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October 24, 2014     Post-Gazette
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October 24, 2014

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POST-GAZETTE, OCTOBER 24, 2014 Page 13 by john Chnstoforo 00abb00nonno A Nostalgic Remembrance Happy Birthday to me. I was born on October 21, 19&#. I can remember only a couple of birthday parties where I was the only person who was the center of atten- tion. I grew up with John Manfredonia. His birthday was October 14 a and begin- ning with our Fifth birthdays, our parents combined par- ties and we celebrated to- gether. John's father, Ralph, and my father grew up together. John's mum, Grace and my mother grew up together. By the time we boys came along, the Manfredonia's lived around the corner from us on Monmouth Street and actually owned the house we lived in at 74 Eutaw Street, inheriting the East Boston triple-decker from Grace's parents. Beginning at around our fifth birthdays, Mum and Grace would plan a joint birthday party in the cellar of Grace and Ralph's single- family house. Like most East Boston Italian homes in those days, there was a cel- lar kitchen and this is where the food would be cooked and eaten, and where the cakes with birthday candles would be displayed. No one catered kids' birthday parties in those days and there were no such places like Chucky Cheese that catered to juve- nile events. Grace's mother was still alive back then, and she and Nanna would begin cooking the food to be served to the guests several days before the event. Grace and Mum would add in their individual touches beginning the morning of the party and customize things just for us kids. The main part of the cellar was semi-finished and a bunch of wooden folding chairs would be placed around the perimeter of the overall space for the men to sit, drink, eat and maybe play cards. Connecting the two parts of the cellar was a long wide corridor and that is where we kids would play games before and after the food was served and the candles were blown out of the cakes. John had a large family and a lot of cousins. My fam- ily was just the opposite. At that point in my life, I only had two cousins, Uncle Paul and Aunt Eleanor's kids, Paula and Ellie. {Ellie now retired and lives in St. Au- gustine, Florida, we try to see each other when Loretta and I are in the Sunshine State.) Chances were that my father and uncles (my mother's brothers) would be playing with their respective bands and not be in atten- dance. Only my aunts would be there along with my mother and grandparents to represent the adults on my side. Grace and Ralph had lots of brothers and sisters and their kids would com- prise the majority of the invitees from their side. After everyone arrived, the food would be served. Of course, it was all Italian. The two grandmothers in- volved would have made a joint gravy filled with meat- balls, sausages, chunks of beef and pork. This was served liberally over the la- sagna one of them baked or the different types of home- made pasta that sat in large bowls in the center of the table. Prior to serving these pasta and meat courses, there would be slices of two or three types of Italian bread and assorted cold cuts and cheeses sitting in a large dish surrounded by stuffed mushrooms, sweet and hot peppers, caponata and possibly slices of Sicil- ian pizza that someone ac- tually bought. In the area where the men would hang out was a table with a gallon of homemade red wine, a bottle of VO, one of Cuban rum, and a medium sized galvanized washtub filled with ice and bottles of beer. The refrigerator in the kitchen contained bottles of soda that were destined for the kids. My favorite was Royal Crown Cola. I wonder ff they still make that brand. After all the kids arrived, we would play games in the corridor, trying to keep away from all of the adults. We were often joined by the Manfredonia dog, Spot. He would be in the middle of everything and was treated as one of the kids rather than a dog. The kids would play, the men would drink and the women would fill the kitchen until one of the grandmothers would yell out, "Fa tempo a mangiare." (It's time to eat.) At that time we kids would have to get out of the way as there would be a herd of men heading for the kitchen to sample the food choices for the evening. We kids would be forced to eat as we were having too much fun playing our games. Later, it would be time to light the candles on the cakes and John and I would blow out the candles. There would be one for each year of our lives and one for good -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 luck that would have to be blown out. After everyone yelled, "Happy Birthday" or "Felice Compleano," the same thing in Italian, the cake would be cut and served with ice cream and soda for us and coffee for the adults. When it was time to open the presents, the men would all be back in the other part of the cellar playing cards. As we kids opened the gifts, we would pile them away from each other to make sure we didn't confuse what belonged to whom. Most of what we received was clothing, not toys, but we didn't care ... we received presents. John's father, Ralph, would eventu- ally pull me aside and slip me a five-dollar bill. Dad, before he went to work, would have done the same, pulling John aside, suppos- edly when no one was look- ing. We both were now rich. As we kids resumed our play activities, the men would congregate and talk about their jobs. Many of them worked at the Chelsea or Charlestown Navy Yards and had tales about the people they worked with and the war effort everyone dis- played in their daily rou- tines. Yes, this was a period of time when World War II was in full swing. The Navy Ya:d workers were excused from the draft and my father and uncles would soon be in uniform doing their parts to help end the war. At around 9:00 pm, the party would begin to break up and the folks would each wish us a happy birthday again, before they left. As was typical of Italian events in those days, a doggie bag would be prepared for each guest, containing leftovers from dinner. Even before the exodus, the ladies would be- gin to clean up the kitchen. By the time all the guests were gone, the place would be spotless. There was one thing I marveled at that Ralph had hanging on the wall in the main part of the cellar. It was a Winchester 44 caliber lever action rifle from the old west. He had been given the gun as a gift from a tugboat captain who used it to keep seagulls away from his boat when he was towing garbage scows out to sea. It was almost brand new and even at a young age I loved it. Well, the grand folks and our parents are gone. As a matter of fact, my old friend, John, is no longer with us, but the memories of those happy days of our youth still linger. I will close by wish- ing myself a happy birthday. It was on the 21 st and I had a great time. So, until next week, may GOD BLESS AMERICA. Small Ads Get Big Results For more information, ca// 617-227-8929. Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) cussion hosted by WCRI's Mike Maino, will follow the 2:00 pm performance on Sunday, November 2 "d. The post-show Piano Bar Series will continue with "Music from Stage and Screen" and will be held following the Friday and Saturday's evening performances in the lobby of the theatre on November 7 th, 8 th, 14 th and 15 th. The theatre is located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. Tickets are on sale at the box office, online www. OceanStateTheatre. org or by calling 401-921-6800. Wine and Dine ... On Tuesday, November 1 lth guests will take a virtual culinary wine tour of Spain at Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro. Designed to both educate and entertain, Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro's wine din- ners are aimed at individu- als of all experience levels. This event is all about *won- derful wines, creative food and good friends," says Cecilia Rait, proprietress and wine director of the BHHB. Beginning at 7:00 pm., diners are invited to visit various wine regions throughout Spain without leaving the comfort of their seats. Cecilia and Tracy Burgis of M.S. Walker act as virtual tour guides, moving from region to region ex- plaining the history, curiosi- ties and nuances of each selection. During this edu- cational dinner, guests will sample wines from Rias Baixas, Priorat and Jerez regions of Spain. The dinner will showcase four different wines as well as the culinary artistry of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro's Executive Chef Lucas Sousa, whose dishes are designed to complement each featured wine. This intimate adventure is set in communal seating to encourage conversation, laughter and fun. Guests are treated to four wines, a four- course dinner, Cecilia's and Tracy's good cheer, humor and expertise. ReservatiOns are encouraged as the event will sell out fast. What better way to enjoy fall than with wine? The Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro is located at 25 Charles Street, Boston. They can be reached for reservations at 617-723-7575 or visit for more information. The Rat Pack ... Starring sensational Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., impersonators Gary Anthony, Andy DiMino and Lambus Dean, returns to the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston for one show only on Sunday, November 9 th. Sunday November 9  catch The Rat Pack for a one-time performance with Andy DiMino (pictured} playing Dean Martin. (Photo courtesy of RLPR) This remarkable tribute show, featuring the classic hits Come Fly with Me, That's Amore, Mr. Bojangles My Way, Everybody Loves Somebody, The Candy Man, and so many more. This show sold out the last time these musical mad men were in town. Now they are back by popular demand, straight from Las Vegas, singing all the famous trio's tunes that made the '60s so swinging. For this exclusive engagement, The Rat Pack is backed by a hot seven- piece band of regional musicians who specialize in the jazz and big band sounds of the decade. Grab your gal or fellow and head to the one-time-only performance and enjoy a classic date night with, "The Rat Pack" at the Reagle Theatre located at 617 Lex- ington Street, Waltham. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit, call 781-891-5600, or visit the theater box office. A Tasty Treat in the City ... On Monday, October 27 m Chef/Owner Paul Turano of Cook located in Newton, MA will join the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) for a one session cooking class, entitled "Anyone Can Cook" from 6:00 pm-9:00 pm. The award-winning restau- rateur, who is known for his approachable dishes will show students that not only can anyone enjoy food, any- one can cook it! This class will eliminate the intimida- tion factor that is often seen in this new dining culture, offering students the chance to enjoy whipping up fun and unpretentious dishes sure to wow friends and family. Stu- dents must register for classes online or call the Boston Center for Adult Edu- cation at 617-267-4430. The Boston Center for Adult Education is located at 122 Arlington Street, Boston. Registration is necessary, or call the BCAE at 617-267-4430. Fully Insured Lic #017936 Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs