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August 17, 2012     Post-Gazette
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August 17, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, AUGUST 17, 2012 Page 13 iqm n n a tiabb?]nonno i I I attend as many old car get-togethers as I can dur- ing the summer. I have a few old cars that I like to show off and bringing one of them to the planned or impromptu shows allows me to do just that. Over the years, people have asked me why there are certain cars that have become collector's items. My "replies usually i'nclude the period of time when the owners were teen- agers. In my own case, I was a teenager in the 1950s. From about 1954 through 1960, some of the most flam- boyant cars ever produced by the auto manufacturers were on our roads. I didn't start to look at cars until I was about fourteen. Let me backtrack and say that, before I went to work at the Seville Theater at age 13, I washed and waxed cars in my neighborhood. But beginning at about the age of 14, I fell in love with cars. I cotlld smell October 21 com- ing all year. October 21 is my birthday and each year, I knew that the age of 16 was coming closer and closer and this meant I would be able to get my driver's license. Today, one of the icons of that '50s era is a Chevrolet. The most popular being from 1955, 1956 and 1957. As an example, a '55 Chevy convertible was somewhere around $2,500 to $2,800 back then. Today, one in good condition will bring upwards of $40,000. The reason is simple. Most of us who were teens back then, couldn't afford the cars or weren't old enough to drive. Those cars were part of our dreams, especially whenwe saw older teens or adults driving them. Today, we can afford them and many enthusiasts own a sample from that period of time. It's the same with the next generation down. They are just a few years younger than I but the elusive cars of their teen years are the muscle cars of the 1960s and many of them are around in good shape with hefty price tags for enthusiasts. Babbononno hated cars. They were his enemy. He preceded the advent of auto- mobiles by many years. He was born in 1875 and by the time autos became a practi- cal means of transportation, he was well into his adult years. Horses, he knew. Trains, he could understand and the trolley, it was a train without the loud noises, but by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembratce cars, he hated every one of them and they hated him. My grandfather would have trouble getting in and out of cars, always knocking his hat off and banging his head upon entering. A good part of my Italian vocabulary, which I can't use in this col- umn, I learned from listen- ing to Babbononno trying to enter Dad's or Uncle Nick's car. Once he was in, he would slam the door and hold onto the handle or armrest for dear life. If he was sitting in the back seat, he would grasp the strap that hung on the post that separated his rear seat window from the door window. He would grasp things so tightly that his hands would turn red. Upon exiting one of the cars, he would have the same or a similar problem and curse everyone's sister, brother, aunt or uncle. He never cursed anyone's parents; even he had his principles when it came to cursing people. To the next generation, cars were transportation; especially to the men in my family, all of whom were musicians. Just as an ex- ample, when I came along, Dad owned a 1937 Plymouth. He had bought it used from the local mailman in 1938. It wasn't until 1949 when the car had had it, that Dad thought of a new car. Drag- ging me along and his bass violin, we headed to Reese Chevrolet in the Day Square area of East Boston. A neighbor, Tony Patti, had bought a new '49 Chevy De- luxe fastback at the same place and Dad loved his car. However, we had to settle for a regular two door sedan, as the bass wouldn't fit in a fast- back. Babbononno had less trouble getting in compared to the '37 Plymouth, but he wasn't impressed. This was just a new example of an enemy. Dad kept the '49 until 1954. One day he came home from work driving a two tone robin's egg blue and white four door Chevy Bel Air. When Babbononno asked the price, he mumbled un- der his breath, "Mi genero e pazzo e stupid." (My son-in- law is crazy and stupid.) Dad began to slowly lose his depression mentality from that point on. His next car was a '57 Pontiac. Uncle Nick had bought one at an agency in Brookline and brought Dad there to see what they had. The next thing I saw in front of -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE VISIT WWW. BOSTON POSTGAZETTE.CO M MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 74 Eltaw Street was a blue and vhite '57 Pontiac four door hardtop. Next came a 1962 Chevy Impala, then a 1966 Cadillac, a 1974 Ford and his last car a 1979 Buick. He fluctuated between the more expensive cars back to what used to be called "The Low Priced Three." As I said, cars to that gen- eration were a means of transportation. To me and the next couple of genera- tions down, they became part of our lives. We washed them, waxed them, scrubbed the white walls and made sure that they ran perfectly. Speaking for myself, I have always had a love affair with my cars. They were not just a means of transportation. They were part of us, but this was" later. When we were teens and admired the new cars the older people drove, we secretly wished we could too, but knew the reality of the situation. The light at the end of the tunnel was the fact that someday, we would be old enough or making enough money to afford what we wanted. I knew Babbononno had changed his attitude a bit when he was in his 90s and in .an assisted living home. I picked his up for Easter Sunday dinner and at the time had an Imperial con- vertible. He saw that it was a convertible and asked me to put the top down. I did. He then asked if the front seat went up and down. When I said that it did, he asked me to push it up all the way. This made him look taller. In his old age, he was 4' 11" tall. With the top down and his seat up, I was asked to drive to the Star of the Sea Church. As I arrived, Easter Mass was just exiting and Babbononno made me slow to a crawl. Spotting several elderly people he knew, he tipped his hat and yelled out, "Buona Pasqua, Buona Pasqua." (Happy Easter, Happy Easter.)' As far as Nanna and my mother weereooncerned, :a car was driven by a man and they were passengers. Once for kicks, Dad tried to teach Morn how to drive. It didn't work, but on that day, Dad became religious. Mom took the hint and never climbed behind the wheel of a car again. Things are a bit dif- ferent with my generation. My wife drives a newer car than I do. Oh well, GOD BLESS AMERICA. Your Ad Could Go Here For information about advertising in the Post-Gazette, call 617-227-8929. Madonna del Soccorso (Continued from Page 5) the club the Blessed Lady hit ermen secured their boats to the devil and knocked him the vessel carrying the to the ground. The boy now statue and in tug boat fash- released ran not to his ion carefully escorted the mother but ran instead to statue of the Madonna out of Madonna del Soccors 0, un- Palermo, across the seas and der whose cape he hid. The headed home to Sciacca. Blessed Mother with the boy Upon entry into the harbor still under Her cape walked of Sciacca, the fishermen over to the Devil and stood were greeted with tumultu- ' on top of him. ous applause and gratitude. She then turned to the In recognition of their sac- boy's mother and said, 'Put rifice and in gratitude to your trust in Madonna del the fishermen the town of Soccorso for I am the protec- Sciacca rewarded the fish- tor of Sciacca. "Then releas- ermen with the sole honor ing the boy to his mother of carrying the statue of the She said "Fear not my chil- Madonna. Till this day, the dren for I shall never aban- only people allowed to carry don you." the statue in Sciacca are the Another miracle took fishermen of the town. place one day when the In the year 1626, the Blessed Virgin visited upon Black Plague reached a thirteen-year-old girl suf- Sciacca. As it had done in the fering from paraplegia...The rest of Europe the plague in- Blessed Lady said to the girl flicted great pain and suffer- "I am the Madonna del ing to the people of Sciacca. Soccorso di Sciacca, rise On February 2, 1626 the from your bed and tell the townspeople re-affirming town I am here to help them their belief and faith in always." The girl then told their protector gathered to- the Blessed Lady that she gether in front of the church was paralyzed and could not of St. Augustine and prayed get up. The Madonna then with fervent devotion to Ma- told her to touch her belt and donna del Soccorso to free she would be able to walk, them from the plague. As the The girl did as she was told huge doors to the church and miraculously went out to were opened to expose the tell her story, statue of the Madonna a The townspeople of Sciacca perfumed smelling breeze realizing how lucky they blew through the town were to be in the good graces and cleansed the air. Just of the Mother of God decided then, the people who were to show their gratitude and afflicted by the plague were devotion to her by commis- healthy once more. Again sioning a statue to be built the Madonna del Soccorso di in her honor. Using the Sciacca held true to her description of the Madonna word and rescued the town. given to them by the monk, The town in gratitude placed the mother of the six-year- on the belt of the Madonna old boy and by the thirteen- the keys to the city. Every year-old girl, the town year on February 1, from 12 created a painting of the Ma- noon until 12 noon February donna and gave it to the 2 the townspeople fast. After sculptors commissioned for a solemn High Mass, the the statue. In the year 1492, statue of the Madonna is car- two sculptors by the names ried through the streets of of " Guliano Mancini and Sciacca. Bartolomeo Birrittaro went Another miracle occurred to Palermo to build the in 1817 when Sciacca expe- statue of solid marble, rienced severe earth trem- In the year 1503, upon the ors throughout the city. The completion of the statue the people feared that the old townspeople of Sciacca were wooden church of St. Augus- faced with th e major prob- tine might collapse and bury lem of transporting the very the statue of their beloved heavy statue from Palermo Madonna. The fishermen to Sciacca. Since Palermo carried the statue into the was to the north and Sciacea Town Square away from any to the south with no rail- falling objects. Suddenly roads between them, the from 3:00 to 8:00 pm, drops town decided to use a boat to of sweat fell from the fore- ship the statue to Sciacca. head of the statue. At 8:00 Unfortunately, there were when the Madonna stopped no transport boats large sweating the earth tremors enough to carry the statue ceased. Every year when the in Palermo or Sciacca. The fishermen carry the statue fishermen of Sciacca realiz- through the streets of ing that they could help, de- Sciacca the Madonna starts cided to send their fleet of to sweat when she reaches fishing boats to Palermo and the spot in the square. in some way return to The statue of the Madonna Sciacca with the statue of del Soccorso was housed in their beloved Madonna, Over the church of Saint August- two hundred fishermen were ine until 1861, when the needed to carry the statue to Statue was transferred to a the dock where it was then church built in her honor placed on the largest fishing "Le Chiesa di Madre del boat available. With such a Soccorso di Sciacca." heavy load as the solid On August 15, 1907, the marble statue on board, the Vatican decreed Madonna fishing boat was barely able del Soccorso the Patroness of to stay afloat let Mone move Sciacca. As a result the fish- along the seas under its own ermen hold a huge feast on power. Using their fishing the Assumption (August 15} nets and drop lines the fish- every year.