Recently, Gossips had the opportunity to spend some time with a scrapbook created by Walter First for his children and grandchildren. In that scrapbook was the picture below, taken in 1916 on the steps of the very same church building.
It turns out that this was the first "Italian Church." A newspaper clipping accompanying the picture in Walter First's scrapbook has this to say about the church and its location.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel formed as an Italian national Roman Catholic parish in 1908.
The year before, Mrs. Rosaria Cardinale, wife of Angelo Cardinale, had deeded property at Promenade Hill and Market Place to Frank Rose, Gennarino D'Onofrio and Gustino D'Inguillo for the first church. On June 10, 1908, the property was conveyed to the church.The parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel worshiped in the church on North Front Street until 1928, when they moved to their newly erected church building at the corner of Union and Second streets. In the scrapbook, First shared these memories of an annual festival held by the church when it was located on North Front Street.
In the 1920's, during July, Market Place was the scene of an annual "Street Festival," held on the mall at the entrance to Promenade Hill park. It was sponsored by the Mt. Carmel society, and a band-stand was erected in the center, from where a group of Italian musicians played concert renditions. I believe the band leader was Deno Gazzera. Around the stand were the usual refreshment, game, and gift booths. I recall the "greased pole" competition: A 10-dollar bill was tacked at the top of a wood flagpole, coated with vegetable oil; and the goal was to retrieve it. The contestants, in bathing suits or shorts, using no shoe spikes or climbing devices, would reach for the prize by shimmying. Teamwork in a final attempt brought on the successful conclusion. One man climbing on the shoulders of another, and another, and another, until the 10-dollar bill was in the top man's grasp. The guy on the bottom, carrying the full weight, had to be a "super man"; and cousin John Ziemba fit the call. John was a part of an acrobatic team that performed a vaudeville act at area shows, including the Playhouse Theatre. Quite tall and muscular, he was the bottom man of a three man team. John Cordato, small in stature, was the top man in many of their leaps, flips, and tosses.
On the final night (Saturday), would come the fireworks show. Spinning wheels, streamers, explosive and incendiary displays; all hanging from street poles and wires along the full length of North Front St. And then the finale, the sky-rockets and colorful bombs bursting in the sky.EXCERPTS FROM WALTER FIRST'S MEMOIRS REPRINTED BY PERMISSION