Michael Gatti's Family Tree

Rose's Martian Adventure

by Nelson Panazzolo

I am going to tell you a true story that happened many years ago. It is a story that is a legend in my family. I don't recall the exact date but the event occurred on a weekend evening in the middle of June 1938 or 1939. I was about 9 years old and my sisters were about 2 months old. We lived at that time in one of the apartments at 135 Franklin Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (This 22 family apartment house was owned by the Canelli Realty Corp.) Nonna Biggia was visiting us to help my mother with the twins. My father had gone to visit his mother who was staying at his sisters Lena and Louis Ferrera's house at 108 Hall Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I don't remember what we all were doing when my mother's friend (and tenant) came rushing into our apartment, turned on the radio (no TV at that time) and exclaimed in a terrified tone that we were being invaded by Martians! The radio was telling in a very convincing manner that the aliens had landed in New Jersey destroying every thing in their path and our National Guard and Army were unable to stop them. It urged the people to get out of the city and go north to safety. The friend convinced my mother to flee with her and her husband and their little baby. While my mother was packing things like baby bottles, diapers, blankets, etc. and putting on two or three of my father's suit jackets, Nonna Biggia would have none of it. Her attitude was if we are going to die lets do it at home praying to God. However, if we must go, as my mother insisted, then we must first put the unbaptized twins in the hands of God. So while Mom was running around the apartment packing bags, I held one baby in each arm at the kitchen sink while Nonna baptized the twins. When telling this story I always take pride in telling people that my grandmother and I baptized the twins before they were officially done by a priest a few months later.

Meanwhile Mom had convinced her friend to pick up my father because she would not go without him. So we all got into the car and started on the 20-minute ride from Franklin Street to Hall Street. Curiously as we were riding there was no panic in the streets even though the car radio was still describing the chaos around the area. Trolleys and cars were moving at a normal pace. People were strolling on the sidewalks. Nobody was rushing anywhere. We got to Hall Street and pulled in front of the house and mom bounded from the car to get my father, leaving the rest of us in the car with the motor running. She looked like a big stuffed doll with all the jackets she had on. If memory serves me, I think Zio Frank and Zia Josie were also visiting. They lived around the corner on Ryerson Street. Now I can't vouch personally as to what went on in the house but I later learned that they all thought that my mother was out of her mind and had flipped her wig. A few minutes later my aunts, uncles, cousins and Nonna Pierina came out to the car to get us all in the house. Apparently they had turned on the radio and heard the disclaimer stating that this was just a normal program.

Yes, this was the famous Orson Welles program, The War of the Worlds! Mom and her friends were convinced that all was OK and were invited for coffee and a drink. I guess I went outside and hung out with my cousins until it was time to go home. I don't remember much about the trip back home, but I do remember my mother going through a long period to live this down. She took a lot of ribbing from the family especially her brother's when they found out about her Martian Adventure.


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