2018: Week 4 ~ 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Invite to Dinner

2018: Week 4 ~ 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Invite to Dinner

I’m looking forward to starting another year-long of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks with Amy Johnson Crow.  If you’ve never joined into this type of a weekly writing blog, check out her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks site for more information. I first joined in 2014, opening my first blog and proud to say… I completed all 52 weeks on time! My 2014: 52 Week Ancestor Challenge can be found on the previous link.

johnny carving turkey

Uncle Johnny (Cambino) carving the Thanksgiving turkey!

While pondering this 4th week prompt of “invite to dinner“… nothing was jumping out at me! So what gave me my idea… a package of saved notes and scribbled stories I’d saved… and almost threw out in cleaning. Even though I’d written stories from those papers… I hadn’t found the courage yet to toss! As I sat down to look through the package, once more, before trashing, it wasn’t long into my “looking”…. when those notes talked to me and gave me my “invite to dinner” story. Things “Do” talk to you… take the time to listen!


The notes and scribbles

My “dinner invitation” has been extended to all who in our Cambino/DeTulio/Insalaco family, who told me their stories… and this week, those scribbled notes of their stories are what I’m sharing with you around my table. They told them to me, now they are dining at my table, to tell them to you!

DSC_0419 (3)fix

Dinner is served!

I’d like to first introduce my mother-in-law, Cecelia (Cambino) Insalaco… why is she first to tell her story at the table? Well, all who knew Celia… knows, that if she’s not first to tell her stories, then we’ll hear later how someone took her seat at the table and how she should have been first! That was always her words, especially in a card game!

Celia: “When I was small I remember only having kerosene lamps for light at the farm – there was no electricity there when we were young. Mama often took our clothes to wash at Daddy’s barber shop on Washington Avenue, because there, he had electricity.”

“During the Flood of 1938, my father (Joseph Cambino), closed his barber shop early that day to pick me up at school… I was only ten years old, but I remember him coming to bring me home… it was so rainy and windy. Many of the roads were already flooded, but he found a way to get us home. My father and I were a lot alike… I could always talk to him.”

“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; it was Mama’s favorite show, and later when it came on TV, she continued watching for years.”

“My father had an older car with a rumble seat, where I loved to ride when he took us to Savin Rock. He often took us on Sunday afternoons to get ice cream and Mama would sit in the car listening to the laugh of the “laughing lady” at the Death Valley funhouse. I remember always crying whenever he made me ride the “flying horses” on the carousel. Why I was afraid, I don’t know, but I’d cry whenever they made me climb up on those painted horses that went up and down. I wonder where they all are today, probably worth a lot of money now.”

“When I first married in 1947, we lived in a cold-water flat on Water St. in New Haven; it was a small apartment. I remember hearing the fish, ice and rag man making their calls as they came around to the apartments. You knew they were coming when you heard their words in various Italian dialects sing out as they walked through the neighborhoods.”

put and take game

After every holiday meal, Grandma Minnie brought out the “put and take” dice for a family game! I”m sure the dice are still rolling around their table!

One of the most colorful characters at my table today is Uncle Johnny Cambino… and he’s never without stories!

Johnny: “I remember everything that happened to me when I was young! I was about four or five when I fell into the spring well near our farm. I don’t know what I was trying to get, but I leaned over… and 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 later how 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 had swallowed, would drain out. Mama told me later that she had thought about the spring when I was missing because I always went with her to fill the water pails.”

“I always liked water – and I loved to swim at Lake Phipps. I’d often climb a tree near the edge of the bank, probably up about 50-75 feet, and dive right into the water. I wasn’t afraid of anything! One time the limb bounced me too close to the edge and I landed more on the bank than the water.”

“We had a tree at the farm called “The Tarzan Tree”… so named after going to the circus and watching too many Tarzan movies. Frankie and I hung a thick rope on that tree, which was right under the big rocks… we’d swing the rope out, and when it came back, we grabbed it to swing to the next tree; just like we’d seen on TV and at 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. back then… and they didn’t dare tell my father either. Mama got 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, and after drying, 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’d fallen from the Tarzan Tree, I would have gotten a beating,.. broken wrists or not. That was just how it was!”

“Another one of the many beatings that came my way, was the time I came home late one Friday night. I had been at Savin Rock watching the midgets race… they had finished late that night. About midnight, I heard the fire trucks and soon saw billowing smoke and fire rising up, just down the road. I walked down to see what was going on and saw that the Virginia Reel roller coaster was on fire. I knew I wasn’t going home then – I wanted to watch! It was a huge fire, with the fire burning high up into the sky. I got home about two in the morning that night, and when I walked in… the “old man” was waiting for me! I knew I’d get a beating when I got home, but I was used to them, and what a beating I got, but I didn’t care – it was worth watching that fire burn!”

“I pulled a kid once from under the ice at Eddie Voss’s pond. He fell through the ice and I just reached in and grabbed him. If I hadn’t caught hold of him the first time, I would never have found him; I don’t remember how I even happened to be there that day.

“My brother, Frank, and I always arm wrestled everyone in the neighborhood; no one ever beat us… my arms were big… everyone told me I had ‘Popeye’ arms! If you look at the old pictures of me in the race cars you can see how big they actually were. It was a lot of hard work pulling on those steering wheels.”

“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, and I’d open the pantry window and yell ‘caw, caw’ – and those two birds came 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.”

“Daddy had many chickens on the farm. The old man had to cut their beaks straight across, making them flat, because they pecked the eggs with their pointed beaks and was breaking them – he solved that. The ‘old man’ was tough! My father knew everything about farming.”

“I stopped at Flo’s Pet Shop in Milford one day and saw a spider monkey, and I thought he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen… I bought him for ‘fifty dollars.’ In the early 50’s that was a lot of money! I named him Squeaks and kept him in the garage where my racing car was kept. I had a kerosene stove in the garage that I burned in the winter to keep him warm; I spent a lot of money on heat for him. Sometimes I’d find Squeaks in the morning shivering with blue lips if the stove went out at night, so Jennie Downs made him a little coat to wear; we even took him to the race track a couple of times. As he got older, he developed rheumatism in one of his legs and would drag it along when he walked. A few years later the neighbor’s dog, a German shepherd, grabbed and killed him. I don’t remember how long I had him, but it was quite awhile.”

Aunt Catherine (Cambino-Donahue) is next at the table, and while she’s never been flamboyant like her siblings… being often the quieter one… she did tell me stories.

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

“I was just seventeen when I went to work at Winchester after graduation, but I soon walked out after they went on strike during the war. Later I went to work at the Armstrong Rubber Company. One day there were a few men washing windows outside of our building, and one of the women I worked with told them that I wanted my windows washed at home, but it wasn’t true. Later, one of the men called me, and after a few calls, he asked me for a date – his name was Jim Donahue. Jimmy had recently moved to the area from Maine and was staying with cousins when he had gotten a job as a window washer there.”

“Two years later Jimmy and I married and moved into a trailer on Beach St.; we had bought it for 800 hundred dollars on sale… paying way more than it was worth. We lived across from the beach in the only trailer park there and it’s still there today… even though they had then said we all had to sell and leave. We sold our trailer about 4 years later for 200 hundred dollars… the couch I left was worth more than the money we sold the trailer for. While living there, we had no toilet in the trailer and had to use the bathroom across the street at the beach. Jimmy later built me an outside type shower, and brought running water inside the trailer.”

“One summer, while living in the trailer park, a woman lived next door to us who was called the “elephant woman.” She was part of the freak show at Savin Rock and had skin that looked like elephant skin. I always thought it was fake because her hands looked so nice and when I mentioned that once, she said, “oh I just peel that skin off!”

I’m sure Aunt Mary (DeTulio-Pompone) is sitting next to Catherine and most likely there is a plate of creme puffs on the table; a signature dish of Aunt Mary’s.

Mary: “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. I was so mad – and one day I just ripped it up so she couldn’t wear it anymore; I had a lot of nice clothes. Every year I bought myself a new coat… and one outfit I really loved was my yellow plaid suit and Panama hat; they were in style at the time. When I was old enough to work, I spent most of my money on clothes. I loved clothes… and often shopped at the nice stores downtown in New Haven for most of them.” (Maybe Aunt Mary wore her Panama hat to dinner)

“When we were young, my brother’s and sister’s often had singing contests on Saturday night at our house. I loved to sing and often sang at many events. As a young girl, I was an excellent swimmer too… my brother, Mikie, and I would swim at the reservoir all the time. I was never afraid to swim anywhere when I was young.”

“I worked at Brewster’s in New Haven – a shirt factory on Franklin Street. I’d get up at three in the morning to get there for my five o’clock shift, and during the war, I worked at an airplane factory… working inside a caged area giving out parts to the employees.”

The last of the Cambino brothers, Frankie, was also another great storyteller. Just recently we came across a video my son made several years ago and were treated to hearing jokes and the song he loved to sing called Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette.

Frankie: “I built several things from Popular Mechanic magazines when I was young. Once I even made a deep-sea diving helmet… it was a helmet attached to a hot water bottle which held the air; a snorkel mask was worn under the helmet. My brother, Johnny, and I went out in the rowboat to test it. Johnny put on the helmet and tied heavy chains around his body to weigh himself down… I had a pump in the boat that I pumped up and down really fast to supply him with air. Johnny went down about 20 feet… stayed awhile and then came shooting up fast because he’d run out of air. I later went out with a friend to try it again, and he also tied the heavy chains around himself. They weighed him down so much that he almost drowned trying to get back to the surface. Another project was a robot ashtray that stood about three feet high and had two light bulbs for eyes. When you put your cigarette out in his hand, its eyes lit up. I also built a wooden donkey that held a pack of cigarettes – when you lifted the tail, a cigarette came out the back end. If only we had pictures!”

“I was at Voss’s pond one cold winter afternoon when one of the boys fell through the ice… I quickly reached down with my hand… he grabbed on and I pulled him up. I should have gotten a medal for that, but no one ever said anything.” (When Frankie told us this, we laughed as he and Johnny both had the same “remembrance”… so who really was the hero… or did they both save someone different?)

“My father was a barber in the Army… maybe even trained there, as when he came out of service, he was already a barber; it wasn’t long afterward when he opened a barbershop. He always wanted me to become a barber, but when I discovered that I’d have to go to Hartford every day to school, I told him “no way.” After he closed his barber shop on Washington Avenue, I wanted the barber pole he had on the front of the store, but somebody stole it before I went there.”

“We all gambled in the family, but not my father. One day I asked him why he didn’t gamble and he said, “there was a statue on the green in the town I lived in, in Italy. The statue of the man wore just a barrel and there was a sign that read “Look at me now – I always won!” He told me and Johnny that… and that’s why he never gambled!”

“I remember going to Bridgeport once with Georgie Greco for some gambling. We went to this place with a heavy door. He knocked on the door – a little window opened on the door, and Georgie gave a code that allowed us to enter. You could throw the bones (dice) there and gamble with cards, but while sitting at a table, the cops came. They had a battering ram that busted through that large heavy door we had entered through. Before they’d got inside, the dice was flushed down the toilet and gambling items were hid above the drop ceiling; they told everyone to say that we were playing pinochle. After the cops swarmed in they called us in the office one by one. I told them I was just playing a game of pinochle with friends. They made me empty my pickets – I had eighty dollars on me; they took all my money. Later they called the paddy wagon and hauled us all in. The bail bondsmen came the next morning and as he was paying our bail, he said to us on the side – “big game on tonight!”

“After I got home the next morning, the old man asked why I didn’t come home last night. I just told him I had been out with the guys. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a young boy anymore, he would have beat me if he’d known. I remember one beating he gave me with a doubled-up wire coat hanger. I scrambled up a tree to get away from him.”

“I wish I had pictures of all the things I’ve built through my life like you (Jeanne), you take pictures of everything. I also built a beauty of a speedboat once – and almost died in it while out near the breakers. There was a young boy with me and it took all my might to get us back in as the boat bounced against the waves while taking on water. I really thought I was going to die that day.”

“When I went into the Army I put down construction as what I wanted to do. Eventually, they sent me to school and I was given a diploma from the Army Engineer Core. Before I shipped out, we waited in boot camp daily to hear our names called. Every day they called names and shipped out guys. There was a war going on when I went in, but before I went to Korea, the war ended. Going to the front lines with a gun in my hand was not where I had really wanted to be. I remember walking down to the airport on base to watch the older bubble-top helicopters take off and land – and I so wanted to be able to fly one of them. Finally, my name was called and I left for Korea.”

“I soon became the assistant company carpenter while in Korea; even building a water tower there. After the company carpenter left, I then became the head carpenter. I built the platoon leader a set of chairs with bent wood – they were beautiful! A commander came by one day and when he saw them he asked me to build him a set. I had a jacket full of medals by the time I left for home. I was a perfect marksman there; I had always wanted to be a sniper while in the Army.”

One of my favorite storytellers who always had my ear was my father-in-law Steve Insalaco. I spent many hours listening to him tell me his stories… of his childhood, school, and serving in the Army Air-Core. I never tired of listening… often wishing I could have had those conversations with my own father.

Steve: “When I was about eight years old, and in the 3rd grade, I began working for the local family-owned Bogen’s Grocery Store – and I continued to work there until I was around seventeen. The store was very convenient to our house… located just next door. I stocked shelves and delivered groceries to many families in the area, making deliveries by foot or bicycle; later I used my car for deliveries. Most families tipped me five to fifteen cents for the delivery of their groceries. I often made about thirty cents a day and around $3.00 dollars a week in tips.”

“I also rode my bicycle up Rt. 34 to Armor Meats (now Deerfield Meats) to pick up meat orders for the grocery store. At that time, Rt. 34 was only a one-sided road; both lanes were on one side, not separated like today. There were trolley tracks on the other side, which ran from Derby to New Haven. About 1940, they removed the tracks and built two lanes; now Rt. 34 has two lanes on each side.”

“I never graduated from high school because I was offered a full-time job around 1937 at the Sanford & Shelton Tack Co. on Canal St. – they made nails. Full-time jobs were hard to come by, and if you were lucky enough to find one, no matter what type of job it was, it usually meant having to quit school to take it.”

“My family lived in several apartments in Shelton before buying their first house at 107 Kneen St. in 1942. While living there, my father was laid off from Bloomenthol’s. He began raising chickens and growing vegetables to sell as a source of income to feed the family. My mother, Giacinta, went to work to help supplement the family income. She found work at a shirt factory in Derby, where she ironed and packaged shirts… walking three miles back and forth to work every day.”

“I enlisted in the Army-Air Force on July 21, 1942, in Hartford, CT., and left on August 21, 1942, for boot camp at Fort Meyers, Tampa, Florida. The one thing I never forgot was my TI (Training Instructor) at boot camp and how he resembled the actor, Lee Marvin. When I first saw Lee Marvin on stage after I came home, I thought that he might have been my TI from boot camp… in remembering his voice and mannerisms; they were the same as the TI.” (Lee Marvin did not serve in the Army Air-Corp – he served in the Marines.)

I’m sure there are many other family members gathered around this table listening to their stories and telling more… what conversations we are missing out on! And whoever knew them, you know they’re still fussing and fighting over stories… as to who “really” said what!

I hope you have enjoyed my “invite to dinner”… and because of it… they have now been able to tell you “their” stories… told to me, many years ago.

 52 ancesors with name

Like to read more, click on… 52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Week 1 (Jan 1-7): Start

Week 2 (Jan 8-14): Favorite Photo

Week 3 (Jan 15-21): Longevity

Week 4 (Jan 22-28): Invite to Dinner

Week 5 (Jan 29-Feb 4): In the Census

2018: Week 2 ~ 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

2018: Week 2 ~ 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

Cambino Word Art

I’m looking forward to starting another year-long of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks with Amy Johnson Crow.  If you’ve never joined into this type of a weekly writing blog, check out her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks site for more information. I first joined in 2014, opening my first blog and proud to say… I completed all 52 weeks on time! My 2014: 52 Week Ancestor Challenge can be found on the previous link.

Cambino Family photo

L. to R. back row: Catherine, Freddie, Cecelia, Johnny, Frankie, and Nancy. Front Row: Minnie (Domenica), Antonette “Dolly” (baby) in Minnie’s lap and Joe (Giuseppe/Joseph). I’m dating this photograph in the late summer of 1946. Daughter, Nancy, was twelve when this photo was taken and says it was taken in front of her father’s grapevine arbor at the farm. It was his favorite place in the yard… a table there for summer dinners, a place where Joe enjoyed his pastime of whittling, and often where several of the siblings played cards… if their father wasn’t home!

Choosing a favorite family photograph, much less one from a biological family not my own, is hard… but it was this photograph that I was drawn to when I married Steve! It was a photograph of his large family… a family who had the “typical” sibling spat, but still remained there for each other… a family that remained close… having daily contact with each other.  A family I was always jealous of…  I am an only child, but now I had a family.

How did this family photograph come to be taken… well, at this point in time it’s not remembered, or known… but they were all gathered for it! Giuseppe’s (Joseph) grandson Steve (Insalaco) says, “my grandfather knew many people as a barber… he never went to any races at West Haven Speedway where his son Johnny raced every weekend… but he knew who won every week… a barber always knew the latest news!” Most of the family men and boys went there for haircuts, so whether he went or not, he was told what happened at the racetrack as well as the family news. Several of my teachers also went to his barber shop for haircuts, so I had to be on my best behavior, for the most part in school… or he’d know! It might have been one of grandpa’s customers who came to the farm to take this family photograph. Possibly it was even the photographer, Conroy Taylor, who worked for the local newspaper (New Haven Register). Conroy was friends with Johnny, photographing the Speedway races weekly and even Johnny’s wedding.” But whoever came that day to take this family photograph… Thank You! Photographs such as this preserve history… preserving family at a specific time in their lives. (Conroy Taylor was also Steve’s Boy Scout Troup No.716 Master)

I can only imagine how the photo shoot went that afternoon under Joe’s grapevine arbor… and I’m sure a few words were voiced, out loud, as son Johnny seemed to have rocked the boat! Johnny was the strong-willed son, and if you study the photograph, you’ll notice that he was the only one who didn’t comply with his father’s request to dress in their Sunday’s finest! I’m told by daughter, Nancy, that it caused quite a ruckus that afternoon when Johnny refused to dress in a tie and jacket, but as you can see in the photo… someone gave in and the picture was taken… and it’s the only family photo of them all together in one sitting… from the youngest, (Antonette), to the oldest of Catherine.

For the most part, everyone looked happy, finally… on this day and we are very lucky to have this photograph documenting that late summer 1946 afternoon under Giuseppe’s (Joe’s)  grapevine arbor!

As all the children are lined up in sibling order, from oldest to the youngest sitting on the mother’s lap… I’ll write on each one in order.

As I look into their faces, I see Catherine on the left smiling, now if you knew her, you’d know that she always ran from every camera, or held her hand near her mouth. Look at her, she was beautiful, but yet she persistently referred to herself as ugly and always ducked out of the camera view. She’s known to have tragically even scratched her face out of photographs with a pen… I’ve seen a few! This was a woman, whose wedding photo was displayed in the window of a local photography studio. Aunt Catherine was one of a kind, and I enjoyed spending time with her. Steve often visited her, as she was his godmother… in later years, they had great political conversations, especially during the past campaigns; they both saw eye-to-eye on politics! Catherine kept an immaculate house, with limited decorations as often told me when visiting… “all those things are dust collectors.” She’d often look around my house at parties and say, “don’t you mind dusting all these things?” At that time in my life, I didn’t mind… today at my age, yes I do mind… I understand how she felt, and now I’d rather write than dust! I could easily write a book of stories on all the things I learned about Aunt Catherine through the years… such as how she always packed the trial sizes of Lysol, Comet and a sponge in a plastic bag in daughter Diane’s suitcase to clean the hotel bathroom on band trips… and who can forget her delicious cookies she brought on Christmas Eve. She enjoyed when Steve visited after he retired… he always arrived with a plate of Anginettes or Pepperoni Bread. I’ll leave you a teaser… she lived next door to the Elephant woman of Savin Rock! (That story will be for another day) It seems Diane’s suitcase was the first one opened after all the girls checked into their rooms on those band trips… as they all wanted to know what her mom had packed! Diane reports that those “cleaning” supplies were never used for the purpose intended… but mom never asked… and Diane never told! But the “cleaning” aspect was instilled into Diane, as she now packs those very things for trips and hospital visits… just like mom! Aunt Catherine finally knows the truth now!

Brother Freddie (Frederick Joseph), is next, the oldest brother in the family; named after his grandfather, Frederico Gambino. Freddie was a good son to his mother, as any son should be. Freddie lived his own life… strong-willed but close to his siblings, especially his brothers. I’m sure he set the way, as first children usually do, and they followed alongside him in many things such as hunting and boating (they lived on the water by 1957). They competed in everything they did… it was a very competitive family.

Steve: “Freddie was a tough kid, always getting in a fight, and his brothers were always there for him. He enjoyed working with wood… also a whittler like his father. I visited him often, later in life, and always found him at the kitchen table whittling wooden spoons… of which we have a few… or building one of the many wishing wells he built; almost everyone in the family ended up with one; he was also a great cook (he was a cook in the Navy) and you’d usually walk in to find a pot of sauce simmering on the stove on Sunday mornings. Freddie was accomplished at many things, such as archery… always hitting the bullseye! Boating and fishing were favorites of his also, and after moving by the water, he spent much time on the water; buying himself a new wooden speedboat. He often fished for blue crabs and eels… bringing them to his mother to cook; she made the best-stuffed eels… I have never found anyone who could duplicate the taste of them!. He also hunted all types of animals, such as pheasants, rabbits, deer and even squirrels, which grandma would cook in sauce or make a stew. Deer hunting was an annual tradition, and he never came home with one or two tied on the front of his car.”

The next sibling in birth order is Cecelia (my mother-in-law). Celia wasn’t like any of her other siblings… they’ve all said that… she was strong-willed, doing what she wanted… when she wanted. She was loved as their sister, but there was often conflict… but in the end, after many fusses and fights… conflicts were resolved, as they were siblings. Being she was my mother-in-law, it’s often hard to write on her. While she didn’t quite accept me when I came into the family, we eventually worked that out and spent many days together crafting and spending family time together, especially when the grandchildren came. Unfortunately, Celia had a one-track mind toward gambling, as many in the family did, but she couldn’t control hers and it caused problems, but everyone has problems in life… and it doesn’t stop you from loving your family. My mother-in-law was a great cook and taught me all I know about “Italian” cooking…  knitting and crochet… and a few of her favorites such as Scrabble and Pinochle. I never mastered the Pinochle card game, it just didn’t grab me, but I played scrabble with her, not winning often… she had many years of playing on me. The large, huge Dictionary always sat on the side of the table and if the word was in there… either top or bottom of the page… it was a word!

Brother Johnny, the one who caused the ruckus wearing no tie is next. Of all the siblings standing there, Johnny was the most colorful one in the family! I can only imagine all the trouble that erupted throughout the family as he grew up… and don’t tell me you’re (family) not laughing… in thinking of all he’s done and said! When I came into this family, I became close to Johnny and his wife Maggie… they were easy to talk to and Johnny was entertaining! I could listen to Johnny tell stories all day… and those stories never stopped… he enjoyed telling them! I often spent time with him and Maggie and even went with him to the car races at Riverside, MA. He raced at Savin Rock Speedway in his early years and was still racing when I met him. I remember riding with him on the purple (school) bus to Riverside, with the race car riding inside the bus; he’d boldly think nothing of walking to the back of the bus and cranking up the car… imagine how loud that car was… inside the bus! On one of my first times of riding with Johnny, he told me… “don’t worry, you’re as safe as a baby in a cradle, I can stop on a dime.” As a young girl of 19, far away from home… I wasn’t so sure of that as he was, but what I did know… I enjoyed being around him!

One of the things my husband and I laugh over now is a story that Johnny first told us of ice skating at Voss Pond one day when one of the boys fell through the ice, and in Johnny’s words… “miraculously I stuck my hand through the hole and the boy reached up to grab my hand and I pulled him out.” Now if you know Johnny, you can hear him telling this story in his descriptive way and voice. Years later, brother Frankie told us this very same story, but it was “he” who saved that boy… in the same way! Could there possibly have been two boys, and they each actually saved the same boy? We’ve always laughed over this story, at the fabrication of how each one of them was the same hero! It never mattered to us, whether it was real or not… they each told a great story and I’d give anything to go back in time… to once again hear that story!

Brother Frankie, the youngest of the three, stands next to big brother Johnny. They were very close and very competitive with each other in “everything” they did; the Cambino family was a very competitive family and remained close through the years. He was the first of my husband’s uncles I met when I came to CT., and he often took me for rides on his motorcycle to show me all around the area. I was a little nervous when he first drove me up to the top of West Rock to see Long Island Sound and all of New Haven; it was an awesome site, but the fast ride up was pretty scary. Frankie’s exceptional qualities were as a carpenter… he could build anything. He often told me stories of when he was in the Army… he was even the main carpenter in his unit, even building a table and chairs for the commander. If anyone remembers Bob Rossi, the painter on TV… then you know that’s how Frankie began painting. He’d set up his easel (he built) and paint along with Bob… and became quite proficient in painting. (I’ll add photos later). Frankie was also an accomplished musician, as well as brother Johnny; both played by ear, there was never any lessons. Frankie also played the organ, piano, guitar, and harmonica. Frankie always livened up Christmas Eve when he began playing the organ.

Sister, Nancy, is on the end of the back row of siblings in this family, age twelve, and the only one who remembers this day. I’ve always seen Nancy as the strongest of the family, taking charge of caring for her parents, making decisions and always being the one, other than their mother, to be called at holidays for a recipe. Everyone cared for their parents in different ways, but there is always one, in every family, who takes the lead. I can still hear my mother-in-law calling Nancy to ask… what amounts of this and that were needed for the Easter pies. That was what encouraged me to create the family cookbook, “Italian Famiglio Recipes.” Even today, Nancy is still a strong woman, working in her flower gardens, maintaining a vegetable garden and cooking the Sunday family dinner. Nancy and husband Gene hosted an annual Fourth of July picnic for many years… lots of work! Those picnics were so much fun… all the siblings came with their families and as the families grew, even more, were added. The Bocci games there intrigued me when I first went, and I wanted to play… but was quickly told… “it’s only for the men.” That didn’t sit well with me. LOL!  Eventually, the men relented and the women began playing, but having their own game, not with them. Most of the women brought their crafts or crocheting that day, so we were content usually, to not play Bocci unless we wanted to; we enjoyed showing off what they were working on… those were fun days!

Baby, Antonette (Dolly), completes this family photograph along with her parents Domenica (Minnie) DeTulio and Giuseppe (Joseph) Cambino. When I questioned her nickname, I was told, “I didn’t play with dolls, so my brothers called me Dolly.” She is close in age to my husband and they grew up more like brother and sister through the years… and when I came into this family… we spent much time together. Summers were spent sitting by the pool at my mother-in-laws, crocheting, crafting, and sunbathing! I can’t even remember all the crafts we’ve done through the years… there were so many! I never had anyone to play board games when I grew up, but I have fond memories of playing Clue and Careers for hours on end with Dolly… even our husbands played. What fun we had on Saturday afternoons… trying to outwit each other either in solving the mystery of whether it was Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, Mrs. White, Mr. Green or Mrs. Peacock.. as to who killed Mr. Boddy! Just thinking of the Clue characters is so making me want to play again… I might need to find an online game… Dolly, are you ready for a rematch? Careers was another favorite… each of us trying to trick the other as to our formula strategy… it was a strategic game, gathering points to win. When OTB (Off Track Betting) came to West Haven… our Saturday mornings changed to discussing the horse races and who’d win that afternoon… often arguing our different views! It was fun later watching the race to see who picked out the winners!

Grandma Minnies birthday partyFIX

Grandma Minnie celebrating her 85th birthday party… and there is that family photo given to her by her children.

The mother, Domenica “Minnie” (DeTulio) Cambino… a caring mother holding baby Antonette (Dolly). I always loved her given name… which means Sunday. I first assumed she was possibly born on that day, but later learned she was most likely named after her paternal grandmother, Domenica DeCuore. Her nickname “Minnie” became the more Americanized version; I never heard anyone call her by any name, other than Minnie! Her children called her Mama… I called her Grandma along with her many grandchildren, and spent many hours at her house… and enjoyed going there. She taught me many cooking skills and dishes. I first learned about the famous zucchini yellow flowers from the summer squash plants. She’d take me into the garden with a paper bag in hand… to gather the flowers. When I questioned the bag, grandma said, “always put the flowers in a bag before bringing them into the house… listen closely for the buzzing. You don’t want to open the bag in the kitchen and have a bee fly out.” I never forgot that! And those fried yellow blossoms were always the best at Grandma’s! She was a great cook, and never thought twice about just cooking a small amount of any dish for you. When I was pregnant with Stephen, she’d prod me into tasting a little bit of everything, telling me, “you must taste everything so the baby will like it.” Well, I guess that worked, as Stephen loves Broccoli Rabe, and she pushed that on me saying it tasted like my southern turnip greens. Personally, I never saw the comparison to the two, other than they both were green! I never argued the taste tests, I ate whatever she gave me. When I began my cookbook, my first stop was at her kitchen table to watch, measure and write her recipes. She had no recipes written, as most cooks didn’t back then… like my own mother and grandmother… they knew how to cook by the feel and taste. On that one Easter week, as she sat at the table making her pies, I measured her ingredients to create a recipe; and it worked, as my pies come out good every time. If only I’d thought to have brought a camera!

My first experience of eating pizza there was interesting… I was in awe as she tore off the top of the box, tearing it in four pieces… and soon we all had paper plates. Often today I’ll tell hubby, “just use grandma Minnie’s paper plates.” I’ll close with one funny story after her passing… we all learned that Grandma actually smoked! We laughed about it, as almost none of us knew, except for maybe Dolly and Frankie, who lived there at the time. Frankie told us how he’d purposely leave his pack of cigarettes on the kitchen table… and as she always kept a kitchen cloth on the table, she’d pull a few out to hide under that cloth until she could hide them later. Dolly remembers, “I’d come home at lunch sometimes, and see smoke coming out the bathroom window… no one was home but Mama, so I assumed it was her.” It’s a funny remembrance! Even today… I can still picture her sitting in her “spot” at the kitchen table, with that cloth laying right there.

The father, Giuseppe (Joseph) Cambino (Gambino) sits alongside Minnie… looking the part of the prestigious proud father of 7 children on this day. While I did get to meet him in 1971 when I married Steve, he wasn’t the strong fiery man he once was… of whom I heard many stories on. He was now a sweet quiet man, and on our first meeting, he took me for a walk to see the roses he enjoyed growing. Once he gave up growing a garden, he turned to flowers. His early photos, like the tin photo of him at age 18, always showed him as a strong confident man, and quite handsome. This family photo has him sitting there, still very confident, with movie star quality… love the pocket watch tucked in his vest pocket. He reminds me of George Burns in this photograph… probably because of the cigar in hand… he seemed to hold it just as George did. Joseph always provided for his family with clothing, food, and shelter. It might not have been the best, but he provided, as what a good father does for his family… they provide the best to their ability. Times were tough, money was hard to come by, and he worked long hours at the barber shop… but he provided for all 7 children and ensured that they all received an education. My husband has many memories of going to Grandpa Joe’s barber shop for haircuts… I’ll tell those later along with the Bocci stories.

Italian naming patterns:

  • The first male is named after his paternal grandfather.
  • The second male is named after his maternal grandfather.
  • The first female is named after her paternal grandmother.
  • The second female is named after her maternal grandmother.

I can see the patterns in many of my husband’s lines, but it was not always followed as the families Americanized more.

One of the stories I’d hoped to find but never did is a photograph of when Giuseppe was young and courting Minnie. He often picked her up from work at Strouse Adler on his motorcycle with the sidecar! As New Haven had a large Indian Motorcycle dealership, I often wondered if that bike might have possibly been an Indian. (Strouse Adler was famous for their “Smoothie” foundation garments.)

So the next time you look through your family photographs… remember… there is much more to the photograph of the people you’re looking at… they all have a story! I hope you have enjoyed mine as much as I’ve enjoyed telling them.

52 ancesors with name

Like to read more, click on… 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Week 1 (Jan 1-7): Start

Week 2 (Jan 8-14): Favorite Photo

Week 3 (Jan 15-21): Longevity

Week 4 (Jan 22-28): Invite to Dinner

Week 5 (Jan 29-Feb 4): In the Census

2018: Week 1 ~ 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Start

2018: Week 1 ~ 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Start

52 ancesors pic

Week 1 ~ Start

I’m looking forward to starting another year-long of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks with Amy Johnson Crow.  If you’ve never joined into this type of a weekly writing blog, check out her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks site for more information. I first joined in 2014, opening my first blog and proud to say… I completed all 52 weeks on time! My 2014: 52 Week Ancestor Challenge can be found on the previous link.

I plan to concentrate on my husband’s Italian lines, beginning with their immigration to the United States through Ellis Island, and I look forward to sharing the information I have gathered through the years

Giuseppe Gambino

Giuseppe (Joseph) Gambino (Cambino)

I married into an Italian family… a family with stories of times gone by… stories I never tired of hearing… and wrote down! Many of those stories were also centered around a once, great amusement park known as Savin Rock, of which I will also include stories on.

My Week 1 “Start” weekly prompt begins with my husband’s maternal grandfather, Giuseppe Cambino (Gambino) arriving on American soil in 1913; as the weeks and prompts progress, I will include both sides of his Italian family lines as they crossed the ocean to arrive at Ellis Island… arriving for a better life in America.

The S.S. Moltke arrived in the New York Harbor on May 27th, 1913. The ship had departed from Naples, Italy on May 13th for New York, for a voyage that would take fourteen days to reach its final destination… the United States. There were many immigrants onboard, alongside Guiseppe – eagerly anticipating a new life and “start” in America.


S. S. Moltke

The “Moltke” was built by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg in 1901 for the Hamburg America Line; she had a weight of 12,335 gross tons, length 525.6ft x beam 62.3ft, two funnels, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 16 knots. The Moltke could accommodate 390-1st, 230-2nd and 550-3rd class passengers, and was launched on 08/27/1901. She sailed her maiden voyage from Hamburg to Boulogne, Southampton and New York on 03/02/1902. On 04/03/1906 she commenced her first sailing between Naples, Genoa and New York and her last voyage, Genoa – Naples – New York – Genoa was on 06/23/1914. Guiseppe sailed on one of her last voyages from Italy to New York.

She was later interned at Genoa in 1914 and on 05/25/1915, was seized by Italy and renamed the “Pesaro”, where she began sailing for the Italian company, Lloyd Sabaudo. In 1925, she was finally scrapped in Italy.

Steerage passenger number ‘five’ on the S.S. Moltke was eighteen-year-old Giuseppe Gambino. Arriving at a young age was on his side, as American immigration authorities tended to look more favorably on the young and healthy who could help build America’s booming industrial base. He entered the United States as Giuseppe Gambino, as written on the ship manifest, but through time, his surname evolved into Cambino. Whether he initiated the change or it became by accident, we do not know, but whoever it was changed, it remained Cambino for the rest of his life for him, his marriage and his children. His birth records in Italy clearly show his surname to be “Gambino.”

Ship Manifest of the S. S. Moltke

Gambino manifest

Gambino, Giuseppe Male, 18y, South Italy, Italian, South Tramonti, Italy

His nationality (country of which he was a citizen) was listed as Italy; race or people as Italian South; country of last permanent residence was Italy, town of Tramonti. I’ve often pondered on the lines of this second page, where the names of nearest relatives or friend, where alien came were written.  It seems to read as father, Luitalo (sp) and town of Tramonti; his father’s name, from his birth records, was Federico Gambino; he was headed to the destination of New Haven, CT.

Giuseppe verified before boarding that he was not a polygamist, anarchist, or indentured laborer, and had never been in the poorhouse or insane asylum. The ship surgeon and the ship Master both verified that he was in good health for his arrival at Ellis Island. There were strict rules in place at that time, and the ships were held accountable for the health of their passengers. It was in the ships best interest to verify their occupants before sailing, as they would be responsible for the payment to return those that Ellis Island would not accept. Ellis Island verified everyone entering our country, checking for disease, as well as mental and body. Immigrants were turned away if they were seen as diseased and unfit… America was looking for able-bodied immigrants to build the melting pot of America.

Gambino manifest listings

Of the twenty-three names or so on the ship manifest, Giuseppe was one of twenty-one that was listed as able to read and write. The hopes that these immigrants pinned on the new world were all ahead of them. Living in America gave much more opportunity for themselves and their families. Giuseppe stated that he paid his own passage of forty dollars, and all that was left in his pocket was twenty-five dollars to begin a new life. Guiseppe never wanted to return to Italy, he told his son Johnny many tales of life there and he wanted his children to have a better life. He did not speak Italian in the home, he encouraged them to only learn and speak English. He wanted them to be American!


The voyage over in steerage was horribly crowded for Giuseppe, as he was crowded in with hundreds of immigrants, unknown to him… all squeezed into tight spaces. Some steamships could accommodate as many as two thousand passengers in steerage, so-called because it was located on the lower decks where the steering mechanism of the sailing ships had once been housed. These long narrow compartments were divided into separate dormitories for single men, women, and families. Inside the steerage cabin were bunks, two or three tiers high, equipped with meager mattresses – often populated with lice. If you were a woman traveling alone, or with your children, sleeping in the same room as a strange man was too immoral to even consider; they often chose to sleep sitting up on the deck. As far as the family stories have been told, Giuseppe came to the United States alone. I can not imagine going to a foreign country, with little money and no knowledge of the language there, but he was coming to meet his brother.

The water calmed as the S. S. Moltke made its way into the New York Harbor. Most immigrants, eager to catch sight of the new land, hurried up on deck… I’m sure Giuseppe stood with them in wanting a first glimpse of where he now would call home. In Italy, they had heard of the Statue of Liberty but were never exactly sure what it was. Still, to all of them, the first sight must have been unforgettable. The Statue Of Liberty offered them a mute, but powerful ‘welcome’ as it stood silently in the Hudson Harbor.

ellis island

The Moltke steamed up the Hudson River to a pier where the first-and second-class passengers, native or immigrant, debarked. They hoped their passage through immigration would be quick and courteous, and while they were being cleared, the steerage passengers were kept waiting – and waiting. In an effort to impress the inspectors, immigrants changed into their fanciest traditional costumes before leaving the ship – often it was the only other suit of clothes packed for the journey.

When it came time for Giuseppe to finally debark with the others, they were all harshly commanded to hurry. Bulky in their many layers of clothing, carrying bedding, trunks, holding their only possessions, even cuttings from the family vineyard to transplant in America, they scrambled from the S. S. Moltke; good riddance and glad to leave! They then boarded a barge that transported them over to Ellis Island. Giuseppe always had a vineyard after he married… first at the farm and later when he moved his family to an 1860 built saltbox style home, situated directly on Long Island Sound in West Haven, CT. Most Italians kept their traditions from home, wanting to have just a little feeling of “home.” (another post on this 1860 home)

Finally landing, Giuseppe joined his shipmates to line up at the main door – standing like cattle under an enormous metal canopy that was about fifty feet wide. He then entered the main building and climbed the immense stairway to the huge Registry Room. In 1913 the room was still divided into iron-railed aisles into which the new arrivals were steered (or shoved) to wait… once again.

Five thousand immigrants were processed a day as the Ellis Island staff worked twelve hours a day. By 1906, at immigrations peak, two or three times that number might arrive in a single day.

After passing the medical examination, Giuseppe moved through the back of the room to meet the ‘primary’ inspector; the man who would finally give or withhold permission for him to go ashore. The inspector asked Giuseppe a total of twenty-nine questions. What was his name, his age, could he read and write? What was his occupation and destination? All his answers had to exactly match the information previously recorded on the manifest of the S. S. Moltke. Just because you wanted to come and live in the United States… was not the reason you were granted acceptance.

The most difficult question men often stumbled over was – do you have work waiting for you in the United States? The correct answer was ‘No.’ The importation of contract labor was illegal and during the time that Giuseppe came,,, many laborers were deported from Ellis Island.

After leaving the primary inspector, Giuseppe returned back to the baggage room to gather his belongings and with papers stamped from the primary inspector’s desk, he was now free to enter the United States. He ferried over to the Battery and headed to Grand Central Station to begin his final journey to his listed destination of New Haven, Connecticut. What were his thoughts as he sat on that train, hoping he had been put on the correct train… hoping his brother Francesco would be waiting for him… wondering what would he do if he was not able to find his brother! I imagine there were other Italians on that train of whom he spoke in his language to… as he rode for almost two hours before reaching Union Station in New Haven.

Only a third of the immigrants remained in New York City, which kept the railroad office at Ellis Island very busy – sometimes selling as many as twenty-five tickets a minute. Immigrants leaving the island often wore this sign, “To the Conductor: Please show bearer where to change car, or train, and where to get off, as this person does not speak English.” These immigrants were very brave… coming to a foreign land, not knowing the language, hardly having any money left in their pockets and often having no family here at all.

Giuseppe Gambino / Cambino was the first of our direct line of Gambino’s to come to America. He came as a young man at the age of eighteen, now beginning his adult life in a new land. From the ship manifest, it showed he was met by his brother, Francis/Francesco (sp from records) – destination listed as New Haven, Connecticut. We can only assume he chose New Haven because of his brother, Frank, then living there, or Frank took him there to live with friends. Giuseppe did indeed go to New Haven and by 1920 he was still living at 178 Frank St., of where it was written as his destination.

Gambino Francesco

It was told to me by Giuseppe’s son, Johnny, that he lived in the apartment of friends when he first came to New Haven; his father told him that when he was young. That is probably why I never found his name in 1914 listed as an occupant in the city directory for 178 Frank St.; most likely he rented a room in someone else’s apartment. I did find him listed in 1920, he was then the sole occupant; he was also now listed as a barber at 668 Washington Ave., West Haven; Giuseppe had now begun a business as a barber.

Gambino Francesco 2

In searching the Ellis Island website for Giuseppe’s brother, I only came up with one entry for a Francesco (Frank) Gambino. It showed that he left the port of Naples, and arrived on December 21, 1907, married, age twenty-two, sailed on the ship “Konigin Luise,” and was no. 7 on the ship manifest page. Most of the Gambino’s who immigrated to America sailed from Sicily and since he came from the same area as his brother – I might assume that this listing may be him. The age is not correct, as the original family birth listings from Italy, lists his birth date as 1881, which would make him twenty-six years of age; his age could be listed wrong on the ship manifest.

This new “start” for Giuseppe in America brought many changes to the life that he might not have had in Italy. He entered the U. S. as a laborer, but eventually acquired the trade of barbiere (barber) which led him to become a business owner of his own shop – Buddy’s Barber Shop at 668 Washington St. in West Haven, CT. He wanted to be an American, he wanted to start a new life, marry and raise a family in America. Giuseppe was part of the “melting pot” who would be contributing to help America flourish.

I will return to Giuseppe later during the year with more…

If you are family and reading, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. You might even possibly be a new cousin, and if so, I look forward to connecting with you. I began the gathering of these stories and information many years ago and decided that the time was right this year to “start” sharing my husband’s family history! Goda! (Enjoy!

52 ancesors with name

Like to read more, click on… 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Jan prompts

Week 1 (Jan 1-7): Start

Week 2 (Jan 8-14): Favorite Photo

Week 3 (Jan 15-21): Longevity

Week 4 (Jan 22-28): Invite to Dinner

Week 5 (Jan 29-Feb 4): In the Census