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Oral History First Collection


The Original (First) Collection features 23 interviews with men and women with strong connections to North Beach and adjoining neighborhoods, including Jackson Square, Russian Hill and the eastern side of Telegraph Hill. Many of these narrators have Italian roots and share their often-fond memories of daily life in northeastern San Francisco during the early and middle decades of the 20th century, including stories about their school days, family life, childhood summers, raising children and neighborhood festivals.  

The narrators also provide details about their professional lives in a wide range of fields, highlighting the diversity and vibrancy that has long characterized North Beach. This collection includes interviews with a restauranteur, an architect, the owner of a leather shop, the owner of a bead shop, a fishmonger, a cabinet maker, a bookstore owner, a jazz musician, an author, a sculptor, a grocery store owner and more. These interviews took place in the 1993-2008 period and were conducted by a variety of THD members, including Audrey Tomaselli, Valerie Hearn, Rozell Overmire and Judith Robinson.  

Would you like to read one of these interviews in its entirety?  Just click on the names or underlined words below. Transcripts are also available at the North Beach Branch of the S.F. Public Library, the S.F. History Center, Main Branch, the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley, and the University of Minnesota library.

The Original (First) Collection includes transcripts of interviews with:

VIRGINIA AND ANDY ANDERLINI – An Italian American couple who lived most of their lives in North Beach. Andy maintained the rose garden, half-way up the Filbert Steps in his retirement from the law.

HERMON BAKER – A Bead Shop owner of Yone on Union Street. He tells of his partner Yone and their business through the past 50 years.

INES BELLI – An Italian American (recalls life from 1900-1950) who lived all but three of her 86 years on Union Street in her father’s home. Her immigrant father established the scavenger business that became Golden Gate Disposal Company.

DANTE BENEDETTI – An Italian American who operated his family’s restaurant, The New Pisa. It had been owned for more than 70 years by the Benedetti family.

ADD BONN – An artist who was born and grew up in the Mission District, and from the 1930’s has lived in North Beach and Russian Hill. She recalls her Art Institute student days and the artists of those times.


THOMAS CARA – An Italian American who was born in North Beach and operated a Cookware and Espresso Machine Shop. He recalls his youth, his time in World War II, and his business operation.  His son Christopher Cara continues the business today.

SAL COLLA and RHODA ROBINSON (not online) – An Italian American, born in North Beach, to a family of fish sellers. His home was lived in by Rhoda Robinson, a THD Archivist, who adds information regarding Colla’s home.

RHODA PACK CURTIS – Owner of a Leather Shop on Grant Avenue. She recalls her time in the business and beginning the Grant Ave. Street Fair.

ARTHUR HANNA – A professional cabinetmaker who had a shop on Grant Ave. He moved to Telegraph Hill in 1937 and recalls his business and others in the neighborhood.


MARIE HARRINGTON – An Italian American who lived in North Beach for most of her seventy-five years. She recalls the Italian community and their traditions and pastimes.


JOSEPH JACHETTA - An Italian American who was resident and beauty shop owner (presently on Washington Square) for 50 years in North Beach. In a second interview he recalled his time in World War II (This second interview is in the National Archives collection now).


PETER MACCHIARINI – An Italian American jeweler and sculptor who had a shop on Grant Avenue which he operated into his nineties. He and five others started the Grant Avenue Street Fair. His son Danny Macchiarini continues to operate a jewelry shop on Grant Avenue.


LENA SPEDIACCI MASSUCCO – The last living child of the Spediacci family who operated the New Union Market (“Speedys”) for about 30 years at Union and Montgomery on Telegraph Hill. The store closed in 2008 after 130 years serving the residents on the hill.


RICHARD MONACO – A third generation photographer, president of Monaco Digital Film Labs and Video and grandson of J.B. Monaco, a North Beach photographer. His grandfather’s photographs of the 1906 earthquake and fire were made into an exhibit by the Telegraph Hill Dwellers on the 100th anniversary year celebration in 2006. 


DAVID MYRICK – Resident of North Beach (1952 -1981) and the author of the “San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill” book.


B.J. PAPA – A jazz musician, sax and piano, who performed in North Beach for many years. He taught many younger musicians the secrets of jazz.

VERA RANSOM – A world traveler who recalls her life in North Beach between 1940 to the present. She was a secretary and her husband a lawyer.


RAY ROVERO (not online) – An Italian American who’s father founded the Columbus Café on Columbus Avenue in the late 1930’s. It later moved to Green Street in the mid-1940’s. Ray took over the operation of the Café in 1954.


TED SIDDOWAY – An architect and resident of the east side of Telegraph Hill for more than 50 years. He recalls how times were on Lower Calhoun and some of the sights he has seen from his perch on the hill.


NORMA TEALDI (not online) – An Italian American daughter of a grocer who helped the family run their business at Vallejo and Montgomery Streets. She recalls growing up on the hill with her two sisters.


ANNIE GUARDINO WALLACE – An Italian American who grew up at Filbert Street and Medau Place in North Beach. She relates stories of her father who was in the 1906 earthquake when he and his brother had to flee to the refugee camp in Washington Square. 


GENE WRIGHT (not online) – A photographer who had a shop on Grant Avenue in North Beach. A collection of his photographs from 1949-2000 was recently published in “San Francisco Love Affair – A Photographic Romance.”


JOHN VALENTINI – A third generation owner of A. Cavalli & Co., an Italian bookstore in North Beach. The Cavalli family had started it in 1880 to serve the San Francisco Italian community.


If you would like to support the THD Oral History Project, we would love your help! We are always looking for new volunteer transcribers and interviewers. If you’re interested in joining the oral history team, or you’d like information about our future projects, please contact us at

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