Our farm got
electricity from PG&E in 1937 and I remember every Sunday
morning at 10:00 a.m. my dad would listen to the Johnny
Cardellini show on our cathedral shaped Philco radio. This
was an Italian speaking show that I think was broadcast
from San Francisco featuring journalist Johnny Cardellini
who talked about the news and broke it up with music. My
dad didn't speak any English so this was a show he could
understand even though there was alot he didn't like about
The radio show
was followed by our biggest meal of the week. My mother
made her best spaghetti or beef roast for Sunday's noon-time
meal that always included fresh Italian bread. We would
go to the Dos Palos train station every Saturday night to
pick up our week's supply of bread, five loaves of sourdough
bread delivered by train from San Francisco as my dad didn't
think store-bought sliced bread was really bread, saying
simply "that's not bread!"
We got some supplies
from a man who came by our house about once a month and
took orders for anchovies, cheese and other goods. He was
a gruff Italian who had no time for nonsense and would say
"make up your mind, I got to go." When the placed-order
was delivered we would pick it up at the train station.
Other sources of goods were the Montgomery Ward's catalogue,
peaches from Merced and the fish vendor who brought fresh
fish from Monterey to Dos Palos every Friday. And of course
mother had her garden which provided fresh produce for our
table and for canning.
I think I was
six when we got a spring-wound phonograph. It was an open,
table top model in a wooden case with no lid. My dad loved
Italian opera and I can remember him cranking up that phonograph
and listening to his opera records. I remember one particular
song that he played because we saw an opera at the moving
pictures show in Dos Palos and I associate one of his opera
records with a scene in the movie where a platter of spaghetti
was carried out to a table, the platter got knocked over
and the spaghetti went flying.
My dad mostly
listened to his records on the weekends, particularly on
Sunday after church while mom was fixing Sunday's dinner.
I don't remember any other records being played on our phonograph
except Italian opera. I do remember that when my grandfather
died in 1940 and my mother opened the letter telling of
his death (as he lived in Italy) I heard her scream and
we had a week of mourning that included no radio or phonograph
Since my parents
weren't US citizens when the United States entered World
War II and Italy was an ally of Germany, as Italians they
were restricted to a 25 mile radius from their house and
a requirement that they had to be inside their house by
sundown each day. The
government also took away their radio and their single-shot
These were fearful
times and the government was much harder on the Japanese
residents in the US than they were on the Italians. So my
parents in some ways were fortunate that they were able
to continue to keep their farm and milk their cows. Nevertheless,
the confinement did present some problems and there was
some prejudice even though I had two older brothers, Joe
and Fred, that would serve overseas during the War.
Joe was a Seabee
in the South Pacific in 1942 and Fred joined the army in
1943, so that just left me and my twin brother Ace at home.
We had 30 dairy cows in production during the War. I started
milking cows when I was nine years old and milked ten cows
in the morning at 5:30 am and ten after school. I had to
wear bib-overalls (which I didn't like) for school and for
work because they cost the same as jeans and according to
my dad were a better value (more denim for the same price).
We raised alfalfa
for the cows and got five or six cuttings during the summertime.
After each cutting we would request irrigation water from
the irrigation district. They would tell you when you could
irrigate and then you would tell them when you were done
and they'd charge you accordingly. Irrigation was done using
ditches that had "checks" and you could do perhaps
4 or 5 checks at a time. You wanted to stop the water before
it got to the end of the row so timing was important as
you didn't want to waste water.
During the war
my dad went out into the fields after dark to change the
irrigation "checks", lantern in hand. Apparently
on one occasion a neighbor or a "dollar-man" saw
him and reported him for his violation of the sundown curfew.
The sheriff came to our house the next day and my dad received
a stern warning. I'm not sure what would have happened if
they would have caught him outside his house after dark
a second time.
When the War
ended we could again have a radio but we didn't get our
old one back, or our shotgun. I don't know what happened
to that family phonograph with its Italian opera records.
I'm sure a wind-up phonograph was eventually considered
old and obsolete and thrown out.
When I married
Judy in 1958 we bought a Sears black-and-white television,
my first television, but it didn't have a record player
with it. We did buy a 45 rpm record player a few years later
and Judy had quite a few 45's for that machine.
In 1976 we purchased
a 1975 two-door, brown and tan two-tone Cadillac Coup de
Ville that had an 8-track sound system in it. We really
enjoyed the 8-track recordings on car trips as there was
no switching of radio stations or loss of radio signal.
Just continuous music at the push of a button.
Since then we
have continued to enjoy recordings on cassette tapes, CDs
and iTunes for Judy's iPod. So although phonographs haven't
been a part of our home for many years, I'm pleased to be
a "Friend of the Phonograph" and fondly remember
those childhood Sunday's and my dad listening to his Italian
Opera records on his phonograph.