Roseland was named in honor of the many roses that the Dutch settlers had planted to beautify the area. In addition to having many gardens and flowers sprouting throughout Roseland, there came to be six florists in Roseland, but the one florist that meant the most to those of us that attended St. Anthony’s was Richard’s Flower Shop at 11503 S. Michigan Ave. They were ‘our’ florist.
Richard “Popo” Guastalli married a Petrocelli, who was part of the Parise family from Parises of Kensington and Front Street, which shows how interconnected the families of Roseland were. He was the original ‘Richard,’ and he opened the business in 1937 and as the only Roseland florist who spoke Italian. For years, he reigned as the sole St. Anthony florist.
In 1959, Richard Guastalli Jr. became a part owner in the shop, along with his cousin Leno Guastalli, who was known for being a member of Bortoli’s Band. St. Anthony’s made use of floral arrangements in decorating the church for the numerous feasts and ceremonies of church pageantry. Among these were the St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Alexander, and Holy Rosary Lady’s Auxiliary processions that were held throughout the spring and summer months including the especially “flowerful” May Crowning with its May Queen and her Court.
I spoke with Ted and Frank Lagger, cousins of the Guastallis, and they both agreed that one of the best events was Easter at Richard’s. People came from all over the South Side to view the display window. It had been decorated for Easter with an Easter Bunny theme. To the children’s delight, there were live baby chicks in the display. Rick Guastalli, who took over the business in 1973, told me the huge egg in which the Easter chicks sat was actually an incubator and the display was only done for one year.
Richard’s was such a big part of Roseland because it was a family business. Everyone in the Gustalli family jumped in to help with the business when the holidays rolled around. As the uncles drove their 8 or 9 year olds around to the different addresses, the kids would jump out of the car, run up to the customer’s door and make the delivery. It wasn’t unusual to be making the final Christmas delivery at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Richards did much more than provide flowers: They became part of their customer’s families. Flowers were ordered for weddings, followed by anniversaries, and then by births. Then there were the proms and dances and graduations and Mother’s Days and special occasions and eventually, there would be a death in the family. As the families celebrated and mourned, Richard’s was a concerned family member simply by virtue of having shared those moments throughout the years.
One of the most endearing things I remember about Richard’s Florist has to do with the annual St. Alexander’s Feast Day procession. I recall a young blind girl that lived on east 116th Street. The procession would always come to a stop when it got to the front of her house. The girl’s mother would walk her down the front porch steps where she was given a bouquet of roses. She would then be led to the St. Alexander statue where she would place those flowers at his feet. It turns out that year, after year, Richard’s donated those flowers to the girl and her mother.
I mentioned to Ted Lagger that I had gotten my wedding flowers from Richards and he said that of course, he did also. As a matter of fact, his uncle delivered his wedding flowers to St. Anthony’s and was arranging them at the altar just before Ted’s ceremony to wed Trudy DiCrostina. At the time Father Delfino (Fr. Del) was having a serious heart-to-heart with Ted. Apparently, Uncle Richard couldn’t restrain himself and whispered loudly as he was leaving “Say no! Say no!”
In 1973, Richard Guastalli, of the third generation, moved the business to Country Club Hills. In 1997 he closed the business for health reasons and moved out west and has been back to St. Anthony’s for his class of 1959 reunion. He has fond memories of the family spirit not only amongst his family but also with all the Roselandites whose life Richard’s Florist Shop touched.
Italian Author’s Night at Casa Italia
The Italian Author’s Night at Casa Italia was emceed by Dominic Candeloro, who was gracious enough to ask me to speak. Afterward, a woman came up and asked if I had a brother by the name of Jimmy Martello that went to St. Anthony’s. I readily admitted that I was that Jimmy Martello. That is how I came to meet Jeanette Rissati, who was my classmate throughout my eight years at St. Anthony’s 50 years ago. She is retired and volunteers at Casa Italia doing great things to maintain and add to the extensive collection of Italianate literature and recordings Dominic has so lovingly gathered together.
Casa Italia Oral History Project
Dominic Candeloro writes that Tony Maro has been scanning transcripts from the Italians in Chicago oral history project. Eventually they will be downloadable and the actual audio of the interviews will be offered on CD for a modest price. Check out Rita Arrow’s 75 page transcript, which is one of the samples. If you do check it out, Dominick would appreciate it if you go to the Casa Italia Facebook and give him feedback.
Tresche Conca book to be reprinted
“Tresche Conca, A Town of Migrants” the 1999 book by Virgilio Panozzo is about to be reprinted. Virgilio needs a count of those that want to purchase a copy of the revised book. Pete Panozzo, president of the Societa di Mutuo Soccorso Tresche Conca, is coordinating the list of those who would like to purchase a revised copy.
A word to the wise: since this book was first published many descendants went looking for a copy to no avail. As a family keepsake, as a genealogical tool, or as a gift, this revised copy is a ‘must have’ book. Pete can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-293-5318. The book should be available by fall of this year.
Note & Notizie
* St. Anthony’s Feast Day celebration will take place on Sunday, June 12, at the 8:30 Mass followed by a procession and breakfast. For information, call the rectory at 773-468-1200.
* The Fenger reunion for classes of June 1951 and January 52 will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on Friday, June 24, at Orland Chateau. The cost is $55. Contact Frank Esposito at 815-407-0417 or email@example.com Graduates from other Fenger years are welcome.
* A Roseland Picnic will take place on Saturday, June 11. Toni Adduci is coordinating this event. She can be reached via Facebook or via U.S. mail at Toni Adduci, P.O. Box A3757, Chicago, IL 60690-3757.
* An All-Roseland Reunion and Dinner Dance will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 13, at the Orland Chateau. For info: 773-646-1415.