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Alfredo

Pisciotta

Born in Calabria, Alfredo emigrated to San Francisco in 1933. He and his wife Anna settled in North Beach, where they raised four children. Alfredo worked at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard during World War Two, and later ran a well-known upholstery shop on Stockton Street.

2060 Stockton Street still has painted window signage for Alfredo Pisciotta's upholstery shop. (photo: Janet Beach)
2060 Stockton Street still has painted window signage for Alfredo Pisciotta's upholstery shop. (photo: Janet Beach)

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Alfredo and Anna PIsciotta on their wedding day in Italy. (photo: unknown)
Alfredo and Anna PIsciotta on their wedding day in Italy. (photo: unknown)

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Anna Pisciotta sits with daughter Rita (middle) and two of her sons in the yard beside their home on Stockton Street. The lot was undeveloped until the late 1940s, and the family turned it a small urban farm complete with chickens, rabbits, ducks and a large vegetable garden. (photo: Alfredo Pisciotta)
Anna Pisciotta sits with daughter Rita (middle) and two of her sons in the yard beside their home on Stockton Street. The lot was undeveloped until the late 1940s, and the family turned it a small urban farm complete with chickens, rabbits, ducks and a large vegetable garden. (photo: Alfredo Pisciotta)

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Recording:

Transcript

Transcript: Alfredo Pisciotta (1909-2001)


Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Alfredo Pisciotta on July 3, 1996. The interview took place at his shop at 2060 Stockton 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 by Janet Beach and edited by John Doxey in 2020. 

Format: Originally recorded on 1 audio tape. Duration is 1 hour, 1 minute.


Attribution: This interview transcript is property of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers. Quotes, reproductions and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Alfredo Pisciotta, July 3, 1996. Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.


Summary: Alfredo Pisciotta was born in San Sosti, Calabria in 1909. His parents and brother Frank were living in San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire, and afterward returned to live in Calabria. Alfredo met and married his wife, nee Anna Vidiri, in Italy, and together they emigrated to San Francisco in 1933 to join relatives living in North Beach. (Anna was born in New York City and moved to Italy with her family when she was five years old.) Alfredo and Anna initially lived on Green Street on Telegraph Hill. In 1939, they bought a property at 2048 Stockton Street in North Beach, where they raised four children (Raymond, Rita, Frank and Alfredo). They also bought a then-undeveloped lot at 2060 Stockton Street, which became a small urban farm complete with chickens, rabbits, ducks and a large vegetable garden. Alfredo was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1940. Alfredo gained experience in the upholstery business while working at the Daini shop on San Francisco’s Pine Street before World War Two. During the war, he worked as a pipefitter at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, where he worked on submarines and destroyers during World War Two. The lot at 2060 Stockton Street was developed, and in the mid-1950s Alfredo opened his own upholstery shop at this address. The shop became a longtime and much-loved neighborhood fixture. The family purchased a second home in Woodacre, Marin County, in the 1940s. Alfredo was an active member of Sons of Italy, Knights of Columbus, the Italian American Athletic Club and the Salesian Boy's Club Old Timers. Alfredo died in San Francisco in 2001, two years after Anna passed away. Alfredo’s daughter, Rita Pisciotta, currently lives with her husband in her childhood home at 2048 Stockton Street, having returned there in 1984.

In this interview, Alfredo speaks of meeting and marrying Anna in Italy, and the couple’s boat journey to San Francisco in 1933; his work as a pipefitter at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard during and after World War Two, where he specialized in repairing and refitting submarines; his subsequent work as an upholsterer in North Beach beginning in the mid-1950s; raising four children in North Beach; his experience of witnessing a jewelry store robbery, which resulted in gun-wielding thieves threatening to shoot him; community activities and organizations with which he was involved, including the Salesian Boys Club and Saints Peter and Paul Church; his country house in Woodacre in Marin County; and how he made wine at home in North Beach and Woodacre. 


Janet Beach, John Doxey and Judith Robinson and Rita Pisciotta have had opportunities to review 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.

Note: The sound quality of the audiotapes is uneven and unclear at times. Four people participated in the interview and there was frequent cross-talking. Alfredo’s Italian-accented English is also difficult to understand in places, especially given the poor sound quality of the audiotapes. For these reasons, many sections of this interview were unintelligible or difficult to transcribe. The correct spelling of some names and places mentioned in the interview is unconfirmed.


Interview


[Transcriber’s note: Alfredo Pisciotta was joined throughout this interview by his wife Anna Pisciotta and his daughter Rita Pisciotta.] 


JUDITH: This will be Alfredo Pisciotta, July 3, 1996. Interviewed at his shop on Stockton Street, San Francisco, North Beach … oh, you weren't here during the earthquake?


ANNA: No.


ALFREDO: No, my mother… mother, father and my brother Frank were here during the earthquake.


JUDITH: Here in San Francisco?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. Well, you're very nice to do this for the Bancroft library. I spoke with your nephew and your daughter about it, Rita, who's here with us. And what we are doing is a history of San Francisco and North Beach. 


ALFREDO: Um-hmm.


JUDITH: And several people said that they thought you would be a good person to talk to about your history as Italian-Americans. So, that's what we are doing and what I like to do is maybe start out by asking you your full names and when you were born and where you were born. So who would like to start? You, Mrs. Pisciotta?


ANNA: Yes, anyone. Do you want to start with me?


JUDITH: Sure. What's your full name?


ANNA: Anna.


JUDITH: A-N-N-A.


ANNA: Yes.


JUDITH: And what was your maiden name?


ANNA: No maiden name. We don't have a maiden name. [Transcriber’s note: Rita Pisciotta explained to transcript editor John Doxey that Anna didn’t understand the term “maiden name,” as this is not an Italian custom.]


JUDITH: No maiden name?


RITA: It was Vidiri. 


ANNA: That's for my mother.


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: Your mother's name.


ANNA: Before they got married.


JUDITH: Before marriage.


RITA: I don't think she knew what maiden name is.


JUDITH: How do you spell Adeli?


RITA: Vidiri. V-I-D-I-R-I.


JUDITH: Vidiri.


ANNA: Yes.


JUDITH: And what is your name, Mr. Pisciotta?


ALFREDO: Alfredo.


JUDITH: Alfredo.


ALFREDO: Pisciotta.


JUDITH: Pisciotta.


ALFREDO: P-I-S-C-I-O-double T-A.


JUDITH: Right. Now, when were you born?


ALFREDO: 19 … I have to tell you that?


JUDITH: Yes, if you wish. You don't have to… 


ALFREDO: 1909.


JUDITH: Well, you're doing very nicely, I must say.


ALFREDO: Well, thank you. I'm 87.


JUDITH: 87. And what's your birthday?


ALFREDO: January 24, 1909.


JUDITH: 24th. Oh, my goodness. How about you? Do you want us to tell when you were born?


ANNA: When I was born?


ALFREDO: New York.


ANNA: I was [born in] New York. I was, you know … yes, and also born in Italy. Also born in New York.


JUDITH: In New York?


ALFREDO: What is it, what date? November 27?


ANNA: Yes, November 27.


ALFREDO: 1911.


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ALFREDO: See, I remember that.


JUDITH: So you remember your wife's birthday.


ALFREDO: Yes. [laughter]


JUDITH: You were born in New York. Where were you born, Mr. Pisciotta?


ALFREDO: In Italy. In Calabria. The town is San Sosti.


JUDITH: San Sosti? 


ALFREDO: That's right. Correct.


JUDITH: S-U-S-T-I?


ALFREDO: Yes.


RITA: S-O-S-T-I.


ALFREDO: Calabria.


JUDITH: Calabria?


ALFREDO: Yes, right on the foot. 


JUDITH: I see, on the foot of Italy? All right. Now, uh, I’d be interested to know who your parents were and where your parents came from? Obviously, Cala…


ALFREDO: Well, they came from San Sosti. But they was here in United States. And my mother she was here in 1906. 


JUDITH: Ah-ha.


ALFREDO: And I have two brothers that were born in San Francisco.


JUDITH: Two brothers.


ALFREDO: Everybody is dead now. I'm the last one in the family.


JUDITH: Were your brothers younger or older?


ALFREDO: Oh, no, no. I was the younger one.


JUDITH: You're the youngest?


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: Now, what was your father's full name?


ALFREDO: Angelo.


JUDITH: Pisciotta?


ALFREDO: That's correct.


JUDITH: And what about your mother's full name? What were your father and mother's names?


ANNA: My mother?


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ANNA: Giovanina.


JUDITH: Giornina?


ANNA: Yes. 


RITA: Giovanina.


JUDITH: Giovanina. G-I-O-V-I-N-I-N-A?


RITA: I think it might be "J." It's like Jovanah. Giovanina.


JUDITH: OK. And what was her last name?


ANNA: Before they got married?


JUDITH: Yes.


ANNA: Vidiri.


RITA: No.


ALFREDO: No.


ANNA: My mother.


RITA: Your mother.


ANNA: Oh, my mother. Yes. My mother. What…

 

RITA: Who is Pane?


ANNA: No, my mother was a Vidiri.


RITA: Your mother was Pane.


ALFREDO: My grandpa.


ANNA: Your mother was Pane before she got married. 


ALFREDO: Angelina Pane. 


ANNA: Yes.


RITA: Your mother can…


ALFREDO: It's my mother.


RITA: Cozzitorto.


ALFREDO: Cozzitorto. That's it. That's it.


ANNA: My mother, yes.


JUDITH: How do you spell that? Giovanina…


ANNA: Giovanina Cozzitorto. I don't know how you spell Cozzitorto.


ALFREDO: Let me write it down.


RITA: He can write it down.


JUDITH: Here. Write it there, Mr. Pisciotta.


ANNA: Cozzitorto.


JUDITH: Cozzitorto?


RITA: C-O-Z-Z, I think.


JUDITH: Cozzi?


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: Tosta?


RITA: Yes, that's it.


JUDITH: C-O-Z-Z-I-T-O-S-T-A, maybe?


ALFREDO: C-O-Z-Z-I-R-T-O.


JUDITH: Oh, very good. Is that your mother's maiden name?


ANNA: My mother.


JUDITH: That's your mother. All right. Now, well you were born in New York, but you were born in Calabria?


ALFREDO: Calabria.


JUDITH: And when…


ALFREDO: My town is San Sosti. S-O-N-T. Provincia Cosenza. [Transcriber’s note: San Sosti is a comune in the province of Cosenza, in Calabria, southern Italy.]


JUDITH: Cosenza.


ALFREDO: Yes. I got a photograph of that Cosenza.


JUDITH: Well, at any rate, tell me when you came to America, Mr. Pisciotta? Were you a boy?


ALFREDO: 1933.


JUDITH: Oh, you weren't a boy? OK.


ALFREDO: We come here, we was met in Italy. 


JUDITH: You two met in Italy?


ANNA: Um-hmm.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. And married in Italy?


ALFREDO: In Italy. Yes.


JUDITH: And you both came then in '33?


ALFREDO: That's right.


ANNA: Yes.


JUDITH: OK. And that was just before the war. Did you come to San Francisco? 


ALFREDO: Yeah.


ANNA: Yes, we did.


JUDITH: Did you have relatives here? Is that…?


ALFREDO: Yes. I have here my brother. [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] brother in San Carlos. [Transcriber’s note: Per Rita Pisciotta, Alfredo’s brother Frank was living in San Francisco, and Anna’s brother Antonio was living in New York.]


JUDITH: In San Francisco before you?


ALFREDO: Yes. Her brother was in New York when we are coming from Italy. [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo is apparently referring to Anna’s brother Antonio.]


JUDITH: Ah-ha.


ALFREDO: And then we come in, and he said, "I'll come and you gone." Two weeks later, my brother-in-law, his name Antonio, he comes back to Italy. He is living in San Carlos now.


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ALFREDO: Yes. He [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: Why did you come to America? For economic…?


ALFREDO: Why? 


JUDITH: Yes.


ALFREDO: Well, I was thinking that she's born in New York. And there was a law at that particular time in here, if you marry and they take two years to come back to New York, you lose your citizenship.


JUDITH: Oh, that's right. Yes.


ALFREDO: So we come here, and then we get married, 1931 … March 21st, 1931.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. So, it was getting close to the two-year period?


RITA: But you didn't … they didn't wait the two years. Ask him why.


ANNA: What?


RITA: You didn't wait for two years because you were pregnant.


ALFREDO: No, because I didn't…


ANNA: No. I don't want two years to stay…


ALFREDO: Because like I said they'll lose their citizenship. And when I [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] I would come in and I look like I was a citizen of the United States, too. 


JUDITH: Because you are married to a U.S. citizen?


ANNA: Yes.


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: OK. And you were also carrying your first child then?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. And how many children did you have? Or is that…?


ALFREDO: Four.


JUDITH: Four?


ANNA: Now, I have four.


ALFREDO: Four. And one, the first one, died. 


JUDITH: Um-hmm. And Rita is one.


ALFREDO: First is Raymond.


ANNA: Raymond.


JUDITH: Raymond?


ALFREDO: Rita.


JUDITH: Rita.


ALFREDO: Frank.


JUDITH: Frank.


ALFREDO: Alfredo.


JUDITH: Alfredo.


ALFREDO: Junior.


JUDITH: You waited for your last son to name him after yourself. [laughter] Well, you then gave up your Italian citizenship and were resigned to being Americans?


ALFREDO: That's right.


ANNA: Yes.


ALFREDO: I think, I don't know, 1939 or something like that.


ANNA: I don't know when he would give it up.


ALFREDO: I think 1937.


ANNA: Years ago you gave it up.


ALFREDO: Three to four years ago, I don't remember.


ANNA: Three to four years ago?


ALFREDO: Three to four years after we come in.


ANNA: Oh.


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: Then you took out citizenship papers too, is that right, Mr. Pisciotta? [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in November 1940, per Rita Pisciotta.]


ALFREDO: Yes. Not her.


ANNA: Not me. No. Because I have…


JUDITH: You were already? [Transcriber’s note: Because she was born in the U.S., Anna was already a U.S. citizen when she and Alfredo moved to San Francisco.]


ALFREDO: Yes.


ANNA: Yes. I have.


JUDITH: Someone told me, but apparently this is not correct, that you had sailed around the horn in sailing ships. That's not true, or was it your father who did that?


RITA: The sailor ship?


JUDITH: Was he … did he ship out on sailing ships?


ALFREDO: No.


JUDITH: No. OK.


RITA: No.


ALFREDO: What I was doing, I worked Second World War. I work with a shipyard. 


JUDITH: Ah-ha.


ALFREDO: Hunters Point.


JUDITH: Hunters Point?


ALFREDO: Hunters Point. And I work on a submarine.


JUDITH: Building submarines?


ALFREDO: Work in the submarines, and, you know [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] and so and so on and destroyers and … I was working. 1941 I worked there.


JUDITH: And what did you do in the shipyard? What was your job?


ALFREDO: Pipefitter.


JUDITH: Pipefitter.


ALFREDO: If you want a photograph, I got a photograph I could show it to you.


JUDITH: Yes, I'd be interested, at some point.


ALFREDO: Rita, what was the last thing that … you know [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] it's a drawing there. It's got a submarine, I think. I work in submarines in naval shipyard 16 years.


JUDITH: Sixteen years you worked there, at Hunters Point?


ALFREDO: Hunters Point. Correct.


JUDITH: Well, that's…


ANNA: You left the door open downstairs? [Transcriber’s note: Anna is apparently referring her to an open door in their home.]


ALFREDO: Huh?


ANNA: You left the door open downstairs?


ALFREDO: Why?


ANNA: I hear somebody call.


ALFREDO: Probably … yes, I worked in government.


JUDITH: Right. For 16 years beginning in 1941?


ALFREDO: Um-hmm.


JUDITH: With the outbreak of World War Two?


ALFREDO: That's right and I retired from that, 1963. I have slight heart attack. And out and go. [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo has apparently made a mistake in his timeline. If he worked at Hunters Point for 16 years beginning in 1941, he would have left this work around 1957, rather than 1963. Furthermore, he states later in this transcript that he opened his upholstery shop in 1954.]


JUDITH: Right.


ALFREDO: I'm a federal employee right now.


JUDITH: You are a what employee?


ALFREDO: Federal employee.


JUDITH: You were then?


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: Well, how did you come to then begin this business which is an upholstery…?


ALFREDO: In our country, I was doing tailor work. [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo apparently worked a tailor in Italy, prior to emigrating to America in 1933.]


JUDITH: Tailor work?


ALFREDO: Correct. Tailor. And I have a friend of mine, he have an upholstery shop. Daini, the name is [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] … he is dead. His son-in-law has [Transcriber’s notes: unintelligible words here. Alfredo apparently worked at the Daini upholstery shop on Pine Street after arriving in San Francisco in the 1930s.]


JUDITH: Here in San Francisco?


ALFREDO: San Francisco. Pine Street.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. He had an upholstery shop?


ALFREDO: Yes. It’s still [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here]. 1529 Pine [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here]


JUDITH: Right.


ALFREDO: DAINI.


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


ALFREDO: Yes. D-A-N-I-N-I.


JUDITH: DANINI?


ALFREDO: Daini, yes.


JUDITH: And did you then go to work for him in 1963?


ALFREDO: No. 


JUDITH: After you left the ship?


ALFREDO: After I went to [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here]. After I started doing business myself. 


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: And then you opened your shop here on the corner of Francisco and Stockton? When did you open the shop here?


ALFREDO: Well, it would be then the place in here. 1954. [Transcriber’s note: the Pisciottas built a home on the lot at 2060 Stockton Street that had earlier been empty and used by the family as an urban farm. The lot was next to the family home at 2048 Stockton Street.]


JUDITH: Uh-huh. OK.


ALFREDO: We was living here and in a house in which my daughter live in now. [Rita Pisciotta now lives with her husband at 2048 Stockton Street, the same house in which she grew up.]


JUDITH: Oh.


ALFREDO: 2048 Stockton.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. You first lived at 2048 Stockton?


ALFREDO: Stockton. That's correct.


JUDITH: Well, now, what did you do between the time you came to America in 1933 until 1941?


ALFREDO: No. I was working with Daini.


JUDITH: Oh, before the shipyard?


ALFREDO: Before the shipyard. Yes, yes.


JUDITH: I see. I didn't understand. 


ALFREDO: Yeah, yeah.


JUDITH: So then you took up the craft again after you retired from the shipyard?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Well, now tell me something about living here in San Francisco beginning in the 1930s. Did you live always in North Beach?


ALFREDO: Always North Beach.


JUDITH: You came to North Beach?


ALFREDO: The first house we rented was in 389 Green Street.


JUDITH: Greenwich as they call…


ALFREDO: Green. Green.


JUDITH: Greenwich. Yes.


ALFREDO: Not Greenwich. Green.


JUDITH: Oh, Green. 339 Green?


ALFREDO: Green. Yes.


JUDITH: Oh, OK.


ALFREDO: We stayed over there for…


JUDITH: And was this the community that attracted you because of its large Italian…?


ALFREDO: It was the … Italian people, yes.


JUDITH: And what…?


ALFREDO: My brother was here.


JUDITH: Um-hmm.


ALFREDO: Yes. My brother-in-law was here.


JUDITH: Which brother was that?


ALFREDO: My brother. He died … it was Frank.


JUDITH: Frank, Frank. OK. And what was life like here in North Beach in those days? Was it…?


ALFREDO: You tell yourself.


RITA: What was it like? 


JUDITH: Yes. What's…?


RITA: Was it good?


JUDITH: You went to the … did you go to … were you church going? Did you go to Saints Peter and Paul up on Dupont? [Transcriber’s note: Saints Peter and Paul Church was originally located at the corner of Filbert Street and Grant Avenue, which was formerly called Dupont Street. The church moved to its current location at 666 Filbert Street after a new church was completed in 1924.]


ALFREDO: Yes. When we come in and everything, there was no church in there. Because before there was in Grant Avenue … no.


JUDITH: Grant Avenue. Dupont.


ALFREDO: In 1906 the church fall down.


JUDITH: Right.


ANNA: And I was here.


JUDITH: So the new Saints Peter and Paul…


ALFREDO: That's right.


JUDITH: …was here?


ALFREDO: Um-hmm.


JUDITH: And were you active in church activities? 


ALFREDO: Oh, yeah.


JUDITH: Community?


ALFREDO: Yeah. I could … I have to.


JUDITH: And at Saints Peter and Paul, was that your church?


ALFREDO: Saints Peter and Paul. Yes.


JUDITH: Did your children participate in the Salesian…?


ALFREDO: Oh, yes. They go [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] They went into the school, the Salesian school.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. And did you go to the Salesian school, Rita?


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: Well, I forgot they had a school as well as an afterschool program.


RITA: Oh, yes. Yes, there was.


JUDITH: It was elementary school?


ALFREDO: Yes.


ANNA: Raymond was there, before you.


RITA: Yes. See originally, the school was [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] boys school.


JUDITH: Right.


RITA: And at that time, it was the … I was attending first and second grade. And it was just first grade I attended the Presentation Convent … it was … above the Broadway Tunnel and it was closed because of the construction of the Broadway Tunnel in 1950 …  so anyway, when I was in the second grade, it was closed because of the construction. And Saints Peter and Paul became co-education. [Transcriber’s note: there are several unintelligible words in this section. The Presentation Convent school to which Rita refers was located at 1404 Mason Street.]


JUDITH: And that was in…?


RITA: Previous to that, it was only boys.


JUDITH: …about 1960s, you think?


RITA: Oh, no, no, no. It wasn't. I was born in ‘42, so it had to late ‘40s. It was the 1950s.


JUDITH: About 1950 that the tunnel was built, and the convent school was closed because of the tunnel construction?


RITA: Um-hmm.


JUDITH: So then Salesian became a co-ed parochial school at what … was the school, is it right in the church? I can't quite…


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: It still is?


ALFREDO: Oh, yes. It's still in there. Yes.


JUDITH: Well, I've been to events in the big basement area there.


RITA: Yes. There's one arm in the … [Transcriber’s note: cross talking here] to the right side of the church. If you're looking at the church, the right side is all school.


ALFREDO: Salesian boys club [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] to the church.


JUDITH: Right. Well, that seems to be a wonderful program. It still is much respected. Is that … were you always pleased with it and…?


RITA: The boys club is what you're referring to?


JUDITH: Well, I know you have … there is an afterschool sports program as well. It's very…


RITA: Right, right. It's the, well, I think Salesian Boys Club.


ALFREDO: I've got the medal of the Salesian Boys Club.


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ALFREDO: 1968.


JUDITH: You were what again?


ALFREDO: '68. They gave a testimony [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] to me. They gave a gold medal from the Salesian Boys Club because I was one of them. I was active. I still have the medal.


JUDITH: Oh, I didn't…


ALFREDO: Gold medal.


JUDITH: Oh, how wonderful.


ALFREDO: Real gold. They do it every year. And now this year, here, they're doing it too. 


JUDITH: Because you were so active in the school, in the program?


RITA: No, not this one. The other one.


ALFREDO: Or is it the former one?


RITA: This is just the plaque they gave you. They gave you a medal too. But I don't know what year that was…


ALFREDO: They made it in 1968.


RITA: This is '65. And you got the medal in '68.


JUDITH: What kinds of things did you do that were … that you were active in? Did you oversee the afterschool program? Would you go and look after the boys? Or you raised money for it or…?


ALFREDO: You know, I wasn’t involved in the group or anything that they do between raising money. I was in the committee.


JUDITH: Oh, I see. OK.


ALFREDO: Yes, yes.


JUDITH: OK. Now, this is a photograph … oh, yes. [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo is apparently showing a photo to Judith here.]


ALFREDO: From the Hunters Point.


RITA: The USS Pogy. It was a … it says at the bottom, the name of the…


ALFREDO: Yes. The Pogy. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, USS Pogy, a Gato-class submarine, was the first ship of the US Navy to be named for the pogy, or menhaden. The Pogy was launched in June 1942 and had distinguished service in the Pacific during World War Two.]

 

JUDITH: [Transcriber’s note: Judith is apparently reading a humorous award or plaque that was given to Alfredo.] “Let it be known that all this is the deep, that the stalwart submersible, recently sighted deep in the depths of Neptune Shangri-La has successfully performed her deep submergence test and is proceeding on her mission to slow the enemy in Davy Jones’ locker. Furthermore, know ye that I was honored by the precedence of A. Pisciotta in this vessel and all World War Two sailors equatorial shell bag shallow water skivers, or other unseaworthy hulks, are hereby commanded to accord to him the respect due on his quality and dignity, who having been Neptune's guest is deemed a Neptune worthy.” Well, why was this presented? Because you…?


ALFREDO: You know why?


JUDITH: Why?


ALFREDO: When we work in a boat, all the shop, it was [Transcriber’s note: there is a sequence of unintelligible words here.] Before the government accept the work we did, we have to go all the shop in there, I mean all the shop, four or five person in each shop, and they're going … we went to 400 feet down below…


RITA: You went on the test.


JUDITH: Well, I take it you were at that sea…


ALFREDO: Before the government accept it, they did take a testing. 


JUDITH: They made you guys go on it first?


ALFREDO: No, wait a minute you know for nothing…


RITA: All the workers. [laughter]


ALFREDO: And I was working the torpedo room. The one that shoot anything.


JUDITH: You worked in the torpedo room? They wanted to be sure you were confident of your own work. [laughter] Well, you must have built a lot of submarines over there?


ALFREDO: Well, we don't build a new one. We just do when they go and they come back and we do the overhaul job.


JUDITH: You refitted them and refurbished them?


ALFREDO: Yes, yes. No, we don't build a new one. No.


JUDITH: Right. Maybe you worked on my father's carrier, the Intrepid, when she limped in here after she was kamikazed and torpedoed…


ALFREDO: Not too many big boats. Mostly submarines.


JUDITH: Yeah, I think they did most of the work on the big ships in Hawaii during the war. Because his ship put into Hawaii several times.


RITA: It was a carrier?


JUDITH: Yes. The Intrepid. It's now in New York City… [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, USS Intrepid, commissioned in 1943, was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War Two for the US Navy. Intrepid is now a museum ship docked in New York City.]


ALFREDO: Intrepid.


JUDITH: …it’s now a museum, yes. It was one of the Essex-class carriers. Five biggest carriers, the Intrepid … well, anyway, you've won a lot of commendations, from Davy Jones’ locker to the Salesian Boys Club. [laughter]


ALFREDO: Oh, yes. I still am active in the church in here. Totally.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. And you've always been active in the church too, I take it?


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: Well, was that sort of the center of your cultural life as an Italian community?


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: Well, I understand also there were events in Washington Square, for example. There were fairs in the summer, circuses came, there were a lot of performances. Is that correct?


ALFREDO: That's correct. Yes.


RITA: It was a lot of performing…


ALFREDO: And we have still, we have the Columbus Day celebration.


JUDITH: Oh, yes.


ALFREDO: Oh, still we have. In October, first week of October.


JUDITH: Tell me something about … did you participate in that? Would you be active in arranging the parade and so on?


RITA: No. That's a…


ALFREDO: I'm at work. I was working. I don't go to in the night.


JUDITH: OK. So you were active in church bazaars and things of that nature? Alright.


ALFREDO: Yes. The church, I am active in church.


JUDITH: Well, uh, is your family also a Calabrese?


ALFREDO: Oh, yes.


JUDITH: You're both Calabrese?


ALFREDO: Yes. Same thing.


JUDITH: Tom Cara mentioned that when he was growing up in the 1910s and ‘20s … Tom was born in 1910, I believe… [Transcriber’s note: Thomas Cara was a North Beach-born Italian businessman who imported espresso machines to the U.S. after World War Two. He operated Thomas E. Cara, Ltd. at 517 Pacific Avenue for many years, selling and repairing machines. An oral history of Cara conducted in 1994 by Judith Robinson is available on THD’s website.]


ANNA: Yes. Me it was the 9th.


JUDITH: Right. You're about the same age? He remembers that the Calabrese lived on Kearny Street. The Genovese lived on [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] … is that true?


ALFREDO: It's true. These are all Sicilian people.


RITA: These were Sicilian people.


ALFREDO: And then right here, the water’s here. The Bay Street, there was water in here.


JUDITH: There was still water up to Bay Street?


ALFREDO: Yes. [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: Wow!


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: When you came in the ‘30s?


ALFREDO: '33.


JUDITH: That's amazing.


RITA: Well, the … you know, the … [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


ALFREDO: No. [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


RITA: No. The trains were there, Dad.


ALFREDO: The train was here too. Yes.


JUDITH: But the Sicilians lived from Francisco down, right? And then is it true that the Calabrese lived on Kearny Street up there? What…?


ALFREDO: Well, I mean, then there was nothing in the streets in there that the Sicilian [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.] … this is almost, I say around 78 to 80 percent Italian people.


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ANNA: You know, what kind?


ALFREDO: No, I mean…


ANNA: Is it Sicilian?


ALFREDO: Well, Sicilian and Calabriasian.


[Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


RITA: Up here. It's definitely in the … where the Calabrese…


JUDITH: On the Kearny Street hill above Broadway?


RITA: Above, around like…


ALFREDO: No, I think.


JUDITH: On the top of Telegraph Hill?


RITA: Yeah.


JUDITH: OK.


RITA: Not down.


JUDITH: No, no. But on the top of the hill around Kearny, on the top of the hill up there? Below … right below Coit Tower?


RITA: Yes. Yes, Castle.


JUDITH: Castle Alley…?


RITA: That was all … that.


JUDITH: Well, then where did the Genovese live? On Varennes Alley or something like that?


ALFREDO: Well, they were mostly on the top of the hill in there.


JUDITH: Genovese on there. Yes … did people intermarry, though, once they got to America? Or were there a lot of rivalries between provincial sectors?


ALFREDO: Well, I don't make a mistake on that. Before there was a land [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] in Stockton, there was a fight. The Chinese and Italian people. [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo is apparently referring to Stockton Street, which is a transition zone between Chinatown and North Beach.]


JUDITH: They fought even then, huh? Real fighting? I mean…?


ALFREDO: Not in there.


ANNA: Yeah, one the Chinese…


JUDITH: It was a cutoff point for the Chinese … from Chinatown?


ALFREDO: That's right. That's right. Now it's Chinese [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.] All over the city now, all over.


JUDITH: Right.


RITA: There was definitely a war. Even.


JUDITH: Yes. Well, it was even that way when I first came here in 1957. Chinatown was pretty much confined. It was definitely below Broadway. They get into … there was no Chinese ownership.


ALFREDO: The Chinese they get strong … Lake Street now. They got another Chinatown, a second Chinatown in there. [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo is apparently referring to Lake Street in the Inner Richmond District of San Francisco.]


JUDITH: Yes. They say that we even live in [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here].


ALFREDO: Yes.


JUDITH: There aren't very many of us left in this area, I'm afraid. [chuckles]


RITA: No. 


JUDITH: Well, now, uh, were there a lot of different shops? Did you shop every day for example? You bought your fresh fruit and vegetables?


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: There were no supermarkets?


RITA: No.


ALFREDO: They have a small store.


JUDITH: Where did you shop? There were some wonderful grocery stores here, actually.


ALFREDO: It was a market. It [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] many ones on Vallejo.


ANNA: It was [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here].


JUDITH: Right.


RITA: The creamery, Mom.


JUDITH: The what?


ANNA: Remember the creamery?


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here.]


JUDITH: Creamery? Is that where they had the ice cream, the wonderful ice cream?


RITA: When we used to go in there and get the [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here], right? [Transcriber’s note: Rita Pisciotta explained in 2021 that she and her mother were referring to a creamery that made mozzarella, ricotta and other cheeses.]


ANNA: Yes.


JUDITH: Ricotta. Cheese?


RITA: On Stockton, right on the alley there.


ANNA: Now [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] bank.


RITA: Where … you know where they, you know where they come … what alley is that? When you come out of the…?


JUDITH: Card Alley? Card Alley. I just interviewed a lady who lives there.


RITA: Well, that. Where the bank, there's a Eureka Bank.


JUDITH: Right. Next to the Eureka Bank and Vieni bar. [Transcriber’s note: Per Judith Robinson, the reference is to a bar called “Vieni Vieni Lucky Spot” at 1431 Stockton Street in North Beach. The Eureka Bank on Stockton was across Card Alley from the bar, near the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Green Street.]


RITA: The Eureka Bank used to be a creamery. I now remember that. But yes.


JUDITH: Oh, really? The bank was the creamery?


RITA: It was right there, wasn't it, Mom? The creamery? 


ANNA: Yes.


JUDITH: Uh-huh.


ANNA: It was the bank. The bank of was [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here]…


RITA: No, not Bank of America. Where was the creamery?


ANNA: Right there.


RITA: Where the bank…?


ANNA: In Stockton.


RITA: Yes.


JUDITH: In Card Alley. Yes. Well, that's what I had heard. They had fresh milk products there. And, of course, then there were the wonderful, still the wonderful delicatessens like Florence Ravioli and Molinari’s. And there was a wonderful one I remember on Vallejo…


ALFREDO: How about the Salami factory?


JUDITH: The Salami factory. That's what it was.


ALFREDO: Columbus...


JUDITH: Right.


ALFREDO: It's a Buchetti was the owner. And now he's a big shot. A multi- multi- multi-millionaire. They got the big place in down in Hayward. 


JUDITH: All on salami?


ALFREDO: No. They got the big old house and they got the 40 acres, and they got four buildings there.


JUDITH: Did he make all his money on Salami?


ALFREDO: Well, now they got anything … [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


ANNA: Now. But they have the salami then they can…


ALFREDO: No, no. They started with the salami.


JUDITH: Picetti? P-I-C-E-T-T-I?


RITA: “B.” Buchetti.


JUDITH: B-U-C-C-I-T-?


[Transcriber’s note: series of unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: And so everyday you go up and get your fresh bread and fresh vegetables and fruits?


RITA: Yes, yes. For years. Which baker did you use, Ma?


ANNA: I used the Cuneo. [Transcriber’s note: Anna is referring to Cuneo Bakery on Green Street, per Rita Pisciotta. Cuneo Bakery started as a retail bakery on Green Street in North Beach in 1887. Cuneo is now a wholesale bakery based in South San Francisco.]


ALFREDO: Cuneo, that's right.


ANNA: Cuneo bread on Green.


JUDITH: On Green?


ANNA: Green Street.


JUDITH: All right. And did you have? … why … would you go to other bakeries for special things? I mean, did the sacripantina always come from the one bakery on Columbus? [Transcriber’s note: Sacripantina is a dome cake of Genoese origin.]


ANNA: I'd buy it all day, all the time.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. It's Stella Bakery.


ANNA: Stella? That wasn't there before?


JUDITH: It wasn't?


ALFREDO: Yes.


ANNA: No.


RITA: I don't think Stella is supposed to…


JUDITH: Oh, good for you.


RITA: Is in there.


JUDITH: Columbus, distributing salami. Well, that doesn't have the name of the original. But it was called the Salami Factory.


ALFREDO: Yes, yes. That's the name I was thinking. Yes.


ANNA: Yes. That's the name they called them salami.


ALFREDO: Mr. Buchetti? … no.


ANNA: And they call them salami in there.


JUDITH: Now Rita, you mentioned a few things on the phone that you thought would be worth highlighting. Can you recall what they were and remind your parents about some of the interesting…?


RITA: Well, I thought that she was … that she was eight months pregnant. How far along were you when you came around the boat? You were about eight months pregnant, weren't you?


ANNA: Six months.


RITA: Six.


JUDITH: Uh-huh. When you first came. And you came on a boat.


ANNA: On a boat. Yes.


ALFREDO: Oh, yes. on a boat.


ANNA: Take me 18 days.


ALFREDO: Sienna. French boat. Sienna.


JUDITH: French boat. The Sienna?


ALFREDO: Sienna.


RITA: French.


JUDITH: And where did you sail from? Naples, or…?


ANNA: Naples.


ALFREDO: In Naples. Yes.


RITA: Just stopping in North Africa, Algeria?


[Transcriber’s note: break in audiotape here.]


ALFREDO: Oh, we stop right now, Algeria.


JUDITH: Algeria?


ALFREDO: Yeah, with people that they … and the women cover their face when they're on the street.


JUDITH: Yeah. So you got off and went into the city there?

 

RITA: Just a little...


ALFREDO: Just a little in there.


RITA: ...and they went too far. Because it was [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] book today.


JUDITH: Two days in Algeria? And then where did it stop?


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here] 


JUDITH: Oh, they went over?


Rita: Yeah.


JUDITH: Was it crowded, was it full?


RITA: No. It wasn't terribly.


JUDITH: OK. Because people weren’t yet fleeing Europe? The war had not yet really broken out and it was not.


RITA: Yeah. And it was not broken out.


JUDITH: All right. Some of the other things that you were wanting to highlight now?


ALFREDO: I remember when I come in there …. olive oil [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] … imported from Italy. 79 cents a gallon.


JUDITH: Now $8.79 for a tiny bottle.


RITA: Yeah. [laughter]


ALFREDO: Now … [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: I know. You never had any problem here, I hope, right?


ALFREDO: No. Thank you, God, no. 


JUDITH: Yeah.


ALFREDO: Wait a minute … I have a trouble…


JUDITH: What?


ALFREDO: There were two, one. What are they … I was working with Daini, I was doing a janitor work, too.


JUDITH: Ah-ha. Also a janitor?


ALFREDO: Janitor, yeah.


JUDITH: You had another baby on the way and you were…?


ALFREDO: [laughter] And then I was going around five or six o'clock in the morning, and I was walk … I want to go to the Market Street and then in this Stockton they stole the jewelry shop...


ANNA: There is…


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here]


ALFREDO: I [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] in there. They [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] I cannot enter. And then my brother when I come home at around 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning. He said you know, "What do you mean shooter? Who told you that?" The man that … there was three people, and they steal in the jewelry shop.


JUDITH: You saw a hold up? A robbery? [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo is telling a story here about encountering a jewelry store robbery while he was walking to work.]


ALFREDO: A robbery. And then one of the three says, "you want to shoot him?" And he says, "They don't know what's going on. Leave him alone."


JUDITH: So you were going to the store? 


ALFREDO: No, I was going to the janitor's work.


JUDITH: Right, and…


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here] 


JUDITH: … the store they were robbing?


ALFREDO: Robbing the stuff. And we found out in the morning they robbing the store. And I [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] in there, and that's why I remember it … [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] my brother where did I mention there's a shoot. "Who told you that?" "It's somebody." I left around 11 o'clock, there wasn't … people are still there in the jewelry shop.


JUDITH: Now was that the store where you did your janitor work, or you were just passing by?


ALFREDO: No, no. I passed, I was walking.


JUDITH: You were walking by?


ALFREDO: Walking, walking and I stopped.


JUDITH: And you saw three men in the store at 5 o'clock in the morning?


ALFREDO: Around 5 or 6.


JUDITH: Yeah. And they were robbing the store?


ALFREDO: I don’t know. They had a gun, and I don’t know what they're looking for. And one of the three says…


JUDITH: Did you see the guns?


ALFREDO: No, no, no.


JUDITH: Well, it was just that it turned out that the people you saw in the store were robbing it? 


ALFREDO: Robbing. It was on the news around 11 o'clock or 10:30 in the morning, yeah.


JUDITH: Now, you didn't speak English then? Did you always speak Italian in your home? … but the children like you, Rita, learned English in school?


ALFREDO: When they went in school.


RITA: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here].


JUDITH: Oh, they didn't? You spoke English to the children. But Italian you retained with each other? 


RITA: Well, this was, I mean, I understand Italian perfectly because I grew up in the community and I heard it constantly. They would not speak to us in Italian. They spoke [Italian] to one another and all their relatives and friends in the neighborhood. I mean, Italian was spoken everywhere. So…


JUDITH: So all the children are bilingual like yourself?


RITA: My youngest brother is not because he's like nine, he's about nine years younger than I am. And by that time, things had changed. North Beach had changed a lot and there wasn't … most of the fishermen had gone, I mean, all these are Italian-speaking, everything has changed. Most of the fishermen didn't speak English.


JUDITH: So when you’d go out into the shops, and on the streets, you'd hear Italian? 


RITA: Right. And so that's how I learned the language, by hearing it.


JUDITH: Yeah.


RITA: They would say certain things like we never [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] … I mean, at that time.


JUDITH: Right. So you wanted your children to learn English first?


ALFREDO: Yeah. I mean, that's good. Everybody went to Saints Peter and Paul school. 


JUDITH: So they didn't teach Italian there either as a second language?


ALFREDO: No.


RITA: There was after school Italian lessons…


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here]


RITA: …but I mean it was not, it was not integrated into the curriculum. And most of … a good number of the kids did understand the language but didn't speak it. But some of us did.


JUDITH: Do you use your Italian in your work at all? 


ALFREDO: No.


RITA: I do because I'm a nurse, and I use it and whenever they get an Italian patient.


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here]


JUDITH: Right? Well, it's a great skill to be bilingual and one should take advantage of it. Were there many non-Italians in school when you were going to school, Rita? It was still predominantly Italian?


RITA: I'd say it was 90 percent Italian.


JUDITH: Ninety percent Italian.


RITA: If not more, I'm thinking.


ALFREDO: Chinese… 


RITA: I think it was probably more than 90 percent.


JUDITH: But very few Chinese or non-Italians were…?


ALFREDO: At that time there wasn't any Chinese.


JUDITH: No Chinese? OK.


RITA: There were … I never had a…


ALFREDO: I met just a few. Now you got 60 to 70 percent are Chinese.


ANNA: There was a black or two.


RITA: Yeah. Not … there were, you know, 99 percent Italian.


JUDITH: Your mother … you were a homemaker pretty much all your life and active in the church?


RITA: Another thing you might find interesting is this: when they … when they purchased this property next door [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.] Ma, you want to tell them when you bought that property next door down?


ALFREDO: Where?


RITA: The house I'm living in. Next door, 48. 2048.


ALFREDO: The building next door, and we pay $5,500. Two flights and a garage.


JUDITH: In 1938?


ALFREDO: ‘38 or ‘39?


RITA: ‘39.


ALFREDO: And then the bank give it to me $1000, I don't have any money. My brother and my cousin says, "Go ahead, you buy way up your…"


JUDITH: The bank would only lend you $1,000? The Bank of America, Mr. Giannini’s bank?


ALFREDO: Yeah. No, Wells Fargo Bank.


JUDITH: It was Wells?


ALFREDO: Yeah, Wells and that's [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: So you didn't bank at Mr. Giannini’s bank? [Transcriber’s note: Amadeo Pietro Giannini, also known as A. P. Giannini, was an Italian-American banker who founded the Bank of Italy in 1904 in San Francisco, which later became Bank of America].


ALFREDO: It wasn't enough money.


ANNA: You've been there now for how many years?


ALFREDO: I was never there and then [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: Good for you. You did a wise thing. Owning property here is …. and now this is another interesting fact: you've never moved out of North Beach?


ALFREDO: No. 


JUDITH: So many people did after they got older or their children grew up. Why did you stay here?


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] … in Marin County. 


JUDITH: And where? Marin County. 


ALFREDO: Marin County. 


JUDITH: So that was your way of getting out of the city, a second home? [Transcriber’s note: Alfredo and his wife purchased a second home in Woodacre, a rural town in Marin County.]


ALFREDO: There was a boat [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] at that time.


JUDITH: Oh, yeah, a ferry.


ANNA: You put the car inside the boat.


ALFREDO: Oh, yeah. And they got to [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.] 


JUDITH: Oh, you had a boat?


ALFREDO: No.


JUDITH: A car ferry that went to go? Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. Well, that was wonderful. The car ferries.


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


ANNA: The house you bought when I was about … you bought it in the ‘40s.


ALFREDO: The wartime. We [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] we have the place, yeah.


JUDITH: Is it in West Marin? 


RITA: Woodacre.


ALFREDO: You know San Rafael?


JUDITH: Sure.


ALFREDO: It's around a 15 miles from San Rafael and it's [past] Fairfax. 


JUDITH: Yeah. 


ALFREDO: Alright. From Fairfax and Woodacre five or six miles. 


JUDITH: OK, so it's in Woodacre?


ALFREDO: Yeah. My son is living there now.


JUDITH: Sure. Well, there were a lot of Italians who had farms over there and ranches.


ALFREDO: No ranch because Woodacre is on a mountain. Not much ranches in there. 


JUDITH: Your brother had a farm? 


ALFREDO: A house, too.


JUDITH: Oh, a house … because I know many of the … many Italians have the dairy farms and still do.


ALFREDO: There is still one dairy farm there.


JUDITH: In that area that you have your house?


ALFREDO: Yeah. And now they got the Golf Course. I don't know. San Geronimo Golf Course?


RITA: Winemaking.


JUDITH: There's some winemaking there, too?


RITA: My father used to make wine.


JUDITH: Oh, yes. Now tell us about winemaking. I love those stories where you'd go down to the Embarcadero and the wine trains came in. 


ANNA: Yeah.


ALFREDO: No, I have a lot of Italian people, and they have a farm down in there in Santa Rosa and Petaluma in there. And they was deliver grapes for me. 


JUDITH: They delivered right to your door?


ALFREDO: Yeah. I have a little place down in Marin, like I said, Woodacre. I have a tank in there, I have a machine to crush it.


RITA: But Dad, you used to make it next door in the basement I remember. 


ALFREDO: I was making 150 gallons a year.


JUDITH: A hundred and 50 gallons a year?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Red and white?


ALFREDO: Most is red.


JUDITH: So you made it next door on Stockton Street and also later over in Marin?


ALFREDO: No, no, I make some of it here, too. Yeah. 


RITA: But later we used to make it in Marin. But initially…


ALFREDO: At that time we pay the grapes in there, around maybe $95 or $100 a ton. Now, you have to go with around $900 a ton.


JUDITH: Really? Wow.


ALFREDO: I know. I went from making in my place, too, because I have grapes. I planted grapes [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] my own grapes.


JUDITH: You raised your own grapes?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Yeah. Did you have special grapes that you preferred? 


ALFREDO: Well, I don't know the name, the plant name.


JUDITH: They were just right for the wine? 


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Yeah. Well, so you had your own winemaking equipment then? 


ALFREDO: Yes, I still have it.


JUDITH: Still have it? In the basement of Stockton Street?


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] … I got the crusher and the big tank in there.


JUDITH: Crusher and the … what's the others?


ANNA: Tank.


JUDITH: Tank. 


ANNA: You know about the tank?


ALFREDO: No, the tank is broken. Yeah.


RITA: I remember as a child climbing in this huge, big tank.


ALFREDO: Tank. Crusher with the machine. 


JUDITH: How big was the tank? 


ALFREDO: I remember it was that … yeah, my grandson in there. I got a photograph someplace in there [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: You get in and walk on it with your feet? Take your shoes and socks off?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


RITA: Women and children.


JUDITH: Women and children? Only women and children walked on it? So you would climb into this huge bed. Do you remember how big it was? Was it six feet high?


RITA: I remember the one here. 


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here]


JUDITH: Why? What were the diameters?


ALFREDO: No. The bigger tank is in…


RITA: You had a big one that we have in the basement here that was in [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here.]


ALFREDO: I feel I have it at top. 


RITA: Yeah, I'd say that's probably about maybe five feet.


ALFREDO: 40, 43.


JUDITH: Five feet high? By about five feet in diameter?


RITA: At least, maybe bigger.


JUDITH: Five plus.


RITA: May have been about maybe six.


JUDITH: And that would make how many bottles of wine?


ALFREDO: 150 gallons.


JUDITH: 150 gallons. OK. And that was for your own use, your family?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: Would you use most of that during the year and then make another batch? 


ANNA: Yeah. 


ALFREDO: Oh, yeah.


JUDITH: When did you make wine? In the fall, after the grape harvest?


ALFREDO: October.


JUDITH: In October. North Beach must have smelled pretty good in October?


RITA: You can always tell who was making wine. You can smell it if you walk by.


JUDITH: You can always tell. You can smell that aroma.


RITA: It was a cool whiff of … I can still remember the cool whiff of fermenting wine in the basement.


JUDITH: And did most people do it? 


ALFREDO: Well…


RITA: No, I don't think that many did it.


ALFREDO: Not too many.


RITA: In North Beach. But there were some that did. And then there is … like I said, you always know who did because there was that very familiar…


ALFREDO: As a matter of fact, I still have the crusher.


JUDITH: The crusher?


ALFREDO: The crusher when it was [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: First it goes into the…?


RITA: There's a hand crank.


ALFREDO: Let it boil for two-three days.


RITA: Ferment.


JUDITH: Ferment.


ALFREDO: And then we'll take it out, we'll take it out and put in the bottle. 


JUDITH: And…?


ALFREDO: Fifty gallons a bottle, let them [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: Put them in gallons or in liters?


ALFREDO: No, after it you have to ferment it in the wood.


JUDITH: In the wooden vat? First, it ferments in the wooden vat?


ALFREDO: That's right.


JUDITH: And then you pressure…?


ALFREDO: You check if it is clean. You transfer it in a glass bottle.


JUDITH: Well, tell me the steps of the process. The grapes first went into the crusher?


ALFREDO: Yeah. First, to the crusher, and the tank have to be nice and dry. Yeah, I mean, then loosen it, because you have to put the water before you put grapes in there. Maybe around a week, and you have to give them water expand … not water.


JUDITH: OK, so first they're put in water?


ALFREDO: Yeah, in the wood.


JUDITH: In the wooden vat?


ALFREDO: In the wooden tank.


JUDITH: In a wooden tank, rather. And they sit there and that's where they ferment?


ALFREDO: Yeah, yeah. Two, three days.


JUDITH: And then they ferment in two to three days?


ALFREDO: You transfer it.


JUDITH: Transfer them to? 


ALFREDO: The bottles.


RITA: Barrels. 


JUDITH: Barrels?


ALFREDO: Yeah.


JUDITH: And then when do they go to the crusher?


RITA: When they crush you crush it.


ALFREDO: Crush it. Crush it. When we take it from the tank [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] were putting the crush. 


JUDITH: First to the crusher, then to water to ferment in the bath … OK, you said you put water in…?


ALFREDO: You know to make it a tank it [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


RITA: And they wouldn’t need to [get] to the stage … to swell and what did it [to] become water-tight, all the water out of the grapes … to seal them, so you want to make sure [of] that.


ALFREDO: It's a lot of work, a lot of work. 


JUDITH: Yeah, you put them in the wooden tank after the tank has been swollen up with... 


ALFREDO: Absolutely right.


JUDITH: Alright … and after it's fermented two to three days then you transfer it to the barrels and from the barrels to the bottles. Did you cork your bottles or did you put them under? 


ALFREDO: No, no. Bottle put them in the five-gallon glass tank. When you pick it up from the big bottle… [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


Rita: You need to put them in the individual bottles.


JUDITH: OK, which of these barrels … you went to 50-gallon barrels? 


RITA: And barrels in there sealed … are you keeping the barrels, Dad?


ALFREDO: Two months.


RITA: Two months in the barrel. 


JUDITH: OK, to age…


ALFREDO: You have to be nice and clean.


JUDITH: And then from the barrels you…? 


RITA: He would put them in big glass-like… 


JUDITH: Five-gallon glass containers. 


RITA: And then at that point, some people would put them in bottles and cork them. He didn't … [Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here] He put it in glass, a five-gallon glass… 


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here].


JUDITH: Was that wine pretty good?


RITA: By the end of the year? Well, you know it's not … by the end of the year, most of it is

turned to vinegar … because it's a natural process of the wine, no preservatives. So, you know, by the end of the year we had wonderful vinegar, too, which each year we [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: Oh, yeah.


RITA: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: So you don't make wine anymore? 


ALFREDO: No, no, it's too expensive. 

 

JUDITH: When did you stop making it? 


ALFREDO: Stop? What was your last run, five or six years ago? No, not … what I said is …


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here].


ALFREDO: About 10 to 12 years ago. 


JUDITH: That's pretty recent. Yeah. So now you have to buy your wine at the store?


ALFREDO: Where it's more for me, yeah.


JUDITH: A lot easier for you. 


RITA: … to learn how to make wine.


JUDITH: Oh, yeah.


ALFREDO: Before I can do any thinking and [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.] 


JUDITH: Maybe 12 to 15 years ago … well, do you teach your grandson and did you teach your sons how to make wine and know some of the old traditions? [Transcriber’s note: cross-talk here]

 

RITA: We just didn't. 


ALFREDO: No, it too expensive … and now you have to pay close to $900 alright … [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] cost $700 a gallon.


JUDITH: Nine hundred dollars a time?


ALFREDO: Minimum 900 now.


JUDITH: It's $78 a gallon. So then worthwhile for you.


ALFREDO: You know, a lot of work, too, and you have to clean this stuff very clean and neat. 


JUDITH: All right, you have to make it plain so it's…


RITA: You have to [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here]  the right “mother.” You use the same “mother” when you ferment. [Transcriber’s note: “Mother” is a substance of cellulose and acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids and is added to wine, cider, vinegar and other alcoholic liquids to produce vinegar.]


ALFREDO: Oh, yeah, yeah. 


JUDITH: Did you carry the “mother” from year to year and keep it in a bottle or how?


ALFREDO: No, no, no. 


JUDITH: How did you get the “mother?” 


ALFREDO: The “mother” from [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here]. Yeah, you know, left over … the one in a nice clean … and you put [it] in another 5-gallon can and ferment in there and they come on here. 


JUDITH: OK, so you use “mother” that you got from the vinegar product of the previous year's crop? 


ALFREDO: Yeah, mostly. Yeah.


JUDITH: But you knew … you must have learned how to do this from your father?


ALFREDO: Well, maybe I can do with Antonio, and he is one of your younger … [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: So in October people were busy asking their friends for help with their winemaking, and then you go help somebody?


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] … in here they making wine.


JUDITH: Oh, you've got a cousin that still does it?


RITA: Yeah, it's my cousin's son who wouldn't … this man that he's speaking about, his grandson, is actually still making wine. He's gotten [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: But he makes it himself in Fairfax?


RITA: Yeah.


JUDITH: Oh, that’s wonderful.


RITA: But it's not the family grapes. 


JUDITH: Were there other traditions that they passed down to you that you're passing on to your son, Rita? 


ALFREDO: No, no, no. 


RITA: Not too many. 


JUDITH: Well, but you still celebrate some of the large religious celebrations? I imagine Easter, and you celebrate certain saints’ days?


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: Yeah, you're buying the wine. I was talking now about some of the customs that you have had in practice.


RITA: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] used to go Gustine. Tell them about Gustine. [Transcriber’s note: Gustine is a city in Merced County, California.] 


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here].


JUDITH: And that's…? 


ALFREDO: I have a cousin over there. Then I was making wine over there.


RITA: We would go to…


ALFREDO: Go to Stockton.


JUDITH: Gustine being a person?


RITA: Gustine is a little town, in the San Joaquin Valley.


JUDITH: Oh.


RITA: Same little town.


ALFREDO: We've got the lady 105 years old. [Transcriber’s note: it’s unclear what Alfredo is referring to here.]


JUDITH: And why would you go to Gustine?


ALFREDO: Hundred and five years old. 


JUDITH: A cousin of yours is 105?


ALFREDO: Hundred and five. She comes from Italy.


JUDITH: And why would you go to Gustine? Is that G-U-S-T…? 


ALFREDO: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here] all the way we have a procession with feast in there and a celebration. 


RITA: It was the same fiesta, the same feast day celebrated in their village.


JUDITH: Ah, for a feast day celebrated in San Sosti?


RITA: Right.


JUDITH: OK, so there were a lot of people from the same area or town there? So that was the celebration of the Madonna day what? [Transcriber’s note: Alfred and Rita are describing a Madonna del Pettoruto celebration that took place annually in the town of Gustine, California.]


[Transcriber’s note: cross-talking here]


JUDITH: Petra Ruko? 


ALFREDO: No. 


JUDITH: What does it mean in English?


ALFREDO: Name?


JUDITH: Perpetual Help. Madonna. Perpetual help. Yeah, I you adore in something like.

Something like that. Well, anyway, that's one of the things that you did to carry on traditions from the old...?


ALFREDO: Still we have a [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here].


JUDITH: Have a picture of the Madonna of perpetual help?


RITA: It's not actually…


JUDITH: Oh, yes, that's the Madonna of perpetual help. Well, here it is. Maria di Pettoruto.


RITA: Yeah.


JUDITH: P-E-T-T-O-R-U-T-O. 


RITA: Yes. And so a lot of the villagers...


ALFREDO: Before we have a celebration in the first weekend of September. One week, yeah, But now [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


JUDITH: You are? 


ALFREDO: Yeah. 


JUDITH: From San Sosti?


RITA: [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible words here.]


ALFREDO: They have a celebration in September for one week.


JUDITH: One week?


ALFREDO: And they have a regular fair, they sell the animals, they put a [Transcriber’s note: unintelligible word here] anything.


JUDITH: It was a real fair?


ALFREDO: Great fair. Yeah. Where people came to trade … that's right. One week. 


RITA: It was like the highlight of our year for us kids.


JUDITH: You remember it. Must have been music, whether it be a lot of Italian music. Now that reminds me: Do you all share a love of opera with your country people? 


ALFREDO: Yeah, we went and … now too old.


JUDITH: All right, that's, well, maybe you could just help me fill in a few blanks here.

I think I got all the children's names. Your children: it's Raymond, Rita, Frank and Alfredo?


[END OF INTERVIEW]