Linda (Wyatt) Iacono & John Vonderlin…Remembering Bootleggers Cove, Russell Towle & Gazos Creek Gas Station

I came across June Morrall’s website Pescadero Memories and read the entire backlog of posts in 2 days. I spent part of my childhood growing up in Pescadero and my dad who just turned 80 grew up there. After I told him about the website we got into a pretty interesting discussion about his memories of the people and places he grew up with. Turns out he even knew Russel Towle from the days that he ran the gas station there at the entrance to Gazos Creek Road when Russel would come in now and again.

The reason I’m emailing you is because of a section of beach he remembers playing on between Franklin Point and Gazos Creek beach. It was called Bootleggers Cove and there used to be a cave that he played in. Apparently it was used by someone he remembers as Benzanni. He’s not sure if that was his real name of not but said he they all thought he was crazy. I don’t know if you have heard of this place in all your explorations and thought you might be interested.

Looking forward to reading more of you posts on June’s website,

Linda (Wyatt) Iacono


Hi Linda,

Nice to hear from you. I’m familiar with the stretch of beach you mentioned, from Gazos to Franklin Point, having visited there again just a few weeks ago, but not the name of Smuggler’s Cove. Though that moniker has been attributed to several coves along this stretch of coast, I can see why this would have been a natural spot for such activities. There is sand, lots of it, on a gently sloping beach and few offshore rocks. Plus the highway moves away from the beach as you head south from Gazos, with a old vegetated dunefield filling the ever-widening gap as you approach Franklin Point. The dune field has a series of small parallel valleys that would have been perfect to transport things unseen from the beach to near the road.

The most likely spot for the cave your father mentioned probably is in the small promontory captured in the first picture along with the gulls. The next two photos are shot from that promontory, looking north to the Gazos Creek parking lot and south to Franklin Point. You can see there’s not many places for a cave these days. The last photo is of one of a group of kite surfers who had driven down from Marin to enjoy our great winds on this beach.

If your Dad would like to share any of his other memories, I’d love to hear them. Especially if he can shed any light on some of the subjects of previous postings. If you can show him Pictures #6337 to #6344 (Gazos Creek to Franklin Point) on the “California Coastal Records Project” (CCRP) website, maybe he can pinpoint the location of the cave and cove. Enjoy. John

P.S. I think I remember reading an old newspaper article that said the beach north of Franklin Point was known as “The Fist,” possibly because of a large driftwood tree put in the ground upside down by the trail to the beach.

Email John ([email protected])

Hi John,

I just got back from a trip to Santa Cruz
and took a little tour of the places I lived in the Pescadero area.
Unfortunately all four of the houses (we moved a lot) are gone now but I
still have great memories of all of them.

My dad grew up at the White House Ranch which was right near the
entrance to Costanoa Lodge. I lived there as well in a different house
that they called the White House. It was the old Isaac Graham house
that had been built somewhere out closer to the ocean and moved to where
I knew it to be. Here is a link, please click here
to information about the house. It is also mentioned in the book
Portraits of Pescadero by Tess Black. Both the house I lived in and the
house my dad grew up in burned down years ago. The only evidence I
could find of anything ever being there was a section of pipe sticking
out of the ground.

I will try to find out the exact location of the cave next time I see my

Thanks for responding,

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