Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ersilla Angelucci, Olga Varrone, July 29, 1980

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: The following interview was conducted on July 28th, 1980, at the home of Ersilla Angelucci and her daughter, Olga Varrone.

Segment Synopsis: Interview is introduced, including the date, location, and interviewee/interviewer. Interview begins with a brief conversation between White, Angelucci, and Varrone to ensure the microphone is working. The conversation is very light and relaxed.

Keywords: Ersilla Angelucci; Italian community; Lexington; Lexington Avenue; Olga Varrone; Ronald F. White; University of Kentucky

00:01:04 - Angelucci recalls her early life in Italy

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, uh, Mrs. Angelucci, what, what do you recall of your family in, uh, Italy, and uh...

Segment Synopsis: Talks about being a lone child, with a sister who died at the age of two and a father (who was an ebonist) who died when she was six. Lived in the small town of Castel Frentano, province of Chieti, which is down below Rome and has now been made into a ski resort. Was married at the age of 16.

Keywords: Castel Frentano; Chieti; Ersilla Angelucci; Italy; Rome; World War I; ebonist

00:02:27 - Multiple travels between Italy and America

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Partial Transcript: After the war - big war. First world war. After that, I two years I went back because my mother died.

Segment Synopsis: Describes Angelucci's many voyages between Italy and America, occurring almost every five years for fifty years or so.It started because her mother died over there, so she returned for the funeral. But the rest were not for any reason. She is married to Joseph Angelucci.

Keywords: America; Italy; Joseph Angelucci; World War I

00:03:20 - Her husband coming to settle in America first

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Partial Transcript: And what, what did he do in Italy? What was his occupation? He was a tailor man.

Segment Synopsis: Her husband, a tailor, came to America first to settle. Opened a tailor shop with his brother Phillip down on Main Street.

Keywords: America; Italy; Joseph Angelucci; Main Street; Phillip Angelucci; tailor

00:03:36 - Angelucci and Varrone travel to America

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Partial Transcript: So, when you came over from Italy, did, where did you land, do you remember?

Segment Synopsis: Made the voyage over after her husband had been here a few years. Landed in Boston. Her husband came and picked her up. She didn't like the country because she couldn't speak the language. Went back to Rome a few years later so Varrone, age fifteen, could study there.

Keywords: America; Boston; Italy; New York; Rome; immigration

00:05:02 - Starting life in America and becoming successful

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Partial Transcript: So, he was a tailor, and he came over to the United States.

Segment Synopsis: Angelucci's husband, while he came to America before his wife, was not the first of his "family" to come. His brother, Phillip, came in 1911 and landed in Philadelphia. Stayed there for some time, but was not very successful, so a cousin told him to come to Lexington and set up a little tailor shop. Set one up above a drugstore in Lexington. Called to his brother, Angelucci's husband, telling him to come along with his wife and two children. The third brother, Clito, came later and the three brothers opened a tailor business near where the Strand Theater used to be.

Keywords: America; Clito Angelucci; Italy; Joseph Angelucci; Lexington; Mississippi; Philadelphia; Phillip Angelucci; Ralph Angelucci; Rosalind Angelucci; Strand Theater; Viaduct; Vicksburg; drugstore; immigration; musician; tailor

00:08:36 - Uncle Clito returns to Italy after his mother dies

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Partial Transcript: Then my grandmother died in Italy, and the youngest brother went back to Italy. He was not married.

Segment Synopsis: Returned to Italy when his mother passed away. Never returned to America. Married in Italy. Had one son, who is now a professor in Montiano, Italy. Then he died (his brothers are dead as well), but all three of their wives are still living - one is at a nursing home.

Keywords: Adriatic Sea; Clito Angelucci; Italy; Montiano; Rome; death; grandmother; nursing home

00:09:45 - Growing up in Lexington as Italian-Americans

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Partial Transcript: So then we, we grow up and all the children came back over here and they all went to college, and my uncle had four children.

Segment Synopsis: Came over to America so the children could go to college. Moved into a house on Lexington Avenue, across from Fred Fugazzi and next door to Ginocchio. Called this Italian corner "little Italy." Attended St. Peter's Catholic School.

Keywords: America; Armand Angelucci; Fred Fugazzi; Ginocchio; Italy; Lexington Avenue; Phil Angelucci; St. Peter's Catholic School; college; judge; little Italy; sheriff

00:11:06 - A brief history of Olga Varrone (part 1)

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Partial Transcript: We lived on Bon Air for many years and I had two sons.

Segment Synopsis: Went back to Rome right after the war. Met her husband, who had been a prisoner of the war. Worked for the Navy department during the war. Married in Italy at the church she used to attend as a child.

Keywords: Bon Air; English; French; Italian; Italy; Lexington; Navy; Olga Varrone; Rome; World War I; concentration camp; married; wedding

00:12:03 - Living in Rome as Olga Varrone grew up (part 1)

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Partial Transcript: Uh, we went back to Italy and we had an apartment there. We lived there five years and I went to school there with the nuns.

Segment Synopsis: Olga briefly recalls living in Rome as a child. Lived in an apartment with her mother for five years. Attended school with the nuns.

Keywords: Italy; apartment; nuns; school

00:12:13 - A brief history of Olga Varrone (part 2)

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Partial Transcript: And then the second, when I went back again I got married, and then I became pregnant with my first son in Italy.

Segment Synopsis: Married in Italy. Became pregnant in Italy. Came back to America to have her son born here. Her husband stayed in Italy because he had to wait for the quota. Came over when his son was three months old. Had another child who passed away at five years old. Husband died of cancer at 48. Has a grandchild. Describes her cousins Ralph, 'Mando, and Phil.

Keywords: America; Italy; Olga Varrone; Robert Varrone; cancer; child death; college; grandchild; husband death; immigration; married; pregnant

00:13:45 - Varrone was the only child to marry an Italian

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Partial Transcript: Okay, uh, as far as your immediate family, Angelucci's, are, uh, was there any intermarriage between the Lexington-Italians and, uh, the Angelucci's?

Segment Synopsis: Varrone said there was no intermarriage between the Lexington-Italian's. Was the only one to marry an Italian. Describes how her cousins all married girls from America.

Keywords: Angelucci; Kentucky; Lexington; Lexington-Italians; Tennessee; intermarriage

00:14:42 - Why the Angelucci's came to America (part 1)

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember, uh, why y'all decided to come to, uh, America?

Segment Synopsis: Because business wasn't good over in Italy. Didn't have a job. Knew brother was having more success in America. Then the war started and he didn't want to get drafted, so he left.

Keywords: America; Angelucci; Italy; World War I; drafting; immigration; poor economy

00:15:14 - Joseph Angelucci's first trip to America

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Partial Transcript: Ehhh...18, 20 days to come in this country with a boat. Terrible - was scared to death.

Segment Synopsis: Travelled in a submarine. Described the experience as terrible - that he was scared to death. Travelled on the Giuseppe Verdi with the wife and two children of his brother Phillip.

Keywords: America; Italy; World War I; immigration; submarine

00:15:46 - Angelucci and Varrone's first trip to America

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Partial Transcript: See we all went on boats. I went on, I don't know how many times I went. The only time I went back by plane was in 1963.

Segment Synopsis: Travelled on large passenger ships to and from Italy. Described the ships as beautiful. Had swimming pools and a bank.Talked very highly of their experiences traveling between Italy and America.

Keywords: America; Ersilla Angelucci; Italy; Olga Varrone; Rex; immigration; passenger ships

00:16:39 - Why the Angelucci's came to America (part 2)

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Partial Transcript: Well they did better here with their business then they had in Italy, you know.

Segment Synopsis: Did better with their business. Also came because the children could get a better education here. Angelucci said she had lived with her mother for eight years and it was too much for her. So she decided to go.

Subjects: America; Angelucci; Italy; better education; immigration

00:17:09 - Staying in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: So you ended up in, in Lexington to uh, uh...

Segment Synopsis: Have lived in Lexington since they moved here. Some relatives have moved elsewhere but most have stayed here. Became a well-known family. I few relatives still live in Italy that live right on the Adriatic Sea in Termoli.

Keywords: Adriatic Sea; America; Italy; Lexington; Termoli; immigration

00:18:10 - Italy vs. America today

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Partial Transcript: They live b-better in Itally than we live over here, 'cause I was there three years ago...

Segment Synopsis: The economy is much better in Italy now. They don't pay as much taxes and have beautiful apartments and cars. Many people own two houses now: an apartment in the city and a house on the Adriatic Sea, called a villa, which cost them $25,000. Cousins of the Angelucci's wanted them to come back and buy one. Admitted to thinking about going back because it's cheaper there now. The house they live in in Lexington is too big for just the two of them, because it used to house six people, but they don't want to give it up. Talked about the antiques in the house. Angelucci was left a villa by her mother, but she sold it, and now she regrets it. Talks about how they don't have air conditioning there - but you don't need it because the breeze is so nice.

Keywords: Adriatic Sea; America; Italy; antiques; apartment; economy; villa

00:21:10 - Other Italian-American families living in Lexington (part 1)

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Partial Transcript: Let's jump back to Lexington Ave. then. Which other families lived...

Segment Synopsis: Knew Miss Stella, who has passed away, the Ginocchio family (one of which is a lawyer who lives on Henry Clay Boulevard), the Fugazzi's, the Candioto's (used to own a piano store), Marvin Dunn, and the Granducci's). Claimed that very few Italians were here, but many Sicilians were. Called their little Italian corner on Lexington Avenue "little Italy."

Keywords: America; Candioto; Fugazzi; Ginocchio; Granducci; Italian-Americans; Italy; Lexington; Lexington Avenue; Marvin Dunn; Miss Stella; Sicilians; lawyer; little Italy

00:22:42 - Discussing Segregation

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, because we'd go to the, we could walk to the University. All that part of the University, that first block, was all colored people.

Segment Synopsis: Talk about how the African Americans were very separated from the other immigrants. Lived mostly up by the basketball arena, in what the Angelucci's termed little "meter shacks." That area was eventually torn down.

Keywords: Euclid Avenue; Italian-Americans; Lexington; University of Kentucky; basketball arena; black people; meter shacks; segregation

00:23:39 - The Lexington Italian-Americans were all very close

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Partial Transcript: So this, this Italian community. Everyone was pretty friendly? All the Italian were pretty close and you...

Segment Synopsis: Talk about how close all of the Italian-Americans in Lexington were.

00:23:45 - Other Italian-American families living in Lexington (part 2)

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Partial Transcript: Stella. She was wonderful. I never...

Segment Synopsis: Miss Stella had two daughters: Maria and Virginia. Died before the interview but her children are still alive. Lived in Danville and had a confectionary. Varrone used to go over there and spend the weekend. Now Miss Stella's family lives on Nicholasville Road. Several of her children are IBM'ers. The Angelucci's also knew the Delay's (whose father came from Italy), Miss Brown (who is from upstate New York), and Dr. Romano (who was born here in America).

Keywords: America; Danville; Dr. Romano; IBM; Italy; Lexington-Italian; Maria; Miss Brown; Miss Stella; New York; Nicholasville Road; Virginia; confectionary; immigration

00:25:46 - Attending church in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: Did, did most of the, uh, the old Italians go to the same church?

Segment Synopsis: Most attended Saint Peter's Church, but there was also Saint Paul's. The children all attended Saint Catherine's Academy, except 'Mando, who attended Catholic High (a school for priests). Attended the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Catholic High; Italian-Americans; Lexington; Saint Catherine's Academy; Saint Paul's; Saint Peter's Church; University of Kentucky; catholic; church; high school; priest; school; seminary

00:26:16 - Attending catholic church with the Irish

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Partial Transcript: Uh, but most of the Catholic's in town, most of them were, uh, Irish, weren't they?

Segment Synopsis: Claimed there were more Irish than Italian in Lexington at the time. All attended the catholic churches. But now more Italians are living in Lexington compared to the Irish because IBM employs quite a few. Varrone worked for Joe Bologna when he was president, typing his letters and helping him out just because he was nice to them.

Keywords: Irish; Italian-Americans; Joe Bologna; Lexington; Olga Varrone; catholic; church

00:26:59 - Other Italian-American families living in Lexington (part 3)

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Partial Transcript: Popania was here. Oh, the Popania's were friends of ours, of ours too.

Segment Synopsis: Knew the Popania's, who owned a fruit stand back in the day, which was still in business at the time of the interview, but was owned by the son instead of the father because he passed away. Also knew the Spagnolia's - Vince Spagnolia, who married a Popania.

Keywords: Italian-Americans; Lexington; Popania; Spagnolia; fruit stand

00:27:25 - Shopping in Lexington as Italian-Americans

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Partial Transcript: When you, when you went, when you'd go shopping and things did you try to frequent the Italian...

Segment Synopsis: Claimed there were no Italian stores - there were meat places, but they didn't produce specifically Italian food.

Keywords: Italian; Italian-Americans; Lexington; shopping; stores

00:27:43 - Other Lexington-Italian families living in Lexington (par 4)

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Partial Transcript: I remember them because...But none of them speak Italian. They don't speak 'cause they live in this country.

Segment Synopsis: Knew the owners of the meat shop. Talked very highly of the wife - Miss Spokiano, who came from another part of Italy and spoke a very "beautiful" Italian. White also interview Miss Spokiano, who was 90 at the time of the interview, and Varrone and Angelucci asked him how she was doing. Miss Spokiano's sister is in a nursing home. Several years before the interview, the meat shop started selling salami, mozzarella, and other Italian foods. There were no pizzerias in Lexington though when the Angelucci's immigrated here.

Keywords: Italian; Italian-Americans; Italy; mozzarella; nursing home; salami

00:28:45 - Varrone's childhood in Lexington (part 1)

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Partial Transcript: ...bus 'cause we never had cars then. You know? We walked to the movies, and we walked to church.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Mundelli allowed Ralph Angelucci to use is Fiat. Took all the kids down Main Street and ended up getting arrested, but nothing bad really happened. Very few people had cars at this time. But everyone had maids - "colored people." Paid them one dollar a day. The Angelucci's maid also made them a pie for an extra dollar every time she came. Talks about how Ersilla Angelucci gives Joe Bologna recipes, and is good friends with the Bologna's.

Keywords: African Americans; Fiat; Italian car; Joe Bologna; Lexington; Main Street; Mr. Mundelli; Ralph Angelucci; arrested; doctor; maid

00:30:40 - How they got along with people from other cultures

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Partial Transcript: How do the Italians get along with other parts of the, uh, community? Were they...did you have any trouble with the, with the Irish or the blacks?

Segment Synopsis: Claimed that they got along well with the Irish, and nobody gave them a hard time. Admitted they pretty much kept to themselves because their father's were successful and they really didn't need anything.

Keywords: African Americans; Irish; Italians; Lexington Ave; blacks; prejudice; racism

00:31:17 - Varrone's childhood in Lexington (part 2)

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Partial Transcript: You didn't have to work or anything, as a child? No, we didn't. Oh, no.

Segment Synopsis: Never had to work in her father's store, except for a few weeks when she was in high school. Worked as a secretary in another business. Worked in the house along with her cousins. Ersilla Angelucci stayed home and cooked - never had to work. Varron's daddy never let her go on dates. The boys were allowed to go, but not Varrone - she couldn't even go to her senior prom. Had one date, and her dad embarrassed her. This was part of the reason why she was sent to study in Rome. But in Rome, she rebelled - dyed her hair, smoked cigarettes, and hanging out with boys. Her family also used to go to the sea shore every year.

Keywords: Angelucci and Ringo; Lexington; Rome; cigarettes; dating troubles; rebel; smoking; work

00:34:15 - Living in Rome as Olga Varrone grew up (part 2)

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Partial Transcript: I had a nice apartment. Yeah, right on top of the river. Beautiful apartment, in the center of Roma.

Segment Synopsis:

Keywords: Lived in an apartment in the center of Rome. Put an ad in the paper when it was time to sell so they could come back to America.

00:34:47 - Discussing the priests at Saint Peter's Catholic Church

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Who were the, uh, the catholic church then. You went to Saint Peter's, right?

Segment Synopsis: Very few Italian priests - most were Sicilians.

Keywords: Father Enice; Father Punch; Lexington; Saint Peter's Catholic Church; Sicilians; cancer; catholic church; pastor; priest

00:35:24 - The Italian-Americans vs. the Sicilian-Americans

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Partial Transcript: Now there were a lot of Sicilians, like the Mangony's. And we didn't really go with them...

Segment Synopsis: Apparently, in Rome, Sicilians are considered from another state. Claimed that many consider the Sicilians non-Italian. So the Angelucci's never really intermingled with the Sicilians, although a few did attend the catholic school that Varrone attended. Most of Varrone's friends were American, Catholic girls or Irish girls. Could only recall on Italian friend of hers.

Keywords: American; Italian-Americans; Italians; Lexington; Rome; Saint Catherine's Academy; Sicilian-Americans; Sicilians

00:37:00 - Varrone's childhood in Lexington (part 3)

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, we just lived in that area. We, you know, we stayed along Lexington Avenue - no cars.

Segment Synopsis: As kids, they used to play lots of games, and loved to go swimming, especially at the pond on Nicholasville Road. Ralph, or his mother (Varrone's aunt) would take the kids after they finished their chores. Varrone lived with her aunt for a while when her mother traveled back to Italy after the death of her mother. Often would go out on picnics as well, including all of "little Italy" in the summertime.

Keywords: Ginocchio; Italian; Italian-Americans; Italy; Lexington; Lexington Avenue; Miss Stella; Mr. Mundelli; Nicholasville Road; Ralph Angelucci; childhood; fried chicken; little Italy; neighborhood; picnic; streetcar; summertime; swim; swimming pool; vacation

00:38:44 - The Italian traditions practiced in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: What kinds of Italian, uh, traditions did you practice while you were in Lexington?

Segment Synopsis: Used to have a fish dinner at Christmas. Had to send someone to Cincinnati each year to get certain kinds of fish. They also had chicken.

Keywords: Christmas; Cincinnati; English; Feast of the Seven Fishes; Italian; Lexington; chickens; fish; fish dinner; fish fry; squid; tomato sauce; traditions

00:39:40 - Other Lexington-Italians

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Partial Transcript: There was a man, Italian, Italian man, who was a friend of my dad's. And he came from Italy...

Segment Synopsis: Knew an Italian man, Consalvi, who was a shoemaker on Limestone. He knew Joe Bologna. Consalvi came to America with nothing, and the Angelucci family gave him a job and the first five dollars he ever had. Would always bring chickens to the fish dinners. Loved to eat - was a very overweight man. Would always bring the kids chocolate eggs. Returned to Italy after some time with his money, and became mayor of a small town. Came to see Varrone when she got married in 1948. Died soon after that because he ate too much. Was real good buddies with Angelucci's husband. Would always go on long walks with him every Sunday after they ate.

Keywords: America; Consalvi; Easter Sunday; Italian; Italy; Joe Bologna; Lexington Avenue; Limestone; Richmond Road; Torcinelli; chicken; chocolate egg; family friend; immigration; lamb; long walks; reservoir; shoemaker; successful; tailor shop

00:42:36 - Eating strictly Italian food

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Partial Transcript: You didn't eat a whole lot of Italian-style food though. You kind of ate more Americanized food?

Segment Synopsis: Ate strictly Italian food. The American women married into the family were taught how to cook Italian food. Only one never really learned. Made due with what was around them since not many Italian shops were in Lexington.

Keywords: Christmas; Italian; Lexington; University of Kentucky; food; lasagna; meat shop; pasta

00:45:21 - Difficulties of being a Lexington-Italian female

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Partial Transcript: So it's kind of hard on Italian girls then in Lexington

Segment Synopsis: Most Italian guys married American girls, but very few American boys wanted to marry Italian girls. Varrone loved being in Rome so much, and cried when she had to come back. Things were just different there.

Keywords: Italy; Lexington; Lexington-Italian; Rome; difficulties; female

00:46:02 - Other Lexington-Italian families in Lexington (part 5)

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Partial Transcript: She was unmarried. She spent a lot of her time just working...

Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Buchinany was unmarried and worked in the bank as well as for the government with Varrone. Had a very large family. Also knew the GInocchio's - had a big house on Limestone. Started off better because they had money, whereas the Angelucci's were flat out broke. Also knew the Serafini's, who might be related to White (the interviewer). Knew the Angelucci's well and spent lots of time at their house.

Keywords: Ginocchio; Italian-Americans; Lexington; Limestone; Milan; Philadelphia; Phoenix Hotel; Serafini's Pizzeria; baccala; boarding house; pizzeria; polenta; ravioli; spaghetti

00:50:33 - Mr. Mundelli's boarding house

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Partial Transcript: Mundelli was here when my uncle came from Italy. That's the first place he went.

Segment Synopsis: Lived on Main Street by the Viaduct; Rented rooms and had a boarding house. Phillip Angelucci stayed there when he came from Philadelphia. Angelucci's husband did as well. Stayed until their families came and they could rent a house.

Keywords: Italy; Lexington; Main Street; Philadelphia; Viaduct; boarding house; immigration

00:51:32 - Other Lexington-Italians families in Lexington (part 6)

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Partial Transcript: Mundelli was a real good cook. She could cook Italian and any other stuff.

Segment Synopsis: Spent a lot of time at the Mundelli's. Mrs. Mundelli always made them good food. Mr. Mundelli took them swimming. Also talked about the Buchinany's.

Keywords: Fiat; Lexington; Lexington Avenue; Main Street; Mississippi; cemetery; swimming; viaduct

00:56:06 - Where all the Lexington-Italians were from

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Partial Transcript: It's funny how they all ended up...yeah...ended up in Lexington for different kinds of reasons.

Segment Synopsis: The Ginocchio's came from Genoa. The Angelucci's came from south of Rome. The Stella's came from Milano. The Zaccharelli's from Tuscany. And they all spoke different dialects. The Popania's were from Sicily

Keywords: Genoa; Italy; Lexington; Lexington-Italian; Milan; Milano; Rome; Sicilian; Sicily; Tuscany; dialect

00:57:12 - Varrone had to learn Italian

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Partial Transcript: But when you go to school, now, you know, I can speak the dialect, but I can also, I speak perfect Italian.

Segment Synopsis: Grew up speaking English, and didn't learn Italian until she was sent to Rome. Now she speaks perfect, fluent Italian.

Subjects: America; English; Italian; Italy; Lexington; Rome; dialect; nun

00:58:14 - Still wanting to go back to Italy

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Partial Transcript: But I enjoyed every minute of it. I'd love to go back to Rome.

Segment Synopsis: Both Angelucci and Varrone want to go back and live in Italy, but admit they probably never will. Varrone wants to live in Rome, while Angelucci wants to live in a small town (Rome is too big for her now). Talk with White about how he should go to Rome too.

Keywords: Italy; Lexington; Rome