"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Our Family Churches

by  Phyllis Zeck

Our family attended Saint Callistus Catholic Church at 2167  W Dekalb (now Bowler St).  The church was built in 1919.

St Callistus Church

My parents, Robert Winike and Corinne Del Principe, were married here on January 9th, 1949.

A ceremony honoring the Blessed Mother called May crowning was a tradition at St. Callistus.

Crowning the Blessed Mother at St. Callistus

An eighth grade girl would be chosen to do the honor.

There is a Catholic tradition, particularly in big cities with many parishes, to try to visit seven churches on holy days.  Elvira died on Christmas Eve 1939 praying in front of Our Lady Of Sorrows Church.  Her granddaughter Muriel remembers getting a brand new 1939 silver dollar from her grandmother as a Christmas gift, and she still has that silver dollar to this day.

This is a photo of Frank’s daughter Muriel taken approx May 1935.

Muriel's First Communion - Precious Blood

She received her First Communion at Precious Blood Church.  With Muriel is her brother Luke.  Behind Luke is Muriel’s grandfather Vitullo and behind Muriel is her Uncle Hank.



Auntie’s Godmother – Gemma Ciolli

by  Phyllis Zeck

Elvira Ciolli in center.  Antonio Del Principe far right.

Elvira Ciolli in center. Antonio Del Principe far right.

In one of the interviews my brother Rob and I had with Auntie Phyllis in 2011, Auntie Phyllis talked about her grandmother Elvira’s siblings. I was not aware that her sister Gemma Nicolina Ciolli Leone lived right across the street (didn’t every family member live right across the street?), or that Gemma was Auntie’s godmother.  Both mom and Auntie Phyllis were baptized at St. Callistus Church.

Click here to see a birth record for Gemma (item #62). In the audio clip below Auntie also discusses what life was like during the depression. The photo to the left is Elvira and her son, Antonio, is standing next to her.  I don’t know the other two people in the photo.   Elvira

The photo to the right may be Elvira and Gemma.  If anyone recognizes these ladies, please email me and let me know. Gemma (1855-1952) married Giacomo Leone and they had 10 children; Esther, Carmen (Mimi), Phyllis (Fifi), Jeanette (Gerr), Christine, Anthony, Rocco, Joseph, Anne, and Josephine. Carmen and Phyllis were twins. I am in touch with Rocco’s son, Giacomo. Giacomo emailed me and told me “Carmen and Phyllis were twins.  There were perhaps two other children who died from Tuberculous.  My parents were Rocco Mario Leone and Caroline Philomena Amici. My mother is a first cousin of Don and Jim Amici. Don was the more famous actor, his brother Jim was a local Chicago radio personality.” As a young adult Giacomo visited the family’s music store.

Auntie Phyllis and Mom (Corinne)

Auntie Phyllis and Mom (Corinne)

You can read about Gemma’s brave journey from Pescasseroli, Italy at this blog post and see her 1901 immigration record. It appears that she traveled to America with no other family member in 1901 onboard the ship Patria.  

Click the audio link to below to hear Rob and I discuss Elvira’s sisters and the depression with Auntie Phyllis. This is our 3rd audio clip from our 2011 interview Auntie Phyllis. For more articles about Gemma click on her name in the Categories column to the right.




Del Principe Accordions

by  Rob Winike

Submitted by my brother, Rob Winike.

Bobby Winike

Bobby Winike

I am the accordion player shown in the wonderful blog post from Oct 2010, the artist formerly known as “Bobby Boy.” My first performance lessons were when I turned four, at Uncle Otto’s store on Cicero Ave. My teacher was George Russo, who was also a great friend of my father, Robert Thomas Winike. They both owned new 1956 Ford Fairlane Victorias, two-tone. My cousin John “Bubbles” (Dean’s dad) told me last year that he used to covet the chance to drive those cars around the block so he could wash them back in the alley between our families’ two tenements, one on Harrison Street and one on Bell Avenue. Dad and George would proudly park their Fords at the front of the cinder lot on Harrison so the public and all could see and enjoy!

When I was talented enough, my Grandfather, Gilbert Del Principe used to take me to the neighborhood tavern, the Four Deuces, where I would play songs and patrons would throw quarters at me. These I promptly plunked into a colorful Seeburg Jukebox and play top hits of the 1950s. I loved taking lessons at Uncle Otto’s store because if I played well, he would let me choose two 45 rpm records as a reward, and usually Grandpa would buy me two more. My record collection was the best in the old neighborhood by far, varied and popular with cousins and friends alike. 

John M.'s  Del Principe Accordion.

Del Principe Accordion (Owned by John M.)

I hated having to practice everyday after school, but dared not incur the wrath of my teacher, by wasting his valuable time and “make a monkey of me,” as George would say. If my hand went limp on the treble keyboard, he’d slap it sharply. “Practice don’t make perfect,” he’d say. “Perfect practice makes perfect!” This he’d say in a small acoustic practice room rank with humidity and clouded in thick cigar smoke, as was Uncle John’s whole store, which ran in streaks of grey and brown from constant cigar smoking and full trays of stale cigar butts on every desk in the back. 

Del Principe Accordion

The climax of my accordion apprenticing came in 1958, when I won a regional contest and was scheduled to audition for the Ted Mack Music Show, playing a blistering rendition of John Phillip Susa’s march, “Under the Double Eagle.” Two weeks before the audition I caught the Asian Flu, as did all my cousins and half the kids at my school, Saint Callistus Elementary School. Both our tenement buildings were quarantined, and my big chance for accordion fame and national acclaim was sadly lost. But I was still inclined to play at a large number of Italian weddings, First Communion parties, and St. Joseph Day Progressive Dinners in various homes of parish families. Polkas were popular, but classic Italian songs were always requested. Some of the crowd favorites were, of course, the Tarentella; Al di La or Domani both popular songs then by Julius LaRosa; and always, Oh Marie, Oh Sole Mio, or Santa Lucia

Rob Winike with his Accordion

Rob Winike

I greatly regret now not having developed my talent like some of the cousins of my late mother, Corrine Del Principe, and my Aunt Phyllis. I continued to play after our family moved to Villa Park, but finally gave it up after entering junior high. I was convinced no seventh grade girl was ever going to go out on a date with a guy who played the accordion, especially one with the inglorious name of “Bobby.” I changed my name to “Bob” and put the accordion aside. Last year I bought a used accordion made by Enrico Roselli and started taking weekly lessons again. I’m now practicing the same songs I played so well nearly 60 years ago! My goal is to get good enough to purchase a Del Principe accordion and post a photo of “Bobby Boy” playing with the same fire I once had, as all things accordion eventually run their course. As an historical footnote, I still have the original accordion made by Pietro shown in the blog written by Phyllis, although it is much worse for wear. I have it encased in plastic and hope to one day have it restored and displayed in a glass case. A lot of family memories and musical legends will reside in that case!