2 06 2012

I would have to say, being the daughter of someone who is VERY connected and involved in St. Peter’s Fiesta and it’s festivities, that I wouldn’t have had it any other way in my life. St. Peter’s Fiesta is in my blood, and when June first rolls around, and they begin to put the alter I still get all excited-just like when I was a kid.

Having a father who carried the statue of St. Peter for years, and walked the pole so many times makes the tradition of “Fiesta” come out more and more in me. Other people think it’s just a day to get all messed up and to have a good time. I guess that has become part of it, but it goes a bit deeper than that. At least it does for me.

Just experiencing this tradition, and knowing your family has been a part of it for years and years, makes you almost feel proud in a sense-‘ya know? It’s four days that I feel PROUD to be from Gloucester and to be the daughter of a fisherman. I am proud to come from a family who has instilled Gloucester’s traditions and values into generations of family…from the beginning…not that I’m not proud of that everyday.

Everyone knows you living here in Gloucester, and people have a level of respect for you; at least that’s how I feel but I’m sure that’s because of my father.

My father has not walked the pole for the past two years. I can’t begin to tell you how strange it was to watch my first ever Sunday pole with him by my side, instead of having to close my eyes as he walked half-way out onto the pole. If he hurt himself I wouldn’t have to see it. Last summer he was by my side hootn’ and hollerin’ for his friends out on the greasypole.

The older I get the more I appreciate St. Peter’s Fiesta and what it truly means. It makes me very happy and warm inside when I get to see all my Dad’s friends and people I haven’t seen that whole year come together like nothing’s changed…like a whole year has not even passed by.

Now that I’m done ranting I can give you a short story.

I remember watching my Dad on the beach when he had just won the greasypole in 2000. He had just become the oldest guy to win the event!

I was seventeen years-old in the summer of 2000. My best friend Amanda and I were on the beach during Sunday of Fiesta getting ready to watch “Samo” (my dad) walk the pole for his millionth time. He had left the house earlier that day saying in a mighty hoarse voice “this is the year Samantha, that flag is mine!”
“Yeah ,yeah”, I said, and waved him off-kissed him on the cheek and wished him good luck. Every year since 1987 when he won the greasypole for the first time, he says to me “I’m gonna win it this year Samantha!…”This is my year!”.

Needless to say thirteen years later and I still didn’t believe him.

My friend and I walked down toward Pavillion beach. We were hiding our keg cups so that we could drink a cocktail while we watched the events of St. Peter’s Fiesta.

I was hiding in the middle of a crowd of friends so that none of my family would spot me (good luck with that on a Sunday of Fiesta!). All of a sudden the crowd cheers in an uproar that led me to believe that someone had just won the Greasypole. I looked at the person next to me and then asked, “Who grabbed the flag?”. He responed, “Your father did!”.

I looked at him and laughed. Then all of a sudden the WHOLE ENTIRE beach started chanting, “SAMO! SAMO! SAMO!” I looked at my friend Amanda, threw my cup into the air, and bolted to the beach. Just then I heard my cousin Sam announce over the loud speaker “SAMANTHA, MONIQUE WHERE ARE YOU???!!!!”

As I emerged from the crowd I saw my Dad proudly holding his flag up in the water. He was climbing onto the Coast Guard boat because he couldn’t breath… he was crying too much. He threw his hands in the air, gripping the flag with all he had left.

I remember seeing the whole crowd on the beach going NUTS! I remember I could see everybody on Stacey Boulevard going crazy too. Everyone was just seemed to be so happy that Samo had won!

He met my friend and I on the beach and covered me with a tight, greasy hug. He was screaming in his loudest and hoarse, “Fiesta-voice”, that HE DID IT!

“I DID IT SAMANTHA!” He screamed again!

My friend and I walked back to my house shortly after. We lived down the Fort at the time. People were hugging me left and right- shaking my hand and congratulating me like I was the one who won the pole!

I walked into the house and could hear my Dad in the shower. He was sobbing. I yelled into the bathroom to see if he was okay. He stuck his head out and with tears rolling down his face, screamed, “I WON SAMANTHA, I F-ING WON!!!!”

It was a really proud moment. I could not quite understand why it meant so much to him until he said to me that his friend Larry, who had died a year or two before, was out there on the Greasypole with him today, and that his old friend had given him that last “push” he needed to get to the flag, and grab it.

This is my favorite story. I have many memories of watching my father, “Samo” Frontiero walk the greasypole, but this is one story that I will never forget.


Making of a Greasypole Champion

24 03 2012

There I stood on Pavillion Beach watching what was, and stands to be one of the greatest greasypole walks ever, in my own eyes anyway. I loved watching the greasypole event during the St. Peter’s Fiesta when I was a boy. Eventually I would love walking the greasypole myself.

I remember standing on the beach that day, staring out at the pole and at the walkers slipping and sliding, bouncing and smashing, and splashing awkwardly into the water below. I saw the men full of grease from the event. I saw them swim to the beach. They were shivering. Their faces told me that they were very tired-or hurt. Still, they picked up this man, a champion and my newly found hero, and carried him up onto the beach, then into the streets headed toward town. I was eight years old.

Watching the events of St. Peter’s Fiesta, and that memorable walk, the shear glory I saw as the men celebrated, inspired me. It may sound foolish to some, but I wanted to get that flag on the end of the greasypole. I wanted to be carried up that beach after victory like the few who have done so in the past. I wanted to be a champion. I wanted to win the greasypole event more than anything I can remember.

Sleeping that Sunday night was difficult. I remember dreaming of being out there. I needed some way to get out to the pole. At eight years old. I could not yet swim out to it. Somehow I missed the “forest through the trees”…I could drown on the way out there. I could smash myself on the pole with a bad fall, like the flailing and crushing wipeouts I had witnessed a day earlier. I was in the third-grade. That Monday morning I stood in front of my house, thinking of some means to get to the platform.

“An inner-tube!” I thought. “That’s it! I’ll get an inner-tube; one of the big ones from the cement company!” And off I went. I was in luck. Sure enough I found an inner tube in the cement yard. The man at the company was nice enough to let me have it. I told him I was going to use the tube to get out to the greasypole. He said I would drown. I told him that I would someday be a champion. He filled the tube with air for me. I headed to the beach, struggling with a very large inner tube that was bigger than myself.

At the beach I found that I was not going to be alone out there on the pole. Many of my friends had the same idea. Not only did they share my quest, they wanted to do it just like it was the day before. They had with them shampoo, soap, lard, and Vaseline. Anything that was slippery and that they could get for free from their homes was going to be on that pole. They wanted their own event to be just like it was in the real competition. You name something slippery and they had it and were spreading it on the pole.

I remember there were seven friends of mine there that sunny Monday afternoon, and a few kids that I did not know. All that were there that day would later walk in competition. A few eventually went on to win the greasypole event. Most of them would swim back to the beach exhausted, and covered in grease, which, along with some great memories and injuries would be their only prize.

It would be nine long years before I stood on the pole ready to fulfill my dream as champion. I would be walking as a “protégé” for Phil Verga in 1987. This would be my first walk in competition. Phil was a former champion that did not walk any more. As a champ, he was allowed to have somebody walk in his name. It was my hope that Saturday afternoon that I would make him proud. I did not get to the flag. Now I wanted it even more.

It would be another two years before I would win. It was Saturday in 198_ that I became a champion. I was walker number 28 on the pole that day. It would be another 18 years, and many bumps and bruises before I would be a SUNDAY Champion. In 20_ _ my Sunday dream became reality. I grabbed my second greasypole-flag with seeming ease, running straight through it! I guess when it’s your day… it’s YOUR DAY! The tired, shivering greasy platoon launched me up into the air and onto their shoulders. I remember being overcome with joy. I saw myself as that hero I witnessed back in 1977. I looked down to see that now my hero was carrying me on HIS shoulders!

I have never experienced any other feeling like I did that day. This feeling is and always will be a part of me. I could now retire from walking-a Sunday Champion…

This year will mark my 24th year walking the pole. Incredibly my hero still walks too! Maybe I will retire with him someday. His picture standing next to the flag back in 1977 is still on my wall. He is five-time Greasypole Champion Anthony “Matza” Giambanco.

Why do WE keep walking the pole to get the flag? We walk for the patron saint of the Fishermen, St. Peter. He is OUR collective hero during the Festival named for him.
To all who have walked before, and to all those who will walk in the future…good luck and…VIVA San Pietro!

F/V Midnight Sun; Lisa T. Corp.

22 03 2012

The “Midnight Sun”  is one of several fishing vessels owned and operated as a family business since 1931.   The Testaverde family  has roots as deep as the oceans are vast when it comes to fishing.  Recently the family has also chronicled their efforts at sea in a book about the topic…

“Memoirs of a Gloucester Fisherman is one man’s story of a lifetime spent seafaring out of Gloucester – a personal record, an intimate summing-up, of unusual candor and strength. At the same time, Salve Testaverde’s account represents an important document in the history of commercial fishing over the past fifty years. In the span of his working life, which began in 1931 on his father’s boat, R. Salve Testaverde has seen the coastal fishery of New England change, and adapt to change, relentlessly. The story of his career traces the ups and downs of the Gloucester fleet as shifting market conditions and developing technology challenge its men to adapt and survive. But Memoirs of a Gloucester Fisherman is also a story of the love between a woman and a man, of a marriage that flourished through the hardships and uncertainties of the Depression, the War, and, of his wife and the home she made for her family brings us deep inside the man himself – his doubts, his joys, his ways with the people he loves. Just as indelibly, we see the Testaverdes against the sharply drawn backdrop of Gloucester’s fishing community. In scenes of extraordinary vitality, Salve Testaverde describes the daily life of the Fort neighborhood as it was in the ‘20s; the first of the famous fiestas in honor of St. Peter; the competition and especially the camaraderie among the men of the fleet, culminating in their triumphant cooperative effort to create the Fisherman’s Wharf. In Salve Testaverde’s song of himself, we hear the true voice of a community and a way of life. Memoirs of a Gloucester Fisherman is an unforgettable book. “-excerpt from “Memoirs of a Gloucester Fisherman”.

   You can order the book now at the following websites:

Ever wonder what it would be like to be aboard a modern fishing vessel out at sea?  The Midnight Sun sends real-time updates to their Facebook page.  Great photos from the fishing grounds.  Check out their site on Facebook.

Click on the photo below to get to the Midnight Sun Facebook page.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the “Nation of Greasypole”!

10 03 2012

Hello and welcome to GreasypoleNation Blog site!

I’d like to thank all of the Facebook friends that make up the Nation of Greasypole.  At this time there are just over  1700 “cyber-citizens” of Greasypole Nation.  That  number is growing.

I know, I know…another Gloucester-themed blog.  Just what we need.   It is the hope of GPN that as a community, we can make this blog “for the people-by the people”.   If you’ve been to the Facebook GPN you’ve probably noticed that the site is made up mostly of pictures.  Part of the reason for expanding to wordpress is that we will have more room to display photos, as well as a bigger area in which to share our greasy stories that relate to the island-peninsula we call home here in Gloucester.  You don’t have to be from the “G” to contribute;  the “Nation” wants you and your story no matter where your from, especially if it’s marine-related.

So what direction is GPN heading?  We need contributors, YOUNG AND OLD, fat or skinny, short and tall-WE WANT IT ALL!  Just like the Facebook site, we need everybody’s help to get as much variety as we can   All are welcome to write, report and to display their goods to be sold, artwork, poetry, photos, or whatever you’d like to share with the world that is “GreasypoleNation”-related.

Facebook GPN will live on!  Facebook GPN will be the main communication “mailbox” if you will.  Please use Facebook to pass on whatever it is that you would like to see on GPN-Blog.   Be patient-while we are looking for new contributors it will be slow going, until we get the bugs worked out.

Please contact Keith at GPN Facebook if you would like to display your photography, write an article, or create an ad to hawk your greasy-goods.

Thanks again to everybody already involved at GPN and I hope to hear from you soon.


click the pic for GPN