Generosa Aiello Interview

August Miller and Adrienne Effron April 5, 2003

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Interview Participants
GA
Generosa Aiello, interviewee (female)
AE
Adrienne Effron, interviewer (female)
AM
August Miller, interfiewer (female)
GA
Valentino was there and I got to go and see him. So I can remember growing up with Rudolf Valentino, he was a handsome man, he really was.
AE
Do you remember what year that was?
GA
He died young.
AE
Yeah he did. Do you remember how old you were and what year that was that you went to see Rudolf?
GA
Ah, we used to, then they had the...you know about giving dishes out at the shows?
AE
Oh yeah, we want to talk to you about that too.
GA
Oh yeah.
AM
yeah.
GA
We used to go to the show and get dishes.
AM
Right.
GA
I had made about three sets when I was first married.
AE
You went a lot.
GA
In those days the shows was twenty-five cents and you'd get a dish when you went.
AE
Were dish nights on Wednesday at the theatre you went to?
GA
Down in the Union Square?
AE
Was it Wednesdays that they had dish night at the Union Square?
GA
On the Wednesday, that was the regular dish day. And then, of course, when I got married they started, they did that in East Boston too. But, ah, you know, then, of course, it petered out. In fact, ah, I did up to the time when I moved from East Boston I gave all my old dishes and stuff away. I wish I had kept them. My Fiesta glassware and stuff like that.
AE
Oh, the Fiesta glassware is really nice.
GA
What's done is done, I don't cry over spilled milk. But anyway, getting back to the when they had the dance marathons. Ah, the manager said to my mother, you got Josie, my nickname is Josie, my name is Generosa, but, for some reason, my mother called me Josie and my father always called me Generosa - which is generous, Generosa, in English.
GA
And, ah, she would say, well, you know, you go to the show. And then the manager said, we're going to have the dance marathons were starting. So he says, you know, you kids are teenagers, he says, why don't you...I was working in the laundry at the time and my kid sister was, the middle one, she, ah, 'cause the little one...there's about ten years difference between us - she was eighty and I'm ninety. Anyway...
GA
Idie, my sister Idie, that's the middle one, she was what they called a matron - and she was only a kid...fifteen, sixteen, seventeen [years old] and the matron, they had these dance marathons and they had to have, you danced so long with your partner and then you had to go to the bathroom or refresh yourself with tea or whatever, have something to eat, and rest and they had to be timed and everything else.
GA
So, ah, on a Saturday night it was a funny thing to see this man come in with a fireman's hat on, a big one, and, ah, there was a couple that was dancing and there names was Red Skelton and I think his wife's name was Valentine. I think, I'm not sure about that.
GA
And, ah, he used to come and see them every time that they were on and he'd come and time them they'd be on the floor and then he'd be, when they had rest period, he'd talk. They became very friendly over the years, Red Skelton and Arthur Fiedler. Oh yeah, they became very friendly
GA
And while they were on the dance marathon, ah, Red Skelton married his wife. And there was a couple there and the girl that he was with, that I find out now and I couldn't remember her name was Ruby Keeler and, ah, Danny Kaye was her partner. And they were the best man and whatever at the wedding and they got married on the dance floor - imagine that.
AE
That's amazing. So what did you do with the dance marathon? Was it like, how did that work?
GA
They, well, they had, well, we had to go in and, and people would pay for attendence, watch them and you'd see them dancing around and then all of a sudden you'd see them fall. And they'd be getting weaker and, you know, different things like that and they would horse around a little bit while they danced all sorts of dances. And then I don't remember how, when what time they closed what they did [inaudible]. But, like I say, a lasting friendship really happened between Red Skelton and Arthur Fiedler, which I thought was very nice.
AM
Sure.
AE
Where were the dance marathons held?
GA
In the theatre.
AE
In the theatre?
GA
Strand Theatre. I called it the Union Square Theatre but it was the Strand Theatre.
AE
Ok.
AM
And did, were you, did you participate in the marathons?
GA
No, I didn't. No, I was an onlooker.
AM
Ok.
GA
A paid, free, onlooker.
AM
Right.
GA
Yeah, the people paid, people came in to see them and they drew a crowd. Certain groups would have certain ones they'd like, Red Skelton and his, and they'd like the other ones and they had I think there were maybe about, some of them, ah, would quit after so many days because it was, you'd have to be on the floor so much.
AE
Right.
AM
Right.
GA
There's so much clean up. Yeah, my sister said that she used to have to go into the bathroom to make sure that everything was all right. Help them, you know, whatever help they needed. But, ah, yeah, they drew quite a crowd... [inaudiable]
AE
How many people do you think there were?
GA
On the floor?
AE
On the floor dancing, but how many people would be watching?
GA
About how many couples, they all had to be couples, of course. I would say...well when they started out it seemed like it was crowded. Like...
AE
Like thirty?
GA
I would say about twenty to thirty couples...and then as time went on there would be drop outs.
AE
Right.
GA
So by the time that they ended I think that Red Skelton was one of the last ones.
AE
How long would the marathon go for?
GA
Oh, I think this one I remember...a couple of years.
AE
No, I meant, like, did it go for twenty-four hours?
GA
Oh, yeah, it was twenty-four hours, all around the clock.
AE
Wow.
AM
There, there was...
GA
They would have beds, there were beds that were there that they could sleep, they were allowed so much time to sleep, so much time to eat, and then if they had to go and do the necessary things.
AM
And how much time usually was that? I mean, what, how much time out of a twenty-four hour period would you have to spend...
GA
On the floor.
AM
Dancing would you say?
GA
I would say they would have to spend about half the time on the floor. It would have to be because you have to allow so much time for the thing.
AM
Right.
GA
Of course, my mind is kind of fuzzy about that. But I would think so. They had to be on that floor.
AM
Right.
GA
Yeah.
AM
Now, there were -
GA
And then the times that they had to sleep and...
AM
There was, um, I think in Somerville there was maybe the longest dance marathon that has ever been...
GA
But I don't remember how long...
AM
I don't remember either how long it was... but uh, were you at that?
[All three begin to talk at once.]
[A cuckoo clock notes the time.]
GA
This was what I was telling my sister. I know, when I want to know something that happened a long time ago, I go to the libraries and I can get the newspapers from the dates. If you're lucky enough some of them still have them. I know down at our library we have a lot of...I want to check something up in 1936 and I went down and I checked it. And there was something else happened about 20 years after that. I went down to the library 'cause you don't keep the papers. I should really have kept papers , like these fires and all that stuff went on as a young girl.
GA
But Somerville, it was a very interesting place to live in, very diversified. We had a lot of people there. Uh, during the war I can remember the boys coming home, and they were marching up Somerville Avenue. I can remember the...where the old fire station used to be on the corner of Bow and Somerville Avenue. And there was a smithy and there was a Mr. Kelly, Jack Kelly, was a big strapping man. He was the blacksmith. Us kids used to go down and watch him bang the horseshoes and stuff like that. Remember the open cars that went up Somerville Avenue? In fact [laughs] I think that was the...a lot of romances started on those open cars.
AE
Was that how yours started?
GA
No, mine started, oh mine started very different. I think I must have been a little...[inaudible] oh, I don't know, but I was, I don't do things like other people do. I'm a little bit, a little bit nutty I think. I do things a little crazy. So, but anyway, no, I met my husband as a [laughs]. Let's see. 19-. I got married in 1936. Five years before, l931.
GA
You know how you go to a... You're going to be a bridesmaid at a party. Well, I was asked to be a bridesmaid by one of the uh, uh people that, in construction in, that built roads, Capones at that time, Capon-e they say but they're actually Capone and she asked me to be a bridesmaid.
GA
So I went to the house and my husband was going to do the... he had to feed the orchestra at the wedding. In those days they had that, and someone said to me were you dancing? And I says gee, nobody's dancing. I says what a bunch of deadheads. So someone said to me well Peter, that boy now, see that boy over there. And I says yeah. I says I know Frank his friend. He says, she says he's a wonderful dancer. I says oh nice, and little did I know. So I went over to him and I says Hey, I understand you're a good dancer. He says Well, we'll try it. And from that day on he was lost and I was lost. But anyway, he must've thought I was awful fresh. [laughter] But anyway that was it.
AE
That's a good story.
GA
He says to me, you know he says, there's a violinist, a very good classical violinist, and he used to lead all different bands, different orchestras. He says, you know, he says, I'm going to colllege, he says, so I won't be able to see you for awhile, he says, but when I have a free night... I was, I says, oh that's all right. I never thought he'd ever see me again. But he used to call and we went out the first time. Never had cars. So everything, I was in Somerville, and he was in East Boston, but we managed to meet.
AM
Mm, hmm
AE
Did you both go to the movies together?
GA
Yeah, yeah the theatre. We loved the theatre.
AE
Do you want some of your tea. You haven't had a chance to ...
GA
Oh, this is mine.
AE
You haven't had a chance to have any.
GA
Oh, sit down honey. I'm gonna give you a cookie.
AM
Thank you very much.
GA
Did you guys have your lunch?
AM
We did, yes, thank you.
AE
Yes, thank you.
AM
Oh, those are good. I haven't had a Hermit in a long time.
AE
Those are good.
GA
Huh?
AM
I haven't had a Hermit in a long time.
GA
Well you gotta taste these. These are darn good.
AM
Thank you very much.
GA
So wasn't it nice of that girl to call me up? I, uh, you notice I'm very informal...But she started mentioning names like Forte. And I says, Forte? I says Dr. Forte, and she says yes. And I said oh my God, that's my granddaughter's father-in-law! [laughter]
GA
In fact that picture over there... They got mar... yuh, Dr. Forte was in Somerville 'cause he was a member of the museum. And uh...[inaudible] he was one of our, as they say in Italian, one of our...There were seven kids, so we all had to have different...[Gombadis] godfathers. And his parents, you know, would have to be his parents, they were godfathers to one of our kids, one of our family.
AE
Wow.
GA
And do you remember the Prospect Hill Tower?
AM
Yeah, it's still there.
GA
That beautiful library on Highland Avenue. I remember when the library was off of, uh, off of Bow Street actually. It was on a side street. I can't remember the name of the street. It was in a wooden building, and then they, they...is it still there I wonder.
AM
I don't know.
GA
Down off Union Square. And then when they built the other one Somer- ... on Highland Avenue. What a beautiful library that is. There used to be a fountain in front of, uh, on Highland Avenue, on, uh, in front of the, uh, library. It was a fountain. There was a statue in the middle and there was water all around. It was huge! And I understand it's not there any more.
AM
Was it, was it right in front of the library because I know there's a statue. The high school is there, is right next to...
GA
And it's still there.
AM
And there's a statue that's sort of between them. There's a little playground there now...
GA
Yes, there's a playground.
AM
Just a little, a tiny one.
GA
Did you ever hear of Heineman House?
AM
I don't think so. What's Heineman House?
GA
On School Street. You know where the city hall is?
AM
Yes.
GA
That's School Street. I think it starts, I think School Street starts at Highland Avenue, goes all the way down to Somerville Avenue. Well, on the left hand side, and it must be, still must be a beautiful building. It was what they called the Heineman House. And we used to go and...dances for the kids after school. And put on little plays over there.
AE
So did you do that too when you were younger?
GA
Yeah, oh yeah, I went to everything that you possibly could in Somerville because it was my hometown. I was 23 when I got married.
AE
So let me take you back a second 'cause I want to make sure I understand this. You were born in Somerville. You lived there for 30 years? No, 23 years?
GA
23 years.
AE
23 years.
GA
But my family came there in 1895.
AE
Wow. What part of Somerville did you grow up in?
GA
I was born in Somerville Avenue, on Somerville Avenue. Then I lived at 33 School Street. That's where I got married from. In fact the house is still standing there. And Cataldo the undertaker, Lillian Cataldo the mother. I think it's David isn't it?
AM
Sounds familiar,
GA
Oh yeah, 'cause he's on your, on the committee. I think he's on the committee.
AM
Oh, okay.
GA
'Cause that lady sent it to me. Well, his grandmother, it has to be his grandmother, it can't be his mother, because she was my godmother...
AE
Wow.
GA
And they had a son. The building that they were in used to be Fisher's College. They made a funeral parlor out of it. They had a...that goes back a hell of a long time ago.
AE
How many brothers and sisters did you say you have. You mentioned a big family.
GA
Seven.
AE
Seven.
GA
Four boys and three girls.
AE
What was your age in comparison with...the youngest, the oldest, the middle...?
GA
I was the middle child.
GA
Let's see. My brother Alec, my brother Guy, and my brother Amerigo, good old Italian names. They called him Danny. My brother Danny, Amerigo, was a, uh, he used to book dance acts for different shows and stuff. In fact they had a water, do you remember the old water shows that, you remember they danced like Esther Williams?
AM
Yeah.
GA
Well he was instrumental in having the first one in the area.
AM
And where was that held?
GA
Ah, I think one of them, one time, was in Dillboy Field that they had. They put that, 'cause you had to have a large area and everything else.
AM
Sure.
GA
And, yeah, he was what they called a booking agent - a theatrical booking agent. That was his title. And he went by the name of Danny White. In those days... [inaudible] was, you know, you'd be frowned upon like anything else. And then in later life he changed, he reverted right back to his own name.
GA
But, uh, so he, that's how I got interested and I...Dave Maynard on WBZ. I taught, I started working at the farm stand at the Children's Hospital, and WBZ, and I've been talking to them. I'd talk on the air once a week. And so I started...
GA
But, uh, I've seen a lot of changes in Somerville. Now we had the old police station that was down on Bow Street. Next door was Dr., Dr. Davie. What a man!
GA
There must have been about eight or nine births the day that I was born. I was born the first of August. My father said in Italian [Italian phrase] meaning "You were born on the first of August." Well, what do you think that doctor did? Everyone that was born, he put everybody in July. So my sisters teased me I was born the end of July, and I says nope, Papa said. I go by the first of August. I'm stubborn. I says I won't. That's what I have. All my records are the first of August. [laughter]
GA
But it's funny, yeah. That old police station I think it must still be there. I understand it's still there. And now we have that new courthouse and everything else. My father, as I said, was a court interpreter at the old courthouse. It used to be in Union Square.
GA
And we, there was a Coyne's Produce, and Bob Coyne, I think it was, used to write for the Boston Post years ago, he was a regular, sports and stuff like that. And he lived on Benton Road in Somerville which was off School Street. And, uh, then I remember of course when they built St. Catherine's Church which is an absolutely...have you been there?
AM
No.
GA
Go. You know why? Every bit of marble is imported from Italy.
AM
Oh, wow.
GA
Beautiful, beautiful church. Very beautiful church. And then of course there was another one... the undertaker that was on Summer Street. It used to be Rafferty's, but it's now a different name. But it's still on Summer, the corner of Summer and ... I can't think what the name of the street is. But I went to the Viano's Theatre
AE
Hmm. Do you remember when you started going to the Viano's Theatre? Do you remember what age you were?
GA
Uh, well I had to be in high school, junior high, 'cause I went through the Parr School which was on...the Cummings School which was on School Street, named after a war hero, and then, uh, Southern Junior High and High School.
AE
So you went to the Viano's Theatre. Did you go to any other theatres?
GA
Oh, I went to the Somerville Theatre in high school because that was more, more sophisticated really. The others weren't that...didn't start going to them until you went to the local shows. But you didn't go to, you know...
AE
Do you remember what the atmosphere felt like at either of those theatres? Do you remember that?
GA
Well, I can remember going into Viano's, and it was like going into another home. It was very, it wasn't a large, it still isn't a large theatre. Viano's is not, was not a large theatre. But you'd go in there and you'd feel comfortable. Now Somerville theatre, I used to love to go there because I thought I was a big shot when I went there, because, you know, you're graduating from a show, a movie, and you're going to the legitimate theatre which was, its, they called that legitimate theatre.
AM
Right.
GA
And, uh...So to me that was a, you know, I considered myself a big shot when I went there. It was a different atmosphere, it was a different atmosphere, and I remember many, many happy moments there. Now, like I say, Helen Hayes MacArthur and Neil Hamilton was there. They used to perform, and maybe there may have been a lot of others that I don't recall right now.
AE
Can you tell us about one of your most memorable, happy moments going to
GA
The most happy moment was when I married my husband.
AE
All right, the next happiest, going to a theatre or to a movie.
GA
Oh, going to a theatre or a movie.
AE
One of your most happy memories. Your most enjoyable, most memorable.
GA
In Somerville, or later on?
AE
In Somerville.
GA
Well, I thought...the thing that stands out in my mind because it was so...I can still see the screen...was when I saw Rudolph Valentino. That stayed with me. And then there was another picture, and I can remember, oh, what's the name of this...oh, it was like, it was in the sand. It was something about the three feathers or something like that. That was another, that was another thing that always stood in my mind.
AE
What made them stay in your mind, especially the Rudolph Valentino, so that you can still see the picture screen in your mind?
GA
I can see him with his, the hat that he had on, you know, The Shiek of Araby. And I remember the music. Of course, they didn't have canned music. It was the old piano, yeah, the piano. That was really something.
AM
Do you remember when, I mean, do you remember the first sound pictures and sort of how that changed your...?
GA
Yes. The Pathe News. Yeah, when I first saw that, that was a, well that was something awesome. Absolutely, really. And I can remember seeing it and I say, Oh, my God, and it opened up, it just makes you open up your mind
AM
Sure.
GA
And, of course, I'm a great reader. I read about five books a week.
AM
Wow.
GA
And I love to read, so you can imagine. And I like newspapers, three papers a day, and that's always stayed with me. And I was very fortunate that my father read and spoke English beautifully. And we were an open-minded family. There was no...we could discuss anything.
AE
So were you allowed to see any movie you wanted, or were they very...?
GA
Yeah, no, there was nothing, because in those days the movies were not like they are today.
GA
So that you'd go to see...I'm trying to think...Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I remember that, and I loved it. And I kept saying to myself wouldn't I like to go and see that where she was brought up and if that was true. And, uh, unfortunately I never did.
GA
And, uh, at the time, because of the...I can remember my uncle coming home from the war...they did start to show, Pathe News would show pictures of the things, and of course it was...I'm trying to think of how old I was at that time. Must be about nine or ten years, how impressed I was to see...
GA
I can remember my husband, my cousin coming home, my uncle, rather, coming home in his uniform and, uh, seeing it on the screen and reading it in the paper. I would do what my father does. You sit down and you read the paper from beginning to end. You didn't miss anything. You read everything. I did. My father did.
GA
And I don't see my kid sisters doing that, but I mean I, 'cause I love to read. And I can remember my uncle coming home with a hat that went around like that, the brown uniform and at that time...I was born at the corner of Carleton Street and Somerville Avenue.
GA
Across the street we had a bakery, and it was called Heggie's Bakery. They were German. And people would boycott them, I can remember saying don't go in there. My father said to us, you know, big family, you go in there, you get your... we always got donuts on Sunday morning. He says, you go in there. Don't listen to what anyone says to you. You go in there. They're our friends, so you go in there. I was lucky to have a family where we were not restricted as far as...
GA
There was a Kelly's. What's his name, he owned a store in the North End. It was a Jewish name. It will come to me. The Kellys, him, the Husselbees, and the Biancinos, and we all lived in a six-family house. That's where I was born, and the house still stands. And it used to be a plumbing shop underneath, and six tenements,
GA
But we went over there every Sunday and got our donuts. In the afternoon we'd get our cream puffs. But you'd be surprised, even as young as I was, I can remember people saying Sam, my father's name was Salvatore and they called him Sam. Sam, you make your children go over there? And my father says, why? They're no different then you and I. They're our friends. So we went.
AE
So, did a lot of the neighborhood not go?
GA
Oh, yeah. But I felt bad because the people would say, are you going in there? Maybe it might be called what they do today - protesting - but at that time I never thought of it. But my father says, no matter what they say, you just go in.
GA
That's my home. I'm glad I had a father that was a smart man. He was a, in Italy where he was born, he was what they call a [Italian phrase], like an Italian soldier, very tall, handsome man. As my brothers were. They're all tall, handsome. I had my kid sister, who was going to be 80, she, Alexander, Gitano, Amerigo, Generosa, Ida. I-d-a. They call them Ida, but it's Eeda. The Italian...in Italian the I is pronounced as an E, EE-da
AM
Okay. Right.
GA
And then Gertrude and then Guido, the baby that died.
GA
History... Somerville. You know, I have to tell you something, Somerville is full of history. Absolutely full of history. There used to be a contagious hospital up near where the car barn used to be. It was on the Arlington, on the Somerville/Arlington line. Yeah, contagious hospital, which is not there now. They did away with it.
AE
Could you tell us a little bit what you remember about the different movie theatres you went to in Somerville, maybe some of the movies you saw, who you went with, things like that. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
GA
Well, I always went with my sisters, and as far as the uh...I just loved to go to Viano's because the outside, the façade was a little different, and they had the big pictures advertising what was going to come. And we'd stand there and look, and we'd say, well do you think...would we have enough money, you know, because when you have seven children in the family...But we'd manage to go Sunday every Saturday afternoon we went to the show.
AE
How did you get the money?
GA
My father was a shoemaker. He was in business, had his own shop.
AE
He gave you the money for it?
GA
Oh Yeah.
AE
So you went every Saturday?
GA
No, not every Saturday. We used to go to the shows, and then it all depends on what we had, you know, kids, going on you have in the summer. May you have May parties, and we go up to the city hall and have our little May processions. And at that time there'd be a nurse and a sailor and a soldier, and everyone had clothes, costumes on, and you'd go up.
AE
Do you remember what kind of movies you saw as a young girl?
GA
No, I really don't remember too many names of the theatres except that I told you.
AE
No, I mean like the types of movies, what kinds of movies did you remember seeing, what they were about...?
GA
Uh, I can remember westerns, which I liked. The only thing I didn't like was in the western when they'd show the girl was on the railroad track. That sticks in my mind. No matter which one we saw, that was it. [laughter]
AE
Was that Perils of Pauline? The one that she...
GA
I imagine it was. I can't remember the name.
AE
I think that's the one that she gets...
GA
Yeah, she gets, oh yeah...
[Tape Change]
[Part of a discussion about what theatres were still extant was lost during the tape change.]
AE
It's nolonger standing or it's no longer in that space I can't remember if that's the one
GA
I'm trying to think too
AE
They turned into a store or a retail space.
AE
Now, you had said that you collected dishes, so that must have been when you were older versus when you went with your sister. That was when you were a kid, maybe high school, junior high, you said. When did you start collecting the dishes? At what point?
GA
Uh, well it had to be before I was married. I was 23 years old and I was going to PSI so that's 18. I would say it would be...if you had to get the dish...a child would have, a youngster would have to be with their mother in order to get the dishes. So I would say, late teens when we started to get the dishes. Yeah, it had to be the late teens.
AM
Did you collect other things, 'cause I know the Somerville Theatre gave photographs sometimes of stars. Did you collect any...?
GA
No, no I never did. Isn't that funny
GA
But they did have, after the set of dishes, the complete set of dishes would run out 'cause they kept you coming. Then they would start on the Fostoria glass which is very, it's worth a mint today. Like I say it's all gone...
GA
And then another time they gave pots and pans, believe it or not. So you see they...just to make you come to the theatre... otherwise they couldn't...after they run out of the set of dishes, they'd start another set and it would circle, would come. I don't know when they stopped that. Wait a minute. I'm trying to think. Did they do that when I was first married?
GA
I think they still did it in the East Boston Theatre. 1936. I think it must have stopped about, I would say about 1940 they stopped all that. About that because I know, yeah, because I know they were doing it when I was first married. So when I got married in '36...so it had to be about '40 that they stopped it.
AE
Do they ever give out like silverware? Or bank nights. Did hey have bank nights do you remember?
GA
No. I don't remember silverware.
AE
Do you remember bank night? Was there a bank night at that...
GA
No, no we never had that, not in our...not. They might have later on, but I don't remember going.
AE
We've seen ads for that and the giveaways for the lady's fur coat.
GA
Oh!
AE
Yeah. Different types of promotional things. But the glassware, the bakingware, the pots and pans...
GA
Yeah, oh yeah, I remember all that...
AE
What was your favorite giveaway? Do you remember what you liked best of all the giveaways?
GA
I can remember a set of dishes that I loved very much. It was white and it was edged with green, about an inch of green, and it had gold. Green and gold. I always loved that set of dishes. Always loved it.
GA
And I think, if I'm not mistaken, if I went through...I'm trying to think which one, not my kid sister's but I think if I went through some of the things I gave my daughter-in-law I might find some old dishes or something. But anyway. But that was interesting.
GA
I thought we had a very interesting life. I can't remember. We had some nice people. Bob Coyne used to write for the Boston Globe, Boston Post. He was a writer, but his, the Coyne family owned a big produce market in Union Square, Somerville. We used to after church on Sundays we'd go down to... [inaudible] they had an ice cream parlor. Did you ever...
AE
Mm, hmm. A sweet shop.
GA
Yeah, and we'd go and have the...they had the old frame chairs, you know, sort of round tables. We'd go in there after school and have the banana splits and stuff like that. They all made that candy and all that.
AE
Did you normally go to some place like that after or before the movies. Or would you go out after or before the movies?
GA
No, in my...in our day we didn't do that. I started going out after I met my husband. And then, 'cause see he lived in East Boston and I lived in Somerville, and if we went together it would be into Boston that we'd have...go to the show and then come out and have an ice cream at Schrafft's of something like that. But we didn't do that.
AE
I wanted to go back to something if I could. When you were telling us about the dish night giveaway, I was wondering if you even cared what movie they were showing, or were you more...
GA
No, you went there just to get that dish!
[all laugh]
GA
No, that was it. You went to that show, hey they're going to give this piece tonight, make sure we go. I'm trying to think of some of the names of the pictures, and there's one that sticks out in my mind too...
[cuckoo clock]
GA
that sticks in my mind that I wanted to remember. Wait a minute. I have to see...I made notes here...dry goods store, fire station, Prospect Hill Tower, Powderhouse... You know that there are l0 hills you know. Somerville is noted for l0 hills. Did you know that?
AM
Right
GA
Remember that?
AM
Yeah.
GA
There are l0 hills. Yeah, they always talk about the l0 hills of Somerville. I know I had to put that down...
GA
Friends' Bakery. Oh, there was a famous bakery in Somerville. Friends' Bakery started there. Of course, it's not there any more. But that's about all I can tell you about the theatres and, like I say, I wish I could remember some of the plays I saw.
AM
Now you, so you saw the legitimate theatre at the Somerville Theatre, and you saw movies, and there were the marathon dances. Do you remember going to variety shows or the vaudeville kind of shows or anything?
GA
No, not in those days. Later on, after I was married I went to variety shows and all that stuff.
AM
Right and did you do that in Somerville? Did you go to any of the shows there?
GA
If I did I can't remember them.
AM
When you saw plays at the Somerville Theatre, did they sometimes show serials?
GA
Oh, serials in the shows on Saturdays. They always had a serial
AM
Okay.
GA
And that kept you coming to see the end.
AM
Sure.
GA
Oh no, we always went for that. But I don't remember...now some of them were very famous and they still talk about them, but I can't remember...
AM
Right.
GA
But they did, oh yeah, and that kept you coming to the show.
AM
Sure.
GA
'Cause you had to go and see. Well it might end next week...now remember boys and girls to come next week. It might be the end. We don't know. [all laugh] So that keeps you on tenterhooks.
AM
They didn't tell you, you didn't know going in...
GA
No you didn't know if it would end that Saturday or not. Sure, because they wanted you to come.
AM
Right.
GA
I can remember paying 10 cents, 15 cents. Then it went up. But sure, those serials kept you coming. [laughter]
AE
Did they give you anything away, Did they give anything away at the serials?
GA
No, not for those.
AE
In those days was it common for young girls to go together? You mentioned you went with your sisters.
GA
Yeah, a bunch of us school kids would go. Oh, yeah, I think everybody in school went. And the girls would all be sitting...and the boys would be sitting in the back and they'd get spitballs. [laughter] Oh yeah, they'd pull the girls' hair.
AE
What would happen? Did they get in trouble?
GA
The usher would come down and get the flashlight...Now stop it you kids or I'm gonna kick you out. Oh yeah, they did all that. Sure.
AM
Did you ever get in trouble at the movies?
GA
Not me.
AE
Do you know anyone who did?
GA
No...If they did, the kids wouldn't go to the show. But, I mean, oh yeah, the girls would sit down and we'd say...Shh, what's his name is in the back row. Oh, of course, that's why you went to the show, to see the boys. And the boys used to go to see the girls.
AE
So you didn't know what the movie was playing.
GA
No, they didn't care. [laughter] They went to pester the girls, and then the girls went to look at the guys. [laughter]
AE
So would the girls try to dress up or fix themselves up before going to the theatre?
GA
Oh we always tried to...oh yeah, they tried to look nice.
AE
What would they wear?
GA
I can remember they...we didn't wear slacks or pants in those days. So it was always a dress.
GA
I can remember well around the holidays, after the holidays, they'd come in...they's all dressed up. If not, they had like a skirt and top or one piece dresses. I can remember them more so than skirts and blouses. The one piece dress would always be cotton or silk or whatever.
AE
So would the girls gossip when they were...about the boys? You said the girls went to see the boys and the boys went to see the girls.
GA
...Did you see him? What is he doing? Is he looking at, he's looking at you. Make sure. Are you sure he's looking at me? He might be looking at you. No, he's looking right at you and he's pointing at you...Things like that.
AE
Now did anybody ever talk to the boys? Did you guys just...
GA
I was no shy person. I managed to talk to a few of them.
GA
Yeah, they'd say, if you're walking down the street and the boys would be coming out of the show, they'd always walk in back of you. And you could turn around and sort of see them... [whispering]...you know, they'd point at the girls...He likes you. How do you know? Well, he told somebody that he likes you. So the next week when you go to the show you'd look for him and he's looking at somebody else. And...say HA! But that was funny.
AE
Did you have any celebrities that you liked when you...
GA
When I was young?
AE
Yeah.
GA
Well...
AE
You really liked the Rudolph Valentino pictures...
GA
I liked Rudolph Valentino 'cause he was a real handsome man. And when he passed away, I'll tell you that was a...it was terrible. Everybody was, all the women were crying, carrying on, oh yeah...
AE
Were there any female actresses...?
GA
He was a young man.
AE
He was a young man. Did you like any female celebrities?
GA
Oh, I remember Kay Francis. See this? [indicates wristwatch]
AE
Yeah.
GA
I have worn my wristwatch on my arm since I was 15 years old. Always on my right arm.
AE
Just like Kay Francis? [laughter]
GA
She was what I call, she epitomized in my mind a perfect lady. Beautiful, beautiful lady, she really was.
AE
What was uh...what made her perfect in your mind? What did you like about her style?
GA
Her demeanor. At the time I didn't think that, but I liked the way she dressed. I liked what she wore. I liked the way she looked. She had a very nice classic face. She really was a beautiful woman. I always used to say...Oh, I wish I could be like her.
AE
Did you ever try to style your hair or dress like her?
GA
No, because I didn't have curly hair or anything. Mine was plain, non-descript. My baby sister had the curly hair. My brother, one of my brothers, his hair was as curly as anything. I could've killed him! [laughter] And I just had straight, black hair, and that was it.
AE
What about...did you try to dress like her or use any of the same kind of...?
GA
No, no. We were always...my mother was a fashionable lady and we were dressed in the latest fashion. But, I mean, I didn't try to be like her 'cause it never would have dawned on me at the time.
GA
But now it would. Now it would. But I remember she...there was one outfit that she had on that I liked particularly. It had a white...a white bib collar that came down and I think it looked like black on the screen. And she had her hair fixed so beautiful... I really admired her very much. She stuck out, still does. In my mind I can still see her.
GA
And Helen Hayes, of course, when I saw her on the stage. She was a lady, a real classy lady. And I would go and see whenever she came to Somerville, always went to see her plays. And Neil Hamilton he was always with her. They played different parts. And there was someone else. I wish I could remember his name, not Gene Hirschl [inaudible]. I can't remember their names. I get so cross when I can't remember them. But all that, when you call and the theatre, that brought memories back to me.
AM
Sure.
GA
I was so mad. I said they didn't mention the...and the girl said...No, it's called the Strand. And I called my sisters up and I said your sister's a jerk. Oh.
AE
You said you loved to read. Did you ever read any of the fan magazines?
GA
No.
AE
No? I just remember that they...
GA
Isn't that funny. I never did because we...they weren't like they are today.
AE
Well there was about l5 or so that came out...
GA
Well, there were the true stories and the love story magazines, and we couldn't...we weren't allowed to read that.
AE
Oh. What about Picture Play? Did that come out, was that out while you were first watching the movies? Picture Play or Doubletake, no, or...?
GA
No.
GA
There was a, oh gosh, it was always in the men's barbershop and it had theatre notices and stuff in there. And I'm trying to think of what the name of that paper was. It was shaped like this. This kind of thing...
AE
Ok, like a tabloid.
GA
A tabloid, yeah. And I'm trying to think of what the name of it was. Of course that would be in the men's barbershops, so we used to think it was a man's paper. But, if I remember correctly, at that time I was too young. I really wasn't that into it that I would want to know any more about their lives. It wasn't until the 30s, the late 30s that really I started getting more interested in the movies and stuff like that. But growing up it would never have appealed.
AE
So what happened in the 30s? Did you... you said you just got more into it. What did you do then?
GA
Well then I was older. It to me was a glamorous life. It was entirely different
[Tape Edit]
AE
So what happened in the 30s? Did you... you said you just got more into it. What did you do then?
GA
Well then I was older. It to me was a glamorous life. It was entirely different from the life that I was leading, and I wanted to know more about it. How they lived, what they wore, what they did and what they didn't do. And that interested me up to about, when I was about 45, 50. And then I didn't like some of the lifestyles and everything else, so I just... If I read it in the paper, I mean I read it. I do read the columns every day, just to keep my eyes in and know what's going on. I want to know what's going on whether it's good or bad.
AM
Right.
GA
Whether I believe it or don't believe it. But other than that, I'm not that crazy about it. We used to go to the Keith Memorial to see the stage shows when they had all the...like Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, oh yes, Paul Anka, Bette Middler, all the old...all of them that used to come to Boston.
GA
And Blinstrum's, We used to go to Blinstrum's 'cause, as I said, my husband was a musician and he'd be playing in the band at the different places. But I still would like to go up...Now in fact I'm going to see Mame. It's coming up here. I have the...I had a slight stroke so sometimes the words don't come fast...subscription to the North Shore Players.
AE
North Shore Music Theatre?
GA
I've had that for years.
AE
Yeah it's a good place I've been there
GA
Yeah, love it, I love it, I love it. But I'm not going with them because I found out that I can go through the Senior Citizens and I go in the afternoon. I don't have to pay for parking, I don't have to pay the prices, so I'm going to see Mame with the Senior Citizens.
AE
Good.
GA
And then when the next one comes along, whatever they are, I'll go and see them.
AE
You mentioned in the 30s that you started getting more into the celebrities...[inaudible] It made me think of two questions. The first one is I was wondering what changes you noticed in the movies themselves, in the kinds of movies you saw from the time you were a little girl to the 30s? The movies changed quite a bit. And then my second question was if there were any particular stars in the 30s that you would love to read about and learn about how they lived their lives?
GA
Yeah, I would like to read about Norma Shearer 'cause I thought she was a very good actress and Fairbanks, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Oh, yes, he fascinated me. He really did. And what's that other one that was..., very flamboyant, and he died young...
AE
Barrett Mills?
GA
no, But I loved Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He was very nice, and Mr. Zimbalist, that was another gentleman that I liked. Yeah, whatever movies they were in we went to see. Used to go to the movies quite a bit.
AE
How often would you go then in the 30s?
GA
Uh, well because the...for the simple reason when I lived in East Boston the movie theatre was right down the street. So when it was...at night Peter and I would go maybe at night...we'd like to go a couple of nights a week. Either that or I'd go. Yeah, oh yeah, I used to go. We didn't have a car.
AE
You could walk there...
GA
...and we could walk there so it was kind of nice.
AE
Now, going back to the first question, what changes did you notice or did you notice any changes in the kind of movies that you saw?
GA
Oh yes, I noticed a great deal of change in the movies. They weren't as smutty as they are today. It was more like, more like family, and there was nothing there that you wouldn't want your kids to see. But as time progressed, times changed. We got more open-minded and that was another one of the things. There are some pictures I wouldn't go to see today.
AE
Right. What about from the time you were a little girl to the time when you were a little bit older going to the movies like the time you went to the Broadway or to, I'm sorry, to Viano's, from that time to the 30s, what changes did you notice?
GA
In the movies?
AE
In the movies.
GA
Actually I can't say there was a great deal of changes. The changes started to come in the 30s, more so I think the late 30s. They started to really, really change. The mode of the living situations that they lived through. And the language. Oh, when the talkies came in, that was quite a...oh, that was a big thing when the first talking movie came in. We were all...ahh...where did that come?...you know, you looked around. Oh yeah, that was the talk for years. Oh, it's a talkie. We've got to go and see it. It's a talkie. You've gotta... you know, that was the thing. It really was.
GA
You know, you kids don't know how lucky you are. Everything is so different, but still and all I'm so glad I saw all the changes. I've lived through them and...No, I don't think I'd like to go back except when I had my children. Those were two happy days. I like living today and learning something. There's an old Italian saying. The old Italian lady lived to be a hundred but she could still learn something new every day. And that's what I'm learning. I'm learning something new every day. Look at the world as it is today. You've got to keep your eyes and ears open. You can't stagnate. Oh no, I could never do that.
AE
What role do movies play in keeping your eyes and ears open then?
GA
You know Uncle Tom's Cabin? I liked that. That's another picture that comes to my mind. I really enjoyed that. And that was, that was...a big deal was made about that. It showed us the different people that lived and how they were treated. And that really was, that was something else again.
AE
So do you think the movies kept you aware, in tune to the world around you?
GA
Oh yes. Oh yes. I think, actually I think that any movie that I've ever seen I thought opened my eyes to something going on. There was something else out there. I wasn't just going to be sitting where I am. There's something else out there. There's another different world, and I want to know what's going on. And I think that movies or theatre or anything... I think the legitimate stage is great. I really and truly do.
AE
I have to agree with you.
GA
And, uh, no...
AE
I'm a theatre major. I'm a drama major.
GA
Oh, are you dear?
AE
Yes I am.
GA
Well, I didn't know that,
GA
but I do, I really and truly believe that people should be more aware of it. But the thing nowadays, the seats are so expensive. The theatre tickets are expensive. But like everything else. That's not the only thing. Everything else has gone up.
GA
But there's nothing like seeing them in person. Absolutely nothing. I've seen the plays, and I've seen the movies, and I would rather see the play myself. You go and see these people, and you say... Gee, isn't that marvelous. Look at that... It's marvelous. I love it, I love it. But I would never stop going to the theatre. And I don't go to many movies because my children get all the movies on television and that's how I see them. And then I have the television.
AE
So at what point did you stop seeing the movies quite as often? It sounded like when you were living in East Boston you...
GA
Yes, yes we did. It was when I, actually when I moved here...
AE
To Peabody?
GA
...that I didn't go to the movies as much. Going back and forth to Boston. When I worked at John Hancock I went to the movies and the plays more so because John Hancock always had...they would buy what you call blocks of tickets, and we'd go and it made it possible for us to go. It was at a good price. And then, well I've seen most all the plays really. Oklahoma, the one where she washes her hair there, I've seen that. Name the plays, and I've seen them. I've gone into Boston...
AE
You've done a lot of musicals then.
AM
You mentioned the sensation of seeing your first talkie. What theatre was that at? Do you remember?
GA
At the Union Square, the Strand Theatre, oh yeah.
AM
Ok And did all of them get sound at about the same time or was...?
GA
I think they were all starting to get them. And don't forget, when we were going to the silent movies, there was always a piano player. And you had to be darn good to follow the movements and what was coming. Like you had to anticipate fear and you had to anticipate gladness and that piano player would do it.
GA
And uh, that was, I think...I think that was something that I ...I don't know if I enjoyed the piano playing as much as I did the theatre. You know when he was playing at...or whoever it was...I always associated it being with a man...I never seen a woman there. And with the, with the figures on the screen, and that was, that was good, it was very good. I really enjoyed that. Now that was until...they didn't have it in East Boston. I'm trying to think. 1936 I think it started. It was in the 30s. I think they stopped it sometime in the 30s, and they had the canned music coming with it, as they called it with the Pathe News and all that stuff.
AM
Now do you, do you...when color, the first color film...?
GA
When the colors first came in, uh...
AM
Would that have a similar, awe-filled feeling that...?
GA
Oh yes, oh yes. This is something different. You had to...Technicolor. They called it in those days Technicolor.
AM
Right.
GA
And whenever that came out, the first ones came out, we always wanted to be the first ones to go and see it...because this is something different. And it was good, it was good...
GA
That was interesting. We would think, we'd look up there and we'd say...Gee, how can they do that? I was always awestricken anyway, because in my mind I was thinking how do they do it? Like when I saw them on the stage, and you see a play, and you say how can they remember their lines? Why don't they flub up? Once in a while maybe you might see a little flubbing up, but we wouldn't know it.
AM
Right.
GA
But then the next day you'd read in the paper...well, that was...something happened and something. [laughter] Other than that, you would never have known it because...who am I? I'm just an ordinary person, but that was... Yeah, I've seen a lot of changes. [laughs] But anyway, I'm so glad I called up. I was using my ... [inaudible] but then the girl said to me, oh no, she said, that's the wrong name. And I said, oh my God, I always called it the Union Square Theatre. So it's not there any more.
AE
I'm going to check my list to see what happened to that one. I know I had some information on it and I...give me a second. Let me see. I don't know if it's...no, it's not with the Pictures, but I have it in one of these folders. I know I do. Give me a second.
GA
Do you go to Berklee?
AM
No, I don't. I'm a student at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
GA
Oh, wonderful. I remember Tufts when it was just a hole in the wall. [laughter] Now look at it. My nephew, I have a nephew who was a teacher, a professor at Tufts...
AM
Oh, wow.
GA
...and he's a dentist in Cambridge.
AE
Let's see. The Union, what was it actually called again...?
AM
Strand.
AE
The Strand is now a parking lot. I'm sorry. It's a parking lot.
GA
Oh, no!
AM
A lot of them are parking lots now.
AE
Yeah, like for instance the one that was on Central, the one on Highland Avenue that was called the Central Theatre...
GA
Yeah.
AE
That is now a Highland Bottle Redemption Center.
GA
No!
AE
And the one that used to be Pete's Orpheum or Somerville Orpheum is now a plumbing supplier.
AM
Actually Pete's is now luxury condominiums.
AE
Oh, that's right. I'm stepping...
AM
It was a plumbing warehouse for a while, and now it's condominiums.
GA
Oh, no!
AM
Did you go to Pete's Orpheum?
[Tape Change]
GA
You can revive them. I think that's wonderful. It's like, in other words, this is like a revival that you're having.
AE
It's like a revival and a tribute to a time in history that was very special and different.
GA
It should not be forgotten. Definitely not.
AE
No, and that's kind of what we're doing here, we're both students actually.
GA
Well, I think that's wonderful. I have a lot of admiration because I, as I say, you know I talk to Jordan Rich on WBZ...very nice guy. Lovely, lovely man. And Steve Lavallee is another. They're all nice guys. Well, they treat me nice. Because I'm an old lady I guess. But no, they're very nice.
AE
Well, you're a very nice lady. You deserve it.
GA
No.
AE
That's what makes you so great though. You've got a wonderful memory and you're so dynamic.
GA
Yeah, I don't think it's too bad.
AE
Yeah, you do. You've got a really wonderful recall.
GA
Well, I'm very proud of Somerville. I'll tell you that right now. Union Square. Lincoln Park down on Washington Street. That was... We used to go down there when they'd flood it, and we'd have skating there. They used to have a lot things going on on Washington Street...
GA
Cardullos owned a place, a furniture place on Somerville Avenue, just the beginning of the ...I don't know...is the Jewish Synagogue...is that still...? Well, you wouldn't be down Union Square anyway. Well, that would be down, very down the beginning of Somerville Avenue that goes into the square, Union Square. There was Cardullo's Furniture and then a card shop and then there'd be the Synagogue. I don't think that's there any more. No. 'Cause they had a Greek...we had Greeks and the Jewish Synagogue and the Salvation Army. The Husselbees had charge of that. And then the Catholic Church, St. Joseph's Church. That's, my God, that's as old as the hills. And then St. Anthony's Church, St. Catherine's...go and see, just go in the church and see St. Catherine's. Every bit of that marble is imported.
AE
I think we should go.
AM
Yeah.
AE
We're gonna check it out.
AM
Yeah.
GA
It is. It really is beautiful. It's worthwhile going in. And it was not my parish but, but I'm proud of it. I'm very proud of Somerville. I'm very proud to have been born there.
AE
Do you miss it? Do you miss Somerville and their old theatres?
GA
My mother used to love to go to the show. She didn't speak a word of English, but she died very young. She was only 49 when she died. But she loved the movies.
AM
Did your father go to the movies?
GA
No, my father was not one for the movies. He joined the Sons of Italy. He was a big shot in the Sons of Italy. And , uh, we had Judge Forte, and all that. He knew all that old [inaudible].
AM
Right. Now you have your one brother who was a booking agent...
GA
Booking agent, Danny White.
AM
Did your other brothers go to the movies much?
GA
No. I had a brother that died at 19, very brilliant young man, but he died young. The second one used to drive a, uh, he had a Cadillac in those days...He used to drive people to funerals, and he would work for an undertaker and drive people to different funerals. And Danny, of course, my brother Danny White...he was in the show business. And then along came little old me [laughs] and then Idie and Gertrude and Guido and that was it.
AE
So did the younger siblings go with your mom and you or...?
GA
Then...my mother...when my baby sister was nine, my mother died. And she... and then...at the time I was just getting married. I had...my mother wasn't living when I got married, and I took my baby sister to live with me. And so her children call me Nana. They call me Nana Jo which is nice. But I'm Nana Banana to my great-grandson.
[The cuckoo clock notes the time.]
[All laugh]
GA
They think I'm a nut anyway. Here comes Nana Banana. And everyone in church calls me Nana Jo. God, I've got more godchildren than grandchildren. [laughter]
AE
You can adopt us if you want.
GA
I don't mind adopting you. I'm looking at you and I'm thinking you're really nice kids. [laughter]
AE
Thank you
GA
Well I...no I'm, like I say, my son is a lawyer now. He was a principal at a very young age.
AE
And you said the other one's a teacher...
GA
My sister?
AE
Your sister, or is it your sister that's...isn't there another...someone you said...
GA
I have a sister that's 88 years old. She lives in Cambridge, lived there 63 years. Three of us got married the same year, 1936. Idie, Danny and myself.
AE
Your dad must have been relieved, get 'em all done at once. [laughter]
GA
Got rid of us, got rid of us all.
GA
And ha, But it's funny...And we had... now the Cataldo, the undertaker. He lived a few doors down from....
AM
Henry Cataldo.
GA
Henry. Is it Henry?
AM
Yeah.
GA
Well his...uh...Lillian was the one that started it. That used to be Fisher's Business College.
GA
Have you been in the building?
AM
No.
GA
Beautiful, beautiful. I'm a nut for woodwork. Beautiful wainscoting and everything else. Beautiful building. And he...wants to give it up. Well he, I think he wants to get more interested in the arts and everything else, which is nice. And of course I have relatives ...Martinos down on Main Street...all the old Italian people, but they're all gone. Everybody's gone. And I'm outliving them. My God, that's something.
AE
Well, you've got a lot to live for with your kids, and your grandkids, and your great-grandkids.
GA
I have...yeah. And you know I don't drink and I don't smoke. I never did and I never will. And I'm a Eucharistic Minister. I give communion at the church, and we have to drink the cup of wine. I don't drink it. I told the priest, I says, I'm going to be a Eucharistic Minister, Father, but I don't drink. I can't stand the stinking smell of wine. We made it. We made it at home. I can't stand the smell of it. I'll eat the grapes [laughter] but I won't drink the wine.
GA
But...anyway...it's so funny. Life is funny. I'm so...I'm very happy to be able to sit here and talk to you. And I appreciate your coming.
AM
Oh, no. We appreciate your letting us come.
AE
Thank you for having us over.
GA
Any time you feel like coming over and talking to an old lady, you can come here.
AE
Well, I live down...not down the street, but just practically down the street. I live right near...um...off of Highland Ave. The Shaw's and the Home Depot...I live down by there.
GA
Oh, for heaven's sake.
AE
So if you ever need anything, you should be calling me. I'm practically your neighbor. [laughter]
GA
Oh, thank you,
GA
thank you. You know, I love Salem. You have the most intriguing doors.
AE
I wish I lived in that part of Salem. I don't have any interesting doors where I live.
GA
Oh, I go by...I'm a door nut. Oh, I love doors.
AE
I know what you're talking about. They're so pretty.
GA
It's very interesting there.
GA
I used to take my kids to Salem Willows when they were small. Oh, gee. Gosh, there's a lot of interesting places.
AE
I'm closer to this side of Peabody than I am...
GA
Than you are...yeah, I know that.
AE
More on the Peabody border. I'm right near where the...
GA
Are you near Crombie Street?
AE
I don't know Crombie Street, but you know where the Ground Round is? And there's an intersection...the Ground Round, Shaw's, Dunkin' Donuts...
GA
Yes. Oh, all right. Oh, yuh, you're more down in there. Crombie Street is just before, it's just before you get to...What's that big building that's on the boulevard there, on the main street?
AE
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I'm near there.
GA
That's Crombie Street. That's a shelter there, and we give a lot of clothing and stuff to them. That's another thing I do. I collect clothing for needy people. I've been doing that for 63 years. You should see. Sometimes I have bags and bags and bags, and my daughter says, when are you going to stop? And I says, I can't stop. You know. ... Do these things. I have time. I'm not gonna sit like a vegetable in the house. Some people take to drink. Oh, you'd be surprised how many old timers drink.
AE
But not you.
GA
Me?
AE
Not you, no. Can't even stand the smell of the Eucharist wine.
GA
My son doesn't drink either. He doesn't drink and he doesn't smoke. He's just taken up cigar smoking. Big shot now. And he won't smoke in the house. He has to go outside to smoke. God, all these restrictions today. I said, I didn't die. My Peter was a, Peter's my husband, he used to smoke, and he'd sit on there. My daughter was smoking. She'd sit on there, and I'm in the middle. I haven't got cancer. I haven't got anything. I'm still living.
AE
It's your attitude that keeps you alive. Good attitude.
GA
That's what my doctor says. I says, Doctor, I do everything wrong. And he says, well... I went and got a physical. He says... I says, how am I doing? He says, Hmm, all right for an old lady. I says, Hey! I didn't come here to have you call me an old lady. I know I'm old, Doctor. No, but...I drink the water, the hot water, the first thing in the morning. And I tell my sisters, do you ever hear me complaining about you know what? I says the first thing I...your father did it! I says I'm only doing what Papa did, drinking. He'd have a pan, a certain pan. He'd heat the water on the gas stove and he'd drink it. Well now, I drink it, but I drink it right from the faucet. And I haven't died. And he told me...that Peabody water stinks! I says, oh, I can't tell it. That's all I drink is the hot water. Never drink cold drinks. That's one of my peculiarities. [laughs]
AE
That's not so bad.
GA
And the other thing is that I talk a lot.
AE
Well, you have given us some really wonderful memories and information. I really enjoyed...
GA
You have made my day. I'm feeling very...I feel very honored, I really and truly do. And I know I'm gonna cry afterwards...
AE
No, you've been really fantastic. I've loved hearing all, you know, your different experiences
GA
I tell you all the changes on Route 1? Ooh. It used to be one narrow street. Now look at it. There's alot of changes.
GA
Even in Boston, I remember Bernstrums. When Bernstrums used to have all the biggest singers and musicians coming. Frank Sinatra, Perry Cuomo. When Perry Cuomo would come he had body guards with him and a nice guy, a really nice guy. He lived a real good clean exemplary life. that's one guy, I don't know about Sinatra.
[Laughter]
AM
I don't think his life was quite as clean.
GA
no, no, what's his name he owns a sloo of horses in Holly... Vegas, Perry. Once Elvis Pelvis started to come through
AM
Did you go see Elvis?
GA
I remember him, oh my God, the gyrations.
[laughter]
[phone rings]
GA
I never get calls. Excuse me -Hello, oh alright, thank you darling I'll check it out, thank you b-bye- Lovely little lady across the street, "Your paper is in, your mail is in" Alright, I'll go pick it up. She calls me up she says, I save all the papers for her and I always put some goodies, a couple of goodies.
AE
Oh so she wants you to go out and get the paper so she can have it. Right
GA
No she called me up before and told me to keep the papers but I always put some goodies in, some cookies or something. She's a sweet little thing. Oh God I have a job, she's given me a job. She calls me up, "this is a pest now", I says "what's the matter Barbara", Well she says "don't forget will you call me up at 5 0'clock" cause she knows I'm up at 5 in the morning cause I have to take a pill for diabetes "call me at 5, will you call me 5", "sure." So I get her up, get her up early, so she can go to these. She's a very lovely lady I wish she could keep her teeth in her mouth. Anyway.
[laughter]
AE
Oh gosh, If your sister are anything like you, you guys must be so funny at family gatherings
GA
Yeah the three of us, we're are all the same.
AE
I don't think I could live in your house without bursting into tears of laughter
GA
Oh my gosh I'm telling you
AE
Oh that's funny
GA
So I call her up in the morning, "What's the weather going to be?" "Oh I'll tell you Barbara it's going to pretty good but watch out be careful.", "Oh ok." [laughter] I call her at 5 o'clock in the morning to make sure she's up. Well she a very, She volunteers down at the center. We have a wonderful center for the old people I'll tell you. Like said since I came here 30 years ago, 26 years ago or around that time. Our mayor, our former mayor did alot for us, for the senior citizens. We have absolutely built the senior center. Well look at what I'm getting for 323 a month
AE
It's nice
GA
Isn't that wonderful. Now, I don't don't know what anybody else is paying because they just go a third of your income. So but, I understand the some of them are living here. I'm only living here five years but some of them have been here twenty-five, thirty years
AE
yeah
GA
yeah, mostly all city workers that are here. Nice bunch of people I have no complaints they don't bother you. I don't bother them and they don't bother me.
GA
Of course you know I have to tell you another Italian expression. My, I have three sisters or two sisters and their rooms, their homes is like sparkling. I told them I go into their house and I think I'm in a monastery. They come here and they look around, "Well now you can get rid of that, you can get rid of that", "Hey I love what I so shut up." [laughter] You have too many [jiji jonjilis] that's an Italian expressions. So if you hear someone say [jiji jonjilis] it means alot of knickknacks.
AE
I was going to say, I think in the Jewish people call it "hotskys" my Jewish brother in-law calls them the "hotchskys" or something
AM
or Chotkas
AE
Chotkas, hotchskys, hotskys
GA
Yeah they do. Well I have mazzes. Well anyone says well I eat alot of mazzes because in the morning I have to eat after so many minutes after my pill. And I don't like the taste of toast at that time in the morning. So I get mazzes and I either have it with cream cheese or butter.
AE
I like it with jelly
GA
oh I love it, I love it. I got some. There's a new one out from Tel Aviv, so I bought a couple of packages yesterday.
AE
So would your sisters be interested maybe in talking to us too about this project because I know a couple of our classmates...
GA
Well they may have different idea then I do
AE
Yeah, a couple of our classmates are still looking for different people to talk to and um, they asked us of course if we would ask you if maybe your sisters might be willing to ...
GA
Yeah, they might have different view points then I do and I'll have them, I have your number
AE
You have August's number I can also give you mine or maybe one of us could call to find out if your sister would be...
GA
Let's see. Oh I have your number and I have Evelyn's number. So I'll have my sisters call either one of you.
AM
Yeah if you wanted um, maybe if they wanted to call me maybe that might be better. And then I can pass along the information to other classmates.
GA
Alright I'll tell them either to call you, I'll have them call you August
AM
Ok great, thank you very much
GA
I know that name. Is that German?
AM
Yes it is
GA
Oh that's another thing German. Oh God Can remember that poor Peggy's Bakery. My heart used to ache. Wonderful, wonderful people.
AM
I know my great-grandfather came over from Germany and I know he had, he had alot of trouble too
GA
Wonderful people.
GA
e were the only Italians on School Street you know, and uh, when we first moved there they expected my mother to be hanging out the window you know like the typical whaps. Oh, yeah, you've heard the expression I don't have to tell you.
GA
And uh, but then we became very good friends. Levitts' were on one sided, the Shepard's were on the other, and the Cataldo's was the third one down. And we all got along beautifully.
GA
Lander's. There's another place in Somerville they called it Lander's, there's a street, Lander's street and Lander's Villa And Lander's Villa took place from Lander's street to Fenton Road. That was all Lander's property. That was just one block with all Lander's property. And Lander's Villa had an apartment house of six apartments, beautiful. And the other building I don't know how it is now maybe they have like they do these grandfather things, they may have apartments. I've got to find out if the uh, [Levitts'] are all gone. I think, and maybe junior [Levitts] might be still living. But uh, the Sheehan's, Jack Sheehan lived right across the street from him. He's is still living.
AE
Was that an Irish family? An Irish family?
GA
Yeah Sheehan's were oh yeah
AE
Sheehan sounds very Irish. Sounds like a pretty mixed neighborhood
GA
Jackie Sheehan oh my gosh. Wonderful, wonderful. The Levitts' were German. Mr. Levitts was German that lived next door to us. The Richardson were English and then Irish was Mr. Sheehan. I think Jackie Sheehan he's one of them left.
GA
Then, that was another one that had an estate too. Like I think I bet you on alot of money they put up like they did near where my daughter lives. Everything is supposed to be an acre of land. Well someone by passed it and they built a house and it was awful. A human crime like you never saw. But they did it. Nothin you could do about it. But see it changed the whole complexion of the neighborhood. because the house is one of these modern houses
AM
Right
GA
And the other houses were not. They're all tutors and stuff. But school street was nice. Can you imagine coming down on a double sled come from the corner of highland avenue going all the way down summer street almost down to [S... holding up the end].
[laughter]
GA
oh gosh, When I think if the things that I did honestly it's really funny. I was going to I saw alot and I still. Like I go down Route 1 and I see changes all over the place. Salem I see alot of changes. Look what they did to the [Loeb] building. They still haven't reconciled that. They're supposed to be...
AE
We're trying to build a theatre there but they won't let us.
GA
Now that would be the perfect spot. Have you been there?
AM
No I've not been there.
GA
Well you've got to see that building
AE
I was in there last week. and the last I heard...
GA
Where you?
AE
Yeah, we had a fund raiser. I belong to a theatre company I'm working with. And they are, the building [managers] are now entertaining building offices for a computer company. So they're going to turn it into offices
GA
That's what I read in the paper.
AE
So we trying to get the, trying to buy that space. [inaudible]
GA
That was a, that was a, I remember when them when they were active, when they were open.
AE
Yeah it's beautiful.
GA
It's a beautiful building. oh gosh.
AE
Yeah I had dinner there Friday night at a fund raiser.
GA
But someone brought up. I didn't know that Piccadilly's. What's the name of that restaurant?
AE
Piccadilly's
GA
In back of [Tracey's] in the back. railroad track What's that? Piccadilly's? no
AE
There's victoria station. There used to Piccadilly's but it's not Piccadilly's anymore.
GA
No no, it's not
AE
Not the Raw Bar
GA
Station
AE
Victoria's station
GA
Victoria's station, is that still there?
AE
Yep
GA
oh, We used to go there. All the food there was excellent
AE
Not so much anymore.
GA
Is it really? Well Chase's
AE
Chase's is gone
GA
Oh that was a beautiful spot
AE
Yeah Chase's has been gone for about three years now. I think it's. I can't remember the name of it. But it's a very modern, kinda minimalistic seafood place. They tried to make it very Boston chic.
GA
Chi, chi.
GA
Now they have where the marina is and now I understand are those condos now?
AE
yep, yep. I looked at one of them
GA
That used to be a shoe factory
AE
Yeah, yeah. They're condos now. They're kind of nice. yeah
GA
That's near where you are.
AE
Well
GA
Well almost.
AE
Almost, I looked at apartments and condos there but I didn't end up.
GA
The apartments are very expensive thank you very much
AE
There's no parking
GA
I know it and you have no parking space. I know because my granddaughter's girlfriend just moved there and they had to park a mile away.
AE
Yeah that's why we didn't go there.
GA
Yeah, so she's going to look around for a place around here if she can.
AE
Good, good.
GA
But we have, our real estate's gone up.
AE
It's outrageous. I should give you my name and I want to get you address because I want to send you some information about this theatre company. Saying that you like theatre and you'll like some plays that we're doing this year.
GA
Oh that would be nice.
AE
And the theatre's not too far away.
GA
Well I see the, I always look in the paper. The Salem Evening News has the beautiful pages. I don't have to tell you. And they tell you about the Peabody Museum and all that. Oh yeah.
AE
If you want to read about it I think there was a little thing about us on...
GA
And there used to be a theatre in Marblehead. Do remember Sonia Hamlin? Is that name familiar to you? Well she was an old timer but she's uh, had a shoe store. The Hamlin family was very well known in Marblehead. My son lived in Marblehead 25 years.
AE
I know the family!
GA
Do you know...
AE
I know the family! One of my co-workers, that's her Aunt, her great aunt.
GA
Yes, I think Sonia's still living if I'm not mistaken
AE
Yes she is. That's my co-workers great aunt. yep
GA
Is she really!? Isn't that wonderful.
AE
I know this story. She uh...
GA
Oh she's a lovely lady and there's a theatre across the street. What's the name of the theatre? It's still in existence because David Coperfield goes over there quite a bit.
AE
yep, yep it's still there. Yeah, that woman is, is my co-worker
GA
She's a fascinating
AE
She's a teacher with me at the school I work at that's her great-aunt.
GA
Oh for goodness sake.
AE
She's like in her 90's
GA
Oh yeah she has to be my age at least.
AE
Like 90's I can't remember.
GA
Do remember Nam Nathan? Barbara Briggins?
AE
No
GA
They're uh, Barbara Briggins and Nam Nathan used to be on the WBZ. And Barbara Briggins yeah, she, she had connections in the theatre too. Yeah I knew them all from the WBZ. I knew alot of those people
AE
Small world, it's a very small world.
GA
Isn't that funny. Oh my gosh Sonia, what a beautiful lady, what a beautiful lady.She was young and still in this age she's still living. That's nice.
AE
Yeah, I'm going, I'm going to ask my friend about her.
GA
But I'm trying to think of the name of the theatre. That's not the Cabot street theatre? No
AE
That's in Beverly
GA
That's in Beverly, then it's got to be the Cabot Street Theatre.
AE
The Cabot Street Theatre is where David Coperfield performs.
GA
Yes, yeah. Oh for heavens sakes.
GA
Isn't that interesting. That's nice Oh yeah, They had a very lucrative business. I don't think they have it anymore though. I think they gave is up. Now where was she. I remember seeing a little blurb about her some place.
AE
I think she's still in Marblehead or Swampscott, Swamscitt or Swampscott or however you prefer to say it. I can't remember exactly. Gail, I just,Gail's a good friend of mine that I work with and it's her great aunt. And I think she lives in Swamscitt in that crown plaza near [eagle] square area.
GA
Oh yes, yes.
AE
She lived in Marblehead but I think she has one of the condos out there I can't remember exactly but I think that's where she lives.So
GA
For heaven's sake.
AE
Do you have anymore questions? Is there anything else? We've been taking up your entire afternoon. I don't wanna.
GA
Oh I think that's wonderful. I don't care. I would be reading, falling asleep reading. looking up. Calling people up on the telephone.
GA
I was supposed to go last night. We had, Catholics during lent on Friday our church has a supper on Friday night, they call it Peter's pent and then we do the stations of the cross. and last night, Tony [Paise]. He's an Italian comedian. He was appearing here . And I bought a ticket but I didn't go.
GA
Well I'll tell you, I was by myself. Usually the girl I go with. I'm alright I can walk. But every once and awhile I have to have somebody to lean on and I didn't want to take the cane and go into a place like that. So I went, I couldn't find a parking place near the Knights of Columbus and I says, no way and am I going to park down the hill. I don't mind going down but it's coming up all by myself I had to have someone or something to hang on to. So I didn't go. And I've seen this guy before. He's an Italian comedian and same old jokes. You see one you've seen them all.
GA
Do you know [Mel Timers]?
AE
I think I've heard of that.
GA
The old theatre. He's very interesting. Yeah, He's a good friend of mine.
AE
Oh wow.
GA
Well WBZ.
GA
I'm so glad you came.
AE
Thank you so much and thank you for the tea
GA
Oh my gosh...
AE
I'm up, I'm up,It's too late, I'm walking. I'm walking
GA
How tall are you?
AE
I'm 5 foot 4
GA
5 foot what?
AE
5 foot 4
GA
Oh my god you look taller then that.
AE
Thank you
GA
I have a granddaughter who was a diver, a swimmer and diver and she was always in the top five in the what do you call it in different states?
AE
Yep in the leagues, yep
GA
The leagues and everything else. And she got a scholarship to the University of West Virginia
AE
Oh wow.
GA
And she went and got her Masters and everything else. She was on a ski mobile? Is that, in the water, what do you call it?
AE
Uh Water skiing
GA
Yeah, Water skiing and a boat came by and caused her to lose her balance and she shattered her knee and she's got a big, She couldn't do the diving anymore.
GA
But she was excellent and she's a tall girl and I thought that you where as tall as her.
AE
No it's, I'm deceiving you because you're sitting down.
GA
I must, How tall am I then, I must be a little shrimp?
AM
But she's wearing her shoes
AE
I've got these shoes on they must add a good inch or two to my height.
GA
Well then I must be about 5 foot 3.
AE
Could be
GA
Just set it on there and don't do anything else, just leave it. thank you dear and if you'd like an orange or a banana.
AE
Is it in here.
GA
Yeah
AE
That's were mine is and I had a feeling that's probably where your's was too. That's what you do you put it underneath you sink.
GA
It always is. Isn't it. You wouldn't have it over there really.
AE
Well, I have to or otherwise my dogs would try to get into it.
GA
How many rooms have you got.
AE
I have two bedrooms, a living room area and a dining area.
GA
Oh you have a big apartment.
AE
Yeah it's pretty big.
GA
Oh that's good
AE
Yeah I need it for the dogs and the husband.
GA
That's alright, Are you happy?
AE
Yeah, that's all that matters. Don't let anything else bother you.
GA
And you?
AM
I'm happy too.
AE
He's happy too, He's a great kid.
GA
Yeah, he's a nice young man.
AE
He is. We should take you picture. Can we take your picture?
GA
oh
AE
Can we?
GA
Yeah
AE
Would you mind?
GA
no
AE
Your hair's done lovely.
GA
I know I just had it done. Every Saturday morning I have my hair done.
AE
Where do you go in the area?
[End Tape]
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