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To Die For Mussolini -Part 2

by Carlo A. Amaini

Contributed by 
Carlo A. Amaini
People in story: 
Carlo A. Amaini and Family
Location of story: 
Italy part 2 of 5
Article ID: 
A3765620
Contributed on: 
09 March 2005

Chapter 3

Childhood

My parents changed home again but this time it was for different reasons. My father decision to take early retirement changed completely our lives, that was the cause of all the problems which followed later on. My father's pension was good but not enough therefore he decided to start his own business, it was a disaster right from the beginning, it was a terrible shock for my mother and to add to it she became pregnant with my twin sisters, other business went the same way. It meant the end of the comfort of a nice flat with a park where we could play and enjoy ourselves like when my father was still an officer in the Customs and Excise.
It was then when my father initiated the move to perdition, as my mother used to say. When we moved in the new home it was not like the one we used to have before, it was indeed a strange place. I have a clear picture of the strange flat left in my memory. The dwelling had a large big kitchen and a bedroom at street level, there was another room upstairs where I used to sleep with my brother but to go there we had to go first outside and then go up an open stairs.
I remember when my parents went shopping in a big store, it was my first visit in such a place and what remained in my mind were all those big piles of white crockery to be seen al over but there was one particular thing that I recall well and that was a little red pedal car, it was love at first sight, I was allowed to try it but when the time came to go home the trouble started. My mother told me later on that I went berserk and started to cry so loud that people passing asked what was the matter; I recall when my father took me in his arms and that made me scream louder, it was an early evening during the Winter, that event is still very clear in my mind.
We moved to that place in 1932, I am sure about it because it was a year later when my twin sisters were born, I must have been four years old then because I was born in December 1928.
I remember the continuous usual altercation between my parents, I was told later in life by my mother that they often quarrelled about my father's refusal to look for a government job instead of working for himself.
I can still see the awful scenes when my father was running after my heavily pregnant mother around the big kitchen table, she was trying to avoid being hit by him, I also remember when she fell hurting herself on the knee and me crying and holding her hands, I remember the blood on her knee very well. It is very sad is for me to recall it even after so many years.
My mother was getting ready to go to hospital thus my father's cousin came to live in our home for a while in order to look after us while my mother was still away in hospital. She was young but old enough to be able to look after us.
It was one morning when she came to the room upstair to get me ready for the nursery but I don't remember where my brother was. I was alone in the room with only my pyjamas on, I remember her touching me all over tickling me and making me laugh, she took off her dressing gown showing her breasts and the rest followed, I still remember vividly her big dark nipples and the black spot of pubic hair between her legs, it was of course an uncommon scenery for a boy of my age and that's why I cannot forget it.
I was almost five and innocent like a child of that age. I didn't really understand the meaning of her behaviour then because I was too young, she kept touching and brushing herself to my little body touching herself with her other arm, I remember she was laughing while we were going downstairs, she must have liked it.
My mother came back from the hospital with twins Bianca and Giulietta, I remember her coming inside the house and me and my brother looking at them also the excited neighbours all around, but the birth of my sisters did not please my father, that exasperated him because my mother's pregnancy was an accident.
After a few months Giulietta died of measles. The relations between my parents grew worse to the point to involve the police to stop my father beating my mother. I know my father went to jail for what he was doing to our mother but I cannot remember for how long, what I remember is when he came out, it was a rainy morning and I was playing with my brother in the big kitchen when all of a sudden our mother told us to look outside through the window, it was our father coming home from jail going straight to the upstairs room.
They legally separated and it was then when our mother started to go through a painful period of her life, she was not working and couldn't afford to live there alone, she had no money to pay for the rent therefore she went to live with one of her sisters, my father was given the provisional custody of the children by a court order until my mother could prove to be able to give the children a home also be able to keep them. My father couldn't look after us therefore we went to live with his brothers in a rural village not far from Bologna.
My three uncles had a small holding in a village called Ponticelli, the nearest market town was Malalbergo about 8-10 km away, the village could be reached from Bologna by a narrow-gauge railway but stopped about 2 Km from the village and from there the journey to it could be done either by walking or by bicycle. The coaches of the train had an open platform at both ends like the ones seen in American old films, I used to stay there for the duration of the short journey watching the countryside passing by.
My uncles' house was without running water and the toilet was outside, there was a fountain a few minutes from the house where everybody could get all the water they needed, there was also an Osteria in the main little square, a kind of a cheap old Italian type pub where one could drink wine and home made food, at the other side of the square there was the communal brick oven which was used to cook home made bread and other different kinds of food, it was lit about three or four times a week and used in turn by the villagers. Down the road there was also a shoemaker and no other shops, he was related to my uncles through marriage.
It was a typical rural village where the majority of people lived off the land for their needs.
The shoemaker came to see me for my birthday and offered to make a pair of shoes made to measure. He was making new leather shoes from scratch but at that time not many people used to have their shoes made to measure, what shoemakers used to do was mainly to patch up holes in the soles of shoes or repair shoe heels. I can say that I wore those shoes until I couldn't fit in them any longer.
At that time the majority of people kept things as long as they could to in order to avoid buying new one, let's take the men socks for instance, now I can wear them for ages but before the war a pair of socks didn't last that long because they were getting holes in the heel or in the toes. My mother and the majority of people used to put a wooden ball inside the sock to darn them and went on darning them until the socks disintegrated. That pattern of behaviour was valid for men's trouser as well, many times you could see some men with patches in the seat of the trousers but that usually happened with peasants.
I remember bicycles were using acetylene lamps to generate light, they used to put acetylene powder inside a small canister that was attached to the bike and from there a pipe reached the lamp, before starting a journey they used to put water in the cannister thus generating gas that could be ignited giving a bright powerful light and that worked for cars as well.
Methane gas was abundant in Italy and was used to run the cars during the war, it was a common sight to see cars with two gas cylinders on top of them. Some of them used to run by steam generated by a small wooden stove outside big vans. Nowadays many people don't have a clue of how many different forms of energy were used to make cars and vans run.
I supposed few people remember the gas street lights in use then, but I can say they were quite efficient. During the war there were no stockings for the ladies but to remedy the situation some women used to draw a line on the back of their legs pretending to look like a pair of stockings. There was no nylon but we had the synthetic material called rayon instead, I remember in 1942 wearing a pair of trousers made with that material, it was a disaster if I had to sit down, they became awfully creased. Another famous material made with a kind of plastic was Bakelite invented by L.H. Backeland, they used to make buttons, dishes and small container with it and people used to say it was made with the excrement taken from the sewage.
It was a completely different kind of world from the one we live in today. If somebody had a stomach ulcer operated on he/she was lucky to remain alive, an acute appendicitis could kill, if a bad infection was untreated it meant death like many other infectious diseases. Many venereal diseases were causing a horrible deaths, syphilis for instance was the worse, when caught it worked in three stages, the third one was causing blindness and GPI (General Paralysis of the Insane) and eventually death. The bygone age was not really a nice age to live but with the advent of penicillin everything changed.
All families in the village where we moved to used to bottle all sorts of vegetables and fruit, one thing that I remember well is when my aunt made tomato sauce, it was during August the time when the special long shaped tomatoes were ready to be picked, it was a busy and very laboured affair to deal with the huge piles of tomatoes. The wood logs in the fire place were lit and the big caldron was ready to accept the ripe tomatoes to be scalded and then peeled and bottled, the machine to mash the pulp was ready and the brisk activities of bottling started. I still remember the rule to add salicylic acid to the sauce to avoid fermentation and the formation of harmful germs. The bottles used were the fiasco, the famous Chianti round bottles wrapped in straw.
I and my brother were very interested in the activities that were going on in the village, for us everything we saw was a novelty. We were going to stay with our uncles until the separation of our parents was settled and only then we were going to be reunited with our mother on condition that she could be able to keep and give us a home were to live.
It was 1933 when we arrived there just after my sister Bianca was born, I didn't go to school yet because I was still under five but it was there when I started going to the primary school, the local village did not have a building for it but we used to go to a room on top of the Osteria. I remember the young pretty teacher and her long blonde hair, she used to come there by bike from Malalbergo. I and the other children were laughing at her because she used to keep all the time one hand inside her blouse, we thought it was hilarious, it must have been a kind of a nervous reaction while she was talking to us.
See part 3 of 5

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