2020: Q – April A to Z… Family Stories: Quarrelsome Bocce Games

2020: Q – April A to Z… Family Stories

I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…

Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!

From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat had once resembled Coney Island… but was even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories…  remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!

My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:

Come sit a spell and enjoy!


Quarrelsome Bocce Games

fingers boccee game

Before bocce games begin… the men play a game called “fingers” to see who throws out the pauline (game ball). I was told stories of the old man playing bocce on Sunday afternoons… with the winner, winning a case of beer… and also deciding who he shared with. I’m told quarrels often erupted when some weren’t offered a beer from the winning case! (Photo taken at the stone house on the corner of Meloy and West Spring  St.; you can see the stone house on the right. They played bocce there every Sunday afternoon. Man in center throwing fingers is Giovanni DeTulio, my husband’s great grandfather… second man on left I’m told is Giuseppe Cambino, his grandfather. My mother in law told me her father and grandfather was in this photo)

“I remember watching the men whip out the carpenters ruler to measure the distance from their balls to the pauline… points weren’t given that freely… and they came prepared! If it was a spur of the moment game, they often measured by someone’s shoe stepping out the distance. There was never a guess… it was a very serious game!”

At my first 4th of July picnic upon marrying Steve… I was first introduced to the game of Bocce. The men always went to play first… never the women. I remember asking to play with them, but was quickly told, “no the woman play together.” They were very serious about their game and didn’t want any newbie, especially a woman, to inhibit their game.

I can still see Uncle Johnny making his famous plays of throwing under the leg… he loved to entertain!

Many had their own little superstitions when throwing… my father in law always spit in his hand… to ensure he had a better grip on the ball; he was a very serious player and very good… you always wanted him on your team.

The kids were always intrigued with the bocce games… hanging on the sidelines watching and learning… and often hearing words they never heard when the women played.

boccee balls

My father-in-law inherited the “old man’s” bocce set at some point… and they always appeared at the family functions. Dad later made the carrying basket… this set holds many memories… and lots of DNA!

In watching a cooking show with Giada about San Francisco, we watched her play bocce and … “ Some people throw the bocce ball underneath like she did on the show – it can be thrown under-handed or over-handed. My father threw it over-handed, but it was always a spit to the hand first before he held the ball to throw; I guess the ball gripped better to the hand. He was a very serious bocce ball player – and very good. Everyone always picked my father for their team.” As Giada ate fresh bread and cheese he remembered… “My father loved Italian bread and often ate bread and cheese after a meal. I never understood why, but he liked to eat a piece of cheese with his Italian bread after he finished his meal.”

“Grandpa played bocce every Sunday at his friends stone house on the corner of Meloy and West Spring St… it was just up behind his farm. I remember him working afterward in his garden when he came home.”

Sometimes Grandpa would get mad when they played if he thought someone had touched a ball in measuring… and moving the ball.

“I don’t remember them playing any bocce games at the farm, but I was young when they lived there; it was mostly rocky and hilly around there. Once they moved to First Ave. he only played on Sundays there. My father played, usually Frankie, Johnny, sometimes Jimmy (Donahue), Gene (Cavallaro) and sometimes Mr. Cavallaro, Gene’s father… they didn’t live too far away. As soon as the weather was nice after the winter, they would begin playing. They played on the front lawn… it was flat there.”

Steve Insalaco… a very serious Bocce player

While watching Bocce on the boardwalk today (July 7, 2012) Steve said. “My grandfather Joe Cambino was a great bocce player as well as a good duckpin player also. When he played bocce on a grass court he always threw the ball under-handed. He was pretty good at popping – loved to pop the balls. It was nothing to see him take a last minute chance to pop all the balls away… leaving his closest ball to the pauline.”

Diane (Donahue-Taylor): “I enjoyed watching the guys play bocce… and  remember them playing at Aunt Nancy’s picnics since I was a child. After marrying John, he had played bocce and really enjoyed competing with them too. I’ll never forget our grampa’s runup and how he tossed the ball up in the air. They all took the game very seriously. I remember them measuring hand-widths and finger-widths… and you’d hear Uncle Johnny’s voice above all others! The women always had to wait til the men were done before they got to play. Of course, they were busy all day cooking, serving, and cleaning up.”

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Two of the most serious bocce players… Left: Steve Insalaco, Right: Johnny Cambino. I’m sure these two were studying the distance of their balls from the pauline… no one gave up points easily! If there is a bocce court in heaven… they have teamed up!

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Steve Insalaco playing on the lawn at 1st Avenue in West Haven

“I remember my father making a wheeled counter – it had two wheels and a counter attached. They’d roll it between balls to measure; he made it at Armstrong.”

Serious bocce games… You could always count on Uncle Frankie (top photo) wearing his hankie hat if it was hot!

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Uncle Johnny Cambino was always counted on to make the winning shot!

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Steve Insalaco shoots… all eyes on where that ball was headed!

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Whenever the bocce players walked away… the younger kids (Melissa Insalaco-Gillon) took advantage to play.

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
To read more Family Stories… click HERE

© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Husbands Family Stories: and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 2020: Q – April A to Z… Family Stories: Quarrelsome Bocce Games

  1. ReginaMary says:

    Oh boy! When I lived in the North End of Boston, there were some very intense games of Bocce in the park! Kinda like the ladies that play Scrabble at the library in the afternoon. Hard core!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. scr4pl80 says:

    Our friend had a bocce ball court built in his backyard so I’ve played a game or two. It’s fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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