Monday, September 1, 2014

Uncle Alphonso Famoso – Fine Family Man

Great Uncle Alphonso FamosoFine Family Man

Alphonso was the youngest boy of Giovanni and Anna Famoso. He was born on February 9, 1896 in San Severo (Savario), Bari, Italy.  He was only about 5 when he came to the United States with Anna and his siblings.  I don’t know much about his early life.  I have been told that he didn't have an Italian accent which makes sense because he came to the United States when he was so young. I know he was a handsome young man because I have several photos of him. I imagine he went to school and played with his friends.  He probably got a job when he was young to help support his family. His mother Anna died when he was about 12 years old. There is a story that his father tried to teach him how to play the drums but every time he got something wrong, his dad would hit him in the head. Needless to say, he stopped playing the drums. He was the only boy in the family who didn't play a musical instrument. 

Alphonso and his niece Anna Famoso
circa 1912

Uncle Al ~ Coney Island photo

Alphonso was drafted into the army in April of 1918 which was right near the end of WWI.  He became a Corporal but his son says his nickname was "Sarge" and he was the head of the cooks in his division.  His military record says he was in the 152nd and 153rd Brigades.  He was never sent overseas.  I have to wonder if that may have been because his brother was killed in France.  Alphonso obtained his U.S. citizenship in July of 1918 while serving in the army.  At the time he was inducted into the army he was a Machinist for a company called Bangider or Baugider in Manhattan, NY.  I haven’t found any record of that company yet.

Alphonso married Antonetta (Nettie) Monaco around November of 1928. I am not sure when Antonetta was born. I have found birth records for several girls with that name. She may have been born on February 25, 1905.  The date on their marriage record is November 26, 1928 but that was probably not the actual date of their wedding.  At the time of their marriage, Alphonso was around 29 years old and Antonetta was around 23 years old according to the marriage record.  The two witnesses to their marriage were Santino Cali and Anna Famosa.  Santino Cali was a good friend of the groom (related by marriage) and Anna Famoso was Aunt Katie’s daughter.  Their wedding photos are gorgeous.  Antonetta was an only child and her parents evidently went all out for the wedding!  Her parents were Giuseppe Monaco and Carmela Morella.  I have heard that her father was a junk man or ash collector.  I don’t know how or where they met but probably through family or friends.  They both grew up in the same neighborhood in Harlem.  After they married, they moved to the Bronx to raise their family.

Guiseppe Monaco, Antonetta, Alphonso and Carmela Monaco

Alphonso and Nettie had four children, two boys named John and Joseph and two girls named Anna and Emily.  They appear to be the perfect American family of that time.  Alphonso came home every night for dinner.  He made a good living as a butcher after he left the army.  Nettie was a stay-at-home mother who made her kids lunch and walked them to school.  If it started to rain during the day, she would bring her kids their raincoats.  All of the kids were adorable.  We have many family photos to prove that.  It seems like they lived a happy family life.  The kids all grew up and got married.  Each one of Alphonso and Nettie’s kids had children of their own.  Uncle Al and Aunt Nettie have a great legacy with grandchildren and great grandchildren and they would be very proud. 

Joseph, Anna, Emily, John Famoso
Cousin Christina Famoso

My father says his Uncle Al was always nice – no one he knew ever disliked his uncle Alphonso.  Because he was a butcher, he would give meat to my father’s family for the holidays so they could have a good meal.

Nettie used to work at the post office during the Christmas holiday rush.  Uncle Al would drop her off there at work each day.  She probably did this because she enjoyed it.

Alphonso was a very good dancer.  I have been told about his dancing ability from several of his family members. My father also tells me that he liked to entertain and that he was very funny.  Even though Uncle Al was outgoing, he was a little bit on the quiet side.

One of the things my dad remembers most about his Uncle Al, is that he used to put salt or sand on the linoleum floors, take off his shoes and in only his socks he would “pretend” skate all over the house with his hands behind his back.  My dad says it looked like he was really skating. 

I have also been told that Uncle Al loved to play pinochle with his brothers. According to Emily and Joseph, every week the family would go to their Uncle Louie’s house (my grandfather) so the brothers could play pinochle.  The wives must have cooked and talked while the kids played games together. 

Another story that I heard from Joseph, is that Uncle Al (being a butcher) took a goat to his brother Louie’s house.  They killed it in the basement, he butchered it and they ate it for lunch.  I know that sounds really strange to us now but back in the day, it probably wasn't that unusual.

Uncle Al collected WWI military memorabilia.  According to my father, Uncle Al had a good collection of guns and other military items. I wonder if he had his brother Brasso’s dog tags.

Alphonso’s granddaughter Annette told me that he was a nice, kind man.  He used to babysit for her and her sister when they were young.  He smoked Italian black cigars (called Guinea Stinkers).  He made Annette and her sister go to the store to buy them for him when he ran out. He lived with Annette’s family for a while. He was very handy and also helped fix things around her house. He liked to go fishing.

His daughter Emily told me that he helped her husband build a deck on their house when they first got married.  Emily also said that her dad worked really hard all his life and they didn't have much time to take vacations but she does remember one time when the family went up to Boston to visit their Aunt Loretta.  They had a great time.

I found out what a true family man my Great Uncle Alphonso really was when I called Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens and found out that he had purchased and owned all of the family burial plots. It may have affected him when his mother was buried in a pauper’s grave and he couldn't have her moved into her own plot.  I am not sure about that but it seems possible.

Great Aunt Nettie died in 1955.  She was only about 50 years old at the time.  She had breast cancer and at that time it was pretty much considered a death sentence. 

Great Uncle Alphonso died on May 9, 1965.  At the time of his death, he lived in Glen Cove, NY. My mother tells me that she and my dad took me to his wake.  I don’t remember being there because I was so young.

My Great Uncle Alphonso was a great guy.  He took really good care of his family.  He served proudly in the US Army.  I’m sure he had a difficult childhood but he made the best of it and turned out really well.  I am proud to be related to Great Uncle Alphonso.

Alphonso and his brother Sam in the 1950's

Monday, August 18, 2014

Loretta Famoso Galeota Esposito - Lovely Lady

Uncle Alphonso, Aunt Loretta and Loretta's son John.

Loretta Famoso Galeota Esposito

Loretta was born In Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 10, 1903. She was the youngest of Giovanni and Anna’s children. The name on her birth certificate is Leberata Tosca Famoso. That is such a cool name! I like to imagine that Giovanni was playing an instrument or conducting an orchestra that was performing Tosca by Puccini. It was a brand new opera at that time having been performed for the first time on January 14,1900 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. He loved that opera so much that he gave his baby daughter the middle name "Tosca." Doesn't that sound good? ~  It is totally made up but it could be true.  It is very interesting that Tosca is set in 1800 Italy around the time that Napoleon invaded Italy and the control of Rome by the Kingdom of Naples was threatened. Tosca is not a sweet, romantic opera. Not even a little bit. Tosca depicts murder, suicide and torture.  I'm not sure that is really an appropriate name, even a middle name for a baby. It could even be that Giovanni was friendly with Giacomo Puccini who was a contemporary and a fellow Italian musician.

As I have already mentioned, Loretta lost her mother when she was only 5 years old.  She grew up without a mother figure. I imagine that she became close to her sisters-in-law and her slightly older sister Rose.  

I found it odd that both Rose and Loretta got their marriage licenses on the same day. That day was July 28, 1921. 

Loretta was married at age of 18 on September 18, 1921 to Charles Michael Galeota listed as a Barber and elsewhere as a Musician. His father was Vito and his mother was Rosa Gallo. They had two children, John and Vito both of whom died in 1999.

Her husband Charles used the stage name Charlie Hamilton when he played a banjo that had lights inside of it that he made swirl around. An interesting concept for the 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Loretta and Charles Galeota were divorced in 1931. Charles married Helen Powlowitz on March 20, 1933. Charles died on September 16, 1936 and he is buried at St. John’s Cemetery in Flushing, Queens.  

Loretta married Salvatore Esposito in Boston, Massachusetts in 1934. Salvatore was a salesman until 1940 then he owned a business called New York Sample Fur Shoppe from 1941 on. He had a son named Jerry from a previous marriage. I have been told that Salvatore had only one arm. Sal died on September 14, 1961. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Boston.

I have no personal impressions of Loretta because I never met her. It seems to me from what I have heard that she was a kind and honest person. She spoke about her true feelings regarding her brother Luigi at his funeral. Loretta was the person that my grandmother Christina used to go to when she needed someone to get money from her husband. Loretta did not have any kind feelings towards her brother (my grandfather). I can't say that I blame her. Her reputation was very good. Everyone that met her liked her very much. I also found out that she was the last known person to have possession of her brother Brasso's WWI army photo.  

My parents visited Loretta and Sal in Boston in the mid-1950’s. Sal must have had some mafia connections because there was a mafia-type guy in attendance at Loretta’s house during the visit.  The most memorable thing was that the mafia guy gave my brother, who was very young, a $5.00 bill.  That was a lot of money at the time. The story went down in family history.

After Sal died, Loretta worked at Bonwit Tellers as a “stitcher.”  Bonwit Tellers was a fancy department store so she probably did tailoring for off-the-rack clothing. She died on August 15, 1985.  She was living at the Jamaica Towers Nursing Home at the time of her death.  Her death certificate says she died of Terminal Arrhythmia along with Chronic Ischemic and Hypertensive Cardiac Disease which sounds like a heart attack brought on by high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.

Services for Loretta were held at Marashio Funeral Home.  She was cremated and her remains are at Woodlawn Cemetery. 

I found out more about my great aunt Loretta while researching her for this blog post than I ever knew before.  She seems to have been a lovely lady.  I wish that I had met her.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - Colomba Rosa Famoso and Pasquale Puzzuto

Colomba Rosa Famoso and Pasquale Puzzuto Wedding

My great aunt Rose was born in Sansevero, Italy on April 11, 1898 according to her birth record. She was the daughter of Giovanni Famoso and Anna Pirolli Famoso. Rose wasn't their first born daughter but she was their first daughter to live past childhood. Rose grew up and came across the Atlantic with her mother and brothers on the Citta di Torino in 1901. She was just a little girl when she took the trip to the United States. She even had an Italian accent. She wasn't a United States citizen but she missed by just a few short years. I don't know anything about her years in Italy or even her first few years in the United States. I only know that her mother died when she was about 9 years old. That had to be difficult to deal with. She had a younger sister that must have been dependent on her for some mothering. 

The next event in Rose's life that I have learned about is her marriage to Pasquale Puzzuto. I have her marriage license from New York City that is dated July 28, 1921. It doesn't appear that she rushed into marriage because the record I have from St. Ann's Church is dated January 29, 1922. It says that her maid of honor was her sister-in-law Kate Famoso and the best man was Angelo Ippolito who was perhaps a friend or relative of the groom. According to the marriage license, Pasquale was a chauffeur, he was born in Salerno, Italy and his parents were Antonio Puzzuto and Antonette Cavallo Puzzuto. Pasquale was 30 years old and Rose was 23 years old when they got married.  That can't be right because his WWII registration says his birth date was August 16, 1890 but the marriage records say his birth date was August 16, 1889 neither dates make him 30 years old when he got married. It also looks like Rose was using the birth year of 1899 for some reason on her marriage records. Maybe it looked better to be only 23 rather than 24 years old when a girl got married at that time or maybe she thought that was her correct birth year.  I wonder if this was an arranged marriage or a love match?

Their first child was born on November 19, 1922 and his name was Anthony Puzzuto.  I assume that he was named after his paternal grandfather. Their second child Mary Ann Puzzuto was born on August 31, 1930.  

The rest of the story will be brief.  Pasquale and Rose lived in Manhattan and in the Bronx in New York. He sometimes used the name Patrick.  The 1925 New York Census shows that Rose's brother Alphonso was living with them. I recently found a directory from 1933 showing Rose as being a Shirtmaker living at 417 East 106th Street with Pasquale's family. Pasquale died in 1957. Rose died in April of 1974.  

There may have been some sort of disagreement or personality conflict between the family members which is probably why my side of the family never knew anything about Rose, her husband and her children.  

Columba Rosa Famoso Birth Record

Birth record number 373 - Translation:

Famoso Colomba Rosa
In the year 1898, today 11th of April, at time 12.30 in the afternoon, in the Town Hall
Before me Francesco Trotta, secretary deputy of the mayor with authorization
dated 22nd April 1887, duly approved, Registrar of Sansevero municipality, it appeared in my office Vincenza Melissa age 45 years old, occupation midwife, born in Lucera, domiciled in San Severo,
she declared that at time 7am of the day 9th of this month, in the house located at address
Via Carlo Alberto number-----, from Anna Pirolli, housewife, wife of Giovanni Famoso, occupation
musician, both domiciled in Sansevero, a baby girl was born, she shows her to me, and she gave
her the names of Colomba Rosa. The witnesses of this record are Cosimo Di Pierro, 48 years old, occupation shoemaker, and Giuseppe Palumbo, 58 years old, occupation servant, both resident in this municipality.
The declarant stated that she came to declare the birth of the baby because she was the one who helped the birth, and she declared the baby on behalf of the husband of the Pirolli,
because he is away from town.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Missing Baby Monday Mystery

I'm sure that my family is not the only one that was unaware of several babies born to our great grandparents but did not survive to adulthood. The way I found out about our missing babies involved quite a bit of a luck.  I had been searching for my great aunt Loretta's birth record. I knew she was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1903 from her death record and several census records. I was fortunate to have the help of a New Jersey research expert. When she found Loretta's birth record, we were surprised by the fact that it said Anna Pirolli had given birth to twelve children! We only knew about 7 kids including our grandfather Luigi. No one had any idea there were more. It makes sense though. In those days, women had lots of babies. Especially if they were Italian. I think most families had lots of kids to help out with the work around the house and to go out and earn money for the family. I know that Giovanni and Anna did not have a farming family so they weren't having lots of babies to help out on a farm. There wasn't any reliable birth control at that time either. The Catholic Church encouraged having large families. Probably the main reason for having so many children was the fact that they knew at least a few of the babies would die in infancy or as toddlers. So, if they wanted to keep their family going, they had to have lots of kids.

After I found out that I had 5 missing babies to locate, I started digging. The first place I looked was in Marcianise. Marcianise is the commune in Caserta, Italy where I found Giovanni and Anna's marriage record.  It is also the place where Anna gave birth to her two oldest children. It seemed like a good idea to check there for missing babies. I was rewarded with a birth record for Elisabetta Famoso who was born on March 10, 1884. I haven't figured out when she died but it was definitely before 1902 when they traveled to the United States. I have been told that she didn't die while living in the commune of Marcianise because if she had, there would be a notation on her birth record. That means she probably died in Frattamaggiore which is the commune where the next oldest child was born. I have written to the commune of Frattamggiore but haven't heard back from them yet so that question is still open.

The next bit of luck came because I have found the records of the commune Trani, Bari online at the Antenati. The Antenati is a website create by the Italian Government (I think).  It holds a treasure trove of information. I love searching through that site.  I was again rewarded for my efforts with a death certificate for Carmela Famoso. She died on June 23, 1891 in Trani, Bari.  See #400 below.

So, think about this: Anna Pirolli Famoso gave birth to a baby boy named Biagio Nicola Famoso on October 1, 1891 after her three year old daughter had died on June 23, 1891. That is so tragic to me.  I don't know if it was a sudden or unexpected death or if she died after a long illness. The death records I have seen from Italy do not contain a cause of death.

I hope that I will be able to add a few more records to this post at some point in the near future but so far this is all I have on the missing babies.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Obituary Sunday ~ Elizabeth M. Dougherty Famosa

Elizabeth M. Dougherty Famosa was my great uncle Mimi's wife. This is going to be a short post because I know very little about her. I know that she was born on September 12, 1887 in Philadelphia, PA. Her parents were John Dougherty and Mary McGrath. According to a census, her parents were both born in Ireland.

Elizabeth and Mimi got married around 1906 or 1907. I have heard that they met while performing. Mimi was a musician and Elizabeth was a singer. I have to guess that they met in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I have spent a lot of time and more than a few dollars trying to find Elizabeth and Mimi's marriage record. I have searched in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Camden, NJ, New York City, Delaware, Maryland and the archives of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. I am still at a loss as to where they got married. They could have gotten married somewhere else in Pennsylvania outside the City limits, I just don't know. I haven't found Elizabeth's birth record yet either.  

Elizabeth gave birth to two children, Charles (1908) and Dorothea (1913). Both children had beautiful singing voices or so I am told. It is rather hard to speculate about Elizabeth because both of Elizabeth and Mimi's children are deceased. Elizabeth has no living descendants.. The fact that she did not really allow the Famoso's to visit her makes it even more difficult.  I was recently told that one of my cousins did meet her during a visit in 1957.  He says that both Uncle Mimi and Elizabeth were very cordial to his family.   

Elizabeth was very proud of her Irish heritage and wasn't thrilled to be associated with Italians. She must have really been in love with Mimi since he was definitely an Italian (right off the boat). She did her best to make sure that her husband and children were put in the best possible most "Irish" light. In fact, she made Uncle Mimi use the name Charles or C. Dominic rather than the more Italian form of Domenico. She also had him change his last name to Famosa instead of Famoso. Maybe just to differentiate them from the rest of his family. 

I have never seen a photo of Elizabeth. I am sure that photos did exist and they may still be out there somewhere  Maybe I will see a photo of her some day..  

Photo by Stan Jett

Monday, July 21, 2014

Christina Prinzo Famoso - A Wonderful Mother

Christina Prinzo as a young lady around 1906
Christina and her brother Charles 1905
Christina Prinzo Famoso and her son John 1911
Christina Prinzo Famoso

On her birth certificate, her name is listed as Crestina Maria Giuseppa Luisa Prinzo.  Christina was born in Harlem, Manhattan, New York on June 16, 1892.  She was my grandmother.  I never knew her but by all accounts she was a wonderful mother and grandmother.  Sadly, she only got to know one of her grandchildren.  She died on April 24, 1943.  Her life was short and heartbreaking.  She was a beautiful young girl who met her husband to be at a funeral before she was even 16 years old. Luigi and Christina were married on April 23, 1908 when she was not quite 16 years old.  Her parents were from “the other side” but she was a ‘Merican.  Grandma Christine only went to school up to the 4th grade.  That was probably quite a bit more schooling than either of her parents had. Francesco Prinzo and Maria Giuseppa Luisi were farmers back in Italy.  Her father Frank became a laborer to support his family in the United States.  When she met and married her husband Luigi she actually gave up her citizenship for him. For a very short period of time, that is what happened when an American woman would marry a foreign-born man. Christina must have thought he was so handsome and well-educated.  I’m sure she must have admired him, at least at first.  I don’t believe that her love could have lasted too long because he turned out to be a selfish husband.  She gave birth to ten children but only 9 survived to become adults.  That was pretty good for the times they lived in.  Her 4th child, Joseph, died of enteritis at the age of 7 months.  

I know that Christina could sew and cook.  I also know that she worked hard and was a very good mother. She did not have much extra time to tell her children stories or play games with them.  She simply had to make sure they would survive in the world. 

According to a story my mother heard at Christina's husband Luigi's funeral, Christina had to go to her sister-in-law Loretta and beg her to get money from Luigi for food.  This story was told by Luigi's sister Loretta.

My father told me that he helped his mother wash clothes on a washboard.  I can’t even imagine how difficult and time-consuming that must have been. Especially, when you were washing clothes for 9 children and two adults!

Dad also told me that his mother always said that she could put sauce on rocks and her 9 kids would eat them!  Her boys were always hungry.

Grandma Christina fought for my father to stay in school so he could get his high school diploma because his father Luigi wanted him to quit school to get a job.

She worked in a factory making snowsuits for a few years to make money so she could support her family. 

She saved pennies in a cup for insurance for each one of her boys.  When they grew up she was able to give each of them $500 which was a whole lot of money in those days.

Her sons liked to think they protected her from their father. I asked my dad if Luigi was a violent person and he said they didn’t know because he would not have taken on any of his sons who were all bigger than him.

Christina taught my father how to sew and use a sewing machine to turn a collar.  That was a good way to save money on clothing at the time.  When your shirt collar wore out, then you could turn it and get several more years of wear out of it without looking like a hobo.

In her later years, when her kids were all grown up she would sometimes sit outside on their front stoop (porch) to watch the neighborhood kids play.  My dad says that she knew all their names and would try to make sure they did not get hurt.  I guess that proves she was a mother at heart and was taking on the village approach to raising kids.

Her death was probably not sudden or unexpected.  She had gotten hit by a trolley car and sustained injuries from that accident.  The actual cause of her death was congestive heart failure.  She was only 51 years old but looked at least a decade older than that due to her hard life.  I know she would be happy to know that all her kids got married and most of them had children of their own. 

Christina Prinzo Famoso, Luigi Famoso, Sam Famoso and Catherine Prinzo
Wedding 1908

Christina and her mother Josephine Prinzo - 1940
Christine Prinzo Famoso - 1940

Christine Famoso Prinzo 1940

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Luigi Arturo Famoso - Lovers and Other Strangers...

Luigi Arturo “Louie” Famoso

I want to start this post with a Happy 132nd Birthday to my grandfather, Luigi Arturo Famoso (aka Louie).  He was Giovanni’s second oldest son.  Louie was a guy who seemed “larger than life”.  In fact, it sounds like he was quite a character.  Well, you’ll just have to read this and decide for yourself.  I never met my grandpa Louie.  He died a little over a year before I was born.  In fact, it is the 56th anniversary of his death.  He died the day before his 77th birthday.

He was born in Marcianise Italy on July 11, 1882.  Marcianise is a small town (also known as a commune) in the Caserta Campania region of Italy.  I’ve never visited there but I hope to see it someday.  So, Louie was a small-town boy with big city ways.  Maybe that is why he wound up living in the “Big Apple” for most of his adult life. 

I have to mention that I only know Louie from the stories I’ve heard about him from his children and grandchildren.  We have a huge Italian family.  My father has told me many stories about Louie.  My mother knew Louie personally.  She also heard many stories about him from his relatives over the years.  It is hard to know what is true and what isn’t.  There were many sides to my grandpa Louie. He was a bit of a bon vivant. I heard that he enjoyed dressing well and mixing with the wealthy folks.  That alone wouldn’t be a bad thing except we have to take into consideration that he had a wife and nine children.  The wife and kids did not seem to be a great impediment to his lifestyle.  I have to say that he was probably only a product of his time. He lived at the turn of the 20th century when men were the “kings” and their home was their “castle”.  The men could basically do anything and get away with it.  My grandmother Christina (Louie’s wife) got a job in a factory doing sewing to help support her family.  Why did she have to do that?  Good question.  If you recall, I said that Louie was a bon vivant.  He sure was.  He had a gambling habit that took the form of card playing.  He loved to play poker.  He wasn’t a wealthy man but he spent whatever he made on poker.  That meant that his wife and kids had to support themselves.  They did get help from Christina’s sister Kate and her husband Sam (who was also Louie’s brother).  I have heard that Kate told her sister to please stop having kids because she (Kate) couldn't afford to support any more of Christina’s children.     

But I digress…  Let’s get back to Louie’s early life.  I don’t know much about it other than that he moved around Italy with his family.  Eventually, he and his brother Sam attended Barber College (somewhere in Italy).  He also took his older brother Dominic’s place in the Italian Army ski patrol.  The best story I have heard about Louie comes from my father.  He says that Louie didn't like being in the army very much (no surprise there) and he planned to ditch his post.  He arranged it very well.  Louie collected clothing, skis and other equipment so he could change out of his army uniform then ski down the other side of the mountain (one of the Alps, I assume) into Switzerland.  Then he would make his way to the United States to rejoin his family.  That event took place in either 1901 or 1902.  Louie, according to family lore, traveled around Europe evading the Italian army and touring various European countries.  My sister and I wonder how many unknown cousins we may have out there stemming from Louie’s travels around Europe in the early 1900’s when he was a viral young man.  Louie eventually made his way onto a ship called S.S. Patricia out of the port of Hamburg, Germany on October 17, 1902.  The manifest says he had $35.00 on him (a decent amount in 1902) and that he was heading to Atlantic City, NJ to meet up with his father.

I have found Louie living in two places on the 1905 census.  I have him on the NYC Census with his family and I also have him on a census in Atlantic City, NJ.  I believe that he was living in AC but his father Giovanni did not understand the questions that the census taker was asking him.  He was probably saying that he had 7 children and named all of them for the census taker.  I can’t be sure but that makes the most sense to me.

The story goes that Louie Famoso and Christina Prinzo met at a funeral.  I choose to believe that they fell in love and got married around April 23, 1908 (that is the date on their marriage license).  That was only five months before Luigi’s mother Anna Pirolli died.  Luigi’s brother Sam and Christina’s sister Kate got married in 1910.  Christina Prinzo Famoso (Louie’s wife) gave birth to the first of many sons on October 19, 1910. 

I am not sure of the continuity of all this but Luigi and Sam worked together at a barbershop or maybe several different barber shops.  I know that Luigi definitely worked at the Harvard Club and the Downtown Athletic Club as a barber.  I also have heard that not only was Luigi a gambler but he was also quite a womanizer.  The story goes that he had at least one goomara (on the side girlfriend).  She lived “upstate” somewhere.  He would rent or borrow a truck and take his boys up to the farm she lived on.  My dad was apparently one of the kids he took up there at least once.  My dad had no idea where he was going or who they were visiting but he said they enjoyed the trip.  I’m sure Luigi enjoyed it too.  There is also another story where Luigi went out to buy some bread but he did not return home for a year!  I am fairly certain these stories are true because they came from Luigi’s sisters.  His wife Christina was already dead by the time those stories made their way to our branch of the family. My father also told me that Louie wanted him to quit high school and get a job at the Harvard Club.  When my dad went on the interview he found out that one of his friends also had an interview.  Dad's friend wound up getting the job because the Harvard Club did not want to hire Louie's son.  I am not really sure why but I think it had to do with the fact that Louie was always telling stories and getting mixed up in his wealthy clients' business.  My father was lucky because he then was able to finish high school and get his diploma.

In an effort to be fair, I must also look at Luigi from the standpoint of his older grandchildren.  My oldest cousin Christina is the daughter of Luigi’s second oldest son.  She says that she was about 5 years old when Grandma Christina died.  At that time, Louie’s two daughters were still living at home with him.  Grandpa Luigi asked if any of his sons could move in the house with them to help him out.  Of course, most of the boys were in the military at the time since my Grandma died in 1943.  Uncle Frank and Aunt Flora took him up on that deal and moved into the house on East 26th Street in Brooklyn shortly after Grandma’s death.  Grandpa Louie enjoyed playing cards and would be gone for hours at a time and well into the night.  He liked to dress “to the nines.”  He was adamant about speaking English.  He did not want anyone to speak Italian around him which is unfortunate because if he did speak Italian, she might have learned how to speak it as well.  Christina says she enjoyed living in his house because there was always family around especially on Sundays when everyone would come over for a big typical Italian Sunday dinner.  Grandpa died when she was only 17 years old. 

Another one of my older cousins (Louie’s namesake) says he remembers Grandpa Louie this way: He was the best barber around.  He cut everybody in our family’s hair.  Grandpa was a good card player.  He loved his children and grandchildren.
My cousin Joanne (the daughter of Louie’s son Bill) remembers that Grandpa gave his grandchildren gifts every year for Christmas and possibly Easter.  She got a gold charm bracelet with a cross on it.  Even if it was costume jewelry she remembers it fondly.  He used to pronounce her name with his Italian accent as “Jowan” which is kind of cute if you ask me.  According to stories she heard from her father, Louie supposedly owned 3 barber shops at one time but lost them due to his gambling.  He met lots of famous and infamous people through his jobs at the Harvard Club and the Downtown Athletic Club.  She heard he knew lots of mob guys and was very friendly with a guy named “Augie Pisano.”   {After hearing this story, I did a little research and found out that “Little Augie Pisano” was an assumed name used by Anthony Carfano (1898 – September 25, 1959),  who was a New York gangster who became a caporegime, or group leader, in the Luciano crime family under mob bosses Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Frank Costello}.  My mother doesn’t believe these stories for a few reasons.  She doesn’t think Louie would have been the type to associate with Mafia-types.  She says Louie wasn’t a guy who was willing to be injured in any way.  Mom also says that Louie wasn’t very generous so it is doubtful that he gave his grandchildren gifts for any holidays.  My dad says that Louie never owned any barber shops that he knew of.

My sister and brother both knew Grandpa Louie.  They don’t have any warm and fuzzy memories of him, though.  They say he was pretty cold towards them.  I guess when you have 9 grown children and dozens of grandchildren it could start to get old pretty quickly.  My brother also remembered that he and Louie were both left-handed so he got Louie’s guitar after he died but he gave it back because he couldn’t get the hang of playing it. 

So, you might say that Grandpa Louie was a bit of a “good time Charlie.”  Perhaps, but he was definitely an interesting guy! 

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Louie's son Frank, Christine and Flora

Brothers: Sam, Louie and Alphonse

Louie with his sons, Alfonse, Albert and Sammy

The whole family - almost
Flora, John Famoso, Neil Squitieri, Louie and his son
Frank Famoso
At Aunt Louise's Wedding:  Al Famoso, John Famoso, Louis (Luigi) Famoso, Aunt Louise, Bill Murray, Uncle Albert, Uncle Frank and Uncle Bill!
Alfonse, Sam, Albert, Charlie, Frank, Bill in back row
Frankie Prinzo, Charlie Prinzo and John Famoso
At Louie Famoso's funeral in July of 1958