NORTH ADAMS -- North Adams Lodge 704 celebrated Italian Heritage Month with a large display of memorabilia, an Italian dessert night and a two-hour discussion and sharing memories of growing up Italian in North Adams.
Preparations started at the regular June meeting of the lodge, when Diane Floriani suggested the group should plan a celebration. She was told to contact the library director, Richard Moon, who suggested a "Taste of Italy" night as well as a night of open discussions on "Being Italian in North Adams."
Over the summer, Kathy Catelotti sorted the hundreds of photographs and newspaper articles, researching and labeling the photos with names and finally arranging them chronologically in several notebooks.
At the September meeting, it was decided that since the lodge is so small, it should host an Italian dessert night instead of a "Taste of Italy" extravaganza.
On Oct. 1, Kathy and Paul Catelotti, Diane and Louis Floriani, and Betty Dickinson filled the large display case in the main lobby of the North Adams Public Library with original regalia and an original book of minutes from the Ladies Lodge, with an American and an Italian flag on each side. Moon also gave permission to use the entire front room of the mansion.
Highlights included an antique "deputy’s" vest, books and a plaque listing the Judge Ernest Rosasco Humanitarian Award winners displayed in the library’s antique glass-front
A large map of Italy was attached to foam board, and a supply of quilt pins with labels attached were left nearby with instructions for visitors to add their family name and attach it to the map. A large plaque with the names of the past venerables/presidents was located next to the fireplace, and a guest book was also left on the table for visitors to sign.
On Oct. 18, Kathy Catelotti brought a tray of Italian cookies and coffee. Fran Kwasniowski, Maria Oberti and Antonietta Mazzantini brought a basket of crispitell as well as anisette and sesame cookies. Diane Floriani brought lemon-filled butterfly cupcakes, reminiscent of Natalie Mazzuchi’s cupcake snacks for many years at the Lodge meetings. The room was filled to capacity.
Another overflow crowd showed up for the Italian Discussion Night on Oct. 25. Several people had prepared family stories. They talked about cooking, gardening, shoemaking, working on the railroad, riding the trains, delivering boxes of grapes, making wine and grappa, and the man who sold olive oil, cheese, sausage and pasta to his neighbors.
Discussions switched to more modern times, when Eugene Carlson from the North Adams Historical Society asked when mixed marriages started to become accepted and when the "neighborhoods" disappeared. Everyone decided it was after World War II that mixed marriage became accepted. Many people said it was around that time that the "Americanization" of Italians became evident.