Leo Bonfandini and Pauline Riggio got hitched once again. D-Day was June 2, 1996. The exact date of the first time they tied the knot. Way back in 1946, an incredible fifty-four years ago.
Leo and Pauline renewed their vows at the Mount Carmel Church, Father Paul Mendrick officiating. Their first marriage was officiated by Father Felix Ziccardi. All the old-timers from the Trinidad Valley just might remember the 'Father Ziccardi All-Boy's Band,' actively entertaining about fifty years back into history.
And do the Bonfadini's have a history!
Leo's mom was Rosina, who emigrated from Palermo, Italy. She was born in Palermo, far across the Atlantic, in 1882. Rosina journeyed all the way across the big pond on a transport ship. In her new home in north America, she eventually met Bartolomeo (Bartolo) Bonfadini. Bartolomeo was born in a covered wagon in Sopris on February 21, 1888. Grandpa Bonfadini was working on a construction crew with Jack Daldosso, who was the Superintendent in charge of building the Sopris Mine. Grandma was heavy with Bartolomeo, and the time had come. Grandpa Bonfadini asked the boss permission to dig out the side of a bank near the mine construction site to provide a secure space for a covered wagon. And so they did, and that is where Bartolo was born. In a covered wagon that was pushed deep into an aperture in the bank to protect the newborn and his mamma from the elements.
Leo's pappa, Bartolo, thrived during his growing years in that little coal mining camp of Sopris. Bartolo used to ride horseback the five miles from Sopris to the St. Joseph's Academy in Trinidad to attend school each day. Mamma Rosina was only fourteen when she emigrated to the Trinidad area. She was married first to Frank Menapace. She found Bartolomeo after a divorce from Frank. They married, and 'Bart' had to go to work. He found employment with uncle Bert Bonfadini's insurance agency. The phone number for the insurance office in those days was "BACA 71." Then he ventured off to North Carolina to manage a 5 and 10 store and cafe for several years before returning to Trinidad in 1916. Back in the secure confines of his old home, 'Bart' began selling concessions at Central Park; Budweiser beer, ice scream, and soda pop. He also toiled at Dad's grocery store located at the comer of San Juan Street and Robinson, a lot that is presently vacated. They moved to their current location, 603 San Juan, in 1921. It was just a small enclave constituting the south end of the current building, about five hundred square feet of floor space or so. It was originally built as a pool hall. The townspeople used to hold religious services in the small building while the Methodist Church was
being built just up the street at the comer of San Juan and Stonewall. The basement
of the structure also served as a cigar factory, the "Frank East Cigar Factory," housed
in a tight space fifteen feet long, by ten feet wide, by eight feet high. A "Collectors
Certificate to Manufacture of Cigars" issued from the Internal Revenue Service was
purchased for the significant sum, back in 1921, of $2,000.00.
But the major enterprise of the Bonfandini clan was to be the marketing of groceries. And hauling coal for a while. Leo used to haul coal while still a kid in high school. He was transporting that precious cargo back when he was courting Pauline. And herein, friends of Sopris, lies the real story.
The courting of Pauline.
Leo met the vivacious Pauline at her father's tavern in Jansen. The place used to be called Kati and Joe's. One New Year's Eve, Leo and buddies Carl Galasso, Mike Passarelli, Louie Guadonoli, and Amedeo Anselmo decided they were going to party at Katy and Joe's. Joe Riggio was Pauline's father and proprietor of the bar. He had a whole passel of his family there to help celebrate the coming of the New Year. He was delighted to have his family there, and he was also pleased that Leo and the boys dropped by. He promptly closed the tavern for a private family gathering. And then he instructed the boys, "You all stay here and dance with the girls."
Needless to say, Leo and his buddies were highly pleased. For there on the dance floor of the tavern, like a mystical Greek goddess, stood the statuesque Pauline. "Who is she?" 'Leo Boy' asked running buddy Galasso. "That," replied Galasso, " is Joe Riggio's daughter."
Leo was instantly smitten. He danced with Pauline all through the evening, and later courted her often. Picked her up for their dates in a coal truck, albeit a clean coal truck. Leo would spend hours cleaning the dum thing to pick up his young, vivacious date. The relationship grew serious and Leo and Pauline decided they wanted to get married. He also concluded that it would be best to matriculate into the military for one year to get it out of the way and pave the way for their plans for eternal nuptial bliss. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1940, just one year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And so, according to destiny's renovated plan, Leo was stuck for a seemingly endless five years. He was assigned for two and one-half years in the states with the 6th Division, then spent the next two and one-half years in Hawaii, New Guinea, and the Philippines. He was in command of thirty-two mechanics in an Ordinance platoon in the battlefront in the far east. They worked endlessly repairing tanks, and trucks, and jeeps, and half-tracks, and sundry other vehicles when they broke down in the line of fire. The most alarming part of the duty was being fired upon by enemy snipers when they attempted to approach
broken down vehicles of war.
But the young 'Soldier Boy' survived and returned home, to Trinidad and to
his dearest Pauline. And on the 2nd of June .....
Pauline couldn't have been more pleased. They had planned to wed in 1941 after Leo's one year enlistment. They did not marry until 1946. Meanwhile, Pauline waited, and worked, then waited some more. She found employment at Penny's Department Store as a sales clerk. She didn't think the war would last that long. Nobody did. But it did. Five more long years. She also toiled in Grandpa's store in Raime for a while. And at Dad's bar. Seems she had an affinity for selling goods of various kinds. Her uncles and relatives had always been in some kind of selling business. She observed her relatives and future in-law's working in sales all her life. Even in groceries.
And so Pauline worked, and she waited ever so patiently. And she
corresponded faithfully with her beloved Leo.
"When he was in the service he wanted a picture of me," reminisced the affable Pauline. "I bought a new dress and went to the beauty shop to have my hair done so I would look nice for the picture. He wrote back and said I looked like a wet chicken! I still married him, though. I thought he was nice looking "It's been wonderful. We went to California for our honeymoon. We had to borrow a car. We didn't want to take the coal truck. Leo borrowed a car from the cook who worked at the EI Cap when it was on Nevada Street. It cost us an enrollment fee for Triple A, all new tires, and a tune-up. It was an old Plymouth. On the way to California I got us lost in New Mexico. I was looking at the map wrong and I had him driving us toward Santa Rosa, 60 miles out of the way. He gave me a hard time for that."
After returning from their honeymoon, the newlyweds moved into a house in "T" Town just across from the Trinidad Greenhouse. They lived in an upstairs apartment located on the present day parking lot of the Trinidad High School. They eventually moved that house to its present location at 830 Smith Street. They've been there now for over fifty long, compatible years.
"She didn't like where I put the house," said Leo. "She thought I put it into a hole. We had to dig out a pretty deep spot to set up the house properly. There was a can of dog food on the back steps when they moved the house. It was still on the steps after they moved it. About twelve feet up in the air. I told her once that if she didn't like the house sitting in a big hole she ought to put a match to it. I don't think she took that suggestion seriously."
And so the diminutive Bonfadini's toil endlessly in their grocery store on San Juan Street. They have one daughter, Bernadine. She was born at the old Mt. San Rafael hospital on May 31, 1947, about a year after they were married. She currently resides in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Pauline went to work full time at the grocery store, about when Bernadine was born. She took a year's rest from the sales business after being hassled relentlessly by Leo for the previous five years. She needed that rest badly. For Leo, as you all know, is a real good hassler.
The store reposes on San Juan Street, directly across the way from the old house of Benny and 'Apple Jack' Apodoca near Central Park. Over the years, it has been expanded to approximately 6,000 square feet of floor space. And much like their home, it is a veritable living museum. Ancient National and Burroughs adding machines with paper rolls repose on the check-out counter. There are old sports trophies galore, an alligator head from who knows where hanging on the wall, and old grinders, bottles, cans, family photos, ancient Copenhagen and Skoal advertisements, a variety of old mixers, and an 1849 safe with a Casimero Barela label emblazoned in its interior. Leo purchased the sturdy thick steel-walled safe from Sam Brunelli. Old man Brunelli was the owner and manager of the grocery store and Post Office in Sopris when the coal camp went under water to the Trinidad Dam. Leo said that the store was broken into one time. The thieves managed to destroy only the handle on the safe but could not get into it. Cost him $497.00 to get it fixed.
The congenial Bonfadini's continued their rigorous work schedule, six days a week come rain or shine, until 1999. Leo working out on the floor, and Pauline manning the Burroughs and the National adding machines at the check-out counter.And they continue to prosper in their meaningful and intimate marital relationship.
"The first fifty was really easy," explained Leo. "It may be rough the next fifty though. She answers me back now. We've had some great years. I don't think I'd want to do without them. If I had it to do all over again, I would. I thank God for all the blessings we've had.
"It's been a good life for me. I couldn't stick in here if I didn't like my work. I meet a lot of different people. There's always something going on."
"It's been great," echoed Pauline. "It's nice to work with all those people we see everyday. And I wouldn't change anything either. I'd do it all over again too."
And so it goes, old friends of Sopris. Pauline and Leo were wed on a beautiful Sunday morning, for the second time. A half a century since they uttered their vows of love and commitment to Father Ziccardi. This time around it was Father Paul Mendrick officiating.
And for Leo and Pauline, the next fifty should be just fine!