PERLA, Giacomo "Jim"

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Giacomo Perla (left), Red Craine,
Pete Olivari and George Savé
on Santa Cruz Island

PERLA, Giacomo “Jim” (1885-1964), Italian-born Santa Cruz Island employee for over forty years. Perla worked for the Caires, the Stantons and the Gherinis. Ranch records indicate he was on the island as early as 1914. Helen Caire recalled that Perla was an excellent shot. On August 23, 1928, Perla had gone into the ranch vineyards with Don, the ranch dog. As a result of an altercation with a wild boar, Don was killed. A sign was hung in the Main Ranch yard commemorating the event. Perla never married and had no relatives in the United States. He devoted his life to Santa Cruz Island, and never learned English. When he died, Pier Gherini was his attorney. Perla left his estate of $700 to Marie Govena née Vittoni (b. 1915) whose mother, Marie Govena ran the boarding house at 125 W. De la Guerra Street in Santa Barbara where Perla stayed on his two weeks off the island every year. According to Marie Govena, Perla was a very small man, barely five feet tall. He had served in France during World War I, where he received his U.S. citizenship. In 1964 when Perla died, he was buried in Marie Govana’s 12-year-old son’s suit, and buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. Perla was 79.

Pier Gherini wrote in 1966:

“Jim Perla, who died last year here in Santa Barbara, worked on the island for over 50 years. An excellent rider, Jim also possessed all around attributes that are needed in island living.”


The 1940 census lists living on Santa Cruz Island:

  • Pete Olivari
  • G. Perla
  • Ah C Fong
  • Alvin U. Vasquez
  • Thomas Ward
  • Juan Leon
  • George Save
  • Richard Boynton
  • Paul Wilson
  • J. T. Wilson
  • F. Ricci
  • James Kelsey
  • A. Kinzel
  • Baker S. Felren
  • Frenchy Gonzales
  • Jeff Wilson
  • G. W. Swartz
  • Sam Haggares
  • Charlie Carlson
  • Charlie Gunderson
  • Richard Rossman
  • George W. Lee
  • Zulberto Zumberti



In the News~

February 4, 1917 [SCICo]: “There are but two men on the Island that we know to be loyal — Mauri and Perla.”


September 11, 1917 [SCICo]: “Perla and Cuate returned.”


January 29, 1918 [SCICo]: “The bearer, Giacomo Perla, who is an employee of this Company, was registered under the Selective Draft last June, but probably because of our irregular mail service failed to receive his questionnaire. Under the circumstances we thought it advisable for him to call upon you in person and endeavor to straighten the matter out, and with this idea in view have sent him to Santa Barbara with this note, which we have taken the liberty to address to you. Respectfully yours, The Santa Cruz Island Company, Alonson Swain, Superintendent.”


March 1, 1918 [SCICo]: “The schooner [Santa Cruz] left for Santa Barbara on February 26th. We are making this special trip because Perla and Cavalli are ordered to appear for examination Saturday morning, and Perla in particular is in poor standing with the Local Branch.”


June 12, 1918 [SCICo]: “Perla is drafted to go to Camp Lewis on the 24th and we expect that Cavalli will go with the next call [for World War I].”


June 18, 1918 [SCICo]: “Perla is leaving tomorrow. He goes to Camp Lewis on the 24th.”


August 10, 1920 [SCICo]: “At Scorpion the foreman and Perla are pumping water, watching cattle, etc.”


April 19, 1920 [SCICo]: “Mauri and Perla are both going to the Mainland for a few days only this trip of the Schooner.”


July 5, 1920 [SCICo]: “The labor situation is getting more critical than ever. At Christy the foreman is now alone, at Scorpion Batlemeni and Perla with no cook.”


August 23, 1928 [Caire, 1993]: “One fatal night before the vintage season, when the grapes were ripening, Don [the ranch dog] went out, as usual, with Perla to guard the vineyards. At the time my father [Frederic Caire] had some malaise which kept him house-bound for a few days. Donnie used to lie on the veranda outside his room, resting from his nocturnal work. It was a moonlit night. Perla, carrying his gun, walked eastward through the last vineyard, Don at his heels except when scouting among the vines… The next morning… Perla shrugged his heavy shoulders helplessly. Don had started back with Perla after the coche [pig] and was killed. All of a sudden he fell without a sound. … Brokenly, [Perla] told us what had happened…”