Menagerie of Patrons…………#52 (the 50’s)

Dino & Loretta’s Steiner St. residence

It was a Sunday and a San Francisco phone call served the Willson’s noticed that the 1949 Cadillac Fleetwood would soon be arriving with Gary’s Aunt Loretta, Uncle Dino and their array of the pilferers of plunder.   Dino Tognozzi seldom traveled without an entourage composed of a group representing the menagerie of patrons from his Van Ness Ave drinking establishment, Dino’s No. 13  Club in San Francisco.   Uncle Dino not only provided the food, but his group sometime glisten with enlightened entertainment too.   Dino was an excellent Chef, preferring to import his own cuisine when visiting,  the San Francisco cartel would always provide a pasta appropriation, but that’s not what delighted Gary and his sister’s,  it was the imported soiree of luncheon meats,  the array of cheeses and the ciabatta, baguette, including penelle breads.   To the young family who dwelled on tuna fish and peanut butter sandwiches for their school sack lunches, this was a gourmet experience.   It could be said as was the quality so was the quantity,  upon the group’s departure a host of remnants remained for lunches channeling into the next week.   Gary’s mother was dismayed the first few time the guest  arrived, having performed the hostess duty  preparing a large Sunday afternoon meal as was the tradition in the Willson household,  only to have it displace by the culinary celebration arriving from across the bay.    Gary and his sister’s were never disappointed over the adjustment in the Sunday afternoon menu, looking forward to a gourmet surprise..

Dino’s 49 Cadillac Fleetwood

Dino, Loretta, Dino’s son Sylvia, wife Jackie in Italy

Gary having been privy to his parents discussions concerning Dino’s financial stability, aware that Dino own a Villa in Montecatini Italy, San Francisco investments properties and was acquaintances with the Iconic San Francisco Alioto family.   The teenager always picture his Uncle as Chicago underworld figure moved west, although he was from Detroit, mainly because of his Italian appearance, broken English and the association with the Alioto’s,  who have Silesian ancestry, but to a teenager it was more like fantasy speculation.   In addition to his Aunt Loretta,  Dino’s entourage includes two of the regulars, Chief, a retired Naval Petty Officer whose appearance  and size made him suspect as a bouncer, but was very congenial when visiting.   Chief would often visit a friend at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital a quarter-mile foray during his stay.   The other regular being Dave McCurdy,  a pleasant-looking somewhat elderly person,  who sometime tended bar but also accepted most of the business operating responsibility.   Another returning visitor was Jimmy,  an over-the-hill vaudeville  performer from a bygone era.   Jimmy was a slight person, his specialty was tap, only most often he was without his dancing shoes having deposited them at the brokerage firm that exchanged money for merchandise, better known as a pawn shop.   Gary having witnessed Jimmy’ performance at his uncle’s establishment to the delight of those in attendance, hoofing to supply his need for liquid beverage.   The last person of the festive group was a bosom,  rather large blonde haired middle age lady with ruby-red lipstick and pancake make-up.   Gary making the observation that  her appearance was similar to many of the ladies frequenting the saloons in western movies,  but he adjudge she wasn’t a movie star, not venturing to question what she did for a living.

Dino, Loretta standing in front of Gary’s home.

The assembly never stayed long and their presence presented the teen a perspective that abounded in futurity,  concluding that to Uncle Dino and the visitors, their Sunday afternoon  was an escape from the binding engagement of their  profession that sometimes included catering to a communal dissident order who frequented the Bowery of  San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue.  Gary surmising that everyone needs a breath of fresh air.

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