We celebrated Dom DeIeso’s 60th birthday in May 2011; I’ve known him for at least 45 of those years, and I salute his daughter Channelle for getting his old friends and putting us together in a function room at the Continental.
To remember Domenic as a kid is to remember Fenno’s Corner; I never met Dom in elementary or middle school. I know he graduated Revere High School with me, so perhaps he went to Immaculate Conception until he entered high school. I didn’t move to Broadway until I had done five grades in the Mary T. Ronin school in Beachmont.
I didn’t meet Dom until one day after school when my best friend, Gale Richardi, introduced me to “the boys in my [new] neighborhood.” Maybe because Dom and Bobby Powers didn’t seem as old as their older brothers: Peter, Jimmy and the other older guys at Fenno’s, I soon felt like Dom and Bobby were our brothers, and I can feel that love even to this day, actually love for all the guys from Fenno’s who were our brothers.
Dom and Bobby Powers were so cute, Bobby with his long eyelashes and Domenic with his perfect Beatles haircut and adorable smile, dimples even, but soon you learned they were really like perfect old men, trading complaints like the old guys in Bill’s Spa who
smoked cigars and loved to “smoke out” the girls, especially Dom with his farts and his very obscene vocabulary; he stood back on his heels with his pelvis thrust forward and he pontificated; the boys were so full of testosterone you wouldn’t dare try to give them a hug, just as you wouldn’t hug your brother. We must have been as strange to them, but they mostly watched out for us. I joke with my friends that I was a little hoodsie, and it’s true!
Jackie Gennaco was reminded and told me of a day when one of the guys asked “Where’s Gale and Carolyn?” and someone told spoke up and told him that we two weren’t talking to each other.
“I just saw them this morning and everything was hunky-dory!” Peter exclaimed.
I mostly remember in the evening when I was supposed to be skating at the MDC Skating Rink across from Gale’s house on the Revere Beach Parkway. Gale and I went to the Shurtleff School in fifth and sixth grade until Grade 7 when I went to Liberty and Gale to McKinley middle school, but we still hung out after school and soon we were ditching our skates to meet “the boys” in her neighborhood, Dom and his brother Peter, and Bobby and his bro Jimmy and younger brother Joe, Jacky Punch, Eddie White, Jacky Gennaco, Paul DiNapoli, Richie Tringali, J.M.,, Andy and Billy Barry, Lowell Willis from down the street, and many more over the years who spent major time in their teens at Fenno’s, which referred to the corner of Broadway and Beach Street where Fenno’s restaurant claimed the corner, while Hegarty’s grocery next door tried to hold off the shoplifters, and Perrotti’s Auto commanded a showroom along Broadway before you got to Chelsea. .
Gale hatched a plan to throw our skates in her hall closet and instead of going to the rink, we went to Fenno’s corner. Sometimes we just stood in front of Hegarty’s grocery, just waiting for someone to show up and begin developing a plan of what to do for fun. In the later years, Dave Champoli rescued us girls from boredom as Paula Hansen, Susan Schlamowitz and Amy Levine who all worked at skill rite down the beach and met us on the corner. Once Gale got a car, things changed, so my clearest memories are of the early days in ’65 and ’66 when we were 13-15 years old
I remember one time when we all passed around a little Book of Secrets where we were all allowed to write something about any one of the other kids who hung out on the corner. Does anyone remember that? I do, because I found out someone thought I was stuck up, and it was my first recognition I wasn’t as perceived as nice and friendly as I thought I acted–according to the book of secrets. Do you remember that Dom? We were in the ninth grade; it was 1966 and it was the worse year for me in my home, but somehow by then I had graduated from being expected to babysit my multitudinous siblings in the evenings and I walked up Beach Street to meet Gale at Fenno’s.
In the early days in decent weather, we hung around the back of Perrotti’s Auto Sales mostly, sitting on the stoop in the back of Perrotti’s show room where Dom, Bobby and the boys would all dispense with their philosophies on life. This was before the girl’s from Chelsea began to pair off with certain guys. For Gale and me, it was an education into the subject of “boys.” Some of the guys were way ahead of us in school. We were told about the chemistry teacher Mr. Marget, who repeated the word “then” in every other space between his lecture words and about the other bizarre aspects of the high school, which, remember, didn’t have ninth graders during those days. Those who went to Immaculate Conception parochial school talked about the nuns, their brutality and their arbitrary seeming dislike of kids.
I had already rejected the IC Sunday school there and joined in with my stories about confirmation, but I didn’t really have to deal day to day with nuns. The following year I spent the tenth grade in Saranac Lake returned in time for my junior year only then experienced Mr. Marget, Miss Maferra, Mr. Weinstein, and the rest from 1968 to 1970. Vietnam was coming up for many of the guys and I remember Bobby saying your life story was written before you even got your draft card. If you died in Vietnam, well, you just did; it was in the cards. His fatalism shocked me because I could never imagine him dead and didn’t want that to happen, so I didn’t want him to go to Vietnam. My brother had burnt his draft card with my mother’s full support. The other day I found a notebook more than 45 years old where I began a letter to Bobby when he was in the military. I don’t remember where he was stationed, but I still have the beginnings of the letter, trying to get the right tone for a kid whose life had changed from another who had a good idea it was a different for him, but how?
Dom was not a fatalist. He came from the “you got to make it good” school, and Dom remember when he proudly drove to the corner in a corvette when we were a little older. I remember that I learned almost every swear word known to man hanging out with the boys at Fenno’s. Dom’s favorite words were “chiggoddias” as in “I’m freezing my chiggoddia’s off.” He’d pull his pea coat tightly around him and with that big broad million dollar smile of his, he’d say even worse words. You could kind of figure out which were the worse words. Once we ordered clams at Fenno’s and Domenic called the clam’s “leg” the clam’s “lugats. That made everyone laugh, but Gale and I had to draw conclusions considering we didn’t know Italian. Paul DiNapoli told me that where they actually learned the profane language was from Bobby’s lewd uncle who lived with the family.
Dom, do you remember nights when it was too cold to hang around outside Fenno’s, so we went up to the American Legion building on Broadway? I can remember ten or so of us, sitting cross-legged on the floor inside the foyer there and playing absurd games we made up right there, and Dom would pass one of his “SBD’s”, silent but deadly farts of which he was shamelessly proud. If somebody else mentioned the fart, you turned to that person, pointed a finger, and said “whoever smelt it, dealt it.” And we would laugh our stupid heads off.
One thing no one could beat us at was laughing. We laughed all the time, and we also tried to scare each other. I remember once when with Domenic and the rest, we tried to scare each other, holding lighters under cupped palms while we were in the American Legion building on Broadway, and more than once we talked ourselves into believing there was a ghost in our midst and we all ran out of there back to Fenno’s and then laughed at each other about what we looked like when we were running out of there. .Gale and I once went to the North End at night because Gale had cousins there. We were chased by a gang of boys and we were terrified, and when we got off the bus at Fenno’s Corner we stopped and kissed the ground we were deposited on.
I remember Lowell who would imitate Mr. Ed, with a voice like a horse neighing and say “Doesn’t anybody love me?” We’d say “We love you, Lowell.” Or he’do a perfect imitation saying, “Wilbur, gimmee your funny books.” We imitated different TV programs like Gilligan’s Island, and some people were genuinely talented comics. We girls got an inside look into the male psyche as the boys pointed out shower room information on a guy named Louis and testified he had a “sack” that hung down to his knees. It was terrible,” making fun of someone like that we would say, but secretly we laughed too, and isn’t it funny, all the other wonderful things we did together, but those are the things I remember. Mostly before they even built the Donut Shop: Farts and swear words!
.I remember Dom had a wicked crush on a girl in high school whose long tresses were like sirens, just calling to him from the back of her head, taking his mind off his school work. I remember in high school when Dom had a corvette, driving with Eddie in the front and Gale and I in the back, and Dom saying to Gale and me that we were lucky we were still good girls because no guy wants to marry a girl who isn’t a virgin. The double standard that he had no problem making some girl NOT eligible for someone else drove me insane and I thought that attitude alone would just make a girl want to get rid of her virginity; it’s like we were commodities, I remember thinking. .More than once I called Dom a male chauvinist pig. And he said times, “Carolyn, why can’t you be nice—like Gale?” He said this on WAY more than three occasions.
I remember Gale and me with our white fur jackets we bought to match at Lerner’s, and the boys with their Barracuda CPO jackets that everyone knew how to tell from the fake CPO jacket. We all wore genuine pea coats in the winter. I also remember times when we all walked in the snow together on Christmas Eve going to the midnight Mass, the snow was real slow and we linked arms across the street there was so little traffic on Beach Street that time of night, and we who had been sacrilegious on the corner, sat in silence praying, and then some went back to the corner before going home again. Bernadette, another crazy girl from Chelsea, reminded me that she wore the same coat, but I don’t remember if Bernie went to Our Lady of Lourdes midnight mass with us, though I do remember Bernie and the boys from Revere Street in the snow, when we ventured away from our revered corner of the Beach Street and Broadway area.
I wish I had a movie camera of those times because the feelings we shared were so special. Can’t you feel them? And look Dom, we are all still here tonight. Happy 60th Birthday Baby. If anyone wants to contribute memories to the Fenno’s Corner Project I’m organizing, I’d love to hear your memories and comments.
Cale Kenney, May 15
Read to Dom that night. In a perfect thank you he told us “My whole life is in this room.”