Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
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“Deconstructing Jim” is simply here to
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Chapel Hill, NC, United States

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Grandfather

My paternal grandfather Daniele was born in 1864 in the town Cervinara in the Province of Avellino (near Naples). He immigrated to America in 1893 and soon after joined the U.S. Navy as a musician in the band. His tour of duty included participating in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Returning to NY, he met my grandmother Annina. They got married and started their large family in 1900.

There are very few surviving photos of either of my grandparents. The elegant photo above was taken by J. de Santis studio on 165 8th Avenue in NY in 1909. At that point they already had five children, and my father had just been born. The photo below was taken in New York City, and the baby is my older brother Larry.

Daniele's instrument was the valve trombone, and he played it in the U.S. Marine band under John Philip Souza (seen in photo on the left). He traveled with the band on European tours between 1900 and 1905, and possibly on the 1910 world tour that included Great Britain, Canary Islands, South-Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Hawaii, and Canada. My Aunt Aurelia (b. 1906) told the story about how her mother would kick her out of the bed when her father finally returned home after a long trip away. Below is a photo of Daniele with his trombone and uniform.

There is a family story that when Sousa's band gave a command performance for the President of France, that the world leader requested to hear an obscure Southern Italian song. No one knew it, except for my grandfather who had grown up in a Province of Avellino (close to the Partenio mountains). He began to play the folk tune on his trombone alone, and the orchestra joined in after him as best they could. The French President was pleased.

Here is a photograph of his actual trombone, and while it needs repairs, it hangs on my wall as a prized piece of family history.

After retiring from the Navy, he found work during the Great Depression as a tailor making alterations on fine women's suits.

Daniele was a founding member of the musicians union in New York City -American Federation of Musicians Local 802. On the left are two of his union cards, and below is a "Scroll of Honor" awarded to him from the Associated Musicians of Greater New York in 1953.

Above is a photo my grandfather taken in 1950 at the age of 86 snoozing on the porch of the summer house of my aunt Clara and uncle Charlie situated on Lake Oscawana in upstate New York.

He lived until he was 92, although he smoked De Nobili (rope cigars) and drank gallons of red wine while listening to his beloved Italian opera on the phonograph and radio. When my father married an aspiring opera singer, he was extremely pleased.

While my grandfather never learned to play jazz, he was fascinated by this music, saying to my aunt Helen "How do they do that?"

In his final years, his eyesight and hearing deteriorated, and he walked with a cane (seen in the photo on the right). He kept the cane handy as a potential weapon of self-defense while roaming the streets of NY.

My grandfather stayed busy with a family store just below the family's apartment - but it was never proved to be a profitable venture.

He made several trips back to Italy with family members before the war (including my father), but was happy living in New York and chose to remain there. He kept in contact with his family in Italy, including his brother Annibale who was a professor at the music school "Metronomo" in Naples (founded in 1900). During the initial years after WWII, he and my grandmother sent packages of food rations back to their families to aid during difficult times.

His famous slogan in his dialect of Italian was 'OOO-Fah' which meant 'Leave me alone, I want to sleep.'

Here he is (photo on the left) taking a walk in the park with my Aunt Ellia and Uncle Joe.

The photo on the right is of my grandmother Annina Tammaro. She came from a different town in Italy called Solofra.