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Frances

Farruggia

A daughter of Sicilian immigrants, Frances lived her entire life in North Beach. Her mother helped found San Francisco’s Madonna dell’Addolorata di S. Elia organization, and her family hosted elaborate St. Joseph’s Day feasts at their home every March.

A priest leads mass at a St. Joseph's Day celebration hosted by Charles Farruggia at his home in North Beach. (photo: Charles Farruggia)
A priest leads mass at a St. Joseph's Day celebration hosted by Charles Farruggia at his home in North Beach. (photo: Charles Farruggia)

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The parents of Frances Farruggia, Vito and Rosa Machi Garofalo. (photo: unknown)
The parents of Frances Farruggia, Vito and Rosa Machi Garofalo. (photo: unknown)

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Frances Farruggia's maternal grandparents. (photo: unknown)
Frances Farruggia's maternal grandparents. (photo: unknown)

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Recording:

Transcript

Transcript: Frances Farruggia (1913-2001)


Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Frances Farruggia on June 20, 1996. The interview took place at Frances’ home at 336 Lombard Street in San Francisco, California. The interview was conducted by Judith Robinson, an author, historian and member of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, a community organization. This interview is part of the Italian-Americans of North Beach series of interviews that were conducted from 1996 to 2004 by Judith Robinson with funding from U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. The interview was transcribed and edited by John Doxey in 2020. 


Format: Originally recorded on 3 audio tapes. Duration is 2 hours, 15 minutes.


Attribution: This interview transcript is property of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project. Quotes, reproductions and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Frances Farruggia, June 20, 1996. Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.


Summary: Frances Farruggia was born in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco in 1913. Her parents came from Sant’ Elia, a small Sicilian village that sent many immigrants to San Francisco. Frances lived her entire life in North Beach, and the man she married in 1932, Antone Farruggia, grew up across the street from her. Frances’ mother, Rosa Machi Garofalo, was a founder of San Francisco’s Madonna dell’Addolorata di S. Elia organization. Frances died on her 88th birthday in 2001.


Frances was 82 years old when Judith Robinson interviewed her. In this interview, Frances speaks, with vivid detail and often boisterous stories, about her parents’ lives in the village of Sant’ Elia, Sicily, how their marriage was arranged and their separate emigrations to San Francisco in the early 1900s; her father’s work as a fisherman in San Francisco and his escape from the city after the 1906 earthquake; her visit as a young child to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915; weekend strolls through Fisherman’s Wharf as a child, including walks through the Ft. Mason tunnel to the Marina district; childhood picnics on a still-undeveloped Telegraph Hill; her father’s work with salmon packing companies in Alaska; her father’s wine-making at home in North Beach; the construction of Saints Peter & Paul Church in the early 1920s; Mexican circuses and amusement park rides that came to North Beach in the summers during her childhood; playing as a child at North Beach Playground (now called Joe DiMaggio Playground); her mother’s crusade to establish a Madonna dell’Addolorata status and society in San Francisco, which succeeded after she overcame initial opposition from local businessmen; the St. Joseph’s Day feasts that her mother hosted annually at her house, which involved elaborate preparation of Sicilian food delicacies and a dramatic ceremony and meal; Joe DiMaggio and his brothers, who attended her middle school; and daily life in the heavily Italian North Beach of her youth, including what the Sicilian residents ate on each day of the week.


John Doxey, Charles Farruggia and Judith Robinson have reviewed the transcript and have made corrections and emendations. The reader should keep in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.


Interview


[Transcriber's note: Frances’ son, Charles Farruggia, was present during this interview and participated in the conversation. In some instances, he corrected dates and other details provided by his mother.]  

 

JUDITH: This is Frances Farruggia interviewed by Judith Robinson for the Italian-American oral history project, at her residence at 336 Lombard, June 20th, 1996. 

 

Well, anyway this is very nice of you to do this … and one of the things we’re particularly interested in is …

 

FRANCES: You tell me what you’re interested in, and I’ll follow suit and fill in or whatever …

 

[Transcriber’s note: Frances made a side comment here about a person named Tom Carroll, who she describes as “a good speaker” who “knows quite a bit about the old times.” Correct spelling of “Carroll” is unconfirmed.]  

 

JUDITH: Well, what we’re interested in is the Italian-American heritage here in the city, and particularly in North Beach. And so I would like to hear something about not only you and your family, but your parents and where they came from in Italy. And then what your life here in San Francisco and their lives were, and what some of the important things were in your life. And I know that Charles, your son, who’s here with us, mentioned that you were active in founding the Madonna Addolorata.

 

FRANCES: My mother was a founder. Go get the picture … [Transcriber’s note: Frances asks Charles here to retrieve and show photos to Judith.]

 

JUDITH: …your mother. So we could talk about that. And maybe we could kind of start with when you were born, and where you were born and where your parents were born.

 

FRANCES: Well, alright. My parents were both born in Italy. They lived in Sicily. And they came from a very small town. The towns there were very small. Some of were just a block, and they all had different names, see. So my mother and my father … 

 

[Transcriber’s note: Frances shows photos to Judith here] This is my mother, she was founder of the Madonna Addolorata. This is her costume, this is her ribbon here that has the “f” [for] founder ... she founded with two of her other neighbors in 1941. But anyway…

 

JUDITH: Back to where she and your father came from.

 

FRANCES: Sant’ Elia. S-A-N-T E-L-I-A … from a very small town, they were all small towns ... 

 

JUDITH: Both your parents?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, they were both from the same town. The same street. In fact, most everyone there was related some way or another. They intermarried. Maybe not too close. But cousins for sure. First or second cousins, whatever. So naturally my father was a fisherman in the old country. And this is something my father always talked about. All the old times … 

 

When he was … see, those that were a little more affluent … by that I mean that they were not millionaires or anything like that, nobody was. But those that were more affluent were the people that owned a little boat or a skiff. They owned the boat and went out and fished, and other people in the neighborhood went with them. But they were the owners of this little boat, small things, and you know they were fishermen. 

 

And my father always said, he always bragged about it that [laughter] … that when he was 10 years old, he had four or five men worked under him. He was the navigator at a very early age of 10 to 12. That was a navigator, captain or whatever they want to call it of this little boat, and the other people, young like him or a little older than him, they went out and caught the fish and all that. That was his story all the time. So anyway...

 

JUDITH: That must have been his father’s boat. 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. Because he was … the father’s boat. You see they were all workers. All the children worked. Not the women. The women didn’t do any work at all in this little town my mother came from. Women did not work. They stayed at home. They did the housework, they made the bread, they washed the clothes, they did the cooking, that was their job. And they did all this embroidery by hand … I’ve got things that my mother made that you’ve never seen in your life. All this cutwork, when they were young, see. And they used to go to these monasteries too, where the nuns were that taught them all this. 

 

See that’s what they were very good in, all this embroidery, the fine linens. Ah, I got so much stuff that you can’t believe, you know. Baptismal clothes that they made. All the clothes before they got married that we all wore. Gorgeous. They’re priceless really, and I have them all here. But anyway, we’re speaking about my mother and father now, OK … so then my father … they’re all cousins like I say. He got married … no they were engaged first … in fact, this is my mother's engagement ring ... 

 

JUDITH: Oh…

 

FRANCES: The face is practically gone, you know, from age. Well, anyway, they were engaged. My father when he came to this country was about 18 years old. And he came to work here...

 

JUDITH: In San Francisco?

 

FRANCES: In San Francisco. Never left. He came here, and they worked here as a fisherman. Sent the money back to the old country, like everybody else did. With the intention that he was going to go back and get married. So when he had enough money saved and kept sending money to the old country, then he went back, and he got married. But he left my mother there. Like they all did. He came back to come back to work to make enough money to send and call for his wife. 

 

So when my father was here sending her a few dollars that in those days that was a lot of money, you know … my mother always bought antiques, beautiful things in Italy, that she was going to bring with her here. All the stuff belonged to my mother from Italy. Now it belongs to me and my sister. 

 

My sister passed away. This is my younger sister that passed away in 1982. [Transcriber’s note: Frances is showing photos to interviewer here.] This is my older sister. She passed away when she was 13, was going to be 14 in two months. But these were left to me and my younger sister, we had all of my mother’s things that she bought all those years ago before she even was married with the money my father sent her.

 

JUDITH: They look to be largely porcelains, very delicate. Figurines.

 

FRANCES: Yeah. And when were young we thought nothing. We had no value. We didn't think that these things were nothing.  Later on we came to realize that these were all good things that you would, you know, pay a lot of money to buy…

 

JUDITH: They came in a box probably on a boat … so the fact that they travelled so far and survived...

 

FRANCES: And she left most of them behind…

 

JUDITH: Oh…

 

FRANCES: She couldn't take them with her. And a lot of her things that she left behind they sold them to the American soldiers for food ... during World War Two. See my mother left them behind. But my mother knew and described everything she had. Then when her sister came to this country … her sister took many trips … she brought, my mother said when you come I want you to bring all my things that I have ... so most of her stuff did get here that her sister brought over here after all those years.

 

JUDITH: What were your mother and father's names? 

 

FRANCES: My mother was a Tarantino … T-A-R-A-N-T-I-N-O.

 

JUDITH: What was her first name?

 

FRANCES: Rosa. R-O-S-A ... and my father's name was Machi Garofalo. M-A-C-H-I. And Garofalo. G-A-R-O-F-A-L-O. See we were in our family three sisters and one brother. The youngest is my brother. And my brother and myself are the only ones living today ... but anyway getting back to my mother, when he had enough money to send for her … then she came. And someone had to be in charge of the people, another relative, a man was in charge of these young women that came, took 'em over. My father took a couple of women over, too. They had to have somebody…

 

CHARLES: Like an escort? 

 

FRANCES: Entrusted, yeah. They had to be entrusted to someone on these boats that took 'em over. My father took certain paesanis over that lived on the same block, and my mother's cousin took them over. That's how they came over. They had to have the escort that was responsible for them to come to this country.

 

JUDITH: Do you remember what years your father first came and your mother first came?

 

FRANCES: Well … the only way I could tell is this. My father was here before the earthquake. He was here during the earthquake, so he was here before the earthquake.

 

JUDITH: So it might have been around the turn of the century. 1900, 1902?

 

FRANCES: Yes, something like that. 'Cause he worked here for maybe four years or so and then the earthquake, right ... but anyway after the earthquake, naturally, then he sent for my mother ...that was after the earthquake. And incidentally after the earthquake, they were fishermen here during the earthquake, they all got on their boats, the little fishing boats, and they all went to Belvedere, Tiburon, all those places.

 

CHARLES: They were called, those boats were called, they had no motors, they only had sails. In those days, in the very early years, they didn’t have motors in those boats…

 

JUDITH: Were they the feluccas?

 

CHARLES: Feluccas, right. 

 

JUDITH: So your father sailed and fished in the felucca? 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, sure, that’s what they did… 

 

JUDITH: So they went over to Marin after the earthquake?

 

FRANCES: With their little fishing boats. And as a matter of fact my father's niece, oldest niece that had just got married, not too long. She was pregnant and had the baby I think in Belvedere or someplace [laughter] during the earthquake.

 

JUDITH: Wow! So they took their families on the boats?

 

FRANCES: Oh yeah. Whoever was here … they packed everyone up on the boats and went to Belvedere, Sausalito, Tiburon, all those places to get away from the earthquake and the fire. ‘Cause there was a fire here, you know.



JUDITH: Well, I understand that Sausalito had a large fishing Italian community for many years, is that correct? So they might have had friends and relatives there with whom they could stay ...


FRANCES: No, they stayed on the boat. And just got off the boat and stayed right there on the beach.

 

JUDITH: I see…

 

FRANCES: Oh no, they didn't stay with anyone there.


JUDITH: They were just escaping...


FRANCES: That's right … they were hard workers, but they took care of their families. They didn't make much money. And when my mother came here, naturally, then maybe after a couple of years she was here my sister was born, my older sister.

 

JUDITH: OK, so your mother would have come over about 1907 or 1908 probably?

 

FRANCES: After the earthquake, yeah.

 

JUDITH: And she had her first child in about 1909?

 

FRANCES: My sister was born in 1910.

 

JUDITH: OK. Now when were you born?

 

FRANCES: I was born in 1918. [Transcriber’s note: Frances was actually born in 1913.]

 

JUDITH: And on what day?

 

FRANCES: My birthday was August the 21st.

 

JUDITH: And presumably still is.

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. [laughter] But you know what might be interesting that I remember ... my younger sister that passed away she was born in 1915, during the Exposition, the Panama Canal, you know, Exposition…

 

JUDITH: Oh, yeah.

 

FRANCES: I remember vaguely, I still remember, that on Sunday my father took me, I was two years old, and my sister was five, to the Panama Canal there and I still have, I think he bought it for my sister … we still have the silk handkerchief of the Panama Pacific 1915. And my youngest sister that passed away in 1982, she was born the year of the exposition, 1915…

 

[Transcriber’s note: there is cross talking here regarding Frances’ family.]

 

JUDITH: And by the way do you know when your father was born and your mother? Do you know what their birth dates or years were?

 

FRANCES: You know, I cannot remember the dates. They’re at the cemetery on the crypt there...

 

JUDITH: But they were both born in Sicily, and you were born here?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, we were born here … my father was 92 when he passed away. And he passed away in 1963. Christmas Day 1963. Then my mother passed away, she was 82, she passed away the following year, they were just months apart, in May. May the 16th. 

 

JUDITH: So she was 10 years younger than your dad.

 

FRANCES: Exactly.

 

JUDITH: Well, now where did you all live when you were growing up? Down close to the waterfront?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, now before we were born there were all these small little houses, nothing like you see today, near the waterfront. Now what I remember myself, now this was after I'd grown up for a few years, down Fisherman's Wharf there was nothing but the wharf and fishing boats and little stalls. That's all there were there. And going down Taylor Street where all these big businesses are now I remember myself at that time there was a lumber yard, you've probably heard of that, a box factory and Joseph Musto and Sons marble company... 

 

JUDITH: M-U-S-T-O?

 

FRANCES: M-U-S-T-O. Musto. They're very well known. I think they're even in society, the family. But anyway, I mean that's all there was there.

 

JUDITH: It was all industrial and not residential.

 

FRANCES: No, and there was a lot of train tracks ... we used to walk over the trestle. On Sundays, we took walks. In those days the people all walked. That was their Sunday outing ... everybody dressed in their Sunday clothes, with their children. Oh, those were heavenly days. They would walk up Columbus Avenue. Near where Rose Pistola's is there was the famous Athens Ice Cream.  You could smell the... 

 

CHARLES: They were still there in my time, Athens. In the same location?

 

FRANCES: You remember that?

 

CHARLES: Sure. On Columbus? Athens? The Greeks…

 

FRANCES: Well, that was there in my time, too. That everybody walked up there. 

 

JUDITH: Where was it on Columbus?

 

CHARLES: It was right near Curly’s. 

 

JUDITH: Near Green?

 

CHARLES: Yeah, right. Almost to the corner. 

 

FRANCES: Athens. And you could smell the … oh, they used to make the best candy … you could smell it all the way down where we lived.

 

CHARLES: If that was famous then, they’d be famous now, if they were still around.

 

FRANCES: Are you kidding? … oh, I’m just telling you the way that people lived in those days. Their outings. Everybody dressed up on Sunday. Of course, church first…

 

JUDITH: With hats?

 

FRANCES: Oh, my mother had so many hats, with the feather ... and then the famous walk down Fisherman's Wharf.

 

JUDITH: Promenading. 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, that was the outing. And then we would walk over the trestle, all the way from Fisherman's Wharf, Jefferson Street ... there was nothing there at that time. You know, I’m going way, way back. Because my sister passed away in 1924 and she was alive then.

 

JUDITH: Un-hum.

 

FRANCES: And there was a tunnel where Fort Mason is. The train used to go through there... 

 

CHARLES: Well, it’s still there now, isn’t it?

 

FRANCES: No, no, that’s closed. We used to walk on the train tracks in the tunnel and out to the Marina...

 

CHARLES: Are you talking about Aquatic Park? Where Aquatic Park is, that tunnel?

 

FRANCES: In those days that is the walk we used to walk … at that time you could walk through the tunnel. Everybody walked on Sunday. That was the famous walk. Fisherman's Wharf, through the tunnel. In my day, not your day.

 

JUDITH: So through the tunnel, past Aquatic Park, and to the Marina … it was a train tunnel, and you’d walk through the train tunnel?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. When the train wasn’t there.

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talk here between Frances and Charles regarding the train and tunnel.]  

 

JUDITH: Now what was on the other side of the tunnel? because the Marina hadn't been built yet. 

 

FRANCES: There was nothing but water and sand… 

 

CHARLES: It was all fill. That whole area was fill.

 

FRANCES: Just like Telegraph Hill.  We came and played up Telegraph Hill. And there was nothing up there ... all us girls we were, what, nine years old, 10 years old and younger. We would take [laughter] … things were a little tough, but I don't think they were that tough [laughter] … and we used to take mustard sandwiches and go up the hill and have our own little picnic. All the little kids like us in the neighorhood we all grew up together. And Telegraph Hill, well, there were goats on all the hills, you know that?

 

JUDITH: Well, they called it Goat Hill. 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, every hill in North Beach had goats on it. And we would go up there and play. We would roll down the hill, it was all burnt grass. No trees, no nothing. But we enjoyed it. See those were the things that we enjoyed. Today it's different. Those were the good old days.

 

JUDITH: Oh, it sounds charming. So you walked up the hill from where then? Where were you living?



FRANCES: We lived first ... before we were born ... let's put it this way, there were small houses that all the paesanis, all from my mother's town and relatives, they all lived in one place down by the water. 

 

JUDITH: I’ll be darned.

 

FRANCES: And there were two canneries there: the little cannery and the big cannery. Del Monte in those days. And the women used to work there at night. Late, late at night. They used to have the strawberry preserves in the little cannery right in back of our house where we lived ... before we were born, we lived closer to the wharf. Then later my older sister and I were born on Mason Street, where the cable car comes down, and Greenwich. Then we moved on Francisco between Powell and Mason. That's where my younger sister and my brother was born. You know, on Francisco. We were close to the water there.

 

JUDITH: And your dad, was he a successful fisherman in that he owned his own felucca boat, or worked for a company or with cousins or...?


FRANCES: No ... he worked for a company. In fact, he was established then. Palladini. The old man. He had all the sons ... 

 

JUDITH: P-A-L-L-A-D-I-N-A?

 

FRANCES: I-N-O. 

 

JUDITH: Oh, Palladino. 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, Palladino. No, I’m wrong. Palladini.

 

JUDITH: It was Palladini. 

 

FRANCES: Palladini, right. One son was Walter, one son was Hugo…

 

CHARLES: Was that Felix? Was that the old man, Felix?

 

FRANCES: Oh, you don’t know the old man. 

 

CHARLES: No, but I heard of him. 

 

FRANCES: When he passed away, he was so rich ... back in those days they had nothing but gold. You know, there was a 20 dollar gold pieces in those days, there was hardly no paper. When Palladini passed away, they had 20 dollar gold pieces on the stairs of the church. They lived next door to St. Peter and Paul's. That was their home, where the nuns live now.

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha.

 

FRANCES: Yeah.

 

JUDITH: And Palladini had a fishing company?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, a small market...

 

JUDITH: It still exists doesn't it? 



FRANCES: Oh, yeah. And then it got very big. See, 'cause he had one daughter, Henrietta, and the rest were sons. He had about four or five sons.

 

JUDITH: And your father, did he...?

 

FRANCES: He worked for him.



JUDITH: Did he fish off a boat? Was that the work he did? 



FRANCES: Yeah. But before Palladini, they went on these little skiffs and went fishing, like before the fire. And after the fire. 

 

CHARLES: The feluccas. The small feluccas, yeah. 

 

FRANCES: That's how they made their living. And then … 

 

CHARLES: He went to Alaska.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, my father went to Alaska a few years.

 

CHARLES: Fishing.

 

JUDITH: With Palladini’s outfit?

 

CHARLES: With the companies. They would contract them. And I don’t know how they got there. It was a very tough experience getting there.

 

FRANCES: In those days there were no planes. It took 'em I don't know how many months to get to Alaska. And back. 

 

CHARLES: Salmon fishing.

 

FRANCES: In other words, when they went fishing in Alaska, my father went a few years ... He didn't go too many times.

 

JUDITH: Maybe with Alaska Packers? That was a big ....


CHARLES: Well, the packers, whatever. They had a company here in which they had a plant over there. Like Palladini had a plant over there…

 

FRANCES: But I don’t think it was Palladini.

 

CHARLES: Maybe not Palladini. And they would house 'em and feed 'em, and they would work for them, you know. 

 

JUDITH: So they might be gone six months or so?

 

FRANCES: Oh, no, they were gone more than six months. 

 

CHARLES: A long time.

 

FRANCES: It took 'em a year to go and come.

 

CHARLES: This was before I was born. I heard the stories. 

 

FRANCES: I wasn’t even married. I was a little, I was 10 years old.

 

JUDITH: So you remember then his being away and so on?

 

FRANCES: Oh, I do. Oh, yes. I remember waiting when we lived on Francisco street the last year that my father went to Alaska. Then he didn't want to go anymore. He almost drowned up there, and he didn't want to go anymore.

 

I remember when he was coming back from Alaska, we were expecting him that night. And at night it was very dark. The streets weren't lit up like they are now. There didn't have these restaurants and businesses. Very dark. And we were waiting at the window for him to come home. I don't know how he got home with a train or whatever. They had no planes or anything. And at that time they had the gaslights. They still had the gaslights. The man came around and lit the gaslights. And we're waiting all night for my father to make the turn and the corner, walking. Taking the bus or whatever was running there. And we waited all night for him to come home, and he finally came home. That was the time that he almost drowned, and he never went anymore. One of our friends drowned up there. And then another thing I’ll tell you about the old days…

 

CHARLES: Then he worked for F.E. Booth.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, and as things got more modern then he went to work for F.E. Booth, you know. But still in the fish business. Always in the fish business ... And at that time, see where all those big restaurants are now? 

 

CHARLES: Alioto's, Fisherman's Grotto... 

 

FRANCES: They were just little shacks. 

 

JUDITH: This would be the year ’40, ’41?

 

FRANCES: There was nothing down there, just these little shacks…

 

CHARLES: This would be in the ‘30s.

 

FRANCES: No, this was before the '30s ... and they were selling the shrimp cocktails. Fifteen cents, you know, in those days. Then my father he was a wine maker ... there was almost everybody, you know I was talking about that with my cousin, they had no insight. They never looked ahead to become wine people like the Mondavis and the rest of them. And they knew about making wine from the old country. So my father when he came here he started making his own wine. Like other people did. 

 

CHARLES: They all did. 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, they all did. So my father was one of the best wine makers. He knew how to pick the grape. He used to call it the Zinfandel in Italian [Transcriber’s note: Frances uses an Italian phrase here that isn’t clear on the tape recording]. See, because the trains used to come in, we had all the trains in the Embarcadero at that time, they'd come in with all the grape from Lodi, wherever they come from, Fresno. So as soon as the grape came in, my father knew the grape, knew how to pick them by tasting them, so when my father went down to pick his grape, he knew what to pick. 

 

Now the other people that knew my father from the same town, when it was time for them to make the wine, they'd come and tell my father “you're going to come with me and pick the grape.” So my father would get on top of the thing there, taste all, say “we want this batch here” ... they were all people he knew from the old country, they all came over here together. They wanted my father to pick the grape, so he’d go over there ... and then we watched him make the wine. We knew exactly what he was doing.

 

JUDITH: He had to transport the grapes I gather. He would hire a horse and a wagon and haul them up to his house? 

 

FRANCES: He wanted, say, 30 boxes, they all came in boxes, of this grape. Or 40 or 50, whatever it was. It would come to house in a horse and buggy in the beginning, or these old trucks or whatever, and unload right there. And my father mostly did it alone or with a neighbor. You know, they helped each other. And they would rent the masher, then the presser. My father had his own presser, a big thing [laughter]. And he made the best wine, so clear, so beautiful, of anybody that made wine.

 

JUDITH: So he had his own presser. But you had to rent some other parts, right, as I understand it?

 

FRANCES: He had his own presser.

 

CHARLES: He rented the crusher that…

 

FRANCES: Yeah. Then from the crusher went into the presser. Then they left it in there. My father would go watch it, every so often. 

 

JUDITH: [laughter]

 

FRANCES: They'd get inside and go like this with the feet. 

 

CHARLES: I remember when the truck would bring the grapes, and they used to dump it right on the sidewalk, boxes…

 

FRANCES: Yeah, that’s what they did…

 

CHARLES: And all the kids would have a ball with the grapes, stealing the grapes, all the neighborhood kids.

 

FRANCES: Oh, in our day we did that, too. We chased the trucks with the grape … But anyway everything went into the big pressers like this, until it fermented and came out and then went into the barrels. We watched the whole process.

 

JUDITH: So this all took place in what, the early fall when the grape harvest was ...

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah, the early fall. In about I would say September, October. 

 

JUDITH: Every year?

 

FRANCES: Every year.

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here between Frances and Charles]

 

JUDITH: Just to finish on the wine making … I take it that you drank your own wine. You didn't sell it or market it?

 

FRANCES: Oh, no. 

 

JUDITH: And it was pretty well gone by the end of the year [laughter] ...

 

CHARLES: It was his pride and joy, as I remember when I was a kid. When they had friends or relatives that would come over for a visit, the first thing he would do is take out the wine, “you have to taste a glass of wine.”

 

FRANCES: They used to “look at this wine, look at the color…” 

 

CHARLES: That was his pride and joy, like a trophy of his.

 

JUDITH: Did they have contests between wine makers at all?

 

FRANCES: The word was out that my father was one of the best wine makers. And my father made the wine for my uncle who came from Milwaukee when they came here. They knew nothing about making wine, they weren't used to it. But my father picked the grape, they all helped together make it in my father’s basement in the presser. And it came out the color of gold, it was beautiful.

 

CHARLES: Just beautiful.

 

JUDITH: When you say “gold,” well did he just make white wine or also red wine?

 

CHARLES: Most of it was all red wine. 

 

FRANCES: Mostly all red, yeah.

 

CHARLES: Some very light in color, you know.

 

FRANCES: Beautiful.

 

JUDITH: He’d make various kinds?

 

CHARLES: Yeah.

 

JUDITH: Like a heavier wine and a lighter wine and a dessert wine?

 

CHARLES: Exactly. 

 

FRANCES: Oh, sure.

 

JUDITH: Oh, he really was very skilled.  

 

FRANCES: Oh, that’s what I said. They had no, they never looked far enough to say “I think I'll be a wine maker and become a millionaire.”

 

CHARLES: They were fishermen and that was it.

 

JUDITH: It was just an avocation

 

FRANCES: And that was it.

 

CHARLES: And after dinners they would have the fresh peaches, they used to dip ‘em into the wine, with the biscottis in those days…

 

FRANCES: That was the old Sicilian way of eatin’ the peaches dipped in the wine…

 

CHARLES: Right after dinner, for the dessert, and the biscottis in the wine. 

 

FRANCES: Now that was a treat, that was a big thing.

 

CHARLES: Wine during the whole course of the dinner. Then afterwards you eat the fruit, then the wine. 

 

FRANCES: Maybe you know about it. So you know why he knows this? My family always talked about it to us, and to Charlie.

 

JUDITH: Passed on.

 

CHARLES: I was there all the time…

 

FRANCES: And he was there. My mother raised him. 

 

CHARLES: I grew up there. We all lived together.

 

FRANCES: But you know that my own relatives, my cousins, they know nothing about the life of their mother. They tell me, “how come you people know everything, my mother never told us anything.” 

 

JUDITH: They talked about it. So even though you weren't there you have a vivid memory of what you were told. 

 

FRANCES: See that's why my sister and I we know everything. My father told us all about the old country, what he did there and who his friends were, about the churches there, how they went. See my mother's family were four sisters and one brother. And on Sunday, see the daughters never went out, they were very sheltered. Oh, very sheltered. They couldn't look at the man ... you know, they're real old-timers. 

 

JUDITH: In Sicily?

 

FRANCES: They couldn't look at the man, they had to put their eyes down for the man. So on Sunday they all went to church. And they were all tall, my mother was very tall. My father was short and my mother was tall.

 

JUDITH: Oh, really? Was she taller than your father?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. My mother was 5' 10." My mother in this picture was about 18 years old. [Transcriber’s note: Frances shows photos to Judith here.]

 

JUDITH: Oh, how beautiful...

 

FRANCES: This picture wasn't taken together. You could never take a picture together with a man. This was a separate picture. This picture was taken here. And they put the two together, and had the photographer put them together.

 

CHARLES: I didn’t know that.

 

FRANCES: Look at my mother's figure. Then she got like me. [laughter] Or I got like her. But she was tall, she was over 5'10." 

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here between Charles and Frances.]

 

JUDITH: And your father is a handsome man with a big moustache…

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah, they all had that, you know. The handlebars.

 

JUDITH: So he was about 28 and your mother was ...

 

FRANCES: Yeah, they were 10 years apart. That’s right.

 

JUDITH: But that was a picture he had taken here in San Francisco and sent home to your mother?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, then they put it together later, the photographer.

 

JUDITH: Isn't that something. Oh, that's amazing. You couldn't even have your picture taken with your affianced?

 

FRANCES: No, you would be banished. 

 

JUDITH: So the church figured very strongly in your family life?

 

FRANCES: Oh, I'll tell you about the church ... But first of all, my mother’s family there were four daughters. And they were all very pretty women. And one brother, tall, he was 6 feet tall. So when they went to church, these four young women, very young, with the shawls and the scarves on, they were all modest ... and it was like a pride to see these four daughters marching to church with the mother. See, their father died very young. My grandmother lived to be 93. And the reason she died was she fell down and broke her hip and she couldn't get up anymore, or she probably would have lived to be over 100. But my grandfather died very young. They were left orphans, with the one brother to go out and feed the family.

 

JUDITH: Was that one of the reasons that your parents decided to emigrate to America, for a better economy and...?

 

FRANCES: Well, for the economy. Everybody wanted to come to the New World. They all heard, you know, the streets were paved in gold and all that, and they wanted a better life. That's why everybody, like the Irish and everybody else, they all came in the early days and…

 

CHARLES: But where they lived in Sant’ Elia there was nothing. Just a beach and fishing. That was it, period, there was nothing. Nothing at all.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, in that little town ... so like I'm saying, and everybody had their eye on not only them but other young girls. You know, “now that would be alright for my son. Now she might be alright.” 

 

JUDITH: [laughter]

 

FRANCES: And then, like I say, the mothers got together. The children had nothing to do with it at all, see. That's why they all married ... “oh, no, she's not going to marry a stranger. She's gonna stay in my relatives, in my clan.” You know what I mean? See, that's the way they are in Europe, really, when you come down to it. You know like royalty they used to inter-marry with a relative? That's the way they were.

 

JUDITH: So an arranged marriage...

 

CHARLES: And they also wanted to keep their wealth, whatever they had, in... 

 

FRANCES: They didn't want to marry an outsider. You had to marry a cousin, you know, in the family. 

 

JUDITH: Were your parents cousins or related distantly?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, they were cousins.

 

JUDITH: And were they an arranged marriage?

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talk here between Charles and Frances.]

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah ... they were all one family, they were cousins. 

 

CHARLES: That's because they all came from this little town. 

 

FRANCES: They didn't believe in outsiders ... in this little town ... the Machis, the Tarantinos, the Aliotos, the Ballestreris, the Busalacchis, the Guninas, they all from this one little town. They were all from Sant’ Elia. 

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talk here.]

 

FRANCES: And most of them were all related. When you go back the family tree they were related. 

 

CHARLES: They have to be.

 

FRANCES: One way or the other. And they were all arranged marriages. My mother didn't want my father, and he probably didn't want her. But the family said, “now my daughter would be good for your son.” “Oh, you're right. So let's do it.” And that was it, and you had nothing to say about it.

 

JUDITH: And you went along with it.

 

FRANCES: And they used to tell them “well, you say you don't want him now, or her, but you'll grow to love him.” [laughter] You know, and when you get married and start having the children, that's it. And do you know that most of the marriages worked out.   

 

JUDITH: People did what they were expected...

 

CHARLES: They stuck and stayed ... 

 

JUDITH: They didn't run off to the divorce court in a big hurry...

 

CHARLES: Oh, no. They never heard about that. Are you kidding?

 

FRANCES: In fact, that was out.

 

JUDITH: Well, were your parents pretty happy as you recall? They stayed together anyway...

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. They were. You see, it worked out just the way their mothers told them ... I guess it was part of the tradition, you know. Then you get psyched and you say, “well, I guess they're right,” you know. Whatever, they all got along. They all got along, you know, had children, and it isn't like today.

 

CHARLES: I never heard of any old-timers getting divorced. 

 

FRANCES: They never heard the word divorce. 

 

JUDITH: So when your mother got over here as a young bride, she went and found the church right away I guess? And it was Peter and Paul? 

 

FRANCES: Yeah. Well, that was before it was where it is now. 

 

JUDITH: Where was the old Peter and Paul?

 

FRANCES: It was on Grant Avenue, on the corner. Grant and Dupont Street. At Filbert. My father used to call it, in Italian, “Duponte.”

 

[Transcriber’s note: Grant Avenue originally was named Dupont Street. The name was changed after the 1906 earthquake and fire to honor U. S. President Ulysses S. Grant.]

 

JUDITH: Duponte.

 

FRANCES: I received my communion there. And I went to catechism there. You know, in Dupont, before they built the church. We used to go in the basement … We received communion down in the basement. It wasn't finished yet, the church. And then I also remember ... when they bombed the church at 5 o'clock in the morning, when they were building the church. 

 

JUDITH: What was that about? When did that happen?

 

FRANCES: Well, they were building the church, the new church.

 

CHARLES: Saints Peter and Paul. 

 

FRANCES: Activists, vandals, whatever. It was about five in the morning. All our houses shook. Big bomb, bam! They had bombed the church, while they were building it. 

 

JUDITH: Who would've done the bombing and what year was that? Was it during World War Two? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, no. Before that. That was when I was very young.

 

JUDITH: Was it considered an anti-Italian act?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, I think so. A movement. Yeah, I would say so. 

 

JUDITH: Because the Italians predominated in that church, I guess, at the time?

 

FRANCES: It was all Italian. There was no stranger around at all. Like I told them once, if a stranger came into the neighborhood, you would spot 'em a mile away. You'd say, “Who's that? What's he doing here in North Beach?” See, everybody knew everybody. They were all Italians. If there was a stranger that came in one of our streets, oh my. [laughter]

 

You know, this is a funny thing.  We never had any black people at that time ... there was one fella that used to come in our neighborhood. He was a big, tall black man. And they used to call him Blue. That was a nickname. And the people that got to know him, he used to come around, just him, they got to kind of like him, the kids of the neighborhood. They knew him. But then he didn't come around anymore ... then we have the Chinese to deal with, you know. The Chinese. I went to school with a Chinese, very close friend of mine ...

 

JUDITH: But the Chinese stayed pretty much on the other side of Broadway in those days?

 

FRANCES: But they used to walk down here, down to North Beach, with the long poles like you see in China, with the baskets on both sides. They'd walk down to go to the wharf to get fish, see. And all the kids they used to run after the Chinese and they harassed them, let's face it. Called 'em names, you know. “There's the Chinaman.” ... You know, like they did to the Italians. “There go the dagos, there goes the wop, there goes this.” You know what I mean. They did the same to the Chinese. They start running the other way. But they all came down, you know, to go and get the fish. 

 

JUDITH: And you remember seeing this?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. We used to chase 'em and call 'em names. We were very, very young. 

 

JUDITH: It sounds like you had a happy childhood.

 

FRANCES: Very. The best.

 

JUDITH: You had plenty of food…

 

FRANCES: The best. We didn't want for food. 

 

JUDITH: And fish and wine.

 

FRANCES: You know, that's what we were used to then.

 

JUDITH: Mustard sandwiches on the top of Telegraph Hill. [laughter]

 

FRANCES: We had a ball, that's right.

 

JUDITH It didn't take much to amuse a person in those days.

 

FRANCES: No. 

 

CHARLES: Well, there was nothing else. There was no TV.

 

FRANCES: It was a different era, let’s put it that way. We lived in a different era, you know. Very little things we needed to amuse ourselves ... we didn't need like now. 

 

CHARLES: Now there’s so many choices, so many options, you don’t know what you need.

 

FRANCES: That’s right. You're spending a lot of money and what are you doing? We had more fun before.

 

JUDITH: Next to the famous Athens ice cream, were there other things that stick out in your childhood memory? Did a movie theatre open at some point?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. They had a nickel theatre. They had the Flag Theatre ... the Flag Theatre was ... you know where the B of A is? On the corner ...

 

JUDITH: Of Columbus and Green? Stockton and Columbus?

 

FRANCES: Right, there used to be right next to it or in that lot there. Well, there were a lot of empty lots in those days anyway. They used to call 'em the horses’ lots. They'd keep the horses there. All down where we lived on Francisco, they were all empty lots. And we used to call 'em the horses’ lots because they used to keep the horses there. Because it used to be horse and wagons.

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha.

 

FRANCES: But anyway, the Flag Theatre, you'd pay a nickel to get in, the fella went around with the ice cream cones covered. He'd go up and down the aisle with the vanilla ice cream. And that was a nickel also. And we enjoyed all that.

 

JUDITH: So you'd go on Saturday afternoons or something?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, in the afternoon. We were never out at night. 

 

JUDITH: And were there things like amusement parks that you went to on special occasions, or did you go to…? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah, they did ... when I was very young, we had all the circuses coming to town. Mexican circuses. Over all the empty lots. You know where Francisco Middle School is? That was an empty lot, that whole thing. Every year a Mexican circus used to come there and stay about a couple of weeks. And if you couldn't afford to pay to get in, they would sneak in under the tents. They all did, the kids. And wonderful entertainment, trapeze artists, all that. 

 

Then one year, more than one year, you know where our park is, Washington Square Park? A couple of years they had all the Ferris wheels, all those different rides ... and we used to go at night, nobody bothered you at night, you could go any place at night, walk up there, walk home, nobody bothered you like today, you have to be afraid you'll be mugged or whatever. And then they had booths all around the edge of the park, where they had 10 cents chances. You could win big boxes of chocolate, baskets of ... they had all that. They never do that anymore. And we just waited for something like that to happen.

 

JUDITH: Oh, that sounds like great fun. That would be in the summer?...

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. In the summer. It was just beautiful. 

 

JUDITH: Did you ever go out to Sutro Baths to swim? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yes!

 

JUDITH: And other swimming pools? There was a swimming pool, I’m told, right across Lombard…

 

FRANCES: Yeah, the Crystal Palace.

 

CHARLES: The Crystal Plunge.

 

FRANCES: The Crystal Plunge.


JUDITH: So you had that. 


CHARLES: It was fabulous.

 

FRANCES: But before that we had the pool at the playground. That came first. Before they built the Crystal Plunge … We had the swimming pool there in North Beach. And at that time, like I say, nobody got in trouble. Because the young people had a lot to do. Now you hardly see anybody at the North Beach Playground. 



JUDITH: Oh, I do. It's very well used, I'm happy to report. 

 

CHARLES: Yes, it’s well used.

 

FRANCES: But are they playing any games?

 

JUDITH: Oh, yes. Many, many games. I think they have to reserve them in advance it's so popular.

 

FRANCES: In our day we played tennis. We played basketball. We played baseball. And I’m talking about the girls. The girls were on one side, the boys on the other. We spent all our days in the North Beach Playground and at catechism. That was every day. 

 

JUDITH: In the summer?

 

FRANCES:  In the summer. In the winter catechism ... we did that in our day. All us girls, we were 12 years old, 13, 10, 11, whatever.

 

JUDITH: So when you weren't playing in the playground or some other amusement you were over at the church getting instructions?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. Catechism. We were very ... my mother was ... they were church-oriented ... in my mother's little town of Sant’ Elia ... every little town had their own church. You know, the little village church. My mother's family was in charge of the church. 

 

JUDITH: Ah, so she had a legacy.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, that's right. And my mother's oldest sister, whose name was Stefana, Stephanie or Stefana, she was in charge of all the clothes that went on the saints. See my mother ... in fact I've got pieces of their robes that my mother took from Italy. Pieces. Gorgeous metallic ... my mother gave us a piece that they had. And in those days ... you see our church here? There's all the statues, like the Blessed Mother, Santa Gemma, Saint Anne, saint this, saint that. They're all made of marble or that other ... in the old country they dressed them in clothes, and the clothes were kept in my mother's house. Because my aunt, the oldest sister, was in charge. They would dress the saints…

 

CHARLES: And they made the clothes. 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. They were all good sewers. But the best materials, I'm going to show you a piece. Do you want to see it?

 

JUDITH: Sure.

 

FRANCES: I mean the clothes that they made you couldn't even ... the cloak, the capera [Transcriber’s note: the word “capera” may have been “cappa” for “cloak” or “cape” in Italian], the dress … everything was material ... they dressed them up like a human being. And they put the gold on them, the jewels. I have a piece that's been blessed by the pope that belonged to the saint that they used to dress in Sant’ Elia ... I'm going to it show you. I’ve got a piece that my mother gave me years and years ago. [Transcriber’s note: Frances shows material to Judith at this point.]

 

CHARLES: A small, little village. Very small.

 

JUDITH: Have you ever visited it yourself?

 

CHARLES: No. Hopefully this year.

 

JUDITH: Your father and mother, did they ever go back?

 

CHARLES: No. My mother never went back. My father was born there, but he came here as a little boy. 

 

JUDITH: Your father? Mr. Farruggia was also born in Sant’Elia?

 

CHARLES: No, my father’s family came from [transcriber’s note: name of town is unclear]. 

 

FRANCES: They gave my mother this one. 

 

JUDITH: Oh! It’s gorgeous.

 

FRANCES: This is from the old country ... It's part of a robe ...

 

JUDITH: It's silk and satin and beautifully needle-worked ... that's magnificent. 

 

FRANCES: Everything was all beautiful. You couldn't begin to buy it ... this was all the robes, all the capes flowing down. You see they would dress them up just like she was a person. 



JUDITH: Was this common throughout Sicily, or was that town unique in that regard?

 

FRANCES: Well, let me put it this way. I think that every village had their own. Now I don't know how unique this was, 'cause my mother spoke of her place. But I think that a lot of them didn't have statues. They just had frames. Like the Madonna [Transcriber’s note: name is unclear]. They didn't have a statue, they had a frame. But this was a statue like a person. And we have it right at our church, you know. 

 

JUDITH: Well, I'd like to talk about that a little bit. Because your mother then was active in founding this society...

 

FRANCES: Well, yeah. And I'll tell you how that came about ... the Madonna dell'Addolorata, which is in English Our Lady of Sorrows, right? They had the daggers, the seven daggers of the seven things when they murdered our Lord, you know, her son ... so the Madonna dell'Addolorata, Our Lady of Sorrows ...

 

JUDITH: How do you spell that?

 

FRANCES: A-D-D-O-L-O-R-A-T-A. Madonna dell'Addolorata ... Maria de Santissima dell'Addolorata is the proper name ... so anyway, this was their saint, their devoted saint of their little town was the Madonna dell'Addolorata. Was their patron saint that they worshipped. This Madonna. So they had all this in Europe and Sicily. You know, they were devoted to her, they dressed her, that was their patron saint ... now when my mother came to this country her sisters all went to live in Milwaukee. And her brother. My mother's the only one that came to San Francisco of her family. All the others migrated to Milwaukee. So it so happened, I don't know why, because I took a trip there, it seemed like the people in Milwaukee, well, you know why I think? This is, what do you call it ... San Francisco is a town, you know, I can’t think of the word…

 

JUDITH: A port town?

 

FRANCES: That’s it. We are a port town. A lot of people came in and out ... 

 

[Transcriber's note: first audiotape ends here] 

 

FRANCES: ... they didn't have this port town. These loose women, and so forth and so on, see. So they tended as a whole to be more religious than the people here. Because here there was too much of a mixture. Because it was a port town. There were people from a lot of villages here. From Genoa. Piedmontese. Well, all different kinds, see? Calabrese, Toscane, Luchese, you name it, they were all here. Over there, no. Over there there were just the Sicilians from Sant’ Elia, in that one neighborhood, see? 

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha.

 

FRANCES: So that's why they were stricter. In those days they were thinking more about what went on in the old country, in Sant’ Elia. 

 

CHARLES: They kept their traditions more intact. 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, because here there was too much diversion. So they were closer. So my aunt, one of my mother's sisters ... who I say they were devoted to, they dressed her in Sant’ Elia, she and a few other relatives from that town they started this association in Milwaukee. And they were very religious. They started this in Milwaukee. It went over big, everybody joined. So my aunt used to come visit my mother quite often from Milwaukee. So she told my mother one day when she was visiting, one summer, she says “I can't understand you people. With all the people you have here from Sant’ Elia, you know, from our home town. How come you people haven't gotten together and made an association of this patron saint like we have done in Milwaukee? You've got all these people,” she said, “I think you better start something and make it over here.” 

 

Her sister gave her the incentive to do it when she came. “I don't understand you people. You're all here, nobody wants to do this? We're big in Milwaukee. We give parades, we march, we do this, we do that. We have our uniforms.” So she put the bug in my mother's ear and she said “You gotta start it here. You gotta do it. 'Cause we were the ones that took care of the church and the saint over there.” 

 

So my mother called two of her closest friends. They were all from the same town and probably related. This was Stefana DeLucca, they were definitely related. Oh, DeLucca is another name you better put down, with the Tarantinos. DeLucca, I forgot ... So what they did was they said “we gotta start this,” my mother said “we gotta start it.” The other two, Caterina Tarantino and Stefana DeLucca, they didn't know how to read or write in Italian. My mother was the only one that knew how to read and write, the only one. So in fact when they used to get letters from the old country they would come to my mother and say “read me this letter, from my sister or my brother.” My mother would have to read the letters. 'Cause my mother was the only one that could read or write in Italian. Alright, so they talked it over and they said “We gotta start this association.” 

 

My mother said “we gotta do it.” And they said “OK, let's do it.” So the three founders [said] “we're going to go to all the homes of the Italians of Sant’ Elia and all the relatives and tell them we're going to start this association. We want them all to join. And we're going to make the statue like they have in Milwaukee, we're gonna have the parade, we're gonna do this the mass and everything. Let's go talk to the people.” So they started out. They were old, they weren't young. The three of them, they could hardly walk. On foot, to all these relatives. The Aliotos, the Ballestreris, the Tarantinos, everybody that was here. They went from house to house.

 

JUDITH: Now was this in 1946?

 

FRANCES: '41. It started before '41. That's when they finalized it, in '41.

 

JUDITH: So in the late '30s when it started”

 

FRANCES: Yeah, I would say so … so when they finally went to these people, and the fish markets were down at the wharf you know. The Aliotos had the fish markets, all the fishermen were down there, and they said, “We gotta go down and talk to the bosses of the fish market. They're all related. They gotta help us out, they gotta give us a donation. You know, we gotta start this thing.” 

 

Well, [laughter] the first time they went from door to door, up the hills, down the hills, oh my goodness they couldn't even walk. My mother had bad legs anyway. So the first thing they did they told ‘em, “What? Are you crazy? You know you can't start nothing like that here.” They were against it. They were negative about it. So then they said, “Gee, look at the way they're talking to us. And all we want is a little donation.” I'll tell you what the donation was. “Let's go down the wharf now and talk to the businessmen.” And women never went down the wharf alone, walking. Except on Sundays with their husbands. The three women go down the wharf [laughter] and go in the fish market with all the men working. That's unheard of. 

 

So they talked to Ignatius Alioto, who's the mayor’s uncle. Mayor Joe Alioto's uncle. [laughter] Ignatius. He owned the one down here. My father worked for him. OK, they went to him, the big market, all the fishermen there cleaning the fish and these three women walk in. They looked at 'em. They said, “What are you three doin' down here?” [Transcriber’s note: several unclear words follow here] They said, “We wanna do it here. We gotta start it here.” [laughter] The men told them, “What are you doin'? Go home and take care of your kids.” That's the answer they got. “Go home and go cook for your husband. And stop walking the streets and telling us you want to start the Madonna dell'Addolorata. Go home and do your housework and take care of your kids. And go cook for your husband. What are you crazy coming down here and telling…” 

 

Well, anyway, that's the first reaction that they got. Just like Columbus when he first went to ask for those ships and they said, “Oh no, you're crazy.” You know. Then they said, “Let's try again.” On the second try they insisted. “We're gonna do it. We wanna do it, you're part of it, you gotta do it. We want a donation so we can go over to the man over there and he'll make us a statue. Then after that we'll make our uniforms.” Like my mother has in the picture there. And everything, you know. 

 

Oh, they went to an attorney. They have the seal from Sacramento … and they have the by-laws and everything that they're the three founders. In fact, Mr. Pardini was their attorney. They had everything done. I don't know how these people were able to do it. They couldn't speak English or anything, but they with the lawyer, Pardini, they got together, took care of the papers, they went from house to house. And you know what the most donation they got, and there were people that were a little bit affluent too, the highest donation they got … well, two people gave five dollars. 

 

Most of the people gave one dollar, a few gave two dollars, a couple of people gave five, you know. My mother made us all join in the beginning. We all gave five dollars. Me, my sister, my cousin, you know. We were the first ones. My mother, you know, “You all have to join.” We're charter members. ’41. We’re charter members. So they went ahead and they did this, and it was a big success. They made the uniforms, they had the Madonna made, a beautiful statue in the church. Now this is the new statue. This cost a lot of money, it's gorgeous.

 

JUDITH: This is the statue your mother and her founding sisters commissioned?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. 

 

JUDITH: And it's in the church now? [Transcriber’s note: the church is Saints Peter and Paul Church at 666 Filbert Street in the heart of North Beach.]

 

FRANCES: No, this is the new one. After my mother died. See the other one was old. And it had chipped. So they made this. They got a new president who was after that Alioto. They had this made in Italy. All marble. 

 

CHARLES: Gorgeous.

 

FRANCES: It's gorgeous. Marble and gold. It's on the steps by the altar. 

 

CHARLES: Before the altar. They had a time putting it there. 

 

FRANCES: They didn't want it there. But after Alioto had forced them to put it there. She made them change their mind. But anyway, that's the new one. We all put in a lot of money, because this cost money it was marble, made in Europe and it's gorgeous. 

 

CHARLES: They stole the dagger. 

 

JUDITH: Oh! 

 

FRANCES: I have the dagger here. And I'll tell you...

 

JUDITH: Was that in honor of your mother in part?

 

FRANCES: No. The original Madonna dell'Addolorata, Our Lady of Sorrows, if you see her photo, she has seven daggers, 'cause it meant that she had seven wounds when her child Jesus was murdered, you know, put to death. Seven. 

 

CHARLES: The seven stands for something.

 

FRANCES: It stands for the seven wounds of the Lord. That he had ... so she had seven wounds. Every wound was a stab for her in the heart. Seven. So my mother and the other founders and a couple of other old-timers had the daggers made. My mother had hers made with her name on it. I have it here, Rosa [Transcriber’s note: unclear name here], that was my mother's, that was put on the saint. The other one was DeLucca. The other one was I think [Transcriber’s note: unclear name here]. The three founders. And the others were made by very devoted, close people to the church like my mother. 

 

They wanted to buy one of the daggers with their name put on the back. I have my mother's here. That they gave to me, it was my mother's. When they took them out. So they what they did now when they made the new statue they only put one dagger. See they robbed it. They robbed the first one, made a little hole in it, at the church. So they had to make another one. They didn't want to put seven ‘cause they thought they'd steal the whole seven. But anyway that's the story about this, that my mother was the founder with the other two founders.

 

JUDITH: And it's still a going organization?

 

FRANCES: And it's still a big, going organization.

 

CHARLES: Now in my grandmother’s time, when they founded this organization, there was only … you had to be a Sicilian to be a member. And you had to be from the town of Sant' Elia besides. Now they changed.

 

FRANCES: A lot of people were against it. I’m one of the people…

 

CHARLES: They changed all the by-laws.

 

FRANCES: I was one of the people against it. Me and my family. We didn't want, there’s complete outsiders.  

 

JUDITH: That was originally, it was to emulate what you had done in the town of Sant’ Elia.

 

CHARLES: Exactly. 

 

FRANCES: That's right. And then not only that. Now say for instance, it’s all in the by-laws, in fact I have them in a safe deposit box. But anyway, say that I married ... I'm from Sant’ Elia and I married ... 

 

CHARLES: You married daddy, yeah.

 

FRANCES: No, no. Say that I’m from Sant’ Elia. I married you, for instance, my husband is not from Sant’ Elia…

 

CHARLES: He wasn’t.

 

FRANCES: Whatever. Even if you're married they could not hold office unless they were from Sant' Elia. That's in the by-laws. But now they changed everything, they got anybody for president. You couldn't hold office according to the by-laws unless you were from that town. That means you're a Sant' Alioti [Transcriber’s note: spelling of this word is unclear].

 

JUDITH: How do you say…

 

FRANCES: Sant’ Alioti. That means you’re from Sant’ Elia … Sant’ Alioti.

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here.]

 

JUDITH: I need to clarify one thing. Your father's surname was Machi.

 

CHARLES: His first name was Vito. 

 

JUDITH: Vito. And where's the Garofalo? 

 

FRANCES: Now, I'll tell you about that. My father was adopted by the Machis. And he always went by Machi. Because they were his adopted parents when he was very, very young. They did that in Italy. When you had a lot of daughters and only one son, you needed to get a son to help support them. All the families did that. OK? In fact, my mother's family did that too. They all did that. So my father he was very respectful. It was just like his own parents 'cause they got him when he was a little, you know. But then when my brother was going to go to the service, they wanted documentation that we had to produce ... yeah, they used to do it, who my father's real father, what the name was. And it was Garofalo. That's why I say Machi-Garofalo. 

 

JUDITH: And his first name was?

 

FRANCES: Vito. V-I-T-O.

 

JUDITH: That's very interesting. So families with no sons would often adopt ...

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. They needed the son to support the family. And the funny thing is that most of the families all had daughters. Four or five daughters. Now the daughters weren't supposed to work. 

 

JUDITH: Outside the home.

 

FRANCES: Oh no, nothing. So who was going to support the family? So every time there was only one son to a family, legitimate son, they had to have another son. That's how [transcriber’s note: unclear word here] came in there, right? So they’d go the orphanage. There was no legal adoption in Italy at that time. No legal adoption. They would go to the orphanage, they’d look ‘em over, “I'll take that one.” 

 

JUDITH: Wow.

 

FRANCES: “I'll take that one.” That's how that was. So ... but they all wanted a boy. Girls didn't count. The boys had to go out and make the living to support the girls and the mother, to support the family. That's what that was all about. So what's next?

 

JUDITH: Well, let me just finish up a bit with the Lady of Sorrows because your son had mentioned that it involved quite a few rituals I guess. You had a feast in the house on St. Joseph's Day...

 

FRANCES: No, this has nothing to do with the Addolorata. That's my mother's thing. 

 

JUDITH: OK, well tell me just a little bit about that. You have this wonderful feast on St. Joseph's Day?

 

FRANCES: That was a tradition in my mother's family, brought over here from the old country. 

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha.

 

FRANCES: My mother's family did it. And this was ... and in those days you never heard of the ... by the time my mother did it and started it you never heard of a St. Joseph table. Now everybody's doing it. Everybody. Los Angeles, Van Nuys. 

 

CHARLES: San Jose.

 

FRANCES: Well, San Jose always had one. But all these other places everybody has a St. Joseph table ... in those days my mother and one more woman, but on a small scale ... Lenny's grandmother, but on a small scale. My mother did it on a big scale, the St. Joseph feast. Feast day of St. Joseph. Now that was another traditional patron saint, was St. Joseph. Of my mother's family.

 

JUDITH: Now what did that involve? Preparing an altar in the house? 

 

FRANCES: Well, this is what it involves. They did it in the old country because most of the people ... there was a famine, they were all starving. There were a lot of orphans, didn't have any food. So my grandmother, my grandmother's house, they would cook all this food, whatever they had, and invite all the hungry people, all the orphans, and feed them. Make the altar with the candles, so forth and so on, and feed them in the old country. When my mother came here, she wanted to continue the tradition. So she did it here in a big scale. She had about of all the paesanis and relatives, say, she had about 12 or 15 people…

 

CHARLES: Women mostly.

 

FRANCES: Women. That came to help in this thing here.

 

JUDITH: In her house?

 

FRANCES: In my mother's house. There was the group with the women at the head. What’s her name? That she took care of fixing the altar, that was her job. Fixing the altar, and the people to help her. Putting the tableclothes with all the things that my mother made, all the handcuts, all the ...

 

JUDITH: In the home?

 

FRANCES: The best linens had to be out for St. Joseph. And they made a big altar, they made a big table … oh, all the lights, a big frame of St. Joseph. With baby Jesus and Blessed Mother. All lit up. It was just fantastic. Flowers all over the altar. Candles galore. Big candles, small candles, all beautiful. She was in charge of the altar with the help, we all helped, all of us.

 

JUDITH: This was around Easter by the way?

 

FRANCES: No. St. Joseph Day is March the 19th, is St. Joseph feast. The [Transcriber’s note: unclear word here] devoted to St. Joseph. Then the other group were the group that made the food. They cooked for two nights. They had about 80 different items ... everything was cold because they did it the night before. They had everything. All the fruits, all the nuts, all the dates, everything you could think of. All the artichokes. And everything had to be done in threes. They had the artichokes: they had to be done three different ways. The asparagus: three different ways. The fish: three different ways. No meat. You don't eat meat on St. Joseph's. Everything was three different ways. I used to make the sfingis, that was my job. Oh, we used to get through cooking at two o'clock in the morning, maybe later. All us women there, over at my mother's. And I...

 

JUDITH: What was it you made again?

 

FRANCES: I made the sfingis ... they're like a dumpling. 

 

JUDITH: How do you spell it?

 

FRANCES: Sfingis. I think it's S-P-H-I-N-G-E-S. [Transcriber's note: internet research shows correct spelling is sfingi. Sfingi are Sicilian pastry balls, sometimes coated with honey.]

 

JUDITH: It's a very Sicilian-sounding name.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, it's Sicilian. Just put Italian dumplings. Or Sfingis. Try to figure it out the way it sounds.

 

JUDITH: Well, anyway, you cooked 'til 2AM. Then you started the next day, opened the house to the...

 

FRANCES: Yeah. Well, all this food was all cooked. The pasta was all done. At night. Everything. And everything tasted delicious. Everything ... the artichokes made this way and that. You name it, there was about 80 different items. And everything was put out on these tables, all set up, all the different fruits, all the different nuts. You name it, everything was there. All the Italian dolcis were there ... all the cakes ... oh, they made the St. Joseph bread, the beautiful bread. They made the crown out of bread for the Blessed Mother. 

 

CHARLES: And the beard.

 

FRANCES: They made the beard for St. Joseph. And then they made the cane also. 

 

CHARLES: They made the cucci dati. [Transcriber's note: Cucci dati are Sicilian cookies made with dates.]

 

FRANCES: Oh, the cucci dati. The Italian ...

 

JUDITH: U-C-C-I D-A-V-I-S? 

 

FRANCES: Yeah, that's close enough. 

 

CHARLES: That was made out of raisins. 

 

FRANCES: It was something like the ingredients of the fruit cakes. Made into this with all the colored little things, all different shapes. That was traditional ... oh, there was so much. 

 

JUDITH: So there were traditional foods that you served?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yes. All traditional foods. All Sicilian traditional foods.

 

CHARLES: And the pasta was called the pasta of St. Joseph.

 

FRANCES: The St. Joseph pasta. It's made with the fish. With the finocchio. 

 

CHARLES: Anisette. Raisins. Pine nuts. Saffron.

 

FRANCES: The saffron. And it had to be a certain kind of pasta and a certain kind of [fish].

 

CHARLES: They used to use sardines, wasn’t it?

 

FRANCES: No.

 

CHARLES: Anchovies?

 

FRANCES: No. 

 

CHARLES: Smelts.

 

FRANCES: They used smelts. It had to be smelts. My father cleaned the smelts, I don't know how many pounds. That was the original recipe. My father never left one bone in the smelts. That was his job to fillet the smelts that went into the sauce to make this pasta. The pasta had to be a certain kind of long macaroni with a hole in it so the sauce goes through the hole. It's a traditional thing. 

 

So anyway then this table, this great big altar, then besides this big altar with all the flowers, the candles, there's a big table set against the altar, and the table is set, all set with the glasses, the dishes, the cups, everything, and the three: St. Joseph at the head. Our lord Jesus in the center, I think. And the Blessed Mother on the other end. The table was like that, it came against the altar, St. Joseph, the baby Jesus and Blessed Mother ... my mother had to pick for St. Joseph somebody that was very old, didn't have much money and his gift was, my mother always bought him every year, a pair of shoes. He needed the shoes. 

 

JUDITH: So a real person represented St. Joseph?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. They were real people. 

 

CHARLES: They re-enacted. It was like a play. 

 

FRANCES: They re-enacted. St. Joseph was about 80, 90 years old, and he was decrepit and old. My mother bought him the shoes. Now the Blessed Mother and baby Jesus they were young. They had to be orphans. Without a father. In order to re-enact this thing. 

 

JUDITH: Both the Blessed Mother and the child Jesus?

 

FRANCES: That's right. They had to be orphans without a father. Because it signified in Italy when the father was dead there was nobody to get the food to provide for them.

 

CHARLES: That's where St. Joseph came in. 

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here.]

 

JUDITH: So you had these three people at this table. And your mother would select the people every year?

 

FRANCES: Oh yeah ... sometimes the same people get it. They were honored to be chosen. Then they have all the food, see. Now St. Joseph's there, he's the boss. So they have to taste everything that's on the table. Everything. And there's about 60, 70 items. 

 

CHARLES: Little servings. 

 

FRANCES: Yeah. Now St. Joseph here he's got somebody next to him that's gonna take care of him. Me and my sister ... Frances or Leo used to take care of St. Joseph. She'd be on his side. I'd be in the middle taking care of baby Jesus. My sister would be taking care of the Blessed Mother. Alright. Oh, before they start the table that they're gonna eat they wash St. Joseph's feet. You know like they do over here at the church? With water and rosemary. They take off his stockings and shoes. 

 

That's another honor for St. Joseph. For whoever does it. They wash his feet with this water, they wipe him, they put his shoes and stockings back on, then he sits down, they're ready to eat. So they put the first item out, they gotta taste everything on that table. So he's there, when he's had enough he gets the spoon and he goes like that on the glass, that means they have to stop eating.

 

JUDITH: Tap the glass?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, that means they have to stop eating. Now this is funny, but it's a tradition really. I'll tell you something else. On the side of St. Joseph he's got a pot. Baby Jesus has a pot, a big pot. Blessed Virgin has a pot. In the meanwhile, in my mother's house, she had a big house, full of people, chairs, you couldn't fit…

 

CHARLES: The priest was saying the mass. 

 

FRANCES: Well, naturally. The priest came over and blessed everybody. And he was there, the priest, he came, you know. But anyway, so he kept going, after everybody has the food, then they gave the fish. St. Joseph would take a couple of bites like that, then he'd go like that, stop eating, the next course. What was on their plate they would throw in their pot. Everything went in the pot alongside them. It was our job to take care of St. Joseph and his food, all the way down to the pasta and the fish, to the asparagus, to the cauliflower. Everything was cooked three different ways. With the lemon juice, with the gravy, with the this. Three different ways ... but anyway, until the end, as soon as he went like that they stopped eating, next course. Until they went through the whole thing. 

 

So then when they got through eating, then all the people were served with a platter. They got to taste everything. The napkins, everything that was on the table. Then we fed like [Transcriber’s note: unclear word here] relatives, everybody we knew. My mother had a hundred people ... everybody from North Beach that knew my mother, and they should give donations to my mother because my mother bought all this food. They have a thing for the donations. Then my mother would bring what was left over to the church and they'd have a high mass for St. Joseph. 

 

JUDITH: So the guests were invited, but they also contributed money to go to eat? Like what we would call a fundraiser.

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. A fundraiser. The money would go for the food that was bought to feed everybody, and then the rest would go to the church and for the high mass ... oh, yeah, they came in droves. Hundreds ... 

 

JUDITH: Hundreds?

 

FRANCES: But there was one thing I forgot to tell you about that. Before they sat down and eat, they went through this, it was like a play. This woman was the head, and she was … St. Joseph's wife. Very church-going. Before they sat down, see my mother had a long hallway that led to the dining room where the festivities were going to take place. So now everybody's sitting down, some are standing along the hall. So she would start from the end of the hall. My mother would be in the dining room with the door closed, with other people with the door closed. I was always in the hall with Stella, we were always crying. They did this so many times, but we always cried. 

 

So the wife had the book that she would read like a priest. All this about the voyage, the trials of St. Joseph. So she would go ahead in front, march down the hall. St. Joseph was in back of her. Baby Jesus was in back of St. Joseph. And Blessed Mother was in back of baby Jesus. Now she's marching down the hall ... I'd better demonstrate this to you. She's marching down the hall, my mother had a long hall, and she's got this book all about St. Joseph.

 

I’m saying, “Hail Mary full of grace,” and they're walking in back, the three saints. And they come to the door that's closed, and they knock at the door. My mother's on the other side of the door. My mother says, “Who is it?” “We are three people. We are worn and tired. We've been traveling for miles. We need shelter. We haven't had a place to sleep.” So my mother says to them “sorry.” 

 

This is the story of no room at the inn. It was re-enacted … so my mother says, “Sorry, we have no room.” So they went back. It used to move us so much. So they went back down the hall, and she'd be going [Transcriber’s note: sound of Frances moaning]. And they're in back of her. So they turn around and come again [moaning sound again]. She knocks at the door again. My mother says, “Who is it?” “We are three strangers. We're worn out, we've been running for miles. We haven't had any food. We need water. We need this. And please could you let us in to the ...?” “I'm sorry, but my husband doesn't want anybody around. And I have no room. I'm sorry. That's the end.” 

 

OK, turned down again. They go back all the way down the hall. Oh, it was really something. How she talked, this woman [sound of moaning again]. Well, she should've been a priest. She was better than the priest ... so they come down again, knocks at the door again. “Who is it?” “We are three people, we are worn out, we gotta have shelter, we gotta do this, we gotta do that.” So then my mother says, “well, I don't know. You know, I haven't got room and I haven't got that. But who are you? Don't you have a name? Who are you?” 

 

And she answers, the woman, “We are Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” The minute they hear what she says, “We are Jesus, Mary and Joseph," everybody screams “Open! open!” The door was always stuck. My mother was always so excited and crying, she didn't know which way the door was gonna open. “Open that door! Open that door!” Oh, it was fantastic. My sister and I, we were all in tears. “Open that door! Open that door! St. Joseph, Mary, Jesus!” 

 

JUDITH: Now this all took place in Italian I imagine?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah, of course ... and the thing that they yelled was, “Viva! Viva San Giuseppe. Viva San Giuseppe!” That's all they yelled. From then on...

 

JUDITH: That's a wonderful description. Now was this at the house on Francisco Street? 

 

FRANCES: In all the houses. But the biggest one was the one on Mason. Because my mother had the big, big house. But she had it in every ... but then it got to be very big because my mother had the room. She had this big dining room, the big hallway.

 

CHARLES: On Mason between Lombard and Chestnut. 

 

FRANCES: And then the people that were there my mother gave 'em gravy to take home, pasta to take home, everything. 

 

CHARLES: Everybody that came got a little care package. 

 

FRANCES: That was our tradition. A bag with an apple, an orange and a little roll that was made purposely by the bakery. And everything was blessed, you see. And I have, nobody would believe this, but they say the things of St. Joseph never go bad, never go rotten. I have, in my possession, from one of my mother's St. Joseph’s in the beginning, and I would say it's over 50 years old, much more than 50, I still have an orange from the St Joseph table that is blessed. It never decayed, never got rotten...

 

JUDITH: Did she start this fairly early in her life here in America or…? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah ... I was a youngster, I was 10, 11 years old. 

 

JUDITH: So she started it right there at the turn of the 20th century...?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. Very early. 

 

CHARLES: And the altar was up until after Easter, right? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah.

 

CHARLES: All through the Lent.

 

FRANCES: Would you believe that I have an orange? That just dried up, hollow. Left up there in my cupboard that’s over 50 years old. Why didn’t it get rotten?

 

JUDITH: It's blessed. It's a blessed orange. 

 

FRANCES: Because we believe in the traditions, see. We really believe in it.  

 

JUDITH: That's a marvelous story. Do any of your other family now still carry on some of these...?

 

FRANCES: No. My mother was the only one. When my sister passed away, my sister and I carried it on ... but in a very small way, just the altar, and I had my relatives over. I only stopped doing it a couple of years ago. Because I couldn't do it anymore, it's too much, you know, I couldn't do it. But I only had my relatives over, just a couple, my brother.

 

CHARLES: A handful.

 

FRANCES: A handful. Just to say the rosary that we said and have, you know, something like that ... but I stopped doing it a couple of years ago because it got too much for me. 

 

JUDITH: And Mayor Joe Alioto came regularly before he was mayor apparently?

 

FRANCES: Oh, my God, he’d come every year for the pasta, him and his first wife. Oh, he's crazy about the pasta of St. Joseph. He came every year to my mother's for the pasta of St. Joseph. In fact, one year he couldn't make it right away, but then he came anyway, we delivered the pasta at Presidio Terrace where he lived. My mother says, “Go bring him the pasta while it’s nice.”

 

JUDITH: After he was mayor?

 

CHARLES: No, before he was mayor.

 

FRANCES: Was it before? Oh, yeah. Because my mother passed away in '64. 

 

CHARLES: He was a relative… 

 

FRANCES: Oh yeah, we’re all related. 

 

JUDITH: His ancestors are from Sant' Elia?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. We're all relatives. My cousin is Joe Alioto's second cousin. They're second cousins ... oh, yeah, the Aliotos were the first ones there [laughter]. His mother, his aunt, all of them. We were like this with the Aliotos in the old country. 

 

CHARLES: Is that all for that?

 

JUDITH: I just wanted to clear up that you grew up speaking Italian as well as English then?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. I could read Italian, and I could write somewhat Italian. My mother's the only one that could read and write of the other Italian people we know of.

 

JUDITH: So she had been educated in some way?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, in Italy. 

 

JUDITH: Was your father able to read and write?

 

FRANCES: No. He made the cross. My mother got to be a citizen, an American citizen.

 

JUDITH: And your father did not?

 

FRANCES: No. They shoulda given it to him he was here so long. He didn’t want to bother.

 

CHARLES: He tried, but he didn't make it. Didn’t he?

 

FRANCES: No, no, he didn't want to go … my mother got to be because they got all the Italians, they lived right across the street. Mrs. Monroe taught them, and they all passed. They went up there and they said, “Who was the president?” “George Washington.” The first president. They all passed. Well, they all had been here all these years anyway.

 

JUDITH: When did she become a citizen? Was it long before she died?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah.

 

JUDITH: When she was a young woman?

 

FRANCES: Not that young.

 

JUDITH: Was it in the '20s or the '30s?

 

FRANCES: No, not that young. After that.

 

JUDITH: After the war?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. It was after that ... gee, I'm not sure. Of course, I have all the papers at the bank. I might say, would you say it was in the '50s?

 

CHARLES: I think so.

 

FRANCES: She got to be an American citizen. Oh, she was so proud of it. As a matter of fact, excuse me, this is her picture. [Transcriber’s note: Frances shows photos to Judith] I think that's her picture that she took when she became an American citizen.

 

JUDITH: And that's your father?

 

FRANCES: That's my mother and father, yeah. That’s the photo they took when she was an American citizen. You know they take your picture.

 

JUDITH: Oh, your father's a handsome man.

 

FRANCES: This is mine here. And these are my sisters.

 

JUDITH: They’re handsome people, aren’t they?

 

FRANCES: See, this is the picture they took of her when she passed her citizenship.

 

JUDITH: And she was proud of that?

 

FRANCES: Oh, God, that's all they talked about. “I’m a citizen.”

 

JUDITH: Well, now tell me something about Mr. Farruggia. When did you all marry, first of all? And is he Sicilian as well, your husband?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. What year did I marry? 

 

JUDITH: Uh-huh.

 

FRANCES: 1932.

 

JUDITH: And what was his full name?

 

FRANCES: Antone.

 

JUDITH: A-N-T-O-N?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. You know, in Italian it's Antonino or whatever you want. He was born in Italy you know. 

 

CHARLES: It's spelled F-A-R-R-U-G-G-I-A. Two G’s, two R’s.

 

JUDITH: And he was born in…?

 

FRANCES: Agrigento [Transcriber’s note: Agrigento is a Sicilian province.]

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here.]

 

JUDITH: That's where in Italy?

 

FRANCES: It's in Sicily. They're all Sicilians. He was from the little town of Siculiana.

 

JUDITH: Can you spell that?

 

FRANCES: I think it's S-I-C-U-L-I-A-N-A. 

 

JUDITH: Siculiana.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, Siculiana. I can remember that well. [Transcriber’s note: Siculiana is a town and comune in the province of Agrigento, Sicily.]

 

JUDITH: That's wonderful. Now this is your husband? Well, you met him here in the States?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. 

 

JUDITH: And you were married in 1932?

 

FRANCES: Yeah.

 

JUDITH: But he was an immigrant?

 

FRANCES: Oh, he was a citizen. Through his father. The law at the time was, his father was a citizen...

 

JUDITH: Ah, he was born in Italy, but he was a citizen?

 

FRANCES: His mother was born in Ohio. Youngstown, Ohio. Then they went back to Italy with her husband. And that's why my husband was born in Italy. 

 

JUDITH: So his parents were U.S. citizens?

 

FRANCES: His mother was a citizen, born in Youngstown. His father was from Italy, but he became a citizen when he got to the United States. 

 

JUDITH: Oh, OK.

 

FRANCES: Then at that time there was a law was passed that if your father was a citizen you automatically became a citizen.

 

JUDITH: Right.

 

FRANCES: He automatically became a citizen through his father.

 

JUDITH: Alright. And your name is Frances...

 

FRANCES: Francesca, actually. Francesca is my name, my baptismal, yeah. 

 

JUDITH: Francesca Macchi?

 

FRANCES: Well, you could put that.

 

JUDITH: Did you use maiden name Macchi?

 

FRANCES: Or Garofalo. Macchi Garofalo Farruggia. [laughter] 

 

JUDITH: That’s wonderful.

 

FRANCES: I mean if you want to ... well, actually I'm a Garofalo, right?

 

JUDITH: Right.

 

FRANCES: But, see, when we went to school we started using the name Macchi. But then when my brother went to go in the service, they said, “no wait, we want to know the right name.” So that's when we started ... although my mother's, all her business transactions and at the bank she did use Garofalo.

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha. And what did Mr. Farruggia do? What was your husband's work?

 

FRANCES: Well, he was a boilermaker. 

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha. Here in San Francisco?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. California Steel Company. 

 

JUDITH: California Steel?

 

FRANCES: Yeah.

 

JUDITH: And you met each other here at school or how did you...?

 

FRANCES: No, we lived in the neighborhood, right across the street.

 

JUDITH: Ah-ha. I love it.

 

FRANCES: Everybody knew everybody. Like I say...

 

JUDITH: But yours was not an arranged marriage?

 

FRANCES: No, no. [laughter] They didn't have those then.

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here]

 

JUDITH: And Charles is your son? Do you have others? 

 

FRANCES: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here]

 

JUDITH: And you're a photographer, Charles, as I understand it? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, no. He’s got an enterprise. Charles, you’re not just a photographer.

 

CHARLES: No. Well, I have an apparel business. A clothing business. I do printing business, I do shirts ... the name of my company is Farruggia Enterprises…

 

JUDITH: I see.

 

CHARLES: But I deal in jackets, shirts and hats and...

 

FRANCES: And you do photography, still doing on the side, but he’s too busy.

 

CHARLES: I still do photography, yeah.

 

JUDITH: Very good. So you grew up here in San Francisco speaking Italian and carrying on those wonderful Sicilian traditions ... well I've always heard that with Sicilians when you visit their homes they press food and drink on you. Is that true?

 

FRANCES: Oh, God! Yes. My father … my cousin tells me, “you're just like your father. Eat, eat! Eat this!” As soon as you walk in, “get a table, get a chair, get a plate. Eat! Eat!”


JUDITH: [laughter] Did you and your husband speak Italian together or English?

 

FRANCES: My husband didn't speak much Italian. See, you know why? See, they didn't speak much Italian ... for the simple reason that their mother was born in Youngstown, Ohio and she only spoke English. 

 

JUDITH: Even though she was Italian?

 

CHARLES: But she could speak Sicilian. 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. But I mean when you're brought up in a household where you speak English you're not gonna learn Italian. See, my folks did not speak English. So they spoke to us all in Italian.

 

CHARLES: I learned it because I was more or less raised with my grandmother. So I couldn't communicate unless I understood her.

 

FRANCES: See, that’s what I mean.

 

CHARLES: My father's father, they were not fishermen. They were in the export-import business, more or less. They were sales people. Salesmen. That was their trade. 

 

FRANCES: From Timosia.

 

CHARLES: In Siculiana where they came from they would do trade with Tunisia, right across the way. 

 

FRANCES: And they got all those beautiful bedspreads and beautiful old tapestries…

 

CHARLES: Yeah, they used to sell sheets and oil and… 

 

JUDITH: But they didn't bring that trade to America?

 

CHARLES: Oh, yeah, that's what they did. You see where they came from there was no water. No ocean for fishing. They were from the mountains. So they didn't have any agriculture where you grew and farming. So they [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] from their town and their main thing was selling. And that's probably why I'm in the selling business, you see. 

 

JUDITH: Right. A merchant business, a trader.

 

FRANCES: But then he had a store.

 

CHARLES: Right, he had a store, he had a business. And he had a grocery store where he supplied most all the fishermen on Fisherman’s Wharf.

 

JUDITH: Your father?

 

CHARLES: My grandfather. We're talking about Farruggia, that side.

 

JUDITH: And you kept the marriages at least in the Sicilian family, didn't you, in America?

 

CHARLES: Yes, I'm a full-blooded Sicilian, a hundred percent Sicilian.

 

JUDITH: And your grandfather Farruggia had a grocery store right here on the waterfront?

 

CHARLES: On Chestnut and Mason.

 

JUDITH: Oh, right down the street.

 

CHARLES: We still own the property.

 

FRANCES: But wait a minute. Before that, Charles, he had the grocery store. You know where the Cunio Flats are? That was his first grocery store. 

 

CHARLES: Where the Cunio Flats where? What street was that?

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talking here]

 

JUDITH: I think it’s where LaRocca’s, the Cunio Flats. Isn't that where LaRocca's Corner is?

 

CHARLES: No. LaRocca's? They were good friends with my grandfather. 

 

FRANCES: No, the Cunio Flats was going up Bay Street, on the hill.

 

CHARLES: Bay and Columbus.

 

FRANCES: That was Cunio Flats, see. And their grocery store was there first, on Columbus Avenue. And so was [Transcriber’s note: unclear word here], the dry goods store. We had a big dry good store that Mario owned. And the name of it was [Transcriber’s note: unclear word here. Sounds like “Trogeny”], at the end of Columbus Avenue, see.

 

JUDITH: What were the Cunio Flats and why were they called that? Were they apartments?

 

FRANCES: They were low, little apartments like tenements. And I would say the reason they called them the Cunio Flats must've been owned by Cunio, who were Genovese and had a few dollars, like most of the Genoveses did. And they had about how many little apartments, oh I don’t know, they could've been over 50. So that whole hill was the Cunio Flats. 

 

JUDITH: Ah, the whole hill?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, that whole hill, now that’s with all these new homes, you know going up Bay Street...

 

JUDITH: I know just what you mean. Well, now you mentioned that, and Tom Cara talked about the differences between Italian heritage here in the North Beach area. And he said that some of them lived in certain areas. That the Sicilianos lived down near the water. The Calabrese lived on Kearny Street, he said. The Genovese lived on...

 

[Transcriber’s note: Thomas (Tom) Cara (died 2001) was a North Beach-born Italian businessman who imported espresso machines to the U.S. after World War II. He operated Thomas E. Cara, Ltd. at 517 Pacific Avenue for many years, selling and repairing machines. An oral history of Cara conducted by Judith Robinson can be found at the S. F. Public Library Main and North Beach Branches, and on the Telegraph Hill Dwellers website at https://www.thd.org/oral-history.]

 

FRANCES: Yeah, the Genoveses lived next to us. To the Sicilians. Next to us, the Genoveses. We were born and raised and went to school together. All there on Mason, Chestnut, Francisco. In fact, the first houses we lived in were owned by Genoveses [coughs]...

 

JUDITH: And the Genovese are the merchants and the money people, eh? Money-handlers.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, but you know...

 

JUDITH: But did you mix in with other types of Italians? 

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah, we were close together. [Transcriber’s note: Frances coughs here and leaves the room to get a glass of water.]

 

JUDITH: Did you grow up in North Beach, Charles?

 

CHARLES: Oh, yeah. 

 

JUDITH: And went to school here?

 

CHARLES: I went to school at Francisco Middle School. And I went to Hancock. And went to Sarah B. Cooper. 

 

JUDITH: You went to Sarah B. Cooper Kindergarten?

 

CHARLES: Yeah. Sarah B. Cooper, Hancock, Francisco and Galileo.

 

JUDITH: No fooling. Where was the Sarah B. Cooper school? I have a biography of Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, and she supported it.

 

CHARLES: Right there on Lombard and Jones. Now it’s something else. It's a big thing now, yeah ... it was kind of sad when they did that, you know. 

 

JUDITH: Right. Did your family know the DiMaggio boys when they were growing up? 

 

CHARLES: Yeah, I went to school with Joe.

 

JUDITH: Because he’s Sicilian?

 

CHARLES: Yeah, he's Sicilian. His father was a fisherman, his brothers were fishermen. And his father used to tell 'em, “I don't want you to play ball. I don't want you to become a bum. [laughter] I want you to be fishing.” And he was the youngest. So his older brother, I think it was Tom, was the worker. And they say he would've been a helluva baseball player also. They were very talented in that field. But Tom had to go to work to provide for the family. He was the oldest, see. 

 

JUDITH: Yes, I hear they both started out here at the North Beach Playground.

 

CHARLES: Yeah, Joe used to play there, yeah ... [Transcriber’s note: Frances re-enters the room.] She wants to know if I mentioned Joe DiMaggio.

 

FRANCES: Oh!

 

JUDITH: Do you remember him as a boy at all?

 

FRANCES: Do I ever. They went to school together.

 

JUDITH: And played on the playground together, huh?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. I'll tell you about the DiMaggio brothers ... they lived on Taylor Street, you know. And my sister, my younger sister, went to school with Joe. Same class. And I went to school with Vince. See because we're about the same age see ... they're from Collinsville. 

 

[Transcriber’s note: Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) starred for the New York Yankees for 13 years. He was the child of Sicilian immigrants, who moved to California in 1998. Joe was born in Martinez, California, and the family moved to North Beach about a year after Joe’s birth. Joe’s father was a fisherman. Tom was an elder brother, along with Michael and Vince. Vince and Dominic (Dom) also played Major League Baseball.] 

 

JUDITH: Collinsville?

 

FRANCES: They’re from Collinsville, is where they're from. 

 

JUDITH: Collinsville, California?

 

FRANCES: Yeah, Collinsville. Near Pittsburg. A little town on the water. Fishing there. Then they came over here, you know, when they were little kids, whatever. They lived on Taylor Street. And anyway Joe went to school with my sister, in the same class. I was with Vince. 

 

JUDITH: School being...

 

FRANCES: We went to grammar school and also to Francisco with them. 

 

JUDITH: Here in the neighborhood?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. Francisco Middle School and Hancock.

 

JUDITH: Oh, same as Charles.

 

FRANCES: Yeah. And they came from a very poor family. Well, they were fishermen, from Collinsville, too. I mean we remember them because the teachers a lot of times used to send them home. Well, I really shouldn't say this though... 

 

JUDITH: Because they weren't dressed...

 

FRANCES: They weren't dressed in shoes and all that, you know. They'd send 'em home to go dress up or do this and that, whatever. And ... a wonderful family, a wonderful family. We all grew up together. But they were always complaining they used to send 'em home to go put that on and so forth and so on. And ... they weren't very bright. Well, they weren't talkative. Joe didn't talk at all, you know. Very shy. He didn't even know how to say hello. He was afraid of girls.

 

JUDITH: Wow. He came a long way, didn't he?

 

FRANCES: Yeah. 

 

JUDITH: He still doesn't talk a lot...

 

FRANCES: Oh, he's a wonderful guy. 

 

JUDITH: Very generous.

 

FRANCES: All the family are.

 

CHARLES: Was Tom the oldest?

 

JUDITH: How many brothers were there?

 

FRANCES: There must've been four. About four ... the young one, was what’s his name?

 

CHARLES: Vince?

 

FRANCES: No, not Vince, The young one. That married that rich woman, and he’s a ball player too.

 

CHARLES: Dominic.

 

FRANCES: That's it. Dominic, Joe, Vince.

 

CHARLES: Vince was a player, too.

 

FRANCES: Yeah, he was an icon. That’s what I’m saying. And then Tom. 

 

CHARLES: Tom was the oldest. 

 

FRANCES: Was he the one that ran the restaurant?

 

CHARLES: I think he did, yeah ... he was with the draft board.

 

FRANCES: He was with the draft board, right ... and as far as I know there was one sister named Frances. Now I'm not sure if they had another sister or not. I'm not sure. But I knew Frances. She had one eye, she had lost an eye. Yeah. And they had the home in the Marina. That was after he had got to be a ballplayer. And I can't remember any more. All I can remember is the four of them, the boys. And I remember the girl Frances. Now if there was another sister, there might have been, and I'm not sure. She could've been older, you know.

 

JUDITH: Well, I'm told also that the neighborhood was very safe in those days. That the Italians were renowned for their safe neighborhood. That there was one cop and...

 

FRANCES: Everybody knew him. Well, then what was his name? Oh, he was tough. And everybody was afraid of him. Oh, gee, I can't think of his name. 

 

JUDITH: But he walked the beat?

 

FRANCES: He walked the beat, took care the whole neighborhood. Oh, but he was tough, and everybody was afraid of him. Now the people they're not afraid of cops anymore. Just like they're not afraid of school teachers either. And we were. Oh my god, a principal, a teacher.

 

JUDITH: So everybody was respectful?

 

FRANCES: Oh, yeah. 

 

JUDITH: And was Monday morning wash day? I still see some...

 

FRANCES: Monday was wash day, oh yeah. And do you know it's a funny thing, I'll tell you something: everybody in the North Beach neighborhood, all the Sicilians, we practically knew what everybody was eating that night. Thursday night everybody had paste with gravy. Saturday was soup night. 

 

JUDITH: Thursdays was what with gravy?

 

FRANCES: Paste. Spaghetti and gravy. 

 

JUDITH: Ah, pasta with gravy.

 

FRANCES: Every Thursday. Saturday it was soup day. The pot of soup with the boiled beef and the [Transcriber’s note: unclear word here]. Every Saturday. Then, oh, this is something funny I'm gonna tell you. Then Sunday was naturally pasta with the gravy. Again. And maybe a chicken. Boiled, you make soup with that. Or whatever. Or some meatballs. But every house had paste with gravy every Thursday night, soup on Saturday. Now you go to all these high-class restaurants, right? They're starting to cook all the foods that we cooked, my mother cooked, 70 years ago when we were kids. They were cheap foods. But they were good.

 

[Transcriber’s note: second audiotape ends here]

 

FRANCES: Now it’s a big delicacy. And they’re charging you a fortune for fava beans!

 

JUDITH: And how about polenta?

 

FRANCES: Polenta! My God! … and another thing that’s funny. Now you go to a restaurant and they make a big deal out of spaghetti. I don’t know how much with garlic and oil with the spaghetti boiled or with the butter and cheese. That's one of the main things ... now we used to eat the paste, the spaghetti with the garlic, you know, sauteed with the olive oil. Because in those days we used nothing but olive oil. We bought everything by the case. Did you know that? Oh my God! We never bought anything by the gallon. My mother used to buy 250 pounds of different spaghettis, sacks of flour when she made the bread. The cheese? A whole form. And those were supposed to be the poor days. Everything was in gross...

 

[Transcriber’s note: cross talk here.]

 

JUDITH: And there were a lot of markets here where you got your fresh vegetables every day and bread?

 

FRANCES: And in those days too we had the peddlers. We had the peddlers. Oh, that's another thing. Well, I could be here all day talking about ... we had the peddlers for the fresh fruit and the veg. They had the man that came around selling the fish. Then they had the fellow came around twice a week that had a sack on his back, "Wild rabbits! Wild rabbits!" Then during Easter time there was the truck that came with the live chickens. I think they were 25 cents a chicken. They'd buy three or four and then they'd kill 'em and put them down in the basement.

 

Then during Easter, too, they had the little capretti. That's the little baby kid for Easter. They came around with the trucks and they were alive. You bought 'em two weeks ahead of time, you fed ‘em down in the basement, they got nice and fat, and then when it's time to eat 'em you bring 'em to the butcher and they would kill them for you.  

 

JUDITH: And you did that in your family?

 

FRANCES: Oh yeah. Everybody did that on the block. 

 

[END OF INTERVIEW]