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MOV staff member Neal Pellegrino is an active collector, finding all kinds of interesting treasures (particularly from the Italian community from which he hails, such as the Astorino sign that recently came down after a long stint at Commercial and Venables) to give to the Museum. Among them is a photo of his father, Emilio Pellegrino, from the 1960s, taken by Foncie Pulice.
The MOV opens an exhibition about Foncie this Thursday, June 6, called Foncie’s Fotos (named after his business). Neal chatted with his dad, an Italian immigrant who grew up in Hope, about his
Neal Pellegrino: Ok, to start off what year is this?
Emilio Pellegrino: Ohhh, it’s got to be about 1961.
NP: How old are you?
EP: Well I got my driver’s license when I was 20, so I would have been around 21.
NP: Who are the two girls in the picture with you?
EP: The girl to my left was my girlfriend, Shirley Markoski. She was Polish and we had been
going together for about three months around then. The other girl was Mary Sunada. She was Japanese. Her mom ran a dress shop. Both from Hope, like me.
NP: Yeah, I noticed you all seemed to be from different ethnic backgrounds. When I talk to our cousins they said Italians in Vancouver kind of kept to themselves because it was so easy to just live an Italian lifestyle near Little Italy.
EP: Maybe, but when you lived in a small town anyone who was an immigrant was your friend. We all worked hard and wanted a better life for ourselves. So Chinese, Czech, whatever. It didn’t matter if they were your neighbor or your friend.
NP: So what were you doing the day Foncie caught you in this photo?
EP: Well, I showed the girls Stanley Park. It must have been in the middle of June, so the weather was warm that day. Then we just walked around. Just being in the big city was exciting enough, just to take it all in.
NP: So it was kind of a sightseeing trip to Vancouver that day?
EP: Ha ha. Well, I had only visited Vancouver (from Hope) about 3 or 4 times at that point. But
these girls had never gone to the city, so I felt like a big shot showing them the town. I had no idea where to go really, other than the main streets. I used the BowMac sign on West Broadway as a way of finding my bearings. As soon as I saw that, I knew where I was.
Also, my Mama and Papa asked me to pick up imported cheese wheels from Italia. Olive oil, rosa
marina (ooligin style fish in hot pepper and oil’). We couldn’t buy these foods in Hope, so it was a real treat to bring them home. I would go to this store called Tosi on Main Street. I think they were one of the first stores in Vancouver to import foods from the old country.
NP: So you must have done some cruising around the city too. What kind of car did you have?
EP I was driving a 1956 Ford Victoria. It was orange with black stripes.
NP: And music? What would have been on the radio?
EP: Well, even though it was the sixties, the roaring 50’s were still popular. Lots of Elvis, Buddy
Holly, Johnny Cash, you know, the good rock and roll.
NP: And did you go out that night?
EP: Oh no, no, no. Both girls had to get home by 10:00 pm and it took over three hours to get home on the Trans Canada Highway.
NP: Ok, so this photo. Tell me about when it was taken.
EP: I don’t remember it being taken to be honest. Other than we must have been having a good time and I wanted something to remember that, which is why I bought it.
NP: You would have been given a ticket and told to come pick it up at some point within a year.
EP: Well, sure I would have. Cameras weren’t cheap and I didn’t have many photos of myself and friends the way people do these days.
NP: And when you look at it now what do think?
EP: Young people need to get together to have real good time. A car ride with a picnic basket, bottle of wine and you had a good time. Kids spend too much time wanting things to come to them. If you want to watch a movie, you push a button. You want to play a game, you turn on the TV, not get out a deck of cards and invite your buddies over. Young people need to get together to have a real good time!
You laugh more, and when you laugh more, you have less problems. Am I right?
Foncie’s Fotos opens June 6 at the Museum of Vancouver.