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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 L'Italo-Americano Dear Readers, More September Italian Connections: Agnew Spiro was picked by Nixon to be his running mate in 1969. Ponder this: what if Nixon had picked John Volpe, one of my favorite people, whom I met many times when he was president of the NIAF, instead of Agnew in 1968? Volpe would have been vicepresident, and, if he were vicepresident when Nixon resigned because of the Watergate, Volpe would automatically have become President of the United States of America. The late John Volpe was a prince of a fellow, a genuine down deep, decent gentleman. The former governor and ambassador to Italy had a prodigious memory and would meet and greet people by name even if he had only meet them briefly before. It may be out of print, but on Amazon.com if you type the title "John Volpe - The Life of an Immigrant's Son" authored by Kathleen Kilgore, they can probably search out a used copy for you. John Volpe's character was molded in a family environment we seldom see today. His father, Vito, had a stern moral code and like many Italian men of his time, he was the absolute authority in the Volpe family. Vito had a tenacity that was inherited by his son; it was this tenacity that carried John Volpe to fame and wealth. John headed the highly successful Volpe Construction Company of Malden, Massachusetts, which Ardeatina. The movie which starred Marcello Mastroianni and Richard Burton was based on the book "Massacre of Rome" by Robert Katz. The scene of the crime is now a memorial "Fosse Ardeatine" (Via Ardeatina No. 174, open 8.30 to 5.00pm daily).
 In German occupied Rome (1944) the German S.S. police randomly herded over 320 Romans, men, women and children into meat trucks, took them to an abandoned quarry south of Rome and shot them point blank.
 The execution was in reprisal for a bomb attack that had killed 32 German soldiers when they started up Via Rasella, and marched into a partisan ambush. The German decided that a minimum of 10 Italian civilians would die for every one German killed. Visiting the Fosse Ardeatine one 
 cannot help being moved. The dead ranged in age from a boy of 14 to an old man of 74. They included shoemakers, shop-keepers, students, professors, lawyers, engineers, day laborers, office workers, a music teacher, three doctors and a priest. Family members still tend most of the graves.
 The Germans blew up the tunnels where the massacre had taken place, but local peasants had witnessed the scene and later helped find the corpses. The site is now a memorial to the values of the Resistance against the Germans, which gave birth to the modern Italian Republic. 
 A forbidding bunker-like monument houses the rows identical tombs containing photos of the victims. Beside it is a museum of the Resistance. Interesting works of modern sculpture include The Martyrs, by Francesco Coccia, and the gates shaped like a wall served as a spring board for him in the world of politics. He became the commissioner of Public Works in Massachusetts and from that post went on to serve his native state Massachusetts as Governor for three terms, devoid of any scandals. He served as the first John Volpe Federal Highway administrator the Eisenhower in Administration; secretary of Transportation; Ambassador to Italy in the Nixon Administration. His appointment as ambassador was a "dream come true". A true son of Abruzzi, "Forte ma Gentile" (Strong but Gentle) is their motto and John Volpe certainly was all that and more... *** Carlo Ponti once produced a film about a 1944 war crime that took place inside man made caves, just beyond the ancient walls of Rome on Via www.italoamericano.com thorns of Basaldella. by Mirco *** Amadeo P. Giannini, son of Italian immigrants from Genoa who went on to help establish the Bank of Italy in 1904 and later Bank of America and Transamerica Corporation , was not a "Silver Spoon" Baby.
 He was born in San Jose, California in 1870 and was the oldest son of Luigi and Virginia Giannini who had immigrated from Italy not long after their marriage. Luigi Giannini was the proprietor of the Swiss Hotel, a two story, white frame boardinghouse near the center of the city. Two years after the birth of his second son, Attilio, Luigi moved to with his wife and family to the neighboring village of Alviso along the foothills of the Santa Clara Valley. 
It was in this hillside village with its fruit trees and and vineyards that he became the owner of a small orchard farm, fulfilling the dream of thousand of other Italian immigrants who settled on the California frontier in search of a better life than Italy provided. The family lived in modest prosperity, primarily on the profits from the fruits and vegetables that Luigi sold to the hard bargaining commission merchants on the San Francisco waterfront fifty miles away. 
 A few years later, when Amadeo was six years old, his father was shot and killed by a transient farmhand in an argument over an unpaid bill. Virginia and her three sons (she was pregnant with the third son, George, at the time of her husband's death) remained on the Alviso farm. 
 Watching his mother struggle to support her family young Amadeo did what he could to help her. When his widow mother married Lorenzo Scatena, they moved to San Francisco and settled in a small two-story frame house in North Beach the city' Italian quarter. At the age of twelve, Amadeo began working at his stepfather's produce business at night unloading fruits and vegetables and delivering them to retail merchants in a horse drawn wagon. By age fifteen, Amedeo, a tireless worker, was traveling alone deep into the California Countryside north of San Francisco, soliciting contracts from valley farmers. His younger brother Attilio did not have to haul produce as a young man, because thanks to his brother Amadeo, who paid for his education, he became a doctor, moved South and became Dr. A. H. Giannini, physician interested to the stars and later Banking related interests with Bank of America. *** Recently while perusing a copy of Magic Magazine, I was surprised to learn that Amedeo's nephew, Bernard Giannini, Attilio's son, was not only a banker, but also an amateur magician. Let me share an excerpt from Milt Larsen's article "50 years at the Magic Castle" which appears in this month's, September 2013 23 issue.
 Opened in 1963, the Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles, California is an exclusive private club that welcomes magicians and magic aficionados. But one must be a member or have a guest card from a member in good standing to be admitted. In fact it was thanks to magician Aldo Colombini that Rachel Boschetti (Roger's widow) and I together with "Prof. Salamini" were able to experience the magic and "mangiare" at the Magic Castle, awhile back when in L.A. for the Italo-Americano Centennial Celebration. The "Stars" loved magic, Milt Larsen recalled: "Over the last fifty years, Hollywood stars and other celebrities that have spent time at the Castle: Cary Grant, Jack Oakie, Johnny Carson, Orson Welles, Tony Curtis, George Burns, Molton Berle, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Ralph Edwards, Edgar Bergen, Bob Barker, President Ronald Reagan, John Carradine, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jessica Tandy, Arthur Godfrey, Bela Lugosi, Steve Martin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason Alexander and, of course, our current president and great ambassador of magic, Neil Patrick Harris.
 Of course being slightly older I've added a few names to the list: Buddy Ebsen, Steve Allen, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, Sylvester Stallone, Fred Astaire, Stan Freberg, Ernie Kovacs, Hugh Hefner, Jonathan Winters, and don't forget the unsinkable Debbie Reynolds".
 He then went on to mention "Bernard Giannini", a banker. He was also an amateur magician. The enthusiasm for magic ran in the family: his father, Dr. A. H. Giannini of the Bank of America, was a member of the SAM (Society of American Magicians). 
 Bernard performed big illusions, At a PCAM convention in San Diego, Bernard PCAM convention in San Diego, Bernard did a knockout act in the public show. 
 A cabinet was shown on all sides, doors opening front and back. From it, Bernard produced four girls, each warning a top hat. From the top hats, one right after another, were produced four white rabbits, which were carried off by the girls.
 Bernard's home had a fully equipped theater, and meetings of Los Angeles' exclusive Los Magicos often took place at the facility. On one such occasion, someone, remarked that it was a shame Bernard couldn't do his favorite four-girl production number on such a small stage. At the next meeting, he showed the cabinet empty and the produced eight girls, all with top hat and rabbits. No one suspected that he'd had contractors tear out a section from the rear of his home to accomplish this astonishing feat. 
 A little-known fact is that without Bernard Giannini, there might never have been a Disneyland. Against all odds, he managed to convince the Bank of America thatWalt Disney's crazy plan just might work!""

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