Saturday, August 29, 2009

Old WWII Scrapbook Reveals Squirrel Runner Article

At the beginning of the month of August, I noticed an ad online from a person who was offering up an old WWII scrapbook, free to a good home. It contained newspaper article clippings on soldiers from the Montchanin, Talleyville, and surrounding Wilmington areas. I knew that some of the families who resided at Squirrel Run had migrated to these areas after the Gunpowder Mills were dismantled, and I was pretty sure there would be some articles in the book relating to descendants of those families. I contacted the owner to see if it was still available, and explained why I was interested in having it. The owner replied and asked me for my mailing address, and said she would be happy to see me have it.

The package arrived in the mail this past week, and as I opened it I found a note from the sender of the book. It read, "my grandmother who compiled this scrapbook was Mary Keating of Rockland. Her husband was a millworker at the Doeskin Mill." I was glad to see that the sender of the book (whom we'll simply refer to as "Jody") provided the name of the actual creator of the scrapbook, so that we could credit her accordingly. After reading that note, I began to look at the articles in the scrapbook- right on the first page was a Squirrel Run-related article. The clipping is shown with this posting, and details the death of Sergeant Victor J. Carozzo (click on the article clipping to see the full-size image).

Victor was the son of John Carozzo, and was born on June 25, 1921. He can be seen in the Tutti I Giusvallini picture on the far left, being held by his father, John (for those who have the numbered version of the picture, Victor is #137).

The newspaper clipping does not have the date of death present, however thanks to Frank Rosaio's Rootsweb site (link found in the right column of this site), we know that Victor died on July 17th, 1943. This article was obviously drafted at some point in the following week.

I was happy to find this article in the scrapbook, since it not only provides information on Victor's death, but also includes a photo of him in his young adult life.

A very special thanks goes out to "Jody" and her grandmother for taking the time to compile such a valuable piece of Delaware (and surrounding area) history. In a world where so many are quick to move to a "paperless" environment, treasures like these are becoming more and more scarce.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remnants of Frizzell's Store

Yesterday I made a trip up to Hagley with my cousin, Vince Ghione, to appreciate the remaining landmarks of what was once Squirrel Run and the surrounding area. In-hand I had with me a series of notes and pictures that I keep all together, regarding all that I know to date about Squirrel Run. One of the pictures I had with me was an old photo of Sam Frizzell's store, which is shown in the picture attached to this posting (the black and white photo is courtesy of Hagley Museum).

The store was originally located at the base of Breck's Lane, directly across from Breck's Mill, which is still in existence today. However, Frizzell's store was not as lucky. As shown in the attached photo, all that remains of the original store is a rectangular impression in the ground, backing up to a hill. At the back of the location, one can still make out a small stone wall, built into the dirt, that would have been to prevent erosion.

As the years roll on, many landmarks still exist which point out the past layout of Squirrel Run and Walker's Banks. We just have to be a little bit more curious today to see them..

The Passing of Lucille (Juliano) Catalino

On Tuesday of this week, Lucille E. (Juliano) Catalino, wife of Thomas J. Catalino Jr., passed away at the age of 96. Her husband was a fellow "Squirrel Runner", and a very close friend of my grandfather, Ernest Salvo. The obituary in the Wilmington News Journal reads as follows:

"Mrs. Lucille E. (Juliano) Catalino, age 96 of Wilmington, DE, passed away on August 25, 2009.

Lucille was born in Bridgeton, NJ on August 14, 1913, daughter of the late Thomas and Elizabeth (Ruggerio) Juliano. She was a lifelong member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. A loving and adoring homemaker, she was endlessly devoted to her loved ones.

Lucille was predeceased by her husband of 41 years, Thomas J. Catalino Jr., in 1981; and 12 siblings, including her twin sister, Clementine "Tina" Betts, and Pauline Miller. She is survived by her daughters, Mary Lu Catalino Roberts, with whom she lived, and Angela DeMaio; son, Thomas J. Catalino, III (Eileen); grandchildren, Jody Gould (Eric), Joseph Roberts (Kerri), Scott Roberts (Robyn), Christy DeMaio, Heather Catalino, and Amy Keeler (Tim); great-grandchildren, Adam and Emma Gould, Lorelai Roberts, Cecelia Roberts, and Evan DeMaio; and numerous nieces and nephews, including Kathleen Catalino, whom along with grandson, Scott Roberts, served as primary caregiver.

The family extends their deepest gratitude to the nurses, aides, and volunteers from Blessed Home and Delaware Hospice for their attentive and compassionate care of Lucille.

A Funeral Service will be held at the CHARLES P. ARCARO FUNERAL HOME, 2309 Lancaster Ave. in Wilmington, on Friday morning, August 28, at 11:30 am. Interment will follow in Cathedral Cemetery, Wilmington. Family and friends may call at the funeral home on Friday morning, prior to service, from 10-11:30 am.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association of Delaware, 2306 Kirkwood Hwy, Wilmington, DE 19805 or to Delaware Hospice, 3515 Silverside Rd., Wilmington, DE 19810.

To send online condolences

please visit


If any of our readers have a photo of Mrs. Catalino that we can include with this posting, please let me know.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crossin' the Creek

Work in the DuPont powder mills along the Brandywine was a dangerous undertaking. Accidents and explosions were common and there were many work-related deaths on the grounds of the powder mill.

The powder houses built along the Brandywine were constructed to minimize the fatalities in the event of an explosion. Three thick stone walls with a weak wooden fourth wall which faced the Brandywine ensured that if there was an explosion in the powder house the contents (including the unfortunate powder worker) would be blown out over the creek, and not into the yard where other workers could be injured. Workers who died in this way were said to have “crossed the creek.”

Explosions in the yard were more deadly, because there were no protective walls to minimize the damage. Our Lalla Delaide told a story about one such explosion, which was caused by a spark made when a horse drawn carriage crossed the trolley tracks in the yard. The explosion was so great that the houses in Squirrel Run shook violently. Giusvalla native Giovanni Abete perished in that explosion, along with many other men who were in the yard that day.

Edoardo Zunino was rushed to University Hospital in Philadelphia in September 1925 after inhaling toxic fumes while at work in the powder mill. He wasn’t able to recover from the poisonous fumes and died at the hospital. Joseph Pesce became very ill from breathing in the same fumes that killed Edoardo Zunino, but recovered and was back to work within a few days.

The quiet, idyllic beauty at the Hagley Museum today is a pale reminder of the hustle and bustle in the powder yards during the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents. But if you stand beside the restored powder houses along the Brandywine and listen patiently as the river trickles by …. perhaps you can still hear the voices from the yard and those who crossed the creek so many years ago.

In the picture: Hagley’s restored powder houses along the Brandywine

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"The Tortarolo Code"

I always knew that my Aunt Theresa (Tortarolo) Angelone was a blood-relative of mine “somehow,” but once someone explains how you are so-and-so’s sister’s cousin’s aunt’s roommate etc., you unfortunately tend to lose your way off the comprehension path...

The same thing happened to me when Frank advised me that we were distantly related. My immediate reaction was “great!,” but then came the inevitable question of “how?” He’d told me during a few different conversations that this person in his family was my great-grandfather’s second cousin, and that his family adopted my Aunt Theresa’s brother and sister when their parents died in 1918. But usually these points of linkage would be mentioned in passing, and I’d never get a chance to sit down and actually map it out to understand the big picture. Well, last night I did just that.

Attached is a graphic representation of what I like to call, “The Tortarolo Code” (modeled after the famous film starring Tom Hanks). In the graphic, it is much more clear to see not only how Frank and I are blood-related, but also how the relation of my Aunt Theresa’s family comes into play. Click on the image to see the full-size view.

Be sure to peruse our earlier posts on this site as well, for more details and pictures pertaining to Theresa, Egidio, and Josephine Tortarolo.

Update from Frank R.: My family is also related to the Tortarolo children – Egidio, Theresa & Josephine – through my great-grandfather, Francesco Rosaio, so they were our "double" cousins. The mother of the Tortarolo children was Luigia Maria Perrone, who was my great-grandfather Rosaio’s 1st cousin.

It was my great-grandfather Rosaio who took in and raised Gidio and Josephine after their parents died in 1918. They grew up on his farm up on Ebright Road.

Little Theresa Tortarolo went to live with a relative of her father's, Giovanni Battista "John" Salvo.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The "Goodfellas" of Squirrel Run

Just as it happens today, when kids and cameras are combined, it makes for some truly memorable and funny photos. In this picture we see Ernest Salvo (far left), Paul Pesce, Adolpho Pesce, and most likely, Edgar Carozzo. His face is shaded by the thumb of who is most likely Tom Catalino taking the picture (multiple family photos reveal these guys as one of the Squirrel Run “brat packs” of the time).

The picture was taken in the Winter time, as can be seen by the heavy coats, the snow on the ground behind them, and the leafless trees. When compared to other pictures of the same locale, it appears that this photo was taken at Wagoner’s Row.

As I have said many times with other photos I have posted here, it is so great to see these historic shots out in the light again. They spent decades in boxes. Frank and I both have received feedback from many who follow this site and have enjoyed viewing these old memories. Rest assured that both Frank and I will keep these pictures coming for as long as we have them to share! And speaking of which, do you have boxes of these old pictures that you would like to share with the Squirrel Run community as well? If so, feel free to contact either Frank or myself, and we’ll do what we can to get them uploaded onto this site for you. These memories have gone forgotten for too long!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The 24th Annual Mushroom Festival

Virtually all of we Delaware Valley Giusvallèn are connected in some way to the mushroom business. Many of those who left the powder mills in the early 1920s went directly into the cultivation of mushrooms. It came naturally to our first generation forefathers, because mushrooms were a big business back home in Giusvalla (and other areas of northern Italy).

What better way to celebrate our heritage next month than heading to Kennett Square, “The Mushroom Capital of the World,” for the 24th Annual Mushroom Festival? The food alone is reason enough to stop by (don’t forget to try the mushroom soup!).

If you want to make a day out of it, there’s plenty for everyone: antique & classic car show, games and activities for the kids, live entertainment, local vendor, parades and lots more. The festival will be held this year on September 12-13.

You might even bump into a cousin or two!

For more information on the Mushroom Festival, go to:

Sunday, August 9, 2009


We are all probably familiar with Eric Enstrom’s famous painting “Grace,” which depicts the bearded elderly gentleman deep in prayer at his kitchen table. I’m sure many of us grew up with a replica hanging on the wall of our parents’ or grandparents’ home.

In the mid 1980s my father’s sister Marina took this picture of my great-grandmother Rosaio at her dining room table, using the Enstrom painting as her inspiration.

Grandmom Rosaio loved having her picture taken, we have dozens and dozens of pictures of her taken in various propped poses from the time she was a young girl. This particular picture was taken when Grandmom was in her 90s, and is a family favorite!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Don't Mess With Mutèn......

This past weekend, my Uncle Paul Salvo and his wife Rita (Devlin) Salvo were at our home to visit for my daughter's birthday party. After the mayhem subsided a bit, I pulled him aside and asked him if he would mind recounting some memories about his grandfather, John "Mutèn" Salvo..

One of the memories that he shared was one that I had never heard before: as was the case with many Italian communities, there would be times when friends would come to the Salvo house to drink, sing, and be merry together. My Uncle Paul shared that at one specific gathering, the celebrating apparently went on into the wee hours of the night. Mutèn finally decided that he would retire for the evening. He said Buona Notte to everyone, and headed up for bed. One would think that when the head of the household retires for the night, it might be time to pack it in and close down the party.. However, in this instance, that did not take place.

Mutèn had headed up to bed, but the "party" continued without him. The drinking and the singing persisted. After some time of it, Mutèn apparently made an encore appearance.. But this time, it was while sporting a SHOTGUN. Thankfully, the gun was never aimed and fired, but without even squeezing the trigger once, its message was conveyed without question: "THE PARTY'S OVER!!"

The Cavallo Bianco

Those of us who grew up close to the history of our family in Giusvalla (especially we members of the Pesce family) are familiar with the “Cavallo Bianco.” The history of the “Cavallo Bianco” goes back to the early years of the 20th century, when it was known as the “Locanda Cavallo Bianco” (White Horse Inn). At that time, it also served as a stopping point for travelers to change their horses. Adjoining the inn and beyond the archway that leads to the “port ed Tzentòn,” there were stables where the horses were kept. The original proprietors of the inn were our dear Lalla Francìşcha and the infamous Borba Tzentòn.

At the “port ed Tzentòn” was a large oven, where Lalla Francìşcha prepared bread to sell to the weary travelers. These were busy years for our Lalla, running the restaurant, inn, keeping the stables up, baking the bread and managing her brood of six children. Borba Tzentòn was frequently away pursuing some new business venture, so Lalla was often left alone to bear the heavy load on her small shoulders.

Lalla Francìşcha’s son, Vittorio and his wife Gemma, eventually took over the running of the restaurant, which became known simply as the “Cavallo Bianco.” Vittorio and Gemma’s daughters, Francesca and Nanda grew up in the kitchen of the Cavallo Bianco, helping their parents with every little task from cleaning, to cooking, to baking the bread in the big oven in the “port ed Tzentòn.”

Today Nanda and her husband Angelo run the restaurant, and their son Massimo who is an architectural engineer in Genoa sometimes lends a hand. The stables and great oven are gone, but the rooms upstairs have been beautifully restored and are ready once again to receive guests and travelers.

I had the great pleasure of celebrating my birthday at the Cavallo Bianco this past year with 25 of my dear cousins in Giusvalla, many of whom are grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the restaurant’s original proprietress, Lalla Francìşcha. An vüj di ciü che, tante grazie a tucci … ashper purrej turné prasht!

In the picture: At the Cavallo Bianco in 1963 – Meme, Pina (my great-grandmother), Teresita, Francesco, Bastianèn, Gigèn

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A’summa parenti? Are we related?

The short answer to this question is yes, if your family came from Giusvalla, then you are probably related in some way to other people whose family came from there. Giusvalla has always been a small town, with just a handful of nuclear families intermarrying generation after generation, it is a mathematical probability that if we go back far enough into our family history, all we Giusvallèn will discover a common ancestry in at least one branch of our family.

However, it would be inaccurate to simply assume that all Baccino, Bonifacino or Perrone families sprung from the same ancestral patriarch. For example, it is well-known in Giusvalla that the various Bonifacino families are descended from the soldiers of “Bonifacio il Vasto,” a 13th century nobleman from the Aleramici family.

Families in Giusvalla distinguished themselves from other unrelated families with the same surname by associating themselves with their ancestral frazione (neighborhood), for example there were the Perrone della Colla, Perrone dei Dogli, Perrone della Casùrera and Giusvalla’s noble family, Perrone dell'avvocato. It was the same with all the large old families in Giusvalla.

At the time of the 1645 census in the town of Giusvalla, the following families were living in Giusvalla:

Bonifacino - 36 families
Perrone - 30 families
Baccino - 27 families
Beltrame - 25 families
Pizzorno - 14 families
Buschiazzo - 10 families
Tessore & Rabellino - 5 families
Bazzano & Brondo - 4 families
Doglio & Porro - 3 families
Astisano, Bistolfi, Ferraro, Iardino, Rapetti, Siri, Scarrone & Zuffo - 2 families
Biale, Bagnasco, Ivaldi, Laidi, Marchisio, Marenco, Richebuono, Salvo, Salvagno, Tortarolo - 1 family

As record-keeping as we know it was just beginning to develop following the Council of Trent a century before, we can perhaps consider this list an accurate representation of the earliest documented residents of our ancestral village of Giusvalla.

Some of these family names disappeared from Giusvalla over the subsequent centuries, while other families moved into Giusvalla from other towns nearby (Carozzo, Camoirano, Manzino, Pesce, Rosaio, Zunino, etc.).

Of course, you’ll only know for certain if you are related to someone by carefully documenting each generation of your family history. The rule of thumb with genealogical research is to start with yourself, obtaining documentation such as birth, marriage and death records for each vital event in every generation, which (with luck) will lead you to a starting point for researching the previous generation.

Interested in your Giusvalla family history? I started my search over 20 years ago and over the years have obtained copies of many of the original records from the Giusvalla town hall, as well as the older ecclesiastical records from the registers of Giusvalla’s parish, the church of San Matteo. If you’d like a hand getting things going with your own “family tree,” I am more than happy to share whatever I have, or get you started on your search!

In the picture: Marriage Act of Lorenzo Antonio Perrone & Maria Luigia Perrone - from the marriage registers of the parish church of San Matteo, Giusvalla

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Death of Gidio Tortarolo

Growing up, I knew very little about the family of my Godmother, Theresa (Tortarolo) Angelone. I knew her parents were buried at St. Joe’s on the Brandywine, because my father would point out their headstone whenever we went to visit the family graves. However, I’d never once seen a picture of them, or heard anything about them. I knew they had died from the 1918 influenza, and I knew that as a result, my Aunt Theresa had come to live with my Grandpop Salvo’s family. I’d also heard briefly that she had a brother and sister, but I’d never met them or seen a picture of them either. Years went by and the topic came up somewhere again that she’d had a brother and a sister- so, I finally asked to know who and where they were. After all, if we visited Aunt Theresa regularly, why couldn’t we see her siblings too?? It never made any sense to me as a kid.

My parents explained to me that both had died early in life, and that her sister’s name was Josephine, and her brother’s name was Gidio (spelled as Egidio on the family headstone). And this is where things got interesting: I remember my father telling me that Gidio was killed “in a hot air balloon accident”. At this point I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s- at that time, I knew people died when airplanes crashed. I knew people died in car accidents. But a hot air balloon?? Come on. I really thought my father had gotten a bad translation from Italian to English on that one.. Yes, I knew balloons go up high and all, but really- how many people did you ever hear about who died from hot air balloon fatalities?! It just sounded nuts.

Of course my father had no other information to go on, and really had no way to verify the story. The info most likely came from Aunt Theresa herself, or her husband (Art Angelone), and I’m sure it was upsetting for Aunt Theresa to discuss. So, I doubt she went into much detail about it. Either that or, she simply did not know all of the details surrounding the death. After all, it happened in MD in 1930. We had no obituary for Gidio, and there was nothing called an “internet” yet, so without any clues there was little more research that could be done. At that point in my life, the given explanation had to suffice, even as vague and odd as it was..

Interestingly enough, in another household in the tri-State area at that time, a similar question had been asked, and an equally-interesting response had been provided: Frank Rosaio had been told by the sister of his grandfather (Francesco Rosaio) that Gidio had met his death in a motorcycle stunt. Frank’s family recalls Gidio riding his motorcycle all over the place on the Rosaio family farm. But once again, as was the case with my family, no one really knew for sure what took Gidio’s life so early on.

Fast-forward about 25 years- my father signed up for an account with, and started doing research on the Brady, Salvo, and Angelone lineages. While working on the Angelone tree, he was doing obituary searches, and lo and behold, found the obit for Gidio Tortarolo posted on Frank Rosaio's genealogy site (which is how I first met Frank)! It had his last name misspelled, but it was definitely him. It read as follows:

From the "Wilmington Morning News," 8 Oct 1930, p. 2:

"Body of Balloon Victim To Be Buried Here

The body of Egidio Torgarolo, who was killed in Whitehall, Baltimore county, Md., on Saturday afternoon by falling from a balloon, was brought to this city yesterday. The funeral will take place from Krienan Brothers' undertaking parlors at 400 Broom street. tomorrow morning. Requiem mass will be held in St. Joseph's Church, on the Brandywine, at 9:30 o'clock, and interment will be made in the adjoining cemetery.

The young man was 23 years old and formerly lived in this city, but lately had been traveling and giving balloon ascensions. He has two sisters living in Wilmington. The young man was substituting as parachute jumper for Captain John Smith, and was known as Ernest or "Steve" Carinalio."

The obit confirmed the story my father had heard and passed down to me.. But even though it provided more insight, it in turn raised even more questions: where in MD did this happen? Were there witnesses? I felt compelled to find out the whole story, as grim as it may be.

I posted inquiries to a few online sources, explaining the details of the incident (brief but confirmed), along with when Gidio had died (October 4, 1930). Within 24 hours an email came back stating that an article regarding the accident had been found in the Baltimore Sun newspaper. It recounted the death of a man at the White Hall Fair, by the name of Ernest Carinalio (Gidio’s stage name, which appeared in the obituary my father had discovered). The posting of the article was October 5, 1930 (pg. 3, column 6). I requested to have a copy of the article emailed to me, and received it 3 days later. The article (which has been attached with this posting, click on it to view full-size) indicated that Gidio was in fact on a hot air balloon, but that he was actually scheduled to jump from the balloon wearing a parachute, as part of a stunt show. Somehow while preparing for the event, Gidio’s parachute pack got tangled up in the ropes of the balloon, and while trying to get it free, Gidio fell. He was only 50 feet from off of the ground, which would not have been enough time to deploy the chute. As a result he fell to his death, and according to the article, the tragedy took place while 1000 fair-goers were watching.

From what we know about Gidio, he spent his life as a thrill-seeker. Family members can remember him riding his motorcycle all over the place as a young man, and the career he selected at the time of his death further reveals his interest in such activities. I feel in a strange sense that some piece of Gidio carries on in me, as I am an avid motorcycle rider and enthusiast, and I am the only one in the Tortarolo-Salvo-Ghione-Brady lineage who seems to have that gene.

Another interesting point of curiosity about Gidio has been in regard to the stage name he selected, “Ernest” or “Steve Carinalio”. In trying to determine why he chose that name, our family couldn’t help but wonder if the “Ernest” came in some way from my grandfather, Ernest Salvo. But recently, another subtle fact has revealed itself: in the Tutti pic at the top of this site, you can see Gidio standing with his right arm around his little sister, Theresa. And his left arm is around a pal at that time: Ernie (Ernest) Camoirano.. That sure sounds a lot like Ernest Carinalio to me.