About Speranza Colchamiro (Matza)
I never knew her as Nancy but 'Thea Sparanza' who taught my mother, Sarah Bacola, cooking 'Greek Style'. She was an extremely sweet, soft spoken gentle lady with a constant smile.
Lenora Bacola Lowe
[from a book by JH & JK:]
It was always a mystery to us why “Speranza” happened to become “Nancy” in English. This is the story we were later told (and I don’t know by whom):
Speranza was a beautiful girl with bright blue eyes and dark long hair, delicate rosy complexion and fine features. When the immigration officer saw her, (most of the immigration officers at that time were Irish), he said to his colleague, “What a pretty Irish Lassie! Let’s call her Nancy” (which is indeed an Irish name!)
When Nancy, who was a very bright intelligent woman, at the age of 50+, yearned for an education, and decided to go to school to learn how to read and write English, Elias would, ridicule her ... but she was determined. She did learn to read and write very well. She started to read about politics and began to resent her position as "serving her master." Another wonderful thing Nancy did was write letters to her daughter, Terry who was living in California, something Terry will forever cherish.
[Recollections of Diane Warhit, as related in JH's book:]
Diana relates: “I remember in 1934, during the depression, my family decided to move to North Carolina, where my father felt he could provide for our family better. We had relatives there that had a big house with many rooms. I remember there were laundry shoots in all the bedrooms. But it was going to school there that I hated. I was a nine-year-old Jewish girl from Brooklyn and I stood out like a sore thumb. I remember on the first morning in class we were all to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.” I told the teacher I was not supposed to say “The Lord’s Prayer,” because I was Jewish. She announced in an angered voice, “you can say ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ anyway.” Well after that all the kids made fun of me and I had no friends at all. The only thing that kept me going was the love we had in our family for each other. However, I must admit life was not the same for the rest of the family. Jesse and Morris worked with my father. Rae and Jean, got married in New York and never came to North Carolina. Esther went to live with our Aunt Hanoula Cohen so she could finish college. Oscar and Sarah were having a ball. They were in High School and Sarah was well known for her beautiful voice and even had opportunities to sing on the local radio stations. Oscar was happy just hanging around with Sarah’s friends. Now mind you, most of these friends were not Jewish and when my mother realized that if we stayed in North Carolina there was a good chance we would find gentile mates, she talked my father into moving back to New York, and was I glad about that!"
[recollections of Diane, from Martin Colchamiro's website:]
Since I was the youngest of this wonderful family, I had a very different upbringing. I was 9 years old when Aunt Rae and Aunt Jean got married, and probably about 14 when Jesse, Morris, Terry and Sarah got married (all in the same year). I was very close to my mother as a teenager, and helped her with the household chores. At the age of thirteen I was going to late session at the Lincoln annex , so I had time to do the laundry and hang it on the line before I had to get to school. I seemed to be very sensitive to how hard she was working since all the children were still at home (except for Rae and Jean).
There was so much cooking and cleaning , and washing the dishes was always my job since no one else would do it. During the war, Uncle Oscar was in service so I was the only one home. Of course, Aunt Terry moved back with us in Brighton because Sidney went into service. I really fell in love with cousin Larry - He was adorable.
Papa still had his pinochle games in the living room, and it was my job to make the Turkish coffee. I could never leave the house before making the coffee, but I surely tried.
I really felt like an only child since I wasn't part of the mainstream crowd. I really got to know my siblings better after I was married and had children.
[from Martin Colchamiro's website:]
Grandma refused to graduate elementary school. She was 63 years old and had completed her eight year course in the adult education of P.S. 225 of Brooklyn. Although she would have been proud to show off her diploma to her eight children and five grandchildren, she did not want to graduate for it meant that she would have to travel by bus and subway to get to the high school on DeKalb Avenue. She hated to give up her pleasant walk to the school twice a week and the treasured hours she spend in class. so, with her sympathetic teacher's permission, she did not graduate.
When I started school, Nona told me about her first day in school -- how excited and nervous she had been. When she announced to her family that she had registered for school, her children smiled tolerantly and my grandfather ridiculed her.
"You've gotten this far through life without reading and writing, why bother now." No matter how much he teased her, she would not be deterred. After her first day at school, she returned with her books and spoke about her homework. Her children laughed at her.
Most of her class was composed of young adults of various ages, accents and backgrounds. She was the oldest student in the class. They all had one thing in common. None of them could read or write English. Some, like herself could not read or write any language.
One of the reasons that Nona was determined to learn to read and write was that her oldest daughter had announced that she was pregnant. How embarrassed and humiliated she would feel if her grandchild asked her to read to her and she would have to admit that she couldn't read. She would be so ashamed. That's when she registered for "English" in the adult education program.
Every evening after dinner, Nona would clear the kitchen table and spend hours studying. All her children were glad to help her. Only my grandfather continued to tease her. Grandpa's sarcasm was hard to understand especially since he could read and write. The only time he ever complimented Grandma was on her performance in the kitchen. She was an excellent cook. He felt, like most European men at that time, that a woman belonged in the kitchen. Nona decided she would show him she was good for other things.
My mother told me how proud the family was of Nona, especially when they each received their first letter from her. My mother saved hers and showed it to me. Grandma's handwriting was neat and legible and the letter well written and grammatically correct.
By the time I was born, Nona could write letters with ease. Each of her letters was written with loving care.
Nona told me about the first letter she received from my Uncle after he had gone off to war overseas. She remembered how glad she was when she saw the envelope in the mailbox...how she quickly tore it open to read its contents. She didn't have to carry it around for hours, like her sister had to do, trying to find someone in the family to read it to her.
She told me how wonderful it was to be able to sit by herself in the evening and read a newspaper, or book. Even Grandpa was proud of her wonderful progress. She became interested in politics and was able to participate in discussions about current events. He was even a bit jealous because she could write much better than he and she soon become the letter writer for him.
Soon after all her children were married, Grandpa died and Nona was alone. Although she missed him very much she managed to keep busy and was thankful for her days at school. Her books surrounded her and filled the gap in her days and nights. When television became available, her children bought her a set. She enjoyed certain programs, but there was nothing quite like reading a book or writing a letter.
Nona told me that one of the biggest thrills of her life came when her firstborn grandchild, Carol, who was in the first grade, came to Nona and pointing to a word that had her stymied she asked, "Grandma, what's that word?" Grandma smiled and said, "Let's sound it out together..Hor....ssss. Horse." Her granddaughter never knew how happy and proud Grandma was that she was able to answer her question.
Nona never missed a day of school for she enjoyed good health. Through rain, snow, hail or heat, Grandma arrived at class on time. She was teacher's pet.
When Nona was absent from school for a whole week, we knew how terribly sick she must be. The following week she was hospitalized. All through her hospital stay, besides visiting her, everyone wrote letters because they knew how much she loved receiving them. Most of all she loved answering them.
A few weeks after entering the hospital she died. There was a book lying next to her when the end came.
[recollection of granddaughter Carole, from Martin Colchamiro's website:]
Being the oldest of the grandchildren, I had some special privileges, as it is with the eldest. It also gave me the opportunity to be with my grandmother, Nona., who lived nearby. I do not have many memories of my grandfather, Elias, as he passed when I was about l0 or so.
I do remember, going to visit Nona and Grandpa, especially on the evenings when Your Show of Shows was on television and also Milton Berle. We were also in the area most Tuesday nights as we watched the fireworks from the boardwalk.
Nona and Grandpa bought a TV when it first came out...it was because Grandpa was not well and this would entertain him.
I also remember that before school started, when I was about l0, Grandpa called me over to his bed and gave me $5.00 because I was starting school. He also gave my brother $l.00, as he was starting kindergarten. It must have made quite an impression for me to remember it. It was a very nice gesture.
I saw Nona many times because she would come over to our house after school. She went to school near where we lived. She was taking English and Math lessons.
Nona was a beautiful woman, so wise and wonderful. My Mom (Rae), being the oldest daughter, really was close to Nona and like a second Mother to the children. Nona would give her all sorts of responsibilities, as a child and throughout her growing up years. I understand she (my Mom) took the children to the beach, cared for them, and was quite responsible.
When my Mother was younger, as I was told, Nona used to give my Mother money every day and before Mom had lunch she would take the money and shop for vegetables for that evening's dinner. Nona told Mom to buy what looked fresh. Then my Mother would return to the house and Nona would have lunch for her before my Mom returned to school.
When I was growing up, I remember an incident with hairspray. It had just come on the market and I was surprised when Nona showed it to me (by the foyer near her bedroom). She loved up-to-date things and told me she needed it for her hair.
She was a wonderful blend of old world mixed with modern times. I always loved Nona.
I also remember the large pressing machine she had. When she was using it she set it up in the kitchen. It certainly wasn't something we had in our home.
Nona also cooked well and made wonderful Greek dishes. My Mom makes some of them today and they are so good. The Greek dishes are made with lots of vegetables , cheese and pastry. Some of my favorites are baked eggplant, and baked squash...and of course colzona....
The Colchamiro Family is warm, caring and close. How wonderful for us.
Speranza "Nancy" Colchamiro (Matza)'s Timeline
June 2, 1906
- June 10, 1906
New York, NY, USA
Speranza Mazza, her mother Bechora [this Hebrew name means "first born" - JBA], brother Joseph, and sister Sarina arrived from Havre on the La Touraine [p. 15/37]. Several members of the Dosti family and others also were on board.
They were destined for "Friend Mazza Fam 311 W. 120th Street".
October 16, 1908
New York, Manhattan, New York, United States
The marriage certificate of Elias Colchamiro and Speranza Matza indicates the witnesses were Sabeta Menachem and David Samuel Isaac. Elias' parents are listed as Jeshula Colchamiro and Rachel Iesack. Speranza's are listed as Sam Matza and Bechole Bakula.
September 9, 1909
New York City, New York, United States
December 26, 1910
Harlem, Manhattan, New York, United States
Found in Manhattan Ward 17, District 869, page 53 of 53.
Elias [age 24], Speranza [age 24], and Jessula [shown as "Daughter", age 9/12 years old; the ID might have to be changed to match the child born around 1909].
They lived at # 94 Rivington Street. They are shown as being from "Turkey" and speaking Greek. The family arrived in NY in 1903.
Elias was an "operator" of Ladies Garments.
Living at the same address was a boarder Abram Pardi, age 29. Also from "Turkey" but speaking Spanish. Arrived in US 1909. He was a "Taylor" of Ladies Garments.
April 6, 1912
Harlem, Manhattan, New York, United States
May 3, 1915
Harlem, Manhattan, New York, United States
February 5, 1917
New York, Manhattan, New York, United States