Thursday, May. 23, 2019

Joe Sciallo: From Fisherman to RCA Rigger

By Richard Nielsen · August 30, 2016

Sciallo Family. Joe Sciallo is seated on his father's lap. <span>&copy; Richard Nielsen </span>

Sciallo Family. Joe Sciallo is seated on his father's lap.


Joe Sciallo at the RCA Receiving Station at Pt. Reyes, 1950s. <span>&copy; Richard Nielsen </span>

Joe Sciallo was raised in a Miwok fishing village on the eastern shore of Tomales Bay. In the early 1900s his village was a stop on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad called “Fishermans.” When the Marconi radio station was established, the name of the railroad stop was changed to “Marconi.”

In the family photograph featured here, Joe is seated on his father’s lap. Joe’s paternal grandparents –Swiss Italians, had emigrated to West Marin in the mid-1880s. Joe’s mother was one-fourth Native American.  Joe could trace his lineage on his mother’s side to Tsupu, a member of the Miwok Tribe near Petaluma.  In the early 1800s, Tsupu married Tintic, a member of the Pomo Tribe from the Fort Ross area.

As a young man Joe learned to fish with his father, and began fishing in earnest as a young man.  In 1919, at age 18, he embarked on a fishing voyage to Alaska aboard the Star of Alaska. The Star of Alaska is known today as the Balclutha

Joe’s destiny, though, lay with the RCA radio station that loomed above the fishing village where he had grown up.  He began working at the Marconi station in 1925.  Intelligent and capable, he was quickly promoted to maintaining two nine-mile antenna lines that stretched toward Tocaloma and the Chileno Valley.  Maintaining each of these lines required a full day’s horseback ride.  He also attended to RCA's communication line between the Marconi station and Sausalito which took several days on horseback. One day he didn't arrive back to the station as expected and a search party was sent out.  He had broken his leg and his horse had run off.  After that, Irl Reid, the station manager, required Joe to bring an assistant along.

After the RCA receiving station on the Point Reyes Peninsula opened in 1931, Joe became a rigger there, as depicted in the accompanying photograph taken in the 1950s.  Sometimes Joe would also assist RCA riggers at the Bolinas transmitting station or the Marshall receiving station. The Marshall station closed the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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