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The Madera Tribune

Letters: A footnote to Massetti story

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webmaster | 04/16/12

I enjoyed Bill Coate’s article about the Massetti family. The first time I heard part of the story was when I was 8, 9, 10 ( I don’t remember). I had ridden my bike into a farm yard and knocked on the door. Mrs. Secondo (Mary) Massetti answered. I offered the CCD stamps I was commissioned to sell. She replied, in English, that she did not speak English. I did not and do not speak Piemontese so I would not have understood her if she had done so. I persisted, finally she asked my name. I responded, “Nat Dellavalle.”

“Who is your father?”

“Alfred Dellavalle.”

“Who is your grandfather?”

“Nat (Natale) Dellavalle.”

Then she told me how the Massettis came to be in Madera. After that I could sell her anything. Such was their gratitude for the invitation to come to Madera.

Later I asked my grandfather how he came to be in Madera. “The liabilities exceeded the assets.” Simple enough!

The legend is that they sold the last family asset, the family cow, to buy his passage to Madera, where he had a job establishing vineyards for the Italian Swiss Colony Winery.

He wrote to the Massettis that he was in the land of milk and honey, and they should come. He worked from sunup to sundown, and part of the pay was three meals per day.

“There is meat at every meal, you should come.” In the Italy he left, they had meat on feast days, if they were lucky.

Several things led to the situation in Italy. The family had a thriving silk business. Then an army came through. In need of fire wood they cut down the mulberry trees (the leaves are the only food source for silk worms) and the silk business was lost. My great-grandfather had been elected mayor of the village of Vigliano d’Asti, which is near Montegroso d’Asti. Part of the deal was to co-sign notes for his patrons, but then hail damaged the crops seven years in a row, and the family farm was lost. At the same time, someone was recruiting people to help establish vineyards in Madera.

From Madera, Natale sent money to buy passage for a brother, then another, then his parents and a sister. He also invited others to come to Madera, the land of milk and honey.

The legend was confirmed by cogini many years later when my wife and I had the privilege to visit the Montegrosso area. I was shown the vineyards that my grandfather had tended, then the door to the cantina, through which he had passed. Inside were the casks in which my grandfather had made wine. Now that we were inside, I was glad it was dark as there were rivers down my face. The new owner (a cousin of my father’s neighbor in Madera) had an awl in his hand. He poked a hole in the oakum in the end of each cask as his wife handed him glasses. There were three or four oval casks, each about three meters high, two meters wide and three meters long. We “had” to sample wine from each cask. Then it was out into the noonday sun.

Across the street was the Club Natale Dellavalle. After the war, Natale had sent money to help rebuild the village church. With money left over after the renovation, they had built the club, with room for several card tables, a full bar and attendant bocce courts. We were offered anything we wanted from the bar and were glad to find the gelato machine.

As my name is Natale, they knew exactly who I was and made us most welcome. Thanks for recognizing the contribution of the Piemontese to Madera’s past. And thanks for stoking my memories.

Natale Dellavalle,

Pastor expresses thanks for help

My wife and I would like to thank the local Big 5 store for being so charitable.

We will soon be traveling to Kenya to minister to the Massai people in the bush region of the great Rift Valley.

Part of our teaching and reaching work will include presentations to small elementary schools that are scattered all over this area.

We will be presenting each school with a soccer ball or two that they can use on their playgrounds. Brian, who was the manager, and David, who is the current manager of the Big 5 store located on West Cleveland Avenue, gave us a significant discount on 12 soccer balls. They both expressed their encouragement for the ministry that will be accomplished.

We are so grateful that we have a local store such as this, even though it is part of a chain, that assists its customers in this way. Once again, the merchants of Madera have demonstrated that they are not just out for the money but truly desire to serve our community.

Thank you, Big 5, for your help.

Randy Brannon,
Pastor, Grace Community Church

If it tastes like gristle, it’s gristle

Re: Chuck Doud’s column on meat trimmings: “Pink slime” contains ground-up gristle and it tastes like ground-up gristle. Taste some beef without pink slime and it will taste much better. The texture is better, too.

Yours in wisdom.

Steve Giraldes,


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