2020: S – April A to Z… Family Stories: Shopping in New Haven… and more

2020: S -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 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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

new haven postcard

Shopping in New Haven… and more

Shopping in New Haven in the late 50’s to early ‘60’s was so very different than today. Even riding the bus was an event in comparison to today; They usually only ran on the main streets, so if you lived far from the center of town… you often walked long distances just to board the bus.

In talking about shopping in New Haven, Steve remembered… “The first time I ever went to New Haven was when I was about six years old. Aunt Catherine took me to Woolworths at Christmas time. She was married then, but didn’t drive so we took the bus. I remember walking with her to the bottom of York St. to catch the bus, as at that time the bus didn’t run all around West Haven like today. The closest stop near our house, to catch the bus, was at the end of York St. on Campbell Ave. Going into New Haven at that time was looked at as a real trip – it was as if it was a far distance.. you didn’t go often. I still remember the fountain counter in Woolworths… their counter was more like semi-circles weaving in and out like a “s” shape – it was a long fountain counter. Aunt Catherine bought me a sandwich there – it was the first triple-decker sandwich I’d ever eaten, or even seen. We usually only went to town in West Haven about once a week – we were poor. West Haven wasn’t even considered a city then – not enough people, and was only known as the town of West Haven.”

woolworth

woolworth 2

The three major 5 & 10’s of downtown New Haven were… W. T. GRANT Co…  S. S. KRESGE Co… and the F. W. WOOLWORTH Co. Grant’s had entrance/exits on Chapel, Orange & Center. Kresge’s had entrance/exits on Chapel, Church & Center. Woolworth’s was L shaped with entrance/exits on Chapel & Church. The five and dime department stores carried all you needed… every nook and cranny was filled!

While sitting at the beach one night, and listening to Ain’t That a Shame by Fats Domino, Steve said… “That song reminds me of the time Johnny, and Ronny (Kessler), and myself took the bus to Kresges in New Haven – bus probably cost 15 cents. Kresge’s was on lower Chapel St, right around where the old unemployment offices were. I bought a stack of 45 records that day for $1.00… probably 7 or 8 were in the package… that Fats Domino record was inside; I forget now which record was on top that made me buy the stack… they used to sell a stack of records cheap to get rid of them.”

arena

The “Arena” in New Haven was where Steve watched the New Haven Blades play hockey and as West Haven High School had no ice skating rink… the West Haven hockey team also played there. Wrestling was very big at the Arena… and what boy didn’t want to go! Steve remembers going with a boy in his neighborhood a few times… seeing Haystack Calhoun and Bruno Samartino. A few weeks before leaving for the Air Force (1968), Steve saw the musical group The Young Rascals. (It first opened in 1927 with a Yale Hockey Game and Elton John played its last concert there in 1972; it was demolished in 1975… making way for the newly built… New Haven Coliseum)

“When I was older, and had outgrown those shopping trips with Aunt Catherine, I now went with friends, but not necessarily to shop… now going as a teenager to the famous “Arena” for hockey games… watching the New Haven Blades. The New Haven Arena was the place to see music events as well as the hockey games. It later was replaced with the Colosseum… which was also later torn down… now there is nothing in New Haven for large events like hockey games and music.”

The New Haven Coliseum was built directly behind the famous Knights of Columbus on Church St. I remember that circular garage at the Coliseum… and hated going round and round! Steve and I went there for a dog show once… wanting to check out the breed of Samoyed in person. At that time we had a Samoyed named Samson. What we saw was many snooty people… very disappointing! The only other times we went, was when Stephen was in Cub Scouts… we took him to see The Harlem Globetrotters and Steve took him with the scouts to a hockey game.

collesuem

At night time you could see the huge neon figures on the Coliseum from I-95. They were bought and saved before it was demolished.

elvis

My one regret was that I didn’t go see Elvis when he came in 1975… I really had no one to go with at that time; that was the only chance I ever had to see him, and I let it slip through my fingers. I wish I had memories of actually seeing him in person… but!

collesuem imploded

The New Haven Coliseum was a sports and entertainment arena located in downtown New Haven, Connecticut… just behind the Knights of Columbus building on Church St. Construction began in 1968 and was completed in 1972. The Coliseum was officially closed on September 1, 2002 by Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., and demolished by implosion on January 20, 2007. Steve and I watched it live on television… it was so erie watching it coming down.

Steve often talked to me about how going into New Haven was looked at as a “trip”… not like today. His parents never shopped downtown… West Haven was as far as they went… and even considered a drive to Hamden as a trip. When we lived in West Haven, Steve and I would sometimes go to Crown Supermarket on Sundays just for lunch meat and rolls… and I remember feeling like it seemed to take us some time to get there. Today, we travel that route like it’s nothing… funny how times change!

My friends and I walked or rode our bikes everywhere… my parents never carted me anywhere like parents do today. It just wasn’t done – kids were not catered to. Wherever I went, or wanted to go… I got myself there one way or another. Even when I went to hockey games in New Haven, it was nothing for me to walk home from the bus stop on Campbell Avenue at 11 o’clock at night. No one was afraid to let their kids be out at night, like today.

Cutlers New Haven

Cutler’s Records

As I read about the famous “Cutler’s Records” closing in June (2012) Steve told me… “I went there a lot after I got my license and a car. Every week after getting paid, I went to buy new records… mostly 45’s because I had a 45 record player in my car; it was bolted underneath the dash.” 

“Cutler’s was really the only store where you could buy older music at that time… it had first opened in 1948 and was still going strong. For the most part today, people download their music… so very different from the age I grew up in. I still have most of my vinyl albums with the great artwork on the covers; vinyl is making a big comeback today.”

When I came to Connecticut in 1971, Cutlers was still there and still popular as our generation was buying 45’s and LP’s. The biggest draw in New Haven was Macy’s, Malley’s and the then famous Chapel Square Mall… where all the popular stores were found, and advertised as one of the first fully enclosed air-conditioned mall.

The building of the Chapel Square Mall came about as part of the Church Street Redevelopment Project of 1957… and ten years later in 1967… after many plan changes, it finally opened. It was a two level mall, anchored by two popular department stores… the Edward Malley Co, (1962-1982) and Macy’s )1964-1993). There was a second floor glass walkway which connected from Macy’s over to the mall… the attraction being…you could shop it all without ever leaving the buildings!

I bought my first Minolta 35mm.camera in Macy’s… one of many which I’ve owned through the years. Going to the mall was where you went every Christmas… everything was there… all under one roof. Later, Milford’s new “open mall” opened with Alexanders… where I shopped often. Years later they covered all the stores under one roof… even later adding a second level… with more changes through the years… and now no one even cares to shop at the mall… you order online and have it delivered to your door… which is where most of my shopping is done!

Today, with all the large shopping stores gone in New Haven… only what’s left of  a small area of the mall has been turned into apartments; Gateway College, originally located on Long Wharf, has also relocated into the area, with a new building (2012)… where the once Malley’s and Macy’s stood.

Aunt Nancy (Cambino-Cavallaro):When I worked at 2nd National Bank at Church & Chapel in New Haven, I remember eating my lunch before even punching out for my lunch break… then I’d rush to Malley’s and all around downtown before going back to work. I don’t know if I had an hour or half lunch break, but I managed to do a lot of shopping during that time. I remember shopping at Shartenberg’s on the corner of Chapel and State; it was a big department store at the time. Leggetts Pharmacy was on the corner, and there was a hosiery store next to Shartenberg’s. It was a pretty big store inside, just like Malley’s. I have memories of going there at Christmas also… either with my mother or my sister Catherine. They had a wishing well in the middle of the store, and for a quarter, you could fish and win a prize. I’m told now, that there was a large train there at Christmas which kids could ride on. I somewhat remember it, but not sure, but I do remember that there was a luncheonette inside, on the side entrance from State Street… and I always bought a cup of rice pudding… it was served warm with whipped cream… and it was so good.

Aunt Mary (DeTulio-Pompone): “When I was old enough to work, I spent most of my money on clothes… “I loved clothes!” I shopped at the nice stores downtown in New Haven for most of my clothes. My sister’s, JoJo and Lucy, often ‘borrowed’ my clothes… and usually without my knowledge! I had a red dress that Lucy loved to wear, and being a little ‘larger’ than I was… it always came back split under the arms. It made me so mad… and one day I just ripped it up so she couldn’t wear it anymore! I had a lot of nice clothes… and usually I bought a new coat every year. One outfit I really loved was my yellow plaid suit and Panama hat… they were in style at the time.”

“My sister, Lucy, and friend, Corky, danced at one of the amateur talent shows held at the Poli Theater in New Haven one time… even winning 1st place. I also remember people in the audience throwing tomatoes sometimes at people on the stage when they didn’t like their talent. My brother’s, Nickie and Mikie, owned a restaurant called “The Highlight” on Wooster Street. They only operated it for a short time, but I remember going there often.”

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

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

2020: R – April A to Z… Family Stories: The Rocking… “Traveling” Chair

2020: R – 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 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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

rocking chair

The Rocking… “Traveling” Chair

My “rocking chair” is a Christmas present I still have… 71 years later… and it’s travelled throughout the family. By the time it made its way to Uncle Jimmy’s house for cousin Diane… it received a much needed re-upholstering and refinishing… taking place in his famous basement woodshop. Its last stop was at Aunt Nancy’s… she gave it back to  me, after I married, to prepare for my children.

This is the same chair I stood up in at about age 5… and hitting my head on Grandma Minnie’s porcelain stove. Supposedly I was rocking… while standing… and hit my head without causing any damage to me, but chipped her stove. I don’t really have a memory of seeing that chip, but that story was told to me by many, so I’ll have to assume it’s true. Besides wondering if I really chipped her stove… also wondering why I had my chair in the kitchen?”

steve in rocking chair

In this photo at “The Farm”, the back of the chair looks like it might have had a cowboy print fabric. If my father had been standing there… he would have given me his constant, “sit up straight” words!

I often watched The Howdy Doody show with Aunt Dolly at my grandparent’s farm – we still had no TV at that time. I think that was mostly the reason I kept my oak rocking chair at their house… and it was my favorite place to sit when there. That rocking chair made the rounds through most of the families… and finally back to me when I married. Howdy Doody seems very corny now when they show clips of it, but we loved it! There was Buffalo Bob Smith along with the famous Howdy Doody puppet… which was his own creation, and Clarabell the clown… who turned out to be the much-later famous Bob Keeshan. In 1952 he left Howdy Doody for his own show where he played Captain Kangaroo. The Howdy Doody show was set in the fictitious town known as Doodyville, and the audience, on set, was known as “The Peanut Gallery.” It ran daily, but later changed to only Saturdays… going off the air in 1960.” (Me: Captain Kangaroo was my favorite kid show growing up in the 50’s)

“Being the first baby born in the family… and like most families back then… my crib also was passed around to all the cousins in the family… until it eventually fell apart as it never came back. My oak rocking chair was also passed through the family, but we retrieved it when I married for my children and grandchildren to have a turn to sit in. Presently it’s landed at my daughter’s house and the youngest, Gracie, has seemed to have taken it over.”

Gracie in rocking chairFIX

Steve refinished the chair when it came back to him!

“It seems taking pictures of all the girls “sitting in the rocking chair”… never happened… when it should have!”

“Ella, was the first of our five granddaughters to check out “pops” rocking chair, which was close to 60 years old when she first sat in it. How did it even survive the years… well, it was solid oak and well-made, not like the furniture of today. The only thing I did was clean and polish the oak arms and recover the body in new leather. It was recovered only once by Uncle Jimmy when he used it for his daughter. I think it was bought for me by the aunts in Shelton…  they often bought large gifts together.”

Ella always thought standing in the chair was more fun… good thing we didn’t have a porcelain stove to chip. While we thought she’d enjoy sitting in the chair… it seemed standing was more fun!

McKinley arrived soon, and like Ella, she also experienced Pop’s chair… but standing was more fun than sitting and rocking… so the chair didn’t stay in the living room except under supervision. After realizing that they really didn’t want to just sit in the chair… it was put away until recently delivering it to Melissa where the girls, now a little older, are finally enjoying… and actually sitting in!

And even today, Pop still fits! (photo coming)

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

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

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.”

bocce10 FIX

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!

stef bocceFIX

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!

bocce7 FIX

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

steve bocceFIX

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

melissa bocce FIX

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

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

2020: P – April A to Z… Family Stories: Paint By Number Pictures & Puzzles

2020: P – 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 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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paint By “Number” Pictures & Puzzles

2020_ April... A to Z Family Stories Fix

I remember loving “paint by number” pictures in growing up… I guess arts and crafts have always been in my blood. The one I actually remember painting were horse pictures… and I might have them stored away still… somewhere… but my mother in law seemed to have been the “queen” of paint by number pictures!

Family Stories: Paint by Number Pictures

When we cleaned out my mother-in-law’s house I kept the paint by number pictures I found in the attic. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out… after all the time she took to paint and dad’s time in framing… they needed to be saved. Steve told me…”she enjoyed painting them”… everyone in the family painted, even her sister Nancy, and some of her sister-in-laws in Shelton. It was a fad at that time… and if one made something… eventually they all joined in.”

bull fighters

Bull fighting pics

The famous Matador and Bull Fighter paint by numbers that Celia painted… these hung in their living room for years, but by the time I came to Connecticut, they had been packed away. My father-in-law made the frames… he was always the finisher!

bull paint by number

Here are the paintings on their living room wall… not sure what happened to the ceramic bullfighter and bull on the end table as I never saw them… guess they must have succumbed to breakage over the years. LtoR: Steve, Stef and Celia Insalaco… picture taken abt. 1963. The wall they’re hanging on was actually the wall which seperated the kitchen… it was later taken down and they opened up the area with a an open counter and glass cabinets.

“Over the couch at Grandma Minnie’s house was a large paint by number picture… I think it was of a covered bridge painted by Aunt Nancy. There could have even been several painters who worked on it… maybe even Uncle Frankie also. He later painted by following along with Bob Ross on his television program; many family members have one or more of Uncle Frankie’s paintings. (we have 2)

One Christmas Eve, Uncle Johnny gave a paint by number to his sister Dolly, but when she pulled it out of the box… it was a paint by number of a nude woman! Uncle Frankie quickly grabbed it for himself… guess he forgot to tell them the gifts were for a young girl. I’ve often wondered if Uncle Frankie ever painted that nude woman?”

paint by number sceneFIX

Celia kept very busy during her paint by number phase!

I made so many different types of crafts with the family over the years… at every Fourth of July picnic we all brought our crafts to work on… and show. Let’s see if I can remember all I’ve done… burlap embroidery bags, crewel embroidery pictures, felt ornaments, applique wall hangings, stuffed toys/dolls, crocheted afghans, knitted items… with my latest accomplishment of knitting socks, quilted crafts, wood burnings / wood painted items… there hasn’t been much I never attempted.

I still have one paint by number that I sent away for… but never finished. I think it intimidated me with so many tiny areas to paint… that eventually I put it away… but never threw out. It’s a photo of my daughter in one of her dance costumes. Of course, the paints are all dried up now, but I’m sure I can match it up to finish… it’s going to be become one of my projects to finally finish… when I find where I buried it!

ballerina paint by number FIX

I often find paint by number pictures in antique stores today… and I always stop to look… and remember the ones I painted. It seems many others couldn’t throw theirs in the trash either, although in one antique mall, I found a ballerina paint by number sitting in the trash. Maybe someone had cleaned out their booth and didn’t want to pack it… who knows, but I thought it odd. I took a photo of it sitting there… as it seemed so sad and lonely… and I almost asked at the desk if I could have it, but I didn’t want them to think I was dumpster diving… which is fun! We have stopped many times to rescue items thrown out… probably more than we should have, but who doesn’t like free!

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Family Stories: Puzzles

puzzle

There was always a puzzle in progress in our house… on the table in the back room; most times if anyone stopped over during the day, they eventually ended up in the back room to sit and add a few pieces. Who could resist not adding a few? My mother’s house was always the place to stop by during the day… her uncles and brothers often stopped daily.

“My mother had her own way in beginning a new puzzle… and the larger they were… the better she liked it. She always began by lining up the straight edges to make the outside… making it easier… having that completed first; the box would be sitting nearby… it helped you in finding the colors and shapes! She didn’t always keep the puzzle intact after completing it though… it often was taken apart and thrown back in the box, unless framed… or she convinced my father to make her yet, one more frame.”

I remember a puzzle hanging in my grandfather’s barber shop… it was more a picture he had liked of a farm with chickens in the yard… that he turned into looking like a puzzle. Maybe he cut it into puzzle shapes to resemble looking like a puzzle… but in looking at it, you would have thought it actually was a puzzle.

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Several puzzles found lying on the attic floor… lots of hours there! Steve’s mother framed many of her puzzles at one time or another… maybe she changed out the newer puzzle in the frame… sending the older one to the attic floor!

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One year it seemed to have been popular to make Christmas puzzles. I think Dolly made one and my mother in law made this round Santa puzzle… dad mounted it on wood… framing with rope. 

IMG_2999FIX

While I was away in the Air Force, my mother made this huge, almost 2000 piece puzzle of an Irish Setter… and once again my father made a frame. After all that hard work… there was one piece missing at the end… my father stepped up to make a piece to fit in… using the photo on the box. He did a great job as it’s not really noticeable unless you know where to look! It hung over their sofa in the family room for years… another piece we saved from their house, and it’s even hung over our sofa a few times… brings back memories!

Coca Cola puzzleFIX

Almost everyone in our family has DNA on this Coca Cola puzzle. It was laid out on our dining room table for months as we worked to assemble it… with many family members coming over to work on it (2000 pieces). It was finally complete with one missing piece… until I returned to put it in. I hid a piece… as I wanted to be able to put the last piece in! Sneaky of me!!!

In finding an empty Gone with the Wind puzzle box, I asked what happened to the puzzle… Steve said, “ I remember my mother putting it together… even taping the back, but I don’t remember it ever being framed. It probably ended up in the attic with the others. There probably were pieces missing… as almost every puzzle she ever put together had pieces missing… pieces fell off the table and never got picked up.”

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
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© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

 

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2020: O – April A to Z… Family Stories: Oh My… Do I Have Stories

2020: O -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!

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OH MY... Do I Have Stories

Oh My… Do I Have Stories!

Who doesn’t love hearing and remembering family stories… and I seem to have collected many of my husband’s remembered stories through the years. Often something will trip a memory… and it’s those memories that I’ve scribbled down over the years to save. Who collects stories beside me? And these are only a fraction of what I’ve written from all who have remembered… and dared to tell me!

“I remember watching “Snowbound Theater” with my mother on snow days when we had no school. They usually ran movies all day… that’s where I learned about the old classic movies; she was a big movie fan and there’s probably not a classic out there she hadn’t watched more than once. If she liked a movie, it never bothered her to watch it again and again… and I’m like that today with my favorite movies, especially The Godfather. I can pretty much recite everyone’s lines all the way through the movie and many others.”

My grandpa never talked much about Italy, except to say that he would never go back there to live – said it was very dirty. He was a very strict father, husband, and grandfather. He didnt believe in banks – said they ruined the country. I always wondered where he kept his money since he didn’t believe in banks. It was often said he kept it buried in a tin can in the backyard. Who knows?”

Steve and Aunt Nancy

“Steve with Aunt Nancy (Cavallaro) making his confirmation at the house on Edward St. Note the orange paint here on the house. It started out white, then orange, then green, then when he vinyl-sided it white… Dad’s Rocket 88 Oldsmobile parked in driveway.”

“Grandpa Joe gave me an apple the morning before making my confirmation… he didn’t believe in the church’s rules… “here eat the apple”, he told me; I ate the apple!” He never liked the church and always believed that they only cared about making the money. “

Driving by vegetable stands and corn growing in the fields…. “I remember the cellar grandpa dug at their farm. Grandma had a shelf down there where she kept her canned tomatoes and vegetables. My grandpa always had a big vegetable garden… he was always out in his garden after coming home from the barber shop. Your grandmother Bryan probably canned to – I remember her big bowls of cream style corn she put on the table the few times we ate there. Your grandfather grew a lot of vegetables and I remember the big fields of corn he grew.”

While watching the show Pickers… the guy talked about learning how to drive in an old car, and …. “When I used to go to Ralphie’s grandfather’s farm, we practiced driving in the old 54 Ford his father had; we’d drive out in the fields after the crops were harvested… it was fun at his grandfather’s farm.” (That’s how my mother learned to drive also. She practiced in her father’s field with the truck Mr. English let her borrow… he was my father’s boss. She learned to park by practicing between her father’s peach and apple trees. My grandfather always later said that the trees died from all the scraping she did from backing into them.)

“One time at the Rivoli they gave away inserts to make a Webster Dictionary… it was huge when finished. Every week you’d get a new insert – they gave you the hard front and back cover in the beginning; it had metal posts like a scrapbook to hold it together. They started with the Z and weekly worked back… toward the A letter. It was my job weekly to put the new insert in. It was a gimmick like the grocery stores to get you there every week and it worked, but I didn’t mind as I went to the movies more often. My mother was a big movie buff and that’s one thing I did inherit from her – a love of movies. I never tire of watching a movie I like over and over. The last movie I ever saw there was The Great Race with Natalie Wood – one of my favorite actresses; it played on New Years Eve… it premiered in 1965.”

“At my grandparents home on First Avenue, there was a gazebo built almost out over the water in the backyard. After all the boys moved out, no one took care of it anymore and it was eventually torn down. It was a really neat backyard there for a young boy… the gazebo and the ocean (Long Island Sound) was right at their back door. My grandparents backyard wasn’t like any other – it was always exciting in being there. The gazebo was standing for most of the early wedding parties that took place there.”

Gazebo

The famous gazebo in the background… Freddie working on his speedboat.

In listening to the commercials on the radio, one was a wedding advertisement and I asked Steve if he went to any family weddings… “I went to all the family weddings. I liked the weddings at the Steven Height’s club in West Haven the most. They had the best set up there, as we could sneak into the bar area and play pinball. I remember when my parents went to Pennsylvania to Tony and Rita Nastri’s wedding… we stayed home by ourselves. I think I was probably about 12 or so.”

grandpa Joe at the bar

“Grandpa Joe (Cambino) at the bar at Steven Heights Club in West Haven; Uncle Mikie DeTulio also pictured.  Grandpa always enjoyed a wedding!” (Note the pay phone and the two cigarette machines in the bar… they needed two?)

At most all the family weddings, one of my grandfather’s customers son’s band usually played at the wedding. There was no can-type music back then – no DJ – it was always live music at weddings. They didn’t charge much and often not at all. Sometimes they just wanted to play – as it wasn’t their only job. After I married, Jeanne and I went to many family weddings who still had live bands – cousin Paul (Cavallaro) was in a band and they actually played at his own wedding… he even went on stage for a couple of songs.”

“When Uncle Johnny got married, Harvey Tattersal, who managed Savin Rock Speedway Racing, came to his wedding. Johnny’s wedding was a well known affair as he had many friends and fans who attended; Tattersal even gave him a big trophy when he got married. When he lived in the red cape-cod house off Meloy Road, I remember seeing a room full of trophies. Probably at that time, he had over 30 or 40 trophies alone, just in that room.”

“When I was older I sometimes took the dingy out with my friends, Ralphie (Campataro) and Louie (Albarella) to fish for big blues. On one fishing excursion, we ended up way out – over to where the Long Wharf oil tankers are… then rowing even further past the bridge. We thought we were all the best swimmers – and we were out there without even one life jacket. No one ever knew we went out that far… as I would have really been in trouble if they had known.”

“There was  a stream at the end of Edith Street that we crossed when walking to the West Haven center. If it was a dry season, we walked across it, but if it had been rainy, then we crossed on the tree log that Ronny Kessler and I cut down to lay across the stream. Frontage Road to Sawmill Road in West Haven wasn’t complete until after I left for boot camp in 1968. Before that, Frontage Road was only a little ways off Sawmill Road, near the back of Armstrong Rubber. The dirt road stopped around where Foremost Foods factory was… it just ended into woods. I remember many roads in West Haven like that – they just ended, and you had to go all around to get to where you were going. It was even like that at West Spring Street going toward Ella Grasso Boulevard – it just ended – it wasn’t even open all the way to reach I-95… that had opened in the late 50’s. The boulevard completion wasn’t finally finished until after I married – probably late 70’s or early 80’s.”

“I went a couple of years as a Boy Scout to Camp Sequassen in Winsted, CT. We slept in tents, no matter what the weather was; there was much to do there from swimming to canoeing and archery. Non-swimmers couldn’t even go out in the boats, and you had to be a blue swimmer for the canoes. Blue and red could go in the regular boats, but the canoes required you to be a blue level; you kneeled in the canoe to paddle. Before you could even go out in a canoe you had to prove yourself… by tipping the canoe over, then flipping it back right side up and crawl back in. If you couldn’t accomplish this, no matter what color level you were – you didn’t go out.”

“My Boy Scout leader, Conroy Taylor, was also Uncle Johnny’s wedding photographer at his wedding… and a photographer for the New Haven Register. Ken Bradley was the assistant Scout leader… my Boy Scout Troop was No. 716, but later changed to Troop No. 16.”

Finers House of Hobbies

“Finer’s “House of Hobbies” was where I spent many hours racing slot cars; the location I remember most was further down across from the green; I think he opened up here after closing his first store!”

“A favorite store I frequented on Campbell Avenue, when money was in my pocket, was Harry Finer’s House of Hobbies store across from the green. It was next door to the store on the corner – across from Silvers. Mr. Finer had a large figure-eight track where you raced 1/24 scale slot cars. You brought your own cars for racing and twenty-five cents bought you ten minutes of racing time… to race against others. Ronny Kessler and I went quite often; I built all my own cars and I had some great fast cars!  You usually came with a few cars and parts so you could fix your car if something broke; if you built cars, you knew how to pop off bodies and make quick repairs. That’s where I first met Dickie Mills – maybe that’s where he acquired his love of racing from. Kids even as far away as Amity came there to race. I was lucky that it was within walking distance for me or I’d never have been able to go. You even took Stephen to Finer’s comic book store he later opened down near the West Haven boat dock on First Avenue; the old man in there was Harry Finer.”

“In boot camp you had to have your clothes-hangers two fingers apart… and that was at all times… and the TI (Technical Instructor) checked often. Our dress uniforms had to be starched and ironed also. It didn’t matter about our daily fatigues we wore to work daily… so we’d wash them nightly in the shower and everything else stayed in the locker for show and inspections! Even our socks had to be folded in a certain way. They were rolled up with the heel in the middle.  They even unrolled your socks during inspections to see if you rolled them with the heel inside. Discipline was very strict in boot camp, but once you left there it wasn’t as strict.”

While watching a program about the Brooklyn Dodgers, Steve said… “I remember my father being disgusted when they took down Ebbet’s Field in Brooklyn, home of the Dodgers; sometimes called the Brooklyn Bombers. (Trivia: The Dodgers was a shortened form of Trolley Dodgers… what fans of the Dodgers were also called because they had to dodge the trolleys that criss-crossed Brooklyn in the early 20th century.) They were the cross-town rivals of the New York Yankees. That’s what made the games interesting – the rivalry between the two teams in one area! The problem was… the Yankees had too much money, still like today… and always afforded the best players. The Brooklyn Dodgers finally won the pennant in 1955, their first in 39 years. Every year, the fans would say to the New York Yankees, “wait till next year,” but 1955 was their “next year”… finally in beating them! In 1956 the trolley cars left Brooklyn… Coney Island was diminishing, just like Savin Rock, and in 1957 the Brooklyn Dodgers became the Los Angeles Dodgers.”

In hearing about the closing of Elm Diner (July 2009) in West Haven, Steve told me. “I was in the fifth grade at Thompson School when the first diner came to West Haven; it was called Duchess Diner. I remember seeing it pass down Campbell avenue in two pieces. The teacher had told us it was coming that day and we ran to the windows after hearing all the noise… and we watched it being pulled down the street. My class was on the top floor, and without the houses and trees like today, we saw it clearly as it passed down Campbell Avenue… and it was exciting to finally see it on the street. It was the first of its kind that had come to West Haven, and we all couldn’t wait to go there and eat. It still sits on the same spot – the corner of Campbell Avenue and York Street. Elm Diner came about a year later and we also watched it from school as it came down the street. Those style of diners were usually brought in two pieces, and then put together on-site. We always enjoyed going more to the Elm Diner than the Duchess, and I’m sorry to see it close – the new place will never have the same atmosphere; that’s what makes everything… the atmosphere!”

One of the earliest photos of  Armstrong Rubber on Elm St., West Haven, CT. House on corner was later replaced with West End Market (corner house) and second house would be where the small strip mall is next door. The house across the street may have been the house of Joe Minion who ran a small restaurant on the bottom floor.

One evening as Steve and I were studying an Armstrong Rubber photograph that we had recently acquired from a man while at a tag sale, Steve told me. “As I study this picture… see that tall smokestack by the small water tank (on left side of photo as you view it), well my father climbed up there to make a repair one winter night. He never told me directly, but one day at Armstrong, I overheard him telling another man this story. He was called at home one night because of some issue with the smokestack – it connected directly to the boiler room. Scaffolding was constructed for them to work up there – and at night – in the winter – with snow on the ground – he, along with one other man climbed up that smokestack. The winds were howling and dad said he’d never been so cold in his life as he was that night… clinging to the scaffolding to make the repairs with the winds howling all around him. And knowing my father as well as I do, you can bet he made that repair… as he wouldn’t have come down until it was finished. There was never anything he couldn’t repair.”  (My story on that photograph can be found Here)

On our way home from Georgia one year, we stopped At Duke’s Antiques in Lexington, VA… as we pulled in Steve saw a bicycle like he had as a boy… “I remember taking my bicycle wheel apart one time, and as much as I tried and tried… I could not get it back together that day… but I could do it today! It didn’t take my father long to put it back together though… guess he’d done it many times before. That’s called experience and wisdom!”

“I was the one who rolled my mother’s yarn into balls… it took special finesse to unroll a skein of yarn and turn it into a ball. She didn’t have the patience for that, and I always thought it was fun in turning it into a perfect ball. I’d turn the kitchen maple chair over and use the four legs to hold the skein of yarn… it fit perfectly. After unfolding the skein into a circle, I draped it over the legs and wound ‘round and ‘round to turn it into a ball. You had to keep a certain tautness, not too tight or too loose – I had it down pat! Even today, I never hesitate to wind a ball of yarn for Jeanne.”

“My mother only crocheted or knitted from a yarn ball… maybe the skeins of yarn came different then today. One thing she did well was crochet and knit… she made afghans and baby afghans for everyone in the family. And if it wasn’t coming right, she didn’t think twice about ripping it out and starting over. She also thought nothing about ripping out older projects she never finished, or didn’t use… and reuse the yarn again.”

Steve watched Mario Batali with me today as he made meatballs and… “My mother made the best meatballs I’ve ever eaten; I could easily have sold them at school. My friend, Johnny Kessler, loved her meatballs… sometimes he’d eat with us on Sunday and he definitely ate his share of pasta and meatballs. Johnny was German… his mother didn’t cook any Italian foods so he enjoyed eating at my house.”

“I remember mama making meatballs for the sauce… and when she made sauce, it was an all day affair. Early in the morning, she’d begin a huge pot of sauce – always with meat. She often made bracciales, and added any extra leftover meats from the week… and always pepperoni; that really flavored the sauce. Her sauce cooked all day, and by the time we ate… you were really hungry. My father loved her cooking and often took leftovers to work. He’d take in eggplant sandwiches, lasagna… basically anything Italian she cooked. I remember the men telling me how good a cook my mom was… after eating all the food he’d brought in. The guys were all Italian… so he enjoyed the reviews they gave when he brought in her cooking. She was a good cook until the day I saw her “most prized” cast-iron pans hanging in the garage. I knew that was the sign – she was done with cooking! After that, she basically didn’t cook very much.  I took them home before she dumped them in the recycling box. My father always loved the cooking in my mother’s family better than his mother’s… as his mother cooked more plain, where my mom’s family cooked with more spices and much more a variety of Italian foods. Maybe that’s why he stayed with my mom – for her cooking – he loved the food!”

After discovering a picture of the New Haven Bread Company online, Steve told me… “I went every Sunday morning with my father to Ruocco’s on Legion Ave for Italian bread; it was run by Rossitini family. He’d buy 1 large loaf for sandwiches in the afternoon and I’d get 2 hard rolls for lunch, for the next day; he sometimes bought himself a roll for lunch. Once in awhile, he’d stop at Lucibello’s for a few pastries, not always though… but every few months he would… that was a treat! Later, while I was in the Air Force, the place moved near where the Bagel place was on the Boston Post Road.

“While I was in the Air Force I felt like everything I grew up with and knew in West Haven disappeared! West Haven was not the same when I returned home.”

It was so hot and muggy one June day – and when I complained, Steve said….”You haven’t seen HOT until you can fry an egg outside on a hot day. We did that one day on the flight line in Warner Robins. I actually cooked an egg on the wing of the B-52… it was headed to be washed anyway, or I wouldn’t have.”

In stopping at Diane and John Taylors one day, John showed us a wooden box that held fishing rods… “That looks just like the one that my grandfather had… Johnny had sent it to him from Japan, and it held fishing rods inside… Grandpa never used them – but I did though. I went fishing almost every evening at Phipps Lake with them. Johnny (Kessler) and I often caught nightcrawlers… putting in tin cans with dirt so we’d be ready for fishing the next morning… and I still have the box… somewhere… but guess I wore out the fishing rods.”

West Haven Motor Inn

As I prepared to write a story on the farm, we drove by the area and in looking at the now Econo Lodge, Steve said… “I used to go swimming there in the pool when I was young. The boy who lived next door would tell us when to come… as after they cleaned the pool in the morning they usually didn’t come back out. We swam there several times… and kicked out a few times, but we still came back. It was the West Haven Motor Inn back then when I went.” (I wish I knew when the name began changing… love the sign… very classic.” It’s also been known as The Yankee Inn.)

The best place in town for atmosphere of any other place was always Zuppardi’s Pizza. It was a little dark in there with tall wooden booths… and the floor was nice and worn from dancing… and really worn at the cash register where you stood waiting to pay. My favorite was the jukebox there that played the old 78 records. The original building was the back building, that still stands… when they remodeled they built a new building in front. We seldom went after they remodeled, it was too much lighting in there, and it was never the same again… just higher pricing. We began going to Pat’s Pizza – across from Duchess Diner. It still had the look of the old-style pizza parlor you wanted to eat pizza in. When I think about it now, it reminds me of a pizza place from the Goodfellas movie with the dark lighting, they even kept the back door open there. My father sometimes went on Saturday to buy dough at Zuppardi’s though – my mom liked to make pepperoni bread with it. The guy behind the counter would pull off a piece of dough, throw a little flour in the brown paper bag and plop the dough inside. The dough never stuck in the bag either! Imagine today, someone giving you dough just inside a brown bag? The family there must have some pictures of the old place – maybe even on the wall. We haven’t been there in awhile, but maybe a trip is warranted to check it out to see if there are any old pictures around.”

“I have loved music my entire life – I never saw color or race in people’s music; I just liked their music. I can still remember the very day I first heard Elvis Presley – and I didn’t see anything bad in his music like it was talked about on TV. If I ever had to choose between sight or hearing – my choice would have to be hearing. I can’t imagine living in this world and not being able to hear music. The first thing I put on in the morning is the radio – XM radio, not the crap they play on the regular radio. I can listen all day to music and never turn on the TV. If I lived alone, I’d probably have no cable, just give me my DVD’s and XM radio and I’d have everything I need. I could care less if I even had a telephone – I hate answering the phone – it’s never for me.”

Steve and I had many visits with Uncle Frankie (Cambino) over the years… and many stories were told around Grandma Minnie’s kitchen table. If that table could talk… well, then I’d have all the stories! One morning as we sat having coffee, Frankie talked about the kitchen and remembering when his father bought the house. He said… “see that drop ceiling here in the kitchen, well, above those ceiling tiles are big wood beams… and they are still up there. There were two fireplaces here, one in the kitchen over there where we had the hot water heater… daddy covered the fireplace up. The other one is down in the cellar… it’s covered over also, but if you look around, you can see where it was.”

Frankie Cambino:This is an old saltbox style house with a partial hip roof…  built in 1860 and was owned, supposedly by a man by the name of Captain Jack, at least that’s what Mrs. Wheeler told me… she lived just next door. My father bought this house in 1953 when his 14 acre farm was taken from him by the state… when I-95 came through; he was paid $7000 for the farm and land, and he paid $12,500 for this home on First Avenue. Captain Jack didn’t build this house… when he lived here there was a widows walk on top of the roof. My father actually bought the house from the man who owned West Haven Auto-Top… a convertible repair shop for car tops… it was near Tony’s at Savin Rock.”

After Steve restored Frankie’s small winepress, he said…“I remember when my grandfather used his winepress in the basement. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was as big as a washing machine. I would sit and watch the juices flow out as he turned the handle. I turned it a few times, but I was small, so I probably wasn’t that interested in continuing to turn that big handle. I wish that I had his winepress… who knows what happened to it when he stopped making wine; they probably trashed it! He had about 4 or 5 wooden barrels in the cellar; sometimes he even traded a barrel of wine with friends. Grandpa kept a  glass jug of wine on the kitchen table at all times. My father always had one at our house too… on the kitchen table! Probably all the family had their own jug, and I’m sure they brought it back for refills!” (Frankie’s wine press was in the basement, literally falling apart, but no more… Steve’s restored it, and it’s good as new. Frankie used it when making his famous pickled eggplant)

From notes taken with talks from Steve riding down Campbell Avenue… “Underneath Horwitz was a bowling alley for duckpins – I didn’t bowl there but Aunt Catherine (Donahue) was on a league there. I remember the Rivoli Sweet Shop, next door to the Rivoli Theater… there were a few booths and a fountain counter. I don’t think I ever went in there though, mostly older kids hung out there… the ones who had their licenses. At the Rivoli Theater, was where my mother made the large Webster’s Dictionary. She would get weekly inserts, which made up the rather large dictionary… she and her sisters used it for their weekly scrabble games. If the word could be found there – even on the bottom – it was considered a word… by them! Byers Hardware was further down Campbell… and still had its original look of the old hardware store, with the well-worn wooden floor… in its later years; even the original oak roll-up desk was still there and used. Just down the street was Danenbergs, where my grandmother shopped for clothes for her seven children. She charged and paid him weekly… but never told grandpa… he was very proud and never charged anything… he’d do without first.”

Bait and Tackle

The Bait and Tackle shop sat next door to where the trailer park was on Beach St… this structure is the only original structure left from Savin Rock. It originally was Joanne’s Hot Dog Stand.

“Aunt Catherine lived in a trailer after she married Jimmy Donahue. They lived in that tiny trailer park on Beach Street… there’s still some trailers even there today. She told me how they lived next door to the Elephant Lady who worked at Savin Rock, and she even asked her one time, “why are your hands so pretty.” The woman replied… “Oh, I just peel off that other skin.” I guess she applied fake skin to make her hands look like elephant hide. They lived in that trailer for about four years before buying a house on Colonial Boulevard. The entire time they lived in that trailer, people were saying how the land was going to be sold and you’d have to move your trailer… but over fifty years later, there are still trailers there.” (About ten years ago they moved the older trailers out… today only one remains)

The candy store down from the VA on Campbell Avenue was called Sydney Pinskers.  It was one of the three stores on the corner of Richard and Campbell Avenue… and it was the store in the middle. If you were a walker to Thompson school you had the chance to stop in there daily… if you were lucky enough to have spending money. I rode the bus to school until Louie (Albarella) and I were kicked off the bus for giving the finger to people driving by. That was when I discovered the candy store… as other kids had come to school bringing bottles of wax filled with juice and candy lips – I’d never seen them before and when we asked where they’d gotten all the candy they told me of the store. Unfortunately we were only kicked off about three days, but we enjoyed those days before back riding the bus!” (I find it hard to pull memories from people – they know things and sometimes think they aren’t important or interesting… and sometimes don’t remember until something spurs that memory… and I’m always ready and willing to scribble it down.) 

Bobby DeTulio: “My father, Mike “O’Toole” DeTulio rose early on Sunday mornings to go to the Bakery in New Haven for fresh Italian bread; he always delivered fresh bread to his sister’s every Sunday. He usually went to Aunt Minnie’s (Cambino) first and Aunt Mary’s (Pompone) last. One Sunday he switched his routine and almost caught my cousin, Karen (Viscuso) Grosjean, and myself eating meatballs instead of being in church. We heard him coming up the stairs yelling “Mary, it’s O’Toule” – we ran for cover in the pantry closet. Of course he had to have his Italian coffee, so we were stuck there for a good half hour in hiding. Aunt Mary never told on us! My father’s nickname of O’Toole was given to him by his father.”

Dolly (Cambino/Alfonso): “I remember my Aunt Antoinette doing the “eyes” on me several times. Whenever I had a severe headache, she’d do it… and it always seemed to work! She’d take a soup dish, pour water in and place it on top of my head, as she said prayers while rotating the dish; turning it one way and then the other – kind of like spinning it on your head. Then she’d drop oil into it from her fingers. If the oil spread out, it meant you had the eyes. She then flushed it down the toilet and kept doing it until the oil didn’t spread anymore. That meant the eyes were removed… and my headache always went away after that; you can only learn this from someone on Christmas Eve at midnight. There are many different ways, but this was her way. The Italian name is Maluocchio.” (If someone put the “Maluocchio” on you, a spell was put on you – that’s what gave you the eyes…  and the headache!)

…Bob Greene – “To Our Children’s Children”

“People often leave behind property or money for their descendants, but a package of memories of a person’s life is what usually doesn’t get passed along. The more precious commodities of all – people’s own recollections of their worlds seldom get preserved.”

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
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2020: N – April A to Z… Family Stories: New Haven Harbor’s Belle Dock

2020: N – 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… 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:

Come sit a spell and enjoy!

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Belle Dock New Haven

New Haven Harbor’s “Belle Dock”

The name “Belle Dock”peaked my interest… as I remembered seeing it written as a workplace for Steve’s great-grandfather, Giovanni (John) DeTulio… so off I went in search of…

My first knowledge of Belle Dock was in discovering it on the WWI Draft Registration of Giovanni (John) DeTulio in 1918… his occupation was listed as “dock hand” at NHSC. I hadn’t heard of this specific dock before, but assumed it was one of the docks in the New Haven Harbor… which was a busy seaport in the 1800’s.

New Haven derived its name from the old english “haefen”… meaning haven, harbor or ports.

DeTulio WWI Draft Reg 1918 first card

I was first confused as to the name of the nearest relative… as it looked to read Cecilia DeTullio… and to my knowledge at this time… there was no Cecilia DeTullio. But after studying it more… and knowing that he arrived here with his wife, Guila (Julia)… I chalked it up to that whoever wrote this was trying to write what he said… and he probably was pronouncing her name in a more Italian dialect; the other clue being…the address of the nearest relative was his home address… Nancy Drew strikes again!

belle

belle 1

Steamboats left Belle Dock daily for New York

tyler city station belle dock

Belle Dock in the New Haven harbor was busy with commerce and travel… later that very area became the train rail-yard.

looking from to sound

Hard to imagine fields of cows alongside Long Wharf… but circa 1870, farms and pastures ran along the shore.

steamer landing Belle Dock

New Haven once enjoyed a thriving harbor

Belle Dock ca 1880s Paddlewheel Continental docks

Belle Dock as viewed from Middle Dock circa 1888

Belle Dock was located at the westerly approach to where Tomlinson Bridge is today… just under the new I-95 bridge. The steamboat wharf, better known as Belle Dock… was so named for the popular steamboat “Belle” which often docked there in the early 1800’s… decades before the railroad lines were built. The railroad bought a controlling interest in the nearby toll-bridge to gain the property if ever needed… and later also acquired the Belle Dock yard-area. The Hartford & New Haven Railroad built a large freight depot there, along with an engine house, passenger facility, and a dock, in order  to connect with the boats to New York. At this time (1844), and for the next decade, this rail line was the only way to connect from Springfield, Massachusetts, bringing traffic to and from Belle Dock.

belle dock wharf

Multiple docks at New Haven Wharf Harbor

Belle Dock drawing

Belle Dock… one of many docks in New Haven harbor!

Even presidents arrived at Belle Dock… On Aug. 23, 1902, President Roosevelt arrived at Belle Dock on the Sylph. He later left that afternoon by way of the Belle Dock train yard. The lines of The Hartford and New Haven RailRoad ran to the Belle Dock for passengers to make connections on the steamboats to New York.

belle 1845

For 75-cents… you could spend the day in New York!

In reading through the census, John DeTullio seemed to move from job to job… maybe jobs didn’t last long in those days, but he always worked close to home… and Belle Dock was close to home on Warren St.

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

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

2020: M – April A to Z… Family Stories: Memories of The Farm

2020: M – 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 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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Cambino Family photo

This photograph of the Cambino family is one of my favorites; it was taken at the farm under the grapevine by L. V. Emery… of 693 Washington Ave. As Grandpa Joe’s barber shop was at 668 Washington Ave., nearby… we might assume he was a customer at Buddy’s Barber Shop… maybe the photo was even bartered for in free haircuts?

Memories of The Farm

While I never saw or experienced the “Farm”… I’ve heard many stories of their memories. While fond remembrances came from there… it didn’t seem to begin that way.

Aunt Catherine (Donahue) often talked about her first home at 294 York St… how it was a beautiful home with running water, inside heat and electricity… things we all take for granted today. She was a young ten year old girl, and it was all she knew, but life soon changed for her… abruptly it seemed. At some point, possibly just before 1933, the move took place as Nancy was the first born at the farm in 1934; I have assumed the time frame as I was told that only Nancy and Dolly were born at the farm and the 1933 city directory listed them now living at 275 Sawmill Road. The 1938 city directory listed him as “Joseph Gambino” at Sam Mill Rd…. living between Greta and Meloy. (clearly a typo on the “Sam Mill”). On the 1942 city directory, the address changed to 345 Saw Mill Rd…. which seems to be the address the family remembers; probably changed after more houses were built. The closest neighbor, R. Camputaro was listed at 353 Sawmill Rd.

1930 Census Cambino

1930 West Haven, CT. Census: Giuseppe “Joseph” Cambino (1894-1972), Minnie (1905-1992 – wife), Catherine (1924-2015 – daughter), Fred (1926-1986 – son), Celia (1928-2015 – daughter). Census reads that he owned a home with a value of $6000, did not live on a farm, owned a radio, worked his own barber business, was a veteran, spoke English, birthplace  of Italy, immigration year of 1914 and still an alien. (I guess by 1930 he didn’t remember when he arrived in America… he immigrated here on May 27, 1913 on the S. S. Moltke)

The Great Depression began in 1929, but began taking its toll on the country more into the late 1930’s. Possibly by 1933, Joseph may have had financial difficulty… causing them to move suddenly to “The Farm” on Sawmill Road. Did he lose his house on York St. as so many did? There’s no one to ask that question to now… and being the proud man I’ve heard he was… it was never talked about. He continued to provide for his family at the farm… although Aunt Catherine often talked to me about how she felt on the move… as it affected her as a young ten year old girl… uprooted from a home she seemed to have loved. She also mentioned to me that he built the farmhouse and moved them there… that signals to me that he possibly had bought the land while still living in their house on York St. It may not have been the case of him losing the house… in as much as he wanted a farm… and making it happen. In the long run, everyone was probably happier there… although the boys probably enjoyed it more than the girls.

Freddie shooting bow

“Uncle Freddie shooting his bow on the farm”

“Uncle Frankie often hunted in the woods, bringing home squirrels for mama to cook… often using birds as target practice. Uncle Freddie had his own small junkyard of cars way in the back… he often spent much time out there also with his bow. As a young boy, I thought it fun to watch him shoot at the bulls-eye target he kept setup in the back field… shooting arrows high in the air… we’d watch them come down. I was too young to go into the woods when I lived there… I could only play in the open fields that Freddie kept cleared; it was a lot about 200 ft. by  200 ft.”

Stevie sitting on steps

Steve sitting on the back steps of the farmhouse… he laughs, saying… “I never knew there was any other door to go in except for this door… maybe this was the only door?”

In asking Steve about where the “farm” was actually located… “There was only one way into the farm, as it was set back back behind our house on Sawmill Road. It wasn’t really a road… it was more of a wide access cut-out opening of packed uneven dirt with wavy ruts; it was directly across from Voss Road… on the opposite side of Sawmill Road. Today that part of Voss Road is no longer there… when they revamped the entrance and exit off I-95, they ended that part of Voss Rd. at the top of the hill; located where Edward St. met Voss Road. At one time, we could drive directly across from Voss Rd. to that wide cut-out opening… bringing us to our house and back to the farm.” 

” As you drove up that rutty, wavy, “cut-out” dirt road to the top of the hill, you turned right into our yard, with the house sitting about forty feet away from where we parked. If you were going to grandpa’s farm, you continued straight on the cutout road further back… first reaching a flat open area they used for parking… it was outlined with long poles to ensure the cars didn’t roll; most all cars then were standard shift and they could have a tendency to roll unless left in gear. My grandfather’s car rolled once toward the dirt walkway toward the house. Grandpa often came home for lunch and probably had parked closer to the walkway… no one had to stop it, as it must have rolled slow and jammed itself between the rocks that lined the walkway; the walkway narrowed toward the house.”

“My grandfather had enough land to give acreage to all his children to build on when they married, but no one took the land except for my mother.”

jimmy next to dads car

“Uncle Jimmy Donahue standing next to my father’s Rocket 88… it was parked on Sawmill Road. There seems to be a road cut-out in front of the car. Area looks more like the state was already working in leveling the land and trees so area isn’t as recognizable here. This possibly could have been farm of neighbor Ralph Camputaro.”

“Once you reached the top of the hill at our house, you slowly descended down to more flat land where grandpa’s farm was. It was completely enclosed by trees… there was also a back entrance which Freddie used when towing in the old cars he cut up for parts to sell.”

Freddie Hudson HornetFIX

“Freddie’s Hudson parked in the area they used for parking. They outlined it with large poles or planks to keep the cars from possibly rolling down the hill.”

Insalaco blueprints entire page FIX with Numbers

I’ve marked the blueprints to show you the locations better. No. 1 is Saw Mill Road… No. 2 is the cut-out road going up to No. 3 where Steve & Celia Insalaco built their first home. No. 4 is off to the left, where the “farm” was… note it says Minnie Cambino on the map; so the farm area must have been in her name… another puzzle as to why? Note, that at the very top of the blueprints, it says Highland Street… which is in backof where the now apartments are at the bottom of West Spring St. and Greta St.

StevebabyFarm

This walkway, slightly sloped, led from the parking area… Steve sitting on the walkway to the farmhouse.

Freddie with dolly

Uncle Freddie with Aunt Dolly under the grapevine… located next to the shack… where Grandma Minnie did most of her cooking and canning.

Celia Catherine Frankie Nancy Mikie DeTullio Butchie and Pauline

I’ve found many photos taken in about this same area…. as I’ve seen the same houses across on Greta Street. This shows you about where their farm area was. LtoR. front: Nancy, Butchie, Mike DeTulio, Pauline. LtoR Back: Celia, Catherine and Frankie. Those houses in the background are no longer there… we believe the house with the three dormers might be in the area where the old “West Haven Motor Inn” was… now today known as the Econo Lodge.

“While we lived on Sawmill Road… we weren’t on the ground level as the road. Our house, sat up top, while the farm was more back toward West Spring St. and Greta Street. When you were at their farm, you didn’t hear or see Sawmill Road… you were isolated… surrounded by a forest of trees. Only in the fall, when the leaves were down, could you even see any neighbors; their closest neighbor was Ralph Camputaro, the oil man. (The state bought his land also for I-95) When the state bought my grandfather’s land, they didn’t even buy it all… they only bought what they needed, leaving him a small section that was inaccessible by car. You could walk into it, but there was nothing he could do with it… except pay taxes on it… which eventually he stopped paying … so I guess the city took.”

kitchen table at farm

What a treasured photograph of their kitchen… giving us a glimpse into their life. It appears that Grandma Minnie is busy cooking… as she always sat at the table when preparing dishes. In looking around the table, a large bowl of grapes sit in the middle… probably picked that morning from grandpa’s grape vines. A box on the table, with wrappers nearby, may have been a treat from a local bakery… I can’t make out the bottle on the table, but I’m suspecting it might be a wine or his homemade brew inside… the table looks full of crumbs, is that a cheese grater near Grandma Minnie… and check out the wringer washer behind Nancy, it seems they now must have electricity and their own washing machine… no more lugging laundry to the barber shop. Grandpa Joe’s radio sits on a wall shelf… Nancy remembers her mother listening to the daily soaps and they all enjoyed the Sunday evening show of “The Shadow Knows.” I love the vintage porcelain kitchen table with the side drawers to hold the silverware. This is a well-worn kitchen table… lots of love around it and lots of memories… if only this photograph could tell their story! (The radio serial, “The Shadow”, ran from 1930-1954… with the famous line “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

Catherine and fatherFix

Grandpa and Aunt Catherine on my mother in law’s wedding day… her dress as maid of honor always resembled a wedding dress to me. Steve says the small house in the background was the chicken coop… where several chickens supplied the family with eggs.

“Steve: Grandpa utilized everything on the farm… when he built his chicken coop he used the old windows from the cars that Freddie had junked. You could roll the windows up and down from the hand crank on the panel; as a young boy, I thought that was pretty neat.”

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Memories from Aunt Catherine:I am the oldest one in our family now, and I remember the house we lived in at 294 York Street in West Haven. It was a nice house with indoor heating, bathrooms and lots of closets… we didn’t live there very long. (Even though Catherine told me they didn’t live there very long, she must have been born on York St., as Joe and Minnie only lived in a small room at the barber shop for a short time.) We later moved to a house our father built on Saw Mill Road, which we called “the farm.” Nancy and Dolly were born there.  One day Daddy just up and moved us to this farmhouse… it was nothing like our house on York St. We had no heating, except for the stove in the kitchen, no closets, and no indoor plumbing! It was like going backwards, compared to the house we had been living in. Maybe he lost the house on York St., although I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say anything about it, but we made do there… and eventually he added an indoor bathroom. Everyone loved to come and stay at the “farm” – as it was always called. From listening to people talk now about the ‘farm’, it seemed to be a fun place to visit. He owned a large area of land surrounding the house and offered his children a piece to build on as they married, but I chose not to. The only one of my siblings that took a piece of land was my sister Cecelia.”

“I’ll never forget when my sister, Nancy, almost got run over by Ralph Camputaro’s ice trunk. Nancy had gone to the back of his ice truck to get ice chips while he delivered ice inside. Our driveway was on a slight hill, and while she was standing behind the truck, it began rolling. As I looked out the window and saw the truck rolling backward… with Nancy holding onto the back bumper… I started yelling! Ralph ran out and caught the truck just in time, but it still didn’t stop me from getting a beating from my father when he heard… he said I should have been watching her.”

“My sister Nancy did most of the work around the farm like milking the cows and hanging the many loads of wash. I wouldn’t milk the cows at all, or hang the wash over the big rocks, although I did do my share of hanging clothes elsewhere. I was not an outdoor person like my brothers and sisters were. I didn’t even swing on the Tarzan tree like my sister Nancy did; she was more of a tomboy, playing lots of sports in school.  Today she’s like “Martha Stewart” – she knows how to do everything. My sister, Celia, liked to play cards with our brothers.”

“My sister Celia and I worked on a farm off Meloy Road… the truck arrived early mornings to pick us up. I picked green beans there, with my pay depending upon how much I picked. They weighed the bushel baskets you picked… sometimes I added a few stones to make mine weigh more as I was paid by the pound. The one thing I didn’t like about picking was all the “granddaddy long legs” that hung around the plants. At first I was scared of them, but quickly learned to just pinch them and move on. My sister, Celia, was terribly afraid of them and once she saw one… she stopped picking for the day. I also worked at the stone house on Meloy Road… they had a small farm… I hoed around the plants in their garden.”

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Memories from JoJo (DeTulio) Viscuso: “I loved going to my sister Minnie’s house in West Haven when I was young. My sister, Mary, and I often spent the weekend… it was fun staying there. We would all pile up and sleep in one room… sometimes even putting the mattresses on the floor. Their house was known as “The Farm”… good times was had there. I remember the “Tarzan” tree out behind the house where the boys hung a heavy rope on the tree and tied a tire to it. We’d climb up, wait for them to swing the rope to us, and swing out. It was a lot of fun being at “The Farm.”

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Memories from Aunt Nancy (Cambino) Cavallaro: “One of my many jobs was milking the cows when we lived on the farm; my father even sold some of the fresh milk to friends, and I had the job of delivering and collecting the ten-cents to bring back to my mother. I remember delivering to Eddie Voss and someone who lived on York Street. He probably sold it in quarts, as I wouldn’t have been able to carry it in larger quantities.”

When I asked Aunt Nancy about the chickens on the farm… “I don’t remember why, but sometimes my brothers threw me in the chicken coup when they felt like picking on me; I hated that because the rooster pecked hard!”

cheese dryer at farm

“My mother made cheese… putting them in a basket to dry outdoors in the screen cage above… when it hardened, we used it for grating. She also made ricotta cheese with the water from making cheese. We  had a cow at the farm too… and I had to milk the cow when mama didn’t; I also took care of the chickens and collected the eggs.

“We called our farm “The Calamari Ranch” on Wednesday’s… it was a ritual on Wednesday having “stuffed calamari” – nothing different – everyone always knew what was for supper on Wednesday; close friends and family often dropped by to eat with us. Mama always cooked a big pot of spaghetti, making sure there was plenty for everyone. When the fish man came she usually bought 3 pounds of fresh squid… cleaned and stuffed them… sewing the belly with needle and thread; never would she use toothpicks. It had to be done the old fashioned way, and I was the one who had to keep her supplied with thread as she sewed. Mama started her sauce pot while she cleaned the calamari… throwing the legs she cut off from the squid into the sauce for flavor. I remember the fish man coming every Wednesday to the farm. You’d hear his call of “pesce, pesce” and know his truck of fresh fish was outside.”

“When I was small I remember my mother baking Easter sweet breads out in the shack on the farm. She used a huge metal pan and 36 eggs, all at once… if you can imagine. How she judged the temperature and timed them amazes me today. I can still smell the aroma! When we were small mother made each of us a small loaf of Easter bread with the egg in the center; I remember it being a very hard bread. She’d have them sitting all lined up on the bureau in our room. I had the measles one Easter when I was about 6 and I took my Easter bread into bed with me… we called them ‘casa dill.”

“I remember my mother having a kerosene stove inside the house at the farm. A glass jug  held the kerosene, which was attached to the side of the stove; I often had to walk to get it filled. She had a wood burning stove in the outside building we called ‘the shack’… which she used for most of her frying… she didn’t like to fry inside the house.”

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Memories of Celia Cambino Insalaco: When I was small I remember having only kerosene lamps for light at nighttime on the farm – there was no electricity when we were young. Mama took our clothes to wash at Daddy’s barber shop on Washington Avenue because he had electricity. I have many memories of listening to the radio with my mother and sisters – we all listened to the 15-minute soap serial “As The World Turns.”

“My sisters and brothers all worked at a local farm to help my father with money. I hated working on the farm – I didn’t like bugs and snakes. I don’t remember working there for long because I was afraid whenever I saw a snake in the fields; we picked vegetables there in baskets.”

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Dolly (Cambino-Burgarella) Alfonso: “My father built a large grape arbor on the farm… and there was a hammock that hung underneath. My nephew, Steve (Insalaco), and I often played there; we are only a few years apart in age. I remember, Squeaks, a spider monkey my brother Johnny had, and Squeaks loved to sit on the grape arbor, eating grapes and spitting the skins out all over the ground. It used to make my father so mad.”

DollywithFatheronFarm

Dolly with her father… behind looks like the house where Grandma Minnie cooked… often referred to as the shack. (Grandpa Joe’s car)

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Memories from Johnny Cambino: “I remember everything that happened to me when I was young! When I was about four or five, I fell into the spring near the farm. I don’t remember what I was trying to get, but I remember leaning over… and that’s when I fell in. I was half under the water with just the ‘tips’ of my hands hanging on the edge when Mama found me. How she knew where I was, I’ll never know, except just chalking it up to a mother’s instinct. But suddenly she had missed me around the house, and ran all the way down to the spring to see my fingers hanging over the edge. They told me that she jumped in to rescue me, and then they had to help pull her out. After she got me back to the house, my grandmother held me upside down so all the water I swallowed would drain out. Mama told me later that she thought about the spring when I was missing because I always went with her to fill the pails with water.”

Tarzan treeFIX

“We had a tree at the farm that we called “The Tarzan Tree.” We named it that after going to the circus and from watching too many Tarzan movies. Frankie and I hung a thick rope on that tree, right under the big rocks. We’d climb up, swing the rope out, and when it came back, we’d grab it and try to swing to the next tree – just like we’d seen them do on TV and in the circus. One day I swung out and the rope broke, and down I went on the rocks. Boy did that hurt! When I went home Mama and my grandmother used one of their home remedies on me – no one ran to the Dr.’s back then… and they didn’t tell my father what I did either. Mama took plenty of eggs and cracked them to separate the whites. Then she took a white bed-sheet, tore it in strips and dipped them in the beaten egg whites. She wrapped the strips all around my wrists; after they dried, they were hard as a rock – an old remedy for a cast. When my father came home, he was told that the cow had kicked me. They never told him what really happened. If he knew I had fallen from the Tarzan Tree, I would have gotten a beating, broken wrists or not. That’s just how it was!”

“Frankie and I had two pet black crows on the farm. We took them out of a nest when they were young and raised them. When they were older they lived outside – I’d open the pantry window and yell ‘caw, caw’ – and those two birds would come flying right inside. I fed them raw chopped meat – they could eat a pound of meat in no time… gobbling it right up. My bird’s name was ‘Nigal’ (Nick). I don’t remember what Frank’s was called. One day his didn’t come home, then later mine disappeared. Maybe they went off to start their own family.”

‘I can still see mama making us Root Beer at the farm… I remember how it foamed up very quickly after she added the yeast cake. When it was ready to bottle, my brother Frankie and I quickly helped to pour it into the bottles while mama got the bottle capper out. We worked together filling the bottles one by one and then capped them… just like an assembly line. We put the capped bottles in the dirt cellar daddy had dug out. Of course the longer they stayed, the more potent they were, but we could never let them stay that long. Frankie and I would steal and drink them – hot or cold – it didn’t matter. Sometimes we’d hear a big ‘pop’ from downstairs – another bottle was lost – it had exploded! The one good thing was that since we had a dirt cellar there wasn’t much mess to clean when they popped open.”

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Memories from Frank Cambino: “We had many chickens on the farm. One time the old man cut their beaks straight across, making them flat because they were pecking the eggs with their pointed beaks and breaking them… he solved that. The ‘old man’ was tough!”

“We had to help my father with the plowing so he could plant; it was usually Freddie who dragged the shovel to plow. I liked walking through the soft dirt afterward… until Freddie threw rocks at me to get out. Freddie did most of the bull-work in the fields helping the old man.”

Memories from Steve: “My grandparent’s (Cambino) house on Sawmill Road was always referred to as “The Farm.” At that time, the surrounding area was mostly woods, with very few houses. Grandpa Cambino had a large garden behind his house, all enclosed by a fence… he even had a grape arbor.  Grandpa’s grape vines enclosed the large grape arbor which gave us much shade… there was an old kitchen table underneath where we often ate in the summer. Sometimes my uncle’s even played cards out there on Saturday if Grandpa wasn’t home. In the winter they played cards in the small shed, called the shack… that was where Grandma Minnie mostly did her cooking; there was a wood burning, porcelain stove inside. I was always told that I chipped that stove when I fell and hit my head on it; I was supposedly younger than five when I did that. Even though I have no recollection of it… I still find it hard to believe that my head could have been that hard at a young age to chip a stove, but I do remember seeing the chip.”

“Grandpa dug out a dirt cellar after moving into the farmhouse… it’s where he kept his wine barrels. I remember the sides in the cellar having stones, but I think the floor was only dirt packed; I had only heard that he dug it out slowly after the house was built. It was lined with shelves on the wall for grandma’s many canning jars; she canned everything they harvested out of the garden. It stayed cool down there, so it made the perfect storing area for the canned goods and his wine.”

Cambino_0020FIX

Grandpa Joe enjoyed being outside… it seems he often got babysitting duty.  Behind him is the shack where Grandmama Minnie cooked.

Old man playing flute

Grandpa Joe, often to be found babysitting and entertaining the farm dogs with one of his flutes that he carved… Dolly remember having one.

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Steve and I took a ride to photograph the area so I could better identify on photos and map where the farm was located.

Farm MAP identifying sites

farm Where Steve Insalaco house sat on Saw Mill RdFIX

The “new” Saw Mill North-bound exit… about halfway up where red circle is would have been about where the Insalaco home on Saw Mill Rd. was. The cut-out road to go up to the Insalaco home and to the “farm” was about the same area as this ramp. After going past his house you would have continued on and then slightly down and to the left toward the farm; it was set back off Saw Mill Rd… not seen from the road as the area was filled with trees.

farm rock sat on with wordsFIX

In the early 1950’s there was a large rock here where Steve sat on as a young boy counting cars… today you can just about see the tip of the rock before grass grows in the spring.

farm woods looking into farm area by licquor store on MeloyFIX

Photo taken from the parking lot of West Haven Discount Liquor (379 Saw Mill Rd.), with entrance on Meloy Rd. In looking through the trees, you would be looking toward the area of Joe Cambino’s farm.

farm stone house up behind farmFIX

The stone house at the corner of Meloy and West Spring St. was where Joe Cambino played bocce every Sunday afternoon. I’m told it was “Gouma’s” (sp) house, which meaning godmother; she was Dolly’s godmother. They walked up a hill from the back of their farm to reach it. (In researching I found “Comare” as a slang dialect version of Godmother; I am spelling it as I understood it said.)

farm back of property with wordsFIX

In driving down West Spring St., off Meloy, we turned right on Kenneth St, which seemed to end… unless you turned into more apartment areas. Looking straight ahead into the woods, would be the farm area owned by Joseph Cambino. Their farm was situated in the center area of land enclosed by Saw Mill Rd., Greta St., West Spring St., and Meloy Rd. I can safely assume that this was part of the Cambino farm… possibly the part that the state did not buy; this section of forest still remains undeveloped.

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

 

 

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2020: L – April A to Z… Family Stories: Lessons Learned

2020: L – 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 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!

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Lesson Learned

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learned in growing up… if you pay attention!

While coming home tonight I spotted a vintage red kitchen stool chair in the trash…. “Yea that looks just like the one at Grandma Minnie’s house. That was always my seat in her kitchen… as I’d be out of the way of the table, but could sit and listen to the adult conversations. If you were quiet… you could be around… that’s how you learned things. Children back then were meant to be seen, but not heard. Today they want to be seen and heard… they don’t learn things like we did as children.”

In reading about the Thomas House in West Haven on 1st Avenue that was later moved to Bethany on the Litchfield Turnpike, Steve said….”I learned a lot about wood and building from my father. Houses that have no foundation must be taken apart piece by piece, just like the Thomas house was. I used to think about that and wonder… thinking that it sure was a lot of work to have to do it that way… as every piece had to be numbered. You had to have seen something moved, to really understand the concept and how-to. I sat on the hill and watched my house moved from Sawmill Road over to Edwards Street. It was amazing to see them roll the house down the un-paved driveway, and watch how the house stayed even as it went over rocks, and up and down hills… while remaining level. The roads weren’t paved back then, they were still hard packed-down dirt roads. Inside our house, we left everything intact… the only preparation needed was tying the cabinet handles together so they didn’t open, but the dishes were left in the cabinets – I don’t remember hearing that anything broke!”

“It wasn’t long after getting my first car, when it suddenly had a flat tire… just around the corner from our house. As I was changing the tire, my father drove by… I always thought that he had something to do with my tire going suddenly flat, just after leaving the house… just so he could be sure that I could change it by myself…. lesson learned!”

Your father couldn’t wait to tell me….”McKinley finally learned how to turn George the monkey on and off today (Aug. 12, 2013) with the button on its paw. She thought that was the greatest thing, and turned George on and off all day… poor George took a beating from her, as she carried him around all day making him clap his hands.”

“I’ll never forget what Uncle Johnny told me when I enlisted in the Air Force. Right before I left, he said to me, “when they give you a gun, never hit your target – always miss. If you can’t hit the target, they’ll never put a gun in your hand and send you to Vietnam. Never let them know exactly how much you do know.” He was right.., I learned to never let them know what I really did know. I even flunked my truck driving test on purpose because I didn’t want to drive trucks and work on the flight line, but that didn’t stop them from giving me a truck license and putting me on the flight line. They did what they wanted with you – whether you liked it or not. YOU belonged to them!”

“My father drove his Oldsmobile to New York when he took Nonni and his sisters to the ship… they were sailing to Italy. I give my father credit, as I would never, not even now, drive in the city and try to find my way around. We all went to the ship with them that day… even going aboard. As I looked over the edge of the ship, I thought to myself that it sure was a long way down to the water. I couldn’t swim at that time… imagine me, living near the beach all my life, and I didn’t even know how to swim… but I learned after that.”

“The first person everyone called when they needed help on a repair was my father. I don’t think I ever saw anything he couldn’t fix. He loved a challenge! Later on in life I’d try and talk him out of repairing everything and just buy a new one – it didn’t always pay to repair things; sometimes it just wasn’t worth your time, but I could never tell him that! He loved taking things apart to figure out what made them tick. He had ‘mechanics’ in his blood. I learned a lot from him… but he was very thick headed!”

While watching TV one Saturday morning, the military men in the movie were smoking and your father said… “When I was in the Air Force we had to “field strip” our cigarettes after smoking, or suffer the consequences. Field Strip means you take the cigarette butt apart… put the paper and the filter in your pocket, and let the tobacco blow in the wind. If anyone was caught throwing a butt on the ground you were made to clean the entire area by yourself. I never saw anyone throw a cigarette butt on the ground! One thing you were taught in the military… was to respect the area. They had very high standards… you learned quickly to adhere to them… and you didn’t disrespect anything unless you wanted to be put in the brig – or worse. Our base in Warner Robins was so clean you could have eaten off the sidewalks. Aunt Catherine would have liked it there – right up her alley with cleanliness.”

“When I spent time on the flight-line, we lined up for roll call every morning… lining up  across the flight line to walk the area… picking up any debris. It was called FOD – “Foreign Object Debris”. We never found much litter, as we walked it every morning. It was kept immaculate, as it was protocol to walk every day. The military didn’t tolerate anything out of place. Everything had its place, and you learned quickly to keep it… in its place. I didn’t like their standard of respect they held you to when I was in the Air Force, but when I look back now, I see how they molded you into a better person having respect for things and others. I still believe everyone should have to go into the service – making you appreciate your home and family more; you learn quickly how to stand on your own two feet. While there, they are your family… they take care of you, and you had better not get into trouble… as they didn’t baby you.”

 “I learned a few tricks from the other guys while in the service. One guy even taught us how to get money out of the pay phones. His father had worked for the telephone company and they were taught how people scammed the phone company. It was hit and miss having the money come out, but it worked at times. What the trick was, as soon as you put your dime in, slam the phone receiver down really hard, like you were mad, and sometimes if the money was in the right spot going down… your money you had just put in, plus more, might come rolling out. It worked sometimes for me… hit or miss.”

“I remember many arguments with my father… eventually learning he had been right all along! He once told I should cut down the flowering trees by our driveway, but I told him no, that we liked them when they flowered. I soon learned that the couple weeks of blooms wasn’t worth the effort of cleaning them up… and succumbed to his being right… again! Parents are always trying to tell you things – things they have already learned the hard way, but children don’t always listen until they learn – the hard way.”

“The one work issue we never agreed on was the union at Armstrong. My father didn’t believe in unions – he felt they demanded too much from the company. He was a company man all the way! He didn’t feel that way so much at the end of his career, as Armstrong didn’t do right by their employees who had given their lives for the company. My father always felt that work came first, with family second. If you didn’t work, you couldn’t provide for your family; he never refused overtime and missed out on many family functions… and was always mad at me when I refused any overtime… he always found out. That was the drawback of working where a parent worked – they found out everything you did. But that is how he believed, and he always provided for his family. I learned most of my work ethics from my father, but I learned to put family first more than he did. I saw what work did to my father, and learned quickly that the job isn’t always there for you, but your family is.”

As I watched Martha Stewart sewing on her tv show today, I asked Steve who repaired his clothes when he was young. “Nonni in Shelton was very good at sewing and did most of the repairing when I stayed there, but I never made many holes in my clothes. Tweed fabric was easy to repair, you only needed black and white thread. Repairing holes and darning socks were a necessity when you had a large family. I remember watching Nonni as she darned socks – who do you think I learned to sew from?”

In seeing Melissa’s bike today, which Steve had pulled out of the shed, he said. “I got my first bike while we still lived on Sawmill Road. I already knew how to ride a bike – no one taught me, I just learned by myself on Dolly’s old bike. I couldn’t even ride my new bike right away as it was actually too big for me… it had been a Xmas present. Back then it was usually too cold for bike riding in December… not like today… often we had snow and ice on the ground until spring.”

2020 AtoZ Thank You Reading

Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
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© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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2020: K – April A to Z… Family Stories: King of West Haven Speedway – King Cambo

2020: K – 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 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:

Come sit a spell and enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

King of West Haven Speedway…

King Cambo

Legend

I was lucky enough to have viewed the priceless ‘Legend” scrapbooks created by Maggie Cambino… first as a star-struck girlfriend… and later as a wife. Within those covers are excerpts of the many newspaper clippings and photographs… documenting King Cambo’s life and more. I’m sharing many of the excerpts of those newspaper clippings here.

July 15, 1952 – New Haven Register: 25-Lap Non-Ford Feature billed at Races Tonight” –  A bumper crop of non-Ford cars is expected tonight at the West haven Speedway when racing director Harvey Tatttersall Jr. stages a dual show.

Jokko Maggiacomo of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and Johnny Cambino of West Haven, will be shooting for their fifth and third straight successes of the season in their respective racing divisions. Jokko is a pre-race choice to extend his reign, where the novice (Cambino), Saw Mill Road driver, will have to battle it out with an expected entry list of 35 cars to gain the laurels.

johnny 1951

Cambino, who is 21-years old, is a freshman in the racing field, but the hard driving Italian youth has displayed plenty of savvy behind the “wheel” of his “souped” up junker and he isn’t being taken lightly by the others.

Cambino will be up against a strong field which will include Gil Gay of Bridgeport, returning to action after sustaining slight injuries in a crackup at Bridgeport’s Candlelight Stadium, Hank Gilbert of Fair Haven, Ken Strong, Art O’Malley and many others.

July 16, 1952: New Haven Register: (Friday) – Bob Glen of North Haven clinched the 25-lap non-Ford event, edging out Hank Gilbert of Fair Haven and Johnny Cambino of West Haven in a three-way fight which wasn’t clinched until the final lap. Cambino might have finished in the chips had he not been forced wide on the third base turn and Gilbert sneaked into second position.

July 24, 1952 – New Haven Register: Two 25-Lap test features Races at Speedway Tonight” – Although the forecast indicates more torrid heat spells, the weather probably won’t be any hotter than the action tonight at the West Haven Speedway where a pair of 25-lap features are on the agenda for the weekly United Stock Car Racing Club’s program.

The customer’s are expected to see another “ding dong” action-packed show when the “junkers” swing into action. A duel is expected between Johnny Cambino, a popular shore-town youngster, and Bobby Glenn of North haven, who is driving for a West Haven club. Glenn won the feature last week over-taking Cambino after the latter’s car developed engine trouble.

July 25, 1952 – New Haven Register: Bobby Glen, of North haven, staved off plenty of “bumping” in the 25-lap non-Ford feature to blaze home in front of Dave Scott of Seymour and Johnny Cambino, the brilliant West Haven youth, in a heated race.

Several crashes, including one which sent Al Barnett’s car sailing through the fence on the far turn in the backstretch – it thrilled the enthusiasts on hand for the show. Barnett’s a New Haven boy – he escaped with nothing more than a case of shock. Johnny Cambino, Bill Boyd and Phil Cook, finished in that order in the first heat in the non-Ford races.

July 30, 1952 – New Haven Register: Junkies to Roll at Rock Race Oval Tomorrow Night” – Fans are buzzing about the prospective duel tomorrow night between Bob Glenn of North Haven, the racing games newest sensation in the non-Ford division – and 21 year old John Cambino of West Haven, who has been putting on some spectacular shows at the West Haven Speedway this season.

Tomorrow’s meeting of over 45 cars should be another dog fight. The operators of the “junkies” from neighborhood garages along the West Haven shore have been gunning for each other since they started driving at the Savin Rock track.

August 3, 1952 – New Haven Register: (Sunday) 200-Lap Pleasure Car Race Slated At Speedway Tonight” – The biggest auto derby to come to Savin Rock in over a decade is scheduled for the West Haven Speedway tonight at 8 p.m. when the 200-lap Grand National Pleasure Car Classic, featuring all late-model American made products driven by some of the outstanding pilots in the country, will run for the trophy and prize money.

Racing director, Harvey Tattersall Jr. also has arranged to run the non-Ford cars in a spectacular 25-lap event in conjunction with the main event, and in this car the brigade from the “ash can” derby will have Hank Gilbert, Johnny Cambino, Gil Gay and North Haven’s Bob Glenn among those battling it out for the verdict in their respective fields.

August 4, 1952 – The New Haven Register: (Monday) – ”Cambino Wins” –  In the non-ford feature, Johnny Cambino of West Haven, a 21 year-old sensation, thrilled the gathering with a brilliant demonstration of driving as he roared across the finish line a scant three-yards ahead of Hammering Hank Gilbert of Fair Haven in the 25-lap co-feature. Cambino and Gilbert were riding neck and neck the last five laps and the packed house was thrilled.

August 22, 1952 – The New Haven Register: (Monday) – Area Drivers Draw Fans for Speedway Event” – The feature event is listed for 25-laps and a duel between Johnny Cambino of West Haven, Hank Gilbert of Fair Haven, Dave Scott of Seymour, and North Haven’s sensational Bob Glenn.

A destruction or “race of doom” in which six cars will clash – the destruction race went over with a terrific bang here three weeks ago and the show is being repeated again by popular demand.

September 28, 1952 – New Haven Register: Bobby Glenn of North Haven zoomed to a spectacular victory in the 100-lap Map Cap event at the West Haven Speedway last night; Johnny Cambino of West Haven trailed Glenn both times while Fair Haven’s, Frank Gilbert, was third at the end of the first 50 laps.

October 17, 1952 – New Haven Register: Speedway Finals to Settle Duel for Track Honors” –  When the non-Ford cars stage their final race of the season, a three-way duel for title honors between Bob Glenn of North Haven, Hank Gilbert of Fair Haven and West Haven’s Johnny Cambino, looms. The fans will probably be treated to an action-packed show with flips at the rate of a dime, a dozen.

May 2, 1953 – New Haven Register: “45 Car Field Set For Debut at Speedway– Many of the outstanding car drivers in the “junkies” or non-Ford class will be on hand for the West Haven opener, including last years champion, Bob Glen, of North Haven – runner up, Johnny Cambino of West haven – Elm City drivers of Frankie Belbusti, Stan Johnson, Johnny Proto – along with Art O”Malley and Dave Scott of Seymour, Red Ray and Gil Gay of Bridgeport, and the latest newcomer, Rocky Reynolds, a strong favorite from the Elm City section. The West Haven drivers, Johnny Cambino and Frankie Belbusti are not to be overlooked.

johnny in 5

“King Cams” driving the “Flying 5.”

May 04, 1953 – New Haven Register: Hometown Drivers Dominate Picture at West Haven Oval” –  Hometown product, Johnny Cambino, is dominating the picture at the West Haven Speedway after five weeks.

May 10, 1953 – New Haven Register: “Bobby Glen Takes Feature Before Big Crowd At Rock” Bobby Glenn took the non-Ford junker thriller by about a car-length over Stan Johnson of New Haven, Johnny Cambino of West Haven was third, even after his car struck another one in the last lap and was tossed high in the air. The racer came down on all four wheels to enable the shore town driver to continue on and grab show money.

May 22, 1953 – New Haven Register: (Saturday) “Stan Johnson Seeks Repeat in Race Feature At Rock”- Boston, who won last Saturday, is scheduled to be on hand along with Johnny Cambino, Frankie Belbusti, Art O’Malley, Dave Scott, Johnny Timko and a host of other drivers from all over the state.

A torrid fight is predicted between the Johnson-Boston-Cambino trio. The customer’s on hand Thursday were thrilled when Cambino fought his way from eighth place and came within one lap of finishing in third slot with one of the best displays of driving skill witnessed here this season.

Cambino, red-hot on the road, hasn’t been able to manufacture a feature win at home. Tonight he figures it to be his night. It could very well be it if he drives like he did the other night.

May 29, 1953 – New Haven Register: “Cambino Choice to Win Rock Race on Saturday Night”- Front-running Johnny Cambino will carry a seven-point lead into Saturday’s 100-lap race which will be staged at the West Haven Speedway on Saturday night, highlighting the Memorial Day weekend. The veteran West Haven driver will be a strong choice to win the event which is being staged for the Register Fresh Air Fund and will carry a winner’s purse of $1000.

May 30, 1953 – New Haven Register: Nordino Takes Rock Thriller Over CambinoElm City driver captures 25-lap non-Ford feature by fender length! Some 500 fans who braved chilly off-shore winds from Long Island Sound at the West Haven Speedway were treated to one of the season’s best races in the non-Ford stock events last night as Al Mordino of New Haven shaded West Haven’s Johnny Cambino by a fender length to gain the 25-lap feature.

Cambino, driving hard and starting from far behind in the field of 15 cars, nearly pulled the event out of the fire after Johnny Porto went into a spin and was knocked out of the running.

June 7, 1953 – New Haven Register: (Sunday) Bill Boston Takes Feature before 3,200 at Speedway”-  Customers had a close-up view of another smash as Johnny Cambino put his car out of commission by cracking into the grandstand.

June 20, 1953 – New Haven Register: (Friday) – The biggest mid-week crowd of 1.946 turned up at the West Haven Speedway last night and was treated to a stock car racing program packed with action. Johnny Cambino, popular West Haven boy, wrecked himself out of the main event in the early laps, blowing a tire and smashing into the guard rail. He was uninjured.

June 28, 1953 – New Haven Register: (Sunday) Cambino Featured at West Haven Speedway” –  Johnny Cambino of West Haven, who has had more than his share of tough luck on his hometown track this season, came through last night to win the 50-lap feature race at West Haven Speedway.

About 3000 fans saw Cambino take over the lead in the eighth lap and pace the field from there on in. It was only the second win of the season for Cambino of the Savin Rock oval.

July 1, 1953 – New Haven Register: (Wednesday) Three Big Shows Scheduled For Speedway Track” – They’ll be some early fireworks at the West Haven Speedway tomorrow night at 8:30 when racing director, Harvey Tattersall Jr. lights the fuse for a double-barrel program of stock car racing with a couple of big features on tap.

The other half of the show will feature the non-Fords in a 25-lap race. Johnny Cambino, winner of the 50-lap race here last Saturday and again in Bridgeport on Monday, will try again for his third straight triumph. Cambino’s triumph puts him into the running for the title honors at the shore-town track.

July 5, 1953 – New Haven Register: 200 Lap Race Tops Program at Raceway: Event For Late-Model Pleasure Cars Listed Tonight at Rock” – An estimated 4000 racing fans are expected to jam the West Haven Speedway tonight for the second annual Grand National Late-Model Pleasure Car Race feature event. Jokko Maggiacomo of Poughkeepsie, N. Y. will go against a strong field of cars headed by West Haven’s Johnny Cambino, a contender for the track title this season on the basis of his brilliant record.

July 17, 1953 – New Haven Register: Cambino Buzzes Home First For Eight Speedway Triumph – It wasn’t too long ago that Johnny Cambino was in the midst of a slump and threatened to “scrap” his car to get another one. But today Johnny’s car is priceless after he won  his eighth major non-Ford win at the West Haven Speedway last night.

The customer’s who went down to the track to escape the heat were twice as warm from heat generated by the dashing cars which tossed fenders at each other all night long – plus spins and near flips which came at the end of a baker’s dozen.

Racing director, Harvey Tattersall was satisfied with the turnout of 1,700 paying customers’… their best Thursday night paying delegation thus far this season. Cambino was at his best in a lively modified feature.

Cambino, a 22 year-old youth who works in Armstrong Rubber pushing a truck around loaded with tires all day – rolled his hot-rod around the track in the fast time of 6:15:33 to edge out Art O’Malley of Shelton and Elmer Wheeler of New Haven in the 25-lap non-Ford feature.

The West Haven boy (Cambino) didn’t have to exert himself as he coasted during the last five laps to win in a freeze.

Brainard, like Cambino, experienced little difficulty in winning the modified event. Herb Golde of Bridgeport took second place, but the action centered on the battle for third spot which found Jokko Maggiacomo out-dueling Moon Burgress in a race which kept the fans buzzing through out Brainard’s time of 6:59:85.

July 19, 1953 – New Haven Register: Belbusti Speedway Winner After Cambino Cracks Up” –  Frank Belbusti of West Haven scored a five-length victory over Leo Tancredi of Clintonville in the 25-lap feature for non-Ford’s at the West Haven Speedway last night. Johnny Cambino, the favorite was knocked out of the race when his car was smashed up against the crash rail on the 17th lap.

It was after the re-start, the second one in the race, that Belbusti got his break and took over the lead from Johnny Timko. Stan Johnson of New haven finished third. No time was given due to the re-starts.

Bill Greco of New Haven won the first semi-final as he finished ahead of Tancredi and Belbusti. His time was announced as 3:41:16. Cambino took the second semi– with George Rasutek of Seymour second. A crowd of 2,600 was on hand for the show.

July 23, 1953 – New Haven Register: Modifieds, Non-Fords Share Billing at Shore-Town Track –  The “Big Bertha’s” in both the modified and non-ford divisions of racing will be seen in action tonight at the West Haven Speedway. Racing director, Harvey Tattersall Jr., has another four-star spectacular on the agenda for the area fans when a pair of 25-lap features, together with a six car demolition race, highlights the program. Qualifying heat races, starting at 8:30 p.m. will get the program off and running – one of the biggest crowds of the season is expected. Johnny Cambino, scheduled to drive a rebuilt car, Billy Boston, Johnny Porto and Elmer Wheeler, will also be among the cars fighting for the main-go tonight.

July 1953 – New Haven Register: Speedway Brass Finds Nothing’s New – Except Sunday–  Harvey Tattersall was toying with the idea of running a motor boat show at the West Haven Speedway. He could have very well, but unfortunately the boats weren’t available and thus the scheduled program of stock car races was flooded out. An estimated two-foot of water covered the major part of the track and despite the fact that the rain ceased shortly after 5 p.m., it was impossible to get the track in shape for the pair of 25-lap events. Tattersall said the entire program would be staged next Thursday night.

Frank Belbusti, the top driver in the United Stock Car organization, will head the list of car drivers for the show, which will also include Hank Gilbert, Elmer Wheeler, Art O’Malley, Johnny Cambino, Chuck Ceresa, Johnny Porto, Billy Greco and many others.

July, 1953 – New Haven Register: Two Features Due Tomorrow at Speedway; Non-Ford and Modified Cars to Race Separately at West Haven Track” – In addition to the modified event, Tattersall has another feature on tap for the non-Ford cars and in this race Johnny Cambino of West Haven, will be out for his eight major win of the season. Cambino who attempted to post his seventh at Savin Rock last week, but flunked out,  annexed the win in Bridgeport where he won the main go.

August 1, 1953 – New Haven Register: Two Major Events Headline Races at Speedway Tonight” – Two major events, a 100-lap championship race for the non-Ford cars and a demolition event with a field of 18 cars, which will lead the action tonight at the West Haven Speedway starting at 8:30.

Area fans have seen some thrilling smack-ups this season at the shore-town oval, but tonight the wrecks should come at the rate of a “dime a dozen.” The showing of 18 cars in the wrecking race marks the first time that director Harvey Tattersall has pitted such a large number together in one event – and the customers turning out should be in for a barrel of spills, thrills and spine-tingling action.

Interest however, is focused on the extra-lap race, the third to be staged here this season. Both of the previous winners, Hank Gilbert of Fair Haven and Johnny Porto of New Haven, will be in the field. The track leader, Frankie Belbusti of West haven, will also be on hand along with Johnny Cambino, Billy Boston and Elmer Wheeler, three of the other top contenders for the title this season.

August 9, 1953 – New Haven Register: Greco Scores Fourth Win at West Haven Speedway” –  Bill Greco gunned to his fourth victory in his last 5 outings when he copped the 25-lap non-Ford feature before 2,665 at the West Haven Speedway last night. In the second heat, a double crackup occurred on the tight base turn when cars operated by Stan Pliska and Johnny Cambino collided and went into the wall.

johnnycambino K 7

Johnny Cambino and the K7

September 20, 1953 – New Haven Register: Ceresa, Cambino Duel Ends in Crack-Up on 47th Lap – Fialla Takes Second –  Dick Myers of Milford broke into the lead two laps from the finish to take the 50-lap feature for non-fords at the West Haven Speedway last night. Bridgeport’s Chuck Ceresa and West Haven’s Johnny Cambino were fighting it down the stretch when a crack-up cost them a chance at the top money.

In the second semi it was Cambino, Bob Rich of this city and Bill Boston finishing in that order. Cambino’s winning time was 3:18:49. A crowd of 1,780 saw last nights show.

1953: (Friday) Cambino Scoots by Tangled Mordino to Cop West Haven Stock Car Feature– Don’t ever give Johnny Cambino a break or he’ll make you pay for it. That’s what happened last night before 2000 spectators at the West Haven Speedway when Waterbury’s Tony Mordino tangled up some 150 feet away from pay-off territory – with the net result being a victory for Cambino.

The 22 year-old West Haven  boy was breathing down Mordino’s neck during the last two laps when the non-Ford driver smacked into an unidentified car on the turn, blew a tire, but managed to finish in second place while Cambino powered through on the inside to rack up his sixth straight major win of the season.

The last lap was the event which stirred the fans. Cambino’s maneuver in driving on the inside forced the issue and brought him extra stipends in his pay envelope. Johnny was clocked at 6:15:35.

April 19, 1954: New Haven Register – The people who turned out for last week’s stock car racing program at the Savin Rock track went home mighty pleased. They got plenty of action which was more than enough to offset the chilly blasts which swept in from Long Island Sound.

That was some show,” commented Director Harvey Tattersall yesterday, “We are still getting letters and phone calls on the show, complimenting the drivers and the United group for the spectacular performances the drivers put on. It was one of the best I’ve seen here in years,” added the prominent United official.

Three of the stock car drivers who will appear at the West Haven Speedway tomorrow night for the 1954 inaugural show are Johnny Cambino of West Haven, Frank Belbusti, last year’s track champion, also from West Haven, and Bill Boston, of Bridgeport.

1957: ….And the way things shape up at the Oval thus far – the combination of Greco-Gaudiosi – Mordino appear to be the hottest cars, but fellows like Cheshire’s Jim Crashe, Frank Belbusti and Johnny Cambino are giving all the boys a real rough session of it and any one of them are capable of upsetting the leaders.

50’s – New Haven Register: “Cambino is Riding High in New Stock Race Car”- For years, Johnny Cambino, a West Haven stock car driver, drove Car 727 at the shore town speedway and then all of a sudden he gave up the car.

Watch this one,” Cambino said pointing to the sleek No. 7, which he is now driving. He has the small six-cylinder vehicle running in top style, so much so in fact, that the West Havener is no leading the pack’s individual point standing race. Cambino went into last week’s race leading by ten points over Dan Gaudiosi of Waterbury, 181 to 171.

May 04. 62 – New Haven Register: “Hometown Drivers Dominate Picture at West Haven Oval” –  Hometown products are dominating the picture at the West Haven Speedway after five weeks. Johnny Cambino, a veteran 10-year man at the shore town track, has taken a slim lead over Sherman Saunders of Prospect to lead the non-Ford drivers from within the United Stock Car Club racing at the oval.

The West Haven boy, by virtue of winning his last two features, moved into first place in the long standing battle over Saunders, 53 to 52, and has high hopes of increasing his lead on Saturday night when a 50-lap race will be staged.

The race is so tight for the non-Fords that four points separated three other drivers: Dan Gaudiosi, 49; Bernie Palmer, 47: and Ralph Zullo, 45 are running behind the Cambino – Saunders pair for the lead and the outcome of Saturday’s events, could play a major role in drastic changes prior to the running of the Memorial Day 100-lap event which will be for The Register Fresh Air Fund.

May 26, 1962:  New Haven Register Cambino is Victories in West Haven’s Oval Race” – Johnny Cambino, a 5’4” veteran driver, won the feature 100 lap race at the West Haven Speedway last night before 1,800 fans. Cambino, driving George Greco’s car, pulled away from the field midway in the race, when his nearest rival, Tommy Sutcliffe went into a spin on the 40th lap. Sutcliffe was never able to make a race out of it again.

June, 1962: New Haven Register – Cambino Eyes Speedway Jackpot as Spur to Honeymoon Junket – Popular Oval Driver Will Be Married After “Fund” Show: Chunky Johnny Cambino, one of the old-time favorites at the West Haven Speedway will be racing his last race at the Oval on Saturday night – at least for maybe three weeks – and he hopes to make it a memorable night.

“It won the $1000 lap-event the last time out and I could really use the money this time,” said the soft-spoken Cambino last night as he checked repairs being made to his car in preparation for the race which will aid the Register Fresh Air Fund. And Cambino has a good reason for wanting to make it tow straight. For come July 4th – Johnny will march down the aisle with Miss Margaret Giordano at St. Bernadette’s Church in New Haven – and he could use the money for his honeymoon trip.

August 14, 1962: New Haven Register – “Old College Try Wins for Cambino at West Haven” – Johnny Cambino gave it the old college try here tonight but missed by an eyelash in winning his third straight feature race at the Speedway

While a roaring crowd gave the drivers a resounding ovation, Bobby Williams, of North Haven, flashed across the finish line edging out Cambino who came from about eight car-lengths during the final two laps of the 50-lap race, to lose a thriller.

Cambino, making a gallant effort to get back into the thick of the point standing race gained some ground as a result of finishing second, while Tommy Sutcliffe, the top rated driver, finished fourth.

August 19, 1962: New Haven Register – “Top Drivers Due for Race at Speedway” – Johnny Cambino, veteran West Haven driver will be among Easters stars competing tonight in special race at West Haven Speedway.

July 25, 1992:Waterford Speedbowl John “King Cambo” Cambino is Loctite Legends Invitational Qualifying Winner” – In the first of two 15 lap LEGEND race qualifiers, John Cambino strapped himself into Joe Machniks Sportsman, #46, after a twelve-year absence from the drivers seat, to claim the win in convincing style. “It feels like I never left,” Cambino said in victory lane. The personable Cambino competed on the Connecticut short tracks for 31 years and was a threat to the winners purse when he pulled into the Speedbowl pits as an outsider. In this race, he started in the last row and steadily passed the competition to take the lead away and lead the last two laps.

August 8, 1992: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway Scene, Waterford CTThe names are the same. Their hair has grayed, some waistlines have expanded. But the men who will fill the twenty-car field in the LOCTITE Legends Final event at Waterford Speedbowl on August 15th still possess the talent that has given them legendary status as some of the Northeast’s great stock car drivers. Consider John, “King Cambo,” Cambino, one of the regular outsiders who would come down and steal the money away from Waterford Speedbowl regulars in era’s gone by.

He was the first 15-lap LOCTITE Legends Race Series qualifying winner, assuring himself of a start in the final. Despite a twelve-year long retirement, Cambino was as smooth as many of today’s stars when he overcame the competition with the Joe Machnik-owned Limited Sportsman.

August 9, 1993: Connecticut Post – “Here and There– Hamden’s Johnny Cambino added another win to his collection Saturday night by taking the extra-distance 25-lap held over Limited Sportsman race at Waterford Speedbowl.

August 1993: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway Scene – “While Ageless Cambino Scores Third Limited Win of the Season” – Johnny Cambino used his years of experience to claim his third victory of the season in the hold-over 25 lap feature from July 30th. Cambino, starting seventh at the initial drop of green, took the lead from Caprio on lap 3 and refused to yield to the challenges of Ed Reed, Jr.

“I was a little foxy tonight – he was right on me bangin’ like a son of a gun. He’d start to get alongside of me so I would start to take him on wide. That’s 35 years of racing experience. I was just thinking where is this snotty little kid going,” commented Cambino on Reed. “I should have won a couple last year following the end of me fourteen-year retirement, but I needed to get familiar with the drivers.” Only a driver with Cambino’s experience  could get away with called Ed Reed, Jr., a division standout, a “snotty nose kid.”

May 22, 1993: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway Scene – Hamden’s John Cambino, at 62, the oldest active racer in the state, had his best finish of the season with a fourth. King Cambino has started another racing career. The veteran is having a lot of laughs in his second career, holding off whipper-snappers who were not even a glimmer when Johnny was first winning features.

August 20, 1993: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway Scene West Haven Reunion: 63-years old Johnny Cambino has to be a main feature of any West Haven reunion. Last week, at the Waterford Speedbowl, we understand that Cambino, who is running a strictly stock, strictly for laughs at the bowl, may have beat up a 22-year old competitor and stuffed him in the trunk of his own race car, or somebody’s race car. The point is, we say he “may have” done this thing because we did not actually witness the event…. But, we did overhear two Waterford cops talking about it, so chances are it just may have happened.”

JohnnyByCar7

“Cambino reliving glory days at 62”

Sept. 7, 1993: Connecticut Post – Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he’s led a physical life. Or perhaps having developed a mental toughness is the reason. Then again, it could be his verve for life or his slapstick sense of humor.

Whether you can credit it to a tangible or an intangible, it really doesn’t matter. Johnny Cambino has made a successful return to stock-car racing and he’s done it at an age when most former wheel turners get their pleasure out of watching ESPN’s Saturday Night Thunder.

At age 62, Cambino is rubbing fenders and driving past some of the best of them in his class – Limited Sportsman – every Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl. The former West Haven resident who moved to Hamden 10 years ago, got back into racing in 1992 after being away from it for 14 years. An invitation from car owners, Ignazio Puleo and his son, Mike, to compete in the “Waterford Legends” race did it!

Everybody, including the guy who built our race cars, Chuck Zentarski, kept telling us about this guy,” said Puleo, owner of Grand Prix Auto. “Then, this old guy shows up and I had my doubts. But, believe me, that changed when he got into the car.”

Cambino won that ‘92 Legends event, pitting old-time drivers against each other in Sportsman cars. “I decided to hang around the garage after that and help them with the car,” said Cambino, who kicked off his career in 1950 at the defunct West Haven Speedway located in the old Savin Rock amusement park.

Cambino’s second chance to drive full time became a reality late in September when Puleo’s regular driver, Joe Machnik, decided to retire.

When he asked me if I wanted to do it, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind,” Cambino said. My wife, Maggie, said to me, “Do you really want to do this?” I said, “Hell, yes, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. Hell, I could be in St. Lawrence (one of West Haven’s largest cemeteries) next year.”

After running two races in ‘92, Cambino really got fired up over the winter. He and the Puleo’s built a new car for 1993 and so far in 17 events, Cambino has finished in the top ten 12 times. He’s currently sixth in points going into the final six weekends of racing.

“These guys are tough.” said Cambino who competes against 18 and 19 year olds who weren’t born until he had reached the twilight years of his Modified racing career. “I really think that they’re a little crazier than guys were years ago. Maybe that goes with the times. I’ll tell you… they don’t show any respect for their elders.”

Cambino arrived in racing almost at the beginning of the stock-car era. He competed for 17 years in West Haven against some rough and tumble characters. Drivers like Stratford’s Billy Greco, Southington’s Tony Mordino, the late Dan Galullo and Watertown’s Danny Gaudioso never gave an inch on the track, and if it wasn’t settled there, it could be finalized later with fists. Racing back then wasn’t for the meek!

A good part of Cambino’s bull-like strength came from wheeling the old, coupe-bodied cars which required arms of steel to steer.

After the Rock – a tight, fifth of a mile oval with four uniquely different corners closed, following the 1966 season, Cambino moved on to Riverside Park. Over the years, he’s raced at ovals all over the Northeast for at least a dozen different local car owners including West Haven’s Marshall Carboni, George Greco and Dickie Mills.

Cost got out of hand,” said Cambino who won track titles at West Haven in 1962 and 1966 to go along with 170 career feature wins. “Back in 1978, the costs were already getting very high. I got out because of the expense.” Having always been a competitor, Cambino found little interest in either watching racing on television or going to local tracks. “I felt I had to get it out of my blood,” he said. “Oh, every spring I’d get the jitters. But I never figured that I’d be back in a race car.

Johnny ran a few practice laps and looked pretty good,” Mike said. “We were getting ready for the Legends race and he had already gotten into the car. I went over to help strap him in and he was asleep. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it might have been past his bedtime.”

King Cambo, however, was only taking a little nap…. he woke up in plenty of time to win!

I took that car out and ran one straightaway and it felt like I hadn’t ever left,”  he said. “Most of these guys don’t like an old man beating them. That’s the bottom line. We hear the comments every week – What are you trying to do, you old goat? You ought to go back to the convalescent home.”

It doesn’t bother the unshakeable Cambino because he’s loving every minute of his “second career.”

I’m just this “little old guy” who drives his pickup truck to the track on Saturday night,” said Cambino, who mimics an old man behind the wheel. “Then I put that helmet on and, son of a gun, it happens. Sometimes, I don’t even know myself!”

October 10, 1993: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway SceneCongratulations Johnny Cambino on your open competition strictly stock win at Waterford Speedbowl. And while we touch on the “Comeback Crew,” it is just no end of chuckles to see Johnny Cambino running a Strictly Stock at the Waterford Speedbowl. Johnny was 19-years old in 1951, when he started racing. He had epic battles with the likes of Greco and Sutcliff at the West Haven Speedway. Today, at what we guess has to be 61 years of age, Cambino is running hot, hard laps in the class of racer that is shortest on rules and longest on ingenuity… so the B/S hat gets a second tip this week. Go get’em Johnny-Boy!

September 10, 1993: West Haven News – “Cambino loved by his fans” First it was Moe Quigley. It was during the war years – World War I – that fans turned out at Donovan Field. The Sailors played a great brand of baseball and many lineups were sprinkled with Major League players.

Yesteryear…

Then along came Harvey Tattersall, Jr., and he packed the place on Saturday nights with stock-car racing crowds between 1950 and 1962. After that Donovan Field was a victim of bulldozers and the start of redevelopment in 1963.

One of the all-time racing favorites was a “hometown boy.” He’s now 62-years-old and still driving in the Sportsman’s Class at the Waterford Speedball in New London. We’re talking about Johnny Cambino. Short and shout, Cambino always had a warm smile for everyone. In West Haven he was always a big favorite and a solid competitor, along with Billy Greco, another West Haven driver at that time.

Cambino worked for many years at The Armstrong Rubber Company until the plant closed. He was a tire-curer. He now lives in Hamden with his wife, the former Margaret Giordano, and his son, Johnny, and daughters, Gina and Nancy.

John Cambino, while driving at West Haven, was perhaps one of the best stock-car racers and he managed to win many features and titles over the years.

October 12, 1993: Connecticut Post – Hamden’s Johnny Cambino attained a season-long goal by taking the extra-distance 30-lap Limited Sportsman feature. “I started in 1950 and used to race all over the place,” said Cambino, who drives a Malibu with a Chevy engine in the Limited Sportsman class at Waterford. “Most of the places, like the West Haven Speedway (1935-67) have closed down. I won about 170 features and 12 different track championships in what was called the Sportsmen’s class back then.” “It got to be a little too much, so I took 12 years off until last year. Waterford was having a Legends Race and I was invited. I blew the doors off of everyone in the race. That got racing back in my blood! I figured if I can beat those guys so easy. I might as well get back in it. You’ve got to understand, a race car driver would do this for nothing. It’s a tough sport, but you just love it so much.”

October 15, 1993: Trackside – “King Cambo” Still Racing: There are a ton of “pows,” “booms,” “zings” and “pooms” left in Johnny Cambino’s vocabulary. And, of course, there are enough “sons of a bitches” left to keep little old ladies within his earshot cringing for the next 10 years. And, for certain, there is enough power left in his right foot, and strength remaining in his arms to still teach a few of the young fellas a lesson or two. And this year, when he was 62, he raced the entire season at the Waterford Speedbowl in the Limited Sportsman division. Cambino, short and bullish with an unforgettable face. By mid-season of this past year, Cambino had more than made his presence known at Waterford, one of the best closed-wheel racing tracks you’ll find anywhere. On given weeks, King Cambo was beating guys almost three times younger than he is. Cambino admits it wasn’t that difficult going back. “I swear (and he usually does), it took me one straightaway to get the feel back,” he said. “Son of a bitch, those 14 years that I was away felt like a break between heats.” The former West Haven resident departed racing in 1978 after a last-fling race at Islip Speedway on Long Island. “We couldn’t afford it anymore, not at the local level that we were running,” Cambino said. “The sponsors were few and far between.” Cambino was one of a few drivers of Italian heritage, some of the others being Billy Greco, Tony Mordino, Danny Gaudiosi, and the late Danny Galullo.

When the Rock went the way of the wrecker’s ball after that 1966 season, Cambino joined many of his old rivals at Riverside Park, where he raced up to and including 1978. He also raced some open competition shows – then he disappeared.

I spent my Friday and Saturday nights walking the dog, watching television and doing other screwy things,” Cambino said. “I never went to the races, I couldn’t. I didn’t even watch them on television. Oh, I did go once to Waterford to watch Georgie Greco, but that was it. I figured I had to get it out of my blood and the best way was to stay away.” That lasted until the summer of 1992 when Chuck Zentarski, a good friend of Cambino’s, suggested to Ignazio Puleo and his son, Michael, that Cambino would be a great choice for the upcoming Legends Race at Waterford.

I remember hearing about him,” said Cambino, pointing a finger at Ignazio. “All he kept saying was, I don’t know, I don’t know.” Finally Chuck said, “listen, if he wrecks the car, I’ll fix it.” That sold the Puleo’s and Machnik on Cambino who went out and won the Legends event. “He was unbelievable,” Ignazio said. “The guy could get that car around and he still does.” Michael vividly remembers that first night. “Johnny was sitting in the car waiting, so I went over to help him get strapped in and he’s got his eyes closed,” Michael said. “Here I thought, God, this old man is falling asleep. Maybe it was past his bedtime.” After the initial race, Cambino began coming around helping with the car and advising Machnik. “I kept telling him, “stay down against these sons of a guns because they’ll kill you. The car is plenty fast enough to finish well.”

I can’t get any respect out there,” Johnny said about this crop of drivers he’s competed against all season long. “Here they should be respecting their elders and they’re damn near killing me. I thing the bottom line is, they hate getting beat by an old man. We hear it every night in the pits,  you old bastard, you should be in a convalescent hospital. Believe me, some of my friends are” Johnny replied.

It’s funny,” he said, “when I thought of coming back, my wife, Margaret, said, “do you really want to do this?” I quickly replied, “don’t tell me what to do. I gotta do it and I’ve got to do it now.

So every Saturday night this past summer, Johnny Cambino, got in his 1973 Dodge pickup truck and headed for the Speedbowl to relive part of his past.

Here I was,” Cambino said. “Just this little old man walking through the pits. But, son of a bitch, I’d get in that race car, put on that helmet and at times, I didn’t know who I was.” If his competitors didn’t know about Cambino before, they certainly have found out about this old warrior now. Even Johnny Cambino isn’t sure how much longer he will go on. “Who the heck knows,” he said. “I might be racing at 72. Why not? What the hell’s to stop us?” Not much has in the last 43 years since Johnny Cambino was introduced to racing!

May 3, 1994: Ct. Post Auto Racing – 63-year old racer shows he’s not finished yet: There was still plenty of spring in his step as he emerged from the race car to be greeted by the big gathering Sunday evening at Waterford Speedbowl. For 63-year-old Johnny Cambino, winning the 30-lap Limited Sportsman feature portion of Busch Blast Off ‘94 fulfilled a promise he made late in the 1992 season. “I said then and I’ll say it again now,” the veteran racer said. “I can beat these kids and I knew I would. Once I got out in front,” said Cambino, who started third and took the lead in the third lap of the 30-lap race, “I could run my race and use the track the way I wanted to.”

May 1994: The Son Of B/S Report – What’s the Big Deal About Being 63?– Johnny Cambino has a question for all these writer that have been hanging around his #7 Limited Sportsman. “What’s the big deal about being 63?” – he asked when we approached him for a story in the program book. “I don’t know what 63 is supposed to feel like, but I don’t think I feel it,” explains the Hamden, CT. (orthopedic) hotfoot.

You don’t  quit racing in 1978 after 38 years of going for it every week. We were running a modified at Agawam and things just got out of control. The tires were $190 apiece and you had to buy at least three a week, plus the fuel, plus the entry fees. We just ran out of sponsors that could pay us enough to keep going.”

I Got The Bug!”…. “Then two years ago I get a phone call, they want me to drive some car in the “Legends” race at Waterford, and I said “what’s that?” Don’t forget, I was out of a race car for 14 years so I said let me try this thing, and I’ll tell you what… I went half a straightway and I put my foot into it, and it was like I never left.” I said, “I gotta get back into a car”… “I Got The Bug!”

Johnny Cambino is mid-stream in a new racing career, strapped into a whole new class of car, and in front of a whole new audience. He has been racing stock cars, almost since there were stock cars. He remembers when almost every corner of West Haven had a gas station on it, and none of them sold milk or Gatorade.

It was like this,” says Cambino. “Every garage had  a car, and it was one station trying to beat the other stations in town as much as anything. You could ride around all day, going from station to station breaking chops, and getting everybody worked up over the next race.”

Cambino started racing in August of 1950. Because so much time has passed since his first career in racing, it is hard to talk about those years and have anyone in the Speedbowl grandstand today relate to what you are talking about.

Basically, Harvey Tattersall, Jr., who sold the Speedbowl to the present owners, and his father Harvey, Sr., the real old man, operated a local Nascar-like circuit called United Stock Car Racing Club. They managed or promoted almost every track that was in operation from the 50’s through the mid-60’s, at one time or another. So a guy like Johnny Cambino could race for Tattersall almost six nights a week.

Johnny was the hometown favorite at a short quarter mile bullring in West Haven at Savin Rock. It was known as “The Rock” and Johnny was the “King of the Rock.” They raced “Non-Ford” coupes and it was just what it said…anything but a Ford. Because Tattersall thought the Fords had an advantage that other makes couldn’t compete with in their suspension. But, Cambino and his crew figured a way to get their Dodge and Chrysler powered race cars around faster than any Ford known to man.

Then a gang of outsiders from “up in the valley” toward Waterbury brought down their Hudson Hornet powered coupes, and the Hudson having a twin-carb set up, became the new exotic machine. Cambino went to the local Chrysler dealer and got a letter from him saying that Chrysler in fact had a twin-carb arrangement on some models, and that was their answer to the Waterbury invaders.

That gang from Waterbury was crazy,” claims the King. “We fought with our hands sometimes, but, they’d just as soon bring out the tire irons. Those were crazy times. Harvey had two huge West Haven cops… both over six foot, six inches, and they loved to bang heads, so we always pointed the finger at the Waterbury crowd when trouble started. One of those cops was named George Fitch, and he was actually a sparring partner for Joe Louis. They were all the army Harvey needed!”

With a past like that, we figure running a Limited Sportsman at the Speedbowl must be pretty tame. “Naw, I’m having the time of my life out here,” says Johnny. “In two weeks my son, Johnny (what else?) will have a car out here and then I’ll be racing against my own kid, and I’m really looking forward to that!” Cambino’s nephew Joey is already out there with his own L/S car – when twenty-five year old Johnny Jr. gets on the track, Joe Golas will have his hands full just keeping the “Cambino’s” straight!

Well, Cambino won a bunch of championships; he ran West Haven Thursday and Saturday nights… Monday night was a round track at Candlelight Park in Bridgeport. Then on Wednesday night it was Waterford, Plainville on Fridays, and that was his week.

Cambino has a 71-year old pit crew member, Santo Figuaro. Santo says he can’t believe what a difference running this car at the Speedbowl has made in Johnny. He says it has knocked 20 years off him, and has his wife scratching her head. John’s two daughters, Gina and Nancy, are also in the pits helping out most weeks as well, so the Cambino family is well occupied with their growing race team.

May 14, 1994: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway SceneKing Takes Close On” – In what many Waterford fans said was one of the best races ever, Johnny, 63-year old Johnny “ The King” Cambino nailed down yet another trophy from New England Heirlooms when he steered his #7 to his 2nd victory in 3 tries. Being in the right place at the right time means a lot and Johnny took advantage of a very small opening to squeeze through to take the laurels. Cambino’s car once again handled superbly and made it possible for the 63 year old veteran to take the lead from Mike Caprio of New Haven on the last of 20 laps. “When the back of Caprio’s car started chopping, I knew that was just what I needed and I got on the gas,” Cambino reported after the race. There was less than a car length between them at the finish.

May 17, 1994: Connecticut Post – Johnny Cambino won his second Limited Sportsman feature of the season Saturday night. .

May 31, 1994: Connecticut Post – Starting 20th in Saturday night’s 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature at the Waterford Speedbowl didn’t bother Hamden’s Johnny Cambino one bit. Cambino got his car rolling well to the outside first, then to the inside and finished second to Dan Green. Cambino now has two wins and a second in five Waterford races.

October 11, 1994: Connecticut Post – Driver comes roaring back after disqualification”- Five weeks ago, veteran racer Johnny (King) Cambino left the Waterford Speedbowl in a huff after being disqualified from a Limited Sportsman feature for using a non-stock part. When he finally returned to the track Sunday afternoon, the short, stocky 63-year-old was bouncing around like a 20-year old after winning the 50-lap season closing Limited race at Waterford. “I told some people I was going to come back here and win,” Cambino said. “I still say these guys don’t like to see an old man like me win.” And WIN he did. He used an outside line, then an inside one to capture his fourth victory this year at Waterford. Cambino’s team was still fuming about the Spet. 3rd disqualifications Sunday. Cambino not only had to beat the competition Sunday, but he was faced with numerous restarts as the feature turned into a crash-fest.

June 13, 1995: Connecticut Post – Westport Driver Thanks Cambino– Westport driver, Robert Lozyniak, who races in the Strictly Stock division at the Waterford Speedbowl, won his first feature event Saturday night. And as soon as he reached the Speedbowl’s cozy press box, he praised veteran, Johnny Cambino, for his help. The 63-year old Cambino has been around the sport since 1950. “There were an awful lot of restarts tonight (6),” Lozyniak said. “So I had to be good on each one. That older gentleman (Cambino) taught me some tricks about restarts. He’s got 35-some years doing this. He knows what he’s talking about!”

July 28, 1995: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway Scene First Thompson Win – In the 20-lap Strictly Stock feature, 64-year old race car driver, Johnny Cambino, pulled off a feat rarely accomplished at Thompson Speedway when he put his #7 Malibu under Glen Rose for the lead. Cambino then held off Lance Jennison and Boss to garner his first win of the ‘95 season. Also, it’s believed that Cambino is the oldest driver to take down a checkered flag at the Connecticut oval.

64-year old John Cambino showed that Strictly Street dominator, Glenn Boss, could be stopped – winning the main event after a torrid battle with Lance Jennison. Cambino and Jennison both got by early leader, Boss, then settled the race among themselves. Johnny Cambino outran a couple of younger generations for his trophy.

September 8, 1995: Waterford Speedbowl Speedway Scene – The Strictly Stock 20-lapper saw John Bernardo and Russ Wholly dicing at the front during the early stages. By the half-way mark in the race, Wholly was on top with John Connell now sitting second and Johnny Cambino and John Leger ahead of Bernardo and taking up the chase.

Cambino then dove under Connell with Leger in tow and another time around and the two passed Wholly to set the pace. Leger tried high and low to overtake the ageless veteran, but to no avail. Cambino crossed the strip a car length in front. Another Thompson victory for John Cambino!

August 1996: Racing ReviewWest Haven Speedway was located in the Savin Rock Amusement Park in West Haven, CT. This fast little 1/5th mile oval actually opened as a dirt track in July of 1935. West Haven would continue operating until 1941 (holding mostly Midget events) until the war intervened on auto racing in 1941. Also known as the West Haven Motordrome, the track resumed operation in 1945, and in short order, the Stock Cars took over from the Midgets as the feature division. Many of Modified racing’s early stars were graduates of West Haven, most notably Wild Bill Greco and Johnny Cambino. Having been paved in 1945, the track continued operations until the 1966 season.

May 28, 1998: West Haven Voice Looking back….. The Speedway and John “The King” Cambino  Johnny The “King” Cambino now lives in Hamden, but for decades the West Haven Speedway was his home on weekends for United Stock Car Racing Association events. At the Savin Rock race track, he drove a vintage ‘31 or ‘32 Hudson coupe (#12) and several other cars to numerous victories. Though a dangerous sport, his luck held. Savin Rock had at least two driver deaths. Roll bars and Nomex suits would eventually keep the Grim Reaper away from many tracks, but until the 50’s, even seat belts were almost any kind of belt one could screw down. Modern safety releasers were either optional or unavailable.

John resumed his racing career in the 1990’s and became a proto-typical “John Glenn” of the asphalt as he is now approaching his seventh decade of his life. Obviously, he began his career as a teenager, when flat-head sixes and eights were the norm and “deuce coupes” were available for a few hundred dollars.

I’m told John is still working at the family contracting business, so good luck for the “long tomorrow” as my dad used to say. He retired again in 1996. Johnny “The King” was a regular winner at the West Haven Speedway.

August 21, 1998: New Haven Register  Waterford Track Features Legends” – Waterford Speedway will hold a tribute to the automobile this weekend with its 10th annual “Heroes at the Bowl” event Saturday and a car show and racing event Sunday featuring the New England Antique Racers and Atlantic Coast Old-Timers.

Nearly 30 drivers, including about a dozen former division championships at the track will be on hand for the “Heroes at the Bowl” event. The drivers will be honored and many will compete in a special “Heroes at the Bowl” race featuring Strictly Stock cars. The track will also hold its normal racing features Saturday with Modifieds, Late Model Pro Stock and Mini Stock action. Some of the driving ‘Legends’ expected to appear are Johnny Cambino of West Haven and Dick Watson of Westbrook. “This is going to be a great nostalgia weekend for us,” said Waterford Speedway Promoter Terry Eames.

June 20, 2002: West Haven Voice – “King Cambo” Still has the Competitive Edge “ – Living Legend” is a term that has become overused, but every once in a while we meet a Living Legend; immortals whose place in history is already assured and who continue to possess and demonstrate those very qualities that made them great. Johnny Cambino more than qualifies as a genuine “Living Legend.” A tough-talking, no-nonsense throwback to the era of Bogart and John Wayne, even at 72 Cambino comes across as unsentimental and rock-hard, with a bone-crushing handshake, lively personality, and outrageous sense of humor. Born on York Street 72 years ago, Cambino lived here for 59 years before moving to Hamden with his wife, Margaret, and daughter Gina. His parents, Joseph and Minnie, were both originally from Italy – Minnie from Bari, and Joseph from Tramonti. The couple bought a small farmhouse on Meloy Road, where they eventually raised seven children. Joseph earned his living as a barber, owning Buddy’s Barbershop. “Times were tough, but we had a lot of fun,” Cambino says. “Today – don’t lose West Haven. But back when the Rock was here, there was a lot of action, you know what I mean? Always something to do. Today they got nothing. What do the kids do?”

When it comes to the Rock in its heyday, Cambino certainly knows whereof he speaks. For most of the 50’s and 60’s he ruled the Rock as “King Cambo,” the stock car driver who couldn’t be beat, the guy that everybody either loved or hated. “I was always a competitor,” Johnny says. “I got my old man’s temper, but I don’t know where this competitiveness came from. Ever since I was a kid, nobody was gonna beat me. Somebody jumps off a step, I’d jump off two. Somebody skips a rock on the water 5 times, I’ve gotta do 10. It doesn’t matter if it kills me, I’ll do you one better.”

One thing was certain, every appearance by Cambino promised to be electrifying, a fact underscored by the tumultuous boos and cheers that would greet him at every race. From 1950 through 1966, Cambino was the undisputed King of the legendary West Haven Speedway. However, his entry into racing was a bit of a fluke. “Somebody was bragging one day about Al Barnett and what a great racer he was, what a great car he had, and of course that was bound to get me started. You know me – I gotta be the best, so I shoot back, Aaah, he’s nothing” – I can beat him. And I’d never raced before! I’m 19 years old, and out of nowhere, I’m gonna take on the best driver around.” Johnny lets out a belly laugh, his voice straining as he continues to tell a story he clearly relishes to this day. “So the next thing I know, I’m talkin’ my friend out of his car – a ‘37 Plymouth Coupe. We chopped it ourselves, and got Bill the Greek over at Furniture Transport to sponsor us. Remember, before this I’d never even been to a race.”

Johnny pauses, just long enough to spark another in a long line of cigarettes. “Anyways, the day of the race comes, and the word is out, “Johnny’s gonna race!” All the guys, all the broads, are down there at the track. Hundreds of cars! I never seen anything like it! There were 30 cars in there for the first qualifying heat, and I gotta finish at least 6th! I’m so green, I remember askin’ someone just before the race. “What do those flags mean?” Ha! Do you believe it? The Green Flag means go, somebody told me, and the next thing I know, we’re off! Anyways, believe it or not, in my first race I qualify.”

But Al Barnett, his car gets all beat to hell, and Bill the Greek, he says for me to let Al drive my car because he’s got more experience. I agree, see, but I’m pissed, and I say I’ll only do it if I can drive his banged-up car. I didn’t care; there was no way I was not gonna go out there and race. I came in 6th that night, but I learned, see, from that experience, and the next week I went back and won. From then on, I won more than I lost, I’ll tell ya that.” Indeed, driving his legendary “Flying 5” in one year alone, Johnny won 12 out of 18 races.

Throughout the 50’s and 60’s Cambino raced for just about every garage in town. In fact, they used to compete with each other to see whose car Johnny would choose to drive. In 1954 his racing career was interrupted by a two-year stint in the U. S. Army, where he served in Korea. But upon his return in 1956, he simply picked up right where he’d left off, winning as though he’d never been away.

Considering the excitement, the celebrity, and of course the girls that came with being “King Cambo,” it’s a wonder that Johnny ever settled down. “I held out for as long as I could,” he laughs. “I was 32 before I tied the knot – 40 years ago.”

Johnny met his wife Margaret on a blind date. “Ray Sousa fixed us up. She was the first Italian girl I ever dated. I was 26 at the time, and she was 19, a junior in college in New Haven. She lived over in Morris Cove and wanted to be a teacher. I met her at the beach, took her for a boat ride out to Chuck Island. One thing led to another. I took her to watch me race, and she thought I was something else.” After a four-year engagement, the West Haven Speedway’s most-eligible-bachelor finally settled down. Together, he and Margaret had three kids, a boy and two girls.

Johnny continued his success on the racetrack as well, driving his famous “No. 7” car and winning the very last Championship Race at the West Haven Speedway before it closed forever in 1966. He then continued racing up until 1980, at Riverside and other racetracks. He also freelanced, but after awhile things got too expensive, and it became increasingly difficult to handle injuries, such as painfully dislocating his foot at the age of 50. After a truly amazing run of over 30 years, it looked like “King Cambo” was finally through with racing. Then, quite unexpectedly, in 1992, he was asked by the owners of Grand Prix Auto to participate in the Legends Race at Waterford. “Everybody kept telling us about this guy – this amazing driver,” Ignazio Puleo, owner of Grand Prix, said. “Then this old man shows up! I had my doubts. But believe me, that all changed once I saw him drive.”

Johnny chuckles at the memory. “The engines were a joke – little 350’s. They’re tellin’ me before the qualifying heat, ‘Now take it easy, don’t worry” – Ha! I passed every car in the pack. Then I slowed down and passed ‘em all again – just to show ‘em! After the heat, everybody’s goin’ ‘Where’d you get this guy from?” King Cambo was back!”

Due to inclement weather, the official race was postponed till the following week. When the big day finally came, Johnny was his usual, confident self. “They strap me into my car, and then, while I’m waitin’ for the race to go  on, I take a little nap. They find me sleepin’ behind the wheel, and they’re havin’ a fit! “Don’t worry, I keep tellin’ ‘em; we’re gonna win this one.” Of course, they think I’m nuts. And then we get put in last place to start off. But guess what? I went from last place to first in just 10 laps!” “I’m doin’ high-low shots, see? Takin’ ‘em up with me, and then ZOOM, breaking away! Man, I got the bug again! I was 62 years old, and I was winnin’ – beatin’ ‘em all! From that day on I never lost a qualifying heat.” “So there I am, 63, 64 years old, doin’ 110 miles an hour on The Thompsonville Speedway Track. And I’m drivin’ good, you know! I’m getttin’ the younger guys to drive better.”

You can see in Johnny’s eyes how triumphant, how fulfilling a time it must have been. But then, in ‘96 it came to an abrupt end.

I’m racin’ good; I’m ahead in points, when one guy forces me into a wall at 100 miles an hour. I come through that okay, but then I’m spun around, and here comes another car with the whole pack following behind him. BOOM! I break my neck. My whole body goes numb, and I remember thinkin’ ‘This is it.’ But then my body came back. The doctors told me later, if it hadn’t been such a clean break, I woulda been paralyzed or dead. So I was lucky.”

Miraculously, Johnny had the strength and presence of mind to push himself up through the hole they cut in his roof. “I survived,” he says today, six years later, “but that did me in. I was through with racing. This time for good.”

It is perhaps surprising to hear that the accomplishment of which Cambino is proudest has nothing to do with racing. “It’s probably the things I’ve built, the buildings like Greco’s and Marshall’s Garage – I built those; and the young guys I’ve influenced. A lot of the kids I met on the track ended up workin’ with me, learnin’ the trade with me – guys like Dickie Mills and John Murphy.

Yes it’s difficult to get Johnny to analyze or reflect too much on the past. He prefers to look ahead and stay active, still working as a contractor as well as hunting and fishing on occasion. “King Cambo” is, was, and always will be one of West Haven’s sons who truly knew how to “seize the moment” every single day.

July 2, 2004: Speedway Scene – “Johnny Cambino Passes At 73” – Johnny Cambino, 73, passed away June 29th at Branford Hospice. Johnny began racing in 1951 at West Haven Speedway in the non-Ford division and continued until the track closed in 1966.

After West Haven closed, Johnny moved to modifieds at Riverside, where he had five modified wins. He also ran modifieds at Plainville, Seekonk, Waterford, Thompson, Westboro, Monadnock, Claremont, Islip and Freeport.

His first retirement came in 1980… he’d heard about a legend’s race at Waterford in 1992, and got a ride in the Grand Prix Auto #7 Sportsman… and won first time out. He came out of retirement to drive the car regularly at Waterford and Thompson, winning about ten more features. A bad crash at Thompson ended his career in 1996 at age 66 while leading the point standings at Thompson. Johnny drove for many owners including the Don Baldwin #190, Eddie Greco’s 98, George Creco’s #5, Marshall Carboni’s 39, Johnny Maturo’s #7 and 73, Roger Solhem’s K7 and 73, Roger Solhem’s K7, Ralph Solhem’s #04, Richie’s Amoco’s 73, Dick Mill’s 83 and Ignazio Puleo’s #7. Johnny’s career included eight straight wins in 1951 and 12 wins in George Greco’s car in 1962.

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Steve: “I learned many things from Uncle Johnny. He lived life to the fullest, living his dream and passion of racing for many years. He began racing at Savin Rock as a young man, and even after giving it up when The Rock closed, he later made a come-back at the age of 62 – driving just as fierce as he did in his youth. And beating many of the younger racers! One thing about his racing I admired – he never threw the towel in – no matter what pole he started from, or where he was in the pack, even if it was at the end. He never gave up trying to win until the checkered flag was thrown. He always told me that – he was never a quitter – he’d fight till the end. It was a thrill for me, as a young boy, telling my friends that he was my uncle. He was well-known at Savin Rock and well liked. Even when he did lose, he lost graciously with a smile. I always wanted to be there on Saturday nights when he raced… rooting at the fence for him. He was a Legend!”

……Johnny lived his life – His Way!

johnny cars

To read more on Johnny Cambino, The Legend…. click HERE.

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

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2020: J – April A to Z… Family Stories: Jobs in the Family… and more

2020: J – 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 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!

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Jobs in the Family… and more

“One of my first jobs was bringing in firewood for Grandma Minnie’s stove… I even remember splitting the wood also. I was never a kid – I always worked. Saturdays were a busy day around Grandma and Grandpa’s house… everyone had jobs… from the morning  sweeping of the backyard to the weekly chore of Saturday grocery shopping.”

Working with Uncle Johnny!

“I often went to a small house-type restaurant owned by Joe Minone with Uncle Johnny for lunch when I worked with him… just across from Kelsey’s Pharmacy. It was really small inside… I’m  only remembering one booth, maybe three stools at the counter and a couple of tables. The guy who owned it wasn’t really interested in making money… it seemed to me… just serving food like you’d eat at home. He always had two big cast iron pans on the stove… one of sausage and peppers and the other of sauce and meatballs; it was some of the best sauce I ever ate. Johnny loved to eat there and bullshit with Joe.”

“Johnny let me drive all his cars when I turned fourteen and worked with him. He’d laugh and say, ” you won’t get in any trouble if we’re ever pulled over because I know all the West Haven cops and most of the New Haven ones. He always liked to tell me “don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of everything.”

Talks with my father-in-law!

On one of my many talks with my father-in-law… he told me about how he began working at the age of eight years old… helping to support the family; dad worked at the local neighborhood market and delivered groceries on his bicycle. At the age of sixteen he quit school when a full-time job came his way… saying “if you were lucky enough to find a full-time job, you quit school to take it… jobs were hard to come by.” His generation was the last who worked at a young age to help support the family. They didn’t enjoy the type of childhood my generation did. I was privileged to have a childhood… able to enjoy being a child before growing up to have adult responsibilities. Children in our parents generation were often expected to help support the family.

Dad applied to Armstrong Rubber in 1941 upon hearing that they were hiring welders. It wasn’t long after working there… that he left to join the Army Air-Core in 1942; he returned back to Armstrong after he was discharged in 1946. Dad was first hired as a mechanic/welder in ’41… later becoming shop superintendent, and then senior foreman on the day shift. Dad didn’t like the title of superintendent… he didn’t like the pressure of being in charge while doing nothing; he enjoyed working hands-on and repairing equipment. Dad made his final walk through Armstrong in 1981 when he retired after forty years… it was a sad day for him. If that plant never closed, he would have continued working there until he could no longer make that walk.

During the bowling alley scene in Jersey Boys, Steve told me… “My father was also a pin boy at a bowling alley when he was young. I remember him telling me that it was one of his many jobs he held as a young boy. Must have been a local bowling alley in Shelton… probably right in town somewhere.” (I wish I’d heard that story years ago, as I would’ve liked to have known more about that job. Dad often talked to me about his many jobs of delivering groceries and newspapers on his bicycle when he was only eight years old. Steve and I took him on a ride back through Shelton one afternoon and he guided us up and down all the roads he delivered groceries on… and still remembered all the names of who lived where.)

Steves Tax formsFIX

When I cleaned out my father-in-laws desk… I found my husband’s W2 Forms from his first jobs… Working for the town in the summer… working two weeks at Jimmie’s… and working at Grossman’s Lumber

“I had two jobs in my life I ever quit. The first one was my very 1st job at Jimmy’s at Savin Rock. I only worked there about two weeks… working almost every Friday and Saturday night until 2 a.m. Besides punching out onion rings, I waited on customers, and after closing, we all pitched in to clean…  oil was everywhere from the frying. After Jimmy’s, I went to work at Grossman’s Lumber, and worked there until I joined the Air Force. The second job I quit was after I married… I was working at Armstrong full-time and took a part-time job right down the street from my parent’s house. It became too much… I couldn’t handle both jobs and quit after only one week there.”

Talking about the economy and pricing came these remarks…. “Right before I went to work at Jimmy’s, I could buy two hotdogs (20-cents each), fries and a pint of milk for a buck, and still get about four-cents back in change.  When I was in high school, I bought a pint of milk for two-cents or chocolate milk for five-cents. I didn’t often drink soda, because the very next day I’d have pimples on my face. I remember going to buy cigarettes for my mother – twenty cents a pack. No one ever questioned kids coming in to buy cigarettes back then… there was no age limit… all mother’s sent their kids. How could they impose an age limit when they were sold out of a vending machine… which is no more. The only place you see those cigarette vending machines today, are in antique malls.”

While watching a movie, “So I Married an Axe Murderer”… they showed him cutting bacon, and Steve said… “I did that once when I was in basic training… you spent days on different jobs. I spent one day in the meat cutting room, where I cut bacon all day long. They taught me how to use the meat slicer and exactly how thick they wanted it; everything is precise with the government… no more… and no less – it must be perfect! It wasn’t a bad job, even though it was very cold. My friend, Louie, ended up in the kitchen washing dishes all day… I think I got the better of the two jobs.”

“I first worked in the final-finish department when I was hired at Armstrong in 1971. My job was to clear the jammed-up tires on the conveyor belts. I later moved to the sprayer booth, where I sprayed a finish on the tires and then I moved to the tire booth, where I built tires. I loved that job, and was very good at it… for being a short guy. The quality control guys enjoyed watching me build tires, and often told my father that I was the best tire builder they’d ever seen; I worked clean, neat and gave them a lot of tires… dad liked hearing that! I really enjoyed building tires even though it was bull work… and I built quality tires for them. The auto industry was booming in the 70’s…  cars were selling and they needed tires. We had multiple Sears contracts and that kept Armstrong in a strong competitive market… sometimes we couldn’t even build enough tires to complete the orders. I remember seeing the warehouse always full of tires – top to bottom – and they were shipped out daily, but it was always full. I knew sometimes some of those tires made their way over the back fence too – when their cars needed tires… that’s just how it was!”

“Health insurance at Armstrong was very different compared to today. You were covered 100% – no questions asked. Both of my children were born while working there and I never received one bill. No one gave it another thought of what you’d owe after the insurance paid their share… no co-pays… so very different compared to today.”

“While working at Armstrong, I thought my job was secure forever … and that I would have that job until retirement. What a real blow to me, and everyone, when we began hearing of the West Haven plant closing. I felt it was coming when they relocated much of our equipment to the Tennessee plant… but hoped it would never happen. I worked there until it closed in 1981, but I still feel it changed my life forever. Through their retraining program after I lost my job, I went to welding school and had several jobs and layoffs. One of my first welding jobs was at Electric Boat in New London… if you can weld there, you can weld anywhere. I worked there about two years before being laid off again… then it was several jobs before my longest employment again at New Haven Body Building… and once again in 2009 I was laid off for the last time. I collected unemployment for two years, and decided to retire early at the age of 62.”

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

Posted in 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Husbands Family Stories: | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments