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May 25, 2012     Post-Gazette
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May 25, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, MAY 25, 2012 Page 13 nnr lrrm I%,, BK,rTB n n a 00abb00nonno by John A Nostalgic Remembrance Last week began my 22 nd year writing for the Post- Gazette. As a result, I've gone back to relate the happen- ings that began the lives of the Contini/Christoforo fam- ily members in America. If you remember, Nanna had heard rumors at work that Babbononno had a wife and children back in Foggia. I learned later, that there were some men that immi- grated here and left wives and children behind with the stipulation that when money was made, they would be sent for. The unscrupulous ones found women here and never sent for those waiting back in Italy. Babbononno was afraid that Nanna wouldn't marry him if she knew about his two children. When he confessed, she gave him the money to bring them to America. Not long after they arrived, my mother was born. Angelina was soon followed by Nicola, Antonio and then Luigino. With Paul and Grace, the family included six kids. When he was about three, Antonio ambled over to the black iron stove and pulled down a large pan of scalding water, drenching himself. He was rushed to the nearest hospital, but didn't make it, succumbing to the burns covering his body. He would be the first of the family buried in America. When she was 15, Grace was married and was the next Contini to start her own family. Babbononno began to prepare his kids for their adult lives at a young age. None of the boys were inter- ested in Babbononno's day trade as a furniture maker, but they all inherited his love and talent for music. Both Uncles Paul and Nick were sent to school to study clarinet. Babbononno had visions of his sons becoming symphony musicians. With- out my grandfather knowing it, both of them learned saxo- phone, Paul alto and Nick tenor. They wanted to play the music of the day, not what their father insisted on. When Uncle Gino was old enough, Babbononno taught him drums. The compro- mise was that his kids would join him as members of the Italian Marine Band in America, Babbononno on drums and Paul and Nick on clarinets. My two uncles be- came professionals at a young age. Uncle Gino did a little playing, but was a lot younger than his older brothers and was part of an- other generation. Education for Italian girls wasn't that important and my mother was forced to quit school in the 10  grade. It's too bad, as she was great with numbers and might have done well with her talent. Instead, she went to work in retail sales at Goldenberg's, an East Boston clothing store that was located near Cen- tral Square. She was paid a little better than some of the other workers because she understood and spoke sev- eral dialects of Italian. Her salary was given to Babbo- nonno and she was given an allowance to buy personal things with. My grandfather was from the old school, and that's the way it was. Uncle Paul was the first to marry. Eleanor was his child- hood sweetheart and Babbo- nonno carved out an apart- ment for them on the top floor of 70 Eutaw Street. They would eventually have two daughters, my cousins Paula and Ellie. Uncle Nick began dating my mother's best friend, Ada Giorgone and he was the next Contini to marry. Unfortunately, they never had any children and their marriage would become one of the casualties of WW II. One day back in the early 30s, Nick and Paul had a double header, an afternoon job and a night job. The first was local and Nanna had lunch prepared for them before they headed out of town for the night job. The bass player from the first job would be with them for the night job and they brought him to Nanna's for lunch. His name was John DeCristoforo, but was known as Johnny Christie in the music business. He met Angelina, the Contini daugh- ter on that day and they soon began dating. They dated for three years until Anne, as she preferred to be called, gave Johnny an ultimatum. Three years was long enough, "You know what, or get off the pot." They were married at the Sa- cred Heart Church on October 25, 1936. Following Uncle Nick and Aunt Ada, they rented an apartment in a section that was the dividing line be- tween Allston and Brookline. It was then called Musician's Row, due to the fact that most of the people living in that area were the professional musicians of Boston. John and Anne lived on Brainard Road and Nick and Ada on Kelton Street, both within walking distance from each -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 i other. Uncle Paul had studied the printing trade in high school and went into that business right after he graduated. Both Nick and my father went on the road with the big bands when they were done with high school and traveled extensively. When they were married, they settled for working with Boston bands and only traveling on occa- sion. My mother had a miscar- riage with her first and Dad moved her back to Nanna and Babbononno's home in East Boston as she needed a lot of care. A year later, I showed up on October the 21 st, right after the famous hurricane of 1938. For the most part, Dad's traveling days were over and he rec- onciled himself to the fact that Boston was going to be where he was destined to play music, but there was another problem, war clouds were looming and coming ever closer. Finally it happened in late 1941. We were at war and it would only be a question of time and my father and uncles would be wearing military uniforms. My young- est uncle, Gino, had been working at the navy yard and was the first to join, hooking up with the Army Air Corps. Uncle Nick, knowing he would be drafted, joined the Navy. Dad waited as he had a high lottery number and knew that, at some point, he would be called, but it would be down the road a bit. Uncle Gino wound up fighting in the Pacific as we advanced island by island toward Ja- pan. He would be part of the first bomber raids on Tokyo. Uncle Nick auditioned for the navy band and was assigned to fight the war playing at the Newport Naval Base with the Andre Kostelanetz Orches- tra. Dad was never called to put on a uniform, but joined the OSS, the forerunner to today's CIA. They put him to work interrogating Italian war prisoners brought to is- land fortresses in Boston Harbor and the long-closed immigration station in East Boston. He hired Babbo- nonno as his recording sec- retary. Dad's Italian was marginal, but of course, Babbononno was born in Italy and could handle the chore of translating for Dad. At the same time, Dad began teach- ing shop math and machine shop at his alma mater, East Boston High School. He even added in coaching football at the school. Let's see, teach- ing school, coaching after school, interrogating war prisoners a few afternoons a week and playing with a band six nights a week. It's not Yankee work ethic, folks, it should be called an Italian work ethic if you ask me. I think Dad rubbed off on me more than he knew. TO BE CONTINUED AND GOD BLESS AMERICA. Stars Shine at 16 th Annual Boston Main Streets Awards On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Stars from the neighborhoods including local volunteers and businesses shined at the 16  Annual Boston Main Streets Awards. This year's event was held at the historic Strand Theater in Dorchester. For the 6 th year the Master of Ceremonies for the Annual awards was WGBH radio host Ron Delia Chiesa who is also a Dorchester resident. Mr. Delia Chiesa spoke eloquently about the local Main Street programs. Mayor Thomas Menino and DND Chief and Director Evelyn Friedman pre- sented awards to a group of Volunteers and Businesses rep- resenting each of the Main Streets districts. Guests were entertained by the Boston Latin School Wolftones. East Boston Main Streets would like to congratulate the 2011 Volunteer of the year, Leigh Hall whose artistic tal- ents produced a wonderful calendar of East Boston photos from yesterday and today. Accepting the award for Leigh was her good friend and Main Streets board member Mel- issa Tyler. The 2011 business of the year was Mr. Hector Rendon from D'Parma Restaurant. Accepting for Mr. Rendon was his two lovely daughters Jolene and Angela. D'Parma Restaurant, located at 182 Sumner Street in East Boston, serves delicious Italian food, has a great selection of beer and wine, a full bar and is open until 1 am. D'Parma res- taurant is just steps from the Maverick Station MBTA Blue Line Stop, Mr. Rendon and his family are long time sup- porters of Main Streets and proud participants in the an- nual Taste of Eastie culinary event. Clark Moulaison EBMS Director, EBMS board members Michael Moscone and Melissa Tyler accepting the Vol- unteer award for Leigh Ward, Mayor Menino, EBMS President Ann Di Maria, Maria and Sal DiStefano Jolene and Angela Rendon accept the Business of the Year award for their father Hector Rendon 2,om D'Parma Restaurant and EBMS board member Michael Moscone (Photos by Rosario Scabin, Ross Photography) K j  Fully Insured Lic #017936 Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs @