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Author Archives: James Pasto

James S. Pasto is a senior lecturer at Boston University, co-founder of the North End Historical Society and editor of the society's journal. To share stories about North End's past, e-mail pasto@corrieretandem.com. To find out more about the North End Historical Society, visit alexgoldfeld.com/NEHS.html.

Carnevale with the Vaudo Clan

700 Ravioli homemade to be cooked "Al Dente" for 65 family members along with 100 home made sausages 100  meatballs with 9 quarts marina sauce, plus all types of desserts salad and vino.
Grandma Vaudo is 100 years old with her daughter Jo DeVelis.

“Ravioli, meatballs and sausage, holy smoke. Carnevale, scunzalata and Grampa’s donkey joke. Oh, we eat a lot and we laugh a lot and do everything that we can, A credit to old Carnevale is Grampa Vaudo’s clan. The above refrain is recited every year as part the pre-Lenten celebratory meal of the multi-generational Vaudo clan. The tradition began over 100 years ago in Gaeta, Italy, and continues to this day, hosted by Tom and Rita Damigella. This celebration, which I just learned about, is interesting to me, not least of all because over a year ago, in my second story ...

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The True (North End) Story of Paul Revere


Paul Revere was born in the North End on Jan. 1, 1735. His father was a French Huguenot born Apollos Rivoire. Apollos married Deborah Hitchborn of a well-known Boston family. He later changed his name to the Anglicized “Paul Revere,” which was the name given to his son, the third of 12 children. Paul Revere Jr. has a long and interesting history, though his current notoriety centers on his famous ride of April 18, 1775. Many of you may already know that the actual ride of Paul Revere was different from its portrayal in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s ...

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Any one up for a quick game of “Cans”?


When I was a boy, one of my favorite games was called “cans.” We played a lot in the summer. All that was needed was a can for each player and a wall. Everybody who played had to have their own unique soda can — Coke, Pepsi, Ginger Ale, Orange, etc. There could be no duplicates because everyone needed to be able to identify their own can at all times. (And remember, back in those pre-aluminum days, the cans were a lot heavier and sturdier than they are now. They were heavy enough to toss a good distance, which was ...

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Italian immigrants and violent crime


On Sunday, Aug. 4, 1901, the Boston Globe invited five prominent Italians and Italian Americans to respond to the question: "Is the Italian More Prone to Violent Crime than Any Other Race?"

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A very Italian tour of the North End


On Oct. 26, I had the honor and pleasure of leading a group of about 40 Italians and other Europeans on a tour of the North End. Most had visited the North End before, but they knew little about its past, either as a historical section of Boston or as an Italian-American neighborhood. I lead the tour at the request of Andrea Ponzone, who I had meet about a year earlier at an event sponsored by the Braintree Italian American Cultural Organization. Andrea is a judge advocate for the Archdiocese of Boston. He is from Torino, Italy, and has been ...

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Christmases past, fondly remembered

Seven Fishes! (photo courtesy Austin Kleon)

Growing up in the North End, I never felt a conflict between the religious and popular traditions of Christmas. We knew we were celebrating the birth of Jesus, and we never forgot that. The midnight Mass was the central event of Christmas Eve, and putting cookies out for Santa Claus could never take away from that event. He was, after all, a saint. And the model of the manger with the baby Jesus looked even warmer and lovelier nested as it was among the many other Christmas decorations and lights. It was smaller than the tree, but it was no ...

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An Italian Thanksgiving Dinner


Thanksgiving and ravioli! Not Thanksgiving and Turkey, but Thanksgiving and ravioli: homemade ravioli; my father’s homemade ravioli. I remember that he would start to make them a few days before the holiday. I can still see the flour, eggs, water and other ingredients spread out on the kitchen table. I can see him mixing the dough, rolling it out, and then cutting it into sections to be filled with the cheese he had prepared. His ravioli were huge, and they were delicious. If you are like me and millions of Italian Americans (not just from the North End) your Thanksgiving ...

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The Legend of Johnny Martino


October is Italian Heritage Month, and I’m certain the pages around me will be filled with tributes to Italians and to the North End. There is certainly a lot to be proud of and a lot to display. But October is also the month of Halloween. A quintessentially American holiday with roots in the native Celtic religion, Halloween in the North End was a lot of fun. The streets were filled with kids in costumes, and there were so many buildings with so many apartments to get candy. And there were a lot of adults around, as always, to keep ...

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Back in the Day at St. Anthony’s School in the North End


When I think of September of my younger years, I think of going back to school after the long summer break. School of course went beyond September, but September marked that important time of the year when summer was officially over and school began. I went to St. Anthony School and then Christopher Columbus, but I want to limit my thoughts here to St. Anthony’s, and save Columbus for another time. Starting school in September meant that I would start a new walking routine. Leaving my “house” on Jackson Ave each weekday morning, I’d walk down along Charter Street, take ...

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A documentary film on the North End


Some of you may have heard or read that the North End Historical Society is making a documentary about the North End. This is true, The documentary has been in production for about two years. The project was the brainstorm of Dan Casey, the producer of a Charlestown documentary called “The Green Square Mile.” Dan had a script ready for a documentary on the North End (and his director, Maureen McNamara of Kendall Productions, had done some preliminary filming) when he had to give up the project to attend to family matters. He asked the North End Historical Society to ...

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The North End: site of America’s first revolution


We celebrate the Fourth of July as Independence Day because on that day in 1776 members of Congress signed the final version of the Declaration of Independence (though some historians argue they signed it almost a month later). The American Revolution was already underway by that time, having been sparked by events in Massachusetts, some of them right in the North End. Among these was the second of two Stamp Act riots, which took place on Aug. 26, 1775, when members of the North End and South End gangs ransacked the North End home of future Governor Thomas. Better known, ...

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Coming to America – Again: A Tribute


According to Census figures, the foreign (and mainly Italian) born population of the North End in 1930 was 18,686 (67%) out of a total population of 27,818. In 1950, it was 4,779 (29.7%) out of a total of 16,064. However, in 1970, there were 6,303 (62%) people who listed “Italy” as their country of birth, out of a total population of 10,134. While the census show dramatic drop in the overall population of the North End, both in terms of the total population and that of the foreign born, the percentage of new immigrants to native born Italians was roughly ...

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