My father (Joe) was born in Piana dei Albanese, Sicily in 1894. He sailed for America when he was 14. In 1916, he married Katerina Wrend, better known to her friends as "Kate" and their offspring were Mary, George, Damion, and me. My father's brother, Pete, married my mother's sister, Angelina Wrend and their offspring were Georgia, Vito, Frank, George, Dominic, Ben, Mary and Lucy.
We all lived together at 811 Regent Street. Because there were 12 kids in the house, the kitchen was split into two rooms that were separated by an archway. The adults ate in one room and us kids ate in the other room. All the cooking was done on a wood stove.
We had a large garden in our backyard, but also farmed a community garden out on South Park street where Kohl's is today. We were all expected to help in the garden, but what I remember most was how we watered the plants. Water was hauled in jugs and carried up and down each row of plants. It wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it was accepted because it had to be done.
My father worked for Gisholt and for the Madison Gas and Electric Company and then decided to open his own bar. Schiro's tavern was established in 1933 at 935 Regent Street on the corner of Regent and Brooks, across from the Italian Workmen's Club. He soon became a second father to many of the young men in the neighborhood. Advice and a loan of money was always available to those in need.
One evening, while celebrating his award as "Man of the Year" at the clubhouse, one of the young men in the audience stood up and announced that "Father Joe," a name "Jobo" Puccio had given him, could tear up all the IOU's they owed him. My father's reply was that he had never kept any. He had served as President of the Italian Workmen's Club, held many other positions within the club, was chosen as Italian Senior Citizen of 1972 and Columbian of the Year in 1978. Known as the "Mayor of Regent Street," he was dearly loved by all who knew him.
Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures The University Club 432 E Campus Mall Madison, WI 53706 608-262-8180