Friday, June 29, 2012

The Story of Helen and Frank, My Maternal Grandmother and Grandfather

My grandfather, Francis Stevens Joseph O'Connell, was born on February 6th, 1919 in Brockton, Massachusetts to parents Joseph Victor O'Connell and Isabelle Hunnewell. One of 6 siblings (Madeline/Maddie, Joseph/Jodie, Geraldine/Ged, Francis/Frank or Okie, George, and Marie) he grew up in a strict Irish Catholic household and all of the children attended parochial school.

At this time, the nuns who taught there were allowed to physically discipline their students. One day, Frank did something that was considered out of line and Sister Susan, a particularly tough nun, grabbed Frank, slapped him, and pushed him against the wall. In protest, he threw his hands up and pushed her away. This infuriated the sister and a note was sent home expelling all 3 of the O'Connell children who were in school at the time. After this incident, Frank attended the Goddard school, where he made fast friends with Eddie D'Amarino, my grandmother Helen's brother. 

Frank and Eddie were in the same grade in school and only 2 days apart in age. They were the best of friends and often spent time together at each others houses. Helen fondly remembers Frank coming over to the D'Amarino house to trade a slice of cake for a hunk of Lucia's homemade Italian bread.

Before long, Frank started to show interest in Helen, and he was now coming over to the house to visit with her more than Eddie. Soon enough, the 2 began to go steady and about a year later, Frank proposed to Helen on her birthday and they became engaged.

They set a wedding date for July 2nd, but there was one problem: Helen was 19 and Frank was only 20, and at the time, the legal age to be married was 18 for women and 21 for men. Because of this, Frank had to ask his father Joseph to sign for him so they could be wed, which he happily did.

They were married July 2, 1939 at St. Patrick's Church in Brockton. The reception was at the D'Amarino house on Lawrence Street and Helen's sister Angie was the maid of honor, and Frank's brother Jodie the best man. They honeymooned in New England and visited Western Mass, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. When they returned home, they rented the first floor of a house on Lawrence Street, next door to where the D'Amarino family lived, for $15 a month. Their first child, Edward O'Connell, was born here.

Meanwhile, there were rumblings coming from Europe and people were talking about what was going to happen from the situation in Germany...

Frank's First Communion

Joseph Victor O'Connell & Isabelle Hunnewell

Helen and Frank

Helen and Frank's wedding day: July 2, 1939

Helen exiting the church on her wedding day

Frank in New Hampshire on their honeymoon

Helen on their honeymoon

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lucia Goes To School

In early 20th century Italy, girls were expected to stay home to learn all of the domestic chores: baking bread, making pasta from scratch, sewing and crocheting, and etc., while the boys were required to go to school to get an education. Because of this, Lucia was never able to read or write, especially not in English.

When she was in her 50's, she decided that she wanted to become a U.S. citizen. At that time, Brockton High School had adult education classes for immigrants that would prepare them for the citizenship test by teaching them some United States history and how to read and write in English.

Lucia and 2 of her girlfriends, Mary Gothage and Rose Pinetti, enrolled in these classes and would walk from Lawrence Street over to BHS to attend school. Helen remembers that Lucia particularly admired George Washington and was fascinated with his life.

One day, Lucia returned home from school and sat Helen, Rose, and Louie down at the table. She took out a pen and paper and very slowly wrote out: "Lucia D'Amarino" for the first time in her life—very proud of her accomplishment.

After that, she continued to take classes until the instructors felt she was ready to take her citizenship test. Happily, when the day came, she took the test and passed, joining Eduardo as a citizen of the United States of America. 

Lucia D'Amarino (Angelo-Cola)

Monday, June 25, 2012

And...I'm back!

I'm officially home from Wanderlust (sad face) and I feel like I need to give a brief PSA to all the yogis out there: If there's a Wanderlust festival anywhere near you (check out Coloardo, Tahoe, and Whistler this summer), 100% go, go, go. The festival absolutely met my expectations and then totally surpassed them with amazingness. To read more about what an awesome time I had, you can check out these links to my blog posts for lululemon and watch the wrap-up video, also via lululemon:

Day 3: Another Day In Wanderland
Day 4 + Festival Wrap-Up: There's No Place Like Wanderlust

So, what now? I'm picking up where I left off with Tuesdays With Grammy, which is somewhere around the 1930's I believe...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wanderlust Days 1 and 2

Well, as I'm sure you can imagine, Wanderlust Vermont is absolutely wonderful and magical and amazing. For further details on what an awesome time I'm having, check out my day 1 and 2 posts on the lululemon blog:

Wanderlust Day 1: You Know You're At Wanderlust When...
Wanderlust Day 2: My So-Called Wanderlife

And now back to more yoga and music than I can possibly handle. Stay tuned for posts from days 3 and 4...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cool June News

Cool June News #1: For those of you who aren't friends with me on Facebook and might not have seen it, 12 Months of Lent had a feature on the lululemon blog last week (eee!). You can check it out here.

Cool June News #2: lululemon is sending me to Wanderlust (a huge 4-day yoga and music festival in Vermont that starts this Thursday) as their local blogger. My first Wanderlust post went live last night and you can read it here. I'll be blogging about my experiences all week so stay tuned for more posts to come. And, this the coolest company to work for, or is this the coolest company to work for?

Cool June News #3: 12 Months of Lent is in the midst of a facelift and I'll soon be switching over to Wordpress, horray! I will post more details when we get a little closer to launch.

Bonus Cool June News #4: My boyfriend Dan had a song of his featured in a regional Mini Cooper commercial, how cool is that? You can watch it here.

And...I'm out of cool news. Since I'll be away at Wanderlust for most of the week, Tuesdays With Grammy will be on hold—don't worry though, there plenty more to come. I'm thinking I may even have to stretch this month into July to ensure that I cover it all. We haven't even hit WWII yet...

Also to note, I went through and edited a few of the previous family history posts (there were a few facts that I got wrong here and there) and I added in some photos in as well. I know you're all just dying to see what Angelo Angelo-Cola looks like...

So, I'm signing off for now, but I'll make sure to post links to all of my Wanderlust musings on the lululemon blog when they're live.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Old House

Lucia and Eduardo's first apartment in Brockton was located on Summer Street. This is where they welcomed their next 8 children into the world: Tony, named after Eduardo’s father Anthony; Jennie, after Eduardo’s mother Giovanina; Angie, after Lucia’s father Angelo; Mike, after Lucia’s brother Michael; Eddie, after Eduardo; Helen (my grandmother), after an Italian princess; Rose, after Lucia’s sister Rose; and Louie, after Lucia’s uncle Louis.

Since this once small family had now grown into a family of 11, it was time to move to a place that could better accommodate them. They moved to a large house on South Skinner Street that they rented from the Frank Villa Family, who owned many rental properties in the area.

The house was very large and had 12 rooms: 4 on the first floor, 4 on the second floor, and 4 large rooms in the attic. On the first floor there was a kitchen, a parlor, a small back room, and a sink room. In the sink room there was a small pantry, a small toilet room, and a laundry room. The laundry room had 2 soapstone set tubs: one to wash the clothes in, and the other to rinse them in. This is where Lucia did her laundry with the help of a washboard. On the other side of this “L” shaped room was a soapstone sink with brass faucets. There was a cupboard under the sink to store soap powder and etc., and this is where they washed the dishes.

In the kitchen stood a table and chairs, an oak ice box, and a large black cast iron stove. In the corner between the windows stood a tall stand which held a birdcage with a yellow canary inside of it. Lucia loved canaries and there was always one chirping away in her kitchen.

In the corner nearest to the sink room stood the black cast iron stove which was fueled by wood or coal. This stove provided the only heat in this large house, as no one had central heating at the time. There was also a small stove in the parlor which was used only on Sundays, holidays, and other special occasions.

For safety reasons, the kitchen stove stood 18” away from the wall and its legs about 12” off of the floor. This made it possible for Eddie, Rose, Louie and Helen to scoot behind the stove to keep warm on cold days. Eventually, each one of them grew a little too large to fit back there any longer, but brother Louie fondly remembered this as the warmest place in the house.

Lucia was a fine housekeeper, and although 11 people lived in this house, it was always neat and clean. About once a month before she lit the fire, she would bring out her bottle of “Black Iron Stove Polish” and proceed to shine every inch of this stove. Then with a cake of “Bon Ami” cleaner, she would polish all the chrome trim. When she was finished, that stove just gleamed.

This same cake of “Bon Ami” was used to wash the windows and mirrors. You would wipe a damp cloth across the “Bon Ami” cake and apply it to the glass panes. As soon as it was dry, it had to be wiped off quickly or else it was almost impossible to remove. These were small panes of glass so this was quite a chore, and it seemed that no matter how hard you’d try, there were always a few streaks of white cleaner here and there.

Upstairs in Lucia’s and Eduardo’s bedroom stood a large brass bed, with 2 feather mattresses, one over the other. As a child, Helen remembers watching Lucia make this bed, as it was quite the operation. First she would remove all the bedclothes. The top feather mattress had 2 slits in the top half and 2 slits in the bottom half, and she would insert her hand in each of these 10” slits and loosen and fluff up the feathers, first on one side of the bed and then on the other. When all the feathers were fluffed up, she would replace the sheets and lay down a pretty white chenille spread and then the pillows, in pillowcases edged with white crocheted lace that Lucia made herself. Then she would take the broom and run the long handle back and forth across the top of the bed until it was perfectly smooth. She did this every morning.

While they were still living in this house, Fanny, Jennie, Angie, and Tony got married (all about a year apart from each other). In 1938 Jennie and her husband Sante bought the house on Lawrence Street, and the rest of the family relocated there as well...


Jennie and Tony



My grandpa Frank (left) and Eddie (right)

Grandma Helen

Rose and her husband Jimmy

Grandpa Frank again with Louie

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lucia Meets Eduardo

One day in Waterbury, Connecticut, Lucia and her family were dining at a local restaurant. It just so happened that Eduardo was at the same restaurant for a meal. He spotted Lucia, a pretty woman with black hair and brown eyes, and tried to make eye contact with her. She tried to ignore his many attempts, but he made a bold move and tossed a napkin into her lap, which he then went over to retrieve.

Eduardo was a fine looking man with fair skin, blue eyes, curly black hair, and a set of beautiful straight white teeth. They became acquainted and soon began to keep company. They were married later and went to Boston on their honeymoon where they had a great treat: their first taste of Boston Baked Beans.

The pair settled down in Waterbury where both had jobs. Lucia worked in a plant where kerosene lamps were made and Eduardo had a job in a comb making factory. One day while at work, some of the molten material which was used to mold the combs bubbled up and struck Eduardo in the eye. He was rushed to the hospital and for a time, feared that he would lose his sight. He eventually did recover his vision, but never returned to that job. After some discussion about better opportunities elsewhere, they left Connecticut and moved to Schenectady, NY.

Eduardo did find some work here, but nothing that paid very much money. One day while he was returning home from work on public transportation, he was approached by the police and told that he matched the description of a man who was wanted for murder. He vehemently protested his innocence, but was detained for several hours until the police investigation showed that they had the wrong man. Eduardo later saw a picture of the convicted man in the local paper and was amazed how much they resembled each other.

Eduardo and Lucia stayed in Schenectady long enough for their first child, a daughter, to be born. She was named Philomena to honor Lucia's mother. Meanwhile, they corresponded with friends in Brockton, MA who told them of the many job opportunities available there. At this time the shoe business was booming in Brockton and there were jobs waiting for anyone who was willing to work.

And so, the small family moved to Massachusetts and settled down. They boarded with friends until they were able to save enough money to rent their own apartment...

Lucia on her wedding day

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Story of Lucia Maria Angelo-Cola, My Maternal Great-Grandmother

In the small village of Carlantino, in the province of Foggia, Italy, lived Angelo Angelo-Cola and his wife Philomena. They were the parents of 5 daughters and one son: Sarah, Mary Domenica, Lucia, Rose, Michael, and Antoinette.

They lived on a farm where they raised vegetables, fruit, and several types of farm animals. Lucia remembered how in springtime she would ride the farm horse bareback with her father and sisters as they took their cows to graze on the hillside, “a la campagna”, she called it. She recalled eating fresh figs, oranges and grapes and how beautiful the countryside was.

At the time, the economy in Italy was in a depressed state and many people were emigrating to America. They heard news about great opportunities for work and a better life, and believed the stories that the streets in America were paved with gold (actually, the streets were not paved at all and and the immigrants were expected to pave them).

Conditions on Angelo’s farm were not good because of bad weather and poor crops. Some of his neighbors had emigrated to South America, so Angelo decided to visit there to see what conditions were like. He returned home to Italy unimpressed with Argentina and after many family discussions, it was decided that Angelo and several of the older girls would go to America to look for work. Since Michael was the only son, he would stay behind to look after Philomena and Antoinette, the youngest daughter. Sarah, Mary Domenica, and Rose were eager to go to America, but Lucia was very reluctant to leave home. It was only on the day before they were to leave that she agreed to go also, after much coaxing and pleading by her father and 3 sisters.

They set sail from Naples, Italy, to New York, NY on June 15th, 1907 on the SS Cretic, a large ship filled with fellow immigrants, all anxious to build a new life in America. Some of the passengers brought along musical instruments, such as accordions and mandolins, so there was music and singing of familiar Italian songs each day. Sister Mary Domenica even met a very nice gentleman on the ship and they danced all the way over to America.

The Cretic docked at Ellis Island where their papers were checked and they were given physicals to ensure all were in good health. They were also required to have sponsors who would help them get settled and find work. Luckily, all the requirements were met and they were allowed to enter the country. After several days of sightseeing in New York City, the family settled in Waterbury, Connecticut, where they knew some friends who had emigrated a few years earlier. These friends were very helpful in getting Angelo and the 4 girls established.

Jobs were easy to find, and even though they spoke no English, they were all soon working (although it was the typical menial type of work that immigrants were expected to do). Lucia recalled working in a factory where they made kerosene lamps and also at a garment factory.

Soon, the girls began to marry and settle down. Mary Domenica married the nice gentleman she had danced with on the trip over, and they had a long, happy marriage, and raised a large family together. Sarah and Rose also married and had families of their own. Unfortunately, the girls were never able to return home to visit their mother and siblings, but Angelo did make several trips back and forth to see the family. Eventually, after all the girls in America were settled, he returned home to Italy for good to be with Philomena, Antionette, and Michael, who became the mayor of Carlantino, the tiny village they had emigrated from. They all kept in touch through letters over the years.

And what about Lucia? She met a nice man named Eduardo D'Amarino...

Philomena and Antoinette Angelo-Cola

Angelo and Michael Angelo-Cola

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Story of Eduardo Guardino D’Amarino, My Maternal Great-Grandfather

Ok guys, I'm cheating a bit here, but I hope you can forgive me. June is a crazy month for me (some really cool things are happening that I'll post about later this week), so I just got around to typing up Grammy's family history notes last night. Since I'm already knee deep in awesome family stories that have yet to be posted, and because I have about 300 other things going on in the next few days, this week I'll be having Sunday with Grammy instead of Tuesday with Grammy. I know, I know...

At this point, I've made my way through most of her notes and I'm ready to get this family history party started. I've been on the fence about whether to post everything I transcribe, or to paraphrase, but I've decided to just put it all up here, so I apologize in advance for some super lengthy posts coming your way.

And so it begins, the family history according to Grammy...

The Story of Eduardo Guarino D’Amarino, My Maternal Great-Grandfather

Eduardo D’Amarino was born on November 27th, 1881 to Anthony & Giovanina D’Amarino in Caserta, a small town on the outskirts of Naples, Italy. The family had olive trees growing on their property and when the olives were ripe, they were pressed, and the precious oil was stored in barrels in the cellar.

When Eduardo was a boy of about 8, he was sent by his father to the cellar to fill a bottle with oil to be used to prepare the family supper. Eduardo filled the cruet, but failed to secure the spigot on the barrel properly. When his father went to the cellar the following day, there was a pool of oil covering the floor and most of the barrel of oil was lost. His father was so angry that he gave him a severe licking. Just at this moment, Anthony’s brother arrived for a visit and was appalled at the punishment that Eduardo had received. This brother was married but had no children, and told his brother Anthony that, “Sometimes God gives children to someone who doesn’t deserve them”. He then asked permission to take Eduardo and home with him, to which Anthony agreed. Eduardo was raised by his uncle, which proved to be a blessing because he was given a fine education and the opportunity to apprentice with a master carpenter who taught him a valuable trade.

Eduardo came from a rather large family and one brother named Phillip had emigrated to America. He wrote to Eduardo and persuaded him to come to America to live with he and his family in Oakland, California. Eduardo left Italy at age 19 and came through Ellis Island to join his brother in California.

Phillip lived on a large farm with his wife and 5 (or 6) sons. The family supported themselves by raising many kinds of of fruits and vegetables which were sold at a local farmers market. Eduardo worked on the farm and whenever produce was ready, he would take it to the market via the family’s horse and wagon.

All the money from this was turned over to brother Phillip and Eduardo found himself working, but being paid nothing for his labor. He finally summoned the courage to ask his brother if he could please pay him something for his work. The answer was, “No, I have a large family to support and I can’t afford to pay you anything right now”. Eduardo continued to work for more time with no pay and finally approached his brother again with the same request. The answer was, “Why do you need money? You have a home here, you don’t have to pay for room and board, what else do you need?”. This was the final straw.

On the following day, Eduardo loaded the wagon as usual, hitched up the horse, and left for town. When he arrived at the farmers market, he sold all the fruit and vegetables—then he sold the horse—and then the wagon. He used the money to take the next train back to the East Coast where he had a cousin living in Waterbury, Connecticut.
He settled in Waterbury and met a young girl named Lucia Angelo-Cola, who would later become his wife...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Family History According to Grammy

Years ago, Grammy started transcribing the family history (on the back of the Brockton Enterprise, how much do you love this?). I figured the best place to start in this journey would be to sort through what she's already written and then have her dictate the rest to me in person. So, I'll spend a portion of my weekend sorting through this—incredible, right?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesdays With Grammy

Today is my grandmother Helen's 92nd birthday (wow, right?). After I post this, I'm traveling to Brockton to visit her for the day and to get started on this month's Lent: Tuesdays With Grammy.

Anyone remember the book Tuesdays With Morrie that was a New York Times bestseller in the early 2000s? The basic premise is that a guy, Mitch Albom, gets back in touch with an old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who's dying from Lou Gehrig's disease. They meet once a week, on Tuesdays, and Morrie recounts his life to Mitch and bestows upon him his greatest life lessons. It's a great read, and if I remember correctly, I cried about 8,193 times throughout the course of it (big surprise there).

I feel lucky that Grammy is in good health and that I'll be visiting her on much better terms than in the book, but my challenge this month is similar to Mitch's: Each Tuesday in June, I plan on paying Grammy a visit. My main goal is to have her dictate the family history to me (going way back to Italy in the early 1900s), which I will then digitize and pair with corresponding photographs to make into some sort of book (hopefully—at the very least, it'll all be nicely organized and laid out here on my blog). She's been mentioning for a while that she'd like to get this done, so I've decided to Lent it out and take this challenge on.

Happy birthday Grammy, see you in a bit!

The cake I made her with a banner that reads "Happy Birthday Grammy, here's to 92 More!", which I know will give her a good chuckle...