Harrison Street documentary loses its first interviewee

I have been working on a documentary (still untitled) of Elkhart’s Italian neighborhood which was located in the Harrison Street area of town. During the course of filming the documentary Frank Lucchese, a friend of mine who grew up in that neighborhood, had arranged more than a dozen interviews with the oldest, original residents of that area. The first generation of immigrants who came here were primarily from Volturara Appula (Italy) which is located in the province of Foggia. It is a small mountain village of about 500 residents.

Our first, and oldest, interviewee was Nicholas J. Russo, Sr. who was one month short of being 99 years old when we spoke with him on February 1, 2010. He was born on March 21, 1911 and when I heard him speak the year of his birth I was astounded. I have archival pictures from 1915 which most would consider very old, but to hear a man say he was born in 1911 was particularly awesome! He died last Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at age 99 years and seven months.

He was looking forward to being interviewed on that winter’s day and did a particularly fine job recollecting the “good old days” as he put it. He seemed full of energy (and memories) and certainly didn’t look like a man who was nearly 100 years old. Later, we gave him a copy of his interview and showed it to him on TV. Listening to him talk was like being transported back to the early days of the neighborhood. Most of the people he spoke about were original neighborhood immigrants/residents who have long since been gone. He was there in the midst of it and his memories of his life and the neighborhood have been preserved.

When I interview someone it usually involves them discussing some private areas of their lives that, ordinarily, would not come up in casual conversation. It is a privilege to be allowed into that intimate area and I am grateful to them for their trust. Thank you, Nick, for leaving these fond memories for future generations.

Watch a little of his interview:

Portions of Nick’s interview will be included in the documentary, which is estimated to air on our local PBS station, WNIT channel 34 (Elkhart/South Bend) sometime early this winter (2011). In addition to the documentary DVD, his full interview along with full versions of the other interviewees will be available on separate DVDs. The collective memories of these Italian-American friends is too valuable lose, and that is why each person’s interview has been preserved in its entirety.

Broadcast times as well as DVD availability will be listed on this blog, the Stories Retold website, the Stories Retold Facebook page, and the Elkhart History Facebook page. I suspect that WNIT will also list it on their website schedule, but probably not until closer to broadcast time.

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About storiesretoldblogger

I am an Elkhart, Indiana native and became interested in applying video to history when consumer video cameras were first introduced on the market in the late 1970’s. My production company, Stories Retold, specializes in preserving oral history, traditions, and values with video. Primarily interviewing individuals, I sometimes document families, and on occasion document an entire community. My niche is developing a personal relationship with clients which helps me to tell their story just the way they would like to have it told. Everyone has a story worth preserving, and I enjoy discovering interesting stories from people with whom I come into contact on a daily basis. In years to come, these videos will be priceless as they portray original stories complete with visual images and actual voices filled with all the primary material and emotion that was intended to be. I gain a strong sense of personal satisfaction with each completed project whether it involves an individual or an entire community.
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8 Responses to Harrison Street documentary loses its first interviewee

  1. Richard Cappelletti MD says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the video, as it brought back many memories of living on Harrison Street from birth (at home of course) until I started college when I could just spend Summers there. Italians there,even those with meager means, always celebrated important milestones, inviting family, friends, and neighbors to the Baptisms, Confirmation, graduations, engagements, weddings, retirements, and yes, even deaths.
    Coming home from college or medical school, my cousin Bob and I would visit several homes on Harrison Street and were always greeted with home-made wine, tarrals, salami and bread , and cookies (all home-made). Their house was “our house”. More generous people could not be found! The Harrison Street people were simply great! Family gatherings were especially memorable.Four of my aunts, Josephine Dilorenzo, Mary Barbaro, Anna Defrancesco and Ida Cappelletti would plie me with the greatest cakes, the best pies, home-made macaroni,and minestra, respectively. My mother was always ready to help any of our family prepare the delicacies or staples of her Volturara Appula roots. Great people, great times, fond memories.

  2. Vince Iuliano says:

    Hey this is an awesome project. Our Grandpa was part of the IARA and playing this video tonight for my Dad, he remembered all of the names and landmarks…Wonderful times, great memories, and this really looks like its going to be a special documentary. Elkhart -and Italian families – were a great part of Americana..Congratulations on a labor of love…Now HOW DO WE PURCHASE A COPY???????? (i’m serious)

    • Vince, I’m glad you like the project. I will post an entry soon of how the documentary can be purchased. Even though the documentary editing has not been completed I will explain a little of what you can expect and, maybe, when. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Mike Douthitt says:

    My mother Josephine grew up on Pearl Street and I recall spending many a day with my grandmother Sanita DeVito there. I will share your info with my uncles and aunts – Vince DeVito, Tony DeVito, Lucy DeVito and my mother Josephine. I know they will all remember all the good times in the “Neighborhood”. Please post information on when your DVD will be available as well as any updates to other articles. Thanks for all your work!

  4. Sharon Forte says:

    I would like some information about the DVD also. My father in law has told me many stories about his visits to relatives on Harrison Street. His parents were Angelo and Mary Forte. I do not know Mary’s maiden name, but I am guessing that it was her relatives they were visiting because I do not see any Forte’s in any of your videos. I would like to get this DVD for him. I grew up in Elkhart, my father and my uncle were Elkhart City Policemen. I married into the Forte family in the 80’s.

  5. The documetary DVD(s) of “Growing Up Italian in Elkhart, Indiana” (at least I think that’s what it will be called) is scheduled for availability in late spring of 2011. To keep abreast of it you can subscribe to this blog site, so that you receive an email each time I make a blog post, or you can visit the http://www.StoriesRetold.com website periodically. Either place will have information and the capability to purchase the DVD(s). If you live in Elkhart there will probably be a way to purchase it locally, but I’m not sure of those details at this time. Thanks for asking!

  6. Danny DelPrete says:

    love that you guys are keeping track of our beautiful heritage. My father who is 92 years old (Danny DePrete) is looking for anyone who knows if Anthony (Tony)
    DiVito, or Vincent is still alive and if so is there any way he can get a hold of them . Thank you very much Lucio DelPrete. Born on Harrison St.

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