Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Advice from a Giusvalla mother-in-law

My cousin Susan once told me a story that was handed down from her grandmother, Secondina (Brondo) Camoirano …. real advice from a “séùjia giusvallìna.”

Known in my family as “Lalla Secondina,” Secondina Brondo was born in Giusvalla in 1889, the eldest child of Andrea Vincenzo Brondo and Maria Serafina Perrone. She married at the age of 19 to Giovanni Camoirano, known by his family and friends as "Beciancìn." After their marriage, Secondina moved into her husband's family home "Cà 'd Becìancia," just northwest of the center of Giusvalla.

As a young wife, Secondina had many responsibilities, she had to help her mother-in-law with all the cooking, cleaning and other household chores, there was always a lot to be done. Secondina's mother-in-law gave her the following advice:

"Cook for your husband and before you serve him his dinner, eat a little. If your husband is in a good mood, then sit with him and eat a little more. If your husband is in a bad mood you have already had something to eat and you don't have to eat with your grumpy husband!"

Lalla Secondina followed her husband to America and arrived with her oldest child, Alfredo, in 1913. Two additional children were born here in the U.S. - Pauline and Anne. Both daughters were born at Squirrel Run. The family later moved to Toughkenamon and went into the mushroom business.

Lalla Secondina was an expert in the kitchen, she was known for the wonderful meals she could whip up at the drop of a hat. She was a sweet, gentle soul and is remembered with great fondness by my family and all those who knew her.

In the picture: Giovanni "John" & Secondina (Brondo) Camoirano (courtesy of my cousin Susan)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The 12 Days of Citrus...

As a little boy, I can remember that when my Grandpop Salvo was still alive, every year around this time a big white box would appear (sometimes more than 1) out of nowhere, containing the biggest grapefruits I’d ever seen. If there were multiple boxes present, the additional ones would contain oranges or possibly even the “Clementines”. This same event would happen at the home of my Angelone and Ghione relatives as well.

The arrival of these large quantities of citrus fruits are always more of a Holiday kickoff symbol for me than any Black Friday ad, TV commercial, or anything else you can think of.

This past weekend, we had a family gathering at my house, and among the offerings on the table pre- and post-dinner were: 2 crates of clementines.. The Italian Holiday season has officially begun!

From Frank R.: The boxes of oranges and grapefruits and crates of clementines were a holiday time tradition in my family as well. My grandmother would get her boxes of fruit every year, and the family would take their share as they would stop by to visit. When they were kids, my father and his six siblings could also expect to find a big orange or grapefruit in the "toes" of their Christmas stockings every year!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Squirrel Run’s Rehoboth: White Crystal Beach

In my time doing research on the Squirrel Run history, the topic of White Crystal Beach has come up many times, with many different people. I personally have not been there [yet], but many of my family members have, specifically on the Salvo side.

My Grandpop Salvo really enjoyed going to the beach in general, and even in his later years in life, I can remember going with him to “Lum’s Pond” on route 896 in DE (while it was still safe to swim there).

As mentioned, many folks of the Squirrel Run lineage have memories of visiting this beach. I am not certain if it is because of its locale, its prices, or simply because it was a nice beach that maybe wasn’t as crowded as Rehoboth or even the Jersey beaches. But I have seen pictures, and even heard tales, about the trips to that beach. The best one I have heard yet was while my mother, Marianne (Salvo) Brady, was headed to White Crystal Beach with my Aunt Alma (Tambourelli) MacCallum. Mom was behind the wheel, driving in my Uncle Ernie Salvo’s 1960 Impala. The trip was going to be a highlight of the girls’ summer, until an unforeseen event happened: while cruising down route 40 in MD, a large rock came up from behind a truck, and smashed into the windshield of my uncle’s car…. It came right up in front of the driver’s side, where my mother was behind the wheel. Mom said it hit the windshield so hard that not only did it crack the glass all of the way across, a section of the glass actually came inward, breaking away and falling onto the dashboard!

Knowing my mother, she was probably wishing the rock had taken her life, rather than having to turn back home and tell her brother what just happened to his car! Nevertheless, that particular trip to White Crystal Beach was suddenly postponed..

If your family has any memories of White Crystal Beach that you would like to share, please email Frank or myself, or you can add it right to the comments section below this post.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Hideaway

My great-grandparents, Francesco and Josephine Rosaio, were the original proprietors of “The Hideaway Lounge,” a local pub in Brandywine Hundred that was, remarkably, an offshoot of my great-grandfather’s mushroom business. The history of the Hideaway begins in the early 1930s, when a fire destroyed the majority of my great-grandfather’s mushroom houses. By this time, he was already in his 50s and ready for something a little less labor intensive. So, during the waning years of Prohibition, my great-grandparents converted their one remaining mushroom house (which was attached to their home) and opened the “Pointe Breeze Bocce Club,” so-named to disguise its true identity as a local watering hole.

After Prohibition ended, there was no reason to maintain the façade, so the name was changed to “The Hideaway Lounge,” known to locals simply as “the Hideaway.” It became a popular gathering place for the neighborhood folk, as popular in fact for my great-grandmother Lalla Pina’s sandwiches and snacks as it was for its libations. Cousin Dave Baccino helped tend bar and as my great-grandfather Rosaio grew older, he became a fixture at the same small table near the bar.

After my great-grandfather’s death in 1954, my great-grandmother continued to run the Hideaway for almost 30 years. In 1981, when she was nearly 90 years old, she finally sold the Hideaway, which continues to operate as a neighborhood bar to this very day.

The old-time locals still talk about “Lalla Pina” and the Hideaway. I spent many happy childhood days in the parking lot of the Hideaway, riding bikes on the vast stretch of asphalt with my sister and friends, stopping into Grandmom’s house for “cakies” and a chat with Aunt Anne or Aunt Elsie, a run around Grandmom’s yard with her collie Teddy, or searching for wild kittens that seemed in abundant supply every spring underneath the wooden steps that led into the kitchen around the back of the Hideaway.

If you sit on the back porch of my father’s home, and look through the thicket of the row of pine trees that now separate the neighbor’s property, you can still barely see Lalla Pina’s house and the Hideaway, looking just as they did for as long as I can remember. Maybe you’ll take the walk “across the field” and stop in for a drink. If you do, have one in memory of Lalla Pina.

In the picture: View of Lalla Pina's house and the adjoining Hideaway (June 2008)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

ur cuggène ‘merican

In our parents and grandparents generation, it was a common event for the extended family to get together to visit or celebrate. The cousins all knew one another and were always willing to lend a hand when a family member was in need. The Giusvalla group that came to the U.S. was large, but everyone was “family.”

The first generation of Giusvalla immigrants would send packages back home, containing simple essentials they knew their families needed. My father always thought it was funny that his grandmother would send boxes of store bought dry pasta to the family …. in Italy!

Grandmom Rosaio returned to Giusvalla to visit several times over the years. During the years around the World Wars, things were particularly difficult in Giusvalla. The families that had remained there were very poor, at times it was difficult to get the bare essentials. Things got a little better in the 1950s, but Grandmom continued to send her packages. Her last trip to Giusvalla was in 1963, and in the weeks before her arrival, the cousins in Giusvalla received a package from Grandmom with a note that said “set this box aside for me.” The cousins were surprised and a little confused when they saw that the box was full of toilet paper.

When Grandmom arrived in Giusvalla, they gave her the box and asked her why she had sent a box of toilet paper over for herself. She told them, “Well, last time I was here, you didn’t have any!” Grandmom had gotten used to certain comforts during her years in the U.S., and she didn’t want to take any chances!

The number of Giusvalla descendants that have traveled to visit our ancestral village over the years is impressive and undoubtedly an indication of the pride that has been passed down through the generations. The Giusvalla folk have become accustomed the comings and goings of “ur cuggène ‘merican.”

Though we are Americans and proud of our native country, by remembering the origins of our immigrant grandparents, we honor not only the sacrifices they made for us, but also their unwavering commitment to family and friends, those here and the ones they left behind. In a generation that has perhaps become accustomed to disregarding what is not of immediate use, we can certainly learn from their example.

In the picture – the American cousins visit Giusvalla, summer 1937

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ra Lalla Carlotta

Lalla Carlotta Bazzano was the youngest sister of our “Mumà Granda,” Francesca (Becco) Pesce. She was also the matriarch of the Bazzano family of Squirrel Run. Her two sons, Pietro “Pietrìn” and Amedeo “Medevo,” came to Delaware as young men, settling in the Squirrel Run community at the DuPont powder mills.

Lalla Carlotta was born June 12, 1861 and she married Giovanni Callisto Bazzano in Giusvalla on September 8, 1882. She enjoyed a relatively comfortable life in Giusvalla. Her husband held the important position of town postmaster for many years, and they raised their family in a large and comfortable home on the “strada provinciale.” Their granddaughter Anna still lives in and beautifully maintains the family home.

Lalla Carlotta traveled to the United States in 1931 to visit her sons and their families. The picture above was taken during her visit in front of the Kennett Square home of her son, Peter Bazzano. Lalla Carlotta returned to Giusvalla, where she died in 1943.