“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.

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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. 🙂


Antonino Carroccio: A Day in the Life

TA Carroccio Cheese Truck 07 10 18 (2)About a month and a half ago, I checked my email inbox, and found this wonderful vintage photo. It made my day! Grazie mille, Paolo!

The man standing near the doorway is Antonino Carroccio. He is the paternal grandfather of Paul Carroccio, who was kind enough to share this fabulous vintage photo, circa 1928. The man sitting in the truck, was Morris Croot, a farmer from Holland Township, New Jersey.

Antonino was part owner of a family-run cheese shop, “Latticini” located at 311 East 107th St., N.Y.C.  His father, Alfio Carroccio, came to America in 1890, and settled in a tenement building at 311 E. 107th Street.  Subsequently, Alfio opened this latticini/cheese shop, selling mozzarella, ricotta, eggs, butter, milk, etc. After establishing this business in East Harlem’s Italian quarter, Alfio returned to Sicily around 1904, and left the business to his sons, Antonino, and Alfio, Jr.

Paul mentioned in his email to me, that the cheese was originally made locally in East Harlem, but the milk they bought to make the cheese, came from New Jersey.  However, the family continued to do that until 1908, when they decided to rent a location in New Jersey (to make the cheese) nearby to where they bought the milk, for freshness sake.  So began the shipping of cheese (in ice) to East Harlem! The cheese from the Carroccio’s Latticini shop was sold to local residents, Rao’s restaurant, on Pleasant Avenue, and many other establishments. Hey, come to think of it, I bet that my grandparents, and great-grandparents bought cheese and other items from this cheese shop! If only I could ask them! AIEH…thanks for the memories!

 

 


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

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 “Italian Harlem.”

Consequently, my ancestral journey transitioned from a personal family history journey, to a much broader sense of consciousness…that of the desire for public awareness of a now defunct Italian community in New York City. This “microcosm” of an urban neighborhood was “developed” in the 1870’s, with the building of tenement housing, and was originally inhabited by Italian immigrants, primarily male laborers. I discovered a broader sense of the “pulse” of this Italian community, through the voices of my father, his brothers, sisters, cousins, and others who once lived in East Harlem, when it was referred to by its residents as “Harlem.” As I listened to the stories of a bygone time, resounding with carefree thoughts of the “good old days,” it occurred to me that there was much more to this old neighborhood than the stories that were resonating in my mind. I was right! The posts that I have shared, and will share, within this blog, are a testament to the true nature, and fabric of a place that really mattered to a multitude of Italian immigrants and their families.

As I am drawing near to the 11th year anniversary of what has become a nostalgic endeavor of “genealogical/anthropological/sociological/historical” research of “Ye Olde Italian Harlem,”  I must tell you that this historical journey has been, and will continue to be an intrinsic part of my life here on this planet. My interest in preserving the memory of Italian Harlem will never falter. My research is a true passion of mine, one of many passions that I am fortunate enough to have in my life, including first, and foremost, my beautiful children, a loving and devoted husband, and my adorable rescue Shih Tzu furbaby “Romeo.” I also embrace my love of photography, and my fascination for the metaphysical sciences!

If there was one person that instilled in me an interest in the history of Italian Harlem, it was my father. My dad was born in 1924 in a tenement apartment on East 110th Street, right next to St. Ann’s Church. He was one of 7 children. His dad, Anthony (Tony) was a produce shop owner, who also sold fruits and vegetables on a pushcart on First Avenue. My dad’s mom, Catherine (Katie) was a seamstress, church secretary, playwright/producer, milliner,(hatmaker) homemaker, realtor, entrepreneur…a true Renaissance woman. I learned so much about my grandparents, and great grandparents, thanks to the amazing memory of my father, Albert, and his siblings.  I am forever grateful to them for sharing with me, through their youthful eyes, their life and times in the old neighborhood.

My father, who was “larger than life,” passed away 3 days before his 89th birthday, in January of 2013. I dedicate this website to the memory of my wonderful and charismatic father, who was known by many as “Uncle Al.”  Although he had hoped to live to “a hun 10,” (as he would often say,) his bright spirit and memory lives on throughout this weblog and within the lives of those who knew, and very much loved him.


On the Inside Looking Out: My America, a Voice from Italian Harlem’s Past…

Asked if she liked America, an Italian homeworker replied in 1911: “Not much, not much. In my country, people cook out-of doors, do the wash out-of-doors, tailor out-of-doors, make macaroni out-of-doors. And my people laugh, laugh all the time. In America, is “sopra, sopra!” [up, up, with a gesture of going upstairs]. Many people, one house; work, work all the time. Good money but no good air.” 

Source: Elizabeth C. Watson, “Home Work in the Tenements,” Survey, 25 (1910), 772

In hindsight, perhaps, the above statement could have been spoken by the hard-working Italian woman portrayed in this iconic, social journalistic photo. Her name was Mary Mauro. Mary lived in Italian East Harlem, in a 5 story “old-law” walk-up tenement, along with her family in 1911. By some “synchronistic serendipity,” Mary was one of the “homeworkers” chosen by sociologist and photographer, Lewis Wickes Hine, to be portrayed in his photographic documentary series, on immigrants in the United States… in this particular case, child labor and tenement homework. In December of 1911, Mary lived at 309 East 110th Street, adjacent to the Metropolitan Gas Light Company’s massive twin gas tanks. (Predecessor of Consolidated Edison.) Coincidentally, for my family history research, My paternal great grandmother, Maria Altieri, her husband, Andrea, and their 5 children lived in the same building, later on in time, during the 1920’s. It’s highly possible that this woman is the grandmother-in-law of my father’s first cousin, Kiki Aiello Mauro, as her husband, Louie Mauro hailed from this Italian enclave. (Note to self: I really need to ask my Aiello cousins if there is a connection here.) 🙂

Upshot: The old adage, “snap a picture, it lasts longer!”, is so true in Mary Mauro’s case, as she and her family are forever etched in the virtual superhighway of our existence! Thank you, Mr. Lewis Wickes Hine! God Bless our ancestral heritage…God Bless America!

New York. December 1911. “5 p.m. Mrs. Mary Mauro, 309 E. 110th St., 2nd floor. Family works on feathers (sewing them together for use as a hat trimming). Make $2.25 a week. In vacation two or three times as much. Victoria, 8 yrs. Angelina 10 yrs. (a neighbor). Frorandi 10 yrs. Maggie 11 yrs. All work except two boys against wall. Father is street cleaner and has steady job. Girls work until 7 or 8 p.m. Once Maggie worked until 10 p.m.”

New York. December 1911. “5 p.m. Mrs. Mary Mauro, 309 E. 110th St., 2nd floor. Family works on feathers (sewing them together for use as a hat trimming). Make $2.25 a week. In vacation two or three times as much. Victoria, 8 yrs. Angelina 10 yrs. (a neighbor). Frorandi 10 yrs. Maggie 11 yrs. All work except two boys against wall. Father is street cleaner and has steady job. Girls work until 7 or 8 p.m. Once Maggie worked until 10 p.m.”

mauro-family-1911-color.png zeldave2014 wp (2)Colored photo source: https://zeldave2014.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/mauro-family-1911-color.png

309 East 110th Street- March 29th 2015

Note: 309 East 110th Street, East Harlem. (309’s “stoop” is on the far right of this photo.) The gas tanks are long gone. I believe they were taken down in the 1970’s. Photo by Angela Puco


VINTAGE 1948 VIDEO: LIFE IN EAST HARLEM: “IN THE STREET” with HELEN LEVITT

In the Street (1948). Directed and edited by Helen Levitt. Cinematography by renowned NYC Photographer, James Agee, Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb. Re-edited version rereleased by Levitt in 1952 with musical score by Arthur Kleiner.