Today Was Kind Of Special For Us

Today was the day the Craviotto family walked through our 100 year old Shop to look at all of the tools, scrolls, machinery, and memorabilia, deciding what items to keep and what to sell.

It’s time to say good-bye to Craviotto Brothers Ironworks.

634 Anacapa (50's)3

The business has been a part of the Santa Barbara landscape for almost 100 years, but now it’s time for its corrugated iron doors to close forever. A “Going Out of Business” sale will take place April 25 at what our family has lovingly called “The Shop” ever since three generations have worked there.

It was started by this man, Erasmo John Craviotto.

EJ:Workers copy

E.J. Craviotto bought the land in 1914, but when WWI called his name and he went off to Europe to fight, he left the Shop in the capable hands of his brother, Fred Craviotto.

FA:Saddleshop

That’s when the Shop was named Craviotto Brothers.

When E.J. came back from war, his brother moved on, and E.J. ran the business until 1958 when his two sons, Charlie and Danny Craviotto, took over.

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When most people think of Craviotto Brothers nowadays they think of these two brothers. You almost never saw one without the other. They used to finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes they didn’t even need to finish them to understand what the other one was saying. They went everywhere together, did everything together – work, play, and vacations. You could see them at lunch time, sitting in the open doorway of the Shop, eating their sack lunches, watching the girls walk by, and commenting on the world for thirty minutes a day at noon. Some of us called them the unofficial mayors of Anacapa Street. Danny used to say, “I couldn’t have picked a better brother, a better friend or a better business partner.” Charlie never said the same thing because he didn’t have to – his brother said it for him. They were as close as any two brothers could ever be except for twins.

YoungCharlie&Danny

Danny, on the left, and Charlie, on the right.

Two Brothers

Charlie, on the left, and Danny, on the right.

Charlie passed away in 2004 and Danny followed after him in 2011.

But the Shop still remained.

Craviotto Brothers

Now, it’s time for the Shop to go.

Today, Danny’s widow, Carmen, and the children and grandchildren of Charlie and Danny, walked through the shop and had to do an impossible task – We had to choose the artifacts of 100 years of hard work that our individual families will keep, while allowing the rest to be sold to the public.

While we did this, two pigeons (two, not one, or three, or any other inappropriate number) flew into the Shop and perched in the rafters high overhead, watching us as we worked. And there sat those two pigeons for the whole day, just watching us pick through all the artifacts from a business that was started in 1914, passed off from the father of those two boys, who groomed and grew the family business into a Santa Barbara tradition, a tradition that saw three generations of workers trained there, learning not only how to be iron workers, but also how to be Craviotto men. And here’s the thing: It was two pigeons, not two sparrows, or two Jay birds, or two hummingbirds. Two pigeons.

Danny Craviotto used to raise and race homing pigeons, with his pigeon coop in the backyard of his ma and pa’s house over on San Andres Street.

Uncle Danny with Pigeon

That’s Uncle Danny and me with one of his pigeons. He really loved those birds, and he especially loved that he could take them anywhere, release them, and let them fly high into the sky, flying far away.

But they always came home.

I never see a pigeon without thinking of my uncle, and it always gives me a sense of comfort to know that a pigeon will always recognize his home and know how to get back there when he’s ready.

Today, we looked up at those two pigeons sitting high up in the rafters of the Shop and we smiled at them.  We also shed a few tears just seeing them there. Here’s a photo my cousin, Dan, took with his phone.

2 pigeons

We were all in agreement that Charlie, the big brother, was on the left – looking puffed up and wanting to take on the world, while Danny, the younger, was on the right, still at his side, always the loyal brother.

Sometimes life just makes you shake your head and say, “Wow!”

47 thoughts on “Today Was Kind Of Special For Us

  1. I have tears running down my cheeks. So beautiful, sad and lovely.
    My grandfather was a coppersmith in Philadelphia who also worked with his younger brother. I became a metalsmith because of him and i have and use his hammers. Thank you for sharing your writing!

    • How lucky you are to have that special connection with your grandfather. While our brothers were all brought into the Shop in their teens to learn about the iron works and to work, none of the girls were ever allowed to do the same. “It’s too dirty in the Shop and you might get hurt” was always their answer when my one girl cousin asked repeatedly to work in the shop. I was never interested, but it would have been nice to have a choice in the matter. But that was many years ago and the men reflected the strict rules of gender. The shop, for me, always felt like this intriguing, foreign place that was dark and unchartered. Feels a little strange now to walk through it totally free and in charge. Your work sounds fascinating, Nadja. Come back and post some photos here!

  2. Yes Darlene, Wow! What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it and for posting the photos. What lovely men, what lovely memories, what a lovely happening when the two pigeons showed up that day.

  3. Such a beautiful story, my friend! My eyes welled up with tears at the pigeons. My dad has been gone for almost ten years and it’s little things like that, little actions my kids do or noises we hear that make us say “There’s Dad.” Your family is so strong and wonderful! Such beautiful memories!

    • Y’know, sometimes as a writer I don’t feel the emotion until after I’ve written about it. So yeah, I found myself crying when I wrote about Uncle Danny and those pigeons. By the way, that photo that was taken of my uncle and me was in the local newspaper because Uncle Danny brought his pigeons to my kindergarten class and released them so they could fly back home. I guess that was considered news back in the days when Santa Barbara was still a small town. I was so excited after school to go back to my grandparents house and to find those pigeons back in their coop again. It seemed like a miracle to me, and my uncle seemed like such a wonderful magician.

      • I’ve long been amazed at how pigeons do that–it is an amazing ability. I’ve never seen it in real life, so I’m jealous you got to witness it! 🙂 They sound like amazing men. I feel lucky to know their story!

  4. Great story of the closeness of my two favorite Craviotto brothers! They were different in a very subtle way and always charming. I love that the pigeons held watch over the day 🙂

    • There was no sign of the pigeons today and no one saw them fly out of the shop before we locked up last night. Kinda makes you wonder! Thanks for your kind words about the brothers, Debra. They were definitely one of a kind characters, and to know them was to love them.

    • Thanks for reading this, sweetie. We missed you yesterday but we’re saving a wine rack for you and that fleur-de-lis wall hanging you also wanted. By the way, here is the meaning of the fleur-de-lis, in case you don’t know it. I didn’t so I looked it up: “The English translation of “fleur-de-lis” (sometimes spelled “fleur-de-lys”) is “flower of the lily.” This symbol, depicting a stylized lily or lotus flower, has many meanings. Traditionally, it has been used to represent French royalty, and in that sense it is said to signify perfection, light, and life.” It’s perfect for you!

    • I think it was exciting for them, and yes, they were proud. But they had the same pride for all of us cousins, each one of us going into different careers: a teacher, a writer, a professor, an orthopedic surgeon, an artist, and a chiropractor. None of us continued in the iron works trade, and as much as we now respect the artisanship of the generations that came before us, those same artisans wanted their children to go after their own dreams, to go to college and beyond, and to follow their own paths. Even if that meant that those paths led away from the Shop, which had made all of our dreams realities.

  5. Hi, Darlene. People don’t want to enter “the trades” these days. I’m sorry that the shop had to close and that the world lost another hands-on business. My best wishes to Carmen. I hope she’s content with these decisions and proceedings.

    • There are still some tradesman out there, but certainly not as many as years ago. Each generation reflects the period of time in which they’re living, and so do the careers of that period. I look at my own two children and both of them are doing work that involves social media, so for them, they are the artisans in these new trades. Aunt Carmen seems to be handling all of this pretty well. It helps to have a big family around her, with their love and support. We are a very close family, the Craviottos, and we are truly blessed.

  6. great article, Darlene. Your family is definitely a part of SB’s history!! It must have been difficult to close up the shop – but the memories live on. BTW, wasn’t there a restaurant called EJ’s on lower State? was that your great-uncles?

    • E.J.’s Cafe was the restaurant our family started and ran on State Street, after the owner of Joe’s Cafe bought the building down the street and moved the business there. We own that building (where Holdren’s Steak House is now located) and we all decided to build our own restaurant in that empty space, and to name it after our grandfather, E.J. Craviotto. My brother, an artist, designed the interior and he took many of our family photos from old-time Santa Barbara, enlarged them, framed them in beautiful mahogany, and they were the centerpieces on the walls of E.J.’s. The restaurant was open for 20 years, and then, my father got sick, and the emphasis of the family business changed, so E.J.’s closed. You have a good memory, Lynne!

    • It takes a lot for me to cry, and sometimes I find that I need to write before the tears start to fall. I guess I need to process the feelings through the words, especially if something is painful and hard to deal with. Loss is difficult, and letting go of something that has been in your life forever can be especially challenging. So I wrote this as a way to keep at least the memory of the Shop still going. And of course, those pigeons – Wow! How could I not write about such a thrilling event – I still have goose bumps over them showing up at the Shop. It was such a comforting sign.

      • Thank you for your very kind words. I miss writing here on a more regular basis, but the novel is keeping me focused on its story, and until the first draft is finished, I have to avoid any other writing distraction. The good news is that I hope the first draft of the novel will be ready for editing by the end of the summer. And I’m also going to be traveling over the next month, and I plan to bring my keyboard along with my iPad, so I might be moved to write a few posts from the road…

  7. Wow, timeless stuff, Darlene!! Your history Never ceases to amaze! Also somewhat fun and interesting is that (apparently?) little Charlie was SO much shorter than Danny in their very young ages, but then later Charlie looks to be about one inch taller than Danny in the later shot! Haa

    Great work, as ever. Enjoy your travels. Maybe Not taking your laptop will offer you some distance for unexpected, new inspiration and insight??

    • Actually, the little boy with one sock up and one sock down was Danny – the younger of the two brothers. Charlie is the older and taller boy. But in the photo of them when they were older you see Danny with his arm around Charlie, and yes, Danny was taller by an inch or two. Of course, Charlie was heavier – Dan was always tall and skinny.

  8. It’s a very touching and a little bit sad blog post Darlene. I enjoyed reading it in many ways, hearing about families that stick together, a family working together, holding on to each other and forming history. And that day this part of family history was completed. You are a very strong family… that’s at least how it sounds to me.

  9. It’s so nice of you to come by and read this post and to comment. Yes, it’s sad that we have to let go of such a rich past, but we have to look forward now, to the future of our family, and to the making of new family history. And yes, you’re right, we’re a strong family thanks to all of the generations that have worked so hard to provide for and protect us. I once heard a song that had to do with family tradition, and there were some lines in that song that said something about “standing on the shoulders of the generations that came before us,” and I loved those lyrics because we’ve been lucky enough to do that.

  10. Darlene…enjoyed reading about u wonderful memories of u family wishing we could relive our great memories. We have never been in the shop but r looking forward…maybe the 2 pigeons will b there 2 greet us..Much love Cousin…

  11. Great post, Darlene. I hung out at the shop a little in the early 60’s and am still a big fan of iron work and iron working tools and machinery. I bet that most of today’s Santa Barbarans have no clue that only 50 years ago the city was such a complete, self-supporting community with all the commercial/industrial activity in the lower Eastside providing virtually everything that now comes from outside. The Craviotto shop was an integral establishment that is missed!

    • Nice to meet you, Mathew! Thanks for coming by and reading the post, and yes, the Shop will definitely be missed. I hope you’ll be able to drop by on Saturday from 9 to 1 when we’ll be opening the doors for one last time to the public.

      • I’d love to, but not likely since I live up in Atascadero and have way too many tools (and other stuff) filling the barn already! Also, the round trip can be be a real scene on the weekends. I hope you have success with the sale. Wish I could go!! Your family’s restaurant is in the old Leon’s, is that right? Along with the old Joe’s, that’s a place I really miss!

        Matt

  12. Darlene, I was as deeply moved to read your latest post as I was to visit my birthplace, Montego Bay, in 1984 for the first time since I left for school in England in 1947. Time had wrought great changes in the intervening years.Strangely, pigeons came into my experience too.
    Hope your novel is racing along.

    • It is wonderful to see you here, Yasseen! Thank you for coming by and reading the post. Someone told me that birds represent the afterlife, and perhaps they do. What makes this story so interesting to me is that we have not seen those two pigeons since that day we all walked through the Shop to look at all of the items there, and to choose which ones we would be taking home with us. My brother and I, along with our cousins and aunt, spent hours in the Shop all week, getting it ready to open it to the public for the Going Out of Business sale, and I kept looking up at the rafters for those two birds, but they were gone. I must say, though, that this week I felt a kind of peace and a sense of guidance as we all worked together to close down the Shop. I have no doubt that was because of my uncle and father. Those pigeons really helped us to focus on the task ahead of us, and to work together as a family.

  13. What an incredible story and the photos are just unreal, absolutely loved it and I’m super bummed I didn’t know about the sale I would have loved to gone in and bought something!

    • Contact me: darlenecraviotto (at Gmail DOT com) and I will let you know when my brother and two cousins will be at the Shop cleaning up this Saturday (May 2nd). You can peek your head in through the corrugated iron doors, mention my name, and they’ll let you inside. But email me first with your name…

  14. Thank you so much for writing about the special day and history of your family. My husband and I feel very honored to be sharing in your family’s rich history in a small way (we rent the San Andres house where Danny and Charlie grew up). We’ve heard stories of the amazing parties and good-times that were had in that house. With the help of our two young daughters, we do our best to carry on the tradition by filling the house with laughter and love. And now that I know Danny raised pigeons, we will make a point to put some seed out for the pigeons that frequent the yard.

    • Wow! Now, you’ve got me crying. Thank you so much…I’m sending your comment to the whole family. It really means a lot to us to know there is a family living there in Nanie and Bobbie’s house. We had the best times there! That was the heart of our family, and it gives us such joy to know you are there with your two young daughters, making memories for years to come.

  15. Thank you for sharing this story. My paying gig is an industrial sales position. Guys like Charlie and Danny are why I love getting up and going out. Our region was once dotted with family owned manufacturing and machine shops. Very few exist today. My grandfather and father ran a hardware-appliance store, it closed in 2008 when dad died. A family business for a different time. Thanks again for haring your family’s history.

    • Glad you enjoyed this. Thanks so much for commenting. The world has changed and continues to do so. But it’s always important to remember the past and those that came before us. It’s what keeps us human, I think. We learn from the history of past mistakes and accomplishments in order to build a better future.

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