Category Archives: Laurence [Di Lorenzo]

Dandelion wine: An ancestral brew – #atozchallenge

D is for Dandelion wine. Fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!

Every spring when dandelions pop up their yellow heads, I’m reminded of the Altamont, N.Y., farm where I lived until I was seven with my parents and maternal grandparents — and  eventually two younger brothers.

Later, when we moved to the suburbs, those dandelions would become my dad’s enemy — a signal that he was not taking proper care of his lawn.

But on the farm, dandelions were part of the natural order of things. Their bobbing heads could be enjoyed, picked and smelled — or just mowed down along with the thick, untamed farm grass.

More than that, they were the key ingredient in the homemade dandelion wine that Dad brewed in the unheated room off our kitchen.

Hand harvesting

Dandelions, Aurora, N.Y. (2016). My childhood task of picking flower heads to make dandelion wine turned out to have an ancestral  connection. Photo: Molly Charboneau

“Just pick the yellow flower, nothing else,” Dad would instruct, handing me a little-kid pail.

The he might relax in an Adirondack chair on the farmhouse porch and watch the traffic go by on Route 20 — or putter away at some household repair — while I went to work gathering the blossoms.

I remember racing around the yard looking for dandelions as if I was hunting for gold — seeing how quickly I could fill my pail to the brim with the sunny, warm, fragrant flower heads.

Each time I delivered a pail of flowers to Dad — my hands sticky with their tangy sap — he’d pour my harvest into a larger bin until it was filled with enough dandelions to start brewing the wine.

Ancestral brew

For years I recalled this flower-picking ritual as just a fun time on a spring day. But once I started studying my family’s history, up popped an ancestral connection.

The dandelion wine recipe Dad used came from my Italian-American grandfather Tony Laurence — his last name anglicized from Di Lorenzo. He was my mom’s father who with us on the farm.

Gramps inherited the recipe from his Italian ancestors back in Gloversville, N.Y. — and who knows how long the dandelion wine instructions were passed down in our family before they got to him.

So when the wine was ready and Dad let me taste a spoonful of the bitter brew, I had no idea I was also imbibing a bit of my family heritage.

Up next: E is for Elephants, mastodons and local excursions. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Aunt Rose Curcio: Beauty of the human spirit

Fourth and last in this series on my Italian-American great grandaunt Rose Curcio of Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, who died 15 years ago this month at the age of 105.

Since she is my family’s only centenarian, I have long wondered what there was about Aunt Rose Curcio’s life that contributed to her longevity. Now, if I had to sum up her secret in one word it would be connectedness — the strong social bonds she maintained in her community and with her family, as described in the long version of her obituary.

Rose Curcio (1992). Photo by Molly Charboneau
Rose Curcio (1992). Aunt Rosie, then 95, shared stories about our mutual ancestors and about own her life during an oral history interview with my mom and me. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Miss Curcio was a lifetime member of the Ancient Order of Foresters – Court Mayflower, an avid bridge and bingo player and a communicant of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church. Rose devoted herself to her siblings and their children and will be remembered as an energetic and dedicated woman who contributed to the greater good.

Mutual aid and social gatherings

Her Catholic church affiliation I knew about, but her membership in the Ancient Order of Foresters? This was news to me — and a bit of research turned up a 1973 article in the Gloversville-Johnstown, N.Y., Leader-Herald tracing the fraternal organization back to the days of Robin Hood!

After Robin Hood’s death in 1247, many secret clubs and societies sprang up throughout England. Robin Hood’s rough and rugged philosophy as to the rights of the common man were preached. A number of these clubs banded together at Yorkshire, England, in 1745 to establish what was known as the Royal Order of Foresters…To this day the message of the Foresters is simply, “to strive here on earth for good, to ever keep alive the cause of brotherhood.”

Aunt Rosie belonged to Court Mayflower, founded in 1909 –an auxiliary to the Gloversville Foresters Lodge, which was organized in 1898 by eight Littauer Glove Factor workers.

Part mutual aid society (providing sick pay or covering funeral costs) and part social outlet (holding card parties and dinner dances), the Gloversville Foresters – Mayflower Court gave Aunt Rosie a regular connection to her colleagues and a social gathering place in her community — strong contributors to longevity.

Enduring family ties

Aunt Rosie pursued a career and did not marry or have children. Nevertheless, she was one of 15 children — part of a large, vibrant Italian-American extended family. Rosie was a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence — and she maintained close ties with her family of origin.

Rosie lived for a time with her widowed mother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio  at 128 East Fulton Street in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Then she shared a home with one of her sisters — eventually residing in the Fulton County Health Care Facility toward the end of her life. Generations of Rosie’s family were always nearby — another important factor in a long life.

Beauty of the human spirit

And finally, from Rosie’s obituary, is this:

She was the embodiment of strength, love for life and beauty of the human spirit. At the time of her death, she was the oldest resident at the Fulton County Health Care Facility. She is survived by numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews [including my mom] and great-great nieces and nephews [including me].

Her love for life and beauty of the human spirit were clearly evident when my mom and I visited Aunt Rosie, then 95, in 1992. She was upbeat, told humorous stories and had nothing but praise for the home and for her family members who regularly visited her. “They’re so good to me,” she said with a smile.

There will be more on Aunt Rosie in future posts, including some of the stories she told Mom and me during our visit.

Up next, a change of pace: November is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), so please stop back for daily posts on the theme “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Friends and Loved Ones With You.”

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Aunt Rose Curcio’s glove industry career

Third in a series on my Italian-American great grandaunt Rose Curcio of Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, who died 15 years ago this month at the age of 105.

The Oct. 2001 obituary of my Aunt Rosie Curcio contains not only her brief history but a portrait of the changing role of women in the 20th Century. The second paragraph describes her education and her glove industry career.

By: Boston Public Library
Main Street, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Aunt Rosie took a new path open to women in the 20th Century when she attended the Gloversville Business School, which prepared her for a long, productive glove industry career By: Boston Public Library

A lifelong resident and a graduate of the Gloversville Business School, she was employed as a secretary and bookkeeper at the former Hilts Willard Glove Manufacturers in Gloversville until her retirement at age 75.

New prospects for women

When Aunt Rosie was born in 1896, women still wore floor-length dresses. They could not vote and their lives were circumscribed in many ways — both socially and legally.

But social movements in which women played a leading role — from the fight to abolish slavery to the suffrage movement demanding a woman’s right to vote — opened new possibilities for women at the dawn of the 20th Century.

I would love to have been in the household of my great, great grandparents Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio when the decision was made that Aunt Rosie — one of their younger daughters — would to go to business school.

Aunt Rosie goes to school

Did Rosie ask to go or did her parents suggest it? Did economic necessity drive the decision or was she ambitious? However it came about, off to school she went — and by the time of the 1920 U.S. Census (excerpted below) Rosie, 23, was working as a stenographer in a glove factory office.

1920 U.S. Census of the Curcio household at 128 East Fulton St. in Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.    Source: Family Search
Person No. Name Role Age Occupation
33 Antonio Curcio Head 66 None
34 Antoinette Curcio Wife 61 None
35 John Curcio Son 26 Chauffeur, Vegetable Truck
36 Rose Curcio Dau 23 Stenographer, Glove Factory Office
37 Josephine Curcio Dau 17 Glove Maker, Glove Shop

The census also shows several boarders living in the Curcio’s 128 East Fulton Street home — the Santos family and  Alexander S. Davey, a baker — likely providing rental income.

Family head Dean P. Santos worked as a junk collector in a junk shop. He may have worked in the shop then operated next door by my great grandfather Peter [DiLorenzo] Laurence, whose wife Mamie was the Curcio’s oldest daughter.

So Aunt Rosie’s income, enhanced by her education, was surely helpful to her family. She was later promoted to bookkeeper and decided to keep working beyond her retirement age.

“Why work so long?” my mom and I asked her during an oral history interview in 1992. Aunt Rosie told us she felt good, so why not? And besides, what would she do with herself if she was not working? Spoken like a working woman proud of her career!

Up next, Aunt Rosie’s family and social life. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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