Ursino family on the SS Independence in 1956




(as seen through the eyes of a five year old girl arriving from Calabria, Italy in 1956)

by Rosalba Ursino

My dad was already living and working in the North End of Boston when he sponsored me and my siblings together with my mom to come and join him to start a new life in the North End.  We traveled from Naples, Italy on the SS Independence in January of 1956. Arriving first in New York and then taking the train to Boston.


Kindergarten, Eliot School , North End 1956

Not too long after I arrived, I attended the Eliot School for kindergarten.  I recall going to school there one day and speaking Italian, and then almost miraculously, speaking perfect English the next.  I remember it being such a welcoming and positive experience.  Each morning, my grandfather Paolo would  bring me to kindergarten but not before stopping at a small convenient store on Battery Street next to Otteri’s Bakery. There, he would buy me a Boston Scooter Pie to have with my milk during break.   I remember one day, someone else accompanied me to school and they did not know about our routine, I was sad thinking that I would not have a snack to go along with my milk during break, but, then I recall being called out of the classroom because someone wanted to see me, and there he stood, my grandfather Paolo with my Boston Scooter Pie!! You cannot imagine what that meant to a young child such as me. To this day, I never forget the happiness such a simple thing brought to my heart. (I would like to add that if it weren’t for the initial sacrifice my nonno Paolo made to come to this country to better his family, none of this would of happened.)


Ursino family outside the Savarese Building

We lived in the Savarese Building on Commercial Street.  To me the building was so huge and I loved running up and down the stairs of the many floors. It was a wonderful place, sparkling clean  and everyone was so friendly.  I recall a wonderful woman named Angie, who lived in one of the apartments next to us.  She helped my mother adjust to the new world. Angie showed her around the North End, where to shop, worship, etc.. My mother, being young and having four small children to care for needed all the help and support she could get. She  was used to her small village in Italy where everyone knew each other and  shared a legacy that went back from generation to generation.  Here she was in a Big City, a foreign land, in the New World. My grandparents worked for the Savarese Cheese Company, so they were never too far away in case my mother needed help with us.  We would sit outside on the steps frequently just to play and people watch.


Rosalba and her mother at Revere Beach

In the summer of that year, my mother decided to take us to Revere Beach by street car and train.  Well, with four little children it was not an easy task.  That day, my very first day at Revere Beach, I got lost! One minute I was next to my mother and my siblings, then as I was coming back from the water’s edge I could not see nor find my family!  I was five years old in a new country, lost and afraid as I saw what seemed a million people around me.  I recall crying and crossing the Boulevard walking and then looking into all the faces of the strangers in fear until one of those strangers was a wonderful woman named Rosina, who lived in the Building next to ours in the North End! She was Rosina “The Napolitana,” and was so nice.  She looked at me and I hugged her crying. After I told her I was lost, she took me to the police station and explained the situation and for some reason or other they allowed Rosina to bring me back with her to the North End and wait for my family there. I cannot tell  you how happy I felt to see my mother again and my family, but I do recall that the very first thing I got was an old fashioned spanking for wandering away, and I don’t think my father was ever told about the days event!


After a few years we moved out to the suburbs, and I must say , I didn’t really like it .  I missed the North End, the sense of community where everyone knew each other.  In fact where we moved we didn’t even know our next door neighbors. School was not that positive of an  experience either. I found it to be a little biased and sensed a some prejudiced against Italians.

Rosalba’s father and brother at Salem Food

We kept our North End connection since my father ended up buying the business where he initially worked as a clerk. He bought the old Gloria Food Store and renamed it Salem Foods, because it was located on Salem Street. My dad was known for his kindness and generosity besides his good looks, As I have been told he was known as “Frankie Green Eyes,” he had the most wonderful green eyes, and many admirers!


We would go back to the North End faithfully every Saturday, to help out at the store  and on Sundays to visit our grandparents.  One day while adjusting to our new residence in the suburbs, my little sister Nancy went missing.  She was outside playing

The day Rosalba’s sister Nancy walked to the North End

with the rest of the kids when suddenly she disappeared.  You can imagine the fear in my mother’s eyes. We suddenly called the police and about a couple of hours later she was brought home. Guess where she was? She was found walking through Charlestown and when asked where she was going, she responded to my nonna, the NORTH END!



My connection did not end there.  When it was time to attend High School I attended Julie Billiart Catholic High.  I wanted to go back to the environment where I felt secure.  During my teenage years I spent a lot of time in the North End with my friends.  Every Saturday night after we attended the dances at Azione Cattolica in the North End, we would go to Café Pompei for our midnight cappuccino, and then meet up again on Sunday morning at Café Paradiso. The North End was the place to be if you were anybody.



Today, the North End is still very much part of me. My family and I still go there just to grab a coffee or to go out to eat and when we do we still go by Salem Street just to look at the spot where my dad first started his business Salem Foods.  But, the difference is that now a little bit of the North End can be found in every suburb.  Everywhere you go you will see extensions of the businesses that made their start in the North End.  My dad’s place is now in Waltham, and it is still called Salem Foods. The North End was great and this is evident in the way it has expanded and influenced other communities with it’s rich culture and heritage. This influence revitalized some depressed areas that are now bustling with business.


Now, you don’t really have to actually go to the North End to have the North End Experience.  An example would be, just go to the  Salem Food Store in Waltham on Moody Street, and you will experience all of the best the North End, and the Old World tastes without the New World prices. ……I would like to end this with “Home is where the heart is and the North End is in our hearts” wherever we may be.


Ursino family outside the Savarese Building

At the present time, Rosalba Ursino is employed in a law office where she has worked for 23 years. During her spare/leisure  time, she creates her own beauty products, such as organic soaps , fragrances, and  skin care. She also enjoys cruising and writing poetry.. Rosalba recalls being inspired to write poetry by her father Francesco, a writer, world traveler and entrepreneur.   She derives her ideas from the beauty of nature and spirituality. Rosalba  creates poetry and things of beauty by pondering on all that is good, and beneficial to mankind, as she states in some of her writings: “Truly, if one seeks riches, one needs to only look at what  has been freely given to us all, for you cannot get richer than that.” For more information about Rosalba visit http://www.LeSorelleUrsino.com.


Rosalba and her brother in Italy


7 thoughts on “The North End through the eyes of girl arriving from Calabria, Italy

  1. Loved the trip down memory lane.I wish my grandparents had shown us the North End as they knew it.

  2. I WOULD LIKE TO SAY HELLO TO ALL OF MY FRIENDS FROM THE NORTH END.I LIVED AT 35 NORTH MARGIN STREET,WENT TO SAINT MARYS SCHOOL THEN MY FAMILY MOVED TO 32 PRINCE STREET.I WAS 20 YEARS OLD WHEN MY FAMILY MOVED TO EVERETT INTO MY GRANDMOTHERS 3 STORY HOME .I ATTENDED BRIGHTON HIGH SCHOOL,WHERE I MET A LOT OF FRENDS FROM THE WEST END ,BACK BAY AND SOUTH END.I DEVIDED MY TIME BETWEEN MY FRENDS IN THE N END AND W END.I PLAYED FOOTBALL AT BRIGHTON HIGH FOR 3 YEARS AND THEN PLAYED 2 YEARS FOR THE EAST BOSTON TORNADOS.MY WIFES NAME IS JOSEPHINE STRAZZULLO FROM CLEVELAND PLACE IN THE NORTH END.WE WERE MARRIED ON A SUNDAY AND MOVED TO CALIFORNIA ON A MONDAY.WE HAVE 3 SONS,THEY ALL LOVE THE NORTH END BECAUSE OF THE MANY FREQUENT VISITS TO BOSTON.IF IT WASENT FOR MY AUNT FRANCINE AND THE LA RICCIA FAMILY FROM CELVELAND PLACE WE WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT IN CALIFORNIA.”WE MISSED HOME VERY MUCH”.WE BOUGHT A VACATION HOME IN LAS VEGAS IN 1988,MY WIFE LOVED IT SO MUCH WE SOLD OUR HOME BOUGHT ANOTHER IN NEW PORT BEACH CALIFORNIA AND MOVED TO VEGAS AND NOW WE USED THE NEWPORT HOUSE FOR A VACATION HOME.OUR LOVE FOR THE OCEAN COMES FROM THE N END BEING ON THE OCEAN.I USED TO GO TO THE N END PARK AND DIVE OFF THE 2 STORY PIER,AND THE SINGLE STORY PIER NEXT TO THE COAST GUARD BASE HAD A SHED OVER IT THAT WE USED TO DIVE OFF WHEN THE COAST GUARD GUYS THREW MONEY COINS INTO THE WATER FROM THERE SHIPS.I SHINED SHOES AT THE OLD BUS TERMINAL AT HAYMARKET SQUARE,SOLD PAPERS FROM THE NOW BOSTON GLOBE AND I HIT EVERY RESTURANT FROM DOCK SQUARE TO THE N END.HAYS AND BICKFORD UNION OSTER HOUSE,CARMENS,FREADAS,EUROPEAN,TECHIES”THE ONE ON SALEM AND COPPER,ITALIAN CANTEEN,PIZZA REGINA AND EVERY SMALL RESTURANT AND BAR IN THE N END.I ALSO delivered every night to my steady customers some on the first floor some on the fourth i had about 25 steady customers including mary the waitress at the pizza regina and her co worker “she had black hair”,god bless the two of them they tiped me very well every night.my other customers paid me at the end of the week and olso tiped well ,they liked the door to door delivery come rain or shine or snow i was always their.on saturday i take the horses from the fruit and vegetable venders at quincy market back to the barn on north margin st, 10 cents one way,but we road them all over the n end,and boy did they slip on the wet cobblestone streets in the rain and snow.as i got older i went to work at the quincy market for one of the fumara brothers peter i was a lumper “i loaded a pushcart with cookies and chocolates from our warehouse on endicott street across from calibra wine,saint agrapina statue stands in frount of the warehouse at her feast.i pushed that loaded cart all the way to blackstone street next to the old e grays market all day long rain or snow.i also relieved my coworkers on there lunch and coffee brakes, they always gave me a few bucks and buy me lunch.”boy did that job build up my body for football.while I was in california I met A produce broker who knew all the produce buyers in Boston. In high scool I played football with RICHARD RAGO,BILL LUISO from the n end Dave Esterkes back bay,Roy LaMere Hide Park?,,”the states highest scoring running back”,Irish Bob Murffey,Sal Cantino,Ron Mueller back bay,Anthony Defonzo West End,Sonny Mercurio west end,Carl Janey Roxbury, Vick Hyder south end,After high school I worked for Eastern Mass STREET AND RAILWAY driving a buss out of Quincy.After that job I left With my knew and beautiful wife on american airlines”who by the way presented to us a beautiful wedding cake on board which we sharde with the passengers.California was good to us and aunt Francine was like a mother to my wife and I.And the la Riccia family and my family stayed close to us all trough the years.In fact Ann Marie and her brother Michael live in Las Vegas close to us.We all like it out here,but our hearts are still in Boston.

  3. I can not believe that I walked to the North End. I thought it was a dream. I guess moving was such a trama for me that even at a young age I realized that I did not like change. This is a wonderful story and memories for me and my children to cherish forever. Thank you Rosalba It pays to be a big sister. They remember everything.

  4. This is a beautiful story like so many of the immigrants’ stories we have heard. I love to hear about the challenges faced and the obstacles overcome. There is no limit to the power of the human spirit when one has faith, love and most importantly hope. So many of these immigrants thrived on hope, their hope for the future and thus gave us so much….more than we could ever imagine. It’s because of my grandparents, my mother and the obstacles that they overcame, I am blessed. ~Sunny

  5. Hi wonderful story very close to my heart as my grandfather was Vincent Savarese of G Savarese & Sons and Angie was my aunt God bless you and your family

  6. Michael, I just saw this message. How wonderful that you were able to see this story and know how much we loved your family’s building! We all have wonderful memories of our life at the Savarese Bulding, and fortunate that my grandparents worked for such a fine company. Their sacrifice brought us to where we are today, hard workers, dedicated to family and country. God Bless you too Michael and all the Savarese family, some day we may meet again..Peace

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