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..... ., .... ,.t ,r.- . .....,.  POST-GAZETTE, JULY 8, 2011 ";r .,, ..... aA Page 13 00'anna 00Babb00onno I Babbononno hated cars and they hated him. He was born before the automobile was and he never under- stood them. He never drove and every time he entered a car, it was an ordeal. Dad, on the other hand, was born in the 20 th century and grew up with automobiles. He learned to drive when he was 16, because it was a neces- sity. When he bought a car, it was due to need. Whatever was practical, cheap and eco- nomical, he bought. When I was a kid, Dad had a 1937 Plymouth that he kept until 1949. I was 11 years old when the car was ready for the junk heap and he brought me with him to look at a new Chevy at the long-gone Reese Chevrolet, a dealership that was situ- ated in Day Square in East Boston. According to Dad, this car was the first he ever bought with luxury items added on. If I remember cor- rectly, the luxury items in- cluded a radio, a heater, full size hubcaps, whitewall tires, a cigarette lighter, fog lights and a chrome grill guard. This car was something spe- cial. It was the first one Dad ever bought that was brand new. All his earlier cars were used. This was the first new one and it had all the toys Dad wanted. When it was time to trade, my father came home with a 1954 Chevy Bel Aire. This one had a two tone paint job and the same extras the 49 had. The dealer had asked Dad if he wanted an auto- matic transmission. Dad said that he didn't trust them and settled for a standard shift. This was the first of his cars that I drove when I was in high school. Three years later, he and Uncle Nick came home with '57 Pontiacs. Dad's was blue and white and had a V8 engine with an automatic transmission and all the extras including a hi-fi radio with multiple speakers. This model was a four-door hard- top and with the windows open, was almost like a con- vertible. This was the car I borrowed and drove my first two years in college. By the time I was a junior at Boston State, I needed my own car. I had become a pro- fessional musician and played bass violin. I defi- nitely needed my own car. Dad knew a mechanic in Malden who had a '54 Chevy that he had just done over, motor job, transmission, new two tone paint, new by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance I I ,11 II iiiii H, III I I H IIII tires and new seat covers. It was expensive for a 4 year old car, $550, but it was just like new. It was the stripped down model, but fortunately had a radio and heater in it. I had to buy a portable ash- tray with a suction cup at- tached and stuck it to the dash board. As I said, this was the stripped down model. Each time Babbononno saw us buying cars, he thought it was a waste of money. To him, God in- vented the train, the trolley and the bus, and this was how you got from place to place. That '54 Chevy got me through my last two years in college, and then some. It was so economical. I remem- ber an episode that proved this: I was called by Ken Reeves, the band leader I was working for. Summer had just started and he wanted me to become part of a trio that played at the Chatham Bars Inn, on the Cape. He also asked me to drive and pick up the sax player who was one of his leaders. Don Ellis, the man in ques- tion lived in Arlington. I left East Boston, headed over the bridge into Chelsea, headed right at the light just after the bridge (J believe it was Marginal Street) and stopped at the Quincy Gas Station, then located a half a block on the right. There was a gas war going on and I bought gas at 20 cents a gallon. For 2 bucks, I had ten gallons of gas. I headed for Arlington, picked up Don Ellis, the leader/sax player, drove to Chatham, played there for the weekend, drove back to Arlington to drop off Ellis, drove to East Boston and had enough gas to drive to Bos- ton State and back on that Monday. Try that today on $2.00 worth of gas. Well, they finally had to graduate me in 1960, and I and my '54 Chevy headed to Tewksbury for my first full-time day job. I accepted a job teaching drafting at Tewksbury High School. Actually, I had taken the exams to teach in Boston, but knew that there wouldn't be a job for me. They had two preferences that super- seded overall exam scores: veteran's preference and disabled veterans prefer- ence. Several of the men in my graduating class fit into both categories and I looked elsewhere, accepting the Tewksbury job. By that winter, one of my carpool passengers went to get out of the back seat and wound up standing on the muffler. I pulled back the rubber mat and there was no floor. It had rusted away. I decided to wait until the spring and spoke to the fa- ther of one of my students. He was the used car man- ager at Wilmington Ford and I bought a 1958 Thunderbird. This was the first T-Bird with a back seat and my bass violin fit. Dad loved the car, but when I told Babbononno what I paid, he said, "It's that college education, it made you crazy." The following year, I was called by the Boston School Department. They had a job for me and I resigned from Tewksbury. Several prom- ises were made at the end of that first year, but when I returned in September, no one in administration seemed to remember. I should have gotten every- thing in writing, but I didn't. As a result, when Boston called, I figured I didn't owe Tewksbury anything and gave a two week notice. I would spend the next 42 years teaching in Boston and would buy many more cars. My next purchase was a dream car, a 1960 Cadillac convertible. It was !963 and the car was 3 years old, but the style was to me, the greatest. I kept this car for three years and put over 100,000 miles on it driving to Florida two or three times and New York every week- end I was booked there in the 60s. By this time, we were living in Belmont and Babbononno kind of liked the idea of riding in a luxury car especially with the top down. When I finally traded the Caddy, it was for a Chrysler Imperial convertible. By this time, Babbononno was in a nursing home and when I went to pick him up one Eas- ter morning, he saw the ca]-, made Sal Meli, who was my passenger, sit in the back, told me to put the top down and then raise his seat so he could look tall. He then commanded me to drive by the Star of the Sea Church just as Easter Mass was get- ting out. He asked me to slow down and waived his hand and tipped his hat at the old ladies exiting the church. As we passed them, he yelled out, "Buona Pasqua, Buona Pasqua." That car was followed by many more and today I have two cars from that genera- tion. I guess I've developed a love for old cars. Maybe it's -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 just a hobby or maybe it's the memories from days gone by when I was young. I'll have to think about that one. GOD BLESS AMERICA The $ocially Set (Continued from Page 9) Max Bleakie and Katie Schuller Bleakie smile for the camera at The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum 20 th Anniversary Celebration. (Photo by Roger Farrington) ors." Among the four recipi- ents is Boston Lyric Opera Artistic Advisor and interna- tionally renowned stage designer John Conklin. Now in its fourth year, the NEA Opera Honors is the highest award our nation bestows in opera. The other three award recipients in- clude mezzo soprano Ris Stevens, composer Robert Ward, and Seattle Opera General Director Speight Jenkins. "I am thrilled that my friend and colleague John Conklin is a recipient of this distinguished honor," said BLO General & Artistic Director Esther Nelson. "All of us, from BLO Trustees and staff, to volunteers and patrons, are proud to have one of the world's greatest creative minds on our team. John expands everyone's horizons and we are lucky, indeed, to have Boston ben- efit from John's great gift of dramaturgy." Conklin's conceptual de- sign style has had an enor- mous influence. He is one of the principal figures in American stage design, both for opera and theater, and his set and costume designs are seen in opera houses, theaters, and ballet compa- nies around the world. "John Conklin is without a doubt among the leading stage designers in the field of opera," said Wayne S. Brown, Director of Music and Opera for the NEA. "His designation as an NEA Opera Honoree serves as an acknowledgement from the Federal Government of the high esteem in which he is held in the performing arts." Since Esther Nelson appointed Conklin BLO's Artistic Advisor in 2008, he has been intimately involved in each of the Company's productions, as well as all aspects of the organization's artistic work and mission. He is also the creative spark behind the Company's Signature Series with the Museum of Fine Arts annual Gala, and other, special events. Conklin is currently creating sets for BLO's upcoming production of Macbeth, which will open the Company's 35  Anniver- sary Season this November. The 2011 NEA Opera Honorees will be celebrated with an awards ceremony and concert in Wash- ington, DC at the Sidney Harman Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, October 27. NEA Opera Honors recipients are nominated by the public and chosen by an NEA-convened panel of opera experts. Past NEA Opera Honorees include John Adams, Martina Ar- royo, Frank Corsaro, David DiChiera, Carlisle Floyd, Ri- chard Gaddes, Philip Glass, Marilyn Horne, James Levine, Lotfi Mansouri, Leontyne Price, Eve Queler and Julius Rudel. ....... "Cocktail Culture" continues at the Rhode Island School of Design {RISD) Museum through July 31. We understand that many of Greater Boston's beautiful people have already enjoyed the exhibit in nearby Providence. One of the largest exhibi- tions of costume and textiles in the Museum's history, the groundbreaking show includes more than 220 objects, including a stunning array of apparel by major designers such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta and Pucci -- to name a few. Fashion is presented in context with photographs, illustrations, decorative arts and novelty items such as a 1940s tiki bar from Japan. Organized thematically, the exhibition illustrates the ways in" which the cock- tail hour transformed 20 th- century fashion and design, from the Roaring Twenties to the wartime and post- war periods, to the social upheaval and loosening of societal rules of the 1960s and '70s. Visitors Will see how dif- ferent popular venues for cocktails -- such as urban nightclubs, backyard barbeques and the luxury ocean liner -- changed the ways we dressed for one another. A section about icons introduces the classic elements of cocktail culture, such as the little black dress. For more information, call 401-454-6500 or visit ww w. risdmuseum, org. 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 re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.)