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May 11, 2012     Post-Gazette
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May 11, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, MAY 11,2012 Page 13 N t Christoforo Babb]nonno bY ' A Nostalgic Remembrance I was just thinking ... this coming Tuesday the 15 th, will be an anniversary date for my Nanna and Babbo- nonno column. It will be 21 years old. I began with the first publication on the 15 th of May in 1991 and I guess I haven't stopped since. Writing came to me in an accidental way. I spent my early life involved in teach- ing school, playing music, acting and I made a few attempts at businesses. I can't complain because I did rather well with all of them but writing wasn't included. One Monday back in the early 80s, I was with Dad and Uncle Nick at the musi- cian's union. Monday was the traditional gathering day when musicians met with band leaders and contrac- tors to book in future work. I was approached by Sam Marcus, the then president of the union. He said, Hey, Johnny, Sam Medoff died." I replied that I had heard he passed away, but I didn't re- ally know the man. I added, "If he was a close friend, you have my condolences." Sam then added, "No, that's not why I mentioned his pass- ing. He has been writing a column in our union maga- zine, The Interlude, and I'm looking for someone to take it over. I thanked Sam but assured him I was not a writer. He then asked if it was true that I had written a work book for the Boston School Department. I told him that I had, but it was entitled "Spanish for Medi- cal Personnel" and was to be used through school depart- ment training programs in several of Boston's hospitals. (This is before they had medical people who were native-born Spanish speak- ers.) Sam added, "If you can write, you can write. Think about it." The column in question was called "A La Breve" and was a social commentary about local musicians, their lives, where they were play- ing and with whom. I thought about the task, con- sidered it a challenge called Sam and told him I would like to give writing for the Interlude a try. I did and it worked out well for me. I found out I could write things that the guys could identify with and the column contin- ued to be popular. My prob- lem was that subsequent presidents had different ideas. If they were less se- cure than Sam Marcus had been, they would be dis- pleased with the popularity of the column and the rec- ognition I was receiving as its writer. The magazine was a monthly publication and I only had to deal with inse- cure presidents every thirty days or so, but it could be aggravating. During the spring of 1991, I met Pam Donnaruma, the publisher and editor of the Post-Gazette. I remember seeing her paper as a child when Babbononno would buy La Gazetta once a week, and read the stories in it to Nanna and me in Italian. At that chance meeting, Dean Saluti mentioned to Pam that I was a writer. Someone who had been writing for her paper was leaving and she was looking for a columnist to take their place. I said that I would think about it and the next day, discussed it with Dad. I told him that the paper was now published in English and was popular in the Italian American communities throughout the state. What I had been writing for the musician's union magazine was for a particular audience, musi- cians, and those stories in the Interlude would have little significance in the Post-Gazette. Dad began to think and reminded me of all of my experiences growing up in an Italian/Italian American extended family. He knew that I had a good memory and could relate stories about life in the Christoforo/Contini family that readers might identify with. Dad had a convincing way, and I decided to give it a try. That was 1,008 columns ago ... 21 years ago with 48 columns a year. I thought about what Dad had said when I first sat down with pen and paper to draft out that first column. As I thought about what I was going to write about, a TV show came to mind that I had loved as a kid. It was based on a movie with the same title and I identified with when I was young. It was called, "I Remember Mama." The weekly TV sto- ries were about a San Francisco based Norwegian family in the early 1900s. The story line was based on the parents, aunts and uncles, never-seen grand- parents and the kids in the family all making it in America. As I pieced my ideas to- gether, I came to the con- -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 clusion that I could do the same thing only with Italian relatives in the character roles instead of Norwegians. My pen hit the paper and the titles my grandparents liked to be called became the title of the column, "Nanna and Babbononno." Babbononno is an old fash- ion term not used much today, Nonno translates to grandfather. Babbononno actually means Grandpappy, but that's what we called my maternal grandfather. Nonna is the word for Grand- mother, but Nanna was Americanized and liked to be called Nanna and so the title stuck. That first col- umn was finished in a couple of hours and was about how Babbononno came to America. I typed out my chicken scratch so the folks at the paper wouldn't have to translate hieroglyphics us- ing the Roman alphabet. That first week's attempt seemed to work out favor- ably and for my second try, I wrote about how Nanna came to America. This too worked out for me and I was off, writing about the Contini family which included Nanna and Babbononno's children, Uncles Paul, Nick, Gino, and my mother, Anne. When I added in their spouses and the kids, my cousins, it began to come together as a family the readers could identify with. Well, I've expanded on this theme over the years and I've received many letters and emails telling me how members of the readership could identify with the story lines and the extended family concept. Actually, a writer doesn't know if he or she is reaching the public with the intent or the impact of a story unless the public responds. I'm grateful that so many of you have seen fit to make comment and it humbles me as I say, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart." Twenty-one years have passed. Nanna and Babbo- nonno are long gone. My folks passed away Dad in 1991 and Mom in 2007. The only Uncle I have left is Uncle Gino and in June he will be 95. He and Aunt Ninna invited Loretta and me to dinner last week and we reminisced about the "old days" when we grew up as Italians in America. Well, now you have it, the story about how this column was born. I want to thank you again, and as long as you allow me to continue, there will be a column called Nanna and Babbononno in this paper. GOD BLESS AMERICA. I DIAMONDS 1 ROLEX ESTATE JEWELRY Bought & Sold Jewelers Exch. Bldg. Jim (617) 263-7766 THE PAUL REVERE MALL: History, Art & Community Historical Lectures and Discussion to be held on Thurs- day, May 17, 2012 beginning at 7:00 pm at the Old North Church located in Boston's North End. Representatives of cultural and community organizations will discuss the historical significance of the urban park (called "The Prado" by the North End community) and its monuments, including the Paul Revere Statue by the American sculptor Cyrus Dallin (1861-1944). This program is part of the year-long celebration of the 150 m anniversary of Dallin's birth. Presentations by: David A. Kubiak, North End/Waterfront Residents' Association: "The Prado: Its History and Future;" Rebecca Reolds, American Art Curator: "Arrested Motion: Cyrus Dallin's Statue of Paul Revere" and Alex R. CIdfeld, President and Historian, North End Historical Society: "The Pride of Later Generations: North End History Remembered in The Prado." NEAD/Nazzaro Center Spring Concert & Family Dinner Scholarship Night On Monday, May 21, 2012, North End Against Drugs and the Nazzaro Community Center will host their Annual Children's Band Spring Concert and Family Dinner Night. The event will be held at the Nazzaro Community Center and will celebrate all the hard work that the Children at the Nazzaro Center have done throughout year in their music program. Led by Music Director Jeremy Sarzana and Assistant Band Director Christopher Romano. Also, North End Against Drugs will select the winners of their Scholar- ship Program. Deadline for Applications for the Scholar- ship Program is May 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm. Applications are available at the Nazzaro Center (see Laurie D'Elia) and at the North End Library. We will have pizza, soda and dessert after the concert. We hope to see you all there. @ JUSTINE YANDLE PHOTOGRAPHY 781.589.7347 JUSTINE.YANDLE@GMAIL.COM WW.J USTINEYANDLEPHOTOGRAPHY.COM K I  Fully Insured Lic #017936 Nechanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 Leave the DELIVERY to Us! With a Girl Subscription to the Post-Gazette, your generosity will be remembered every week of the year. We'll send the recipient an announcement of your gift. Their subscription will begin with the current issue and continue for one year. Fill out coupon be'ow and mail with payment to: Post-Gazette, PO Box 130135, Boston, MA 02113 I would like to send' )r  year Gift Subscription of the Boston Post-Gazette to the following erson(s). I have enclosed $30 per subscription. Recipient Name Giver Name Address Address City City State Zip State Zip Phone Phone ..,,f