At fourteen, a Renaissance man in the making embarked on a journey, which would mark the beginning of a new life.
Carlo Baldassari was the eldest son in a family of seven children. He arrived upon the shores of Galveston and made his way to New York. In order to provide for himself, Baldassari sold brooms and possibly participated in some illegal activity. During World War II, Baldassari spent time in the Presidio Penitentiary for refusing to fight against what he felt was family. Though he was proud to be an American, he could not turn and fight against the mother country (where his family remained).
His bachelor years were coming to a draw during the stock market crash. Carlo Baldassari was in Italy unable to do anything about the sumptuous amount of money he had made through the years, therefore resulting in loss. It was during this time when he married his wife through an arrangement. The two would engage in risky pursuits that their grandchildren would live retell.
The newlyweds moved to America, but this time to North Beach, San Francisco– a neighborhood where Italians recreated their homes. Prohibition was just rolling about, and here is where their scintillating adventures start. Participating in illegal alcohol trade made for some fascinating stories: The couple travelled through San Francisco on carts and horses delivering butter, which equated to a sum of whiskey. One day, Carlo ran off when he eyed the police approaching. Sure he was that his partner in crime would be alright as he left her behind. She was hiding the merchandise beneath her petticoat when questioned by law enforcement. Fortunately, everything turned out alright indeed.
Living on the edge was not the only thing Mr. Baldassari was capable of. He was an able chef as well. Throughout San Francisco, he owned many restaurant and he is remembered by his family as a “steak and potatoes guy with some Italian thrown in.” He would cook big family meals and dinners for his two daughters’ family. The meals could serve anywhere from 10 to 30 people. Being a self-educated man of many talents, he tended a garden in the backyard where he grew vegetables. Post the World’s Fair in the 1916, he built a home with foresight to put in reinforcement. His decision proved to be wise during the big Marina earthquake when the home he had built with his own hands was one of the few without structural damage. Furthermore, Mr. Baldassari read the newspaper every morning and watched the news, always voted and worked with local politicians when he wanted change.With an entrepreneurial spirit, his rags to riches story was an encouragement to his grandchildren and two daughters. One of his daughters was in the first group of women to enter the workforce in the United States. Five of six grandchildren attended college and continue to do very well today. As his granddaughter, Lauren Kelly, recalls, Carlo was always present: picking her up from school, walking through summer camp and college dorms looking for his granddaughter. She remembers driving around San Francisco with him as he passed down oral history of the growth the city.
Outside of the family, he was well-liked and established many intergenerational relationships. He influenced other people just because of he was and what he believed. His close group of friends, also Italians immigrants, would not accept that they could not be successful. Carlo Baldassari bought land and invested in the land, thus improving the lives of his friends and family near and far, and for the possibilities the “Land of Opportunities” brought him, he was thankful. His family stands as a lasting legacy.
Shared by: Lauren Kelly
Written by: Chia-Ry Chang Ureña