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The Boys of Mott Street: 1942

The Boys of Mott Street: 1942

August 1942. "Italian-American parade honoring neighborhood boys in the United States Army." A close-up of the banner glimpsed here. (The bottom, just out of the frame at right, reads WE MUST NOT FAIL THEM.) Medium-format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Feast of San Rocco

This parade was on August 16, 1942, the day of the Feast of San Rocco in the liturgical calendar. Italian immigrants had developed a practice in the 19th century of celebrating feast days with street festivals like this. The residents of Mott Street decided to use that day to celebrate local boys who had just been inducted.

Italian-Americans in WWII

Italian-Americans won thirteen Medals of Honor, as well as countless decorations for courage and meritorious service in WWII. My father served in the Marine Corps in WWII. He is now 100 years old, and grew up in this neighborhood, his parents having immigrated from Sicily and Southern Italy in the late 1800s. Although you didn't win any medals, Dad, you'll always be my hero!

Flags of Honor

Those banners would be hung vertically between tenement buildings on both sides of the street. I seem to remember that some of them had blue stars, one each for the boys of the block that were in the service and gold stars for each serviceman that died, Somehow they kept them updated. They would be blown down occasionally but raised again. Eventually the weather wore them out. In a previous post I said that the people threw coins onto the flags as they were being carried through the streets, obviously they tossed paper money as well. I now wonder if some of that cash was used to maintain them.

Mott St.

Mott is a marvelous Lower East Side street, running from Worth St. in the south, where it’s Chinatown, through some remnants of Little Italy a few streets beyond Canal, morphing into trendy shops before it terminates at Bleecker, above Houston, passing St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (actually on Mulberry) on the way.

From Prince to Bleecker

What is that all about?

[Streets. - Dave]


Here's the view of those storefronts today, 278-280 Mott Street.

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