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February 5, 2010     Post-Gazette
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February 5, 2010

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POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 5, 2010 Page13 00N00anna 00abb00onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance It was the middle of the winter and it was cold. Babbononno had heard that the Central Theater was bringing in several Italian films and he was excited. World War II had ended a couple of years earlier and nothing in the way of Italian film had hit the U.S. Things were changing for the Ital- ians including the re-estab- lishment of their film indus- try and the exportation of their products to countries with large Italian populations like Argentina, Uruguay, the U.S. and Canada. Frank Ferreira was the manager of the Central The- ater, then called the Central Square Theater due to its proximity to East Boston's Central Square. Frank was Portuguese, but understood the soul of Italian East Bos- ton and marketed the first Italian film to show at his theater as if it was a world- wide event. Babbononno read the ad in the East Boston Times for the first of the films, "The Bicycle Thief," and de- cided to take the whole fam- ily to see it. The opening night was a cold one, and neither my mother nor Nanna wanted to go out. All the men in my family were musicians so that excluded them from go- ing anywhere but to work at night. The only one left was, you guessed it, me. Mom bundled me up and I looked like the little brother in the trim A Christmas Story. Babbononno put on his over- coat, scarf, fedora, and gloves. We headed outside and the cold hit my face like a side- walk brick. I was only nine or ten and I hated the cold even then. Babbononno didn't drive and as I said, the men in the family were out play- ing with their bands, so we walked. We walked down Eutaw Street hill one block to Marion Street, headed left down that hill past Trenton, Lexington, Princeton, and Saratoga Streets. Taking a right on Bennington Street and walking toward Central Square, got us to the Central Theater just before I declared myself completely frozen. Babbononno bought the tickets and they were col- lected by Al Tramonte, a man I would get to know years later when we both worked at the Seville Theater. He wel- comed everyone who entered in Italian and Frank Ferrelra added to the welcome in En- glish. Just about everyone who braved the cold to attend the opening of the film was Italian. Babbononno bought us both candy (he had a sweet tooth) and we headed in to Fred seats. First, there was a cartoon, then a news reel, followed by a short subject and then com- ing attractions. The co-fea- ture was a Charlie Chan film, and I loved Charlie Chan. Babbononno could have cared less about a man of European ancestry trying to play a Chi- nese detective, but he sur- vived the hour and a half the film played. Just when it seemed like the Italian film was never going to hit the screen, Charlie Chan solved the murder case, the words "The End" registered on the screen, and then the Italian film began moments later. Babbononno slid forward on his seat to read the credits that are listed at the begin- ning of films and then sat back when the movie started. If I remember correctly, "The Bicycle Thief" is about life on the streets of Italy after the ravages of war that had left the country bankrupt and physically devastated. I re- member some of the scenes were quite graphic but I had a problem. There were no English subtitles at the bot- tom and I couldn't understand most of the dialogue. I under- stood my family when they spoke Italian, but that was an Avellinese dialect. Babbo- nonno understood everything and every time he heard something bad or saw the rav- ages of war in the film, he mumbled, "Jesu Cristo, che pecatto," (Jesus Christ, what a shame) under his breath. The film lasted a couple of hours, and when it ended, we headed home. It was just as cold walking home as it was walking to the theater. Once back in the house, Babbo- nonno told Mom and Nanna all about the film we had seen. As he explained it to them, I got the gist of it that I hadn't gotten due to the lack of sub- titles. As Babbononno ex- plained, the time was just after the war and this man gets his first job in years. He is to paste up posters of Rlta Hayworth all over town but needs a bicycle to do so. He hocks whatever he could to buy the bike, purchases a used one, but it gets stolen on the first day of work. The film goes on describing how the man and his son chase the thief. When Babbononno was finished with his retell- ing of the story, he added, "Dissa guy, Vittorio DeSica, he knowza howa ta tella storia." It was 1948 and I was in the -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 5 th grade at the Chapman School on Eutaw Street in East Boston. Actually, the school, which is now a senior housing complex, was across the street from where we lived. Each morning, Miss Cummings, the teacher would ask if anyone did any- thing different between the time we left school the day before and that morning. I was the first to put up my hand and yelled, "I saw the Bicycle Thief." One of the other ten year olds asked, "You saw somebody steal your bike?" Some of the other kids mumbled the same thing. The teacher then questioned me as to whether my mother called the police. I said no and then was asked if my mother spoke English. When I an- swered to the effects that my parents were American born, the teacher repeated her question, "Why didn't some- one call the police?" I then asked the question, "What for?" The teacher asked me if I wanted to get my bicycle back and then it hit me. She didn't know I was talking about seeing a film. Well, it was time to explain. I told the teacher and the other kids about my grand- father taking me to the Cen- tral Theater to see one of the first post-war Italian films to hit America. A couple of the kids whose parents were Italian born knew about the arrival of Italian films at East Boston theaters, but the teacher, not an East Boston- ian nor an Italian, didn't know anything about "The Bicycle Thief." During recess, I told the boys who gathered around me in the school yard all about the film. I guess I interested several of the kids as they said that they were going to ask their parents ff they could see it. I'm out of space, but before I go, I thought I would let you know ... I will be losing the garage space I have for my two antique cars. If anyone knows of garages in Arling- ton, Belmont, Winchester, Lexington, Medford, Water- town or the western part of Cambridge, please leave a message for me at the office, 617-227-8929. Thanks in advance, and may GOD BLESS AMERICA Remember Your Loved Ones The Post-Gazette accepts memorials throughout the year. Please call dl 7-227-8929 and ask for Lisa The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) with cancer and other cata- strophic diseases. Founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tennessee, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insur- ance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization. To purchase tickets or to learn more about sponsor- ship opportunities visit or call 617-965-5262. Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, www.bostongardens.eom. Sign the Guest Book during February for a chance to win tickets to the 2010 Boston Flower and Garden Show, be- ing held March 24 - 28, at the Seaport World Trade Center, Boston. In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press releases, PRNewswire services, etc.) Editorial (Continued from Even Juan Williams of Fox News, an Obama supporter, gave him an incomplete and said Americans have given him a D. By all measures, Obama is on track to be the worst president in American history. He only has himself to blame for his dismal record America is broke on his watch with. Record national debt greater than the gross domestic product of the world * Government take- over of the auto industry Fannie Mac * Freddie Mack * Bailouts * Liberal policies * Tarp * $700 bil- lion Federal stim-ulus * $1.2 trillion Federal Reserve res- cue $6.4 trillion tax and spend budget to redistribute wealth * +10% unemploy- ment. Most shocking at the State of the Union address was his insistence on ramming health care reform and cap- and-trade down the throats of American voters even though they have roundly Page 3) rejected the proposals. The Boston Herald had it right in their editorial of 1/28, "How About Listening" and I excerpt, "What Scott Brown voters wanted most was to stop the monstrous health care bill in its tracks." A new national poll found they have lots of company out there. But last night the president showed he only hears what he wants to hear." In addition, Nancy Pelosi has indicated we will have health care come hell or high water, and to hell with what the voters want. Regarding Cap & Tax In my editorial of 4/3 I indicated If the plan was implemented it would result in a $3,100 spike in our energy bills and tax dollars per year. All experts confirm, Cap and Tax will be a job killer right from the outset. All I can conclude is the president's oratory skills are no longer convincing the American people. Mayor's Column (Continued from Page I) vide the resources neces- sary. The Boston EITC Coa- lition consists of many com- munity organizations who are working together to pro- vide tax services to eligible residents. But that's not all. In addition to helping resi- dents file their taxes and claiming the EITC, the tax prep centers also offer a host of valuable resources. With the support of Living Cities, eight credit advising/ financial counseling loca- tions are available to assist residents beyond just filing their taxes. The Health Information Professionals (HIPster) ini- tiative will continue to serve taxpayers in need of health insurance and related health access services. In support of this important work, the Mayor's Health Line has ex- tended their service hours to provide telephone service during the evenings and weekends of the season when residents need it most. On the ground, many orga- nizations have come to- gether to provide one-on-one services to taxpayers in need of affordable health insur- ance access. Trusted & dedi- cated organizations like the African Community Health Initiatives (ACHI) program give their time and exper- tise to be a resource in pro- moting the health of the City. The EITC Ambassadors program provides assistance to residents who are not native-English speakers to ensure they can navigate the tax assistance in their native language. Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries has increased its programming to assist tax payers from the disability community to accommodate their needs. Centers will provide in- formation related to the up- coming U.S. Census, the results of which have a di- rect impact upon resources directed into Boston. K3 I Fully Insured Lic #017936 Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211