Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ra pórta ‘d ra Lalla Pina

The story of “Grandmom’s doors” has been told and retold in my family hundreds of times over the past almost 50 years. Even the extended family and cousins still talk about those doors. The story goes like this ….

On one of her visits back home to Giusvalla, Grandmom Rosaio noticed the doors in the vestibule of the church were in terrible condition. Grandmom went to her nephew Piciòn (Lorenzo Perrone) and asked him why the doors hadn’t been fixed, and he told her that the church didn’t have the money to pay for repairs. The next Sunday after Mass, Grandmom walked right up to the pastor and told him that she wanted to pay for new doors to be installed. She gave him the donation for the doors, and he promised that they would be put up very soon. Piciòn made sure that Grandmom was recognized for her generous donation, and to this day 47 years later there is a plaque above the vestibule doors that reads "Dono di Giuseppina Pesce" (Gift of Josephine Pesce). The beautiful glass and wood doors remain in perfect condition to this day.

“Grandmom’s doors” have become a favorite destination for her visiting descendants over the years, several of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren have stood in front of those doors and smiled proudly for the camera. And lest any of us forget, her great-nieces and nephews in Giusvalla still eagerly point up to the bronze plaque that bears her name and tell the story of ra pórta ‘d ra Lalla Pina ….

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Watching TV With Grandpop Salvo: “Lawrence Welk”

I have some great TV memories from growing up during the late 70s and early 80s: CHiPs, Fantasy Island, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Incredible Hulk, so many great shows on during that time. But there’s one show that I would catch during those days, that I never thought would pique my interest some 30 years later…

I remember many times, especially on weekends, our TV’s being tuned into a little musical program known as………. “The Lawrence Welk Show”. I would watch in confusion as my Grandpop Salvo sat and absorbed this program, usually his one leg crossed over the other, and the upper foot tapping mildly in the air to the beat of the songs. During my time of these memories, disco music was on its way out, and pop music (later just to be known at “80’s music”) was quickly rolling in. But none of the songs I was hearing on the radio ever seemed to make it to this program- and even weirder, the women always seemed to be wearing these draping, heavenly-like gowns. It didn’t matter what song was being sung, or which singer was singing it. They were all dressed the same way, and the style of dress that they were wearing I never seemed to see worn anywhere else in my life.

Grandpop always liked watching that show, but after he passed in 1982, it’s sad to say that I don’t remember seeing that program on as much on our TV’s. I’m sure my mother watched it on occasion, but the number of times that it would be on in our home after that year definitely diminished.

That time in my life, and especially that show, prompted an ongoing joke for my sister and I. If someone ever made mention of Lawrence Welk, we would (and still do today) be quick to shout out, “CUE THE BUBBLES!!!”

It wasn’t until I got older that I would fully understand why Grandpop Salvo enjoyed that program as much as he did: The music was light, yet happy. The singers weren’t being chased every day by People and Star magazines, their personal lives to be exploited to no end. There were familiar instruments in the program’s requiem, specifically accordions and clarinets. And most of all, the audience was always of a “more mature” age bracket, still smiling and enjoying life. Welk’s mode of operation was simple, and it worked out perfectly. He was able to target people who lived their lives just as simply, one being my grandfather.

This past weekend, a special program aired on MPT titled “Lawrence Welk – Milestones and Memories”. I had to sit and watch it. Not for the music, and not to see how much the original cast members had aged... But for Grandpop Salvo. I could almost see his foot happily tapping once again..

Monday, May 3, 2010

Perrone dell’avvocato

Giusvalla’s resident noble family was “Perrone dell’avvocato” - no relation to the various other Perrone families of Giusvalla. Though not technically of aristocratic stock, these Perrones were locally quite influential since the 16th century and married into other socially prominent families from Savona and Genoa. They became lawyers, judges, notaries and acted in various official capacities in town affairs. The younger Perrone sons pursued vocations in the Church. Rev. Michele Antonio Perrone served as pastor in Giusvalla’s parish church of San Matteo for many years until his death on March 14, 1803. Don Perrone had a natural interest in history and it is said that he compiled a 1000 page account of the genealogies of all the families in Giusvalla. Unfortunately for us, it seems Don Perrone’s research of the families in his parish has been lost to time.

Michele Perrone was just one of several descendants of this family to tend to the ecclesiastical needs of the flock in Giusvalla. Don Perrone's nephews Francesco Antonio and GioBatta Perrone served the parish in Giusvalla for many years during the early 19th century.

Rev. Angelo Perrone was born in Giusvalla on November 2, 1874 and was a son of Gerolamo Perrone and Angela Sambolino. He was ordained in the diocese of Acqui and was sent to the United States to serve the diocese of Chicago. He arrived at Ellis Island on October 24, 1911 aboard the “Rochambeau.” In 1923, Rev. Perrone was transferred to the diocese of Scranton (Pennsylvania) to serve as pastor of the Italian parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Carbondale, where he became a much beloved spiritual leader and friend to the families there.

Rev. Perrone died suddenly on March 16, 1927 at St. Joseph’s hospital in Carbondale after an operation to remove his appendix. He was buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Carbondale on March 21. Rev. Perrone left a sizeable estate, which included a bequest to the town of Giusvalla with instructions that a kindergarten be built there and directed by the Sisters of the diocese of Acqui. Rev. Angelo Perrone is the only known descendant of the “nobile stirpe” of the Perrone family to come to the United States.

Like many local families, by the 1950s the family “Perrone dell’avvocato” had all but disappeared from Giusvalla. Descendants had relocated permanently to Genoa and Milan. All that remains of Giusvalla’s noble family today is their family tomb in the little cemetery behind the church.

In the picture: Tomb of the noble Perrone family in the Giusvalla town cemetery.