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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    The Good Old Days: In Memory of Aunt Angie and the Disco Building

    The Disco Building in Norwich. Photo submitted

    From 1938, all the way up to the early 1970s, Evangeline Falcone Valentine was the owner and operator of Angie’s Beauty Salon in the Disco Building in Norwich. Today, the building remains a work of art with marble staircases, mail slots that reach from the top to bottom floor, and gorgeous hardwood floors.

    During the 1960s, the Disco Building had elevators operated by lift attendants. These were men who dressed in uniform and welcomed you into the elevator, pressing buttons for you to reach your destination.

    After my grandfather Nunzio Falcone retired from the American Thermos Bottle Company, he became a lift attendant. From what I understand, he was very popular with those Italians seeking solace and advice about living in America.

    I was a teenager in the late 1960s when I would have my first and last appointment at the beauty salon. I had planned on attending a school dance that night. My dream was to leave with a glamorous French twist.

    Stepping into my aunt’s salon was an assault on the nose and eyes, which came from the ammonia in the hair dyes and cigarette smoke. I was greeted by my aunt slowly making her way towards me. I was shocked, as her appearance had changed for the worse. Her voice, still cheerful, was the only thing I recognized.

    “Hey there, little Connie Mary, let’s get you all washed up and underneath the dryer.”

    After my hair was washed, she flung a towel over my head and pumped my chair into the air. After a customer came over and whispered into her ear, she laughed so hard she had to go to the sink to spit out bloody phlegm.

    This is when she made the sign of the cross and began talking to Jesus. “Lord Jesus, I’m coming soon, ain’t I? Save a spot for me in Paradise Lord, because I ain’t got no worse sins than The Thief on the Cross — and everybody knows you took him up to Heaven just like you promised.”

    She resumed working on my hair, turning her attention to my father. Out of all of my father’s six siblings, she is the one who became his advocate and defender. The truth of the matter was my father had problems. While my mother’s family cursed his existence, his own family loved him too much to believe anything bad of him.

    After she plastered my head with Aqua Net and led me to the hair dryer, I think I am almost done. But I sat there all afternoon until 5 o’clock, one hour before the dance is to begin. Finally, I call my mother and leave — humongous hair rollers and bobby pins intact.

    Over the years, I kept my hate alive, not realizing when we seek revenge, we are drinking our own poison.

    The day she died from cancer was the day I came to regret my stubbornness.

    When my father learned of his sister’s death, he held his hands over his face and cried silently. It is strange how someone’s love can lift us higher to become the person they wished we could be.

    Age has given me enough wisdom to know my aunt faced her own battles. For what is forgiveness but the beating heart of a child shining through the darkness.

    Concetta Falcone-Codding is a 1971 graduate of the Norwich Free Academy and author of “The Lonely Nest.” You can contact at: concettafalconecodding1@gmail.com

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