Friday, June 17, 2016

Phil and His Pigeons

This article originally appeared in the Stamford [Connecticut] Advocate,  Jan 17, 2010, in The Dart, "a weekly feature in which reporters throw a dart at a map of Stamford and then go out in search of a story." 

Note: Phil Tucciarone is the son of Frances Mallozzi (1905-1986) and John Tucciarone (1895-1988), and is a first cousin to my husband, Bill Zarges.


Phil Tucciarone raises racing pigeons in the backyard of his home on West Main St. and Harvard Ave. in Stamford, Conn. Photo taken on Monday January 11, 2009. He's also a member of the Stamford Racing Pigeon Club which is behind his home on Harvard Ave. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate

The Dart: 'Thoroughbreds of the sky' keep club's connection alive
Published: 05:40 p.m., Sunday, January 17, 2010

STAMFORD -- Phil Tucciarone is a ladies man.
"When I walk into the club, some of the guys say, `Here comes Phil and his girls,'" the spry 84-year-old said with twinkling eyes. And while the ladies this lifelong Stamford resident admires have storied pedigrees and finicky diets, you're more likely to find these girls in the sky than on the catwalk. Tucciarone is a pigeon fancier. He breeds, trains and races homing pigeons.

Phil Tucciarone holds the special feed he buys for his racing pigeons that's imported from Belgium. He raises the birds behind his home on West Main St. in Stamford, Conn. Photo taken on Monday January 11, 2009. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate

He's the oldest flier at the Stamford Racing Pigeon Club, nestled on the city's West Side away from the traffic on West Main Street. "I fly mostly girls -- they are more reliable ... smarter," Tucciarone said, standing next to his backyard coop that is in sight of the racing club.

Racing pigeons -- "the thoroughbreds of the sky," Tucciarone will remind you -- is a beloved sport in a city that has esteemed its racing game even before the city club was founded in 1934.

Phil Tucciarone tends to his racing pigeons in the backyard of his home on West Main St. in Stamford, Conn. Photo taken on Monday January 11, 2009. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate

There are the underdogs, the long shots, the losers and the champions in a competition that pits birds against their brethren, the elements and natural predators. After training pigeons with short flights from the New York area, the birds compete in 100-mile to 500-mile races against pigeons from the Stamford club and other area clubs, said William Telesco, a club member who began racing pigeons in 1951 and continues to breed the birds.

The average speed of a pigeon is 42 miles per hour, Telesco said, and it takes it from 2 to 12 hours to return to the home loft.

No one knows for sure how the birds are able to fly home from such far distance, though some have speculated it has to do with the position of the sun or the earth's magnetic fields, he said. The club has seen a downfall in interest and membership since pigeon fever gripped many of the Italian, Polish and German families who kept their birds on the West Side during the 1950s.

"At one time there were 20 lofts within a half mile on the West Side," Telesco said.

The club was founded in 1934, as a certificate on the current clubhouse wall boasts, by Paul Ferrara, a carpenter, who became the club's first president, said his son James Ferrara, now a North Stamford resident.

"Once my mother got mad as heck and locked him out, because he was spending so much time with the pigeons," James Ferrara said, laughing at the memory.

The club met on Finney Lane before the group erected a clubhouse on the land where the current building stands, Ferrara said.

Phil Tucciarone's racing pigeons in the backyard of his home on West Main St. in Stamford, Conn. Photo taken on Monday January 11, 2009. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate

 "A bunch of the club guys were plumbers, electricians, carpenters or masons," he said. "They got together and built it themselves."

When the birds returned to the coops, Paul Ferrara would race to put the birds' leg bands into a German-made clock synchronized with other club members, James said. One turn of the key would register the bird's flight time and output a slip of paper.

"A lot of the races were on a Sunday, and we couldn't eat dinner until the birds came home," he said.

In this area, and across the country, the hobby is dying out, Telesco said.

"There wasn't very much for kids to do -- that's how it evolved," he said. "Now kids have so much to do."

Still, Tucciarone has no plans to stop waking up at 4:30 a.m. to train the birds. He doesn't mind cleaning the lofts, tending to their medical ailments or feeding them twice a day. He proudly points out his fastest flier who has a green sheen along the breast feathers. "That's the winningest bird in the club," he said. Then, he adds as a humble afterthought: "I did my share of winning and I took my share of beatings in this game."


Thursday, June 16, 2016

A New Cousin Appears, Part 4

Read A New Cousin Appears, Parts 1, 2, and 3


A Father's Gifts

Vinni continues his story:

I have gotten more than I had ever hoped for when starting on my journey for my family.  I am so thankful and so delighted with the response of everyone involved!

The first things I received were pictures from Bill and Clair.  They were of [Vinni's Aunt] Delia's wedding.  They were special because they showed my father as a young man.  I am so glad I saw him first in this stage of his life.  Quite a handsome guy indeed.  As I stated earlier, my sisters were both able to pick him out in each photo immediately.  

Delia Mallozzi weds William Zarges, Sr., July 1947
in Stamford, Connecticut.
The wedding party is shown on the front lawn of the family home at 83 Wilson Street.
From the left: Mary, Frances, William, Delia, Alessandra (mother of the family), Gennaro, Vincenzo (father of the family), Filippina, and Amalio (Vinni's father)

Then came the picture of him playing the accordion.  In the beginning I was hoping to just see a picture of the accordion.  But here he was, playing it!  Then more pictures of him at much later in life in casual pictures with family.  I can see myself so much in those pictures.  Sometimes I just sit and stare at them.  My 2nd cousin, Lori T, gave me pictures of my grandmother and grandfather and a picture of Amalio when he was in the military.  I have those pictures framed and hanging in our bathroom.  I very much enjoy them.

Brothers in the military, WWII: Amalio (left) served in the Pacific; Phil (right) served in Europe

Amalio in the garden
Wilson Street, Stamford, Connecticut

Next came the songs and publishing.  This gave me a good reason why I am who I am.  My sister always called me a free spirit.  Well, I guess maybe.  I think she just recognized that I was much different than all of them.  I have always had music going on in my head.  I don't think anyone really understood that.  However, Amalio would have understood.  My favorite of his music is When I'm Out Dancing With You.  It has a Big Band sound to it.  Funny thing is even when I was playing Rock on guitar I always had a bit of Big Band sound and swing to my music.  I sometimes wonder if I heard him play when I was still in my mother's womb.  That is completely possible.  If you think about it, I may have even heard this very song.

Then I met a lady who was related to his wife Adeline.  She was a God-send also.  She talked to me one day on the phone for nearly an hour.  She told me many things about him.  She also stated that "No Way" was he anything like the "Al Mallozzi" I was told of for so many years.  She spoke of a generous, loving man that loved his wife, nature, animals and God.  

She also told me something that broke my heart.  She said that he was always trying to talk Adeline into adopting children.  This one haunts me a bit.  She then sent me two books of his poetry and his very guitar.  I understand the guitar has been in an attic for many years.  Nearly thrown away more than once.  No one knows however, where the accordion ended up.  In good hands, I can only hope.  His guitar is hanging on the wall here in our Nashville home.  I have many guitars being celebrated on these walls.  This guitar, however, holds a much deeper meaning than the others.  And rightly so.  It is the only possession I own that was my father's.  He touched it and loved it.  Need I say more about that?

Vinni and his father's guitar

Now for the poems.  They were all put together by his wife Adeline and named Thoughts and Words by Amalio Mallozzi.  Nancy reads them to me often.  She will read one and then we will sit and talk about it.  These really help me to understand what went on inside his head. I so hoped that he would have mentioned us somewhere in those pages.  But, I cannot find any trace of that at all.  I am reasonably sure he never knew about me.  I think Mom kept that secret from him as well as she kept him from me.  One can only speculate as to why.  Nancy and I think we have it pretty much figured out.  But again, it is only our conclusions taken from the facts we have.  

These poems paint a pretty good picture of a man that loved others and loved God.  My favorite one is Best Friends, a poem he wrote about his Mother and Father. 

Thru sickness and thru pain,
In sunshine or in rain,
The best friends that I had
Were my Mother and my Dad.

Whether in joy or gladness
Or I was lost in sadness,
The best friends that I had
Were Mother and my Dad.

Throughout my years of learning,
Or in periods of my yearning,
The best friends I had
Were my Mother and my Dad.

Through my entire life,
Until I took on my wife,
The best friends that I had
Were my Mother and my Dad.

My years weren't lived in vain,
So I sing this sweet refrain,
The best friends that I had
Were my Mother and my Dad.
~Amalio Mallozzi

Doesn't sound like a deranged, awful, angry person, does it?  I am quite glad that no images matching up to what I was always taught have surfaced at all.  

I have finally come to the place where I realize, I will not be able to meet him in this life.  This took a while.  But I am confident, we will meet in the next.  Until then wondering and imagining will have to do.  The things he left behind for me to find will help to get me thru.  There will be a lot to talk about then.  

And my Mother.  Do I forgive my Mother?  Of course I do!  But I will ask her when I see her again some day, "Mom, what were you thinking?"  I am sure she had reasons for what she decided for me.  I am sure she did what she thought she needed to do.  

I am not perfect and my children with probably say someday, "What was Dad thinking".  Speaking of my children, Adam and Audrey, they are doing quite well and are excited to learn about their Grandfather.  Adam is about to become a father himself.  He has decided to name his son Roland Amalio Smith.  That makes me very happy indeed.

Vinni and Nancy, 1976

Vinni and his son, Adam

Vinni and his daughter, Audrey

Vinni and Nancy

Vinni and his dogs