Trailing vowel.

“Trailing vowel”: the vowel at the end of your Italian family’s name.

I spent my first seven years living in a neighborhood where Italian people settled. It was the most exciting section in Downingtown; it is called Johnsontown.

My friends were from the Italian families. Their names included Viscichini, Talucci, Carlone and Mento. We could see our homes without leaving ours. I ran with them even though my family’s name ends with a “s”, but it’s not DeAnglis. I was accepted because my Mom was Italian. None the less, I always felt a tiny bit incomplete.

Our little crew were steps away from getting small treats or well meaning scolding for the cadre of Italian women who were always on watch. Many times we just hung around waiting for the others to clear their home assignments. Then we’d play in empty lots, back alleys and river banks. We’d often find castoffs and then fashion a game using our imaginations. We played with the boys living on other streets, but our parents didn’t like it much. We needed to tell our Moms the names of the guys we played with. If I mentioned the wrong family’s name, I got the “stay away from him; his family’s bad” speech. No more explanations were ever offered. Our Moms would insist on our blood oath promises to avoid them. I reasoned my parents (my Mom) didn’t get along with their parents. I guess this was an early lesson on “good people V. bad people”.

Time would pass and our circle grew and shrank when folks moved in and on. The time came for my family to move less than a mile away to the other side of the tracks. It may have been to the next town. To play with my former running mates, I’d now navigate street crossings and a nasty railroad tunnel/urinal. I did this for a while but stopped after I found new friends at my new location.

We will always have our times together. We will always be from Johnsontown.

Note: 2019 is the centennial celebration for Saint Anthony’s Lodge in Johnsontown. They seek any writings you have about the time its denizens spent there from 1919 to 1970. I’m sure they’d be pleased to hear from you.

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