Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


This is the sixth in a series of articles about southern Sicily, chiefly the interesting town of Agrigento that we visited in the 1990s


By Charles N. Stevens

Walking slowly along the beach, pausing occasionally to look out at the sea or down at a lone shell on the sand, Dolores and I savor the time we have away from the others. The beach is so quiet that we can hear the soft woosh and splashes of the small waves, and the rustle of our clothes as we walk. We have time enough to dawdle, to note the color of the sea and watch green sea grass waltz in the currents of a tidal pool.

The late afternoon sky is flocked with clouds, grayer near the horizon. Like spokes from an ethereal wheel, hazy shafts of sunlight reach to the sea, turning the water at those points to silver pools of liquid light shimmering in a field of grayish blue. The wet sand, washed by the ebb and flow of the small waves, mirrors the day’s end. As we walk, we find the shoreline changes from sand to rounded pebbles as small as marbles to smooth stones as large as tennis balls. Here and there other people wander along the beach, or on top of a thick concrete bunker built during World War II, now dark gray with age.

Just behind the wide beach, steady winds from the sea have piled the sand into small dunes covered with shrubs and trees. Where the dunes have been cleared, rows of beach homes stand behind a concrete seawall. The main street of San Leone, paralleling the shoreline is lined with more homes, apartments, cafes with outside tables, shops, ice cream stands and an amusement park.

Our shoes clatter through the stones then become silent as we step into the softness of the dry sand. Small shells of many kinds litter the beach, among them green strands and tatters of sea grass looking much like bits of grass fallen from a child’s Easter basket.

The beach at San Leone, and particularly the beaches stretching fifty miles to the east had not always been so peaceful. On July 9, 1943 an Allied armada of 3000 ships, one of the mightiest forces ever seen, invaded the beaches of Sicily. 160,000 combat-ready troops with 14,000 vehicles, 600 tanks and 1800 huge guns swarmed ashore. Although a sudden unpredicted storm had hampered the invasion, mountainous swells erupting from the sea, the forces poured on to the beaches. Lt. General George S. Patton led the U. S. 7th Army, and British General Bernard L. Montgomery led the 8th Army.

Battleships hammered the shore, thunderous explosions shaking the earth. Paratroops landed behind the lines, carrier-based planes bombarded enemy positions, and landing craft eased on to the sand, the soldiers’ easy targets for the enemy secreted in their impenetrable concrete bunkers.

400,000 enemy soldiers were stationed in Sicily, 315,000 Italians and 90,000 Germans, all under the command of Field Marshall Albert Kesselring. They had thought that the Allied invasion would be launched against the western tip of Sicily, and so concentrated their forces there. They had also thought that no invasion would take place in such a storm, and that no carrier planes would take off at night. The Germans being wrong on all counts, the Allies established their beachhead, and spread rapidly through the countryside. Young Italian men, having no heart for the war, fled from their concrete bunkers waving white flags. But that all happened 53 years ago.

Today the young men of San Leone frequent bars and computer game parlors. The most popular bar for young people, the tables outside crowded with them, is Bar La Vela (The Sail). Streams of small cars turn into the main street, and young people mingle. A music bus, its open sides becoming an instant music tape store, blares its tunes, the strong base beating out the rhythms of youth.

Off the beach now, we stroll toward a small park or plaza where young people roller skate, their roller blades clicking over the seams between the tiles. Young men play soccer, dashing and sweating in a space not much larger than a tennis court. The sea is almost a teal color by now, the horizon reddish and hazy. Older men walk slowly, wearing their standard European caps and suit coats, some with sweater vests or even ties. Children romp on the playground equipment, and a man, not getting much business, offers two ponies for riding. The dark masts of sailboats bristle in the marina.

Families walk by with their small children or push toddlers in strollers. A few carry babes in their arms. The evening sky spreads out like a glorious Italian painting.

A nut roaster sets up his stand near the park, his pipe-like charcoal burner pouring out smoke that drifts down the street in the wind. He lights a Coleman lamp above him, tends to his bulging bags of peanuts and chestnuts. The smoke smells of charcoal and roasting nuts, stimulating our appetites.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 43 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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