Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The Marino Family was happily preparing the Trattoria for a big party honoring Rosa's baby brother, Luigi Rossi. Luigi graduated that morning from college and was arriving in Camden Corners on the 4:15 that very afternoon. Rosa was bursting with pride. Her baby brother a college graduate.
Luigi came to the United States just as he was about to enter high school. Luigi showed no interest in the family business. For generations the Rossi families had produced high quality wines. As heartbroken as Mama and Papa Rossi were to watch the ship carry another child to the United States of America, they knew Luigi would be well taken care of by his older sister, Rosa.
Rosa and Eduardo Marino opened the Marino Trattoria in Camden Corners three weeks after they arrived in the United States. Eduardo was a master chef and Rosa was just a very good cook. Eduardo's great aunt Antonia didn't want someone else to reap the benefits of Eduardo's excellent cooking skills and sent him along with enough money to buy his own restaurant.
Eduardo and Rosa arrived in New York and found an advertisement in the paper for a quaint sounding restaurant in a village called Camden Corners. They bought the restaurant sight unseen and were off to Camden Corners the next morning. The restaurant had possibilities but it was nothing like what they had read in the advertisement. They were newlyweds and maybe just too naive to realize they had been duped.
They started scrubbing and fixing and decorating and before too long the Trattoria looked just like they dreamed it would. The people of Camden Corners had never tasted Italian cooking before and were a bit hesitant to try it but after having a meal prepared by Eduardo and served by Rosa, they came back again and again. The restaurant was a success and in just a few short years they were able to expand their establishment along with their family. Eduardo, Jr. was the oldest followed by Antonio, Giorgio, Daniella and Maria. Eduardo began helping his father when he was just a young boy and it was a foregone conclusion that he was a natural in the kitchen. Antonio tried but he had to settle for clearing tables and washing dishes.
The 4:15 arrived right on time and the whole town came out to welcome their friend and neighbor. The party was in full swing when Luigi announced he had a meeting with Mr. George Weston of the Weston Camera Company in Wilmington. Mr. Weston was interested in graduates with degrees in engineering and his professor recommended Luigi. Antonio, who liked to be called Tony, wasn't sure what a camera was. His uncle saw the look of confusion on Tony's face and explained that a camera was used to take photographs and promised he would bring one home the next time he came for a visit.
Mrs. Granville who lived on the corner of Phillip Avenue was very concerned about Luigi going to Wilmington. She had heard it was very close to Niagara Falls and maybe he would have too much of the devil's brew and try to go over the falls in a barrel. Maybe he should just stay here in Camden Corners where it is safe. He could be an engineer on the train. Luigi laughed and gave Mrs. Granville a hug. He loved this little town and all the people who lived here.
Tears were shed as Luigi boarded the train again, this time to take him to Wilmington. He was sad but also anticipating the opportunities waiting for him there. He met with Mr. Weston and was hired on the spot.
Several days later, Jackson Parker received a special delivery package at the post office for Master Antonio Marino from the Weston Camera Company. It wasn't often the folks of Camden Corners received special delivery packages and Jackson rushed out the door to personally deliver the package. Tony was sweeping the floor getting ready for the lunch crowd when Jackson came in with the package. The entire Marino family came out to see what the commotion was. Tony opened the package. There was a note from Luigi.
My Dear Nephew Tony, I spoke to Mr. Weston regarding your curiosity involving cameras. He was glad you showed interest in photography and wanted you to have your very own camera. Instructions are enclosed along with film for picture taking. When you have completed a roll of film, mail it to me and I will develop and print your pictures. Mr. Weston and I hope this will be the beginning of a lifetime of photographic pleasure. Fondest regards, Your Uncle Luigi.
Everyone was excited for Tony and Papa Marino told him to take the rest of the day off to try out his new camera. Tony had no trouble loading his camera. He began immediately using one roll of film and then another. Before Jackson had closed the Post Office for the day, Tony was there with three packages of film ready to be mailed to Uncle Luigi. Jackson was as excited as Tony wondering what the photographs would look like and he put in a rush order and delivered the package to the mail car at the train station himself.
In no time, Luigi received the film and developed it. He was astonished at the quality of the photographs. He expected some silly pictures of the brothers with goofy faces or the sisters with exaggerated smiles but these weren't anything like that. One was of his nieces standing on footstools glancing down with wonder at a mother robin feeding her baby birds. Another of Giorgio holding Mrs. Penrose's arm as he guided her down the front stairs of the restaurant. Another of Eduardo nuzzling Rosa's neck as he helped her tie her apron. Mr. Crowley and Miss Dawson sitting on a park bench feeding the pigeons and looking into each others eyes. Every photograph seemed to tell a story. Luigi knew Mr. Weston would be pleased that his gift had been so well received. Mr. Weston was indeed pleased and insisted Luigi take all the equipment and products necessary to Camden Corners and help young Antonio set up a darkroom of his own. Luigi was concerned that this would be a monumental task but wasn't about to argue with his new boss.
Luigi arrived with all the equipment necessary for the darkroom. The restaurant had a large closet with a sink that would be perfect for Tony to use. With the help of Eduardo and Ted Evans from the hardware store, the room was completed in record time. Tony was a quick learner and it didn't take long before he was developing his own photographs.
Rosa proudly displayed his work in the entry of the restaurant. Before long people were offering to buy the photos. Tony enjoyed his new hobby too much to take money for them and gladly gave the photos to whoever wanted them.
At the edge of town that summer Mr. Rufus Melville was setting up camp. He was chuckling as he hid his stash of gold nuggets. Rufus' motto was there's a sucker born every minute and he knew there were a lot of minutes in a day. His plan was foolproof. Maybe not foolproof but the fools were certain to fall for his scheme. He followed the river to a small town called Camden Corners. He had a few of his precious gold nuggets and carefully dropped them into low points of the river.
He meandered into town and stopped at a friendly looking establishment called O'Sullivan's Pub. He knew he had to keep his wits about him and ordered a beer that he planned to savor for an hour or so. He found the local watering holes were the best place to plant the seeds for his latest schemes. Rufus congratulated himself on his good luck at arriving at the tavern just as the railroad workers were ending their shift. He wasted no time in displaying a handful of gold nuggets to the bartender. Within just a few minutes, every man in the room was hovering over his shoulders trying to get a glimpse of the sparkling gold pieces.
Rufus put on his best smile and started his scheme in motion. All eyes and ears were on Rufus as he whispered about his find in the river just outside of town.
“One hundred years ago, an old miser lived on the top of that there mountain just west of Camden Corners. He spent his youth in South America in a place called Columbia. The story goes he fell in love with a beautiful senorita but her heart belonged to another. He packed up all his gold and sailed the ocean to the new land. He found his way to this part of the country and buried his treasure in the mountain's peak. Through the years, the mountain has been wearing away and gold pieces have been falling down the mountain along with the melting snow. My employer has authorized me to collect those pieces and bring them to him. I found these just an hour ago.”
He held out his hand with several shiny gold nuggets.
“There will be too much gold for me to find it all myself so I am willing to rent a portion of the river to anyone who is interested in becoming rich for a measly $3 a day. My employer will pay you 50 cents for each gold nugget you find. I'm holding 8 nuggets in my hand which would be a profit of $1 for 15 minutes of work.”
The men, who had been working for 12 hours that day couldn't wait to hand over their hard earned money to Rufus to rent a portion of the river. They all followed Rufus out the door and to the camp he had set up just out of town. Each man stood in line and handed over their rent money to Rufus who would then give them a torn piece of a map marking off their individual spaces. Earlier Rufus had placed 5 nuggets throughout a small stretch of the river. As Rufus was counting his money, $45 in all, word was spreading through town about the huge buckets of gold being lifted from the river that very afternoon.
Rufus had a hard time keeping up with the demands for river rentals. By nightfall, all five pieces of gold had been found and each prospector had received 50 cents as promised. By the third day Rufus thought maybe he had better drop a few more pieces into the river. He could afford the expense since he was now bringing in close to $200 in rent fees each day.
Tony was still taking pictures of everything and everyone he could find. His younger brother Giorgio had caught the photography bug too and wherever Tony and his camera were, Giorgio was right there with them.
Just after dark one night, the boys thought about experimenting with nighttime photography. Up until that point all of Tony's photos were taken during the day. The moon was exceptionally bright that night and was shining brightly on the river. Tony and Giorgio rode their bicycles to the river with Tony's trusted camera and he started snapping pictures. They spotted a figure walking along the river. He appeared to be throwing something in the water. Maybe a stone or pebble. They walked behind and stayed back far enough so the stranger couldn't see them. He was whistling and singing about how he had duped a whole town of fools. Tony's instinct made him start photographing the man as he tossed another nugget in the river. The boys followed him to the camp he'd set up and took more pictures. They went back to the restaurant and developed the photos. They weren't as clear as daytime ones but they were clear enough.
Eduardo was relaxing after a busy night with some cronies at one of the dining tables. Most of the crowd had gone home but a few of the older men in town lingered since they didn't have anyone to go home to. The boys showed the pictures to the men.
Alvin Sweeney recognized the stranger. He had heard tell that gold was being found in the river. Alvin knew the mountains like the back of his hand and had explored every inch of them.
“There is no gold in those hills” he laughed.
Darnell Webb told of his neighbor who had given this fellow twelve of his hard earned dollars and had found one piece of gold that he was paid 50 cents for. His wife was about ready to wring his neck along with her chickens if he didn't stop throwing their money away. Eduardo thought it might be a good idea to ask Sheriff Mendenhall to investigate this stranger.
The next morning, Eduardo, Tony and Giorgio went to see the sheriff with the photos in hand. Sheriff Mendenhall as it turned out was visiting his sister and her family in Greensboro for the week and Deputy Arnie Pfeiff was in charge. Arnie was a pretty nice guy but not much of a lawman so Eduardo decided he would ask the Crowley boys what they could do legally to check this fellow out.
Robert was in his office and was very interested to hear about this scam.
“Dad would love to be involved.” he said and he was right.
Oscar went straight home to put on some old clothes and met Eduardo, Wally Wallace, Chris Pringle and Isaac Nichols at the Trattoria. They wended their way to Rufus's camp and found him counting his money with a big, happy smile on his face. After each of the men paid their $3 rental fee, they were given a map of their space to search. Deputy Pfeiff who had been standing out of sight appeared with a set of handcuffs and the photos Tony had taken. Oscar informed Mr. Melville that it was quite illegal to rent portions of property that was owned by the State of New York. Rufus was kicking himself. He had planned to leave town two days ago but he was enjoying the fall weather and relaxing by the river as he counted his money.
He agreed to give back all of the money to all of the people who fell for his get rich scheme. Everyone who had invested in the gold scheme was invited to come back and claim their money. All of the prospectors were honest and only took what they had given Rufus. They were too embarrassed about being duped to exaggerate how much they had surrendered to him. Anyone who had found the gold nuggets and sold them back to Rufus was invited to keep their 50 cents.
The gold nuggets as it turned out, were nothing more than jagged stones painted bright gold. Rufus sat in jail until Sheriff Mendenhall returned. He was given a stern warning about taking advantage of people. The sheriff asked young Tony to take some photos of Mr. Rufus Melville so that he could send his picture to every county in the state.
Tony continued taking photographs throughout town. He was especially busy that Christmas. Everyone wanted photos of their families around the Christmas tree. Tony wouldn't accept payment for any of the photos as he had been so grateful to Mr. Weston and his gift. The whole town got together and presented Tony with genuine gold nuggets. Mr. Travers at the bank put them in the vault for safe keeping until Tony was old enough to go to journalism school and become an investigative reporter and photographer which is exactly what he did.