2020: W – 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’ve 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 once resembled Coney Island… and 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:
- 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
- 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
- 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
- 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
Come sit a spell and enjoy!
The Traveling Wedding Dress
While June seems to be the most popular month for weddings… the travelling “wedding” dress only made one appearance in June… in Celia and Steve Insalaco’s wedding. And in as June was the popular month for weddings, it seemed that Sunday was the most popular day, being most people were free from work… especially in the South. Early United States history, per The Farmer’s Almanac, says that Wednesday was the luckiest for weddings, and Fridays were avoided at all cost… as they were known as the “hangman’s day”… today’s weddings mostly take place on Saturday.
Monday for health… Tuesday for wealth… Wednesday Best of All… Thursday for losses… Friday for crosses… and Saturday for “no luck at all.” We married on a Wednesday, so we’re good! How about you?
I remember hearing from my mother in law, Cecelia (Cambino-Insalaco) how she had borrowed Josie’s (Josephine Signore) wedding dress… Uncle Mikie’s wife. Later, I learned that the borrowing hadn’t stopped with her… the dress went on to be loaned to Uncle Mikie’s niece Catherine (Cambino-Donahue) and sisters, Josephine (DeTulio-Viscuso) and Lucy (DeTulio-Romano). Five women in this family wore the same wedding dress… you would never find that today!
Michael “Mikie” and Josephine “Josie” DeTulio
The traveling wedding dress first began with Josephine “Josie” Signore marrying Michael “Mikie” DeTulio… no one ever called him Michael or even Mike… it was always Mikie; he must have been called that from a young boy and it just stuck! If that wedding dress could talk… Oh what tales it would tell… where was it bought… how much did it cost… and how did four more brides possibly alter it for their wedding day!
Josie and Mikie’s wedding took place on April 21, 1945… a Saturday afternoon at St. Michael’s Church in Wooster Square… in New Haven, CT. The cherry blossom trees would have been in full bloom on this day… did they pick that day to coincide with the blooms… if only they had taken photos out in the square! Josie carried a beautiful array of Calla Lilies as her wedding bouquet. Being they were married during war time, it was common for the grooms to wear their Army uniform… as many men did who served in the armed forces.
Josie’s famous “wedding” dress was of white satin with bouffant sleeves which tapered down toward her hands. The front was topped with lace below the neckline… a gathered satin bodice to the cinched waist… with a lace peplum surrounded the waist, which flared out toward the hips… creating a silhouette of a cinched waist; the lace peplum can be seen in many of the photos.
I colorized the photograph and more details popped out to me… such as the large flower bouquets all the bridesmaids and matron of honor carried. All the women also wore white/light matching gowns… was that the norm back then? Even though I know of only two photography studios used, the same floor pattern seems to show in both their photos… could they have shared a studio, or maybe the photograph was taken at the wedding venue?
I contacted Uncle Mikie’s daughter, Judy, in hopes that this famous travelling wedding dress might still be tucked away in a chest… and hoping I might actually be able to see it in person…but, several years ago it was discovered in such a deteriorating condition that it sadly was decided that it was time to let it go. Granddaughter’s Lori and Lisa honored their grandmother by carrying white Calla Lily’s as their wedding flower bouquet.
In discovering this postcard with my mother-in-laws photos, I realized that Mikie and Josie sent a postcard, to Uncle Joe and Aunt Minnie Cambino, while on their honeymoon in New York City. They were married on April 21… and this was postmarked on the 23rd. In researching the Hotel Governor Clinton hotel… I learned that it was located directly across from Penn Station… Seventh Avenue at 31st St…. that pretty much clinched that they most likely traveled by train from New Haven. The postcard boasted of The Clinton being New York’s newest and finest and offering over 1200 rooms with air conditioning, 5 restaurants, a bar and cocktail lounge. Rates were listed as $3.50 a day.
What better place for a honeymoon stay!
Was Uncle Mikie on his honeymoon when this was taken on the street of Manhattan? If so, then Aunt Josie took the photograph. (I had always assumed this photo was a Christmas shopping visit, but after finding the postcard… and him in uniform… it must have been taken on their honeymoon trip to NYC.
Lucia “Lucy” and Frank Romano
Lucia “Lucy” DeTulio, sister of Mikie, was next to walk down the aisle in Josie’s dress. She married Frank Romano on April 25, 1946… a wedding that also took place at St. Michaels Church, amidst the cherry blossoms blooming in the square; it took place midweek on a Thursday. All the bridesmaids wore the same dress style, fabric, and almost same white color, as well as the maid of honor, although with a slight variation of dress-style. What made this dress stand out was that train of satin… which the photographers had the fun job of arranging for the wedding photograph… framing the bride!
In taking a second look at the photo after colorizing it… I noticed that the bridesmaids gowns are almost the same color as her wedding dress… how strange! The men are dressed in tuxedos… wearing white carnations. I don’t see Lucy wearing the lace peplum that originally went with the dress… but maybe it’s hidden in the photo, or she had taken it off after the wedding. It perplexes me how so many bridesmaids wore white in the wedding parties of years ago!
While today it would be unusual to marry during the week, except on a Friday evening, it seemed to be in-style… and possibly less expensive to marry on a weekday at that time… it seems many took advantage of a wedding during the week.
CeCelia “Celia” and Stephen “Steve” Insalaco (photography by Jay Storm Studio Studio of New Haven)
Now I know why they printed their wedding photographs in the classic black and white… the colorized pictures just don’t call out “classic”! What I noticed first in this colorized picture was that the father of the bride didn’t wear a tuxedo… Grandpa Joe chose his pin-striped suit and tie. If you look closely at all the wedding pictures he’s in… you’ll often see him in this same suit. Unlike today, the men all went with a plain simple white carnation boutonniere for themselves… and the bridesmaids and maid of honor also wore white gowns… which I don’t understand, as I thought only the bride was suppose to wear white!
Mikie’s niece, my mother in law, CeCelia Cambino, next wore the dress on June 5, 1947… but the wedding venue was now changed to St. Paul’s church in West Haven, CT. All the bridesmaids and maid of honor dresses look pretty much the same in the classic photo and the one I colorized. Often, to save money, many bridesmaids used dresses from previous weddings, so they would haven been in various colors… but these were of almost the same color as the brides dress; many of them could even be from a previous wedding. A reception and dinner followed in New Haven, CT., followed by a honeymoon to Vermont. (It was always told that her reception was at Stephen Heights Club in West Haven… so it seems the newspaper clipping misprinted the event as New Haven)
You can read about their honeymoon to Vermont… over HERE!
Josephine “JoJo” and Joseph “Joe” Viscuso
One year later, on a Monday… Josephine (JoJo) married Joseph Viscuso on Oct. 11, 1948 at St. Michael’s Church in Wooster Square… sadly no cherry blossoms in bloom… but she also walked down the aisle wearing her sister in law, Josie’s, dress. What a compliment to the original bride… in wearing her dress; luckily all the girls had been about the same size. I’ve often wondered if there was a running joke… at each wedding… as to who would wear the dress next… like tossing a coin! If only I had asked these questions many years ago… I could have had every bride’s story, as I was fortunate to have known them all when I married into the family.
By colorizing this photograph it gave me the exact coloring of the maid of honor’s dress… and showed how the rest of the bridesmaids seemed to be in the normal same color of the brides dress. I don’t understand why they all seemed to dress in the same color as the bride! The men are dressed in tuxedos with a single white carnation. Josephine, “JoJo”, chose to wear the lace peplum here in the wedding photograph and the photographers did an exceptional job of displaying the long train… which is the awesome feature of this dress. The colored version shows the carpet design more… which made me question how two different studio’s had the same carpet?
The wedding dress took a two year hiatus before taking its final walk down the aisle with Aunt Catherine and Uncle Jimmy!
Catherine & James “Jimmy” Donahue
Last, but not least, was Mikie’s niece, Catherine Cambino, to James “Jimmy” Donahue on April 20, 1950; another wedding which took place on a Thursday… and also at St. Paul’s Church in West Haven, CT. Aunt Catherine was the last of the women in the family to wear this dress before Josie packed it away in her cedar chest. Catherine’s sister, CeCelia, always boasted that the wedding dress had fit her better because she had a bigger bustline… Catherine told me that she had always felt bad that she couldn’t fill it out like her sister. Imagine that conversation as CeCelia helped her to dress… reminding her again about her bigger bustline!
The No. 1 song popular on Catherine and Jimmy’s wedding day was “If I knew you were coming, I’d baked a cake”… I’m sure that song wasn’t played at the wedding… but it would have been funny!
Catherines “head shot” wedding photograph, taken by Barrie Photography… was displayed in their New Haven shop window for several years… Aunt Catherine would always say… “I don’t know why they would want to display my photograph!” She looked like a movie star! (This photo clearly shows all the lace on the bodice and the lace peplum around her waist… and still looking just as beautiful as it did when Josie wore it in 1945)
Aunt Catherine and Uncle Jimmy took a honeymoon trip to Houlton, Maine… to visit with his family who couldn’t attend the wedding… which was common in those days. Steve and I drove through the town of Houlton last August in visiting Maine… and I’m sure we rode down the very streets where Uncle Jimmy spent time as a young boy.
I truly enjoyed writing this post, and badgering everyone for information… that they probably didn’t have, but I keep asking anyway… and studying that one dress, over and over… well, really only “five” times! My one regret is… I didn’t think of writing this post before all these five beautiful women left our family. Just think of all the information that’s lost… and I bet there would have been many more funny remembrances of who wore it the best!
Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
To read more Family Stories… click HERE
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