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NO MORE HOLES IN MY SHOES
By Anna P. Amodeo
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Anna P. Amodeo
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Beginnings
My father was Michael Pascale. At five feet eleven inches, he was a very strong man, and he had a reputation for being reliable and hardworking. These qualities earned him respect from all of his friends. He was born in Monteforte, Italy, a small farming village whose rich soil was well known for producing sweet, juicy figs and hearty chestnuts. Like so many young men of his time, my father made the difficult decision to leave Italy and begin a new life in America. He agonized over this decision, as it would mean leaving behind his mom, dad, two sisters, and two brothers, and family meant so much to him.
My father had a friend named John Rizzo who was also from Monteforte. He had settled in Poughkeepsie, New York, a few years earlier. John and my father had kept in contact through occasional correspondence, and when my dad immigrated to the United States, he decided to settle in Poughkeepsie too since he knew John, and it would be comforting to have a connection from his hometown.
My mother, Mary Cioffi Pascale, was born in Naples, Italy, to a dress designer and police chief. My mom was very attractive. She wore a size eight dress and had a beautiful figure. Her complexion was flawless, and she had high, prominent cheekbones. She was educated and was able to read and write in Italian. In Italy, she had a position in her town's government as a secretary.
My mother's sister and brother-in-law, Jennie and Peter Carofano, had left for America while my mom was attending school and settled in Poughkeepsie too. My aunt Jennie was tall and had what we would now consider a full figure. She was a very kind and compassionate woman. My uncle was a quite stocky man of average height, and there wasn't a kinder person than my uncle Pete Carofano.
One Sunday afternoon John asked my dad if he would like to meet his friends from Naples. They went over to the home of his friends Jennie and Peter Carofano, who warmly welcomed them. Jennie set out a plate of sliced sharp provolone cheese along with a glass of rich burgundy wine. Their conversation touched upon their family memories and the friends they had left behind in Italy. My aunt brought up the fact that she had a sister who was still living at home. She found a black-and-white photo that she kept of her and showed it to my dad. He was very impressed by the photo of my aunt Jennie's sister. He decided that he would write to her, and they corresponded for six months.
He had a little money put away and was able to send for her to come to America, where they could finally meet each other. She arrived at Ellis Island within three months. My dad anxiously awaited her arrival. He spotted her immediately in the great mass of people because she stood out in the crowd in her blue dress. My mom was rather shy, but they did greet each other with a hug. It was love at first sight.
My mom moved in with her sister Jennie and began working part-time in a clothing store, contributing some of her pay toward my aunt's household expenses. My aunt now had two daughters, Jennie and Katie, who kept her very busy. My father kept a small two-room apartment just two blocks away.
After courting for three months, my mom and dad decided to marry. They were wed in a Catholic church, with John and Ida Rizzo serving as their attendants. My aunt honored them with a modest reception at her home. It was a simple but very traditional gathering. There were rolls stuffed with prosciutto, salami, and imported cheese. Hearty bowls of large green and black olives and strips of eggplant soaked in olive oil, vinegar, and oregano lined the long food table. There were pitchers of beer and soda to drink. A beautiful wedding cake was displayed on a small wooden table in one corner of the room. It was a white cake with a rich cannoli filling and a sweet buttercream icing. Written in script across the top of the cake was "God Bless Mary and Michael."
My mom was asked to say a few words before the cutting of the cake. She did not like to be the center of attention, but she was so grateful for such a wonderful day that she stood by the cake and spoke without inhibition. She thanked my aunt and uncle for letting her stay there and for hosting such a joyous reception for her and her wonderful husband.
Her eyes began to tear as she thought of how she wished her mother and father could have been there to share in this beautiful day.
Italian records played throughout the reception. While the guests were served coffee and cake, my mom and dad danced to "Ti Voule Bena" ("I Love You"). Their smiles radiated the happiness and love they felt for each other. They were anxious to start their lives together as husband and wife. Oh, what dreams and expectations they had.
Their friends finished the evening with the delicious cake, and everyone took home a small box of almond candies as a favor.
About a month after the wedding, Ida and John Rizzo and their sons moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. Mr. Rizzo had success in finding work in a shirt factory in Hoboken and offered my dad a position in the factory, so six months later, my parents followed them there. Mr. Rizzo helped my parents to find an apartment. He was such a dear friend to my dad; he treated him as if they were brothers. My dad worked in the shirt factory during the week and as a bartender on the weekends. My aunt Jennie missed her sister when she moved to Hoboken but realized that things would be better for her.
It was in Hoboken that their first child was born, a son. He was named after our grandfather, Antonio Pasquale, but the name was Americanized to Anthony (Tony) Pascale. After three years in Hoboken, my dad was offered a job as a foreman in a clothing factory in West New York, New Jersey. His experience in the shirt factory had opened the door to a higher position. He and my mom moved into a larger apartment, and Tony had his own room, which was a luxury at that time. It was in West New York that their second child was born. This time it was a daughter, whom they named Mary. A year and a half after Mary was born, their third child, Nunzio (John), came into the world, and two years later, in 1921, Carmen (Meno) was born.
Chapter TwoOur First Home
My dad had always yearned to live in the country and perhaps have a small farm of his own. After 3 years he decided to check with Aunt Jennie and Uncle Pete to see if they knew of any land for sale in the Poughkeepsie area. They informed him that there was a small farm with a house for sale in Marlboro, New York, across the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie..
In the meantime my aunt and uncle had purchased ten acres of farmland in Marlboro from a man named Mr. Brown. The property was located in the center of the village and was adjacent to Mr. Brown's property. They built a large farmhouse with four apartments in it. Mr. Brown held the mortgage on the ten acres, and they would pay Mr. Brown twice a year, in January and June, in the amount of $120 for the interest. They had saved enough money to pay the contractor a substantial down payment for the farmhouse, and they borrowed the rest of the money to build it from the First National Bank of Marlboro. They purchased building supplies at Abbey's Lumber Co. in Newburgh and VanVliet's block company and used Sam Filligram's dad for their contractor. After the house was completed, they lived in one and and three apartments quickly rented. (This house was torn down in 1999 to construct a senior citizen housing complex called Jennie's Garden, named after my aunt.)
Expanding the farm to increase fruit production was very laborious. The family spent many long, hard hours planting more strawberry plants, currants, gooseberries, and different fruit trees. The soil had to be worked in order to produce fruit of good quality.
My uncle worked at the stone crusher plant during the week and then worked all weekend on the farm. My aunt hired a man named Dominick to help with the chores. Dominick was a very sweet man with the most beautiful blue eyes. His wages consisted of very little money, but in return for his labor he was furnished with meals and a place to sleep in the small barn. With the little bit of money that he earned, he would buy tobacco for his pipe and a pint of wine for fifteen cents. He did not work on Sunday, so that was the day he could be found on the concrete porch of the big house enjoying the wine. The wine was homemade from the concord grapes that my aunt had on the farm. Every September the concord grapes were ready to be harvested and pressed to produce the wine. My uncle would usually make a barrel for their own use.
My mom and dad were still considering the move to Marlboro. Mr. Rizzo drove them up to see a little farm and house located on South Road, and they made the decision to move away from the apartment in the city to a home of their own in the country on this quaint little farm.
My dad gave notice to the owner of the factory where he was employed and thanked him for the modest salary that he had received. He had saved enough to put a down payment on the farm, and for the rest, my dad went to the First National Bank of Marlboro for a loan. He was granted the loan, and my parents' dreams of being landowners got under way.
Owning their first home was such a proud moment for them. All of their previous living quarters had been apartments. The house was almost square in shape and had two floors. There was an enclosed porch on the front of the house, which sat close to a dirt road. In the back of the house there was land, which my dad cleared to plant more fruit plants such as strawberries, currants, and raspberries. In the spring he would plant rows of tomatoes, and after they were picked, my dad would help my mom carry the full bushels of tomatoes into the kitchen. Some of the tomatoes, they canned for the winter season. My mom would start the canning process early in the morning and not stop until noon. She always labored for about a week straight. The fresh basil she added was so green against the red of the fresh tomatoes.
Some of our neighbors were the Alonges, Troncillitos, and Affusos. They were very kind people.
Our first house
One of the first things that my parents did was enroll Tony, Mary, and John in school; they would attend the one on Lattintown Road. My father then invested in a horse and buggy. It was convenient to buy groceries in town at Fred Fowler's store and food for the horse and chickens that were now a part of our farm at Baxter's feed store. The family enjoyed the fresh eggs. Yes, my dad was quite happy with his new lifestyle and his little farm.
The kids walked to school, and it was quite a long trek for them. My mom started to make her own jam from the concord grapes harvested on the farm. For the kids' school lunches, she would prepare a sandwich of peanut butter from the village store and her jam and wrap it in wax paper and add a piece of whatever fruit was in season, all placed in a small brown paper bag.
The first year on the farm was very prosperous. The harvested fruit had yielded a good profit, and my parents were able to pay not just the interest on the loan but two thousand dollars on the principal. Things were finally looking up in their new venture. Finally, my sister Millie was added to the family, and eighteen months later, I came along.
My mom and dad were so happy with the way their lives were going, and they decided to invite Mr. and Mrs. Rizzo and their two sons for a long weekend. My mom started to plan the dinners that she would prepare. She wanted to make sure she had all the ingredients for homemade bread and pasta and a rich tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage.
The morning before they arrived Dad got on his horse and buggy and traveled down South Road to Western Avenue to Fred Fowler's store for flour, yeast, garlic, onions, and a vanilla loaf cake. He then stopped at Kniffen's meat market for the chop meat, sausage, and a piece of center cut pork loin for the tomato sauce. He hurried home to get the meat in the icebox. The icebox sure looked good when it was stocked.
Everyone was excited that we were going to have company. Now we had to plan how we were going to sleep. My aunt had an extra mattress, which my dad borrowed. My brothers, Tony and John, went with him to cart it home. They really enjoyed riding with the horse and buggy and spending time with Dad. It was decided that my brothers would sleep on the mattress, Mr. and Mrs. Rizzo would use my brothers' bed, and their sons would sleep on another mattress we had.
The Rizzos arrived near noontime. They had bags of groceries, including Italian cold cuts, cheese, olives, a big white box full of Italian pastries, and two quarts of red wine. As soon as the guests were settled, everyone gathered around the kitchen table, where the delicious Italian cold cuts of prosciutto, salami, and cheese had been set out on a beautiful platter. Sliced tomatoes and black and green olives were served on another matching dish. My mom's homemade bread was arranged in a silver bread dish, which was one of her most cherished wedding gifts. Wine was served in my mom's special crystal glasses, another wedding gift. There was soda for the children, which was a special treat. The meal was followed with the luscious pastries. What a beautiful lunch.
After lunch the adults gathered on the screened porch. A warm June breeze set just the right atmosphere, and they sipped their demitasse flavored with anisette as they remembered old friends from Monteforte.
My brothers and the Rizzo boys walked down South Road to the Lattintown schoolhouse. They could not believe how small the school was—it was just a one-room building. When they returned, they joined the adults, who were still gathered on the porch.
That evening's dinner was a late meal because lunch had been so large and filling. As the group prepared for the meal, the lasagna was in the oven at 350, and the sauce was warming. Mom had made the salad that morning. She always liked a hearty salad. She would mix different greens such as romaine, iceberg, and green leaf lettuce and add red onion, celery, tomato, and black olives. She would then season the salad with just the right amount of salt, pepper, olive oil, and red vinegar, to which she added a clove of garlic to make it more flavorful.
The kitchen table was now set for a group of twelve. My mom took the lasagna out of the oven and placed the pan on the counter near the stove. She cut the lasagna in perfect squares, and the ricotta and the mozzarella cheese stood firmly under the pasta. Each serving was covered with the sauce, and my sister Mary placed each dish at the table. The rich grated cheese was served in two small dishes placed at each end of the table. There was also red crushed pepper and black pepper.
My father stood at the head of the table and said the blessing in Italian. He thanked the Lord for all the blessings bestowed upon our family and for the presence of his sincere friends, the Rizzo family. It was quiet after the blessing because no one could wait to share this wonderful meal. My father proudly served the first wine that he had harvested from his concord grapes.
The following morning, the Rizzos departed for their home in Hoboken. They thanked my parents for the wonderful visit.
With fall approaching, my dad became very busy with trimming the fruit trees as well as the grape vines. It also would soon be time for the older children to return to school, which meant new school clothes. My mom took the boys for their clothes in Newburgh one day and took Mary another day. Mr. Troncillito, a neighbor, would drive his wife and my mom to Newburgh to J.C. Penney, which we called Penney's. They were able to purchase their clothes and shoes in the same store, which was very convenient. My brothers and sister were always excited for the first day of school. They loved wearing their new clothes and shoes.
My parents did all their grocery shopping at Fred Fowler's store, which was known as the "Snowball Store." "Snowball" was the brand name of canned goods that he carried in the store. The store was one large, long room with a small room in the back that was used for storage. The shelves were packed to the fullest. Large brown boxes usually sat on the floor as the storage room was filled to capacity. A large awning went across the length of the store. Under the awning all kinds of fresh vegetables could be found. A large bunch of bananas could always be found at one end of the display, and at the other end hung a large silver scale. There were stiff brown paper bags on hand in which the produce could be put. Inside the store was a large icebox containing butter and milk.
Our meat products were bought at Kniffen's Meat Market, which was located on the left side of the post office. It was a very small store. There was a small counter covered with a thick wooden block. The meat was cut in front of you after you ordered. There was no prepackaging. There was a very small refrigerator room where the meat was stored. I remember my mother saying that the butcher, Jim, was always so pleasant.
Excerpted from NO MORE HOLES IN MY SHOES by Anna P. Amodeo Copyright © 2012 by Anna P. Amodeo. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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