I give thanks!

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This year’s Labor Day weekend celebrations were looked forward to with great anticipation and, though the weather wasn’t exactly as we had hoped, all events were successful. For me, the eventful weekend began on Sunday when the first Sunday of the month walking tour took place. More than 50 individuals participated. The group was so large that it was split into three, each with their own tour guide, proving Pullman’s emergence as a “must see” Chicago sight.

What made this tour group special for me was that my friends Diane De Re and Sonia Carli, along with their four friends Nona, Molly, Charlie and cousin Craig, took part in the tour. We were all hoping the Pullman Coffee Shop would be open, but it was the day before their “soft” opening on Labor Day. With no other options in Pullman for this group to relax and unwind over a glass of wine, I did the Pullman thing and offered them my house as a place to sit down and chill — invite accepted!

They went on the tour, and I went home to prepare for visitors. I leapt into action, figuring I had two hours to prepare. That left me plenty of time to throw together two cakes and put them in the oven. I made one cake with my homemade form of Italy and another with my swirl bundt cake form. They were both a big hit and served their purpose as delicious desserts.

While the cakes baked, I made use of my time. Of course, I had to straighten the house due to the unexpected visitors, but being a neat freak, there wasn’t much straightening up to be done. I got out and washed a half dozen wine glasses; set out party plates, forks, and napkins; and broke out variety of wines and a bottle of Prosecco. By the time my guests arrived, all was ready and the added bonus was that the house was filled with the aroma of freshly baked cakes.

My guests finally arrived and the fun began, with me sharing more about the history of Pullman and the life of George Pullman, since I do a one-man show. Soon the conversations took off, given that Sonia and Diane and their cousin have strong ties to Pullman. We also talked about travels abroad, which covered not only Italy and other European countries but also the Arab Emirates.

The newest member of the group was Charlie, who had just moved to Chicago from New York. Charlie, an IT specialist, whose family originated in Sicily, definitely livened up the conversation with talk of the New York boroughs and Italian festivals and foods. For some reason my dog, Antonio, took a liking to Charlie and wouldn’t leave him alone — Charlie didn’t mind it in the least.

When talking about Pullman, I held everyone’s interest by backing up my stories, which I’ve accumulated in the course of 14 years of writing this column, with actual artifacts. My visitors were amazed and that is what led me to the title of this column: I give thanks!

I wouldn’t have those Pullman/Roseland/Kensington artifacts if my readers hadn’t been so generous in giving me these gifts to share with all Roselandites. That’s one of many reasons I’m so grateful as we gear up for another Thanksgiving. My visitors couldn’t believe it when I was talking about the Pullman factories and how they marked “TPC” (The Pullman Companies) on their tools and showed them an electric drill with the markings. When we were talking about ciopette and local stores such as Bernardi’s Italian Cheese, I illustrated my point with a bottle labeled “Pullman” and “Pullman Wine and Liquors.”

Of course, in talking about anything Kensington Italian, we ended up talking about ciopette, which I’ve written and researched endlessly. It was a big hit when I took two varnished ciope off a shelf. One was a ciopa brought to me from Venice and the other was one I had gotten when they were still available from Rockford’s Piemonte Bakery, which, in the 1920’s was the forerunner of Kensington’s Torino/Gonnella Bakery.

When we were talking about the many Pullman artifacts I have, I mentioned that I need to buy another five-shelf rack to display other artifacts I have received, including the many pieces of Pullman plate settings that I have recently been given by Jeannie and Louie Raffin of Schererville, Indiana. These are original Pullman Company servings that were used in Pullman train dining cars.

Along with those items, they also gave me two Pullman train blankets which were provided by Pullman Porters to customers and a Pullman Porter hat in excellent condition. I am planning to proudly display these items as soon as I arrange more shelf space. This extra shelf will allow me to display the items donated by the Raffins and also the many other items I’ve received, including Bortoli music books and various Italian language tapes, bilingual novels and South End Reporters and Calumet Index newspapers.

I am very thankful to all of my readers for helping me to keep Roseland’s spirit and memories alive through these donations. Every time I look through an old Calumet Index Annual or the late Annette Cavolo William’s Roseland newspaper collection, I am reminded of the love for Roseland that still exists. It is for this reason that everyone is welcome to my home to view these artifacts. These guests enjoyed their visit so much that it turned into an enjoyable four-hour visit.

I recently posted a list of the numerous year books I possess from most of the local high schools. As soon as I posted the list to Facebook, I was asked to seek out information on numerous graduates by their sons, daughters and siblings. Thankfully, I had some very interesting results to share with many of those requesting information.

Once again, I offer a big thank you to those who have generously made their memorabilia, artifacts, and memories of Roseland available for safekeeping and sharing with other Roselandites. I am putting together my next book “Roseland Recollections,” and this book will include many photos of the items I have on display. I am sure that the stories and the photos will bring back great memories for all those who have Roseland, Pullman and Kensington in their blood and in their history. Thanks again.

Copies of “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” are available from me with prompt delivery at $20 + $5 s&h. Contact me at petalsfromroseland@gmail.com or 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756.


About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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