Do you ever wonder who lived at House of Hope before it became the House of Hope? We are privileged to have a personal account from a member of the family that lived there in the middle of the last century. Here is her account of what it was like back then.
Carmela (Monti) Di Meglio and Crescenzo Di Meglio lived in New York before coming to California to find work on the fishing boats in San Pedro. They both originated from the island of Ischia, Italy off the coast of Naples. They bought the house and cottages on 9th street from a doctor in the mid-1940s. They had four children: Raffella, Frank, Nickolas and Anna. Raffella married Gaetano Abbatiello and gave birth to their first son, Dominic in 1950 and second son Chris in 1952.
They lived together in the first cottage for five years. Carmela and Crescenzo’s other children also got married and eventually all the children moved out of the cottages.
Every holiday and birthday was celebrated in the main house, which the family affectionately called, “Grandma and Popo’s house.” The major holidays were Easter and Christmas Eve, where Grandma cooked rabbit and homemade ravioli for Easter. On Christmas Eve, Grandma would cook the traditional Seven Fishes, starting with Lobster sauce for the homemade pasta. All the adult women in the family would gather in the kitchen to make the homemade pastas.
They grew and canned their own vegetables, which they stored in the cellar (basement). Grandma and her daughters, Raffella and Anna, would gather wild mushrooms from Averill Park. Grandma knew which ones were good to cook up in a thick tomato sauce. They made
their own wine, which was poured at every dinner. The big table in the dining room was always set up for the whole family to enjoy
these special meals.
The grandkids loved going down the stairs to the cellar, where a mural of a Mexican scene was painted on the walls. The grandkids played in the other rooms as well, running up and down the stairs. Popo always sat in the front room in
his special chair watching westerns on TV and looking out the window facing the sidewalk. He was a quiet man. In 1970, Raffella and Gaetano’s first son, Dominic, got married to Victoria Donner and they lived in the third cottage for one year, during which their first daughter, Rachael was born. [Editor’s note: it was Victoria “Vicki” that provided this family history to us, for which we are grateful.]
Crescenzo (Popo) died in April 1972. The big house and cottages were too difficult for Carmela to care for on her own, and she decided to sell the property. She sold the house and cottages to the House of Hope in the early 1970s. The rest, as they say, is history!