WRITTEN BY JANET MAGNO MARTINEZ
In 1903, at age 14, Angelo Siino emigrated from Isola delle Femmine to Black Diamond (now known as Pittsburg), California. He followed his father, Erasmo, and brother Gaetano, who arrived in 1900. His other brother Francesco, according to Ellis Island Records, arrived in 1906. As skilled master boat builders, the father and sons brought their expertise to the Black Diamond (Pittsburg) area, and Gaetano started the G.E. Seeno Boat Builder Yard. The brothers later diversified into building houses. According to newspaper clippings from the Contra Costa County History of 1926, the family’s history varies as much as the spelling of their last name.
In 1912 Angelo met his future bride, Lena Marinello, in San Francisco. Lena, born in 1897 in San Francisco of immigrant parents, Frank Marinello and Rose Sclafani Marinello from Sciacca, Italy, was nine when she and her parents survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Although Lena was only 15 years old at the time she met Angelo, they became engaged. They wed in San Francisco at Saints Peter & Paul Church on November 7, 1915, when Angelo was 26 and Lena was 18.
Lena most likely didn’t know how complicated her life would become when she married Angelo. In March of 1907 Congress had passed the Expatriation Act, which decreed, among other things, that U.S. women who married non-citizens were no longer Americans. If their husbands later became a naturalized citizen, they could go through the naturalization process to regain citizenship.
But none of these rules applied to American men when they chose a non-citizen spouse. Angelo was naturalized in 1932, but it took Lena until 1941 to become naturalized even though she was born in San Francisco and had a birth certificate to prove it.
During the 12 years he lived with his father and brothers, Angelo learned the trade of boat building; and after his wedding he and his bride resided in Black Diamond where he continued working with his family. In 1916 after the birth of their first son, Raymond, it was time for Angelo and Lena to move across the bay to Monterey, where Angelo found a position with Ford Pearson and Horace Cochran, who then had their boat yard in New Monterey near the present site of Cannery Row. Later Pearson and Cochran built the boat yard in Pacific Grove (China Point) known as Monterey Boat Works. After working there for a few years, Angelo decided to go into business for himself. He converted an old barn “inland” on Wave Street in Monterey, which became the first Siino Boat Works, and trailered any boats he built back to Pacific Grove to launch from the Monterey Boat Works. In 1924 Angelo built and operated the Siino Boat Works, next to the Hovden Cannery (present site of the Monterey Aquarium).
Meanwhile, the Siino family was growing: Rose was born in 1917, then came Stella in 1921 and the youngest, Frank, in 1924. The family lived on Wave Street until 1926, when their forever home was completed at 380 Foam Street.
While Raymond was growing up, he apprenticed at the Siino Boat Works, learning the skills that would later make him and his brother, Frank, much sought after as master boat builders in the Monterey area. In 1937 Angelo purchased the Monterey Boat Works from the estate of Gus Smith. Since it was located next to his Siino Boat Works, Angelo retained the Siino boat yard for storage until it wasn’t needed any more.
All four Siino children attended Monterey schools and graduated from Monterey High School. Rose was very active in YLI (Young Ladies Institute) and served as captain of the drill team serving with Kate Ferrante, who would later become godmother to Rose’s daughter Janet; Lena Salamone, future bridesmaid and Emma Marinello, Frank Marinello’s, wife. Frank Marinello later became Chief of Police in Monterey. Rose and brother Frank were both talented accordion players and were asked to perform in various shows and dances (mostly Italian events, of course.)
During World War II, Angelo, too old to serve in the armed forces, was a senior warden for the United States Citizens Defense Corps, created by the government for home-front civil defense. Frank joined the Navy and served in the Pacific, and Raymond was a shipwright and caulker for General Engineers Shipyard in Oakland. He was the youngest legitimate shipwright in the business.
During World War II, the Army contracted the Monterey Boat Works (with no compensation) to bring the military boats onshore for dry dock, where the army would do their own repairs. At first, the Army insisted on guiding it’s own boats by using the Monterey Boat Works’ submerged cradle, which guided the boat upward by using Army-flag “wig/wag” signaling to guide the military boats onto the rail system. After several failed attempts, Angelo insisted that he, not the Army, should guide the boats to prevent damage to his equipment and the boats. Angelo and his sons, Raymond and Frank, took over the process.
The boat yard was located in choppy waters and surrounded by rocks so it took a special expertise to guide the boats in and out of the water. The Monterey Boat Works had a submerged cradle in the narrow opening where boats entered and were launched. The cradle was connected to a rail and was run by a winch cable system that had to be operated in perfect synchronicity. Before a boat entered the cradle, Angelo would signal to Raymond, who would be running the winch to put the motor in gear in order for the cable to straighten out to begin pulling the boat from the water. If the cradle were not moving just at the precise moment the boat entered the cradle, it would knock everything off the rails. This system worked for years for the smaller fishing boats that were used in the Monterey Bay. When the purse seiners started fishing in the area, the Monterey Boat Works couldn’t accommodate these larger vessels, so they had to go to San Francisco for maintenance and repairs. Angelo saw this limitation and tried to purchase the land owned by the coast guard where the Monterey Bay Boat Works is now situated; but when Angelo tried to purchase this land in the 1940s, the Coast Guard wasn’t ready to sell it.
Angelo died in 1956. His two sons, Raymond and Frank, carried on the family business of Master Boat Builders, maintaining the family boat yard until 1970. Lena lived until 1987.
As Angelo and Lena’s granddaughter and daughter of Rose, I was born in Monterey in 1946 and my family story which covers my paternal Italian side is in another story, The Magno/Stella Story.
The book, Master Boat Builders of Italy, the Siino Family – A Tribute to the Monterey Boat Works, can be purchased through the Monterey Boat Heritage, Inc., a nonprofit 501c3 as a contribution for the restoration of the largest boat Angelo ever built, the General Pershing. This vessel, built in 1930, is being restored and rededicated to the ecological survival of the Monterey Bay and to the Italian community in the history of the Monterey fishing and cannery industries. More stories about the Siino boat-building history and updates on the restoration of the General Pershing can be found on www.montereyboatheritage.org.