“A BETTER TOMORROW” 1945 filmed in East Harlem

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is holding a collection of photos, files, and ephemera that belonged to Leonard Covello, the former principal of Benjamin Franklin High School. As kismet would have it, I stumbled upon an extremely rare, short film, filmed by Alexander Hammid, a Czech film director, and cinematographer. Technically, for all intents and purposes, this was a US government propaganda film. I’m not a fan of some of the statements that were made in this film, but it’s a fabulous “portal to the past”, and that’s good enough for me! This is a short film on American public education, intended for public use. It was filmed in 1945, in several New York City locations, with a special focus on Benjamin Franklin High School, located on Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem. I cropped the film to reflect what I would prefer to emphasize-which is daily community life in East Harlem. Oh, and you’re welcome! (wink) 🙂 If you wish to view this film in its entirety, here’s the direct link: https://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/objects/13235

I must tell you that I have a personal collection of rare papers, photos, letters, and maps-some of which are shown in this film. Long story, but I’ll tell you a bit about how I acquired them. About 5 years ago, I received a phone call from the wife of a bookseller that I frequently bought from. I was asked if I would like to have the remainder of files from the archives of Leonard Covello. I was stunned! I had been searching for years, scouring the planet for anything remotely related to the East Harlem community, and in one phone call, I was given a fabulous gift! The book seller’s name is Michael Cordasco. Michael’s father, Francesco Cordasco, was a well known sociologist, Columbia graduate, and a close friend and colleague of Leonard Covello. When Leonard Covello died, Francesco was given Covello’s files, books, photos, etc. Most of the Covello collection went to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and, with sheer luck and serendipity, the rest went to yours truly! I will never forget that afternoon, when I received that phone call! I’ll post a video soon, talking more about how I acquired the collection. 🙂

I have been meaning to digitize my collection, for years now, but found it difficult to set aside the time to do so. Also, I’m a terrible procrastinator! Ha ha, there, I said it! 🙂 Now, due to the Covid-19 situation, I am not working outside my home, so I have the time to move forward with my digitization and preservation project. Aside from the Covello collection, I have a huge archive of “all things East Harlem” that I have been collecting since 2004. I also have a large photo library of vintage photos that were given to me by family and friends, and I have ephemera which relates to East Harlem as well. Oh, I haven’t mentioned the books, which I have been scouring the internet to find, for almost 15 years!
There’s so much for me to do. When I think about it, I get overwhelmed! Lol However, the clock is ticking, and I owe it to my readership, and to my East Harlem ancestry, to get the ball rolling! 🙂

So, watch this movie, and if you click through to my YouTube page, don’t forget to follow me! Oh, and if you are so inclined, watch my metaphysical videos on crystals, astrology, numerology, tarot, and all that fun stuff! Yes, I wear many hats! Lol 🙂


ON THE CORNER OF E. 110th Street & 1st Avenue-1936 & 2016

My paternal grandfather, Antimo, aka Tony Puca, is seen on the right, wearing the dark pants and shirt, with suspenders. He lived with his wife and 7 children, in his mother’s building, at 346 E. 110th Street. His son, my uncle Philly, is seen in the foreground. Philly was born in 1926, so I estimated that this photo was taken around 1936-38. My grandfather was a produce vendor. He sold fruits and vegetables on that spot, on the north side of E. 110th, and on 1st Avenue, between E. 110th and E. 111th. My dad told me that sometimes, they had the pushcart on the opposite corner, between E. 110th & E. 109th-on 1st Avenue. Notice the tomato plants in the foreground, on the right. Also, seen holding on to the iron fence of the Metropolitan Gas Company, later known as Consolidated Edison, is my grandfather’s friend, Vincenzo, who was also my uncle Philly’s godfather. The man in the middle is unknown to me, although it looks like he is wearing an apron, so maybe he was a food vendor, selling hot foods on a pushcart. Also, notice the man in the background, wearing a suit and hat. It looks like he was interested in buying the tomato plants. Well, I hope my grandfather had a fruitful day on that memorable day in Italian Harlem! 🙂

Note: If anyone recognizes the man wearing the light colored hat, and apron, standing in the middle of this photo, let me know!

The modern day photo is from 2016. I took my aunt Tessie to visit the old neighborhood. She hadn’t been back in over 50 years, so, believe me, that indeed was a memorable day! Today, as you can see from the modern photo, there is a brick wall placed further out where the iron fence once stood. There are no vendors to be seen. No vestiges of ancestral bygone days. No tomato plants. No old friends. Sadly, just an empty sidewalk. I’m sure that there are days when there is more foot traffic, but on that weekend spring day, in April of 2016, it was quiet.

P.S. Isn’t it cool that the large building in the background is still there? They have renovated it, but, as you can see, it is basically the same. Also, one more point…the street light from 1936 was a bit shorter in height than the one that is there now. I noticed that, as in the old photo, the top of the street light aligned with the 4th story of the large building in the background. Today, the street light that exists, lines up with the edge of the 6th story of that same building. Also, back in the day, that building was owned by the gas company. Today, it is a storage facility. Just a bit of trivia for you all! 🙂


“AIEH” Stands for ALWAYS in EAST HARLEM…the true spirit of a Bygone Era. Thank you, Roe!

Somewhere around the year 2008, after I set up this website, I found Charlie DeMonte’s and Charlie Strippone’s website, called “The Old Neighborhood Online.” I was so happy to know that there were other like-minded people, as myself, who were interested in preserving the memory of a once booming Italian community, simply called Harlem, or “the neighborhood.” I call it Italian Harlem, as that is the memory that I wish to preserve. My Italian great-grandparents came to this neighborhood, to forge a new life in a new world. The United States of America was a country that was fairly young in its own right. The year was 1901, and America was a 125 years into being established as a nation. Tens of thousands of Italian immigrants gravitated to this particular area of Manhattan, in an attempt to reap the benefits of the American way of life.

Fast forward to 2008, here I was in my 5th year of historical research of the old neighborhood, when I stumbled upon Charlie’s website. I joined the site, set up an account, and started to chat with other members, sharing stories of their lives in the old neighborhood. At some point in time, and here is the “kicker” of this article- I came across a 4 letter acronym, with the letters AIEH (all in caps) typed in at the end of a comment. I couldn’t recall who the person was that used the acronym, but it quickly spread to most users on that website, including me! When I asked what it stood for, I was captivated, and continue to use it, to this day.

AIEH means “Always in East Harlem.” That’s the long and the short of it. It holds within its 4 letters, the true Spirit of a bygone era, that so many of us are fighting to preserve. As I was pondering on writing an article about the true meaning behind this endearing, heartfelt term, I reached out to my friend JoAnne Claretti Mallano, to ask her if she knew who “coined” it. JoAnne quickly responded that the person’s name was Rosemary Alvino Milazzo, and that sadly, Rosemary had passed away over 8 years ago. So now, this article is not just about a term that embodies the Spirit of a once vibrant community, it is also about a special lady that enhanced a “thought pattern” based upon 4 letters of our alphabet. Got the message yet? Smile… AIEH

Rosemary Alvino Milazzo was born in East Harlem on November 5th 1959. She passed away on October 29th, 2009. She was a resident of Long Beach, N.Y. Her friends called her “Roe.” She leaves with us, a heartfelt legacy of AIEH. Always in East Harlem, in our hearts, our minds, and the pathway to our ancestry. Grazie Mille, Roe!

AIEH

Rosemary AIEH AlvinoRosemary Alvino Milazzo. Photo courtesy of Janet Sinicola.

Rosemary and Janet EHJanet Sinicola(left) Rosemary Alvino Milazzo(right.) Courtesy of Janet Sinicola.


Yes, God Does Bring Angels, Aunt Columbia!

Last week, I received a comment on this site, from a reader named Rich, who mentioned that he had a photo that I might like to add to this site. I sent him an email, saying that I would be more than happy to post an East Harlem photo. All the while, I assumed that it was a “vintage” photo. Not so! The next day, Rich sent me this photo, to my utter astonishment, and amazement! But wait! I am putting the cart before the horse. (smile) Here’s the email message that Rich sent me: 

Hi Angela,

   I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your site very much.  I grew up in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, another great Italian neighborhood that sadly has lost much of its Italian population and traditions.  I was always fascinated by the Italian American neighborhood of East Harlem, so driving through Pleasant Avenue on a warm Halloween night in 2007, I snapped two photos of some seniors sitting on chairs in front of their building at 310 Pleasant Avenue, while waiting for a traffic light to change.
(Rich continues to say…)
   As I thought about that photo over the years, I think about the end of summer and with winter quickly approaching…. the cold weather.  I think about these seniors and how they are enjoying talking “stoop gossip”. This might be the last time that weather permits them to sit outside like that.  Due to their age that might be the last time that they are all together sitting outside like that.  One never knows.
   I hope you enjoy it and hopefully someone recognizes the people in the photo.  If, by any chance that someone recognizes them, can you please drop me a quick email.  I would really appreciate it.
All the best,
Rich Conte
Ok, back to my story. As I was reading Rich’s email message, my heart started to beat a bit faster. The intuitive thought came into my head that the attached photo has my Great Aunt Columbia Pennino-Altieri in it! The words “seniors sitting on chairs” and “Pleasant Avenue” were key in my belief that this was indeed a photo of Columbia, with friends. Quickly, I scrolled down to view and download the photo, and THERE SHE WAS! In the flesh- but wind back 10 and a half years! I was speechless! But, very happy to have this awesome photo!
Columbia was born in East Harlem, on “ahun 17,” in December of 1921. In 1942, she married my dad’s uncle, Anthony Altieri. They were married in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, on “ahun 15th.” She passed away two years after this photo was taken. Rich, you were right. It was almost the last Halloween that Columbia had on this earth. She passed in early September of 2009. She was the last of my family that still lived in the old neighborhood. She was a “die hard” East Harlemite. She absolutely refused to move out of the place where she was born! She once said that she was born there… and she would die there! She was one tough cookie! Oh, I miss her very much.  Thank you so much, Rich! You made my day, and I know that Aunt Columbia is smiling down on us, saying…”God Brings Angels!”
NOTE: Columbia is the woman sitting on the right of this photo, next to her friend, J.R.
AIEH

Rich 310 Pleasant Avenuephilly's class-OLMC-columbia-2008 186 (1)This photo of Aunt Columbia and me, was taken in July of 2008, inside Patsy’s Pizzeria on First Avenue, in East Harlem. 🙂


My Motivation Behind the Creation of ItalianHarlem.com- My Father, Albert :-)

Over 4 years have passed since you left this earthly plane of existence. Gone, but never forgotten. Your presence is very much missed, Daddy.
Riposa in Pace.

Italian Harlem

Daddy In December of 2007, I was 3 years into my “whirling dervish” obsession of gaining every drop of family history knowledge that I could garner. It became self-evident that my ancestral journey had begun, and so I conceived the idea of creating a website to memorialize, and forever “etch” into existence, the information that I would render from this extensive research. I named my website “Pathway to My Ancestry,” and so began the painstaking steps to build the site on the then existing “Live Spaces” platform. A few years into building the site, live spaces was drawing to closure, thereby necessitating me to find another platform to maintain my website. Hence, I found WordPress, and so here I am, and hopefully, will continue to be! In the interim, I had to transfer whatever was transferable to the new website, and decided to change the title of my blog to

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UPDATE on ITALIAN MASTER CARVER, LUIGI DEL BIANCO: MOUNT RUSHMORE FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED LUIGI DEL BIANCO!

NEWSFLASH: THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE HAS FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED THAT LUIGI DEL BIANCO WAS, IN FACT, THE CHIEF CARVER OF MOUNT RUSHMORE!!!

Artist Luigi Del Bianco

Since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore, the staff of the National Park Service has been posting short bios of the Mt. Rushmore workers, on their official Facebook page. Well, after 25 years, the National Park Service has finally acknowledged that Luigi Del Bianco was in fact the “Chief Carver!” Permanent recognition at the mountain is what we are really after, but this is a break through, and a start in the right direction!

Here’s Luigi Biography, as told by the National Park Service: 

Artist Luigi Del Bianco came to work at Mount Rushmore at the request of Gutzon Borglum, the designer and engineer of the stone sculpture. Luigi Del Bianco worked for Mr. Borglum during the seasons of 1933, 1935, 1936 and 1940. He was a Senior Driller until the end of July in 1935 when Mr. Borglum designated him Chief Carver. Del Bianco was a trained stone carver originally from Italy who had worked for Mr. Borglum before the Mount Rushmore Project began. Mr. Del Bianco resided in Port Chester New York where he had a successful stone carving business. After his work on Mount Rushmore, he moved back east to resume his stone carving business.

WON’T YOU TAKE A SECOND TO CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LINK BELOW  AND “LIKE” LUIGI’S PHOTO? Thank you! 

Let’s let the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE know that LUIGI has a lot of fans all over the country!!

https://www.facebook.com/146142078740561/photos/a.790675327620563.1073741828.146142078740561/1129406293747463/?type=3&theater

WE WILL KEEP YOU POSTED ON OUR FINAL PUSH TO GET LUIGI RECOGNIZED AT MOUNT RUSHMORE. WE ARE ALMOST THERE! THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!

Douglas Gladstone

http://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781599540672/carving-a-niche-for-himself-the-untold-story-of-luigi-del-bianco-and-mount-rushmore.aspx


Talking about Antimo…

Italian Harlem

Grandpa Antimo Puca While interviewing my cousin Herby for family recollections, he mentioned that our grandfather, Antimo (Tony) operated a produce store, around the corner from Arthur Avenue (across from St.Barnabus Hospital.) *Note: The timeline for this story is around the mid to late 1950’s.* Herby clearly recalled the fact that, written on the storefront awning, were the words, “Tony’s Live and Let Live…” Hence, Tony’s favorite quote was, “Live and Let Live!
Antimo Puca was the second child born to Stefano Puca and Teresina Milo. He was born in the small town of Sant’Antimo, Naples, on the 25th day of August, 1896. The first child born to his parents was a boy named Antimo. He was named in the traditional fashion, to honor Stefano’s father, Antimo Puca. Tragically, this baby died. Perhaps he died from the Cholera epidemic which was running rampant across Italy, at that time. Anyway, when the second child…

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