28 July, 2011

{this memory} 10

Every photo has a story behind it, but the problem is I don't know much about this photo. I know the gentleman on the left is my father-in-law, but I never knew him. He died before I met my wife.

The setting is the bar/grille area of Tex's Bowling Alley on the 600 block of Bleecker Street in Utica, New York. Everyone is wearing funny hats - so I'm guessing it's New Year's Eve. It's also clear that it's prior to 1960 since there are 48 stars on the flag. My research, however, suggests this was prior to 1951 when Tex (Frank Fragetta) sold the building to an adjacent furniture store. It later became home to the Utica Chapter of the Sons of Italy.

Bowling was a big deal in the post-war period. Tex's had just six lanes but was one of six facilities in Utica. There were four more in local clubs like the Knights of Columbus and two in neighboring suburbs. Only one of these remains today, although much expanded and modernized, of course.

My wife's father was manager of the grill. After the building's sale, he opened his own bar and grille - also on Bleecker Street. His building no longer stands.

As I wrote above, I didn't know him, but I do know he was a fine man. His three children - two daughters and a son - are all wonderful people. And his wife - my mother-in-law - loved me like a son. He immigrated from Italy as a young teenager but returned to Italy after a few years, only to come back to the US permanently a few years later.

How he settled in Utica I do not know, but since the turn of the century Utica has been a popular destination for immigrants. It continues as such today, and dozens of languages are spoken in the schools. If you like ethnic food, come visit.

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