Roots in the Boot
by Cate Murway
What is your connection to “the Boot”?
Would you like to “re-connect”?
You are cordially invited to attend the inaugural Italian Culture Club meeting at the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library on Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 6:30PM.
History has it that Italian communities rapidly flourished in historic Bristol on the Delaware during the great surge of immigration that continued into the 20th century. From 1876-1924, more than 4.5 million Italians arrived in the United States, and over two million came in the years 1901-1910 alone.
The immigrants from the boot-shaped Italian peninsula willingly put their hands into a wide variety of work, in the pits and in the mines, or laboring on farms giornalieri, toiling for low pay and inadequately rewarded labor, all of them eked out meager existences. Families typically worked as collective units to ensure survival.
An old Italian proverb instructed: Chi esce riesce “He who leaves succeeds”.
What a story of plucky success!
Their indefatigable work ethic helped to fuel the booming industrial economy. Skilled stonemasons artigiani, who had learned their trade on the rocks and crags of southern Italy, shared their craft and seized entrepreneurial opportunities in their new home. Life was hard; they were rooted in the working class, but it was not impossible. The families grew as befitted in America, and acclimated to the American milieu, while keeping the tradition of Italian, perhaps never to forget their parents’ mother tongue or other aspects of their heritage. That's Amore!
Many of the large Italian-American population [23%] in Bristol are from the Marche region and the Province of Ascoli Piceno [Provincia di Ascoli Picen], a peaceful Italian provincial town, ideally located midway between the Adriatic sea, rolling hills and awe-inspiring Appennini mountains, surrounded by beautiful olive groves.
More than one hundred years after the great era of Italian immigration began, the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original immigrants continue to celebrate the family-centered heritage that their forebearers brought to their new home. The Italian-American populace navigated the complicated process of adapting to this new world, all the while not completely surrendering their past and they amalgamated into the general population still wishing to maintain a connection. Many carry in their hearts a deep-seated nostalgia for the “old neighborhood.”
In recent decades, genealogy has exploded among Americans and we are left with third-generation Italian Americans who travel to Sicily in search of their family roots. Are you interested in learning about Italy, both a birthplace of Western civilization and a cultural superpower? Do you want to know more of its history, language, and the deep meaning and shared values that were brought from Italy, as well as strengthen cultural understanding?
The multi-talented author and retired journalist, AF veteran, Airman First Class Stephen Anthony “Steve” Hedgpeth has a plan. He will be hosting the inaugural Italian Culture Club meeting at the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library on Thursday, January 15, 2015. The public is invited to join him next Thursday and each and every third Thursday of the following months from 6:30PM to 8:00PM for informal Italian culture discussions. Prior knowledge is not a requirement, nor is Italian language fluency.
Steve has been a Bristol Borough resident since 1986, but his goal is to locate some like minded individuals to explore various “old country” traditions and share with those of Italian decent. He also has a unique bit of a connection with a fantastic Italian-American accomplished singer and entertainer.
Steve’s maternal grandparents John “Bull” and Edith [Bove] Porreca migrated from Abruzzo, in Southern Italy, a region of mostly mountainous and wild terrain. He is the third of the four children born to Bull’s and Edith’s daughter, the late Margaret Edith [Porreca] Hedgpeth.
Margaret ‘s birthplace was Steubenville, Ohio, as was that of Dino Paul Crocetti [1917-1995] “Dean Martin”, of the Hollywood ‘Rat Pack’ glamour. Dean was the son of Gaetano Alfonso Crocetti [1894–1967], a barber, and an Italian-American mother, Angela [Barra] Crocetti [1899–1966] who migrated from Montesilvano, in Abruzzo.
Steve’s Great Aunt Giulia “Julia” married Dean Martin’s Uncle Joe Crocetti. Julia’s sister was Dean’s comare [Godmother]. These Great Aunts are mentioned in Dean Martin’s 1992 biography, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams written by Nick Tosches.
Steve’s mother, Margaret was sent from Ohio to go live in Italy with her mother, Edith and her step-father for 10 years. In 1936, at the age of fourteen, she sailed back, by herself, to the USA. The excitement of her journey may have far outweighed any fear. She married and there were turbulent family times so Steve spent five years of his youth in orphanages and foster homes.
Even though his mother spoke very little Italian at home, learning the language was both reminiscent and healing for him. His fascination with the unique dialect of the romance language derived directly from Latin, was the impetus also providing the nurturing, connecting bond with his mother in her later years. He had the opportunity to accompany her on a pilgrimage back to her native homeland, Italia.
Steve was able to bridge the emotional gap with “TI amo”.
You are cordially invited to share and bring your family connections to life at the inaugural Italian Culture Club meeting on Thursday, January 15, 2015.
Each month will embrace a different program topic that can celebrate Italy’s enormous contribution to the arts and culture of the world, bringing the joy of experiencing Italian culture on a regular basis.
Join the Italophiles.
Ciao e benvenuti. Hello and welcome! Vi aspettiamo. Look forward to seeing you!
Please call Steve Hedgpeth at 215.785.4440 with any comments or questions.
Reservations are not required.
Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library
680 Radcliffe Street
Bristol, PA 19007
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