Chapter Five

 

    The beginning of the 1930s saw the United States in a major economic depression. The Peter Carrocci family suffered right along with the rest of the people in the Ohio Valley. While cash was always short, there was that garden that provided a lot of food for the family that kept getting bigger. Theresa Ann was born September 15th, 1933 at the family home on Adams Street.

    It was sometime during the following year that Peter Carrocci changed his ways. Up to this point, he had been a heavy drinker. Not only would he drink a lot of the wine that he made each year, but he would also drink his share at some of local bars around town. And then he met a man by the name of Jimmy Macri.

    Jimmy, the one who is kneeling in front, was the man who talked Peter into becoming a Jehovahís Witness. That single event changed him for the rest of his life. There was no more heavy drinking and there was a lot of going to church services. Theresa Ann was the last of the Peter Carrocci children to be baptized as a Catholic. By the way, the others in this picture are Mr. and Mrs. Brown on either side of Anna Carrocci, and thatís me in the back. The Brown family lived two houses up from us on Adams Street.

    I was born a year after Peterís religious conversion, was not baptized at St. Anthonyís church in Steubenville as were most of the other of his children.

    The 1930s were also hard times for some others of Peter Carrocciís children, especially his sons. There was the time that Mary Basil and Julius Carrocci got into a major argument. Mary ended up so angry at him that she threw a kitchen knife at Julius, leaving him with a scar on his face for the rest of his life. This picture of Julius is when he graduated from Steubenville High School in the early 40s. Other of the sons of Peter Carrocci sometimes had harsh treatment from him when they made him angry. Joe, Julie, Larry and I all suffered corporal punishment from him. Peter often used an old fashion razor strop that he kept hanging behind the kitchen door to the basement stairs. The only one who seemed to be spared was Dominic James. Maybe that was because he was mama Carrocciís blue-eyed angel. Papa Carrocci didnít believe in sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

   There was at least one happy event that happened in the 30s. Peterís adopted son Benny married Lucy Taravella of Mingo Junction, Ohio, which is a few miles south of Steubenville on the Ohio River. This picture was taken in the 50s and shows the Benny Carrocci family at the time. Lucy and Benny are in front and Roseanne and Nancy are standing in the back. Benny was the first of the Carrocci boys to get married and that was on February 22, 1936. I was just over two months old and although everyone says was at the wedding, I donít remember being there.

    One of the things I do remember is the love and attention I got from half-sister Mary. I wasnít the only one, either. I can recall all my brothers and Theresa saying she was like a second mother to all of us.

   I never saw the flash of temper that brother Julius obviously encountered. I only saw a loving, caring and nurturing woman who paid a lot of attention to me. I remember the time that sister Theresa and I had scarlet fever at the same time. She was in one bedroom in the front part of the house and I was in the next one. We would each holler when Mary went into the other ďpatientísĒ room. She ended up having to put a chair in the hallway where we could both see her. As long as she sat in that chair Theresa and I were both happy.

    Here are the two darlings: Theresa on the left is about two-years old; thatís me on the right also about two-years old.

    Take a look at the cute yellow pants Iím wearing. Arenít they something? It was just shortly after I began to walk that Anna Carrocci started making me wear dresses.

 

   Here are brother and sister making nice with each other. Youíll notice that in this photo Iím wearing a dress. The reason, according to family legend, was to keep me from running all over the neighborhood. By the way, the dog in the picture is Skippy, one of the many mutts taken in by the Peter Carrocci family during the 30s and early 40s. This picture was taken in August of 1938.

    During the 1920s and the 1930s, Peter Carrocci worked as a shear man at the steel mill in Beach Bottom, West Virginia, which is across the Ohio River and south from Steubenville, Ohio. His bootlegging days were over. Compare Larry Tucci once told me that Peter was never involved in the local Mafiosi. I asked pop about it once and he said they once gave him a gun and wanted him to shoot someone. He said he wouldnít do it and threw the gun in the river.

   Here is a picture of Peterís brother Ilario, or Uncle Larry as he was known in the family. Uncle Larryís nickname was ďIceĒ because at one point during the 1920s or 1930s he delivered ice to homes. In those days before refrigerators people used iceboxes to keep food chilled. There was a rumor that Uncle Larry got that nickname because he iced someone, but I think that was just someone trying to create an interesting story. Later on Uncle Larry went to work in the coal mine in Steubenville.

    Back to the time when Pietro and Ilario Carrocci were bootlegging, word is that Uncle Larry took a fall for one of the local big shots in Steubenville. As the story goes, Cosmo Quattrone, the man the boys worked for, got word that the cops were going to bust a load of booze that Uncle Larry was hauling. Quattrone didnít say a word to Uncle Larry, who was in turn arrested and convicted. No matter how it happened, he spent time at the prison in Moundsville, West Virginia.

    Before he worked in the mines, Uncle Larry worked at a bar on 7th Street and Washington in Steubenville. It was called the Washington Street Bar and Grill.

    Steubenville during the 1930s was a wide open town of about 35-thousand people. There was legalized gambling and prostitution. Some of the gambling joints were in the back of the cigar stores and there were slot machines in the bars and bowling alleys. The brothels were down by the river. Aside from the coal mine and the steel mill, there was a pottery plant and a paper mill along the river.

   One of the great things about living in one place for so long is the group of friends that are gathered along the way. Here is Anna with three of her friends. On the left is comare Minnie Tucci, next to her is comare Cristo. The woman on the right is unknown to us now.

   By the way, the terms comare and compare are Italian for godmother, neighbor, or close friend.

 

 

   Speaking of compari (plural for compare), here is a picture of compare Patsy Parillo. You might recall that Peter Carrocci was living with compare Patsy and his family in 1910 in McDowell County West Virginia just four years after coming to America for the first time. Compare Patsy was a frequent visitor to the house on Adams, where he and Pete Carrocci used to have long and heated discussions about the Second World War and what was happening in Italy.

 

   This is good time to dismiss another family rumor: that Larry Martin Carrocci had a twin brother or sister when he was born on November 7th, 1928, but that the twin was not fully formed and died as a result. If that was true, there would have been a death record at the Jefferson County Vital Statistics office in Steubenville.

   The only early deaths recorded at that office are those of Marie on February 11th, 1920, Dominic on April 2nd, 1924, and of Albert on October 26th, 1931. If a baby had been carried to full term there would have been a record of its death.

    A big event that started in the 1930s was the family winemaking. Peter used to make 150 gallons of wine every year and the family would drink most of it.

    Below is a picture I took when I was in Caulonia in 1984. I saw this man washing out his wine barrels.

   The scene re-minded me when Peter did the very same thing in the fall of the year when he would start to make wine. He told me that he used a mixture of mostly zinfandel and some muscatel grapes. I have fond memories of helping to crush the grapes and of being the first one to start to press them after they had fermented.  

    There was always a gallon wine jug on the table and lunch and dinner time. Being the youngest in the family it was always my job to take the jug down to the wine cellar and fill it. Peter always kept the key to the brass wine barrel tap in his watch pocket. He would hand me the key and tell me to whistle while I was filing the jug. Those old Italians were sharp. He wanted to keep me from sipping any of the wine. I could drink a little glass only while I was at the table. Kids seem to always find a way around the system. I would go through the kitchen, pick up a small glass, fill it and stash it for later. Not that I wanted to drink the wine as much as it was a challenge to beat the system.
    The whole neighborhood, which was made up mostly of Italian families, made wine at the same time. They each used the same kind of grapes, but their wine turned out differently. Some of the wines were sweeter and some were drier, but they were all good. I always thought that papaís wine was the best.

    Another big event in the Peter Carrocci family was when he and mama made sausage, capacola, and pasta. I can remember him grinding up the pork shoulder meat, adding the spices and filling the sausage casings. He would tie them into links and hang them up near the ceiling of the basement to dry. They did the same thing with the pasta. They had wooden dowels, like broom handles, lashed up near the ceiling where they would drape over the pasta to let it dry.

    They also kept chickens out back below the garden. There was a peach tree in the chicken yard that grew peaches as big as grapefruit because of the manure. Pop used to use the chicken manure to fertilize his garden and always had large vege-tables. Having all those chickens meant that someone had to clean the chicken coop and guess who that was. I also had to help mama clean the chickens she butchered. She would dip them in hot water and pluck the feathers. We had fried chicken, baked chicken, broiled chicken, chicken casseroles, and chicken in the pasta sauce. To this day I still donít like chicken very much.

    In the fall of the year, at the end of the growing season, mama would can all the peppers, tomatoes, beans, and peaches that came out of the garden. There were shelves and cabinets in the back part of the basement for storing all the jars of food.

    At various times papa also kept rabbits and pigeons. There wasnít much cash around, but it seems as though there was always plenty of food.

 

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