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Grandpa Store

October 3, 2018



Remembering My Grandpa Store on the 142nd Anniversary of His Birth


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



One hundred and forty-two years ago, my maternal grandfather was born in Levone, Italy, on October 6, 1876.  Although I sadly know very little of his life in Northern Italy, I do know that at age twenty, he left Italy for the United States of America at Le Havre, France, aboard the ship La Touraine, on November 14, 1896.  After going through Ellis Island and then staying for a while in Pennsylvania, Martino Lanzone arrived in Indiana in 1897; his brother Domenic joined Martino a year later.


Both brothers were interested in the grocery business.  Martino was also adept at baking the long, crusty loaves of bread, as from his homeland.  Having worked in Clinton, Indiana for five years, Martino was able to return to Italy and marry Domenica Alice (“Alice” was my grandmother’s surname.)  Then, once again on the Ship LaTouraine, the newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Lanzone set sail from La Havre, France, to make their dreams come true in the new homeland of Blanford, Indiana (in west-central Indiana’s Vermillion County).  On August 28, 1903, the young couple arrived at Ellis Island with eighty dollars and plans for establishing a grocery store and bakery in the small, rural town of Blanford (seven miles from Clinton).


While we believe the store business began around 1904, the Italian bakery was in operation from 1914 until 1942.  My grandfather made excellent loaves of “Italian” bread in his brick oven and was very particular about the qualities of the loaves he made.  Instead of my grandmother’s doing the cooking for the family, most often the dinner meals were baked in the brick oven by my Grandpa Store.  (Yes, we always called my maternal grandparents “Grandma Store” and “Grandpa Store” while we referred to my paternal grandparents, who lived on a farm, as “Grandma Farm” and “Grandpa Farm.”)


The first baby of my maternal grandparents, a son named Stephen, died at a very young age.  Their second son, Martin, passed away around age seven, most likely from meningitis.  (Upstairs in my townhouse, on the wall above my green desk, I have an old, uniquely designed, wooden frame which measures twenty by twenty-four inches and which contains a photo of my very young Uncle Martin:  I am honored to have this family keepsake.)


Happily, four healthy children arrived:  Zita, in 1908; Peter, in 1910; Lydia, in 1912; and Mary (my mother), in 1914.  Eventually, each of the growing children had a certain job at the grocery store and bakery.  While my Aunt Zita delivered the bread by means of a horse and wagon, Uncle Pete helped at the bakery and store.  Eventually, Aunt Lydia helped with making breadsticks while my mother was the bookkeeper.  Nevertheless, I am sure that each helped wherever needed.  Amazing to me, even my mother was adept at the butcher block with cutting and trimming the raw meat.


In addition to being an outstanding baker and entrepreneur, my grandfather was a musician in a marching band.  Even though we no longer have his brass instrument (not shaped like a brass instrument of today), I do distinctly remember this brass instrument which was in my Aunt Zita’s bedroom closet for many years.  In a closet with my dad’s Army uniform, my sister still has the attractive, double-breasted  band uniform of my grandfather.  This ornate , black and purple, wool  uniform has the clothing label which reads “Henderson Company of Philadelphia.”


On my grandfather’s Certificate of Naturalization, he was noted as being 5’6″ (perhaps, about the same height of my grandmother).  His four surviving children became taller than their father.  Also, the certificate listed Grandpa Store’s hair as being gray in 1923.  Like my eyes, his eyes were brown.  On the south wall of my living room, between the large window and the grandfather clock, I display a framed photo of my grandfather behind the counter of his grocery store while my mother, as a girl of around ten, is standing nearby.  The eight-by-ten photo is in sepia tones, and neither relative was smiling.


In 1933, when my mother was graduated from Clinton High School–the first in her family to achieve this milestone–my grandfather gave his youngest daughter an Underwood typewriter, on which I first typed and which my sister still has in her home in Colorado.  My mother continued her education at Terre Haute Business College, a two-year program.  I know my mother loved her father very much.  Sadly, in May of 1935, Martino Lanzone died of a cerebral hemorrhage.


For one full year, as was the custom at that time, my maternal grandmother and her four adult children wore black to demonstrate their mourning.


After my grandfather’s passing, my Uncle Pete and grandmother managed the business.  For the next seven years, my uncle took over the baking duties.  Then, during World War II, the family business continued in 1942, only with the grocery store on Highway 71 in Blanford.  For four more decades, the grocery store remained open until March of 1982.


Although my grandfather died fifteen years before I was born, I grew up in the house which he had built for rental property in 1914; I played and grew under the large and beautiful maple trees which he had planted in the yard of what became my family’s home.  Thus, with our home’s connection with my grandfather and with spending so much time at the huge building which included the store, bakery, storage room, and residence of Martino and Domenica–I did feel a connection with my maternal grandfather.  I do wish I could have met my Grandfather Store, had the opportunity to taste his bread, and asked more about his adventuresome life that brought him to a new country with his bride to establish a store and bakery and to raise a fine family.


I always encourage people–young and old–to ask questions of their oldest family members to preserve family history.  Besides names and dates on a family tree and besides the photographs in albums or on a computer, we need to save the word portraits and family stories of our dear ancestors.


Happy October!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 3, 2018, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice,
    Thank you for telling this amazing story of our Grandpa Store! I am honored to be the keeper of his handsome band uniform, which is in such perfect condition that it could be worn in a parade on this very day! Our mother always said that Grandpa, not Grandma, combed her hair and took care of her. (Grandma was definitely ahead of her time in being more of a business woman than a homemaker.). Mother spoke so lovingly of her father that I have always felt that he must have been a very kind and gentle Italian man. How thankful I am that you have recorded this family history in your beautiful words for my grandchildren to appreciate and enjoy when they are older!
    With love and thoughts of the Columbus Day Parade in Clinton, Indiana, where our grandfather no doubt performed in the marching band,

    • Good morning, Mary–Many thanks for adding your comments to this post.  Your noting that the band jacket is quite heavy is another interesting point.

          I appreciate your care in keeping this band uniform which is around one hundred years old.

      Enjoy the weekend–Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thanks for another beautifully described glimpse of your grandfather, as well as the reminder about preserving not only photos and records, but also word portraits.–Sue

    • Hello, Sue–Special thanks for reading this blog post and for commenting.  Having a comment from someone who works as a volunteer at a “history room” and who has done her part in preserving family/local history is much appreciated.

      Enjoy the autumnal weekend–even if the changing leaves are soaked with rain–Alice and Willow

  3. Katherine Binole permalink

    Such a beautiful story and loving tribute to your grandpa store and details of family history. Indeed beautiful memories to pass on to our family’s younger generation. I am impressed Mary still has his band uniform!
    Love, Aunt Kathy

    • Hi, Aunt Kathy–Many thanks for your very nice comment!  In the sunlight, Mary was able to tell that around each cuff of the band uniform’s jacket, the very heavy wool was blue, probably once a royal blue; so, the uniform was actually of three colors.  Mary keeps Grandpa Store’s uniform with Dad’s Army uniform (from World War II).

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

  4. Carole permalink

    Thank you, Alice, for the sharing more family details! When Tim and I traveled to Italy for a second visit in 2007, we rented a car to explore our grandparents’ roots in and around Levone. That experience was quite memorable, as we walked the narrow streets with a small-framed gentleman who spoke limited English. With the help of another young neighbor, we were told where our grandparents had resided. Whether they were just pacifying our curiosity or not, there was definitely a feeling of contentment in finding a home place that would have resembled our family’s.

    Thanks to Mary for also sharing the photos of the interesting band uniform. With both of your research and recollections, you continue to provide much valuable history and memories regarding our families.

    Much appreciated!

    • Hi, Carole–How fortunate you and Tim were to have visited Levone, Italy!  Of course, your visiting Italy for the second time came during the same year, 2007, when Tim and you were “Re” and “Regina” of Clinton’s Little Italy Festival.  So nice to have a “Queen” comment on my blog post!

      With thanks, Alice and Willow

  5. Alice, your stories of your ancestors bring your readers int your life an a unique way. I always enjoy reading these memoirs and historical pieces. Thank you for sharing them with us all. Also, there is mention of your “green desk” here and I have heard you mention this a few times in the past. Maybe Mary would photograph that and you could write a story about it one day? I’d love to see your green desk that means so much to you – and the photos that are placed near it. The objects we surround ourselves with are so important to us – and it is another layer of meaning to our stories.

    • Hi, Lynda–Many thanks for reading and commenting on this piece about my family history.  The simple, four-drawer green desk may be a story for another time; I appreciate your interest in this desk from 1961.

      So glad that you are following my blog again!

      Have a creative, autumnal week!

      Alice and Willow

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