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December 7, 2012     Post-Gazette
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December 7, 2012
 

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POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 7, 2012 Page 13 nr,rn, r,,rlmlr Nanna 00abb00onno b,,o000000i00,o,oro A Nostalgic Remembrance i December 7, 1941, Oops, 2012 Mind you, I was only three when this story unfolded, but everything was explained to me in words that I could understand in English and Italian. It was a December Sunday and we were sitting down at the dinner table at 2:00 pm, as we always did on Sundays. The living room radio was on and the broad- cast, a music hour, was in- terrupted by a news flash. It was 9:00 am in Hawaii and Pearl Harbor had just been bombed by Japanese air- planes, a war-like act that had begun at 8:00 am their time. The normally happy Christoforo/Contini family became very solemn. I didn't understand until they ex- plained things to me so a three year old could under- stand. In my young mind, I knew that something bad had happened. The next day, none of the men in the family went to work. Babbononn0 worked for a company that made furni- ture. Uncle Paul, who lived on the top floor of our house, was a printer by day, young Uncle Gino worked at the Chelsea Navy yard and Dad and Uncle Nick, both full time musicians, didn't opt for their usual Monday ritual and head for the musician's union. Along with Nanna, Mom and my aunts, the fam- ily surrounded the kitchen radio waiting for a broadcast from President Roosevelt. When it began, the President started out with, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy, the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air units from the Empire of Japan..." and con- cluded by saying that a state of war existed between the two countries. When I asked what it all meant, I was told in two languages that we were in a war. I had heard Babbononno pontificating at the dinner table about Italy and Musso- lini tying up with Hitler and the Nazis. He hated both the Fascist and Nazi parties and thought they would eventu- ally ruin the countries they were born in. I really didn't understand what was going on and I was told on that Monday morning bad people were running those coun- tries and the Japanese, who had bombed America, were their friends. When the broadcast was over, Nanna poured a second cup of coffee for everyone and the men discussed what was going to happen now that we were at war with Japan. Everyone decided to wait a few days to see what was in the news and headed out just before lunch time. They didn't have to wait too long, as by the middle of the week both Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Everyone knew that war was raging in Europe but America wasn't directly in- volved. The Germans and Italians had taken over North Africa, France had a puppet government faithful to the Nazis (Vichy France) and af- ter the Battle of Dunkirk, the Brits were pushed back to England with London suffer- ing bombing raids on a daily basis. We were still isolation- ists, a position we took after World War I and maintained through the Roaring 20s and the depression of the 1930s. The decision was made by the men in the family to reg- ister for the draft. Babbo- nonno was denied draft sta- tus because he was too old to serve and Uncle Paul was on the borderline as far as age requirements were con- cerned. Dad, Uncle Nick and Uncle Gino were at the right ages and were given lottery numbers and told that when their numbers were called, they would be given more information on what to do. Actually, Dad and Uncle Nick had spoken to a Marine recruiter who came to the union a month before Pearl Harbor. He signed several musicians to play in the Marine reserve band that was located in Boston. They were told that they wouldn't go through the same train- ing as "mud Marines." The unit needed musicians and that's all they would do ... play music. The day of the swear- ing in; both Dad and Uncle Nick were doing recording sessions and never made it to the Fargo Building in South Boston where the swearing in was to take place. They were lucky, because after Pearl Harbor, the mu- sicians who had joined to play in the Marine band were told to put their instruments away. They then went into training to become fighting men. As the war intensified, Uncle Nick joined the Navy and Uncle Gino, the Army Air Corps. Dad accepted a teach- ing job in the Boston Schools. Although he hadn't gone to college, he had graduated from East Boston High School after majoring in machine -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) e-' Santa shop as a trade. As a trades- man, he could return and teach the same skills with- out a Bachelor's degree. He never really worked at the trade as he became a profes- sional musician right after graduating EBHS in 1929. After military training, Uncle Gino was assigned to the 5  Air Force and sent to serve in the Pacific fighting his way from New Guinea to Japan itself. Uncle Nick au- ditioned for the Navy band and made it. He would spend the rest of the war playing for Andre Kostelanetz, serenad- ing the brass at the Newport Naval Base. Not long after Dad started teaching, he was approached by two members of the OSS, the forerunner to today's CIA. The government was housing Italian war pris- oners at facilities on the is- lands just outside Boston Harbor. When they ran out of space, they began housing the rest at the long-closed immigration station located on Marginal Street in East Boston. The OSS needed someone to interrogate the prisoners on a part-time ba- sis and Dad's name came up for some reason. He accepted the job which wouldn't begin until the school day ended. He received permission to have a recording secretary to accompany him and was given the okay after the per- son was run through FBI records. The person was Michael Contini (Babbo- nonno). Dad's Italian was marginal at best and Babbo- nonno was, of course, fluent. Dad was able to get many of the POWs jobs working on the pushcarts that dotted the area from Central Square to the Sumner Tunnel. They could work as long as they reported back to their quar- ters by sundown. By 1943, when Italy surrendered and changed sides, many of the freed prisoners chose to stay in Boston and would settle into new lives as Americans. Fortunately, Uncle Gino would come home in one piece, surviving the first of the bombing raids on Tokyo and the Japanese mainland. Uncle Nick and Aunt Ada would part company and divorce in 1950 (It took that long in Boston back then.). Soon after, he and Aunt Dorothy would marry and spend the rest of their lives together. In spite of my age, my memory serves me well and I remember all of the above as if it happened this year. My grandparents, parents, Uncles Nick and Paul are gone. Uncle Gino is 95 but can give you quite an account of what he experienced with the 5  Air Force, 71 years ago after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Me ... I guess I'm the one that has to keep the lamp lit with stories of my family and the way it was growing up as an American in an Ital- ian family. GOD BLESS AMERICA this weekend, as on Decem- ber 7e-8  starting 8:00 pm the Improv Asylum is host- ing, No Rest for the Wicked Fmny with 100% of the pro- ceeds going to Globe Santa. This year's 8 th annual show' and line-up of guests in- cludes comedy legend Steven Wright, former Celtics star do Jo White and Dropkick Murphys' front man Ken Casey. Auction items do- nated include: Red Sox tick- ets, Celtics tickets, VIP tick- ets to the Conan O'Brien show and tickets to opening night of Book of Mormon in Boston. There will be a "Kids on Stage" portion, Saturday December 8 th at 10:00 am. The more kids, the more funt Kids under 17 do not have to pay admission. No Rest for the Wicked Funny Foundation, Inc., is working to improve our com- munity as a whole by using the art of comedy in part- nerships with other non- profit organizations to spread awareness and raise money for those who need it most. The foundation raises around $30,000 each year and events like this are very cru- cial to its success. They are always looking for celebrity guests, donation items, and sponsorship. If you have any ideas contact Shalyn Ward at shalyn@improvasylum.com. Globe Santa exists solely to bring joy to local children. They do this by provid- ing holiday presents to fami- lies in need throughout the Greater Boston area. Through the thoughtfulness of contributors and volun- teers, 100% of all donations go toward the purchase and delivery of these gifts. They are strengthened by indi- viduals, families and organi- zations that choose to assist their neighbors by joining in this unique holiday tradi- tion. To make a donation to this local charity you can call 617-929-2007. So after you stroll down Hanover Street Friday night get some rest to return on Saturday for a 24 hour Christmas chuckle! Santa Speedo Run .... If you are looking for regular holiday Shopping on Satur- day, December 8 th you may want to skip Newbury Street. The Santa Speedo Run is an annual holiday tradition held in December beginning and ending at the Lir Tavern in Boston. Located in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Lir is an Irish pub that serves as the focal point of the run and is convenient for its proximity to Newbury Street which is the Christmas shop- ping destination of Boston. When else can you run down Newbury Street not in your finest fashions but in your skimpiest Speedo? This 1-mile jog in December has 500 participants who dress down and run for the Play Ball Foundation, an organi- zation that uses the les- sons of sports to build char- acter and teamwork in Bos- ton middle-schoolers. These brave souls are in noth- ing but Christmas spirit and tiny bathing suits. Wearing Santa hats and beards is encouraged but thongs are not allowedl Starting in 2000 with five men wearing Santa hats and Speedos running down Newbury Street to the tune of cheers and applause for their brave holiday spirit, the Santa Speedo Run is now a holiday tradition for Bos- tonians. Starting with a pre- game gathering to work up courage, the 500 runners depart from the pub and em- bark on their mile-long jog sporting nothing but Speedos and festive hats. There is a post-run party at Lir to cel- ebrate the success of every- one's run. Christmas is a time for giving and good cheer and with proceeds for kids, good old Boston has cre- ated a sight for poor Santa to see. The Grinch is Wrapping Up the Show .... As I wrote in my November 16 th col- umn, the Citi Performing Arts Center has been show- casing Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical since November 23 rd and on Sunday, December 9 m the last show of the season will be performed, so come and join as audiences will be enchanted one last time by this Christmas classic. The Wang Theatre is located at 270 Tremont St, Boston and tickets can be purchased by calling 617-482-9393 or vis- iting www.citicenter.org. Don't miss the annual Santa Speedo Run. "." ,  ,. ".1 .,.') rkc'.c.| ....