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May 9, 2014

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POST-GAZETTE, MAY 9, 2014 Page 13 e("(  by John Christoforo 00abb00onno A Nostalgic Remembrance This coming week, on the 15 th to be exact, I will have been writing my Nanna & Babbononno column for 23 straight years without a break. I believe that it is 276 stories about my life and that of my Italian family. I know that many of you readers can identify with the concept of "growing up Italian." Actually, the people of Italy call us Americans, not Italian Amer- icans, but Americans. We are the ones who use the Italian American definition of who we are. Regardless of what we call ourselves or they (whoever they are) call us. We come from a European cul- ture that had to American- ize to stay in existence. From what I see, we've done a pretty good job and have made our mark in this country. Seeing that this is my anniversary story, let me tell you how Babbononno first got here. It isn't the usual story of coming to America in the hold of a steamer. Babbo- nonno was a teenage musi- cian with a wife and child when he joined the Italian marines. There had been an American tradition that started with Thomas Jeffer- son and ended with Harry Truman. Each year, the Ital- ian marine band would come to Washington and serenade the president and his staff. In 1896, Michael Contini (Babbononno), was a drum- mer in that band. During their stay in our capital, he was notified by the Reuter's Service (transatlantic cable) that his wife died in child birth. When the band was ready to head home, he resigned his commission and stayed behind. Not speaking English, Washington was not the place for him. He headed for New Orleans because he heard that there was a large Italian community there. When he got there, he found out that someone had shot the mayor and they blamed the Italians of the city and the men of the city were hunting down all Italians. He left in a hurry and wound up in New York City. It was too busy for him there and he headed north to Portland, Maine, which he considered an outpost of civilization once he settled in. He soon left and arrived in Boston. Stopping at a caf6 in Boston's North End, he got into a con- versation with a man named Antonio Ceruolo. It seems that Ceruolo had a Salem Street apartment with three other Italian immigrants. One was moving out which created a vacancy. He asked Babbononno if he needed a place to stay. My grandfather accepted the offer and once settled in, began looking for a job. He had been trained to be both a musician and fin- ish carpenter. He didn't find it difficult to get in with an Italian band, as he played both drums and guitar. He had to go to school to learn English to get a day job and eventually learned enough of the lan- guage to find work building and finishing furniture. He and Antonio Ceruolo became the best of friends. He was a plasterer who did hand scroll work in cornices and was making good money. As a result, he was periodically sending for his siblings one by one. Babbononno saw the photo of one of his sisters, Giovannina, and liked the looks of her. Once she was here, they met and with Antonio's permission, they began to date. Babbononno stood up for Antonio and his fiancee, Maria, when they were mar- ried. Not long after, they moved to East Boston. Michael Contini eventually married Giovannina, who American- ized her name to Jenny, and they also moved to East Bos- ton to join her brother and sister-in-law. Antonio and Maria went on to have 10 children. My grandparents first produced my mother, Angelina (Anne), then Nicolo (Nick), Luigino (Louis or Gino), and Antonio, who died at a young age. Jenny, my grandmother, went to work as a seam- stress in Boston's garment district. She picked up a bit of gossip that her husband had a wife and two kids back in Italy. She dismissed this as just gossip but it contin- ued. At a given point, she confronted her husband with what she had been hearing. Babbononno straightened out the information. He told his wife that he had been wid- owed a few years earlier and that he never told her fear- ing that she wouldn't marry him. He did admit to being the father of two kids back in Foggia, Italy, two kids that were being raised by his mother. Jenny headed for the cookie jar, produced some cash and told her husband that the kids belonged with their father, not their grand- mother. The money was used to obtain one way passages -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 Htt t t t, ,,,,,t for Grace and Paul. Grace was the older of the two and did not take to Nanna. Paul immediately accepted her as his new mother. Grace left the fold and married while in her mid teens. Paul and Nick were trained by their father to become musicians and by the time they were in their early teens, became profes- sionals. Paul graduated from Mechanic Arts High School having learned the printing trade. For the rest of his working life, he would be a printer by day and a musi- cian at night. Nick, on the other hand, stayed with mu- sic until World War II came along. He joined the navy and fought the battle of Newport, Rhode Island, as a member of the navy band led by Andre Kostelanetz. The youngest son, Luigino, who Anglicized his name to Louis, Gino to the family, became a drummer, but en- listed in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he became a business- man and gave up music. Angelina, had Americanized her name to Anne, and met a member of the band, the bass player, that Nick and Paul were playing with. They brought John DeCristoforo home with them for din- ner between afternoon and evening jobs one day. Anne and John hit it off and began dating. Three years later, in 1936, they were married. Two years after that, I would show up. Uncle Paul and his wife, Aunt Eleanor, would produce two children, Paula and Eleanor or Ellie as she likes to be called. Uncle Nick married mom's best friend, Ada, but the marriage didn't survive WW II. They never had any children nor did Nick produce any in his mar- riage to Aunt Dorothy. Uncle Gino married a New Yorker, Ninna, settled in East Boston after the war and eventually fathered a set of twins, Richard and Donna. I was the first born male in an Italian family and was placed on a pedestal. I enjoyed the position and grew up as a very happy child. Babbononno and Nanna doted on me with Babbo- nonno teaching me music and making sure I became generation 3 in a family of musicians. My grandmother made it to her early 70s, when cancer ravaged her body. She passed away in 1958. Babbononno made it to his late 90s, living with my folks until he had to head for a nursing home. He passed on in 1973. This column is dedicated to Michael and Jenny Contini, my grandparents, affec- tionately called Nanna and Babbononno who represent the millions of Italians who came to this country and helped make it America the Beautiful. God bless them and ... GOD BLESS AMERiCA * Socially Scene (Continued from Page 7) This weekend is your last chance to see Actors' Shakespeare Projects rendition of As You Like It. (Photo by The remaining film sched- ule is as follows: Live Musical Accomlxmiment of The Matinee Idol on Saturday, May 24  at 7:00 pm. In quick succes- sion, six weeks for each pic- ture (two weeks for writing, two for shooting, two for edit- ing) He made two more films: So this is Love and Matinee /do/, a tent-show comedy with Johnny Walker and Bessie Love. In them he tried mix- ing in another so-called sure- fire ingredient with comedy, a little love story. It seemed to work. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town on Saturday, May 24 th at 9:00 pm. The story of a simple honest man, driven into a corner by predatory sophisticates, can he reach deep down into his God-given resources and come up with the necessary handfuls of courage, wit, and love to triumph over his environ- ment? Longfellow Deeds was not just a funny man cavort- ing in frothy situations. He was the living symbol of the deep rebellion in every human heart and a grow- ing resentment against be- ing compartmentalized. And when Mr. Deeds routed the mass predators, using only his simple weapons of hon- esty, wit, and courage, audi- ences not only laughed, they cheeredl Broadway Bill will play on Friday, May 304 at 7:00 pm. Only weeks after he had fin- ished It Happened One Night in early 1933 (and months before it copped the five major Oscars in the Acad- emy sweepstakes), he had made an entertaining film out of Mark Hollinger's short story about a man, a maid, and a Cinderella racehorse named 'Broadway Bill.' The man was Warner Baxter, the .maid Myrna Loy, and Broad- way Bill was a tame, tired plug because Warner Baxter was deathly afraid of horses, especially of those with their tails up. Closing out will be Lost Ho- rizon on Monday, June 2 nd at 7:00 p.m. Browsing in the Union Station's newsstand for something to read on the train, Carpa saw a book "Lost Horizon", written by the English writer James Hilton. This boe"-, is a classic that touched Carpa in such a way he not only read the book in one sitting yet dreamed about it for nights after and soon was determined to bring the book to life. Harvard Film Archive is a great place to gain education about our big screen past and is located at 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge also can be reached at 617-495-4700 for tickets and times. Your Last Chance to Catch ... Actors' Shakes- peare Project rendition of As You Like It by William Shakespeare through Sun- day, May 18 th. Perfect timing for a long- awaited spring, Actors' Shakespeare Project pre- sents what is easily one of Shakespeare's most engag- ing comedies, As You Like It. On one level it is a delightful confection. On a deeper level, it is a journey of discovery, in which the characters gain knowledge of themselves and the world. When Rosalind and Orlando fall in love, they are unable to act on their feel- ings. Forced to flee for their lives into the Forest of Arden, they find themselves en- tangled in a beguiling game of love, lust and mistaken identity. Together they and a host of other itinerants roam about this utopian so- ciety, free from the enmity at home, seeking romantic fulfillment. The Actors' Shakespeare Project performs at the Springstep Building located at 98 George P Hassett Drive, Medford. Visit www.actors or call- ing OvationTix at 866-811- 4111 for tickets. A Tasty Treat to Compli- ment Your Time in the City ... Dillon's was built in 1887 and a historic landmark in Boston, the venue is named after Capt. S. Dillon who was stationed here from 1920- 1950. Like its name sake, Dillon's is known for its warm hospitality, engaging people and spirited nightlife. An All- American menu, two-levels, and the best patio in the Back Bay make Dillon's a fa- vorite. Dillon's is located at 955 Boylston Street, Boston. Visit for a sneak peek at their menu. K II Mec Fully Insured Lic #017936 hanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs @