Shortly after Pat Michael Iurilli was born, something amusing occurred at the baptism. My father is Italian, while my mother is Irish. (Yes I know, what a combination.) :-) Before I was born, my parents were discussing what name to give to me, as I was their first born child, so my father was pushing for naming me after my grandfather Pasquale, which is the Italian tradition, of naming the first grandson after the grandfather, and first granddauther after the grandmother, while my mother was urging that I be named after my father Michael, which is the Irish tradition, but they had great difficulty in agreeing on a name for me. Finally my mother agreed to my father's wishes, that I be named after my grandfather, but she would not accept the name Pasquale, which was a good Italian name, so she proposed Patrick instead, which is the English translation of Pasquale, as well as being a good old Irish name, but they still could not agree on a name. Finally they compromised on the name Pat, which is actually my legal name, even though no one knows from hearing or reading my name if I am a male or female, so just to set the record straight, I am a male! This caused me to have to carry around a copy of my birth certificate with me when I was younger, to show to people, who do not believe that my legal name is just Pat. But that is not the funny part of this story. I was born in Bronx, NY, as were both of my parents, so when it came time for my baptism, my father took me to the local church that he went to in the Bronx, which was: Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 627 East 187th Street Bronx, NY 10458 It was located in a predominantly Italian neighborhood, where most everyone only spoke Italian. At my baptism ceremony, when the priest said my name, he said that I was baptized Pasquale, which my mother hit the roof about. She told my father that he had promised her that my name would be Pat, not Pasquale. My father assured her that my name was indeed Pat, but that the priest just said Pasquale because he said my name in Italian, but I hear that there were some stormy times in my house, until the baptismal certificate arrived showing the name Pat. I am always amused whenever I relate this story, because it illustrates the language translation difficulties that can easily arise, especially with the Italian language.
My surname (Iurilli)is a very rare surname, with only about 250 people around the world having it, which makes my research much easier in one way, however the fact that it begins with an "I" also makes it much more difficult in another way, as that initial letter "I" is often mistaken for a "T", "G", or others, due to the way that a capital "I" is written in Italian. Many of you that have dealt with Italian cursive handwriting should understand the challenges I face on this issue.
You may be amused by a funny story that happened to my late father when he was a young boy, when he started elementary school, in the Bronx, NY. They had his surname written as Turilli on the rolls, which is also an Italian surname, but when my father tried to correct his teacher, she told him that was the name that was written on the records, so the school refused to accept the correct spelling from him. She told him to bring his birth certificate into school to prove it, and show it to the school principal. My grandparents, who did not speak English that fluently at the time, went down to the school with a family friend named Cumare Julia, bringing down my father's birth certificate to show to the principal, with my father in attendance at that meeting, and the principal of the school took one look at the birth certificate, and said "A-ha look at your name, it starts with a "T", so your name is spelled correctly as Turilli." My father and grandparents disagreed with him, and tried to correct him that it was Iurilli, not Turilli. It was a good thing that my father was of Italian ancestry, because Cumare Julia pointed out the fact that the "I" in Iurilli was hand written the same as the "I" in Italy, which was listed as the birth place of his parents, so his last name obviously had to begin with an "I". :-) If his parents were from any other country which did not begin with the letter "I", he, and I, would most probably have been stuck with the wrong surname!
My father also had a problem with his first name as well in school. The Italian form of Michael is spelled "Michele", but is pronounced Miguel. When the school saw the spelling of his first name on his birth certificate, they put it down as Michele, and they started calling him Michelle, which is a girl's name, until it was finally corrected also by Cumare Julia.
A child hood friend of my father named Jimmy Tedone, told me some stories about my father when he was a boy. One took place when he was a teen ager, in front of his apartment house in the Bronx. Kids used to hang out on the front steps of their apartment buildings. One time one of their friends said that he could not get drunk, as long as he had a "good base", which meant that he had eaten a big meal first. My father, and the Tedone brothers, including Jimmy Tedone, all disagreed with him, and challenged him to do it. They all said that their friend could not last an hour without getting drunk, so their friend then bet them that he could do it. This friend then went and ate a big meal. Jimmy Tedone then went down to the nearby liquor store, and asked the clerk for a fifth of rot gut gin, and bought it. Jimmy Tedone then came back and gave it to his friend to drink, which he did. Everyone of them watched this friend carefully, but he was not showing any signs of getting drunk. Then they saw the first sign, with about ten minutes to go in the hour, when their friend put one hand on the steps railing. Then they saw another sign, with about 5 minutes to go in the hour, when their friend put a second hand on the steps railing. A couple of minutes later, he passed out, so their friend lost the bet. They carried their friend up to his apartment in the building, and when they got there, they dropped their unconscious friend on the floor in his kitchen, and the brother of their friend saw his brother lying on the floor, and asked what they had done to his brother, thinking that they had killed him.
Another story related to the game of stick ball. All the young boys played stick ball, which was a variant of baseball, but they used broom handles as their bats, and used a red spaldine ball to hit. The boys used to steal the brooms from the mothers on the block, who left them out on their fire escapes, and cut off the broom parts, to use them as stick ball bats. Apparently one of the mothers who had lost her broom called the police, to report it. When the police officer came to investigate, he found a bunch of broom sticks on one of the stoops outside one of the apartment buildings, and confiscated them, and put them in the back of his police car. He had been collecting the stick ball bats from several kids in the neighborhood, so had quite a collection of them in his car. He then chased the boys who were playing stick ball, but could not catch any of them. One of the boys who was not running away, then went over to the police car, and took back all of the stick ball bats from in the back seat of the police car, and hid them. He was very happy, because he then had many more stick ball bats than he started with. When the police officer came back to his police car, he found all the stick ball bats gone, and he did not know who had taken them back.
Here are some stories about my father Michael Iurilli, told to me by my grandmother Maria Iurilli: My grandmother once told my father not to pick up chalk from along the sides of roads, to write on blackboards. Like many little kids, one time my father did not listen, and collected a lot of chalk rocks, and because he did not want to get caught with them, hid them in one of his pillows. However, when kids did something wrong, it was customary for a parent to throw something at them, to stop the kids from what they were doing, such as one of the parents shoes or a pillow. So my father was horseing around one day when he was about 12 years old, so my grandmother picked up his pillow and threw it at my father, to stop him from doing it, and my father started crying. My grandmother told my father to stop crying and making a big fuss over nothing, after getting hit with a pillow, then she saw that his nose was bleeding and he had a cut lip, after getting hit by the pillow. My grandmother then ran over to my father to tend to his wounds. Later my grandmother went over and looked at the pillow that had caused all the damage, and found all of the chalk rocks in it, so when my grandfather got home from work that day, he gave my father a beating, for disobeying by picking up the chalk rocks.
Parents got so practiced in throwing things at their kids when they were misbehaving, such as their shoes, that many people swear that they could accurately hit them with such an object, even going around a corner, over obstacles, or even under a piece of furniture.
Another story about my father concerned chicken. My grandmother made chicken for dinner one night, that everyone ate for supper. My grandmother then later put the leftover chicken in the refrigerator. My father then later snuck the leftover chicken out of the refrigerator, and crawled under his bed, and ate it, so he would not get caught eating it. After gorging himself on the chicken, my father promptly fell asleep. My grandmother then later called my father to see where he was, but my father did not answer, because he was fast asleep. My grandmother frantically looked for my father, but could not find him, until my grandmother heard my father snoring, coming from under his bed. My grandmother left my father sleeping under his bed, until she discovered that the chicken was missing from the refrigerator, so she figured out why my father was sleeping so soundly, because of having a full stomach, so she left him there until the next morning, when he had to get up for school. so before my grandfather went to work that day, he gave my father a beating, for stealing the chicken out of the refrigerator.
Many Italians grew up in the Bronx, where there were many large apartment buildings, where the people lived. When my father was younger, they lived in an apartment near Baychester Ave. in the Bronx, on the fourth floor, and of course there was no elevator in the building. I remember going to visit my grandparents when I was pretty young, and climbing up the four flights of stairs to get to the apartment of my grandparents. All the kids used to play games in the streets after they got home from school, such as stick ball, and their parents would tell them what time to come home. Parents saw nothing wrong with yelling out of their window to their kids, to tell them something, or to talk to their neighbors. This reminds me of a Honeymooners scene when Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, who lived in New York City, whenever he wanted to talk to his friend Ed Norton, played by Art Carney, who lived in an apartment on the floor above theirs, opened the window in his kitchen, and yelled out the window his message for his friend, who then in turn opened his window above his, and yelled out his answer. When my grandmother wanted my father to do something, such as come in for dinner, and to stop playing his games out in the street, she would yell at him a couple of times to come in to eat or whatever else she wanted him to do, and then when she got fed up with his not listening, then the universal signal for a parent was to pretent to bite on the side of their hand, and the kid then knew that he was going to get it when they got in, so they had better respond immediately.
Another thing that my grandparents did when they left their apartment, was to place a chair just inside of their front door, just as they were leaving their apartment. If anyone entered their apartment without an invitation, when they would enter their apartment, they would unknowingly push the chair out of the way, to get into the apartment. If my grandparents ever came back from being out somewhere, and the chair was not in the usual position where they had left it just inside the door, then they would know that someone had been in their apartment. Every Friday, when my father would come home from school, he said that the neighborhood smelled so great, as every woman was making a big pot of gravy, which is often called tomato sauce, which the mothers would use to put over pasta and to cook gravy meat in.
Here is an interesting story that was told to me when I was a boy by my paternal grandfather Pasquale Iurilli, who lived in Ruvo di Puglia in Bari, Italy, and came to the USA through Ellis Island in 1913, and settled in Bronx, NY. During the 1920s and 1930s, he had an interesting occupation, which has now fallen into antiquity, that of being an ice deliveryman. Many modern labor saving devices and appliances that we take for granted today, were uncommon or even unheard of during the 1920s, 1930s, and even 1940s. For example, electric refrigerators were rarely owned and used, but instead an icebox was used to keep food cold and from perishing. The term literally refers to a box cooled by ice. During the warm weather months, a daily ice delivery was required to keep perishable food cold and from spoiling. In the borough of the Bronx in NY City, as was the practice in many urban areas, an ice man would drive his flatbed truck slowly down each street, calling out loudly that he had ice for sale. There were two types of customers, those who got a regular daily delivery, and those who bought it on demand and paid on the spot. The customers who got a regular delivery everyday would have the amount of ice that was delivered during a week, and consequently how much money that they owed to the ice man, marked in chalk on their front door. A line would be drawn on their door, and it would just be elongated each day, proportionately corresponding to how much ice was delivered that day, and then at the end of the week, the ice man would go around to collect from his regular customers, by counting up the length of the lines on each door, then each customer would pay him that amount that was owed, and then after the ice man was paid, he would erase the marks on each door, to start fresh from scratch for the following week. My grandfather told me that he had to watch some customers very carefully, because some people would try and cheat the ice man, by erasing some of the marks on their door. You could also either have the ice man deliver the ice right to your apartment, or you could buy it on the street, and then you could carry it up to your apartment yourself, which was a little cheaper. During the cold weather months, the same guy would deliver both ice in the summer, as well as coal for coal stoves in the winter, so it was a year round occupation. Carrying a block of ice was not without its dangers, especially for youngsters, who were usually the helpers for the ice men. One time when they were children, my mother and one of her brothers were struggling to carry a block of ice up the stairs to their apartment, and they accidentally dropped the ice block on my mother's foot. She said that it hurt her foot so bad that it felt like she would never walk again. On another occasion, that same brother got an ice pick stuck in his leg. These are just some of the fuss and dangers that we are spared today by having a refrigerator, which we should remember and be thankful for, the next time we experience the convenience of taking a cold drink out of our refrigerators, and by not having to use ice for cooling, except in lemonade. :-) Delivering ice was only a summer seasonal vocation, so the same deliverymen who delivered ice in the summer, also usually delivered coal in the winter time, to fuel furnaces.
Pasquale Iurilli was a small man in stature, standing only 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, but he was strong as an ox. He worked for a long time as a stone mason and brick layer, which built up strong muscles. He lived to be 82 years old, which he attributed to drinking at least a glass of wine per day, and smoking a pipe every evening.
Comments and additional information are welcome.