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Spirit of the North End

Mario Di Leo, The North Ender Who Saved My Life

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I remember him as a handsome man in suite coat and tie. I remember him always smiling and always kind. I remember him as the man who saved my life. Many of you will remember him in your own way, but I’m sure the thoughts will just a special as mine are. I’m referring here to Mario Di Leo, a man who helped to make the North End the wonderful place that it was when I was growing up. I knew Mario from the Shaw House and the Summer Day Camp. I remembered him well from the latter because it ...

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When the North End was bewitched

Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853.
Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum

Many of us have heard about the witchcraft craze in Salem of 1692. Less well known is a witchcraft incident in 1688, a crucial part of which took place in the North End, and involved Cotton Mather (1663-1728), leader of Boston’s 2nd Church in North Square. Mather recounts the incident in his work “Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions,” published in 1689. Both this book and Mather would become crucial players in the events at Salem in 1692. The North End case began in the summer of 1688 at the home of the Goodwin family, John, Martha, and their ...

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“Street Corner Society” revisited

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On Jan. 8 of this year, Mario Di Leo and I visited the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College in Cambridge. The library is home to the archival records of the North Bennet Street Industrial School. The records run from 1880 to 1973, and include administrative, financial and personnel reports; information on the various school programs (such as Shaw House and Caddy Camp); studies of immigration and Americanization in the North End; letters, scrapbooks and photographs; and a lot more. Mario and I were looking for something in particular: folder IIAviii:39, titled “Correspondence re: “Street Corner Society,” 1944.” To explain why ...

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Boston’s colorful turn-of-the-century Carnevale

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On February 4, 1895, the headline of the Boston Globe read as follows: Eleven Masquerading Italians. They Disturb the Sabbath Stillness of the North End by Celebrating a Carnival which Closes Feb 27.” The article went on to describe the event and its consequences. Out for “as good a time as could be had,” over 1,000 men, women, and children swung in line behind 11 costumed men “lead by a tall Neapolitan, who thrashed out national music. On they marched, returning the salutes of pretty Italian maidens who waved high-colored bandanas from the many windows of the big tenement houses. ...

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Home of my heart

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I grew up in a small Italian village on the East Coast of the United States. At least, that is how I think of growing up in Boston’s North End. I don’t like to call it “Little Italy” because we never called it that. It was just “the North End.” And it was a special place just because it was an Italian place. There was a certain style and rhythm to the North End, a certain flavor and mood, which came from Italian and found its roots in a new land. I was born in 1958. My mother, father, sister ...

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