08 February 2009


My father's father, Francesco, was a tailor. A real one, the kind who could conjure suits out of raw fabric.

He worked in a clothing factory in Boston's "Garment District", back when there was such a place. He worked at a sewing machine making sleeves for police dress uniforms. (or maybe they were just the regular uniforms. This was in the 50's and 60's, when police wore coats.) He was extremely proud of this, since the sleeves were very hard to make.

He used one of the old fashioned sewing machines, the kind with the iron foot pedal and knee operated brake. Once he broke his leg, and had to teach himself to work the machine with his other leg. His productivity never dropped. He was pretty proud of that, too.

He got my dad's aunt Mary a job in the factory as a "finisher". They would heap completed garments on a table and she would go through them looking for loose threads. Good thing, since Aunt Mary couldn't sew a button on a shirt to save her life.

When my dad needed a suit or a jacket, Nonno Frank (as we all knew him) would take my dad to the factory to pick out the fabric and the lining, then take him out to lunch downtown. A week later my dad, then in high school, would own another piece of custom made menswear to add to his collection.

Once my dad wanted a sports coat with no lapels, like the Beatles wore in 1965. My grandfather refused to make it for him, because he felt such a coat was only for savages.

Every weekend he would visit our house and bring a box of Cannoli.

Nonno Frank drank Seagram's 7. Nonno Peppino, my mother's father, drank Seagram's V.O. They were always arguing about which was better.

He made the white suit I wore to my First Communion. He altered it for me, but my two older cousins had gone through it first. Alas, it was the only chance I got to wear a piece of his work. He died when I was 8 years old.

Nonno Frank was always sharp as a tack. What a cool dude.

(stories via my Dad over coffee this evening)


Anonymous said...

Cannoli, for the uninitiated:


Andrew M. said...

Ah, if only I could have grown up in the days when tailored clothing was affordable, and not a luxury item for the obscenely wealthy.


John Patrick George said...

Great story.

Those must have been the days. My sister took Vo-tech in high school (sewing, fashion, etc.) She reccently balked at shortening pants I bought at Goodwill. I should just teach myself I suppose.

It's close, but it's 7 Crowns. Just by virtue of versatility in mixers.