Friday, November 03, 2006

The Windows of St. Michael's (or The Baseball)

These are our family windows at St. Michael the Archangel, 1701 SW Fourth Ave, Portland OR (thanks to my "Uncle Eddie" - Ed Bjore - for the photo). St. Michael's is a pretty Roman Catholic church that was founded by many of the Italian immigrants in Portland in the early 1900's. When the church was rebuilt in 1902, many beautiful stained glass windows were commissioned from Povey Bros. Glass Co., and donated via subscription by parishioners*. The names of the parishioner who donated them are engraved in the windows above the first square of design.

For the windows above, the one on the left says "Joseph and Marina Parisi" and the one on right "Anton & Sisters Parisi". Joseph and Marina are my great-grandparents, and their son Anthony was my grandfather. I'm not sure why Anton was put there except it may be the Italian version.

Most of the other donors only purchased one window. It was quite expensive for these Italian immigrants just to pay for one. My great-grandfather was a laborer for the City Water Works, and a listing of the donors in the St. Michael's Centennial book* shows that most were also laborers, farmers or widows. That my great-grandfather would purchase TWO windows, and have his children's names on one seemed to be a great extravagance. Even his boss (and I believe friend from the old country), Costante Albertini only purchased one window and added "and family" rather than pay for a whole other window. I had always been curious about the second window.

Recently I re-connected with my "Uncle" Eddy (ok, he's really a cousin, but we'll get into that in another blog). We were discussing St. Michael's book and these windows, and he said "You know the story of those windows, don't you?" I guess Anthony (Grandpa Tony to me) and his sisters used to play baseball in the vacant lot/baseball field next to the church. Hmmm... baseball... next to a church... window connection...

Yup, they put a baseball through a Church window! Can you image? And for breaking the window, they got the honor of paying for a new one on subscription! Tony recounted the story to Ed and remembered weeks and weeks of going to the Church with his sisters and paying off this window with their hard earned pennies!

The windows were purchased in 1902, before the three youngest Parisi children of Joseph and Marina were born. I'll be going more into this family in the next several blogs.

*The Biography of a Parish, Saint Michael the Archangel by Fred A. Granata, J.D., printed by Dynagrahics, Inc. Copyright 1994

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