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December 9, 2011     Post-Gazette
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December 9, 2011

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POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 16, 2011 Page13 N'anna abb'f]nonno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance A young John Christoforo on a visit to see Santa. Circa 1944 Christmas is coming and I'm going to hold up on my story about a trip to Italy for the next couple of weeks. I have many fond memories about celebrating Christmas when I was a kid growing up in East Boston. Preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would begin long before the 24th and 25th of December would arrive. Most of the preparation was done by Nanna, Babbononno and my mother. The men in my family were musicians and Christmas time was their busiest season of the year. Back then, it was live music for every event. There were no such things as DJs playing records, tapes or CDs. My uncles were sax players and Dad played bass violin, and were among the best in Boston. As a resulL .they worked morning, noon and night playing Christmas parties at this time of year. For years, Dad played at Santa's Enchanted Village in Jordan Marsh, entertaining the kids who were there to see Santa Claus. The preparations for Christmas Eve fell mainly on Babbononno. It is traditional that Italians celebrate Christmas Eve with a dinner that consists of seven fish courses. Babbononno used to say that seven was the minimum and that you could have any number of offerings as long as it was an odd number, seven, nine, eleven, etc... Nanna often bought the common types of fish at Faber's Fish Market on Brooks Street in East Boston, but Babbononno insisted that he could only get the specialty items at Giuffre's in the North End. Faber's didn't sell eels, snails, scungili, quahogs, razor clams and mussels, but Giuffre did. Walking in the front door, you had to pass several galvanized tubs filled with water. Some had bacala soaking in them and the others had eels swimming aimlessly in oval patterns around the inside of the tubs. Babbononno would buy his share of these specialty items, leave the bags with the salesperson that waited on us and we would head into the North End to visit his friends. When it was time to return home, we would make a detour into the midst of the pushcarts and he would buy a few more specialty items that, according to him, could only be purchased in the North End. At about the same time, there had to be a visit to see Santa. Mom would take me into Boston and head for Jordan Marsh. There were Santa Clauses at other department stores, but Morn used to say that they were helpers for the real Santa. The Real Santa was only to be found at Jordan's. Of course, there would be the annual visit to the toy department. I think it was either the 4th or 5th floor of the main building on Washington and Summer Streets." Quite often, we were accompanied by her favorite cousin, Louise Pepe and her two sons, Anthony and Ralph. At other times, we would be accompanied by Grace Manfredonia and the first three of her four children, John, Fred and Adelaide. Whichever the case, the first stop would be at the electric train display. I have not seen anything like it since. One whole section of the toy department would be designed as a town somewhere in the U.S., with business buildings, schools, churches, snow covered hills, frozen ponds with skaters, and train stations with bill boards advertising the products of the day. Moving around the perimeter and through the middle of the display were several sets of electric trains, most of them Lionel, with a couple made by American Flyer. Many of the cars dumped coal, picked up milk cans, deposited lumber and displayed passengers through illuminated windows. All the while, the engines puffed white smoke which was supposed to resemble steam and they whistled as they passed several points in the display. When we had had our Fill of trains, it would be time to head to look at the model airplanes, most of them being World War II aircraft. I was a model maker and had wooden models that I made, most of them purchased at a local hobby store in East Boston. Jordan Marsh had models made by Strombecker. These were the Cadillacs of models, and I would tell Morn which ones I was going to ask Santa for. Next, we would visit the Erector Set display or the Gilbert science displays and marvel at the things that could be made by kids by just owning their latest sets of materials necessary to construct or invent. Before heading to see Santa, I always wanted to look at the latest in baseball equipment. There would be uniforms identical to the ones worn by members of the Red Sox or the long-gone Boston Braves. One of the few foreign uniforms I remember was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers, but after a quick glance, it was time to check out the latest in bats and gloves. When our mothers deemed it necessary to heard us into the Santa line, we would head for a group of kids standing in single file with snow suits hanging from their bodies. Unlike most kids, we were dressed with shirts, ties, coats, hats and gloves, all looking like miniature businessmen. The discussions with Santa would be abbreviated and right to the point. He would ask our names and then question us as to what we wanted him to bring us. Of course, we would ask for every- thing we saw in the store, and quite often, Santa's reply would be a bit nebulous, with him saying he would see what he could do. The next part of the day found us heading to a restaurant for lunch. Mom knew the places on either Tremont or Boylston Street and while we ate, we kids would discuss what we had seen and what we had asked Santa for. Once we were back home, Morn and Nanna would continue to plan out the menus for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There were no supermarkets back then and a shopping trip to pick up the necessities for a holiday table meant visiting specialty stores, a butcher shop for meats, a fish store for sea food, a green grocer for fruits and vegetables, an Italian specialty store for cold cuts, cheeses and exotic Italian delicacies. Butter and eggs were purchased at Kennedy's on Bennington Street and bread at either LaCarcia's, Blundo's or Umana's bakeries. No one drank bottled wine. Someone in the neighborhood made wines, both red and white, and most Italians had their favorite vintner from whom they bought wine. For Babbononno, it was his brother-in-law, Nanna's brother Zi'Antonio Ceruolo. According to my grandfather, he was the best winemaker in the world. My uncles and father lived in their tuxedoes during Christmas, playing several office parties during the day and early evenings and were seldom able to help in the purchasing or preparations necessary for the holidays. They just supplied the money. We kids supplied the anticipation, and for me, there was the party held at the Trinity Neighborhood House, a settlement house I attended on Meridian Street. The people I remember from there were Miss Orr, J.J. Dana and Dr. Edith DeAngelis. I'm out of space and will continue next week as Christmas approaches. GOD BLESS AMERICA * The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) Linda Holliday, left, and Constance Hubbell enjoy the American Ireland Fund 30th Annual Boston Gala. (Photo by Roger Farrington) ing spectacular visits TD Garden from Monday, De- cember 26 through Thurs- day, December 29 for ten performances. Get tangled up in Disney's 50th animated feature with Rapunzel and Flynn and enter the worlds of your other favorite Disney prin- cesses Tiana, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Belie, Mulan and of course, the one who started it all, Snow White. Ahoy, Mateysl Set sail with Peter Pan, the always sassy Tinker Bell and the cantankerous Captain Hook and his pirate pals on an adventure beyond Never Land! Trek the wilds of Africa with Sjmba, Nala, Pumbaa and Timon as they discover the true meaning of the Circle of Life. Tick-Tock! Tick-Tock! Don't be late to a very impor- tant date with Alice and the Mad Hatter as they march with the Queen of Hearts' Army of Cards. We are all invited to relive magical moments in this ultimate Disney animation celebra- tion coming to Boston's TD Garden. For tickets and more infor- mation, call 617-624-1815. Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda MorriU'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.) Saint John of the Cross (Medina), and, on his refus- ing to do so, he was impris- oned on December 3, 1577 and taken to Toledo, where he was incarcerated for over 9 months. It was during his imprisonment that Saint John wrote some of his fin- est poetry. He made his es- cape in August of 1578. Af- ter the death of St. Teresa (Oct 4, 1582) John, for sup- porting the nuns in their adopting of the new consti- tutions, drew upon himself the displeasure of the supe- rior, who deprived him of his offices and relegated him to one of the poorest monaster- (Continued from Page 6) ies, where he fell seriously ill. As his illness increased he was removed to the mon- astery of Ubeda, where he passed away on December 14, 1591. Saint John's beati- fication took place on Janu- ary 25, 1675; he was canon- ized on December 27, 1726. Saint John is a Doctor of the Church. Saint John left us many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that are just as relevant to- day as they were when they were written. The most well- known of which is "The Dark Night of the Soul." Fully Insured Lic #017936 :han cal Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 N [ RINTIN 5 PRINCE STREET NORTH END BOSTON, MA 02113 Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette Quality Printing for all your Commercial and Personal Needs Stationery * Business Cards * Menus Flyers " Program Books Wedding and Party Invitations ou_ncements * Business Forms and Documents --- COMPETITIVE PRICES -- i t