Land Of Milk & Honey

Part 2 of the Judy Tomaini Rock Series

 

Long Branch, New Jersey. A sleepy little town on the coast. Don Santo Tomaini and Marie Bossone Tomaini, moved there from their native Italy, where a town was even named for them around the turn of the century. They followed relatives, to the land of milk and honey, like so many immigrants did back then. They had a grocery store on Springdale Ave. in Long Branch, and lived above it, as was a custom. They had to protect their holdings. They already had several sons, and were expecting another. They had enough money and food, to have as many as they wanted. It was a status thing, of how many sons a family had. As they would be expected to care for the parents when they got too old to work. The Don title that graced Santo's name, also had connections to the underground. The sons had no idea of this, when they were young. They all knew he was a very wealthy land owner in Italy, but that is all they knew about the "family". The parents business was never discussed. Till the boys were grown and could be initiated into the other family.

The morning of February 25, 1912 was a bright sunny day. The snow on the ground sparkled, but was melting fast. Then it would turn into a soupy mess. Marie felt the stirring of the child, she was carrying. And Santo told her to stay up stairs, and he would call the Aunts in to help her through the birth. The baby was huge, but so were the other ones that she had. Big healthy boys. When this son was born, it was the same, except he weighed 15lbs. She had him without any problems, and by the next day, was down stairs helping in the store. The older boys took turns from school, to help her out. Family was a big thing back then. You could always get help from them, and never ventured out into the rest of the world, when you needed a helping hand. Or a loan, or anything else. The family would take care of it. Aurelio, or Rella, as he was called by the family, was a tall gawky kid but seemed to be catching up to the older boys at an earlier age. He was 6' when he was 12 years old. Skinny as a bean pole, but looked so much like the rest of the Tomaini boys. He had black hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. The family doctor would come and check him out, whenever he was in the neighborhood. There were problems finding shoes large enough, and he was growing a lot faster than normal. And started hitting his head on the door frames, which were 6'8"

He and his brothers, hung out at the pool hall, and got real good at the game. The older brothers were gamblers, and started hanging out in New York City, with hoodlums, that were compared to the gangs of today. Since Rella was so young, he got left home a lot, but he was still growing. It was up to the tailor to make his clothes, and his size 22 shoes, were made in Chicago. He had bad foot problems, from the time he had grown out of the store bought shoes. And had to wear ones that were too small. His knees were also in stress from his size. He was never an outside kid, but would rather be at the pool hall, with his brothers. He would tag along to the horse track with them, but was not a gambler, like they were. He hung onto any money he had made, working at the store, or doing little odd jobs, around the neighborhood. He was still growing. The family doctor, who was a Bossone, like Marie. I think he was a cousin of hers. Now Rella was pushing 8' and he was only a teenager. The doctor told the family he had to stop the growth, or Rella would die. There was an appointment made, to send him to the Mayo clinic, for test to see if the growth could be stopped, without killing him first.

By that time, he had bought the pool hall, from the old man that had watched him grow up. It was a good job for him, and he could stay inside, where he was comfortable. The doctors there said they could stop the growth, but it would take a while for it to work. He had it done and when he stopped growing at 8'4" He was still only about 19. The fair came to Asbury Park that summer, which is next door to Long Branch. The brothers invited him to go with them. There was a sideshow there, and they all went in too look at the Giant, since Rella was so much taller than any of the brothers who topped the mark at between 6' and 6'5". They were very surprised to see, that Rella was a foot taller, than the Giant in the show. The show owner came in, and ask if Rella would step out back with him. He had a proposition for him. After a lengthy meeting between the two of them, Rella decided to join up with the sideshow. But just for the season. After the summer was over, he was going back to his pool hall.

He was as shy as he was tall, and didn't have much to do with the girls around town. And other than tagging after the brothers, and getting into trouble with them, he was free to make his own decisions. He loved his family, but couldn't condone, some of the things the brothers were doing. They were all married, with wives expecting babies. That was the Italian way, the men did as they pleased, and the women just did what they were told to do. Rella was different. He thought women were there, to have a life of sharing, and being half of a good relationship. They were the mothers of the children, the cook, maid, and comforter, of all hurts, and pain for real or imagined. Not just a servant.

Rella traveled with the show that summer, and when it was over, he couldn't believe how much money he had saved. And the income from the Pool hall, was waiting for him when he got back. He had doubled his income on the road, and still had more at home. That wasn't bad for a few months of seeing the country, and meeting new people, was not so bad after all. He even had enough money put back, to set up one of his brothers in business. He named it the little Giant beverage co. and sold Sweetie sodas.

In March of 1936 he had a booking cancel, and had to go to another show, to finish the season. He was on a stage, next to the half girl from Indiana. They started talking, and found their lives were remotely the same. They were seeing places, they would never have seen, if they stayed home, and hadn't joined the carnival. They were working on a show that they had never been on before, I think it was a store front, in Cleveland, Ohio. Rella, hated being away from the family, but did enjoy the company of this young 20 year old woman. So he stuck it out. By this time he was 24 years old he had a business sense, way beyond his years. And making good money, during the depression was something. On a rainy day, September 28, 1936 they eloped, and were married, in Ripely, New York. History was made, and The worlds Strangest Married couple, was born. Al and Jeanie Tomaini, Would be together, till death, did they part...


2003 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved

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