People ask “Do you still go to church at St. Anthony’s?” Of course, those are the people that aren’t on Facebook or my column email list, don’t go to meetings of the Spaghetti-Os or haven’t seen my one-man George Pullman show. Otherwise they would know that I bake something every Sunday for the 8:30 a.m. Mass Coffee Club. Not only do I bake, I do the second reading in Italian at that Mass.
This is the Mass that brings many of us longtime St. Anthony parishioners from the “old days” together. We look forward to this Mass because it allows us to catch up with our old friends on a weekly basis. Well, every so often that boat gets rocked!
Our lives after Mass are preordained. We sit, talk, drink coffee and eat pastries. We feel a sense of purpose and of direction for that period of time, which always involves sharing stories and friendship. Whenever there’s a special Mass ceremony or holiday service, or the decision is made to not have religion classes or make coffee in the church hall, we’re left as nomads wandering in the desert. In our minds, that time is set aside specifically to meet up and share.
However, this past New Year’s Day — a Sunday — the tables were turned and our group of nomads had a marvelous time. Beverly Carli took up the slack and invited the group to her home.
And. So. We did.
I made a quick stop at my house and picked up three-quarters of a tiramisù cake from my daughter Jamie’s New Year’s dinner party, got back into my car and was up the street at Beverly’s in a minute — we’re both Pullmanites.
You could feel the camaraderie in the air as we shared stories and different topics. The group was made up of John Pesavento from Valpariaso, Julia Munoz from 116th Street, Coco Venturin and Olga Brazale Claeson from Lowell, Jo Navarette from 116th Street, Cathy Sandona from 121st and Lafayette, Ana Magnabosco from Dyer, and our gracious hostess Beverly Carli and myself from Pullman.
Beverly had the coffee going as soon as we got in the door and put out some biscotti and Italian cookies as we gathered enough chairs for all of us around the dining table. There was plenty to eat and the coffee was soon served and the conversation flowed like smooth butter.
It was a seamless conversation as it went from one topic to another with ease. Coco Venturin brought up the fact she’d had her ancestry test done and found the results she’d expected — that she’s 87 percent Eastern European. This got Beverly’s attention as she and her daughter Lisa had just gone to Italy this past fall.
They had gone down to Calabria where Beverly’s Angio family had migrated from. At first, it had seemed that there was no one left that was directly related to her. However, by the time she and Lisa arrived in town, her father’s cousin’s daughters were waiting for her. Of course, what ensued was the chance of a lifetime. It turned out that no one in the family that had ever departed Italy had ever returned.
Beverly asked to see the house her grandmother had lived in until she immigrated and was touched by the century-old house. It had a small doorway — the better to keep out the cold — with two windows that were more like horizontal slits. The manger, or cattle pen, was attached to the house. Not for the benefit of the animals, but so that their heat would help in keeping the house warm. Beverly and Lisa were also treated to a gala feast in their honor and as a highlight for their having returned to their ancestral birthplace.
The conversation took a turn to current news when someone brought up the CTA’s Redline Expansion Project. That project will definitely affect a number of St. Anthony parishioners living in proximity to the tracks that run southeast through the Kensington community in the area of Kensington Playground.
We all knew that area from way back when some of us called it Morandi’s Park because of Morandi’s Ice House and the fact that Morandi maintained the park. Also, it was where the “Bumtown Gents” and other kids hung around by the “keyholes” in the viaduct.
John Pesavento mentioned the grocery store on the corner of 116th and Prairie — Royal Blue. It is still there after all these years, but with a different name. Both the CTA expansion and Kensington Park are close to where Julia Munoz and her daughter Sandy, and Jo Navarette live on 116th so they expect some changes to their part of the community.
Olga Brazale Claeson voiced her opinion on how things have changed throughout the community we grew up. We all agreed that we longed for the good old days, but also agreed that things probably would have changed anyway as that’s how life goes. Olga is a graduate of Pullman Tech, which just had an all-class reunion in mid-October that was well attended. Since the school closed in 1950 — over 65 years ago — the youngest graduates attending were well into their late 70s with the oldest being in their mid-90s.
Cathy Sandona talked about her friendly neighbors who always look out for her. She’s lived in the same house at 120th and Lafayette since the 1970s and is happy there. Of course, there’s occasionally an issue, but nothing anyone else hasn’t experienced in their neighborhood.
Beverly and I talked about Pullman and the fact that there are so few houses up for sale. We also discussed the upcoming groundbreaking for the Pullman Artist Lofts that will be built on the 111th block of Langley Avenue. There will be 38 live/work artist units in four new buildings and utilizing two existing block buildings. This project has been in the planning stages for six years and is finally coming to fruition. The project will add new life blood to Pullman in keeping with its proclamation as the Pullman National Monument of the National Park Service.
Ana Magnabosco brought up the interesting topic of her daughter Nadia receiving her driver’s license. We’ve all watched Nadia grow up to be this confident, beautiful young woman and fondly recall her many years at our coffee club.
Julia Munoz also mentioned her late son Gilbert’s father-in-law, Mr. Zamora, has turned 103 years old. I recall Mr. Zamora from years ago when Gilbert and his wife Maria lived in the rear house, behind Gil’s mom. Mr. Zamora is a Tex-Mex and proud of his ranchero roots. He has always dressed impeccably in western wear from his boots to his belt buckle and shirt and, occasionally, with his cowboy hat. Everyone who has met Mr. Zamora is duly impressed, not only by his dress but by his stature and gentle demeanor — which he still possesses.
By now, you all get the point — we had a great, impromptu time talking about everything from the good old days to topics that are relevant today. We all left Beverly’s home feeling as though we had the New Year by the tail and invigorated to meet the year head on — come what may. By the way, did you notice we didn’t discuss politics!
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