One Kid Goat
The Greco Family History
As recounted by Anna Marie Musso Petty (to her son Mark)
July 10, 2010
Our cousin, Anna Marie, is a dear lady with a great memory. It is with her permission that I share some of the Greco family history which she recounted to her son, Mark, in a book entitled "One Kid Goat"
The book contains stories and interesting facts about both sides of her family - the Musso family, as well as the Greco family. There are only four copies in print so don't go looking for it at your favorite book store. This is a family keepsake for her, her two sons and her brother, Carl. What a cherished treasure for them and for all of their families.
I know you will enjoy reading about our family as much as I did. It is with tremendous appreciation and thanks to Anna Marie for allowing us to share her memories and to Carl for sharing his copy of the book with me.
If you would like to call or write to Anna Marie, I know she would love to hear from you.
Ann Marie Petty
5950 Pelican Bay Plaza South
Gulfport, FL 33707
Telephone: 727 346-2410
Joseph Greco 8/10/1876 - 4/14/1949
Maria Albona-Greco 2/13/1881
Caroline Greco (Pinelle) 2/02/1900 - 11/11/1985
Rosalia Greco (Musso) 2/16/1902 - 01/26/1936
Vince Greco (Pisciotte) 4/29/1904 - 12/13/1968
Frances Greco (Tortessi) 1/23/1906 - 11/14/1993
Charles Vincent Greco 1/08/1908 - 01/23/1968
Josephine Greco (Pullara) 1/27/1910 - 06/08/1958
John Greco 1/01/1912 - 07/06/2005
Joe Greco 8/01/1917 - 03/28/2002
(After Maria Albano Greco's death, Joseph Greco married a woman with six kids. Hername was Theresa Tortessi. Joseph and Theresa had one son; his name was Richard Greco.
ROSALIA GRECO MUSSO - Married Giuseppe Giovanni (J.J.) Musso on 4/12/1920
Their Children: Anna Marie Musso 3/25/21 Married John Petty on 2/12/45
(Ryan and Mark Petty)
Carl Joseph Musso 3/01/23 Married Phyllis Spinuzzi
(Carl Jr., Rosalie Ann, Joseph)
Rosalia was born February 16, 1902.She was the second of eight children, five girls and three boys. She was called "Lia" by her family but when she started school she wanted to be called Lily, and was called Lily the rest of her life. Rosalia was sick from about 1932 until she died in 1936. She was in and out of the hospital several times; she had a heart murmur and gall stone problems. The gall stones were very debilitating and made her very ill at times but she never had surgery for them. She had a slight stroke which crippled her, although she eventually got to the point that she could walk and use her arms after the stroke but she favored her left arm.
Rosalia died of what they called leakage of the heart in those days. It was actually a heart murmur. She developed pneumonia and died because her weak heart couldn't take the stress. This was in the days before the discovery of penicillin. It's impossible to know how long she would have lived if penicillin had been there to save her. Rosalia is buried at the Greco plot at Roselawn Cemetery.
As recounted by Anna Marie Musso Petty and told to her son, Mark W. Petty in a book entitled "One Kid Goat
" We do not know when my grandfather, Joseph Greco, came to America, but he was not married then. All I know is that he came from the town of Santo Stefano, Sicily in the late 1800's.
He was a young man who had been in a seminary to become a priest. He became disillusioned one Easter when a priest told him to kill a kid goat for the evening meal.
"But Father, it is Good Friday," said Grandpa Greco
"Oh," said the priest, "those strictures are for the peasants, not for us."
That so disillusioned my grandfather that he no longer wanted to be a priest. Nobody, including the clergy, was supposed to eat meat on Fridays, and especially not on Good Friday. He found the double standard to be hypocritical. Perhaps many clergymen followed the rules, but this particular one did not.
I guess if it wasn't for that One Kid Goat, none of us would be here.
I don't know how much time elapsed between the time he left the seminary and the time he came to America. Nobody remembers exactly what happened when he got to this country. I have heard that he first settled in Racine, Wisconsin. I also have an old letter from my Aunt Frances, one of his daughters, which says that she does not remember him mentioning anything about Wisconsin. In her letter she writes that he mentioned working in Louisiana on a sugar cane plantation until he was able to get enough money to travel to Colorado. Her letter also says she remembers him talking about serving in the Italian Army, though it does not include any details.
I don't know how long he was in the country before he eventually moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where he initially worked either in a foundry or a brickyard. While working in Pueblo he met a man who was married. He and the man became good friends and this man told my grandfather that he had a beautiful sister in Italy - my grandmother. He told my grandfather that he'd send for her. He did, and Maria Albano came to America and married Joseph Greco. Her father and mother came also. I do not remember when this great grandfather Albano died. I do remember, however, he was very old and toothless. When he came to visit the Greco's, even after my grandmother, his daughter, died, he would take a fresh apple and thump it against the curved part of his cane until it was mushy. Then he would poke a hole in it with a knife and suck the apple juice out of it. I remember when this great grandmother died. She was quite wealthy. It seems my great grandparents had only had two children, my grandmother, Maria, and one son named Vito. The son influenced the mother to sign everything over to his care after his father died and to leave only $1.00 each to all other heirs. My Mother (Rosalia) was one of the heirs who received $1.00 and my Dad (JJ Musso) was furious. My mother felt badly, but she did not say anything about it, ever. All of this happened just before the Depression. The Italian community had a way of branding people with nicknames when they did things like this son did. From that day on everybody called Vito Albano "Gold Mine" and called his wife, "Goldie."
Maria Albano had blue/gray eyes and fair skin. Maria and Joseph had eight children - five girls and three boys. All of the children were born two years apart. The girls were Caroline, Rosalia, Vince, Frances and Josephine; the boys were Charles, John and Joseph. Of the eight children, only Charles and John had grandmother's blue eyes.
According to Italian tradition, the first son is named after his paternal grandfather, the second son after his maternal grandfather and the third son is a junior, named after his father. Using this method you can sometimes figure out the first name of ancestors whose name you did not know. For example, Grandpa Greco's first son was named Charles. This is an indication that Grandpa Greco's father may have been named Charles, as well.
I don't know how much time elapsed between the time Maria Albano arrived in America and the time she married Joseph Greco. I do know that they lived in Pueblo at that time. A short time later they moved ten miles east of Pueblo to a community called Vineland, Colorado. There he hired Mexican laborers to build work quarters and adobe houses for themselves and to build a brick house for him and Mary. The fact that he had them build a brick house for him makes me believe he worked in a brick factory in Pueblo prior to moving to Vineland.
Their house was near the Bessemer Ditch which flowed across his property. The ditch was called the Bessemer Ditch after the town of Bessemer, Pennsylvania. You see, there was a big steel mill in Pueblo called the Colorado Fuel and Iron, but everybody called it C.F.& I. The parent company of CF&I was in Bessemer, Pennsylvania, a town near Youngstown, Ohio. The ditch was dug to supply water to the steel mill and to provide irrigation to the surrounding farmland.
The Bessemer Ditch was an open ditch. It divided the property which was owned by Grandpa, Joseph Greco, my Mother's father, and the property owned by my Grandpa, Carl Musso, my Father's father. Highway U.S. 50, the old Santa Fe Trail, ran right in front of both pieces of property.
As I was saying, the Mexican laborers built some adobe houses which they lived in while they worked for Grandpa Greco on his farm. They built a brick home for Grandpa and his family. They also built a long cinderblock building that had a grocery store in front, facing the highway, and a pool hall in the back. Grandpa even had slot machines because they were legal in those days.
The place was called Greco Corners and it was at the corner of Devine Road (now known as Lane 36) and U.S. 50. It was comprised of about 14 acres. Also, on U. S. 50, but across Devine Road, was a dry goods store called Aastrud's. You could buy hats, bustles, umbrellas and those sorts of things at Aastrud's. Grandpa Greco sold groceries, kerosene and such things at Greco Corners. Eventually, once automobiles became common place, he even sold gasoline there.
So, the Greco's lived out in Vineland, at Greco's Corner, with their eight children. They ran the store and the pool hall and did some farming. It was mostly garden farming for the family to eat, but they did sell the surplus in the store. They also grew some sugar beets commercially. Sugar beets were grown to sell to the Holly Sugar Company, but people who grew lots of beets generally rented additional land on which they raised the beets. Everybody had garden farms to feed their families. The girls were allowed to go to school, but they were not allowed to play with the boys at school. Instead, they had to make lace during recess and lunch time. When they got home from school they had to show the lace they had made at school that day.
The Greco house was the only house in the whole community that had a fenced yard. It was a beautiful square house with white columns in front. The front yard was immaculately groomed and he always grew "Seven Sister" roses everywhere. Seven Sister roses have seven little roses about the size of a half dollar on each branch. Nice lawns were unusual at that time and Grandpa Greco had a very nice lawn.
Grandpa Greco always kept beautiful fowl; peacocks were always walking about showing off. The guinea hens stayed near the gate or the long driveway and raised their voices if someone turned into the drive. They are great "watch dogs." One always knows when someone has arrived if there is a guinea hen around. There were several kinds of ducks and, as a child, I always thought the ducks with all the red growth on the side of their heads had cancer. I did not know it was supposed to be that way. Grandpa Greco also raised some kind of small bird to eat. I'm not sure what it was but usually Grandma Theresa (Tortessi) only cooked the breast and the legs. She baked them in tomato sauce much like Chicken Cacciatore, which means chicken "hunter style." Grandpa also had roosters; they would come at me with their wings spread and I had nightmares about them.
Grandpa always had a Chow dog named Chang. Over the years he had many Chows but they were always named Chang. Chang was always vicious and the grandchildren were never allowed near him. So he had a beautiful house with a neatly groomed front yard full of roses, all protected by a vicious Chow dog. Chang guarded the front of the house during the day and at night Grandpa put him inside the store and the pool hall to protect them.
I really don't know what went on in the pool hall since we weren't allowed to go in there. I think they gambled there, in addition to shooting pool. All I can remember about it is the green lights over the tables, lots of smoke and lots of Mexicans.
Grandpa Greco ran the store at Greco's Corner the old-fashioned way. It had a revolving rack and everybody had his own charge book hanging from it. When customers came in they charged their groceries and he made an entry in their book. Once a month they'd come in and settle up with him. Grandpa would carry them for a while if necessary but, when they came in and finally paid him off, he always threw in some cookies or something. They practically gave liver away in those days and he'd always throw in some liver.
I still have an old portable Singer sewing machine he gave my Mother about the time I was bora. It was left with him by a customer who was moving away and had no money to pay his family's grocery bill. When we got it, we would wind up a crank to operate it, like an old Victrola. Eventually, my Mother had an electric motor put on it. I still use that machine to this day.
Grandpa kept a few animals around, but only enough for the family's consumption. There was a NuckolPs Packing Plant down the old Santa Fe Trail toward Pueblo; Grandpa bought the meat for his store there. In addition to that, he owned a little building and filling station across the road and he leased out the filling station. Then he built another little building and rented it. Believe it or not, he let the tenant put in another pool hall to compete against his own pool hall.
When he ran the store Grandpa would compile orders for all of his customers for the various items that they needed annually. Then he'd order in bulk, usually from California. In those days everybody made their own wine, so people would come to the store and tell him how many lugs of grapes they wanted. A lug is a measure of grapes, about the equivalent of about half of an apple or orange crate. In those days they lined the wooden lugs with purple paper, put the grapes in the lug, covered them with more purple paper, and then nailed down the top.
In the small community they'd order enough lugs of grapes to fill at least one railroad car. They'd order Tokay grapes, the kind that turn into raisins when they wither. We kids used to love to pick the grapes that had started to flatten out and wither; they were so sugary and sweet.
When the grapes arrived everybody came to pick up his or her grapes. Then Grandpa would loan out his grape press so they could all make their own wine. Everybody had big wine kegs in his basement or cellar. After the wine had fermented they'd "pull off" some of it. This was called the vino primo - the first wine. It has quite a bit of alcohol in it. Then they'd irrigate the kegs by adding water to them. I don't know if they added any sugar or not, but the wine that came off of that was called aquata, or "watered wine." Aquata is not sweet, however; it is the table wine that they consumed on a daily basis. They save the vino primo for weddings and special occasions.
The people in the area bought olives from Grandpa in the same way; they bought black and green olives. Once again, each person ordered as many lugs as they wanted and they were always delivered in full rail road boxcars. When the black olives came in they were very black on the outside and pink on the inside. You would never want to bite into an olive right off of the tree; they are terribly bitter until they are properly cured.
They would cure them two ways; one was to put salt on them and put a little "press" on them. After curing them a little olive oil was added for enhanced flavor and shine. They had crocks - Redwing crocks - made out of clay and they put the olives and all of the ingredients in the crocks. Then they put a piece of wood on top of the olives and weighted it down with a stone to press them and they let them cure for weeks. That method makes the dried olives you see in specialty shops today.
The green olives were cured by making olivi scachati, or mashed olives. They took a stone or wooden mallet and hit the olives to break them open. They added celery and carrots and poured some salt between layers of olives to form a brine. They then let them cure that way for several weeks.
That's the way life was in Vineland. It was a little garden-farming community in which everybody lived by making as many things for himself as possible. Many of the people who lived there then were living the way the people in the suburbs want to live today. The men worked in the city for CF&I in the steel mill and the offices while the women tended the gardens at home in the country. There were a lot of Mexicans in the area because, in addition to growing sugar beets, some farmers also grew large fields of green beans. Green beans and sugar beets are labor-intensive crops so the farmers brought workers in from Old Mexico to work in the fields. Some went back to Mexico between seasons but many did not and lived mostly in two communities, Salt Creek and Bessemer. They built adobe houses which always had bright flowers near them no matter how poor they might be.
The workers in the sugar beet fields walked through the fields in the late fall; each had a long knife with a hook on the end of it. They'd hook a beet, lift it up and cut off its head. This was called "beet topping." The beets would then be left in the fields until they froze; this caused them to make the sugar. After they froze, they'd load them up and take them down Devine Road to the railroad in Devine, Colorado. The trucks would drive up a steep incline and they'd dump the beets from a platform above the rail cars. They'd weigh them right there, tip the platform and all of the beets would roll onto the rail cars. It was very labor-intensive and involved a lot of hard work. That's why they hired the Mexicans.
Grandpa Greco raised some sugar beets, but not too many. The biggest cash crop I remember him raising was cauliflower, another labor- intensive crop. There's a certain time when the cauliflower heads form and if you don't cover the heads soon enough they will turn green instead of remaining white. So they'd mix Paris Green, a pale whitish-green powder, with water and spray the head with it to keep off the aphids. Then the workers would go through the fields and tie up the leaves of the plants over the heads to protect them from the sun in order to keep them pretty and white.
They'd cut many pieces of jute twine in certain length and hang them over a hook on their belt. They could pull out a piece of that twine and wrap and tie a head and pull out another piece of twine all in one motion. This was very time-consuming and took a lot of workers. There was one guy who lived on that Bessemer Ditch who had countless children, all of whom worked for Grandpa Greco and did whatever needed to be done. Grandpa liked their work so much that he eventually bought another piece of property and put this Mexican family on it. His name was Luciano; the only thing I remember about him is that he was probably the only person I've ever known who was bigger around than he was tall. His little overalls were just so short, but they were very wide. He wore a big old straw hat all the time and he was always eating pinon nuts. Isn't it funny that I remember him so clearly? Perhaps it's because he was always so jolly with childre
Grandma Greco (Maria Albano) died when I was only one year old and I do not have any personal recollections of her, although I've seen pictures of her. When Grandma Greco died, Grandpa Greco was in terrible shock. He could not cry and eventually he broke out in a terrible rash. Dr. Gutherie said that the rash probably saved his life by providing a release of his grief. At the time that Grandma died, she was only 41 and Grandpa would be 45 in August. Of the eight children, two were married and the youngest boy would not be five until August.
I don't know exactly how much time passed, maybe one or two years, before Grandpa Greco remarried. His second marriage was to Theresa Tortessi. She is the only grandmother that I remember on my Mother's side of the family. She was Calabrese; that means she was from Calabria, a province or district in Italy near the "toe of the boot." That is the same as calling a person from Oklahoma an Oklahoman. These terms were used to describe the area of Italy where you were born. For example, Grandpa Greco was Stefanese because he was from Santo Stefano.
Now here is a story for you...and a long story at that.
Aunt Frances, the daughter of Grandpa Joseph Greco and Maria Albano, married the oldest son of Grandma Theresa Tortessi.
(By the way, their name wasn't really Tortessi; it was something like Tortaricchi. They went by Tortessi because it was easier for people to pronounce. Grandma Theresa had a set of twin boys by her previous marriage; their names were Samuel and Gabriel Tortessi. When they tried to join the Army their birth certificates said their last name was Tortaicchi, not Tortessi, and the Army wouldn't take them. So they had to go to court to have their names legally changed to Tortessi in order to enlist.)
But, back to the real story... Grandpa Greco had eight children of his own - Caroline, Rosalia, Charles, Frances, and Vince were all grown; Josephine and John were teenagers, and Joe was six or seven years old. Of those eight children, Aunt Caroline had already married and my mother, Rosalia, had already married my Father, leaving six Greco children at home. Mrs. Tortessi had six children of her own - three boys, Lee, Samuel, and Gabriel and three girls, Rose, Anne and Mary. None of them were married at the time. But, as you will see, things got complicated when some of them did get married.
After Grandpa Greco married Mrs. Tortessi, his daughter by his first marriage, my Aunt Frances, married Lee Tortessi. Thus, Grandpa's step-son became his son-in-law. The day they were married I had to be carried to the wedding because the bottoms of my feet were blistered. I was burned by boiling water from a tea kettle that turned over off of a small chair. I was standing nearby wearing footed pajamas. Also, the day of the wedding our house was robbed; they took Daddy's hunting rifles. He always felt it was someone who knew him and who knew he would be at that family wedding most of the day.
Then, Grandpa's son by his first marriage, my Uncle Charlie Greco, married Mary Tortessi, his step-daughter. Thus, Grandpa's step-daughter became his daughter-in-law. You have to keep in mind that most of Grandpa Greco's children and most of Grandma Tortessi's children were almost completely grown up when Grandpa remarried. After Grandpa married Grandma Tortessi they had a son of their own named Richard.
A lot of dynamics take place when families of that size unite. One of the most famous stories involves Aunt Josephine Greco and her step-sister, Mary Tortessi, both of whom were in high school at the time the story takes place.
Grandpa had a pickup truck for his store, and a little roadster. He let the two girls take one of the vehicles into town to buy some things for the family store. The custom in Italian families in those days was that girls were not allowed to cut their hair because their parents did not want them to become modern "flappers." But these two girls were step-sisters and about the same age so the girls decided that they would get their hair cut anyway. After all, what could their parents do about it after it had been cut?
When they got to town, Mary Tortessi said to Josephine Greco, "Jo, you go first." Well, Aunt Josephine was very adventuresome and she went first and had her hair cut. Mary took one look at Josephine, got cold feet and refused to get her hair cut. When they got home, Grandpa Greco was so mad that he grounded Aunt Josephine until her hair grew out again. She was allowed to go to school with her hair tied back in ribbons, but she could not go anywhere else. I don't know how long her hair had to get before she was allowed her freedom again.
There's more to the story. Halloween came and it was the first big event that occurred after Josephine went to town and got her hair cut. The Halloween masquerade ball was an important party in those days. So Mary got to put on her costume and go off to the masked Halloween party at the high school while Josephine stayed home because she was grounded.
Grandpa Greco had one of the most wonderful attics in this entire world. There were trunks and trunks and trunks of old velvets, feathers, hats, umbrellas, cribs, toys, phonographs with the clover-leaf horn for listening, etc... .Oh, what a wonderful attic. You had to climb narrow stairs to get to it but the stairs were wide enough that they managed to carry a bunch of trunks up there.
The whole time that Mary was getting dressed in her costume, Josephine never complained. Nor did she so much as ask if she could go to the ball; she never uttered a sound about it after Mary left for the party. As the evening went on, Grandpa started feeling worse and worse about it, especially since Josephine was behaving so well. Finally it got to the point that he couldn't take it any longer; he went and got her. He took Josephine by the hand and led her up those narrow stairs into the attic - into wonderland. He let her get dressed in the masquerade outfit of her dreams, complete with big feathers, a fur muff and an evening gown with long white gloves - the works! Then he let her go to the masquerade party.
When Josephine got there, it was kind of like Cinderella; nobody knew who she was but she got everybody's attention because she looked so wonderful in her costume. She had a wonderful time all evening. Of course, at the end of the masquerade ball, she took off her mask to reveal her identity. Mary was absolutely stunned to see Josephine at the ball!
I've always thought that to be one of the sweetest stories about the clash of cultures which my family has gone through since it came to this country. I don't know how close of friends Josephine and Mary remained after that but it was not much later when Mary Tortessi married Charlie Greco, Josephine's brother. Sometime later this marriage ended in divorce.
In those days all of the boys had to work on the farm until noon on Saturday. Then they would come in to bathe and dress to "go to town." I can still remember the wash stand with the horse's tail comb holder, the strap and the straight razors. While they were getting ready to go to town Grandpa would be muttering "Alia time - funny time. Alia time - funny time. "
Grandpa Greco was one of those people who would buy anything new that came on the market. When a touring car came out, he bought it; when a ton-and-a-half beet dump truck came out, he bought it. He bought a grape press for making wine and everybody borrowed it from him; he bought a sausage maker for the store with which he could grind the meat, feed the intestines over a horn and then stuff the intestines with the ground meat twisting it occasionally to form the individual sausages. He had a harrow, a tractor and a thrasher. You name it, he bought it.
One of the new products that came out when I was a kid was the little hand-held can opener that fastens on the side of the can and has a handle that you turn to open the can. We take those can openers for granted today, but it was a big deal when they came out on the market. The old can openers left jagged edges on the can and these new ones worked so much more smoothly. Boy, he went to town, bought a bunch, put them in his store and started telling everybody about them. He sold them like hotcakes!
After Grandpa remarried he had two problems - he had to have a place for all of his children and he had to have a place for all of his farm equipment. So, he built a gravel driveway across the back of his house and then he built a long, huge, two-story cinder block building on the other side of it. On the ground level he kept all of his equipment, plus the big pump organ he had to move out of the house to make room for all of the girls in the family. Oh, how the grandchildren loved to play that pump organ .
At this time, Aunt Caroline and my mother, Rosalia, were the only children who were married. All the rest of the girls in the family lived in the house and all of the boys and the equipment shared the new building. Charlie, Joe, John, Lee, Gabriel and Samuel all lived on the second floor of the new building and the equipment was on the first floor. I can remember playing in the big section of the new building where the old trucks were stored with the old pump organ and with the old leather furniture stuffed with horse hair. I don't remember ever going upstairs, or even wanting to go upstairs.
The boys all worked on the farm and slept out there, but they came across the gravel driveway to eat in the house. Grandpa made an enormous kitchen with a huge, long table in it. The table had a bench along the wall on one side which wrapped around one end of the table. It had carved-back chairs on the other side of the table and the head of the table. It was covered with great, long oil cloths which he sold in the store by the yard.
Grandpa was considered to have a lot of money compared to the crude living that you typically eked out of farming on such small acreages. By the time he died, in addition to all of this, he had a house at the gate of the Mineral Palace Park in Pueblo, Colorado. Evidently he had lived in that house until he opened the store in Vineland. I remember we used to go to Mineral Palace Park and see Queen Silver and King Coal. They were statues five-feet-tall; she was really made of silver and he was really made of coal - the two main products of Colorado. They stood in glass cases inside a small museum in the park.
Grandma Theresa Tortessi died on February 8, 1945 and your Father and I had already scheduled our wedding for February 12, just four days later. Everybody in the family said that we should go ahead and get married on the 12th, which we did. However, we had originally planned to get married on the morning of the 12th but we moved it to the afternoon since Grandma Tortessi's funeral was in the morning.
When Grandpa Greco died, he left the house he had in front of Mineral Palace to the four remaining Greco girls who were living at the time. Of course, my mother had passed away many years earlier but the Greco girls had a meeting. The four of them decided that they were going to divide things five ways. So they split the fifth share, which would have been my mother's, evenly between my brother, Carl, and me.
It wasn't a lot of money because it was a very small house and it was 1951. Even though my Mother had died 15 years earlier, in 1936, and even though they were not obligated to do so, they gave a share to Carl and me to split between ourselves. It was a very lovely thing they did and I'll never forget it.
Your Father and I took that money, which was just a few hundred dollars, and bought a television. Televisions had just recently been introduced into the market and they were the latest thing. Knowing Grandpa Greco as I did, and the way he always wanted the latest, most up-to-date things, we decided that's what we would do with the money.
Anna Marie Musso Petty - Daughter of Rosalia Greco Musso Our Storyteller" March, 2010