Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I am afraid that I know very little about the youth of the Cincotta family. I know that John, went to work with his father in the store. I would assume that the others would help as necessary, but they were all rather young, and young women at that, preparing for the home rather than the business. However, stores were in the family blood, and Jenny, at least, would certainly work in her family's store. Also Mary Cafarella (Gaetano's daughter) Always says:" We did not know anybody in the family well. That store was open 12 hours a day and that is all we did. When the snow was bad sometimes they would call other family stores and see if they thought the weather was too bad. When everyone agreed, they would close up and get together to play whist."
One thing that I know for certain is that the 1910 Census listed Anerio as Philip and that they lived on Center Street in Malden. Both Jake Cincotta and Carolina Cincotta lived with them at the time.
Carolina would eventually marry Antonio Cafarella(a cousin) and move back to Italy after 1924. Jake would be taken back to the island soon after this and would not return till he was 19.
The Philip and Anerio thing is a common theme in the family. I suppose that men named Anerio probably got sick of spelling it to people, but he is listed in early records as Anerio, however he called himself Philip. I will have to find original records in Salina to solve that issue, though when I found the house there on Via Gelso, he was listed as Anerio.
It is certain that there was a devotion in the family to Saint Philip of Neri(Philip Anerio) and one documented ship owned by the family was the San Biagio(Saint Blaize). The Vasquez family ended up with Onofrio after the saint. Other saints particularly revered in the islands were Giuseppe, Bartolomeo, Stephen, Lorenzo and as always in Italy...Mary.
John was in the first world war in France. He sent cards and one souvenir card to Grammie that I passed on to my sister, from France with a lace pocket and handkerchief of diminutive dimensions on the front. Other than photos, this was one of the few things that Grammie always kept with her.
By the time she was 15 1/2, she had married her first cousin John Cafarella. This occurred at Sacred heart in North Square in Boston. This is what Grammie told me. This seems a bit strange to me as they were Maldenites, but this is what she said. Here is another subject for research, as there is also the Sacred Heart in Malden and there may be some confusion.
At the top of Summer Street, now found as Summer Street extention, John's brother Gaetano owned a piece of land. commonly called "The Mount" amongst the family. It is almost a promontory that bordered wild lands in Melrose. There were cliffs and a big Rock there.
This was where Grammie and Grandfather John set up housekeeping. There were wild blueberries and other attractions to this land. A perennial draw to the family kids for excursions and picnics. There they built a tar-paper shack and moved in. There too, they began to raise their family, starting with Joseph Gaetano Cafarella in 1905. Grandfather John was a barber, though I do not know just when he took this trade up. He could easily have worked in one of the family stores as well. His Barber shop was on the corner of Washington Street and Clifton Street in Malden. The back of the building seems to hang over the MBTA tracks there.
After that the new family moved to Hyde Park somewhere. This has been reported to me as an apartment house. Here, sometime in 1917 or18 if my math is correct, Grammie looked out of a window to see her young daughter Jenny playing by the incinerator barrel, when her hair caught fire. Grammie, pregnant at the time, fell down the stairs trying to get to the child and damaged her unborn child, John. Jennie died.
They moved back to Malden on Eastern Ave.
John was born with issues that defy my description as all those who knew him are now gone. By the pictures, it seems certain that he was retarded and that he had physical issues as well. He died in his teens.
Next it seems that the family moved to Linwood Street, where they are listed in the Census in 1920. They had by now, Joseph age 15, Rosa aged 11, Philip aged 9, Lawrence aged 5, John aged 2 and my mother Mary at 11 months. Grammie was to ultimately have 11 pregnancies and would by the 1980s, be survived by only 4. In about 1950, My mother wrote down all the names of relatives and their relationships to us. In that list, she included brothers Bert, Robert and Tom.
Grammie bought the property at 31 Palmer Street in Medford about this time. Uncle Laurie's daughter Linda told me recently that her father once said that they spent the first winter there before the foundation was poured in a tent. Pretty good with all those kids. This plot of land would become a hive of activity that would only end after a slow decline in 2008 when it was finally sold out of the family a year after Aunt May's(Joseph Gaetano's wife) death.
At this time, Grammie was evidently somewhat estranged from Grampa John. She shifted her dependence to Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe did the best he could, and was the major player in pouring the foundation there, that would become home for the family until almost the time I came along. Grammie just put way too much pressure on Uncle Joe. He was just too young and vigorous to become Grammie's surrogate husband. He soon left to join the Marines, but never stopped lending support to his family for many years. He may not have had what would be termed a brilliant military career in terms of high rank, but I suspect that this man who served in most of the major battles in the South Pacific won the respect and admiration of everyone he ever met. This was a genuine hero in the eyes of every acquaintance I ever spoke to. He was a member of Edson's Raiders in the Marines.

Now I will walk in dangerous territory. Grammie was a force of nature. Tough as nails, hard working and very stern. This was news to me. I always knew her as a little stubborn perhaps, but very sweet in her way. She was caring and nurturing, gentle and smiling despite her reclusive and almost disappointed nature. You have to understand that she lived with my parents and me for many years before retuning to Medford not long before she died. It is obvious that she had softened...not completely mind you, but a great deal. She was likely a hard person to live with, which probably contributed to the separation. That being said, my grandfather was loved by most of those he knew, including his children. But there were obvious faults there as well, if even half the stories were true. This is a very difficult thing to write about as emotions can run high on this subject. One thing I realized in going through my divorce, is that there is no way that anyone can understand what goes on between two people who are married. Even family and children cannot see both sides of a story when they only get one. It is not that people lie. It is more like they shade events in their favor. I do not blame either of them and have no right to. I was not there and neither was anyone else really. Let us just say that their separation, though hard on all, was probably good for both of them. I suspect that both were happier in their own spheres.
Bill Cafarella came along after 1920 The last of Grammie's brood. The foundation of the house was poured. It was just a little bit crooked. The front, northwest corner was just a bit too far out. Uncle Joe always pointed this out as the house that came later obviously had to have square corners. I do not think that they had a great deal of experience in pouring foundations, so the fault cannot justly be pinned on them. There was certainly not enough money to build the house. If you have ever been to Salina, you know that the houses there are all masonery and generally look like cubes...sugar cubes when whitewashed. This was probably a very comfortable look for Grammie as the houses of her childhood looked very much like this capped foundation. The entrance to the resulting house was on the North side. This was used as a garden entrance after the house was built. Stepping inside, the ceilings were quite high. There were only a couple of steps down to floor level, as the ledges it was built upon meant that the foundation was sitting very near the ground surface on 2 and a half sides. As you entered the house from the middle of the north wall, you were standing on an outcropping of ledge that ran from there at the door to the left, all the way to the corner.The space was divided in two, from East to West with partitions. Almost strait ahead was a large opening like an archway, and there were smaller openings at the east and west ends. The near half was the kitchen and utility area of the space. The kitchen with the stove was against the East wall and backing up to the ledge. There were tables and shelves for oil lamps and tins of this and that. The top of the ledge was filled with garden implements and other storage, but in a prominent position near the stove was Mike's cage. Mike was the green Amazon Parrot that stayed in various family homes right up till the 1970s. More on him later. In the middle of the space was the dining table with just enough space to form a narrow corridor on either side. A Morris chair and an alcove for the washing machine completed the area near the archway. On the west end of this space were the sink, under the window, and a partition that formed a coal bin to the corner. In the middle of the west wall was a closet for the toilet.
Standing in the archway and looking into the other half of the space, the living space, the East corner held Grammie's "bedroom", which was more of an alcove, separated mostly by an overstuffed chair and Uncle Phil's piano, set perpendicular to the wall. Next along the South side was a large sofa and a 6 foot flight cage for the birds that Uncle Phil and Grammie loved so. Opposite the sofa against the arch wall was the Victrola and it's miscellany of Caruso and other 78RPM records. Between that and a large overstuffed chair and phone table was THE CLOSET! Drapes covered the entrance. It was huge by my sister's child-sized perspective. It was actually flush with the wall and intruded considerably into the kitchen and utility space. It scared my sister Dolly, as she was called then, and was filled with all sorts of interesting and scary things.. In the south-west corner, partitioned only slightly from the living room, was Uncle Phil's room, at one time also shared with Uncle Bill.
This space, decorated with bits of lace, drapes of floral fabrics and all the handicrafts that Grammie loved so, became sort of an icon of what the family was all about. Grandchildren filled every available space and Nelson Eddy would occasionally show up to sing while Uncle Phil played. There was always some activity there and probably constant cooking! The early years are a mystery now, but seven children from Uncle Joe( in his last year before joining the Marines and his infrequent visits) to teen Rose, pre-teen Laurie and Phil and infant Mary and Billy trouped through and grew in that place. There were piano lessons and cousins drawn by the activity, goats, chickens and acres of wild forest covering rocky promontories surrounding it. Today the play ground forests are occupied by the radio towers, hospital and dozens of houses.
Rose was known as Chick by her younger siblings. She used to sign my mother Mary out of school and troupe to the movies or to lunch or some other activity the two of them could share. Rose was a bit boy crazy, a trait that she passed on to my mother to some extent. She married very young(I have found no record as of this writing). There were issues however as it turned out that the young gentleman was heavily into "The Mob" as the story goes or some other facet of organized crime. Does this refer to the Mothers And Fathers Italian Association? Who knows, but when this was discovered, his picture was cut out of the wedding photo, he was divorced and was deported to Sicily by the government. DIVORCE! This was a big issue for most Catholics, and was a big issue for Grammie. This drove a rather large wedge between Rose and her mother which evidently never healed. Rose remarried to Roy Henderson, a sailor from Alabama, and were evidently happy for a time. He was sent overseas during World War II and was decorated after excellent service at the invasion of Italy. Rose, meantime (according to a story told by my mother) was trying to see Grammie. As I understand it she was going to Palmer Street while sick in a winter storm. She collapsed on Belle Ave. with full blown Pneumonia. She was returned to her apartment where she was evidently robbed by other tenants in the building before dying of the pneumonia at age 19.
Philip was hit by a rock on his lower leg and developed tubrculosis of the bone or osteomyelitis. He worked at the Revere Knitting Mills in Malden for a time, as an elevator operator at the Plaza in Boston and learned to play piano and other instruments like no one else! He eventually earned a degree from the Sherwood School in music. As I understand it he also worked in a metal fabricating business at one time and made cookie cutters for Grammie that passed on to Mom and then to me. They are now, sadly, lost through my divorce. He gave lessons to about everyone in the family at one time or another. I think that all liked him, he was a bright and interesting guy, but he was a tough teacher. A slap on the wrist is an understatement. He would slam your hands on the keyboard or you could end up on the floor. This harshness ended alot of piano careers. However, everyone experienced his teaching style differently and many thrived and loved him dearly. He had many many jobs as church pianist and organist both in the Boston area and in Maine. He took part in a number of musical theater productions in Maine through Ricker College. He loved Gilbert and Sullivan. He had his own Radio show in Boston and was frequently on the radio in the Houlton area. When Grammie moved to Littleton, Maine on the Johnny Farm(More on this elsewhere) He came with her and his brother Bill. Ater a time, the farm, twelve miles from town, proved to be far too remote for young men who wanted to have a life. The two boys eventually rented a house on Fair Street in Houlton. As my sister said in her letter, elsewhere in the site, that they literally had to drag Grammie out of the farm to live there in Houlton. Eventually Uncle Phil bought a modest house at 44 Park Street where he lived the rest of his life. He collected antiques which fairly took over the house along with his piano and organ. He gave lessons in piano, organ and voice and took in boarders from the college to make ends meet. There was a type of dinnerware available in the fifties that was a dark baked bean brown with a dripping frosting of white and cream glaze at the top rim of everything. Half of the house was not wired for electricity. It was not much of a house, but it was all his. He also taught Summer sessions at Colby College for a number of years. He took in boarders from Ricker College to make ends meet.
In 1973 Phil was diagnosed with lung cancer. He spent much of the following Summer in bed in his dining room and died with his mother present later in the year. He had kept the diagnosis a secret from Grammie along with it's prognosis till the end.

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