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Clotilde.     C-L-0-T-I-L-D-E.     But she was always called Tilly.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And where did she come from –?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Calistoga.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     She was born in Calistoga.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yes, California   —  Calistoga.  Her parents immigrated with one small  child, by boat — my father’s from northern Italy, and my father’s parents came from Alsace by boat.  Two weeks after they were married in Germany, my grandfather Heitz announced to my grandmother that they were coming to the United States of America.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:           (laughter)

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Surprise, surprise. They  got on the boat, and they landed– their first job  was in Colma.  My grandfather ran the cemetery.  And my grandmother grew flowers on the cemetery  property, but she would sell to the people who came to the cemetery to put on their people’s graves.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, my goodness.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   That’s how they made their living.  And they had twelve children.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   — and moved from Colma to Calistoga with these twelve children and  raised them on this piece of property.  They had a small winery.  They were part of the bootlegging community.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I think there were quite a few bootleggers.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Oh yes.  Both grandparents, really.  (laughter). They had to live, and you could only raise so many things  —  chickens and pigs and cows and horses and huge gardens.  Everybody had huge gardens.  My grandparents loved to garden.  My grandfather really… and they planted prunes and pears and

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And they survived long enough for you to really know them well.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     So, they didn’t pass way when you real young.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   No.  We  were very fortunate, really. And every Sunday, we would be in  the car going to Calistoga, and we would have lunch in Calistoga with my mother’s parents, and spend part of the afternoon and then come down the highway and stop at my father’s parents and have supper before we came home to St. Helena.  I mean that’s what people did on Sunday.  And now people don’t really visit,  they email.  (laughter)  I think it’s so hard.  I just wanted to show you something.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:           OK.      Now, why don’t you talk to me about  your siblings? 

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, I have a sister, Helen, who is married to Donald Houck and now lives in (laughter )– going absolutely blank.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     That’s OK.  I don’t remember either.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Cordelia. Not Cordelia.  She’s in Fairfield.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     I knew  I was thinking  of  the wrong thing. She just stopped by here a couple of days ago, and she’s just really suffering from stroke.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Anyway, my sister Helen was born thirteen months after I was born, and then about nine years later, my sister Ann was born.  At that time, we were living on Tainter  Street,          which is now Mrs. Stice’s home.  From Tainter, we moved to Main Street and the Alexander Court area.  My sister, Helen, is in Fairfield, as is her family and my sister Ann died in…


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   I think so.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Because Mark was  just a baby, right, and he was born in ’63.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     So,  it would have been ’64, probably.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right, right.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Ann was,  at that time, working at a local five and dime.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     With Art Nicholson.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     With Art Nicholson

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Where  — let’s see, when did Helen get married.  Do you remember?

— and where is her husband from?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Pope Valley.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Donald Houck.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, the Houcks .


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  —  from Pope Valley.  Right?  And they have children?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Helen and Donald have three daughters.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Three daughters — OK.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Elaine, Karen and Diane, all of whom reside in the Fairfield area.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Fairfield  area.  And your children are all married.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Amy has how many children?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Amy doesn’t have any children.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Amy doesn’t have any children — that’s right.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Amy is Deputy Ag Commissioner for Yolo County and resides in Woodland  with her husband, Chuck Buckingham.          She just recently planted 2,000 olive trees and has just completed her first crush, which we’re all excited about.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh,  that’s wonderful.  What did she name it again?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     It’s Hillstone.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Hillstone Olives or Olive  Oil  — or  just  Hillstone?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.   I’ll  show you  that link.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     OK. All  right.  OK, and Brett?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Brett is in vineyard management with Peter Nissen, Backus Vineyard Management  in Napa County.  He has four children and resides in Napa.   And Brian is president of Markham Winery.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Oh, that’s right

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  He was hired shortly after graduating from UC Davis  and has been there about twenty-seven years.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     My goodness.  And he has a twelve-year-old.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     He has a twelve-year-old son, Peter;  a twenty-one-year-old daughter, Lauren and a nineteen-year-old daughter, Lena.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, my goodness.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Lena’s in college at San Diego.  Lauren is just about finishing up getting ready for graduation at Santa Barbara, and Peter is at RLS.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     My goodness.  Can you remember during your first early, early years what 

St. Helena was really like?  I mean, what–  can you describe St. Helena a little bit like when you were  a child growing up.  I mean, what it was like, living in a small community?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Well,  it was  friendly.  It just — everyone knew everyone else.  If someone needed something, somebody was always there.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  We were asked if we wanted to enroll in the Ursuline Convent on Elmhurst and Main.  I think at the time, the tuition was $3.00 a month, per child, so my sister and I, of course, were ready to go there.  I think the first couple of years they waived the fee so we could attend.  Being Catholic, that would be the thing to do. 

They and I really enjoyed it, the Ursuline  Convent.  The association with the nuns was tremendous.  They were just a giving group.  Physically, they  —  on hot days, they would tie up their skirts somehow, so they wouldn’t trip and play baseball out there with us.  It was Dr. Mathilde Carpy and Virginia Ingly Harrison and Laurenzina LaFada, and Catherine Stark.  We  just had a …. It was a wonderful time, wonderful training, I thought.           

To go from the Ursuline Convent  to  St. Helena High School was a shock,  but we managed.  A lot of the  children transferred then to Santa Rosa Junior College.  It was just a nice community.  If you went in to Keller’s Market, you came out chomping on a hotdog.  I mean, no matter how old you were.  It seemed to

me little babies would come out of there chomping on a hotdog.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     It was a quiet country town.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Very quiet, very quiet, yes. Saturday night, everyone would walk to the movie  theatre,  if they could afford  to go.            Sunday, everyone walked to church.   It was a lot of visiting on the front porch.  You could walk out, sit on your front porch and, in about five minutes, somebody would  come by that you knew from Pratt Avenue,          and they’d sit down and — one of my father’s closest friends was Mr. Jennings.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, Wesley!  Can you tell us anything about Wesley that you can remember?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Oh, Wesley and his wife  — his  wife in later years took care of all four of my  grandparents when they were bedridden and dying.  She was just an angel.  And Wesley Jennings used to  light the street lamps every night.  And then he would stop at our house and he’d have a glass of red wine with my dad and have my sister Helen and I each sitting on his knee just staring  at  him because his voice was so different.  He had such a twang, and we weren’t used to that.  I don’t know how to describe it, but we were fascinated.  And then my mother was always fixing some sort of pasta dish, and she’d fix a dish for him to take home to Eva, for them to have for supper.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Where did they live, do you remember? 

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, it was up near the CIA.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     The house is gone.  The house burnt down eventually.  But they lived there.  Kind of a little hillside, and it’s before you get to Deer Park, and it’s on the left, up on that hillside area there.  I just looked forward to Mr. Jennings, Jenks we called him “Jenks” coming by every evening, and then the iceman coming. (laughter)


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   We used to buy a square of ice off the back of this little truck for 25 cents to put  in the icebox, and that’s what we had.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember what era that was?  Was it the thirties, or the forties?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, if I was born in ’25, so it had to be about six years later.  We’d  have  to be about six, and we —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     The early thirties.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah. And we would follow him up the street because the little chips of ice as he  chipped the squares, he would give to us.  And same thing with the…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember the iceman’s name?



MARIE DEL BONDIO:     I  tried to  think.  Lesley Shurtz was the milkman, and he used to pass out a popsicle now and then to the kids, but the kids’ kind of just ran up Main Street behind.  There weren’t very many cars on Main Street, so, to have somebody come by in a vehicle of some sort, everybody just sort  of followed him, or got on your bicycle and raced up the street.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     In the thirties, how do you remember Main Street — like businesses — and do you remember anything special about anything, like where the Fire Department was, or …?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, the City Hall and Fire Department were, of course, on the opposite side of Main Street, on the corner there.  Then there was Mr. Rivers’ Saloon directly on the corner.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     — and what corner would that be?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Adams and Main.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Adams and Main, as we’re facing north on the right side?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   On the right side.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     So  that was  a  saloon — Mr. Rivers’ Saloon.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yes.  And  the thing we never could understand is, it was a saloon, definitely.       

I mean, I always saw everybody there that I knew, but on the opposite wall from the bar area,

he had all these little…  He sold candy.  He had little boxes of candy for a penny, two pennies, and we would save our pennies and as soon as we had a chance, usually it was Saturday night when we were walking to the movie theater, we would cross the street and get a treat and Mr. Rivers always had caramel suckers that kids really loved because you could stretch ‘em out.  (laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: And they lasted a long time.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     They lasted a long time.  Except you should never stretch out a caramel sucker on the back row of an Ursuline nun’s classroom.  That’s unacceptable. (laughter)

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Had you done that before?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     I only did it one time.  But I had a lot of caramel sucker to share. I put it on the  heater and, you know, they melt a little bit,       and  then I stretched it out.    (laughter)       

But I only did that one time.   Anyway, it was —  if you’ve walked down the street,  you knew everyone. 

If you went shopping at Goodman’s, you could buy anything at Goodman’s.

And now, you can’t buy anything at Goodman’s. It’s kind of sad.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     It’s very sad. 

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   I still love it.  Frank Harrison Sr., Al’s Aunt Peggy Miami worked there —



SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, Edna  Cox. Yes, yes.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     It  was just wonderful.  We  walked to town, even after I had my children,          

I pushed them in the stroller, and we’d go into Goodman’s and there was always something that —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Uh huh.  Wood floor that creaked.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah. They used to love going between the display cases.  They  just thought that was charming.          (laughter)  But, kids played together on Main Street.  Nancy Palmer and Leroy Anderson, and Richard and Madeline Benetta,  the  Harrisons, the three Volper girls, the three Palmer girls, the three Heitz girls.  So, there was gang of us.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     There was a gang of you — yeah.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.   And up the street we had the Di Pasquas.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Di Pasqua — I don’t know if I remember that name.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Maria and Peter Di Pasqua.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I don’t know if I remember that name.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Well, their grandson’s wife is Katrina Di Pasqua in Napa.

She’s the podiatrist.  Jeannie Clark grew up on Main Street also, Beverly Meadows and her family moved up to Main Street, too, right across the street.  We had the Victor Hugo family right next door.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN::          The Victor Hugo family?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN::          The Victor Hugo?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, we, as kids,  you know, thought this was THE Victor Hugo.  We found out  quickly that it wasn’t but good neighbors.  We had nice neighbors.  I took piano lessons for a while from Catherine Dowdell.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   That beautiful…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     What can you remember of Catherine Dowdell?

MARIE DEL BONDIO: Oh, she was a sweetheart.  She played the organ for the church, and she gave piano  lessons.  I took them for as long as my parents could afford them, and it was just — everything was sort of  Depression-controlled.  No one had enough money to do anything, so you did what you could and then  you stopped if you couldn’t.  But I used to go up to her house on Allen Avenue, which is now Jeff and Cindy’s house.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Jeff and Cindy — um.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Warren.  Oh, OK.   Jeff and Cindy Warren.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.   I always want to call  them something else.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   But it’s their nice house now that they’ve remodeled.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And that was the Dowdell home?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.  Katie.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Katie Dowdell.  I was going to ask another question about someone else.  Well,

I can’t think of it right now.  Can you remember anyone in particular, person-wise, who might have had a  huge impact on your life?  Someone that just meant a lot to you, besides your family, in town that either  you worked for, or that you knew personally, or you just remember?  Well, you told me that Wesley   Jennings had a huge  —  you  know,  that you really liked him. Can you tell me  anything  more about Wesley?  I mean, was he well­respected in town and –?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yes.  He played music at the American Legion Hall with a group.  I think he was in charge of the washtub.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Remember the washtub?


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   He was just a sweet man, that’s all.  He was a sweet man. And I think he was, at that time, probably the only black couple in town.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I think they were.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Just nice.  Judge Palmer, of course, had a big influence.  He advised me on lots of things that, you know, I just graduated from high school and so I didn’t have an education that would allow me to do things that would be good for me later on in life, and Judge Palmer advised me on different things, and Al and I, when we were first married, and I’ll be eternally grateful to him for that.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     That’s nice.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Ralph Ingols was my friend.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     He’s  made a big impact on everybody,    I think.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I think he’s 90  — is he 96?  He’s in his middle nineties, I think, by now.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     So, as I say, coming out of Ursuline Convent, I was a little on the shy side, and Ralph Ingols got me into his public speaking class, and of course,   I was in his history class, too.   And Florence  Noll was another teacher.  She was the cooking and homemaking…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh.   And how do you spell her last name?



MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.  We still correspond.  She’s in Stockton.  We were trying to think how we could get her back her for one more class reunion,          so that she can see Vintage Hall, and —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh. Uh huh.  Well, if you can get her back here,  I’ll let her stay at Sunny Acres, if she has no place to stay.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, she can stay here too.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   She’s  a  tremendous person.  She and Miss Ghiringhelli.  Miss Ghiringhelli taught bookkeeping and typing and shorthand.  I thought she was just terrific.  But Florence Noll was  — and  she’s always been a friend.    She’s remembered all of the young people that died in World War II.  She’s always  contributed in their name all these years, which I think is a wonderful thing to do, and she’s, of course, 96 now.  Her brother died a couple of years ago.  He was 98.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   So.  We met her at the Garlic Festival several years ago.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   In  Gilroy  — and spent the day with her there.  It was very interesting  —  yeah   — very interesting.  She’s been to a couple of class reunions, but lately, she hasn’t been able to do this.  She’s  kind of been in a retirement home.  Not bedridden, or anything like that.  But we write our big letters at Christmas time, but she knows about everything that’s  going in  St. Helena.  She really does.  She has a network of students, you know, that correspond,  so… (laughter)          Ralph Ingols,  I think, was, from someone who was afraid to stand up and open their mouth.  He got me to make speeches at lodges, all the lodges here in town,  to stand in front of The Bank of America in front of a big thermometer sign and sell war bonds every day at lunchtime.  I couldn’t have done it without Ralph.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   He was a good friend and good teacher.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     So, your four years of high school — you would consider that a highlight of your life?



MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Absolutely.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     My sister-in-law, Nellie, said the same thing.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah. Well, that was all our social interaction, really, because we had the Sophomore Hop and the Junior Prom, the Senior Ball.  There wasn’t an awful lot of running around anywhere.  If you could get a ride to Lake County and go dancing or Hoberg’s or something like that, that would be a really big treat.  And then when the Dream Bowl was first built and we had —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     What was the Dream Bowl?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   The Dream Bowl was the dance hall down by… in Vallejo.  We had Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN::          Hmm.  Wow!

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   We had some really top-notch band leaders come and play there,  and it was a huge, huge place.  Very popular.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember Paradise Park at all?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Oh yes, yes.  That was fun.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     That was a fun hangout for kids?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Adults  alike, probably.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yes, yes.  And  families.  You know, you could go there for dinner.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do  you remember when they took that down, because I remember seeing it when I came after 1959, so it must have been in the sixties.  I can’t remember.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     I was trying to think, the  last thing I went to there was Louise and Al Delfino’s wedding reception. I can’t remember when that was, and shortly thereafter, it seemed to me, they took it down.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Yeah. OK, can you tell me a little bit about the shopkeepers on Main Street — the ones that you remember during the early years.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah.  The ones that I remember mostly are Bill Bulotti on the corner of Spring and Main, who would sneak chestnuts out of the chestnut barrel so we could take them home and boil them, because chestnuts were a rare treat, and lots of people couldn’t afford to buy them.  He had everything in  the store, just everything.  If it wasn’t in the barrel, it was in the counter, or on the shelf — it was somewhere.  He could find it for you.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     This  is Bill Bulotti Sr ?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yes.  His children were Mary, Laura and Bill?  And, going up the street, there was  Guigni’s Market, which was another treat.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember Rossi and Anderson ? Can you tell me a little bit about  –?’ Cause wasn’t that where Mr. Olney–?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   That’s — yeah, it went to Olney after

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:    after  Rossi and Anderson.  What do you remember about the Rossi and Anderson store?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Just that it was large, and you could get most anything.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     It was a hardware store — just like Olney’s and –





MARIE DEL BONDIO:     I think we bought whatever hardware that we ever needed -­ was  mostly at Steves, because it seemed I remember being in the Steves  store a lot more  — and Guigni’s, of course, was just a  little family-owned store, but Bill Guigni was one of the first boys to go to school at the Ursuline Convent. Bill Guigni  and Chuck Carpy and Bart Supple.  This  was really rare at that time, to have boys, because…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     It was mainly a girls’ school.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yes, it was mainly a girls’ school.  Anyway, the Guigni family were well-known and then when I worked in Oakville, I,  of course,  knew Mike Guigni and his wife, Elsie, and their children.  So, the Guignis have been a big part of St. Helena history.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     On Main Street for sure.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah, yeah.  Really, Napa Valley history when you think about the Oakville Grocery  Store and the Oakville Post Office, which they also ran.  Anyway, going up the street, there was Goodman’s and of course the Five and Dime.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     OK, Goodman’s was where what is now?  Can you remember?  Is it like — it’s so hard to decipher the stores when they changed.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, Goodman’s was on the alley.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     That was on the alley where — on the left side of the alley.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:    On the left side of the alley…Ward was on the other side of the alley.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     On the other side of the alley.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah. It was run by the McMullens  eventually — the McMullen family, and of course next to Goodman’s was Guigni’s, going south now on Main. 


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.  Then there was the Five and Dime.  SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Hmm.  I don’t remember that one.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Where Annie was.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     OK. What’s there now?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, isn’t that an art store?

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh, it’s the art store, right, right.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   But these were all kind of in a little row down the street.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right, right.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   I don’t  remember  — well,  of  course  the Model Bakery was a little further up. The Parodi Book Store was before the Model Bakery.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And, was the Model Bakery where it is now?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  OK.   And then there was  — where Vasconi’s is now was Kovacevic                     — wasn’t that his –?



MARIE DEL BONDIO:   And then — oh gosh.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Oh,  Mrs. Cellini was down where the hotel is.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     She was down there.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   And the Parodi’s store was there, too, which was newspapers, books and kind of an all-round —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I remember Lottie’s Dress Shop.



MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Up near the Model Bakery.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right, and  that  was  quite an experience to go in there.  Do you remember Lottie’s?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Describe her store to me, if you can.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     (laughter).    You could get lost in there.  They wouldn’t find you for days.  That was an experience to be able to just go in and buy something in St. Helena of course, Goodman’s was like that, too.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I remember her.  Didn’t she have tables piled with clothes?  They weren’t on racks.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   They were everywhere.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     She had racks, but she had tables piled with clothes that you had to kind of thumb through —

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   That’s right.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     —  to see  what you wanted.  She was a character.  Do you know anything about Lottie?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well,  Lottie is the daughter of Rufus Buttermer who lived out on Pope Street.  Rufus Buttermer, after the Krug Winery was re-opened, it was under lock and key and Lawrence  Warehouse  Association was in charge of it.  So, I’m sure all of this happened during Prohibition, and then things got a  little bit better, and that’s when Louie Stralla first came to town and opened that up, and he hired Rufus Buttermer as the winemaker.  When Louis Stralla left that area and bought the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, he took Rufus Buttermer with him, and Rufus Buttermer was his winemaker.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     So, Rufus Buttermer was the father of Lottie Ruhl.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Lottie  Ruhl,           R-U-H-L?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yes.  Lottie  and Hayden.  H-A-Y-D-E-N.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     And they have that beautiful home on -­ 

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Right here.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     On Adams and Stockton.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Stockton and Adams.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right.  With pillars.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Beautiful.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     A beautiful home.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   It’s beautiful.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     I don’t know who owns that now.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   People who don’t now live there permanently.  It’s the summer home.     

(laughter) We’re going to have a lot more of that, Susie.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:  I just heard  that — have you gone up Adams Street to you know where Mabel Johnson  lives?   She’s right next to the stone house on the corner.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   OK,  that house that Charles Costantini built –


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   — last week was torn down.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right, right. I heard –

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   It’s gone.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     It’s gone.  Everything.  Trees, shrubs…

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Everything.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     The Duckhorn house, which is also up the street, was just sold this week.  

They’re moving away, to Petaluma.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:     So, I  feel really bad about  that.  These nice young couples.  Anyway.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     So, Lottie Ruhl —

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Was up the street near the Model Bakery, and then there’s Paul Byer’s Barber Shop, which was the meeting place in town.  Everybody used to love to go there and visit, but I don’t remember… I remember the City Hall and Fire Department —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Before where they are now.


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember the jail at all?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   No, I don’t remember the jail.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     You don’t remember the jail.  The jail used to be –

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   It was on Oak.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     It was on Oak where the Catholic School is. 


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right.  And I’m trying to find some pictures, you know, of the  jail.  There’s a  couple of pictures that and that’s about  it, you know, but it’s just so unique.  I wish I’d -­ and it wasn’t torn down until the sixties, I think — early sixties, before the school was built.  It was just torn down before the school was built.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Yeah.  It was just stone.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Right.  It was just a little stone building, and it had it was in the Guinness — Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, because there was a sign on it that says, “Keep Out.” (laughter)


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Yeah. It’s too bad that the city fathers didn’t have  enough sense to have it removed and placed somewhere, because it was just a piece of history.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah. Even my grandfather’s crumbling winery building that he had on his property on the way to Calistoga  — Alf Bertleson won’t  tear it down.  I mean, it’s crumbling and  the walls are just sort of  — every year, you know —

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:      So, how about some of your outside interests? What did you — you know, growing up here, no matter what era, what were some of the things that you liked to do?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, in those days, a lot of time —  if you had a lot of spare time, everybody was working and happy to be doing that.  Spare time on weekends was sort of family affairs.  It was always some family somewhere, doing something, so you were in the car and going there, which is so different from now.  And then when I was in high school, those years were kind of war years and everybody was still working.  On weekends, we’d go and pick fruit and tomatoes and cucumbers, and people like Louis Stralla and John Daniels used to plant to aid the war effort, and still, it was with your friends, and  it was fun.  You’re still socializing, but you’re just having fun being out doing those kind of things.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Uh huh.  What  do you remember of Louie Stralla?  Now I’ve heard different stories about him, and I’m not going to impart  any  of them today, but what do you remember about Louie Stralla?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, he eventually wound up being our backyard neighbor. He, living on Kearney Street and we on the dead end of Pine.  My husband worked for him for many years.  When Louie  sold  the winery,  we  were still there.  Then, the winery was purchased by Hubelein or United  Vintners.  And then they were also involved with Beaulieu Winery and Ingelnook.  Eventually, Al became the director of all three wineries.  I became the government record supervisor, and payroll supervisor for all three wineries.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     That was quite a position.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   So — yes it was.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     That was a big responsibility.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     So, he was there for 48 years, and I wound up being there for 38 years. 

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  you actually — you worked 48 years plus,  also, because you worked ten years for Judge Palmer, so, I mean, you’ve had quite a working life.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     Yeah. Yeah, and then when the children came, it was a busy, busy life, because they were involved in sports and baseball, Little League.  Al helped build the Little League Park, along with Mike Micheli and Wayne Johnson and Donald Marr, so, everyone was busy, you know, if you had spare time, you were doing that, and then there was always the old men’s Basketball League and the old men’s Baseball League, and it just kept going from one to the other, one season to the other.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember Gray Gables at all?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you?  Can you tell anything about Gray Gables?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, I knew Ted’s mother.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Ted Mensch’s mother.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   She was running it.



SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Do you remember what year that might have been?


SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Was  it in the forties, or the fifties,  or –?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     It had to be in the forties, because I would walk down the alleyway here and go down Adams Street to walk down.  I’d have to go in front of Grey Gables.  It used to scare me to death.  I don’t know what it was — most of the young people were kind  of  — it was overgrown, like palm trees and um…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Probably a little dilapidated, too.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   A  little bit.  But —


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Well, not so you’d notice, really.  I suppose if you went inside.  But she had an Oriental man who was the gardener.  I really don’t know what his name is, but he was probably,

at that time  —  an Oriental  gardener in St. Helena was, you know,  kind of unheard of.  You rarely saw her in town.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN;  Mrs. Mensch.          

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  Yes, Mrs. Mensch.  She  was  really a nice lady, and I think she worked really hard to keep that…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  Do you remember anyone that stayed there?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     No.  I don’t know if anybody local was there, or whether…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     At that time.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   At that time.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Uh huh.  Do you remember anything about Chinatown, where it was, or  anything, because I think that was gone before you were old enough to even remember about it.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:     No.  I don’t. It seemed to me that in Rutherford, there was a place in Rutherford where some Chinese people lived.  This would have been when I first started to work in 1943 down there.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  OK.  That’s part of our St. Helena history that we’re really trying to get something on because it was — they were not –

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Look  at Beringer’s Winery, you know

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  But they weren’t treated — you know — they were  — they had a hard time here.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   And the CIA building,  I think, is just a gorgeous building.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Uh huh.  Let’s  talk a little bit about  St. Helena now.  Being as you were — you’ve lived here in this home for 48 years, you said?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Fifty-eight years.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     Fifty-eight years in this home.  What are your feelings about St. Helena in this day and age?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   I sort of…

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:  You can say anything you want, and I can turn it off if you want.

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   (laughter). OK.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     You want me to turn it off?

MARIE DEL BONDIO:   No, no. I hate to see it going in the direction it’s going in.  City services are getting harder and harder to come by.  You can just take a look at our street out here.  It’s a mess.  It’s been a mess for years.  It just seems like city services are being pulled away for other things, some of which include great big homes on hillsides and great big homes in town.


MARIE DEL BONDIO:   Maybe stores in town that are just a little too much — too many of the same type of store.          Whether or not, the city fathers are responsible for that, I don’t really know,  but I just don’t like to  see it going in this direction.  We’re getting art things and fancy clothes that can serve some people, but  some of us have to get into the car and drive to Napa for service, for stuff that we need.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN: So, your feeling of the City, as a person living here for, you know, since the early days..

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  81 years…


MARIE DEL BONDIO:    Definitely.

SUSANNE SALVESTRIN:     But there’s probably no turning back

MARIE DEL BONDIO:  I understand we’re going to have a two-story house right behind our back fence.  People are buying properties and tearing down houses and building spec homes.  Like when we can’t even take care of the old part of town. I really appreciated you doing this.