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 email@example.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
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
CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY
1900 International MarketPlace,
San Pablo, CA., 94806
(510) 236-3255; fax (510) 236-3068
Run dates: 2000-01-01 - 2000-02-01