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December 6, 2013     Post-Gazette
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December 6, 2013

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POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 6, 2013 Page I 00N"atttta 00Babb'00onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance I'm still recuperating from the surgeries done in Octo- ber and November. As I am weaned off the meds I've been taking, I am looking forward to the point when I can drive again. This past week, I met with a couple of the surgical groups involved in my operations and they've given me a clean bill of health. This coming week, I meet with the last two, and if they say OK, I can get back to what I consider a normal routine. Last week, my family joined with the family of my cousin, Ralph Pepe, and we celebrated Thanksgiving together. For years, we've been doing this on all of the major holidays, Christmas, New Year's Day, sometimes the 4 th of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Our grand- parents celebrated the holi- days this way, our parents followed suit in the next generation, and now it's our turn. Both Ralph and I real- ized something last week, we are now the elders of the family. There is only one person left from our folk's generation, Uncle Gino, or Lou Contini, my mother's youngest brother. He's 96. Whether we can handle it or not, Ralph and I are the family elders. Back in the day, when the holidays were over, the men in the family went back to following a standard rou- tine, and for my family that meant music, After WWII, my father, Uncle Nick and Uncle Paul all worked for the band leaders and contrac- tors who locally booked in the weddings, engagement par- ties, bridal showers, dance parties, coming out parties, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, and every type of get to- gether that was just for one evening and necessitated music. Back then, there were no DJs. Everything was live and most bands were from three to eight pieces, depending what the situation called for and what the customer could afford. For 25 years, Uncle Nick was the vice president of the musicians union and much of the business that took place came through his hands. This meant enter- tainment that played the supper clubs, night clubs, dance halls, restaurants, theaters, Symphony Hall, the opera house, and just about every joint that wanted live music that was union. On several occasions, the Boston Garden would feature Ice Capades, the Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice, and my uncle would handle the contracts and hooking for the musicians. For the most part, he and Dad worked for the independent contractors and played what were called club dates, or one-nighters that began at around 8:00 pm, and ended at midnight. Included in this were Saturday and Sunday afternoon weddings. The exceptions to this were steady weekends at ball rooms located throughout the eastern part of the state and under the jurisdiction of the musician's union. The Totem Pole at Norum- bega Park featured Barron Hugo and several others who tried to keep big band dance music alive. Mosley's on the Charles lasted into the 1980s with a band led by Don Dudley, and later, Johnny Shea. Dad and Uncle Nick joined with Ray Digg off and on over the years and played weekends with his big band at the Ocean View which was located at the beginning of Revere Beach. For a while, Dad joined up with Guy Ormandy and his band. They were featured at the Sherry Builtmore Hotel, now part of Berklee College. These were the few exceptions to the one nighters which my father and uncle preferred. You see, they both had day jobs that were more impor- tant after WWII. Uncle Paul had started out in the printing trade during the day, and after the war was in the front office of the George Dean Printing Company. Music became a weekend side-line. Uncle Nick was elected to the vice presidency of the union and remained there for 25 years. Dad, when the war started, began teaching in the Boston Schools ... actually at his old alma mater, East Boston High School. He was recruited by the OSS, today's CIA while on the faculty. It seems that they needed someone to supervise the Italian war prisoners housed at the immigration station in East Boston. If you com- bine these two tasks and add in the music, my father had a full plate. By the time the mid 1950s rolled around, Babbononno was fully retired from his day job and from music, so he just sat back and reveled in the successes of his sons -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 and son-in-law. A family con- ference was held and it was determined that it was my turn to join in and rep- resent the next generation. Babbononno had taught me how to read music at a young age. I had tried just about every instrument that was out there, but I was hav- ing more fun playing base- ball, working at the Seville Theater and going to high school. I tried piano, accor- dion, trumpet, sax, clarinet, trombone, the drums and guitar. Each time, the in- struments wound up with cob webs due to the lack of use. Just about the time I started college, I decided to try Dad's instrument, the bass violin. This time I stuck to a practice routine and began playing with small groups within the year. By the time I was in my junior year in college, I turned professional, joined the union where my uncle was the vice president and my father now chairman of the board, and began work- ing for some of the band leaders they had worked for over the years. Babbononno was so proud when I headed out to a job. He would inspect my tuxedo to make sure there were no wrinkles. He would make sure my bow tie was tied just right, and he would inspect my shoes to make sure he could see his reflection. Back then, this is the way we dressed to go to work, everyone wore a tux. So, I took my place as the 3 rd generation in my family to follow in the family business. Over the next few years, I worked for hundreds of band leaders as the bass player, adding in a bass guitar in the mid 1960s. I even began booking in my own work, leading my band and playing the same type of weddings and parties that had become so familiar over the years. When the late 1960s rolled around, things began to change. DJs came into existence and changed the way people participated in social functions. Much of the music we played began to disappear in favor of the current trends. One of the problems was that the older musicians refused to learn the contemporary tunes, stating that the trend wouldn't last ... they were wrong. Dad continued on playing weekends with some of his contemporaries, who by this point in time were old timers like himself. Uncle Nick retired and moved to Florida, as his wife, Aunt Dorothy, had bought a retirement home away from the cold. Both Dad and Uncle Nick are gone. I just turned 75 "ouch" and am thinking about retiring from every- thing except writing this column ... I'll keep you posted. GOD BLESS AMERICA Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) The Gardner Museum is a peaceful place to spend a little holiday time to reflect. (Photo courtesy of food that would otherwise be discarded. Lovin' Spoonfuls works efficiently to deliver this food directly to the com- munity organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact. The or- ganization is committed to addressing the health, envi- ronmental and economic impact that food waste has on our community. Head- quartered in Boston, MA, Lovin' Spoonfuls is a 501c3, non-profit organization. For more information on this wonderful group, please visit www. lovinspoonfulsinc, org. So ladies and gents mark your calendars to get your cook on at the Boston Cen- ter for Adult Education and join Lovin' Spoonfuls on December 16 from 6:00 pm- 9:00 pm. The BCAE is lo- cated at 122 Arlington Street, Boston. To sign up you may call 617-267-4430 or visit A Holiday Garden .... is a breath taking display you can find at the one and only Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum this December. Holidays are a special time to come to the Gardner, where the festive Courtyard, featuring dark forest greens and shades of red and silver, adds to the excitement of the season. This holiday tra- dition showcases masses of flowering jade trees, silver Artemisia, and the dark red winter blooms of amaryllis, all of which brighten winter shadows. The jades (Crassula argen- tea) in the Courtyard have been raised in their green- house for many years. The largest, with trunks five to six inches in diameter, are over 40 years old. Their small, starry, white flowers cover the large spreading branches that are over three feet high. The Latin word crassula means thick and fleshy, describing the jade's leaves. With a Monks, Jordan and Lynch Garden compliment- ing the Courtyard the museum has so much more to offer than just their spec- tacular art work inside. Take a little holiday time out and visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum located at 280 The Fenway. You can check out their website at for hours and directions. A Tasty Treat to Compli- ment Your Time in the City .... The former Nebo space has undergone a transfor- mation into Ward 8, a bar and restaurant featuring "classic cocktails" and "shareable plates," which is NOW OPEN! Bristol Lounge alum Kenny Schweizer helms the kitchen, while Eastern Standard alum Mike Wyatt is in charge of the bar. This is a first res- taurant for owner Nick Frattaroli, but his family is nearby, running three other North End restaurants: Ducali, Lucia, and Filippo. Frattaroli's goal isn't to cre- ate another Italian restau- rant but rather an "Ameri- can brasserie meets comfort food" The restaurant, whose name is homage to the neighboring voting precinct as well as a classic cocktail created at Locke-Ober, seats 75 in the dining room and 32 around a four-sided bar. The kitchen is open 5:00 pm- 11:00 pm daily, while the bar is open 4:00 pm-2:00 am. Ward 8 is located at 90 North Washington Street, Boston and so far has been a hit! On Sale Now.* THE NORTH END Where It All Began The Way It Was by Fred Langone SALE PRICE $19.95 Plus Shipping & Handling On Site at The Post-Gazette 5 Prince Street, North End, Boston, MA