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March 26, 2010     Post-Gazette
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March 26, 2010

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I POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 26, 2010 Page13 Babb onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance I was driving home from Walpole early one afternoon last week. I decided to make a stop at Syms, a clothing store that is located on Route 1 in, I think, Norwood. The reason I decided to head there was due to something I heard and wanted to find out for myself. Someone told me that they (Syms) had teamed up with Filene's Basement and I was curious to see what the combination produced. First of all, I like to dress. I guess I have always liked to dress. I sort of picked up the habit from Babbononno, my father and my uncles. Fortunately, I have worked in professions where proper dress is mandatory. I don't want you to think I've be- come a snob in my old age, I haven't. When I'm at home I prefer to be in either jeans (dungarees for those of us over forty) or denim shorts and a T shirt that is one size too big. Accompanying these are usually a pair of dock- siders covering my bare feet. How's that for the death of a proper image? Anyway, when I'm home dress like this, the only one who has to put up with me is my wife. I had recently shopped at Syms on Route 1 North but Director of Voices from the Basement. He asked if he could inter- view me and I agreed. He asked if I had been a cus- tomer of Filene Basement. I told him that I had been shopping at the downtown Boston store since I was in high school (that was over fifty years ago). He then asked how I liked the new store and would I return. I told him that this was just a dry run and that I would return when I had more time. I also added that I had recently lost fifty pounds (thanks to my son, Michael, and Dean Saluti). As a result, I had to give away most of my clothes. They were too big to get al- tered. When we concluded, I thanked Mr. Bavaro and was on my way. While driv- ing toward Boston, I began to think about my experiences at Filene's Basement back in the day. I had been shop- ping there on my own since I was thirteen. Working at the Seville Theater afforded me the opportunity to buy my own clothes. I had gone there with my father and Grandpa Christoforo when I was very young, but beginning at age thirteen, I was on my discovered they had closed own. A.year later, I walked their north shore location a couple of weeks before I got there. Feeling unrequited, I drove to Norwood to try their other location only to dis- cover that they were reorga- nizing the store. Unable to hop, I left and aid to my- self, "I guess Marshalls is the place for you from now on." It was after this episode that I found out what was going on, Well, when I aiTived, it was a festive occasion. Sales- people were decked out in their finest and all were wearing flowers. Some of them were standing outside the entrance greeting the customers. Inside, I discov- ered why. The sections of the store looked like what they were, a combination of Syms and Filene's Basement. I spent about a half hour just looking: suits, sport jac- kets, slacks, dress and sport shirts, and just about every- thing a man could wear. When I had to leave, due to an appointment, I hadn't made any purchases, but knew I would return when I had more time to myself. On the way out, there was a man with a camera and a microphone. He introduced himself as Michael Bavaro, down the stairs on Washing- ton Street that led to the MBTA station of Downtown Crossing and Filene's Base- ment. After a few minutes in the men's department, a man approached me and commented on my Englioh High School jacket. He said that he was a graduate of English and was working at Filene's to help pay his way through divinity school. For whatever reason, he stayed with me as I picked out sev- eral items all the while tell- ing me whether they looked good on me or not or whether the material and quality was worth the asking price. As a result of his concern and demeanor, he waited on me for at least the next twenty years or more, until the day he retired. On one occasion when I was in high school, Easter was coming and Babbononno asked me if I would take him shopping for some Eas- ter clothes. He said, "Jennie, Unga-la Nick, ezza too bizzy a take-a me a Bostona a buy da zuit. You bringa me eh we find some dinga foh to wear." I told him to meet me after school on the follow- ing afternoon and we started at Raymonds. He looked at the suits and said, "Jenny, dissa stuffa izza awla junka. We go a Fileneza." So, I brought him to see my friend who worked there. The man in mention, whose name was, Lowell Edney, found Babbononno difficult to un- derstand. I had to translate my grandfather's fractured English into Boston English. As a result of my transla- tions, they communicated fairly well and Babbononno was fitted with a new navy blue suit, a white shirt, pat- terned tie and a new pair of black shoes. Lowell and he shook hands after the sale was finalized. Babbo- nonno looked at him and said, "Signore, lei sono molto gentile, mi nipote e noi ritorniamo un'altra volta." Lowell had no idea what my grandfather had said and I translated, "Sir, you are very nice, my grand- son and I will return." They both smiled shook hands again and we left. On another occasion years later, I called Lowell and told him I was coming in with two friends who wanted new wardrobes. I asked ff he could have two other sales- men with him to wait on the three of us. He obliged and their commissions were rather high that day after they rang up all the things we bought. Every now and then, I would get a call from Lowell telling me that there were garments coming to the basement that had been modeled in a fashion ~how. If I could be there at a particular time, I could buy designer suits, j ackets, pants, coats and whatever at very low prices. Whenever I got this type of a call, I would head to Filene's Basement and put a dent in my bank accounL It always worked to my advantage. After Lowell retired due to ill health, Filene's Basement wasn't the same. I continued to shop there with Dean Saluti, but something was missing. It got to a point that my wife, Loretta, would have to drag me there. Well, Filene's has become a hole in the ground in down- town and I now shop in the suburbs. With the opening of this new Syms/Filene's Basement, i'n head back and maybe relive those experiences I had with Babbononno and my friends when I was young and Filene's Basement was the only place in town to shop. GOD BLESS AMERICA -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) especially encouraged to support the food drive, mem- bers of the community are also invited to participate in the food drive by dropping off food items between 7 and 8 p.m. each night. The BSO food drive can only accept canned food items and pasta. For safety reasons, the Greater Boston Food Bank does not accept baby food, baby formula, and glass containers. The "Orchestras Feeding America" program was launched in 2009 with 250 orchestras participating na- tionwide collecting more than 200,000 pounds of food. The Greater Boston Food Bank distributes approxi- mately 30 million pounds of food and grocery products annually to more than 600 hunger-relief agencies in a dedicated partnership to end hunger in eastern Massa- chusetts. The Food Bank serves 83,000 people each week and is a member of Feeding America. For more information about The Greater Boston Food Bank, visit or call 617-427-5200. The BSO's 2009-10 season continues through May 1, 2010. Program and ticket details are available at Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) ! C ticketmaster I|I.IIILIiI|LII[IIIIIIlI.|lll ******** *******