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CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY HISTORY PROJECT: Mary Mewha


Celebrating Culture & Community is putting together interviews of 25 El Cerrito residents, a project aimed at showing the diverse communities that have contributed to the city's history.

The interviews have been made possible largely through support from the California Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information about Celebrating Culture & Community , contact Eve Ma at 236-3255 or ccandc_97@yahoo.com

Following is one of the interviews:

Interview with Mary Mewha 12/1/99

Interviewer: Robin DeLugan

Revised by Elischa Williams 1/5/00

Mary Addiego Mewha was born in El Cerrito in 1923 in her parents’ home on Richmond Street. She has lived in El Cerrito all her life. Her most treasured memories involve the love of family that surrounded her and her five brothers and sisters, parents, aunts, uncles and many cousins most of who still reside in El Cerrito. Mary’s father, Vito Addiego, was a prominent community figure in El Cerrito. He died in 1981 at the age of 93.

Vito Addiego was born in a small village in Calabria called Verbicaro. In 1905, he decided to leave his home and travel to the United States. He arrived at Ellis Island, New York and shortly after settled in San Francisco. Speaking only Italian, this hard-working young man took on many odd jobs, including shining shoes, cleaning up in the fancy Nob Hill Hotel barber shops and later construction. It was in San Francisco that he met his wife, Louise DeRose.

After four children, Vito and his wife, Louise, decided they would prefer to raise their family in the country. They moved their family to El Cerrito (then called Rust) in 1918. Here their children could run and play in the fields with cows, chickens and goats. Shorty two more children were born in the family home on Richmond Street.

Vito took an interest in real estate and gradually began putting homes on lots and buying and fixing up others. However he always kept one lot on Norvell Street vacant for his garden which he tended with his grandchildren.

When BART was being constructed, the family home had to be demolished and Louise and Vito relocated to a large house on Stockton and Pomona Avenues. Family life was all important to the Addiegos. Vito sent for his two brothers to join him in El Cerrito with their families. He was a kind, loving and dedicated man who had many friends in the community. Relatives and friends were always welcomed in the Addiego home, especially for Sunday dinners.

Mary, Vito’s youngest daughter, remembers enjoying evenings with her family gathered around the piano and organ singing songs or playing cards instead of television.

For a few years the family had a small grocery store at Richmond and Fairmount Avenues, then a gas station and later Vito started El Cerrito Redi-Mix with his sons and poured many of the sidewalks in El Cerrito.

Mary remembers attending Harding Elementary School and walking home for lunch. In winter, there was always a warm soup waiting for all the children. One day when Mary was in 7th grade there was a knock on the classroom door and there stood her father with her lunch so she would not get wet walking home.

As Jim, Rose, Ben, Grace, Frank and Mary got older and left home (all six remained in El Cerrito), the family would still gather every Sunday for a big Italian style dinner and to celebrate all the birthdays that may have occurred that week with the many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. For their 90th birthdays, Louise and Vito were thrown a grand celebration at the El Cerrito community center. They are now both buried at Sunset Cemetery but continue to be giants in the eyes of their family.

Every year the family celebrates this unity in August with an all day picnic event including Vito’s family and his brothers.

She remembers the happy times she has experienced in her home town. She misses the quaint shops and markets that used to thrive in El Cerrito and is saddened the El Cerrito Plaza has so many vacancies though there are so many transportation services nearby. She remains proud of her community and city and continues to promote the family love and unity she grew up with.

 

CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY (CC&C)

1900 International MarketPlace, San Pablo, CA., 94806

(510) 236-3255; fax (510) 236-3068

e-mail: CCandC_97@yahoo.com


Run dates: 2000-01-01 - 2000-02-01
 


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