October 16, 2003
My very first awareness of life that I can remember is living on Louisville, the only house on the east side of the street, south of West Park and on the north side of the alley. The house originally was of almost black shingles with a front porch all across the front, but is now white and the original porch is enclosed with the house. Across the street was a huge clay hill. The neighbor across the alley was my sitter and I remember sleeping upstairs and waking to the rooster crowing in the morning. Her yard consisted of about three of the properties next to that house now. It is such a pleasant memory.
Around the age of 3, in the midst of the depression, we moved downstairs from my grandparents at 1019 or 1025 Tamm Ave (the numbers were changed). My father had a truck and created his own business of coal and general hauling and made and sold homebrew. I can remember many men from the neighborhood in our kitchen having a beer.
Periodically I have asked one of our grandchildren to close their eyes and visualize what I tell them it was like to be a small child from 3 to 6 in those early days. At daybreak, Mr. Derenzo, who lived on the corner, came around to extinguish the gas lights he lit at dusk. White Bakery and Pevely Dairy delivery wagons were horse drawn as was the ice wagon and you could always receive a piece of ice from either the Dairy or the Iceman. Everyone had a card that went up in the window indicating how much ice they needed, 25, 50 or 100 pounds. This was just before refrigerators. Milk came in glass bottles with thick cream at the top. It was a pretty active morning. Somewhere in that time, the horses changed to motors.
In the afternoons, you may have an organ grinder walking down the street with a little monkey who danced around with a tin cup for your pennies or what have you. There was a very short heavy set man who came around carrying a pack on his back bigger than he was and a small box of notions, like thread and needles, elastic, small items. The backpack contained any number of articles, only one of a kind and in one size and it just may happen to be your size. By the time he finished laying out each piece, you almost had to buy something, dishtowel, sweater, underpants, etc. My mother always bought something. A little later in the afternoon, a green truck that opened in the back with a walkway and bins of vegetables and fruits on either side would make its appearance.
There were automobiles and trucks but everyone didn't have them and many people that I knew of didn't get too far out of the neighborhood very often. I remember my father taking a group of young people on a truck ride of a Sunday afternoon. We also had Velous grocery store right on the block.
In the evenings, of course, the lamplighter and always, the "Hot Tamale Man:". In later years, I finally had the opportunity to buy one and it was delicious. That was rare because they didn't come around that frequently anymore. Also, in the evening, you might catch a medicine show. I specifically remember one on the wedge where Clayton meets Oakland an empty lot at Hi-Pointe. In order to advertise a new medication, linamint or whatever, they would have this painted decorated wagon which opened like a stage and some kind of entertainment and then the Master of Cermonies would make his pitch.
A big outing for us was a trip to the Zoo during the day and to the Muny Opera in the free seats at night. After the show, many people including my grandparents, spread their blankets and pillows and slept in the park! I learned to love the opera the rest of my life and in my single teen years often went every week and I still have the programs in my scrapbooks.
From the ages of 7 to 9, we lived on January Avenue just off West Park and every Sunday morning I walked, all by myself, up to St. James Church and down Tamm Avenue for the day as all of my father's family lived in the 1000 and 1100 blocks, and no matter where I have lived, Dogtown has always been my town and still is even though all of my family has either passed on or moved out except one second cousin who lives in my Uncle Frank's house in the first block.
Rose Marie Chiaurro Kennedy
Added: October 17, 2003
My first story tells more about the atmosphere outdoors when we lived in that house at 1025 Tamm, and before going on beyond, I would like to write some about what life was like behind the walls and garden fence and up the stairs to my Grandma Rose. She was the love of my life and to me, the epidomy of women of her day and where I spent most of my time, even sleeping overnight. I can still hear the rattle of the streetcars. There was the most wonderful garden and a grape arbor any child could love, where I often played. Bread was baked in the brick oven at. the rear of the garden. It was like the ovens you often see in Pizza Parlors only you had to build a good hot fire underneath. For breakfast it was home-made bread and grape jelly, and, coffee. Probably weakened it for me. She killed her own chickens, made her own spagetti and I remember people helping her stuff sausage in her kitchen and stringing it from the ceiling or something I can't tell you exactly how that was done. They had a "player piano" and my favorite role was "Ramona". There was always time to visit the less fortunate and go pick dandelines on the golf course in the park! They were the youngest and most tender, and we were often yelled at, of course! She was very devout and instilled Faith in me that will last my lifetime and she better not hear of me going to that Congregational Church over on Victoria any more. "You go the Catolic Church!" At least until I was nine (1937), she was still washing clothes in the yard (concrete) with a two burner stove, a double boiler, wash board and a portable ringer you hooked onto the tub. There were probably electric washing machines by then but some of the older people still believed the old way was best and you had to boil some of the more soiled clothes to really get them clean. There were probably many other good women similar to or like my grandmother, who did the same kind of things she did, some Irish too, yeah? The only difference is I only knew my grandmother that intimately in my early life.
My grandfather owned property downtown and was always busy, except for breakfast, I never saw much of him during the day. He originally owned or rented the corner building which is now "Pat's" and there is a picture on the website of he, my grandmother and my father inside the store when it was like a grocery-confectionary. It is my understanding he was here many years before he sent for my grandmother and two aunts. He worked 3 jobs developing a home for his family. My aunt told me he worked on the street department, tore down buildings and something else I can't remember, probably had some connections to have that house raised up and originally, a store built under it. I don't think there is another one like, not that I know of. Seems to me it still has a store front window. In Lucky Luciano's autobiography (Mafia), he writes that the men who brought their families here with them at the same time were more likely to have boys become involved in crime as there were so many unskilled peasants and not enough jobs, consequently, some of the boys started picking pockets and progressed from there.
Like my grandparents, downstairs, we had coal stoves for heat and maybe gas burners, not sure about that. We didn't have an electric iron, you set the iron on the stove to heat it! My mother's youngest sister babysat us and she was most fun, always making that hard candy, singing and dancing for us and repairing our dolls (made of bisque, I think) which seemed to break so easily. The head on my doll had broken and she made a hat to cover half of the face. I thought that was so super. People learned to make the best of what they had, even broken dolls. There must have been radios but I don't remember them and no tv. We learned to be our own entertainers.
Next door to us on Tamm, was a family, father, mother, daughter and son. When the son misbehaved, his father made him dress in his sister's clothes and sit on the front porch for all to see. I think their name was Wolfurt or something like that. My sister reminded me last night that the little man with the large back pack mentioned in my first story, was named Abby.
Across the street lived my grandmother's nephews, Big Frank, his wife Mary, and his brother, Mike and Mabel Antonucci. There originally were 3 boys and a girl. Albert worked at the Zoo for many years doing the Monkey Shows we had then. He eventually went to Hollywood and trained Chimps for the Tarzan movies. On occasion he had to be in the movie to help the Chimp cooperate. I have pictures of him putting the chimps through their paces when we visited in California. Tony lived all of his life right there in that house. We lost track of Josephine and Johnny played the accordian and died very young. They also had a sister, Philomena Riniero, my sister's Godmother. Some of you may know her son Johnny. I believe he was active in Dogtown at least ten years ago when my sister, Juanita Turin, headed the Hi Point Association. They lived on West Park. Also, back on the east side of Tamm lived my Aunt Elizabeth married to Luke Brady, Uncle Ed and Uncle Frank Chiaurro. The only relative left in that block is Uncle Frank's grandson living in his house. In the second block lived Aunt Mary Gori and Uncle Gus, Mike (who just died last year in his early 80s), Carl and Antoinette, his sister, Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe Massaro and Lucy and Mike. Across the road was a huge clay hill that seemed to dominate the block. The younger married people all belonged to a Dogtown Baseball Team called the Zephers and the Zepherettes. Jimmie (Seamus) Venincasa's parents belonged to it too. His grandfather and my grandfather on our mother's side are two of five brothers and 3 sisters. I have a picture of the group except the one sister who stayed in Italy.
Inasmuch as this is primarily an Irish Neighborhood, I just happen to know more Italians. However, my husband, John Kennedy, is Irish and his family lived at 1108 Louisville Ave. His brother, Martin Jr., graduated from St. James in 1941 and his father, Martin Sr. was an usher, great friend of P.J. O'Connor and started the Muny Tennis Association in Forest Park. I have a picture of him instructing students in Tennis. They used to throw out the first ball of the season in his honor. One year in the 80s, our youngest daughter threw out the first ball. Don't know if they still do that He was in it many years and I would like to know more about what he did accomplish in that field. I know there is much more than just starting it, teaching and being President. He passed on with a Cerrabral hemmorage at the age of 49 in 1947. John's sister, Margaret, was married at St. James and both John and Marty served the Navy in WWII and called out of the Reserves for the Korean War. Marty's son, Mike Kennedy, also hung out on Tamm and Clayton in his teen years, the late 60s and is now on a government teaching assignment with his wife and teenage son in Bahrain, over in the Gulf. He is a photo journalist and writes me some great e-mails about the situation and the people over there. He lived on Berthold.
Added October 18, 2003
There is a thing about some of the people from the east side of Hampton. I don't know much about others, but in our family, moving west of Hampton was moving up in the world, it was kind of a feeling that living up on Tamm Ave was upper class! Especially as far down as we were, like January was hardly paved decently nor was Dale or Sublette or Pierce, Sulpher or Devlin. West Park and Nashville were pretty well paved. We won't get down into this area just as yet except to talk about the big 3 story house on the corner of Pierce and West Park which was owned by the youngest sister, Aunt Lucy Greco, of the 5 Grandinetti brothers mentioned in the last section.
She lived on the third floor, was a widow, as far back as I can remember, with three sons, Edward, who moved up on Graham almost at Berthold after he was married and had a son and a daughter. After his wife's death, he grieved himself into his own demise, I think it was last year. I know he was in the Navy in WWII but never knew what kind of work he did. Am not sure if Victor or Albert is next in line, but I believe Victor was also in the service and later worked his way pretty high up in the Post Office. He had a boy and a girl. He and his wife are both gone. Al built his house on the northwest corner of Graham and West Park and has passed on, leaving his wife, Delores, who I had worked with years ago before they met. She still lives there in that lovely little brick home up on the hill. They had two sons, one who has passed on and the other is a doctor and married to a doctor.
Through the years almost until we were married, the youngest of the Grandinetti brothers, Uncle Frank, lived on one half of the second floor and had a tile store downstairs. Uncle Frank and Aunt Marietta had two girls, Elsie Campanella and Joan who was married to Tom Reese. Mr. Campanella passed leaving a printing business to Elsie and two sons. Also on the second floor lived Katie and Tom Brazell with their small daughter, Carolyn, who later married Corky Kehm. I believe she has been in politics and at least one of her boys has that little restaurant on Tamm between Victoria and West Park. Next to the Tile Shop, Katie and Tom had a confectionary and the general hang-out of most of the younger people of the neighborhood, even me. a little, and you could always pay later. Katie was a cousin of the the other Grandinettis and passed away right after Carolyn's wedding. I wasn't there but people said it was so sad as she had cancer and I believe was pushed down the isle in a wheelchair. Not sure about the wheel chair. Tom had been a policeman and after her passing, he and Aunt Marietta opened Marietta's Pizza Parlor on Clayton Road. Uncle Frank moved the tile shop across the alley. Tom grieved himself into a tragic ending. He was such a kind and decent human being. After that, my cousin, Tony Longiano from my father's side on Tamm Ave., Aunt Lizzie's son, bought in with Aunt Marietta and after she passed away, Tony owned it up until he was able to sell out to the people who now have a coffee house there. He is long retired and living in Branson with his wife, daughter, two grand children, son Danny and Brenda who managed and ran Marietta's for a number of years until it was sold. So that is part of the family that moved up from Cheltenham to Dogtown. Tony was also in the Service during WWII, I think the Army. I would like to say here that Aunt Lucy, Aunt Marietta and the other sister Aunt Mary had the greatest sense of humor. Never saw them when they weren't happily chatting back and forth in Italian, of course, and a joke in Italian may not be very funny if it is told in English. Had that experience.
Moving down from the Pizza Parlor, I believe Central Tent and Awning Co. where my Aunt Mary Gori worked. She also had something to do with the care of Priests clothes, mending them, something, I remember. She lived until 92 and was bright as a penny. She told me a lot about their early days in St. Louis where my father was born downtown on the third floor of a building where the Spanish Pavillion is now or does it have another name. She said they used to watch the women in their beautiful clothes going to the theatre. Better move along down Clayton Road where there was a Shoe Repair Shop. You know, I am not even sure just what is there now, but in those days, if you got a whole in your shoe and the tops looked pretty good, you cut out some heavy cardboard and put it in your shoe and when that wore through, you cut another piece and when it rained and when there was snow on the ground, it was miserable, but it was the Great Depression Days. After a while, your shoes would go to the shoemaker. Today, some shoes they can't even repair. At one time, my grandfather had a barber shop on the northwest corner and later an uncle opened a bar there. Across the street was the White House, I think a bar, but I never went in there. Going up the hill to the wedge behind Deaconess Hospital, was a number of little shops all around the wedge. In 1926 or 27, my mother and her father had a barber shop there. My father came up to get his hair cut and they were married in 1927. A block away on Hampton and Oakland, at Paragon Lounge, owned by Ed Pilla, my sister introduced me to my husband. That was 1946 and we were married in 1949.
Speaking of my grandfather, Tony Grandinetti, he was a sculpter and used to make those little cupie dolls, among other things, and my mother would paint them. As my mother told the story, one day, someone from the Mafia came to the house for some reason and took a shine to her. That night, my grandfather took her down to the YWCA for the night and picked her up in the morning taking off for Memphis, Tennessee, where they stayed for 6 months and learned the barber trade! In later years, my grandfather sculpted a statue about 2 feet high, of Joe Louis on top of a globe of the world. I even saw a finished product painted and it was beautiful and he had others in various stages of being finished. The story goes that he trusted someone to help him get patented, I guess, and they stole it on him. It was really great. He developed Arthritis so bad in his hands he could no longer cut hair and took to creating a dump to fill that hole that stretched from Victoria almost to the railroad tracks, down the side of Pierce, which was his property, The corner of West Park and Pierce was a huge clay hill also his property. More on that later.
My life and families between Dogtown and Cheltenham interact in so many ways, it is difficult to stay totally in one area without finding myself in the other.
Going back to Tamm Ave., the northwest corner has been an ice cream parlor and a cleaners. Don't know what it is now. I am going to have to take a better look around that area. Back in the early 70s, my Aunt Dina (Grandinetti) and Uncle Jack Hart owned a cleaners there. She was my mother's sister and their oldest daughter is Elaine Hart Twesten, married to Ed with two girls and three boys, and a bunch of grandchildren. There is also Jack Hart Jr. who lived on Graham Street for many years until just recently when they moved out to the county. He and Ginnie raised his three boys, the two oldest who operate a Kareoke and entertain with it. The youngest is Jean Noerper who also has two or three boys and lives in South County. I don't remember the Bottle Inn being much more than just a bar unless someone knows more about it than I do. Most people must know that Seamus McDaniel was O'Shae's Bar and just that front section, with the green sawdust and green beer for St. Pat's day. However, that annex part on the corner was a grocery store and used to display their fruit and probably some veggies like onions, in bins outside across the front of the store and across Victoria was another grocery store. Next to the northwest corner building on West Park and Tamm, was another little ice cream store. Across the street on the southwest corner was a dry goods store. Up West Park, about three doors east of Childress is where Dina and Jack Hart finally lived until the end of their days. Uncle Jack was in the Navy in WWII. Across the street on the southeast corner of West Park and Childress, my mother finally moved up and bought that house after she wound up with my grandfather's and sold it to Robatos (not sure of that spelling) in 1953. I keep telling myself that someday I am going to ask if I can walk through the factory to the back of the building because from what little I can make out, my tree is still there. My brother-in-law, Paul Turin, bought the house on the corner for $2000 after several renters and passed it onto his son who did a great remodeling job adding the deck and he sold it. The last I heard of him, Paul Jr., he bought a house just off McKnight Rd. near highway 40, tore it down and built a new one. His father was devastated that he should have torn down that wonderful old building.
Back to Tamm Ave and Rosie Gioia. I have known her as far back as I can remember. She almost became my Aunt. My mother's only brother, Mike Grandinetti, had a barber shop right there inside of the cleaners. There is a great picture somewhere of him cutting hair in there. He went into the Army during WWII and came back with a wife and baby. He was a driver for General Bradley, I think. He was the character, always full of a joke or a card trick. In his earlier years, he was a dandy in his straw hat, can and spats on his shoes. He would take a job selling, like it was vacuums one time, sell to all six of his sisters, and then take another job. He made a camper out of an old bus and hauled his wife and two boys all over the country with a gun concession, ending up in Coney Island for several years and eventually moving to Miami where he ended his days as a Security Guard in Coral Gables. He could tell you a bunch of baloney and have you end up laughing with him. Everybody loved to see him come to town.
Next to the cleaners, was Mellios Shoe Repair Shop and that is where we had our shoes repaired, when we had them repaired! Across the Alley was another clay hill, and across the street from the alley there was another confectionary. I was never too familiar with Tamm past the Church except my Aunt Helen & Uncle Joe owned what I think is a 4 family flat, in the middle of the block with the white butcher brick. They moved out to Rock Hill and lived there for many years. All of their property had to be sold as they are both in a nursing home, she at 90 in November, he 91 and they both have Alzheimers and cannot take care of themselves. They were always so independent and capable. They were very heavy in golf and bowling. She is in the Bowling Hall of Fame for 25 years of teaching handicapped people how to bowl and she treated it like a business, kept their yearly scores and averages, passing them out at an annual banquet at Tropicana. Uncle Joe gathered Trophies from where ever he could, cleaned and engraved names so everyone would receive a trophy. My daughter Michelle bowled with them all of these years and has quite a collection of trophies. It is strange, for all of the years they lived in Rock Hill, she doesn't remember any of it and is always asking about the house on Tamm Avenue. My sister drives them bye every once in a while.
Now I am ready to go down to Hampton - next time.
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