DEBORAH SPALDINGwas at Stanford at the time,
studying journalism. She later worked as a reporter
San Francisco Chronicle
until 1946, when she
married Godwin J. Pelissero and they retreated to
Tecolote Ranch to raise a family, which eventually
included four children: Ellen, Candace, Silsby and
Godwin Jr. After the paterfamilias Silsby Spalding
died in 1949, his widow, Carrie, split her time be-
tween the ranch and Beverly Hills, but Deborah’s
family lived there year-round. The children attend-
ed Laguna Blanca School in Hope Ranch.
“It was a long way from civilization, as it were,”
Godwin Pelissero Jr. says of the ranch. “We didn’t
really have any neighbors.”
Tecolote “was a real ranch,” recalls Silsby Pelis-
sero, who says his parents grew walnuts and alfalfa
and raised cattle there and lit smudge pots to save
their orange groves on cold nights.
Silsby also notes that Haskell’s Beach in Goleta,
named for local surfer Mike Haskell, actually was
part of the Tecolote Ranch.
beach,” he says.
The big Refugio Fire of September 1955 failed to
burn the family out, although it came close. But they
finally sold out in 1959, when Deborah and God-
win Pelissero moved their family to Hope Ranch.
Deborah died in 2011, and Godwin a year later. As
for their children, Ellen now lives in San Leandro,
Candace in Palo Alto, Silsby in Marin County and
Godwin Jr. on Maui. (Deborah’s mother, Carrie
Spalding, died in 1970 in Orange County.)
Meanwhile, the family’s former Goleta ranch
was broken up for development. The Mooser-
designed hacienda remains a private home, sur-
rounded by 24 acres of gardens and orchards.
Since 2012, it has belonged to Schizas and Linehan,
a developer who owns Camino Real Marketplace
in Goleta. Intrigued by the hacienda’s history, the
couple reacquired some of its original fixtures, in-
cluding a pair of wrought–iron doors that weigh
500 pounds each.
“We’ve hosted a lot of charity events there,”
Th re are no horses on the ranch today, and Sils-
by Spalding’s ornately decorated “Visalia Supreme”
saddle now resides under glass at the carriage mu-
seum in Pershing Park, along with most of the rest
of his collection. The museum has recreated part
of Spalding’s tack room, complete with the carved
owls that once graced its mantelpiece. Take a close
look at that cylindrical metal object on the floor
nearby, which has nothing to do with the Old West.
It’s the unexploded shell that the I-17 lobbed into
the Spalding ranch during World War II.
Other Tecolote tack-room relics at the museum
include artist Edward Borein’s epic frieze depicting
the history of the horse in California and Joe De
Yong’s dramatic diorama depicting the “Ben Hol-
laday” stagecoach in action.
“Joe De Yong spent 1,500 hours making that
stagecoach, even before he put the people in it,”
Tom Peterson says.
Long a Pelissero family treasure, the diorama
now is available to the public at the carriage muse-
um, where it will fire the imagination of anyone who
accepts De Yong’s suggestion to “trust Fancy to hold
the ribbons and step aboard.”
A 1937 issue of
Country Life Magazine
included a photo
of the Tecolote Ranch Tack Room. The Carriage and
Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara has recreated the
Spalding tack room in an exhibit with photos, Mardueno
spurs, a silver concho belt, the original chairs and a shell
fired at the ranch by a Japanese submarine in 1942. All
exhibit items were donated by the Peliserro family.
Fall 2017–Winter 2018