Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mario Seghieri recalls his youth while still going strong after 91 years

One of the pleasures of living in the Marcucci neighborhood of San Salvatore is being able to visit with some of my distant relatives in the company of our friend and neighbor Elena, who is married to Davide Seghieri, an even more distant cousin. Elena can help with translating so we can ask more in-depth questions than we are able to do on our own. Yesterday we dropped in on Mario Seghieri and his wife Loretta Forasieppi. Mario celebrated his 91st birthday March 11, but he seems more like a man in his 70s. He can ride his bicycle 10 kilometers a day, still doesn’t need glasses, and his mind and memory are as sharp as ever. Elderly people typically undergo testing when they renew their driver’s licenses, but because of his obvious good health, Mario’s license is always renewed without question.
Mario, Fausto, Loretta, Elena and me. Photo by Lucy.

I had previously interviewed them about their experiences under Fascism and during World War II, and now I wanted to find out more about what their younger days were like growing up in the Montecarlo area.

Mario went to school in Chiesanuova for his first two years. Then he went to school in San Salvatore, where the farmacia is now located, and his fifth and final year in Marginone. To get to Marginone, he crossed the river on a log foot bridge that no longer exists and went up through the woods. “The fifth grade was enough in those days.”

Mario, Fausto and I look at a chart showing how the
various local  and U.S. Seghieri families are related..
What did Mario and Loretta do for entertainment growing up? Loretta recalled playing hopscotch and spinning tops, but Mario said he couldn’t remember any particular games the boys played. One of their sons, Fausto, who joined us for a few minutes before going outside to work, chimed in “What childhood? There was no childhood in those days. They could always find something for the children to do.”

“After school, you went to work in the fields, helping to grow and harvest grain, fruit and vegetables,” Loretta said. Around 1954, the family started growing carnations, and their children and grandchildren still work in the flower and plant farming business.

“Now, everything has changed,” Mario said. “With machines, you can harvest a square meter field of grain that once took four people all day in 15 minutes.”

Twice Mario almost moved away from Marcucci. His uncle Dante Seghieri immigrated to the United States in 1913, but Dante returned to Italy several times. On one of those occasions, he proposed taking Mario with him as a companion. However, Dante instead found a wife and returned to America with her.

When Mario was a teenager, he went to Civitavecchia, near Rome, to work in a pizzeria that some of his brothers and sisters had started. The pizzeria is still in existence and family owned, but Mario chose to return to Marcucci to work his father’s land and carry on the family farming business. “We always did well enough,” he said. “I never suffered from hunger.”

He earned extra money by playing the accordion with a little orchestra for parties and at concerts in Montecarlo and nearby cities such as Altopascio, Chiesina Uzzanese and Pescia. “I would go to Pescia carrying my accordion on my bicycle,” he said. “Instead of spending money on the weekends, I was gaining money. I really enjoyed it.”

His father Bruno also played the accordion, and it occurs to me that its possible Bruno learned to play from his uncle Torello Seghieri, who was a professional musician, and my great grandfather. Mario stopped playing and sold his accordion shortly after he married, because Loretta didn’t want to be left home alone with their young children on the weekends.

Mario and Loretta met shortly after the World War II during a fall festa and dance in the theater in Montecarlo. “We were celebrating the arrival of the American soldiers,” Loretta said, “so it must have been 1944.” Two years later, they were a steady couple, but they waited eight years before they married. “I was 31 when I married,” Mario said with a wry smile. “I was old. I didn’t think I deserved anyone.”

The couple has seen many things change over the years, especially for young people. “Before people had more time, more peaceful lives,” Loretta said. “There was no hurry, no rush.” But for the most part, they appreciate living in the present times. Mario said he very much enjoys watching all the soccer matches on his television. “It’s always on, and I pay extra to be able to see all the matches, including the ones from other European countries.”

About 15 years ago, Mario and his family were visited by a van load of cousins from Minnesota, children and grandchildren of his dad’s brother Dante. Mario and Loretta still receive Christmas cards with photos from Giovanna, or Joan, Seghieri, and some of her children. Time, distance and technology have changed the way people interact, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is still an invisible bond between people who are related.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting perspective on the change of expectations of childhood. In many ways it mirrors what I see in the US as well.


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