Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Back in the 1960’s, there was a family of close-knit Italian Americans who lived all on one street. Three sisters who loved each other raised their families under the eyes of their parents who also lived on the same street.

Carmela and ‘Pop’ lived with their widowed daughter who raised two kids with their help. Having lost her husband in World War II in North Africa, Josephine let nothing get her down that I could tell, a wonderfully spirited woman. She was a hard working mother of my friend Ernie and his older sister Carol. Across the street lived a daughter Anna and her husband Tony with a few kids and next door to me lived ‘Aunt’ Nettie and her husband Mike, an auto mechanic and great father with about 5 children.

But it was Carmela who seemed to tie the family together, and her wonderful husband Pop who supported her.

Carmelo and Pops home.
When I saw these people back in the 1960’s, the impression was that I would want my life to end like theirs was, two people who loved each other, their family and the wealth of grandchildren they had.

Pop was great at raising grapes, and his vineyard was sophisticated, crossing one kind of grape with another to develop a hybrid. He had a great garden that could rival a farmer’s anytime. Ripe red tomatoes and zucchini, and anything else he wanted. Many a morning he would leave a bag filled with his produce on our front steps, and we were grateful. He always had a big bottle of beer opened to carry him through the day, especially those hot humid ones. He was a wonderful man who resembled Popeye.

Carmela was the queen of the road, a sweet and gentle woman sitting in her little kingdom or visiting the principalities of her children, as she would stoop over and pull a weed on one of her daughter’s property, stop and chat and it didn’t matter how old you were, she was interested. A simple woman that anyone would give their all for if they could. I would pal around with her grandson and when I went over, she would offer me food!

Her children were just the best and they were the street I lived on itself, Maple Avenue, they were folksy neighbors with an attitude that said: “Welcome.” When we moved onto the street, that was what they did, welcomed us.

These were Italian/Americans, transported to America from Italy (Pop and Carmela) and created a wonderful memory for me and my family. Steeped in the history of the street, they built the first house on the street, they knew everyone and everyone loved them.

It saddens me that they are no longer in their habitat, that Pop and Carmela are gone as are their children, but at least I see or hear from the grandchildren on occasion and it all comes back in a flood!


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