Tag Archives: Waverly Mass

The Bloodstone.

 

Dad never knew his parents.

Uncle Gabriel and Aunt Marietta told him stories.  Raimondo was a foreman, a tenor, a brute and a womanizer; Giovina, defenseless, speaking only Italian dialect, had been committed to a sanitarium by her husband. Tony, her third child, was born there.

Dad would be taken from her, at birth, to live alternately at the Bracchi’s foster home or the Walter E Fernald School in Waverly, Mass.  But, on or about age 15, to bolt, literally running away, he with his institutionally bequeathed harmonica and trumpet trained lip, caught the freight cars and rode them all the way to Louisiana.

From the deep South, this rambler would take odd farmhand jobs and then head West, learning life and copying a cigar box set of “spoons” by carving a John Deere plowhandle into his own hand held rhythm section. Together with harmonica in his right, bones in the left, he became a bona fide panhandling drifter, his travels reaching their ultimate end at the California coast. After a week invited to stay with a touring big band, he joined the US Army.

The Army would send him back east, to Fort Riley KS.  Training there for the impending war, he would ride yet another rail, this time a steamer to New York on a final R&R, and meet Mum, with whom he sat and sang and played out his life story all night. By the time the fighting broke out, they were already married.

Deployed to Germany, where he would serve under Patton as a forward observer, reach Corporal as lead bugler organizing a parade for the dignitaries, and earn the Bronze during the Battle of the Bulge Dad had many interactions with every walk of life. Somehow, along the way, he acquired mementos: two decorative swords, of fine silver; a German luger pistol; an emerald cut topaz from a fraulein named Kitty; and, a bloodstone pinkie ring, set in gold.

When I was eleven, Dad gave me that bloodstone as a reward for learning his favorite piano piece, “Alpine Glow”. I have worn that ring, nearly every day, for the past fifty one years.

In spite of everything he did tell us, there was still so much we never knew about Dad. There were gaps, in time, for which there was no clear explanation. There were the repeated AWOLS, and the stint on Pearl Harbor day (his birthday) in the guard house, and one more memento, that oval silver tag with the name Tony Marino bearing his social security number which he wore as a cabbie.

Still, there was his sister Frances and her husband Al, who played clarinet for Artie Shaw, first cousins, same surname; his brother whom he’d met at the Fernald, Luigi, whom everyone called Tom, no physical resemblance, living as an electrician in Hartford. There was his niece, Rhonda Lee, who died tragically at age 51; his nephew, Richard, whom we’d only seen once; and Rima, beloved to Mum, who actually came back with her husband Ange to see Dad in the year before his death. These were those we did know, only as we did know them.

Research reveals that the bloodstone is claimed as an excellent blood cleanser and powerful healer, heightening intuition and increasing creativity, grounding and protecting against geopathic and electromagnetic stress. My memory speaks that Dad’s bloodstone was acquired in exchange for a pack of smokes. It’s owner never revealed anything about the ring to him, as far as we ever knew.

My hand, through which his blood still flows, bears Dad’s ring to the end. What Dad never knew, and what we never knew about him, are in God’s.

 

Bloodstone

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© 12/18/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Neither copying, in whole or part, nor translation permitted by anyone at any time. Thank you for being the better person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honor.

 

[ formerly titled “Objection.”]

Dad never knew his parents. He heard about them both, from his Uncle Gabriel and Aunt Marietta in Springfield, Mass on the rare respite they’d give him from the foster home or the Walter E. Fernald School in Waverly. They’d tell him things – how his brute of a father sang opera that you could hear down the block, in between the storied rumors of his philandering….about his mother, being committed, speaking only Italian, with no defense….and, about his cousin, Jerry Marengi, who would go on to become a world famous Munchkin. These things we all, as his family, would carry forward in the form of his legend.

So, when Dad escaped the confines of his anonymity,  via the freight cars that carried him all the way to California from Boston, joining the US Army seemed almost logical. Free room and board, a hot meal (for which he’d panhandled so artfully as a self taught harmonica and bones man), a little physical agility, and he was in. In, to await deployment by the powers in place to submit him. No ties, no accountability; he was their easiest prey.

Fort Riley, Kansas was the first destination. Having had a few trumpet lessons in the Fernald school, he was ripe for lead bugle; each dawn and dusk, Private Anthony Scanzillo dutifully played Taps and Reveille on the horns the army gave him. Organizing, and then leading, a parade for the dignitaries on base earned him the rank of Corporal, which he held proudly until his death.

Dad, however, didn’t die in battle. Oh, no. He was one of the survivors.

In fact, when the war commenced, he being third fastest runner in his outfit they’d shipped him to Germany right off.

But, from that point, his always colorful stories were few; Dad would only speak in detail of the day he, as a member of the forward observing team of the 3rd armored, had to “infiltrate the enemy” at the Bulge. It was snowing, and he had a cough, and they had to shoot all the German prisoners on orders. But, they all lived through that hell and, in exchange for it, every infantryman received the Bronze Star.

Somewhere between enlisting and coming home the victor, there were less celebratory if more defining moments. There were the AWOLs. There was the all night guard duty. And, there was the guard house – where he’d frequently qualify, to all who would listen, his presence on Pearl Harbor Day, which was also his birthday. Dad’s role in all this emerged as a stand alone story; he wasn’t there for the medals.

I can’t remember what year it was. PBS was airing several mini-series, most of them documentaries, and the historian who stood out above the rest was Ken Burns. Ken Burns made his life work the chronicle of America, and he did it well. Never before seen footage, all the real thing, of everything from the jazz greats to, yes, American soldiers, in action.

Naturally, in the course of the Burns chronology of World War II, America’s most outstanding general received his own, multiple chapters. George S. Patton, the formidable, would be displayed in all his imposing force, with selected film clips in abundance.

One of these stopped me in my tracks.

I’ll never forget the evening. Probably dull of wit from a snacking binge, I had to be jolted awake by the scene. But, the image. The image was unmistakable.

Patton, Burns narrated, was always hard on his men. He never entertained the faint of heart, for any reason, chasing them down whenever he could. On one particular day, seems he’d found one: there, before our eyes, underscored by the unwitting Burns, was an army hospital, and one, lean, lone, raven haired soldier on a cot by the wall. The General loomed, raising his hand over this cowering young man, even in silent film barking forcefully at him to get up. The cameraman did not include the strike, but rumors were well circulated that this was part of the Patton package.

I recognized my father instantly.

No one knows when this happened. All anybody knew was Dad left the war a decorated forward observer, shell shocked, a victim of PTSD for the rest of his life. He could never tolerate fireworks (“screeming Meemies”) or sudden explosions of any kind, and would warn us repeatedly until his final years never, ever to come up behind him in the dark.

I wrote directly to Ken Burns, asking him to edit that segment from his series. The next time it aired, as God is my witness, actors portrayed that scene.

But, no actor could characterize my father as he was. Dad was a transparent innocent. He had none of the conventional role models, not a one. He was blessed with many gifts, one of them being the honest candor for which he was beloved by all. Dad was nobody’s victim.

God, in the wisdom mankind will never understand, spared Dad’s life – his, along with so many others, a fact for which the man himself always gave his Creator the glory. I like to think that Dad was protected because of his honesty. There is a fearlessness in such truth.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   5/30/16    All rights, in whole, in part, in word, and in letter, the sole property of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com