Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a house on 7 Prescott.
Behind the walls of this simple edifice, the history of one family can be traced. No heads of state were born here. No titans of industry. No sports heroes. Just some commonly uncommon folks – veterans of wars, hard work and raviolis.
This house was built on top of the cooled embers of the Great Salem Fire by my grandfather, Giuseppe Giunta, a Sicilian immigrant who died forty years before I was born. None of us now living ever had the chance to meet him and with only a single solemn portrait to ponder, we have all speculated about his character and his life. What was he like? What did he go through coming to this country, raising such a large brood, buying a house, seeing it burn to the ground eleven days after he paid it off, and then building a completely new one? Just a couple years after his house was constructed he was struck by a motorcycle, hit his head on a trolley track and died on the corner of Lafayette Street and Ocean Ave. All we really know is that he was persistent and incredibly unlucky.
July 22nd would have been my Mom's 100th birthday – she came up just a couple years short. She loved this house her father built. She was born in the same room she eventually died, and in the long stretch of time between those moments she wrapped many a lively conversation here with her laughter. On July 22nd, a Sunday, as is our tradition, a large group of us gathered here to continue those conversations over much food and drink. We thought about Giuseppe, Josephine and the whole lot of Lottas and Giuntas who stamped this place with their spirit.
With the help of Historic Salem, Inc., this place has now been properly marked. We appreciate the recognition. Our history here is not the one that most people associate with Salem, but it is ours. It belongs to a time and place in this city that is usually overlooked. We've been told that this may be the first Historic Salem, Inc. house plaque bearing an Italian name. We hope it starts a trend so that new inhabitants and casual strollers alike will recognize a twentieth-century pattern on the houses of this city's by-streets; will ask questions; will start to understand the Twice-Told Tales that have echoed around the corners of these blue-collar neighborhoods in many languages and that, over time, have become our shared experience.
– Joe Cultrera
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