Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Info on Why Martha and Ben go to Italy?

The following story was written by Martha S. Taccarino.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 is the anniversary of my grandfather (nonno), Antonio Iaccarino’s birth. He was born in mille otto cento settantotto or 1878 so he would be 128 years old. His parents were Ferdinando and Maria D’Esposito Iaccarino. I know they also had a daughter, (figlia) Concetta, (my Zia or aunt) who was 4 years younger than my nonno.

I know this because I have been researching his life so that I can apply to become an Italian citizen. In the process of this research I have learned some things which have brought me closer to a man that I never met since he died before I was even born. I always think of him when I hear the Simon and Garfunkle song that starts “I left my home and my family when I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers…” My nonno was only 12 when he joined the merchant marines (Marina Mercantile Italiana). Whether he joined willing or unwilling I don’t know. I do know that at that time he and his family were living in a room or rooms in this house in Meta, Italy.

Photo #1 - House

I have found this house because very dear friends (amici), Tonio and Carmella Romano spent hours researching old town zoning records. It seems as if the town fathers in Meta like to rename and renumber streets all the time. This is just one example of that.

Photo #2 - House Numbers (Click on photo for more detail)

And here is what the door bell to the building where my grandfather lived looked like in May, 2005. You can see that it is still apartments.

Photo #3 - Door Bell

So my nonno went to sea. He signed on as a mozzo (a cabin boy). Fortunately, his seaman’s book is still in our family. The entries are handwritten in script that I can’t always read and understand. (Someday perhaps…) So far I know he was promoted, learned great skills that he would use later in life and four languages besides his native Italian. From the log I can tell that he returned to and left Italy a good bit. Stamps in his book show that some of the places he went to were Greece, Liverpool, England, Marseille, France, and Odessa, on the Black Sea. Can you imagine sending off your 12 year old son and for the next 19 years only seeing him periodically? And he comes back with stories of places he has been to and things he has seen. This is the view leaving the port of Naples that I am guessing is relatively unchanged even today.

Photo #4 - Departing View of Naples by Water

He did not always leave from Naples. Meta the town south of Naples where he lived was at the time a fairly large port. Today it is not. It is a small town with a nice sandy beach and a bedroom community for surrounding towns like Sorrento.

Photo #5 - Meta

Even though Sorrento and Positano have been popular tourist destinations since the late 1800s prosperity did not arrive until after World War II. A large number of people of all age groups emigrated from the area to the United States and South America. But our family name, a very common one still remains in the area.

Photo #6 - Sign
(Click on photo for more detail)

From my nonno I think I have inherited my interest in other languages besides my native tongue. I do hold it against him that he did not allow Italian to be spoken in their house in America. My cousins have told me that he would scold my grandmother (nonna) if he caught her chatting with her friends in Italian (after they moved to America). He would say “We are Americans now, we will speak American”. (Italian men do so love to declare, dictate and proclaim, don’t they?) So my father never really spoke Italian. He never passed that on to me.

I also know that from my nonno, the spirit of travel and adventure passed directly to my father and then to me. My passport is never locked up in a safety deposit box. I like to have it near me so if the opportunity to travel arises I can just go. So yes, I have a very cooperative and loving husband who doesn’t mind if we go to Italy each year to learn one or two more facts about my family. He doesn’t mind going each year to visit with my cousins and aunts and uncles from that half of my family. My father was the one who moved away from his American hometown. Most Italians don’t move far from the town that they grew up in and my aunts and uncles didn’t move either. (Yes, some moved later in life but not as early as my father) I grew up several states away and did not benefit from daily or weekly interaction with my nonna and all the aunts and uncles. Now I try to visit at least once a year. And each visit I learn a new wonderful fact. This year I learned from my cousin Tony (where do you think his name came from?) that Grandmom used to call champagne “angel pee”.

So little by little with research, the help of friends and the memories of my family I learn about my grandparents. On Wednesday or when ever you think about it, please raise a glass of wine or a mug of coffee to my nonno and nonna who had the spirit and sense of adventure to try something different and create a new life for themselves. Most Americans have ancestors that emigrated. I have been lucky enough to be able to trace mine and fill in some of the blanks. Perhaps I will be able to write again about my grandparents’ marriage and the family they raised. Until then Buon Compleanno Nonno!

That's it for Wednesday, 1 March 2006: mercoledì, 1 marzo 2006

Ciao, Ben

Today’s quote is an Italian proverb, author unknown.

Oggi in figura, domani in sepoltura.
Here today, gone tomorrow.

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