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May 20, 2011     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, MAY 20,2011 Pagel3 ----TT- :7: --.-- ............. Nanna de 00Babb00nonno i lUUlll i This week begins my 21 st year as a writer for the Post- Gazette. Last week's column mentioned that, on the 15 th of May, I would celebrate 20 years writing stories about my family. I think then, it is only befitting that I rewrite that first story about how Nanna and Babbononno first got here, how they met and, well, you'll see what I mean. Michele Contini (Babbo- nonno) was born in Foggia, in 1875. (For you non speakers of Italian, Michele is pro- nounced as Mick-Ale-eh, similar to the Spanish of Miguel.) My great grandfa- ther, Angelo, died when Michele was just a boy and Maria, my great grand- mother brought up her four boys as best she could. Michele was a bit on the wild side and she sent him to the parish priest to be trained in at least one trade. As a re- suit, my grandfather received what was considered a good education. He made it through the 6 th grade. The priest taught him woodwork- ing, furniture making, how to read music and gave him lessons on guitar and drums. All the training allowed Michele to obtain a day job as an apprentice furniture maker working as a musi- cian at night. According to the story as i remember it, my grandfather was married at a young age and wound up joining the Italian marines. Now, there had been a tradition that was started by Thomas Jefferson, back when he was president (it ended once Harry Truman left office). The tradition was due to Jefferson being an Italophile. He would have an Italian marine military band come to the United States and serenade the govern- ment officials. In 1896, Michele Contini was a drum- mer with the Italian marine band that came to Washing- ton to continue the tradition. While he was performing in our nation's capital, he was informed by the Reuter's ser- vice via the Transatlantic Cable, that his young wife had died and his mother, Maria, was taking care of his two children, Paul and Grace. When the tour was over, Michele couldn't find it in his heart to return to Italy. He resigned his commission and stayed in the United States. He had a few dollars, but couldn't speak the lan- guage. After the detachment of Italian marines headed back to Italy, Michele left Washington and wandered SAVETHE DATE ST. JUDE AND ST, ANTHONY NOVENA May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world now and for- ever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us. St. Anthony, most loving protector and wonder worker, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day and by the 8th day your prayer will be answered. It has never been known to fail. Publication must be promised. My prayers have been answPo ,'1 Favor received. L.M.D. by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance UlUlllUl lUllll iiii i lUlll i about for a while. He headed for New Orleans, but found it to be unfriendly to the Ital- ian population that lived there. From there, he headed to New York, but found the city too big, too dirty and too noisy. He then headed for Portland, Maine, but that was an outpost of civilization back then. Next, he tried Boston, liked the city, and decided to stay. One day while having din- ner in a North End restau- rant, he happened to strike up a conversation with a man named Antonio Ceru- olo. Michele told Antonio that he was looking for a place to stay and Antonio mentioned that one of his roommates had just moved out of their Salem Street apartment and Michele was welcome to take his place. He accepted and the two men became fast friends. Antonio was a plasterer and did hand carving in much of his work. As a result, he always worked and did well financially. Antonio saved his money to satisfy a dream he had. He wanted to bring his brothers and sisters to America, but not in steerage, the way he had immigrated, and the saved money which was enough for first or second class tickets would accom- plish his mission. One of his siblings was a sister named Giovannina. By the time she arrived, An- tonio had met and married Maria, a diminutive Italian immigrant that he would spend the rest of his life with. After their marriage, he moved her to a newly ac- quired house in East Boston, 111 Orleans Street. When his sister Giovannina arrived, Michele became smitten with her, and the two began dating under the supervision of Maria and another of Antonio's sisters who had al- ready arrived. Michele found work as a carpenter during the day and joined a dance band that played Italian music and worked nights, too. He also joined the local Italian Ma- rine Band as the drummer who kept cadence as the band marched in holiday parades in Boston and other Massa- chusetts cities with large Italian populations. Able to save some money after the 20 th century was under way, he asked Giovannina to marry him, and they did at the Mt. Carmel Parish in East Boston. An apartment was carved out for them at PRAYER TO ST. JUDE May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and pre- served throughout the world now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day and by the 8th day your prayers will be answered. It has never been known to fail. Publication must be promised. My prayers have been answered. A.T.P. i Antonio's Orleans Street house and Michele moved to East Boston. Deciding to Americanize, my grandparents changed their first names. Michele became Michael and Giovannina became Jenny, not a translation, but she liked the name. Jenny went to work doing hand stitching on men's clothing and helped to build up a nest egg. She heard rumors once too often from some of the Italian women who worked with her. They were about Michael having a family back in Italy. Finally, in exasperation, she confronted her husband with the rumors and he told her the story of his being wid- owed with two children and how his mother was bringing them up in Foggia. She asked why he never said any- thing about the situation, and his response was that he felt that if she knew his cir- cumstance, she wouldn't have married him. Jenny then went to the cookie jar, produced a fist full of money, handed the bills to her hus- band saying that his children belonged with him and the money was to buy them tick- ets to America. Soon, Grace and Paul ar- rived in Boston. Not long af- terward, Angelina (Anne) my mother was born, followed by Nicola (Uncle Nick), Antonio, and Luigino (Uncle Gino). At age three, Antonio would pull a large pot of boiling water off the black iron stove and scald himself to death. He would become the first in the family to be buried in America. Michael always worked two jobs, and as his young family began to grow, he bought a house on Eagle Hill in East Boston, then a Yankee neighborhood with a few Irish and one or two Italian families to add flavor to the mix. The house at 70 Eutaw Street is where my mother and her siblings grew up. The brothers were taught music by their father and Paul and Nick became sax and clarinet players. Gino played drums for a bit, but after returning from WWII, would be the only Contini brother not to follow in the family tradition and play professionally. In the early 30s, Nick and Paul brought home the bass player from the band they were with. His name was John Christoforo, but went by Johnny Christie. He and Anne began to date and were married in 1936. Two years later, I came along and would be the only child they had. Paul would father two daugh- ters and Gino, a set of twins. Nick never became a father, unfortunately. I followed in the family business and be- came a professional bass player at age eighteen. This made it three generations in a row. Gino's son would learn drums in his teen years, but ours is a story for another day. GOD BLESS AMERICA! The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9l Peter and Mary Anne Merrigan of Milton smile for the camera at Symphony Hall. athletes during the welcom- ing gala reception. Each ticket also includes a seat at the awards cer- emony, where fans share in the career highlights and accomplishments of each honoree as they take the stage as part of "The Tradi- tion Class of 2011." TD Garden is located at 100 Legends Way in Boston. The event is presented by New Balance in associa- tion with NESN, TD Garden, and Cross Insurance. For more information, please call 617-624-1237 or visit www.sportsmuseum.org. ....... Vince Droser, one of Peabody Square's most be- loved citizens and boosters, passed away suddenly this winter, and the community he left behind hopes to honor his life, work and spirit with an artistic tribute to be located on one of two potential public sites within the neighborhood: the north plaza of the new MBTA Ashmont station, or on a landscaped traffic square in front of Ashmont Grill and the historic town clock tower. Trinity Financial, the Boston real estate develop- ment firm where Droser served as vice president, has issued a "Call for Entries" to New England artists who'd like to submit a concept for a permanent sculpture installation. Trinity Finan- cial and Friends of Vince have formed a committee to sponsor the initiative, with a budget estimated between $150,000 and $200,000. The Urban Arts Institute at the Mass College of Art will facilitate the artist selection (Photo by Hilda M. Morrill) process. The planned sculptural tribute, in addition to beau- tifying the blocks of Peabody Square that Vince Droser was passionate about in his personal and professional life, has a secondary pur- pose; to serve as a commu- nity gathering spot for the types of contests, celebra- tions and offbeat, seasonal culinary challenges that Droser was fond of. The - ning entry should speak to Droser's joie de vivre, and Its design should as a focal point for continued community action. Trinity Financial encour- ages New England artists and sculptors to submit material for consideration. Deadline for entries is June 10. In mid-July, three to five finalists will be announced and awarded $1,000 each. Work is expected to com- mence in spring or summer of this year for a fall 2012 installation. Artists represented by the Urban Arts Institute's artist registry should submit digi- tal images of past work and any other relevant ma- terials. All others should visit www.massart.edu/ About_MassArt/ Urban_ Arts_InstituteOpportunities for complete submission requirements. Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, www.bostongardens.com. 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.) North End Athletic Association ANNUAL GOLF TOURNAMENT to Benefit the North End Athletic Association MONDAY, AUGUST 1, 2011 7:30 a.m. SHOT GUN start ANDOVER COUNTRY CLUB Canterbury Street, Andover, MA More than 144 golfers participate in this sold-out tournament annually. It is important that you save the date and plan on joining us on Monday, August I st. golf, lunch and raffle prizes... Money raised from this tournament allows the North End Athletic Association to purchase uniforms and equipment for sporting events and add to the existing program. The North End Athletic Association is a 50-year-old organization, which provides athletic, social, educational and civic activities within the community and the City of Boston. For further information, please contact Louie Cavagnaro at 617-523-7410