Gloria Sama v1

June 09, 2019 Share

The North End

I was born right in the heart of the North End, where all the action took place. I was born right in the middle of everything – at North Square.

Salem Street, North End, Boston 1948

If you did something at 9:00 in the morning, I would tell you, by 12 noon, everybody knew it!

“That’s what the North End was.”

I couldn’t skip school because my Mama would find out. How? I don’t know. But I couldn’t even skip school.

When you’re followed all the time, you get rebellious. I skipped school to go see Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra had come to the Metropolitan, or one of those… And a whole of photographers were there with the newspaper. And I was telling my friends, “Don’t go near the newspapers.” So naturally, she went near the newspapers and we were all in the paper the next day. Then my mother found out. But not only my mother…I have a whole bunch of nuns from my high school that I have never forgotten.

“Don’t go near the newspapers!”
In December 1943, girls stood in line before 8 am to hear 28-year-old “Frankie Swoonatra” at the RKO Boston Theatre. He would receive “Beatlesque” responses from “bobby-soxers.”
A gang of bobby-soxer pals would certainly be easy to spot at a soda shop or movie theater because of their uniform-like outfits that revolved around ankle socks, which replaced stockings when nylon became necessary for producing WWII supplies. Typically, bobby-soxers would wear their ankle socks with saddle shoes, penny loafers or ballet-style slippers.

…And protection, we had nothing to worry about. We were protected. By other families, and especially by… the men. They were called the gangsters. But they were there and they protected us. We had no fear at all. From anything. From drugs.

One day I was having lunch and my friend and I were sitting at the counter and this person named Danny came out with something in his hands, and he went up to the person sitting next to me and I heard him say, “if you come again with these …, you’re going to be carried out.”

“We had no fear at all.”
Filippo Buccola and his underboss Giussepe Lombardo were top underworld figures in Boston’s North End during Prohibition. They were rivals of the Irish Gustin Gang led by notorious mob boss Frank Wallace. In 1932, Frank Morelli, who headed a ruthless and powerful gang that controlled bootlegging and gambling in Providence, Rhode Island, Maine and Connecticut, merged with Buccola’s group to create the New England mob faction.


My mother never spoke English. She knew how to speak English, but spitefully she wouldn’t. I got to tell you, she was very spiteful. It was her will, or no will. Growing up, where my mother had a lot to say and a lot to do with us. And we obeyed her. No saying no to Nana. She didn’t know that word. Her word or no word. She lived to be a hundred. Her name was Assunta, which means risen. When Nana was born, everyone had a religious name. All my siblings too.

My two aunties – Little Aunt, and big Aunt, one was Matilda and one was Clementina. Even though they had different names, we would always distinguish them as Little Aunt and Big Aunt. Big Aunt didn’t have too much to say. Little Aunt had a lot to say. They would talk about something and Little Aunt would say, “Well, this is this!” – and that would be the end of the sentence… But, remember, my mother was boss! My mom, the last word. My mother was the oldest. Then Clementina, then Matilda, and then Uncle Joe.

We would see them at family events. The family would come over to the apartment. We had a very small apartment, we didn’t have a lot of money. That was definite, we didn’t. And the playground was the street. That’s where we learned how to ride a bike. And oh my God, it was loaded with Italians.

What we had, an awful a lot of, and I don’t mean to preach, but I think what is missing today – is family. Family together, and everything was family.

Children playing marbles game in the street, 1947
Little Italy apartments, North End, Boston

Childhood on the farm

I was fourteen years younger than my closest sibling. My sister’s sister-in-law, Aunt Theresa, had a farm when I was a child. I grew up in the city, but I spent a lot of time on the farm in the summers. I would go to the farm almost every weekend.

I learned how to drive on a truck! And on Saturdays, we would candle the eggs. Now they’re done automatically, but in the early years, candling the eggs meant putting the whole egg up toward the light like a candle to find out if it was okay, if the egg is okay to use.

The farm was in Medway. If you drive by it now you will see half a million, more than half a million dollar houses!

Middle Post Road, Medway, MA. Early 1900’s
Medway, MA today


Religion was a great part of my life. I kid a lot around how Nana was very religious. Always had rosaries in our hands and everything. But she meant her religion, and so did I. It meant a lot to me. I went to Catholic school, and it was not just Catholic school going, it wasn’t just being Catholic – it meant something to me.

In the North End, we used to have a feast every year in the summer. It was called the Saint Anthony Feast. That was the big one, and that was known as, “You don’t leave town on that one.” The streets would be full of Italians. With bands, and food, and stuff like that. Some people from New York, some stars, they’d come in and perform. It was a three day feast, it was huge.

When your mother was a little girl I took her every year, it was in August. I didn’t like going, but I didn’t want her to miss out on!

Do you remember the angel?…

Saint Andrew’s Feast 1945, North End, Boston.

Saint Anthony’s Feast has become the largest Italian Religious Festival in New England since 1919. It is celebrated annually on the weekend of the last Sunday of August. 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the feast.
“Gotta go have a baby now”

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