Eugene Russo 


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While living on 12th Street, we had a friend named Eugene Russo. He and his family lived about half a block from us. They became a compara and compare to us because they were godfather for my sister, Rose, at her confirmation into the Catholic church, and because Eugene was a brother to my Aunt Filomena who married my Uncle Louie. Later Eugene's beautiful daughter married John Diacova, my best man's brother, Pat Diacova.

So we were all compara and compare--a highly respected title in the Italian family. We got together a lot during picnics, socials, dinners, and especially in the fall when wine making was in season. That was the time when all the Italian families were busy making wine.

Since we were Godparents, we would exchange wines at various holidays. We would give them three or four gallons and they would give us three or four gallons. It was nice. There was no hesitation about giving, everybody was willing to give, and people would gladly take. It was an expression of love.

We were all wine lovers and wine drinkers. We used to exchange family secrets about what kind of wine we liked, what kind we made, what sort of grapes we bought, and our method of fermenting and aging it.

Many Sundays after a nice dinner, the men would play cards and the women would sit off to one side or outdoors knitting or crocheting and talk among themselves. The young people would go out to seek their own pleasures. That was the way they used to spend some of their Sundays and sometimes holidays.

It was enjoyable to them because that was their type of life in Italy, and that is the way it was here in America. They never hesitated in any way to help out whenever anyone needed help. Regardless of what was needed, they were there to help. This was really a blessing to the old people at that time.

But let me go back a few years in the life of Eugene Russo. He had an older sister named, Regina, and a sister named Filomena--she was the middle child between the three. Eugene was the youngest child.

When they came to America, they lived all together on Prospect Street Down Neck, which is about three blocks from the Penn Station. Regina, the older sister, was married to a man named Silvio Olivera. They made an ideal couple; very pleasant, quiet, reserved, respectful. A very nice couple.

Eugene was married to Melinda, a real old fashion, good woman. I am not quite sure, but it may have been that Regina and Eugene were both married in Italy. Anyway, Filomena was still single and living with them on Prospect Street. She was a very reserved woman. She always acted and carried herself in a very dignified way.

Somehow Uncle Louie met Filomena, and they courted and later married. They were both in their early to mid-forties, and they never had any children. Their marriage date fails me now, I would have to search through some old photos to find a date when it took place. I don't recall if I was an usher in their wedding party, but after they got married, they lived with us on 12th Street.

Eugene and I got along great. We had the same likes and dislikes, and we were not much different in age. He was a truck driver for a paper mill company, and later became a trailer driver for them. We used to exchange ways and means of driving trailer trucks because at that time I was driving trailers for Fruehauf.

When Eugene lived Down Neck, he had an Italian friend who came from Italy and lived with them. This friend had been a mechanic in Italy, and I believe worked for the Fiat Motor Company. When he came to America, I was introduced to him. He owned a Fiat sedan with a right-hand steering wheel. Where he got it, and how he brought it over to this country, I don't know. It was an enormous car; well built and tough. At the time I was 18 or 19 years old and I asked him to let me drive his car. He was reluctant at first, but then he said OK--but be careful.

It was a different experience for me. I had never driven a car with a right-hand steering wheel. The gear shift was different, the pedals were European style, and that also made it confusing. However, I drove it from Down Neck, up Market Street to downtown, past Broad and Market Streets, and up the hill to the court house, where he took over. It was an enormous car. I had never driven a car that big before. It was an experience. Well, the automobile has really come a long way since then, and it's still coming.