With Old Spanish Days just around the corner, stories about Santa Barbara’s heritage and history become particularly apropos. In that vein — and in celebration of her 80th birthday — Elizabeth Erro Hvolboll, descendant of the area’s long-ensconced Orella family, put together a book of her memories of her life on the Gaviota Coast for family and friends.
The self-published memoir includes fascinating photographs of Hvolboll’s family and the neighbors who lived on and worked the land between Ellwood and Gaviota from the late 1800s to the 1990s. Hvolboll weaves history with personal anecdotes, providing an interesting portrait of our county’s beloved coastal ranches through the decades.
Although the book, which she titled Mi Refugio, is not available for general purchase, Hvolboll generously allowed The Indy to give readers a peek into it through the following photos and captions.
SELF-PORTRAIT: Author Elizabeth Erro Hvolboll was born in 1930 at St. Francis Hospital in Santa Barbara. She was the third daughter of Martin and Louise Erro and was raised on Orella Ranch. At age seven, she entered Vista del Mar elementary school near Gaviota. “School was a wondrous experience for me,” Hvolboll writes. Although she enjoyed many subjects, music — especially singing — was her favorite and something she continues to pursue. She was introduced to the music of early California at Vista del Mar, singing the old tunes at Old Spanish Days events beginning in 1946.
SISTERLY LOVE: The author had two older sisters, Mercedes “Cedes” Josefa (1916-1955) and Luzena “Zena” Violet (1918-1993, pictured), who both graduated from Santa Barbara High in the 1930s. Cedes proceeded on to S.B. Teacher’s College and eventually earned a Masters Degree in Education from Stanford University. Cedes died in her late thirties from stomach cancer. Zena graduated from S.B. Business College and was a hairstylist. She married Charlie Tautrim in 1938; they had two sons, Martin and Mark.
ORELLA RANCH: The author’s father, Martin Erro, moved with his parents to Orella Ranch from Ojai in 1902 when he was 12 years old. He lived the remainder of his life working the land, harvesting lima beans, tomatoes, peas, and avocados, among other food crops, and raising livestock. In this photo, Martin drives his bean cutter near the author’s childhood home on Orella Ranch. Her cousin Bob MacIntyre and sister Zena look on (cira 1924).
REFUGIO REFUGE: “Some afternoons, my mother and I would walk across the fields of the Orella and Rutherford ranches, down to Refugio Beach,” writes Hvoboll. “Nelson and Neva Rutherford had a private resort at the beach, with a few vacation cabins, camping spaces, picnic table, and a small store where I sometimes bought a box of Cracker Jack … Daddy would come to pick us up after he came in from working in the fields. He never spent much time on the beach with us and didn’t go near the ocean. As a child, he had almost drowned in the waves at Venadito Beach.”
DADDY’S GIRL: “Daddy was a large but gentle man,” writes Hvolboll. “He also had a mild manner. Only once in my lifetime did I hear him swear. He was changing a tire in the driveway, hit his hand with a tool and he yelled, ‘Damn!’… Daddy roped very well, and I remember a story about one of the days when he ‘couldn’t miss.’ It was during a roundup at the railroad corrals. A car stopped beside the highway and two men climbed up on the fence to watch. When the work was finished, one of the men went over to my dad and congratulated him on his fine roping ability. That man was Will Rogers.”
BRANDING LIFE: “This tile, made by our friend Judy Sutcliffe, is on our barbecue at La Paloma,” writes Hvolboll. “The first brand [top left] is that of Mission Santa Barbara, which used Venadito Canyon as grazing land during the Spanish and early Mexican eras … The cow was my children’s favorite from our herd in the early 1960s. They named her ‘The Hog.’” The BO was Bruno Orella’s brand, while JE was the author’s grandmother Josefa Erro’s brand.
GRANDPARENTS ERRO: The author’s paternal grandfather, Juan Miguel, was born on May 23, 1869, in Espinal, Navarra, Spain. He moved to the Santa Barbara area around 1885, dropping the Juan from his name so as not to be confused with the California outlaw Juan Miguel Erro. Josefa Roberta Orella was the oldest of 15 children born to Don Bruno Francisco Orella. Miguel worked for Bruno Orella, which is where he met his wife, Josefa. Grandfather Miguel and grandmother Josefa Erro were married at the Mission in Santa Barbara in 1888.