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February 28, 2014     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 28, 2014 Page 13 00N00anna by John Christoforo 00abb00onno A Nostalgic Remembrance I've had people ask how come I decided to go to col- lege. I've thought about this question many times and came up with a few practi- cal answers. First of all, for- mal education wasn't part of the culture of the old-timers, like Babbononno. His con- cept of a man was based on how hard the person worked to survive, how calloused his hands were, how talented he was at his craft and how com- mitted he was to his trade. To this extent, in the old neighborhood, many men were referred to by their first names and their professions: Pete the Shoemaker, Joe the Barber, Mario the Baker, Young Tony the Bricklayer, Fat Tony the Cook, Pat the Bookie, Charlie Numbers ... you get my drift. Babbo- nonno's nickname was Mike the Carpenter or Mike the Musician, depending who was making the reference. Dad was Christie the Bass Player. This all went back to the way things were in the old country before that first gen- eration got here. The out- siders who controlled the government, the people from the north, the clergy (who sometimes were considered the enemy), these were the people who were educated. The peasantry emphasized the opposite of what they did, hence the stress on the crafts and trades. Expressed in this country a generation later, it meant that your sons learned a trade in school or got enough schooling to learn how to read, write and count. They then might quit school before they finish and be- come an apprentice in some trade. Babbononno taught me how to use hand tools to work wood into pieces of furniture. He thought it might be a good idea if I became a wood- worker during the day and play music at night. Laboring in two professions is what he opted for and what his sons and son-in-law all did. My father had hoped I would fol- low the American dream and think about higher edu- cation. When WWlI began, he got off the road with the big bands and played locally. He also began teaching machine shop at East Boston High School. The prerequi- site for this was to have worked for seven years in the trade, not a college degree as is necessary today for the same job. As a result of associating with other school teachers, all with one or more degrees, he learned what higher education was all about, the doors it could open and the legacy it could help pass on to the next generation. What mainly convinced me that my father was right when he lectured me about finishing high school and going on to college, was what I experienced in the street. To use slang, I "hung out" on a street corner from the time I was 13 years old. First, there were the neighborhood kids who took up residence on the corner of Brooks and Eutaw Streets, a half block from where I lived. When I was about 15, several of us headed down the Brooks Street hill and began hang- ing out on the corner of Bennington and Brooks ... this was the big time. Socializing at both loca- tions were young men who were on the corner every night after dinner, dressed in the styles of the day, speak- ing with the slang of the day, admiring anyone who drove by in a new ear, and of course watching all the girls walk by. Everyone smoked Camels, Luckies, Old Gold, Paul Mall, Chesterfield and a couple of other brands of the day and a cloud of used smoke floated over each of the four corners of the Brooks/Bennington intersection. Most of these guys, teens and men in their twenties, had quit school and gone to work. There was a lot of factory work around Boston back in the day. Some of the guys worked as long shore- men, others as day laborers in the construction trades and others worked at the fish pier. Some just did odd jobs because that's all they could get. A few were apprenticed in trades be- cause someone they were related to was in the trade and the opportunity was there. For the most part, the salaries weren't great and advancements were few. I thought about what most of these friends and acquain- tances made and questioned ff I wanted to be in the same professional and financial situation when I was a few years older. What convinced me that I was heading in the wrong direction was my observa- tion of some of the guys who straddled the fence be- tween things legal and ille- gal. Periodically, a police car would stop at the corner, a detective would question one or two of the corner people -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL , OCCASIONS .7.81-648-5678 i and chances are, they would be taken away in handcuffs. I witnessed one or two of the guys arguing back and paying the penalty for their resistance. One night, a friend asked me to walk with him to Station Seven, the local police station in East Boston. It seems that he had gotten himself into some kind of trouble and wanted to try to talk himself out of it. If I accompanied him, the police might let him go. An hour later, after my friend had been ques- tioned by the police, one of the officers came out of the interrogation room and told me that they were not going to release my friend and asked what my involvement was with his dealings. I explained that I only walked with him to the police station at his request and nothing more. The officer then told me go home and walked me to the door. On the way out, I ran into another officer, a man I knew due to the fact that his beat was Central Square and he had stopped in at the Seville Theater on several of the nights I was working. We said hello to each other and I heard him say to the officer that es- corted me out, "What's that kid doing here, he works at the Seville and is one of the good kids." One of the things I admired about many of my street corner associates was their toughness. Several who got in trouble went up in front of the local judges and were given options, join the service or go to jail. Most of those tough guys who opted for the service flunked out of boot camp. They didn't have what was necessary to make it. Those who didn't join the service served time in jail. With these observa- tions under my belt and a recognition of the fact that most of my friends were mak- ing very low wages due to the lack of a trade or education, I began to think that my father might be right. When I began my senior year in high school, representatives from different colleges began arriving at English High to tell us about the schools they represented. I spoke to Babbononno and my father illustrating the words of the college reps about the doors that could open for me if I decided on higher educa- tion. My father was happy that I was coming over to his way of thinking. Babbononno was skeptical but agreed that I should follow a path that would lead to success. Of course Nanna and my mother agreed with their husbands and when the second half of my senior year rolled around, I was all set to head to Boston State College after graduation. I'm out of space and will pick it up from this point next week. GOD BLESS Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) The timeless tale, "Death of a Salesman" will be on the Lyric Stage in Boston through March 16 th. (Photo by lajollalight.com) plans to make a business proposition the next day. The next day, Willy goes to ask his boss, Howard, for a job in town while Bfff goes to make a business proposi- tion, but neither is success- ful. Willy gets angry and ends up getting fired when the boss tells him he needs a rest and can no longer rep- resent the company. Biff waits hours to see a former employer who does not re- member him and turns him down. Biff impulsively steals a fountain pen. Willy then goes to the office of his neighbor Charley, where he runs into Charley's son Ber- nard (now a successful law- yer); Bernard tells him that Biff originally wanted to do well in summer school, but something happened in Bos- ton when Biff went to visit Willy that changed his mind. From there the story takes twists and turns that have made this production what it is today. To get the full story catch Death of a Salesman on the Lyric Stage located 140 Clarendon Street, Boston through March 16 th. For further information, please call 617-585-5678 or visit www.lyricstage.com. Museum of Fine Arts Gives Back ... Joslin Diabe- tes Center will host their I0  annual Spoonful of Ginger at the MFA on March 17  to ben- efit their Asian American Diabetes Initiative. A Spoonful of Ginger will offer guests the opportunity to taste the cuisine of 24 of Boston's most celebrated res- taurants for a spectacular evening sure to delight even the most discriminating taste buds at the beautiful Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Artsl Guests will enjoy an evening of gourmet dishes prepared by some of Boston's most renowned chefs, including David Becker, Joanne Chang, Andy Hus- bands, Kevin Long and Jasper White. Proceeds ben- efit Joslin Diabetes Center's Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI), which strives to enhance the quality of life and health outcomes for the rising number of Asian Americans living with dia- betes, as well as working with Joslin in their commit- ment to finding a cure. This year's event will honor the Director and Founder of the AADI and Joslin Diabetes Center's Di- rector Research, Dr. George King, for his contributions to the AADI's mission and his active role within the Asian American community. It is always a good time when you can mix tasty treats with charity and the "A Spoonful of Sugar Event" is ten years running. Join them on Monday, March 17  from 6:30 pm-9:30 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the Art of the Americas Wing located at 465 Hun- tington Avenue, Boston. For tickets to the event call 617-309-2512 or log on to www.joslin.org /ginger. Revere Says RYes" (Continued from Page I on the state ballot. The state Everett's near 80 percent attorney's office reportedly margin of victory (85 percent has stated the question support in June's election)." shouldn't be placed on the Two cities, one casino site ballot. The arguments are and a June 30 th vote. Sit now before the Supreme back, but don't relax, the Judicial Court for a final next four months will be a ruling. Opponents are hope- nail biter for Revere, Everett ful the question will make as well as Charlestown and ballot status. East Boston. Meanwhile, supporters of Kudos go out to Mayor Dan a Suffolk Downs casino in Rizzo for his hard work in Revere are hopeful that the supporting a Revere casino. state Gaming Commission Kudos also to Mayor Carlo will award the single Boston- DiMaria for his equally area casino license to the strong leadership in Everett. City of Revere. However, Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Marty Walsh will work wasted little time in touting hard and long in support of the Steven Wynn Everett East Boston and Charles- site. The fight is far from town communities which over and both sides are gear- will be greatly impacted by a ing up for the long haul be- casino site near them. fore the June 30  vote by the In the end, it looks like we state Gaming Commission have come down to Everett picks one winner, and Revere. May the candi- Mayor DiMaria added that date for the site win and may "There is. no comparing we all be able to live with it.