Memories of Pescara, history of a family and a city
The idea of writing a story concerning the history of my family and Pescara, my native town, has been in my mind for a long time, but not consistently enough to start it. At times, I thought I could sit down and begin to write only to forget all about it later until the idea recurred again in my memory and anew to forget it. I blame this tendency to circumstances of every day life. My intention persisted at times to decide definitely, only to vanish later. This time, however, I made up my mind with, determination, and here I am ready to begin.
Beginnings in Pescara
In the central part of Italy, that is, almost in the middle of the boot and in the region of Abruzzi there is a town called Pescara. Located adjacent and above the level of the Adriatic Sea, Pescara has its history of war during the Bourbons time, and other historic events as well as interesting in its development and industrial progress, which flourished in the last two decades or so. But before I give a detailed account of this amazing development, let me first tell of Pescara itself prior to the unification of the sister town, Castellamare Adriatico, in a unique city called Pescara and the story of my family. These two towns were divided by a river also called Pescara.
Incidentally, this town is the native place of Gabriele D'Annunzio, the famous poet, who boldly led an expedition to recapture the city of Fiume from the Austrians, and which originally belonged to Italy. Before the unification of these two towns, which was completed by a governmental decree during Mussolini's regime, Pescara had a population of less than 15,000; there was practically no big industry; it had a regiment of soldiers who contributed to some extent to store business and others; a small railroad station; a small fish market created by fisherman who owned their boats located on both sides of the river banks; (by the way, this river ends into the Adriatic Sea); a fruit and vegetable market; and some other small industry such as a carbonated-soda called there Gassosa, operated by the noted Ciglia family. The transportation that prevailed at that time was horses and buggies, which carried people to surrounding towns and villages, and buses pulled by horses in summertime to service citizens to the beaches, and of course, railroads. So, by this short description, Pescara was almost an unknown town in comparison to bigger cities, and it was here that my family was born, grew, lived, and also suffered poverty.
My family numbered in persons ten altogether. The first born was Veturia, then me, Domenico, Maria, Annina, Gaetanino, Vincenzino, Maddalena, Roberto, Mother, and Father; four boys and four girls, Roberto only was born in America. My mother, Pasqualina, (nee U.) was the second child of seven, four girls and three boys, and daughter of Giuseppe and Olimpia U. (nee P.), parents of all seven. Her father,-Giuseppe U., or my grandfather, was a well to do individual, owned a lot of cattle and farms, and was considered a rich man. He belonged among the nobility, and lived like a "signore", talking it easy all the time associating with the elite of Pescara society. Because he liked to gamble he belonged to a men's club, where cards and other forms of gambling prevailed.
He was very intelligent, of good character, and had a heart of gold. Every year on his name day, St. Giuseppe, (Joseph), he celebrated with a great feast planned in advance in his honor. He had his subordinates prepare for this day to bring most of his cattle and parade them around his mansion. He donated to the poor and gave other gifts for these occasions. This yearly occurrence was a noted event that everybody talked about. He was in other words a good-hearted man, but not a conservative one. He was so good that he hated to see any of his friends, for that matter even those who were not his friends, suffer financially. He loaned them money without collateral and never got it back; and so between the losses he incurred in the gambling club and that of the enormous loans he made to the people, his financial status turned to a disgraceful situation, and to make this story short, he lost all his estate and assets to the point that when he died he was so poor that they had to make a collection for the expenses of his funeral.
My father, Alfredo F., was the son of Domenico F. and Maddalena (nee M.). He was the only son, and had a sister by the name of Concetta, who married Eugenio P. and both settled in Ancona. Of my four grandparents, I have known only my grand-mothers, Olimpia, who died at the age of 84, and Maddalena, who died at the age of 78. Both my grandfathers died when I was a baby. I have neither known my Aunt Concetta, but my mother and others told me that she used to hold me on her lap and bosom when I was small.
My father was a barber, and had a three-chair barber shop. At one time, Giuseppe M. and Rocco L. - both barbers, worked in my father's shop. Giuseppe M. had a side-line in the shop and that was making wigs for women as well as for men. He was a good barber, a good man, and a good conversationalist.. Rocco L. also was a good barber, he learned the technique of the trade in my father's shop, he was younger than Giuseppe M., very intelligent and liked to read a lot, especially love stories.
The business was not bad, but enough for existence, the shop was antiquated and not attractive to gain new customers. But still the affair could have been better if my father had devoted the attention required for the improvement of it, instead he spent most of the time in a "Cantina" playing cards, "Tresette" and drinking wine. He was so habitual in this indulgence that he got drunk practically every day, neglecting his business. He trusted and left to his two barbers the operation of the shop. It came the time when things changed, but not for the good because Giuseppe M. and Rocco L. had an outlook for their own future and I will tell in the following story.
The Barber shop in the States
In the United States of America, and exactly in the city of Chicago, Illinois, there was a barber by the name of Vincenzo Marcelletti; he was born in Teramo, Abruzzi, Italy. By reason of which I don't know, Marcelletti requested somewhere and somehow that he needed a barber in his three chair barber shop. Giuseppe M (who was working in Pescara), having obtained this knowledge from someone barber shop for or directly from Marcelletti, I don't know which, lost no time to communicate with Mr. Marcelletti; anxious and hopeful for the opportunity to sail for America, and after a series of correspondence, arrangements were completed in a very short time. (By the way, Giuseppe M. was from the same town where Marcelletti was born, and this, of course, facilitated the undertaking).
And so, barber Giuseppe from Pescara sailed for America leaving behind the memory of friendship, for he and my father were like brothers. The other barber, Rocco L., who also wanted to go to America, remembered that he had a cousin in Canada, in a town called Picton, and with a new hope in his mind he got to communicate with him. It followed that Rocco L. too sailed for America, leaving my father alone in the barber shop. After the departure of his two barbers, my father's business dwindled, and that's why I said things changed for the worst.
In the succeeding time, and after Giuseppe M. got well situated in the New World, it was suggested that my father too should go to America. But that was not so easy to take for my mother, who would be left with six children and the unborn baby she carried. After serious considerations though, my mother acceded to the idea, because she realized there was no hope with a habitual drunkard like my father; and so Giuseppe M. was the Samaritan who provided the ticket for the transportation and on August 1903, my father too departed for America, leaving behind a broken-hearted mother and six desolated children.
Bad Times in Pescara
What next? It was in the succeeding years that we experienced and suffered poverty and hunger. My father remitted some money now and then, and whatever he could, but not enough; the barber shop business went from bad to worse even though my uncle, that is, my mother's brother, who came from Rome to run the shop was considered a fine barber. So, to make ends meet my mother, as pregnant as she was, went to work as a dressmaker for Signora Del Zoppo, the wife of the known actor, a pint-size man, but neat and well liked. Because of the bad business in the barber shop, my uncle decided to go back to Rome and this made the matter worse for my mother and for us children. She had to provide for a barber, which was not so easy to find for a shop that was deprived of business, nevertheless, she got one for a short time, but he wouldn't stay. Another was procured and another and another after that, but they all left.
Rolando M., a second cousin of mine, was also a barber, he was the son of my grandmother, Maddalena's brother. By mutual arrangements, it was decided that he would manage the shop with the understanding that he would take one-half of the income, and so Rolando, who was also a good barber and sober, took over. Business improved after that, and things were going better but not for long because my uncle from Rome with a convincing and pitiful letter, pleaded my mother to take him back and run the shop. He was sick of Rome, and needed the native atmosphere and the fresh air from the Adriatic Sea that he so much wanted. After all, he told my mother, we are of the same blood, and you shouldn't refuse me. So, my mother acceded to his supplication and back my uncle came to Pescara. Amazed about this unexpected change, Rolando left with ill feeling, and for spite, opened a barber shop of his own. He gained all the customers from our shop and things went bad again. If it wasn't from the little my mother earned for working with Signora del Zoppo, we would have really starved.
Desperation and Hope in Pescara
The work didn't last long for my mother, she was now on the verge of having a baby and had to quit. The baby was born and named Maddalena, but after seven months she died of malnutrition. Imagine the state of my poor mother's heart. She cried so much for the loss of the baby that I will always remember, I cried with her. She was so depressed that it took a long time to regain her composure. The trouble of the shop, the departure of my father, and now the vanishing of the baby affected her health that I thought she was, as per consequence, getting sick with tuberculosis.
But time heals, and so it was for my mother too. Time passes and so are years only to increase in numbers on our shoulders. We children were growing up and looking into the future for ourselves, but it didn't seem to be very good while we were living in the midst of poverty. My mother had hoped that my father would have provided a better living for his family, but he only remitted some money occasionally, as the old adage goes, "Far from the eyes, far from the heart". Environment can change a person's attitude towards other persons, but not for those you love, especially your children. It seemed to us as well as to my mother, that my father was beginning to forget us all. The letters he wrote had different tone than those he wrote in the beginning of his arrival in America.
So my mother looked for different prospectives in the future of our lives, and especially for my future, for I was now a young man. I was studying the violin under the able professor, Rudolfo Luise, but I needed money to pay him, money to buy a better instrument, and other expenses necessary for the music career and even if I could afford such expenditures there wasn't much of a future for a violin player in Italy unless one became excellent. There are thousands upon thousands of violin players in this world, the maestro used to tell me, but only a few become noted and famous. Not that I was discouraged by the expression of his opinion, but I realized later that he was telling me the truth. One must have not only the inclination for music, which he thought I had, but also the means which I didn't have. Summarizing these improbable factors as a guide to my future, my mother decided that I should go to America, too. This was not easy for her to decide, but she thought it was a good idea for my own future as for my family.
Off to America
I must stop here for a while, and you must excuse me. Without realizing, I am going a little ahead of my family story. Before my mother was contemplating to send me to America, my sister, Veturia went to America and I'll tell you how come that she sailed for America. My father was working in Marcelletti's barber shop, and because he was young he intended to get married and having found out that my father had a daughter, young and ripe to marry, he pleaded with him and arrangements were made to get Veturia in America. And it was after several years that I sailed for America too giving my mother and my sisters and brothers a new hope in life for they knew that I came here with a determination to get all of them here too and united again. I remember very well, there was no money to buy the transportation and thanks to Cetteo Flaiano, a businessman who furnished the means which I repaid him after sometime, I arrived in America. I wrote my mother every week and enclosed some money in the letters every time. Although I didn't like the new environment too much, I found here I naturally got used to it for, after all, I came here for the determined purpose to get my family united again, and after one year of my arrival, I got all of them here with the help of Federico Richard, the bicycle man, who lent us the money.
The arrival of the rest of my family in America was a thrill I will always remember, and I was happy because they all were happy and together again in a land that they all desired to be. Because there wasn't enough income to rent an apartment, my father had John Audia, a fine carpenter, to build partitions in the back of the barber shop located then at 63rd and Loomis. The set up wasn't exactly the way my mother expected, but we managed to get along that way until we moved to a better location at 63rd and May, where the store had regular rooms in the rear. The important part was that we all were together again, so there was no complaints in regard to our living quarters.
Life in America
The difficulty was now the language to learn, how to speak American was of utmost importance for all of us. I could speak and understand a little, only a little; because I had been here merely a year and I was not going to school. I bought a book and gradually learned from it. Gaetanino and Vincenzino were assigned to go to school and there, the poor boys, were lost like two little kittens gone astray in a strange surrounding. The boys in their class made fun of them because they couldn't speak English, and especially when they saw them on the street wearing mantles, a kind of top coat which they brought from Italy, and here they are not in style. But these hindrances didn't disturb my brothers so much, they were of good characters and firmness to study and learn. They soon learned the language, they grew up, they build themselves physically, especially Gaetanino, who developed muscles like an athlete and mastered the situation. In fact, because of his amazing development, Gaetanino was now considered the protector of the smaller children. The boys didn't make fun of them any more, but rather respected them for they knew that their ridicules would have had retaliations not in kind but with blows of fists. Maria and Annina went to work in a factory, and whatever they earned together with what we earned in the barber shop, we got ourselves in a better financial condition.
Later, it was decided upon my suggestion, that we merge our shop with Marcelletti's shop. This was done soon and a beautiful four chair barber shop emerged on 64th and Halsted Streets. We moved in a better apartment on 67th near Halsted Street and everything was going smooth. Yes, everything was going smooth until, well, let me tell this first: Veturia, my sister, and her husband, Vincenzo Marcelletti, who lived in the back of the barber's shop on 64th and Halsted, had now four children, two boys and two girls; the oldest was Eva, then Oscar, Margaret, and Pasqualino.
The "until" comes now and the beginning. Pasqualino got sick and later incurred meningitis. He could not be saved, and died, poor boy, a the age of four. It was decided later that we should move again, and so, we rented a residence on 60th and Union, which had five bedrooms, four upstairs and one downstairs, and also a parlor, dining room, kitchen, and a porch in front and one in the rear. We were very happy in this new home, large and convenient. My father found a new heaven in this house, plenty or room and a fairly good basement, which he liked best so he could make wine. At one time, I remember he made, with my help and some others' help, as much as ten barrels of wine. All his friends used to gather in our house on Sundays to play cards (tresette, an Italian game) and drink wine. There was plenty of salami, cheese, and other relishing food, and the friends and relatives enjoyed it very much.
After a year or so we lived in this house, with about 300 dollars or so down payment, we bought it for $4,000. Later it was improved with better heating plant and other works. This is the house were Patsy, my daughter and Bobby, my brother, were born, and my sister, Maria, died. The loss of Maria disturbed my happiness, and a sense of sadness abated that vivacity and good spirit that existed at that time. I was in the Army when my sister died, but I had a special permission from my commanding officer to visit and see her for the last time before she died.
In 1924, after five years, I had been discharged from the Army, I found the right girl and I got married. My wife, whose name is Maria too, seemed to have replaced in spirit the loss of my sister, Maria. The family was brightened up again especially when my daughter was born. We lived with my mother two years, after which we decided to have a place of our own, so we bought a two-flat building on 55th and Elizabeth Street in 1926. After a year or so that we moved, my mother didn't like to live in that house any more, especially now that my wife, whom she loved like her own daughter, had left. So, she sold this house and purchased a two-flat building on Bishop Street near 63rd Street.
Death in the family
Other tragedies occurred. Oscar, a fine boy, died at the age of 9, then his mother, Veturia, died at the age of 37 in 1927; after two years, my father died at 65, and in 1943, my mother died at the age of 72. But fate continued to persecute us, for in 1949, my brother Vincenzino, a fine and lovable young man died at the age of 47. Meditating about all these tragic events, I wonder, sometimes, if my family had been better off to remain poor in Italy. When I think of all that has occured, I can't help but feel like crying, I know that we all have to die some day, but I think that destiny has been too cruel to my family.
Who remains of my loving family now are:
- Annina, now a widow, 68 years old and pensioned, lives with her niece, Margaret, the daughter of Veturia. She has two fine sons and four grandchildren. Her first son's name is Alfredo, a Civil Engineer. His children's names are Patrice and Linda, and his wife's name is Laverne. Raffaele, the other son, an electrician, has two children named Janet and Steve, and his wife Bonnie.
- Gaetanino, a barber, who lives in Illinois, is 65 years old, has three children and four grandchildren; his children's names, are: Alfredo, a chemist, who has three children Diane, Charlene, and Paul, and a wife, Eleanor; Arthur, a court reporter, who has a boy by the name of Matthew and a wife, Tina; and Carmen Ann, single yet, goes to high school and beauty school; Gus's wife's name is Rose.
- Roberto, a policeman in Chicago, has two children and two grandchildren. His children's names are: Robert Jr. and Anarita. Robert Jr. is a truck driver and Anarita, 16, goes to school. His grandchildren's names are: Robert and Victoria. Roberto's wife's name is Dolores, and Robert Jr.'s wife's name is Penny.
- Domenico, me, a retired barber, has an only daughter, Patsy, and three grandchildren by the names of Kenneth, Mary, and Kathy. My wife's name is Marion (I call her Mariuccia). Patsy's husband's name is Kenneth R.
- The survivors of Veturia, the oldest child in our family, are: Eva, who lives in Colorado and Margaret who lives in Chicago. Eva has three children, two boys and a girl (Ronald, Gladys, Larry). Her husband's name is Harold K. Margaret has two fine boys, Jerry, who frequents the University of Illinois, and Vince, who goes to high school. Margaret's husband's name is Arthur B.
- The survivors of Vincenzino are his wife, Edna, and his daughter, Elvira, who has three children. Her husband's name is Al M. Edna never remarried. The above all live in Chicago.
It seems that I have now completed the story of my family, which I have superficially described. I really would have liked to write a book on the history of my family, and to do so it would have been necessary to formulate the details of all the events occured, but my knowledge is limited to the extent of my education, and that's why I didn't attempt to do so. I frequented school in the old country only up to the fourth grade, and whatever English I know, I learned from books and by association with people, especially the people whom I served in the barber shop and also by reading. Still, I hope that my sister, my brothers, and all concerned will be interested to read this story, and I will be glad if they do.
Back to Pescara
And now, as I mentioned before, I will tell the story of my native town, the new Pescara, that is, and its phenomenal developments. After the unification of these two towns, the prospect likened just as two banks or any other two businesses which merged. Successively, since Pescara has now become chief city of the province, it has incremented to such a degree to approach astonishment. Arising to chief city, it ensued the installation of many office hence, the employment of a great number of personnel to fulfill works to multiple offices.
Before the unification of the city, Pescara and Castellamare together did not exceed the 25,000 inhabitants, today instead, the population of Pescara surpasses the 100,000. Naturally, they had to provide for the settlement of all these people that crowded the city, hence, the construction of many establishments. Constructing houses, it is logical that they had to construct streets too. All that was at one time cultivable land and sand in the vicinity of the sea, today is to be admired long and large streets and beautiful buildings. They have constructed a "Lungo Mare", that is a marvel. It's about a long street coasting the sea that rises from Montesilvano, about five miles from Pescara, arrives besides the river, makes a curve, and ends by the bridge. This bridge also is a marvel and a masterpiece to be admired. When I saw the new Pescara in 1955 for the first time in 45 years, I was enchanted.
But the foregone description is only part of the development of Pescara; other changes have taken place. For example: on the south side of the river, the street that once was called Portanova and now is Via Gabriele D'Annunzio, had its ending up to the Perenic Palace only a short way. This street now has been extended to the forest called Pineta and also connected to the main road that links other towns and villages, and also to the "AutoStrada", a highway that extends as far as Naples.
The Pineta, once an isolated forest, is now surrounded by a multitude of buildings including homes, motels, hotels, factories, beautiful beaches, restaurants, and other available places of entertainment and conveniences. On this south side of the river, and close to the mouth of the sea they built a fine edifice which is operated for wholesale fruits and vegetables. People from all part of Abruzzi come here to buy the merchandise by the carloads.
Also on this side of the river, which is a part of the commercial port, ships arrive every day full of materials not only to supply Pescara, but nearby towns and villages. Most of the material delivered here by ships is used, of course, in Pescara by factories and other establishments that have sprung up like mushrooms. Adjacent to the sea shore they have built a spacious road that leads and also links to other cities. This part of Pescara which was nothing but sand and cultivable land at one time, is now full of homes and fine buildings. Here is where this city will continue to enlarge on its enormous range of land to become some day one of the biggest cities in the Abruzzi region.
The beaches on this side of the river, which they now call Portanova, are not anything like the beaches on the north side of the river, that is, Central Pescara. On this central side of the seashore, there are many beautiful beaches that extend approximately five miles long, something like Miami Beach, with fine hotels, restaurants, and what not. This place is really the mecca of travelers and vacationers, a resort that is frequented not only by the people of different part of Italy - including Milano, Turin, Rome, and other big cities, but also by people of other countries.
Twice in my stay there in 1955 for three and one-half months, and in 1960 for 35 days, I had come to know that those who visit this remarkable resort include: Germans, Austrians, French, Swiss, and others. On this spot, I have enjoyed with my wife and the family of my beloved friend, Gennaro P., now deceased, the finest time of my life. Here an atmosphere of sophistication and aristocracy exist because it is frequented by noble personage. In summertime, because of the finest resort facilities and conveniences, Pescara's population is increased to an unbelievable number of around 200,000.
I have told you only about the beautiful resort of the central part of Pescara that attracts people from everywhere, but now something about other achievements, There is, for one thing, a long street, in fact, the longest street in this city, that really amazed me when I saw it for the first time I visited Italy. It's about a long street that was once farm and prairie lands with hardly any houses on either side, and that now has so flourished with business stores and other important edifices that are almost similar to one of the streets in the downtown district of Chicago. This street which was a barren road at one time with only a few horses and buggies traveling on it, you see now instead a congested train of jammed traffic of automobiles, buses, bicycles, and other kinds of vehicles that reminds me of a street in Paris, Rome, or Milano. There is a large plaza that is used for all different kinds of attractions and entertainment that reminds me of the "Piazza San Marco" in Venice.
In summertime, by the seashore and beaches and on any other parts of this city for that matter, people enjoy their favorite refreshments on the outside, just like any other big cities. The number of churches that were there at one time you could have counted them with the fingers of one hand, now instead there are churches ever half miles apart. The big field that once was used for soldiers to drill has been transformed that I could hardly recognize it. Besides hundreds of homes and apartments, they have also build in this field the police and fire departments. Another street that leads to the sea and the beaches end in a rotunda like a small park; and here people gather, sit and watch the movements of the surf and the horizon on the beautiful Adriatic Sea. In the middle of this rotunda they have built a beautiful garden and with flowers they make the date of the day.
I could go on and on describing every other development that has taken place in this new Pescara that a book could really be written on it. Only those like me who have seen it again after 45 years, have realized the amazing change. To have returned to my native land after such a long time, see again my old friend, to have known so many relatives of mine for the first time, to see the most beautiful cities in Italy, and above all, to have seen again Pescara transformed as it is today, has been the finest thrill and for me.the grandest joy of my life. I shall always remember.
Domenico F. written in 1964