The Christmas visit of 1961 was spent entirely on the subject of how the Soviet Union was going to destroy America due to our failures in math. This conversation was directed primarily toward me in that Grandpa announced that he thought my dress was too short and that I should be taking math courses at Pitt instead of contemplating a major in English.
Not that Grandpa wasn’t interested in the arts. He translated parts of The Divine Comedy for Aunt Mary when she was taking some sort of course. He also insisted the children listen regularly to opera. To my knowledge, none of them ever developed at taste for it.
The source of this patriarchal sternness we will never fully know. Here is what is known: As I said, Grandpa was educated by monks in southern Italy. He grew up in Calabria, which was like growing up in the United States in the poverty stricken regions of Mississippi before civil rights. Justice was nonexistent, as the poor were exploited and accused by the rich at will. At the time of his emigration in the 1890s, many peasants were fleeing poverty. Those from Maierato, his last known address, settled mainly in Argentina, Toronto, or Pittsburgh. He made three trips across the ocean before staying. Initially, he lived with a fruit seller in Brooklyn. How he ended up with a first-class education is unclear. But he apparently knew the high Italian, which is the Tuscan dialect of Dante and the language of educated Italians. But math was his passion. Algebra and word problems primarily.
If I search my own DNA for an answer, I would have to believe that his life was a search for something that remained unknown to him.
Aunt Carrie said Grandpa came from Catanzarro, but Maierato was where my grandmother, Angela Sara Serrao, daughter of Rocco lived and the place my grandfather listed on his travels as his home. Interestingly, Angela Sara traveled to Pittsburgh under her name of Serrao, with Concetta, her five-year-old child, who had to be Aunt Mary. It is possible to wonder about Concetta’s birth, given the dates when Domenic and Angela Sara were together in those years when he came and went from Maierato.
However, there is no indication that Angela’s family held anything against Grandpa, as he was friends with her brothers Uncle Dick and Uncle Tony.
Two side stories:
1. Uncle Dick was a real operator. He owned a movie theater in Ford City and one of the early cars, a Model A Ford, I believe. Once Eugene was called upon to drive Domenic (his father) and Anthony (his Uncle Tony) to bring Uncle Dick back to Pittsburgh from Ford City because Uncle Dick had been shot. A deal gone wrong or a woman? Or both. Anything could have been possible with Uncle Dick who survived the incident.
2. Uncle Tony was married to a Argentinean woman named Angela whose name was apparently also a description of her kind and gentle nature as well as her unsurpassed beauty. Uncle Tony, however, took up with a woman known as La Crapera: the goat woman. She was a woman of dubious reputation, scorned and mocked by men of the neighborhood. But Uncle Tony was seduced. When Angela found out, she drank lye. Uncle Tony, inconsolable and torn with guilt, shot himself over her grave.
I did not find out until the final year of Yawgin’s life that following this tragedy, the goat woman invited the whole Cutuly family to dinner—and they went.
While I find this bizarre beyond words, I do conclude that this strange occurrence suggests that behavioral tendencies among the Cutuly side of the family were never entirely rational. You might wish to address this strangeness in your genes, which thankfully should be fairly watered down unto you, the fifth generation.
Something in the genes you might find helpful and insightful as you learn more about your great great grandfather is this: The Black Hand aka the Mafia was notorious for taking protection money from small businessmen in the Italian neighborhoods. Your great great grandfather, however, refused to pay and threw them out of his shoemaker shop. It’s astonishing to think that given his size, he was able to do this . . . until, that is, I remember the personality he radiated. I would have to say that he was a walking version both of Dante and his Inferno. In short, Tony Soprano would not have had a chance against Domenic Cutuli.
(When the spelling of Cutuli changed, I have no idea. But Domenic came into America from the Kingdom if Italy as a Cutuli.)
Back to the house: