"West of Geyser Peak: A Memoir by Vincent Colombano"
Vince had been wanting to write his memoir for many years. He had
recorded childhood memories and had kept a fairly extensive World War II
journal. I was excited about our project because I love writing about
old Italian families, World War II and winemaking. Vince also had the
benefit of having a well-known mother, beloved Healdsburger Angela
Colombano, who lived 102 years and had her own transcribed oral history
with wonderful early stories. And Vince had his own stories of growing
up on a small, self-sufficient farm in rural Geyserville during
Prohibition and the Great Depression. Vince recalls the ongoing flooding
of the Russian River, daily life without electricity, water pumped
solely by windmill and the poverty years of the Depression. He paints an
almost "Our Townish" portrait of the Geyserville of his youth and of the
rich characters who inhabited it.
There are several things that stand out for me about our
work together. Vince had very clear memories and vast knowledge on a
wide range of subjects. He wanted to share his own poetry collection
which gave the book an added dimension. He used over 125 photos of both
his history and that of his wife's family, including photos of his
father-in-law, Giuseppe Gargini, making charcoal on Pine Mountain in the
early 1900s. Along with these photos, I added parts of an article
generously contributed by historian Ann Howard, originally written for
the Russian River Recorder
of the Healdsburg Museum and Historical
Vince also tells the history of the Sonoma County Cooperative Winery and
his family's almost lifelong involvement in harvesting grapes and
hauling them there. He shares his expertise in winemaking, the pruning of vines and the
grafting of fruit trees. He adds technical know-how as well as his own,
My great pleasure was in using many Italian words, phrases and names in
the book. My favorite chapter, Italian Nicknames (Soprannomi),
spawned organically as I endlessly picked Vince's brain for more and
more stories about the vivid Italian characters from his childhood.
Before I met Vince, I knew nothing about the long Italian tradition of
using nicknames as terms of endearment. His stories about "Ci Nuoto" and
"Cacca Stracci" are priceless.
This book came together rather effortlessly--perhaps in part to Vince's
writing and editing skills and his participation. Again I thank Dia
Misuraca of Sonoma Web Design for outstanding layout, production and
cover design. I also wish to thank Geyserville historian Ann Howard for
her support and contribution to this project and Anita Gargini for her
patience with Vince and myself.