14 February 2013

The Popular Undertaker

A year or so again, I was inspired by an inscription outside the Most Precious Blood Church on Baxter near Canal to go on a hunt to find out more about undertaker Charles Bacigalupo. I discovered quite a bit during that afternoon, including finding the former (now hidden) location of his funeral home on Mulberry Street. You can read all about it here.

Anyway, a kind reader saw that post and sent me the above photo. It's of Columbus Park in the 1910s. You can't miss the Bacigalupo ad. "The popular undertaker of greater New York." (Are undertakers ever popular?) That Charles was sure a grandstander.


therealguyfaux said...

Although it is certainly a most delicate question and one which plays on the prejudices of many people, did Signor Bacigalupo ever do the sort of lavish funerals for La Camorra that might allow him to be able to afford the ones for the indigent? Was he like "Buonasera," who may have owed the boys a favor or two, or they to him? Sorry, but this possibility must be considered, in the insular Italian-American community of the late 19th C.

Proud NIMBY said...

Growing up in a Brooklyn neighborhood with a lot of Italians, I heard this word years ago (or maybe in my fading memory, it was from Abbot and Costello), but I think the adults used it to summon errant children. "Hey, batchagalup, get over here."

So, it seemed to spread beyond Manhattan.

It became so entrenched in NYC culture, yet its origins so elusive, about a dozen years ago I went to Vesuvio Bakery on Prince to ask the Mayor of Greenwich Village, the late Tony D'apolito,who was born and lived on West Bdwy all his 85 years, who batchagalup was.

He smiled and said,"an Italian folk character".

So, I suppose the undertaker's kind deeds passed into obscurity quickly after his death, but his name is the stuff of legend.

Incidentally, undertakers in poor neighborhoods extending charity to the less fortunate is not unique to Carlo B.

To this day, on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, octogenarian Hughie Reed, owner of the eponymous funeral home there, is famed for extending prolonged credit(and never insisting it be pais) to the poor old-timers there, who could not otherwise be given a proper send off.

Having met him from attending several funerals of locals there, and so impressed by this "character", I used him for both my parents funerals, although neither lived in Brooklyn any longer.

You may want to do a "Who goes there" regarding Hugh while he is still alive.
He still has that really old Bklyn accent you only here from the really old old-timers, the few of them left.

People who use the "terlet" and go to "toidy toid street".

John said...

Is there any record of his address on 2nd Place? If there is I'll take a picture and send it along.