Severino Tognoni's Family Versione Italiana
The story of the family
In this sequence of photos, there are all the relatives of my family and the stories that accompany them are the fruit of my memory. I ask for apologies for the imprecisions and for inexact names that might appear in what is written here.
My mother's name was Palmira and that's obvious in the anagraphic documents but everybody called her Palma.
This nickname accompanied her till the end of her youth and everybody remembers her by this name.
She married Vittorio Tognioni, a low rank
officer who belonged to the Military Aeronautics.
As a result of their union there came four sons and a daughter: Severino, Mauro, Adriana, Renato and Antonio.
They lived in Rosalia Villa, in Boccadifalco and all the children were born in this house.
This beautiful and luxury house together with its garden dominated
the field where the military airport is situated and the look could easily wander over it, from "Passo di Rigano" till "Griffotta".
We stayed in Boccadifalco till the end of 1959, the year of Vittorio's transfer to Padova.
Palmira Todaro, Vittorio Tognoni's wife
Vittorio Tognoni, radio operator of Military Aeronautics
She was born in Palermo, the fourth born and the only daughter of four children, in one family of some appreciated state clerks who, all along the years demonstrated their capacity and honesty. They were enjoying a good reputation and prestige in the suburbs of Boccadifalco and Palermo. Using their relational ability they had achieved a good
finance and friendship capital.
My mother used to remember and to speak about the invited guests and the parties thrown in their house, with good music and light displays.
The war brought them to poverty, as they used to say: " ů they were out of luck", a nice Verga's phrase that he used to define the low state of the means they had got into.
Palmira was a well educated woman, loved good manners, good education and correct language in
all occasions, the use of Italian and the refuse of the dialect and colloquial language.
She used to judge the interlocutors according to the way they presented
Good manners, the way one should sit at the table, the way one should behave in various circumstances were the first lessons
I got from my mother starting with the age of reason.
Palmira with her female friends and future sisters - in - law
Palmira with Rosa Matranga, her brother Filippo's second wife.
She was born in 1914 and brought up in the fascist period.
Having as point of depart this ideology, she taught us the ideals and the concepts of society, besides the values related to the family, the love for the country and for Italy, "the guiding light of the world".
The conscience of her birth in the agitated middle class, made her think the only frequentable class should be the bourgeoisie (many cousins had married high professionals and merchants in the 20's and 30's) or the aristocratic one, now decayed and servile that used to drive mad the "Conca d'oro" (Golden Pot) in those years.
She used to say that the birth is "a great chance" that gives birth to gentlemen; she also used to say that no one could ever buy his birth.
During talks regarding this topic I had with my very good friend and colleague Guido Giunipero di Costeranzo, he stated that a gentleman is not the one who was born like this but the one who accepts, shares and practices coherently the rules of gentlemanhood.
This came from my mother who was skeptical and unshakable on her position.
She used to praise the fascist period and in her speeches transpired the nostalgia of those times spotted by theoretic statements generated by a sincere politic creed.
Since she was a girl she led Italian Youth groups in numberless marches and parades in Palermo, Naples and Rome proving a strong leadership and having the special gift of being able to entertain dialectic reports with everyone no matter which his political or hierarchical status might have been. She used to talk the same way to all her interlocutors without showing any sign of submission.
Honest, generous and idealist, she saw the material progress and the modernism that the regime had brought in the suburbs of Palermo. She mentioned the 8th of September like an incident on the way of a system that had gone well and that it was wrong to think about changing it with democracy. She used to see only the populist sides of the "ventennio".
Sicily had not suffered from the deeds and misdeeds of the Germans and fascists in the war.
Sicily was not affected by the partisan war, it passed from Fascism to liberty brought about by the Americans.
My mother's brothers, Giovanni and Filippo, had fought in Ethiopia and respectively in Spain with a sincere warrior spirit convinced that they were the carriers of the civilization.
In Partinico: Mauro On The Left, Sverino and Adriana who is crying in the center.
Palmira had for sure the conscience of her class dotted with a good amount of catholic paternalism which I soon learned to blame but in my childhood I thought it natural or I simply didn't bother with it.
The friends that we the boys were authorized to frequent were the ones from the class of clerks, military and bourgeoisie.
Here are the names of some of them that I want affectionately to mention: Restivo (Marshal of Carabinieri), Monaco (officer in the army), Di Salvo (merchants in Palermo).
In our house there always had been house maids, I still remember the names of Piera, Caterina and others that I have lost traces in my memory.
After marriage, after the war, the salary of an inferior officer was what it was: three thousand lire a month.
It wasn't for sure a sum that could allow keeping a servant!
The recruitment procedure was simple: a poor family was found and the parents were invited to give a daughter for house service.
She shouldn't have received a salary but she would have lived and eaten with the family with all due respect. They received clothes and all they needed and, what was more, could eat three times a day.
The speech was simple and used to have a good result: it convinced the family that the young woman would come out of that peasantry world of sacrifice going to serve in a house of gentlemen where she would learn Italian and the way to serve meals.
Palmira and Severino
Palmira and Mauro
Not only an attentive and caring mother but also an excellent teacher she carefully followed our elementary education. I can very well remember my brother and I, sitting at different tables and being supervised all the time while doing our various school homework.
She had a beautiful voice and she was always present in the choir of the church and she often sang here songs whose lyrics and tunes she knew by heart. I can still remember the words of the song and operettas from the 30's.
"Stay into that house where music is played and sung because the evil spirit doesn't give you food and shelter." she loved to repeat.
A huge trauma was caused by our moving to Padova because my mother lived a symbiotic life with her Palermo and going and living in the North of Italy was for her as living abroad.
She used to return frequently to Sicilia where she would stay for months.
She had a very strong tie with her maternal family. She often had arguments with her brothers regarding the way the everyday life should be lived or the fact that the criteria of the bourgeois education she was still very proud of were no longer followed.
Her sense of honour was very strong and, when Italia entered the war, she could be seen taking part in the war effort and learning skills that could be used in order to help the army such as a radio operator auxiliary, (with this occasion she met my father Vittorio who was a radio operator instructor and got engaged with him). She had become the future wife of belligerent. It was a great moment for her: it meant to serve the Country in the war.
She followed with enthusiasm the dictate of the regime and she saw herself idealistically fighting by the side of her fiancÚ Vittorio in the operation theatre from North Africa.
She promised to wait for him and to be his wife.
She waited for him for almost four years marked by a correspondence composed of letters coming from USA.
While her lover was a prisoner of war she mentioned the marriage proposal she had received from captain of Army that she politely refused. "My fiancÚ is fighting for the country and I will wait for his return and I'll be true to him."
And she repeated it with pride, because she hadn't lost her honour eve if she had been suffering from hunger!
The whole family during the touristic trip they took in the Republic of San Marino.
Palmira and Renato
Palmira left us in 1988 after having spent her life honouring her family and her husband, without abandoning her duty even when her physical state couldn't permit her a proper management of the house.
That in the honour of my mother!