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Interview with Laura Lipari, Romance In Italy 1930s

Romance languages in Mexico and Italy

Virginia and I went to the University of Mexico when she was a junior then returned to Ohio. That’s when we found out that daddy had to go to Italy to see the notary to switch back land titles to my grandmother. In the meantime, I got a phone call from Dr. Carabini and he offered me his position to be the Italian professor at Cleveland State! I was thrilled at that, but I already had a position of teaching Spanish; which is why I was in Mexico taking some culture classes. The Spanish teacher retired and recommended me so I got the job; I still went to the interview and all that though.
Picture of the three Curro children
Laura, brother Tom and Aunt Virginia
When Carabini called I said to him that I was thrilled and for him to excuse me for speaking Spanish because I had just returned from Mexico. He said he understood completely. I told him it would be great if I could go to Italy for a while to freshen up in Italian and he said that was a wonderful idea. So it was decided-we would go, my sister and I, to the University of Perugia. The University of Perugia is north of Rome and was an international institute. It was a university for students from all over the world that came to Perugia to learn Italian.
Picture of University of Mexico
University of Mexico
My dad said, regarding us going to Italy, “Under one condition–that your mother goes with you.”  Mother was supposed to be our chaperone and we were supposed to live in an apartment; the three of us would live together.  But I said to my dad before leaving, “Dad, I’m just barely a college graduate and I got a job!” Originally, when I went there to teach Spanish I was only an adjunct teacher and this was a much more prominent position in the Italian department. With this new position, I would have been head of the entire Italian department. I graduated in 35’ and got offered this position to teach at Cleveland College in 37’. I was just twenty one years old, and I told my daddy “Imagine, my being so young and already a teacher!” It was also during the depression, when things were hard. But anyways, off we went! My mother wanted my father to come, but my father said, “No, you go.” She felt bad to leave my father and my brother. Because she was very attached to my brother, and my brother said, “That’s okay mom, go ahead.” When we got to Naples, I said to my sister that we should really go to Sicily to visit Grandmother Virginia (my mother’s mom) and mother’s sister. Mother’s only family was her mother and her sister in Sicily. She wanted them to come to America, but my grandmother said, “I don’t have to go to America, I am well off here and I refuse to go to a foreign country where I don’t know the people or the language.” My Grandmother Virginia was a little spoiled. She knew she wouldn’t have the servants that she was used to; so she wouldn’t come and my aunt wouldn’t either. So anyways, I said we should really go see grandmother and our aunt. I said to my mother repeatedly that we should go. I told her, “If we don’t go to Sant’Agata and see your mother now, you won’t!” Besides, the school was still not open when we got there, so we could go later and still be okay. I must have put on such a good act, that our mother got us tickets to get on the boat to Sicily from Naples.
Laura studied in Perugia to improve her romance language skills
We arrived, met the relatives, and to make a long story short, we went to live with my Aunt for a little while before school began.  We also spent some very lovely days with grandmother in her home out in the country. We even practiced gathering olives and put them in our aprons. We had fun! I remember the olive fields and olive oil. And my grandmother had these women working out in the orchard, and we thought, “Oh boy! Wouldn’t that be fun!” So they gave us these little aprons and let us go out there. But we didn’t know that we didn’t have the aprons on correctly, and the olives slid right out. One day, grandmother was making pasta–the type of pasta that was long and really thin and you would take a little bit of it then hang them up–when my uncle from Sant’Agata came to see us and asked if we were ready to come back home to the town. We said that we were not ready and that we liked it here very much. We even had our dog Cecil with us. Just then a young boy came up with his bicycle and wanted to talk to my uncle. At this time still in towns they used to have the promenades–the promenades where were the residents in town would walk around the promenade–there was a lot of walking up and down and up and down. My sister loved them, I hated them. Well in the course of that conversation, my uncle understood that the town of Sant’Agata was curious to know these two American girls that were there. Because just the week before we arrived, there were two other American girls from New York who had recently left back to the states. While they lived there they were a little scandalous. In fact, my husband had an evening with one of them! At that time, I don’t know why, but we met several American girls, not just then but other times, and they would act like they wouldn’t act in their own homes! It just showed that Americans would do this and that, so they wanted to see how we acted and if we were like other Americans. So my uncle said he wanted to show them that his nieces are American, but they are different. So we had to get up, pack, and go back home to our aunt’s house who lived on the main street in Sant’Agata. I remember there was a river that ran through town right next to her home. Once we arrived back into town I went to bed early. When you travel and change weather it really tires you out. At this time too, I was wearing this new style of shoe with the heels and the open toes. They were just coming into fashion–they were brand new–and nobody had them; but I had to have them. After walking on the streets with the cobblestone, my feet were aching. So I was thrilled that I could get to bed early. Just then, “Knock Knock Knock” I said, “Come in” Rosie, my younger cousin, said,  “You have to get up!” I asked mama why we had to get up, and she told us we had to go to the beach, to the plaza; where the promenade was. I was being silly and remember responding, “You mean to tell me they have a boardwalk in this dinky town?” My mother said, “It’s a good thing you said that in English. Watch what you’re saying Laura!” My sister was appointed by my mama to watch what I said from then on. Imagine, my little sister had to watch over me! I was just upset because I was tired and sleepy; what did I care about the people in town? Finally we got down to the boardwalk and to my surprise they had a large plaza and on the other side was the beach. They covered half the beach with tables and chairs and the band stand and everything resembling a big party. This was not what I thought when I imagined the promenade and boardwalk. I was so glad there was music! The man that was ahead of the music had lived in America and knew a lot of American pieces. When he saw us he played a lot of American songs really well, I appreciated it, and I applauded.