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Time Traveler: Victor Galanto Was Born in 1911

So much has changed in Middletown and Middlefield in 100 years, and Vic Galanto was alive to experience it all.

Happy birthday wishes to Middlefield resident Victor Galanto who was born in Middletown in 1911. Victor’s parents, James and Antoinette, had two older children - James and Fred.  After Victor there would be Anthony, Joseph, Mary, Lucille and John. Victor’s dad ran a family grocery store at 25 Portland Street, located in the same building that the family lived. The North End was a nice, middle-class neighborhood, composed mostly of families of Italian descent.

The Galanto family still lived there in 1930, when Victor was 19 years old. He worked as a baker with his father in the family store, while his brothers Tony and James, Jr. drove the truck on deliveries. His mother ran the front of the store.

One hundred years seems like a long time ago. Let’s imagine what Victor saw from his stroller in 1911 as his mother waked him along Main Street (assuming his mother had the luxury of strolling back then).

There were dozens and dozens of grocery stores on and near Main Street in 1911, as shown (see photos) in the two-page listing in the Price & Lee City Directory. There were also several pharmacists to choose from, all of whom advertised that they had the best drugs for sale.

On his stroll south, Victor would have seen the newest addition to Main Street, the Arrigoni building, finished in June of 1911. It was the tallest building in the city at the time and was a first rate hotel.

Just a little further along, the roller skating rink on Main Street had just opened.

Automobile traffic was mixed with horses and wagons, since only 9 percent of the local population owned a car. There were less than 46,000 people living in Middlesex county. Chevrolet was organized in 1911 as a competitor to Ford.

There were also numerous bakeries in the downtown area including Stueck & Son Caterers & Bakery, where Lenscrafters currently has a store, and Kelly’s Swiss Bread was situated at 190–196 Pearl Street.

And don't forget the Hartford Candy Kitchen, serving up chocolates and sweets, on the southeast corner of Main and Washington. An advertisement, shown in the photos, illustrates the luxury of the store's wares.

Further south Victor would pass the new parish house just built on the back of the Church of the Holy Trinity, on the west side of Main Street, before coming upon the YMCA, where Bob’s Store used to be located.

Across the street, during the summer of 1911, the first Air Dome opened at Court Street, providing outdoor theater entertainment.

Victor and his family were probably unaware of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City that killed 145 people in 1911, which eventually led to reform in factory conditions.

Elsewhere in the world, the airplane dominated the news. The United States tried its first bombing experiments with airplanes, and Italy used the airplane on its first combat mission over Libya in the Italio-Turkish War.

Delhi replaced Calcultta as the capitol of India, and Raold Amundsen reached the South Pole.

Vincent Price, Jack Ruby and Hubert H. Humphrey were born in 1911. Price became a well known for his horror films, and Ruby grew up to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald before he could be brought to trial. Humphrey became vice president under Lyndon B. Johnson.

William Taft was the president of the United States and Willard C. Fisher was the mayor of Middletown. A postal stamp cost 2 cents. Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in Peru.  The first transcontinental flight, from Pasadena to New York was made, and it only took 82 hours.

The year 1911 also saw the first awards for MVP, which went to Ty Cobb and Frank Schulte. The NAACP was organized and the Indianapolis 500 had its first run.

Victor’s family would probably be shocked to know that in 1911 women demonstrated all over the country on the very first International Woman’s Day held on May 11, demanding that they be given the right to vote.  Suffragettes “stormed” the capital building in Hartford... to no avail. It was another 10 years before women won the right to vote.  The Galantos also would have been surprised that there were 34 divorces granted in Middlesex County in 1911.

Now Victor Galanto is a Middlefield resident, and there was action in that community is 1911 as well.  A Durham neighbor was accused of watering down his milk, and the residents of Middlefield would not stand for it. The Rockfall Woolen Mill had a big turn out for its annual corn-husking celebration.

Dionige R. Roccopriore was hit and killed by a Middlefield Trolley car in March of 1911. The Levi Coe Library bought the old St. Paul's Church next door to expand their collections, shown in a photo. And before Victor was born, the old Metropolitan Washing Machine Company in Baileyville, which had earlier been an old button factory, shut down and leased the old mill to two men who manufactured an odd array of goods (see photo). Then the factory burned down in 1912.

With the increase in automobile traffic in Middlefield, the townspeople were quite concerned about the lack of signage in town to tell cars where to go and when to stop.

Well, Victor, a lot has changed both in Middlefield and in Middletown during your long life. You've weathered all the new advancements in our ever changing world in order to see your 100th birthday. All the best wishes!

Jeb Nocmather May 05, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Your list of Grocer's doesn't show Harry Graebers market on lower Court Street.
Philip R. Devlin May 05, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Really enjoyed this article and the interesting photos. The scope of change Vic seen since 1911 is amazing.

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