Valle San Giovanni Pranzo by ulissi


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									PENNS GROVE, NJ (USA) A luncheon, the chance to see old friends once more, warm embraces, remembrances of past times. Such gatherings are not all that rare, but in a New Jersey restaurant this past November a reunion took place that was truly special. From the aromas of the typical dishes from Teramo in Italy, the sound of the Abruzzo dialect spoken with an American accent, the hugs given with abandon, and old black and white photos, it was impossible to miss the fact that this was to be a gathering of three generations of "Vallaroli." That is, citizens of Valle San Giovanni in the Italian Province of Teramo As times progress and new generations of Americans are born to Italian immigrants, the ability to speak native Italian is lost. At best it lies hidden behind perfectly pronounced English words and phrases. But not all of the younger people completely forget the land of their forefathers. Instead they do their best to develop important projects so as to keep alive the memories and great adventures of their ancestors. "It all begins with the small town of Valle San Giovanni," one of the members of the third generation of Italians in America, Stephen Mark Ulissi, says to a reporter from the web magazine PrimaDaNoi. "In that town 100 years ago there were few guarantees of a bright future, and about 100 people emigrated to South America or, more frequently, to the United States and Canada in search of better opportunities. Many went to Penns Grove, a town of about 5,000 people located in Southern New Jersey (USA). They found work at DuPont, a large chemical plant. And 80 years ago on Pitman Street, which is right in the heart of Penns Grove, there were so many people from Valle San Giovanni that it was impossible to walk along the street and not hear many voices in the heavy accent of Abruzzo. On the dinner tables, especially on Sundays, the families ate Italian mozzarella cheese that had just arrived from Italy via plane. But little by little things have changed. Most of the Italians have left Pitman Street in search of other forms of employment, job transfers and promotions. In the meantime they have become integrated into mainstream American society. "Despite this, their sentiments and their beautiful memories live on," continues Ulissi. "And to celebrate their shared and unforgotten past history, the American "Vallaroli" (and every so often someone from other parts of Italy) come together to organize a great feast." This year on 5 November 2006, the people from Valle San Giovanni again found themselves seated together at the same table. The dinner took place in Penns Grove at the Ristorante Italiano Di Paolo. The Di Paolo family, it goes without saying, also originate from Valle San Giovanni. "About 100 people came from all over for the grand event," recounts Ulissi. "Of these only about 10 were born in this Italian village. Two families came from Montreal, a trip of about 14 hours." There were many great hugs and heartfelt emotion as the participants encountered long lost cousins, their old neighbors, and distant relatives. No hamburgers of American food for this group. In order to foster the tastes of days gone by, the courses were limited to delicacies from the nearby Teramo area of Italy. Many memories were rekindled between the various courses that were served as well as during the customary card games of Briscola that had been organized for the occasion.

THE FIRST GENERATION: ANTONIO GIOIA (ANTHONY GIOIA) Anthony Gioia was born in Valle San Giovanni 9 January 1920. At the time his father had returned to Italy for a while following the end of the first world war. Between 1910 and 1934 Anthony's father would make at least five round trip journeys between Italy and America. "While he was living in America," recounts Anthony, "my father worked at DuPont, the large international chemical company that would serve as an important point of passage for many other of my fellow countrymen from Valle San Giovanni." "My father's boss," Anthony remembers, "was Giovanni Ulissi,", the grandfather of Stephen Mark Ulissi who today represents the third generation of people from Valle San Giovanni who have gathered together for our luncheon. "Years ago it was common practice for an Italian to live for a few years in the United States and then to return to Italy for a while to the family that he had remained behind. During one of his visits in Italy, in the year 1920, I was born in Italy. After I was born my father once again returned to America." Antony Gioia lived in Italy from 1920-1934. "...for a period of two years I did not see my father but I felt a strong connection to that great land on the other side of the ocean and I dreamt that someday I too would go there to live." Anthony attended a public elementary school in Valle San Giovanni for five years and then, as was the custom, continued with his lessons on a private basis from the local priest. The change Anthony had been dreaming of came in 1934. "My family decided to emigrate as a whole to America. After I arrived I went to high school until I was 16 years old. But I did not have a great love of learning at that time and my family was in need of money. The hard times of the depression years were coming to an end and it was not too difficult for me to find a job as an apprentice mechanic. Naturally at the DuPont company. I worked there until 1941 and my sentiments with my family and friends back in the Teramo area were never broken." In the year 1941 the world found itself once more at war. "It was a terrible time for the Italians in America," recalls Anthony who was drafted as a soldier into the American army. "The officers asked me if I could bear arms against my country of birth. Just like all the other Italians living in Penns Grove at the time, I said, 'Yes'. My patriotism for America trumped my ties to Italy. In times of war, a young 21year-old man like myself did not have time to waste thinking about hypothetical possibilities or even what it meant to be patriotic. I just wished that the war would end come to an end as quickly as possible and that a better life and times would soon come for my Italian cousins." "Do I regret this decision? Not at all. I think that I made the right choice. All things in consideration I think that I was a lucky guy. None of my relatives in Italy nor I was ever injured, at least physically. And I am happy that my children are not faced with the same decision that I had to make." Anthony Gioia has been back to Italy only twice, once in the 1960's and once in the 1970's. He went there once with his wife (a woman from the Marche region of Italy that he met in America) and a second time with all of his family. His first born child was born while the family lived on Pitman Street and he speaks a bit of Italian, albeit a bit hesitantly 50 years later. His two daughters, by contrast, speak only American English. "I would really like to go back to Italy for a visit," says Anthony, "but now I'm 86 years

old and my health is not all that good. Nevertheless, to this day I remain very proud of my Italian roots." THE SECOND GENERATION: PIETRO TRAINI (PETE TRAINI) Pete Traini was born in Camden, New Jersey, 3 November 1927. His father, along with two of Pete's uncles and many others from Valle San Giovanni, emigrated to America in 1918. Pete Traini lived in Camden until the age of six at which time his father found work at the DuPont company and they bought a house on Pitman Street in Penns Grove. "Italian is my mother tongue," says Pete to those who will listen. "When I was 17 years old I dropped out of Penns Grove Regional High School and joined the US Navy. In 1949 I again joined the armed forces, this time in the Air Force. I was sent to Tripoli in Libya, at that time an Italian territory." His knowledge of the Italian language was held in high esteem and very much appreciated. "It was there in Libya that I met my wife, Wanda Aspasini. In 1954 Wanda and I were married in Naples, Italy. After this went to Valle San Giovanni for an extended honeymoon of three months at the home of my uncle and other family members." Today all of Pete and Wanda's six children live in America. "Its been ages since I've been back to Italy," he reports. "The last time was in 1954 but I still feel very strong bonds to the land of my ancestors." THE THIRD GENERATION: STEFANO ULISSI (STEPHEN MARK ULISSI) Stephen Mark Ulissi was born on 21 April 1950 in Penns Grove, NJ. Before coming to America, his grandfather, Giovanni, lived in Valle San Giovanni with his six brothers and his widowed mother. The family was extremely poor and many times had barely enough food on the table to eat one meal per day. Giovanni's older brother emigrated to America in 1904. He was one of the first Italians from Valle San Giovanni to cross the ocean and move to Penns Grove and one of the first to work for the large chemical company, DuPont. Giovanni followed his brother to America in 1906. But after a year in America he had to return to Italy to complete his military service. While there he met a woman from Frondarola, a suburb of Teramo, and shortly thereafter the couple moved to America to begin a new life together. All of Giovanni's brothers emigrated to North America at one time or another. Five of them stayed and two returned to live in Italy. In 1920 Giovanni Ulissi had a son, Pietro Luigi Ulissi, and Stephen Mark, representing the third generation of immigrants, is his son. Says Stephen Mark, "From the time that I was an infant I spoke only English although I was able to take some Italian courses while in high school. One year I worked for DuPont but I knew that I wanted a different life for myself. So I became a psychologist and in the 1980's I was able to return to Italy. There I learned to "chew" a little bit of the Italian language. While traveling around I met the children of my great uncle who had returned to Italy 70 years ago." Bit by bit their mutual affections blossomed and their ties were solidified to the point where in 2004 Stephen Mark, with the help of his relatives, had a house built in Valle San Giovanni. The very next year, " on of the most beautiful and proudest days of my

life...I became an Italian citizen." More recently, Stephen Mark has been trying to improve his ability to speak Italian. Each day brings him closer ties to the land that his grandfather left 100 years ago. He does what he can to encourage this process. He has begun a website ( dedicated to his fellow "Vallaroli" living both in Italy and in America. The site has become rather popular and receives over 500 visits per month. With the help of a high school teacher from Teramo, Lucio De Marcellis, Stephen Mark has collaborated in editing several other internet sites (e.g., ) related to Valle San Giovanni and online Wikipedia and Wikitravel encyclopedia articles (notable among the various sites are those related to Valle San Giovanni, Frondarola, Teramo, and naturally, Penns Grove). "A good deal of work," he reports, "but each has been translated into both English and Italian."

30/11/2006 9.27

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