Thursday, January 27, 2011

It All Started at the Brooklyn Palace

I just came across a lovely piece of family history, a copy of the invitation to my parents' wedding. This document means a lot to me because it recalls to mind those people who were so special to me. "Mr. and Mrs. Pasquale Camardi and Mrs. Lucia Pantaleno request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their children Frances to Anthony." I got a funny feeling reading the words that pretty much set my life in motion. The date was set as Sunday, September 29, 1940. The world (and soon America too) was embroiled in World War II, but the Camardis and Pantalenos were throwing a party to help give the family something happy to think about for a while.

I can only imagine the excitement in the two households. Pretty and vivacious Frances, next to youngest of four children, lived at 2402 Dean Street in Brooklyn at the time of the wedding. The bride's address appeared on the invitation for some strange reason. Anna and Mary, Frances' sisters, must have been hovering around the bride to be, making last minute adjustments to her gown and telling her everything would be all right. Pasquale and Caterina, his wife, were probably nervous and hoping the day would go off without a hitch. Italians are very conscious about impressing the rest of the family on occasions like weddings, and I'm sure Grandpa dug deep wanting the best for his baby girl.

At Anthony's house things were probably noisy. My Dad's family tended to converse like they were speaking over the sound of a jet engine. Grandma Lucy may have been trying one last time to convince her son that Frances wasn't the right girl for him. She disliked my mother and didn't care who knew it. Dad's sister Mary, who sadly died before I got to know her, would have been trying to keep her large brood, mostly boys, from fighting with each other while her husband Nick sat outside on the stoop calmly smoking his trademark DiNoboli cigar. Dad's older brother Joe and his wife Mae would be having a couple of boilermakers before the wedding. Usually after the third drink they took off the gloves and the fight was on.

The reception was to start at 7 pm in a local place called the Brooklyn Palace, on Rockaway Avenue between Somers and Hull Streets. We lived around the corner from there when I was a kid and I don't remember this place at all; it must have closed by the time I was born. The affair would most likely have horrified wedding planners of today. I'm imagining a wooden dance floor surrounded by tables covered with trays of sandwiches...ham, salami and cappicola. There would have been pitchers of cold beer, and each table would have a bottle of rye or scotch along with mixers like ginger ale and club sodas for making "highballs", the popular drink of the day. Coffee would have been accompanied by a big tray cream puffs to supplement the wedding cake.

When I think of the elaborate, obscenely expensive weddings thrown today, I can't help but smile when I think of Fran and Tony's little affair. The music would have been supplied by local boys who had day jobs so they could make a living. All night Italian songs would have been interspersed with pop hits of the day. Good people who worked hard for their families threw their cares to the wind and jumped up laughing when the Tarantella was struck up. Kids, after having slipped a little vino at the table mixed with cream soda, would get a running start and then slide across the polished wooden floor between the dancers.

Just reading that wedding invitation conjured up all these images in my head and made for a few very warm, pleasant moments on a snowy winter day.


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The Whiner said...
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Jim Pantaleno said...

Yeah, the bittersweet irony is that Mom wound up being Grandma Lucia's main caregiver, and even that didn't stop the criticisms. There was a grumpy, disagreeable woman!

joe del broccolo said...

Jim, check your dates! We didn't enter the war until December 8th.

joe del broccolo said...

Funny thing, the wedding sounds like my parent's and my Dad's mother didn't get along with my mother!
It was a really great blog, opening up some great memories

Jim Pantaleno said...

Thanks for the date correction Joe, how can I forget the "date that will live in infamy." Glad you enjoyed the blog.

Giuseppe said...

Hello Jim, Nice to see your story... Can you Please contact me? I have some questions. Do you remember much of Rockaway AVE in Brooklyn? My Grate Grandfather owned a Shoe Shop in 20 or 18 Rockaway Ave, Right when u turn in from Broadway, and I just wanted to know if you knew anything about it or anything.

Thanks, and hope to hear from you.