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April 30, 2010     Post-Gazette
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April 30, 2010

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POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 30, 2010 Page13 Nanna 00Babb00nonno For the past few years, I have been answering ques- tions asked by my two boys about family and roots. I have a box of photos in the cellar that I have been care- fully looking at to identify people, places and time frames. When I say photos, I mean literally thousands taken over the years. What I am attempting to do is put an electronic photo album together for my kids and their descendents. That way, when I'm gone, they will know who their people were and be able to pass the in- formation to the next gen- eration. Some of the photos are around I00 years old and not in great shape. I have a new computer that has the capability of fixing old photos and things are working out rather well. I recently located and added in a picture of my great-grandparents, Nanna's mother and father. Nicola and Louisa Ceruolo. Bis- nonno and Bisnonna (great- grandfather and great- grandmother) spent most of their lives in Avellino. When Nicola retired, all his chil- dren, except one daughter, were living in America and his oldest son, Zi'Antonio, sent for them to spend their retirement years in Boston. They moved in with Nanna and Babbononno and over- saw the entire family grow and prosper. My great grand- mother passed away before I was born, but considering my memory, I think I re- member my great grandfa- ther. I was just out of infancy and remember my mother calling him Nonno. My grandfather, Michele (Mike) Contini came to America as the result of a tradition that existed from the time of Thomas Jefferson through the presidency of Harry Truman. Each year, the Italian Marine Band would come to America and serenade the American leaders at the White House. In 1896, Babbononno was part of that orchestra that sailed to America for their annual concert. While in Washington, he was notified by the Reuter's News Service that his young wife had died in childbirth. He was devastated and didn't sail back to Italy when the tour was over. Resigning his commission, he was now alone in America. Not speaking any English, there was nothing for him in Washington. He tried New Orleans but the city was by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance , i i i not friendly to Italians and he next headed north to New York, but it was too big and intimidating a city for him. His next move was to Boston's North End, a loca- tion that was just right. He met Antonio Ceruolo, at a Hanover Street car6 and the two became friends. Babbononno needed a place to stay and Antonio had an apartment on Salem Street with three other fellow Italians. A fourth had just moved out and there was room for one more. Mike Contini accepted. He found a job, days, mak- ing furniture, a trade he had learned in Foggia, his home city in Italy. He let it be known that he was also a musician and he soon be- came a member of a dance band and a concert orches- tra. He played guitar with the dance group and drums with the orchestra, both for concerts and parades. He then signed up for "immi- grant school" and learned how to read, write and speak in English. His friend, Antonio Ceruolo was a plasterer. He did fancy scroll work in ceiling mold- ings and chandelier sconces, and as a result made enough money to send for his broth- ers and sisters, one at a time. Mike saw a picture of one of Antonio's younger sis- ters, Giovannina. He liked the way she looked, and not long after her arrival, they began dating under the su- pervision of Antonio. Unable to read Italian nor English, Giovannina quickly learned to speak the language of America rather well. She changed her first name to Jenny. To her, it sounded more American. Well, Jenny Ceruolo and Mike Contini, dated for quite a while and married in the first decade of the 20 th century. They rented an apartment in East Boston. Just before this point in time, Antonio had married his fianc6e and bought a large house, also in East Boston. The Contini apartment and the Ceruolo home were within walking distance from each other and all was well. Jenny went to work in the garment indus- try doing hand tailoring on men's clothing. As time went on, she heard some gossip about Mike having a family back in Italy. He had never mentioned anything to her about that part of his life. The rumor was that her hus- band had a wife and two kids back in Foggia. Finally, she -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 i iii iii confronted her husband and he told her the story. He explained that his wife had passed away and, yes, he did have two children, both of whom were being taken care of by his mother, my great grandmother, Maria. He then added that he didn't want to tell his new wife about this family situa- tion fearing that she, Jenny, would reject his mar- riage proposal. Jenny went to the cookie jar, took out the money she had been sav- ing, gave it to her husband and told him to bring his two children to America. She insisted that they should be with their father. Before Uncle Paul and Aunt Connie arrived, my mother was born and Chris- tened "Angelina." After Paul and Connie arrive, along came "Nicola" (Uncle Nick) named after Nanna's father, then "Luigino" (Uncle Gino, called Lou by his American friends). He was named after Nanna's brother, Luigi. There was another child, Antonio, named after Nanna's oldest brother and by now, Mike's best friend. Unfortunately, Antonio died at a young age. He was about three, and pulled a pot of boiling water off the top of the kitchen stove and scalded himself. He didn't survive and became the first in my family to be bur- ied in America. Paul and Nick became musicians like their father. Paul went to school for print- ing and also worked in that industry. Nick became the president of the Musicians' Union after World War II. When Gino returned home from the service, he went into sales and wound up in the liquor business. All three did rather well in life. Sister Angelina, now called Anne, married a musician friend of Nick and Paul, John DeChristoforo. They became my parents. I was the only child they had the "De" dis- appeared from my name and it became Christoforo. I look at it this way, I was the first born male in an extended Italian family. I was placed on a pedestal and had quite a privileged young life. Well, they are all gone except Uncle Gino who will be 93 this June. This story and the hundreds of pictures I am putting together will tell my sons, John and Michael, "who and what" about the four generation that pre- ceded them. I hope that the will take the information, and when they marry and have kids, pass it on to gen- eration number six. GOD BLESS AMERICA For more information, call Lisa at 617-227-8929 SUFFOLK DOWNS 20 I0 RACING SCHEDULE Historic Track Celebrating 75 th Anniversary The 2010 live racing sea- son at Suffolk Downs will begin Saturday, May 15 and consist of 101 racing days, the track announced as it introduced its complete rac- ing schedule for its 75 t" an- niversary season. Opening Day is scheduled on Preakness Stakes Day this year, two weeks later than the track's traditional opening on Kentucky Derby Day. First post time on Open- ing Day is 1:15 PM. "As more and more of the New England horsemen and horses winter in Florida, Delaware and Pennsylvania where purses are enhanced due to expanded gaming, ex- tending our opening for even a couple weeks makes it easier for us to get top qual- ity horses to return here," said Chip Tuttle, Suffolk Downs' Chief Operating Of- ficer. "Based on the recent legislative action in Massa- chusetts, we look forward to our 75 th anniversary season with a renewed sense of op- timism for the future." The track will be hosting Boston's Biggest and Best Kentucky Derby Party on Saturday, May I. In addition to the standard simulcast areas, fans will be able to watch the Derby and other races on large outdoor tele- vision screens as part of a festival featuring live bands and an assortment of food and beverages. After the May 15 t" opening, live racing will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the remainder of the month of May. Starting Me- morial Day, May 31, the track will conduct a Monday- Tuesday-Wednesday-Satur- day racing schedule until the conclusion of the meet on Saturday, November 13. Usual first race post time is 12:45 PM. For the start of the 2010 racing season, Suffolk Downs projects average daily over- night purses consistent with 2009's level of $90,000 per day. The track will announce its 2010 stakes program in the coming weeks. Suffolk Downs will cel- ebrate its 75 th anniversary throughout the season. Built by 3,000 workers in just 62 days, the historic track opened on July 10, 1935 and has been a showcase for some of the most famous names in Thoroughbred rac- ing history. The legendary Seabiscuit first raced at the track in its inaugural season and would return in 1937 to win the track's signature race, the Massachusetts Handi- cap. Champion racehorses War Admiral, Whirlaway, John Henry and Cigar have all competed at Suffolk Downs, as have Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Arcaro, Chris McCarron, Angel Cordero and Jerry Bailey. The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) 2009 Roslindale Open Stu- dios featured more than 90 artists in 44 locations, in- cluding painters, photogra- phers, printmakers, fiber artists, potters, jewelers and more. For further information, visit www.roslindaleopen 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 releases, PRNewswire services, etc.} As one of the program participants pats a beloved horse, BiNA Farm's founders, left to right, Terry Snow, Babak Bina and Coryn Bina, smile for the camera. On May 8 the charitable organization will host the first annual "Horsing Around at the Ritz Gala Benefit" at The Ritz- Carlton. (Photo courtesy of Abby Steinbock)