Some THORNHILL memories shared by
Amedeo (Tony) Basconi
October 2001
formerly of Thornhill
now living in Washington Township, New Jersey
McComas High School class of 1957 and Concord College class of 1961
It is with pleasure that I was asked to add something to this memorable web site created by
Patty Smith.
Note from Patty Smith: Amedeo (Tonys) story is one of many that make up the framework of what the McComas area was during its short lived existance which covered the first half of the 20th century. Many people from all walks of life converged in the back hollows of this southern area of WV. Although segregation existed people seemed to relatively live in harmony and came away with many fond memories of the area and friends they made here.

Not only in honor of the children and grandchildren of the Basconi family but ALL OUR ANCESTOR'S who migrated to this great country
The Flag of the United States of America
American Flag
A Melting Pot for all nationalities since July 4, 1776.

Symbolizing the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!

In honor of the father Elo Basconi and his WV home - the State of West Virginia - Montani Semper Liberi(Mountaineers Are Always Free) The Elo Basconi Family
and
"The Joy of Growing Up in Thornhill, WV"
In honor of the grandfather Amedeo Basconi and his Italian homeland - this Italian Flag
August 8, 1937 Enis Sensi of Ashland, WV and Elo Basconi were married. That same year the Basconi(click here to see the family) brothers my father Elo and uncle Mario built a new house (click here to view the house sitting to the right in the photo) at Thornhill, WV. This was the home my sister Donna, brother Jerry and I were to grow up in. A few years after graduating from Concord College (Tony and Donna in the early 1960s) and West Virginia University (Jerry in 1972) all three of us would establish new roots in the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas. Our parents Enis and Elo sold their home at Thornhill in 1973 and moved to New Jersey to be closer to their family. Even though they enjoyed being near their children and grandchildren, my father in particular, missed those West Virginia hills and great southern friendships he had developed over the many years living in the Thornhill and McComas area. My sister Donna Bary and I presently live in South Jersey. My brother Jerry lives in Houston, Texas. We would like to share some stories and memorable experiences from those wonderful years growing up in Thornhill, WV(click here to see Jerry, Donna, Jerry and dad) .

My father Elo began loading coal when he was 14 years of age. He enjoyed telling the story (to show how tough it was) on how he could only keep $1.00 a day from his pay check at the end of the week, the balance was used toward the household expenses. He continued to work in the coal mines until he was 63 years of age. During that time he worked in several capacities at the coal mines and shops of Mercer County. His job at retirement was Chief Electrician at the American Coal Company, Crane Creek mines at McComas. Click here to view a mining car build by Elo Basconi.

My mother Enis Sensi Basconi(click here to see Enis) ran our family owned store at Thornhill called Basconi's Place which was also known as the "beer garden". Under my mother's persistence our home was ALWAYS known to family, friends and strangers as a house where, "When you entered you would not leave without being fed!". At mom's funeral in 1986 she was eulogized by our local priest at which time he reconfirmed these same words when he made the comment, "Enis is most likely trying to convince the angels in heaven to eat!"! At the mass held at my father's death in 1993 we knew how much he loved West Virginia so we arranged for the John Denver tune "COUNTRY ROADS" to be sang. I can say with all honesty that I have never seen so many tears in one place in my life.
click to see a photo of Elo and Enis in 1985
My grandfather was Amedeo Basconi after who I was named.  In 1909, at age 27, Amedeo left Italy with his new bride Amalia Venturi Basconi to immigrate to the United States. He started working in the coal mines at McComas.  He was the first to live in what they called the "Tally Hill" section of Pinnacle/McComas. (click here to see it) (photo supplied by Sammy Saminski of McComas)  His home was a boarding house for men coming from Europe (mostly Italian). The boarders lived here until they were able to find jobs and buy or rent homes of their own.  At one time my grandfathrs home was the home to seven boarders.
  Amedeo and Amelia (click here to see their photo) were the parents of:
  • Elo married Enis Sensi (Click to view honeymoon photo) - lived at Thornhill
  • Mario married Helen Burnopp - he worked as an electrician and lived at Bluefield, VA
  • Juanita married Joseph Silvester - she taught school and lived at Pinnacle
  • Janice married Joseph Lanzi - she was a housewife and lived at Pinnacle
  • Benedetta married James Fife - she worked at Martin Furniture and lived at Thornhill
  • Edith who married Rudolph Massaroni - she was a housewife and lived at Montcalm


My grandfather Amedeo was from Norcia, Perugia. A verbal agreement was made with his relatives in Italy to build Amedeo a house/casa with money he periodically sent back to Italy.  He made a trip back to Italy when he was 32 years of age and continued to send money toward the house he would one day return to and retire at.  At age 47, on another return visit to Italy, Amedeo was bitten by a black spider either on the ship, or a day after his arrival in Italy while visiting with my grandmother Amadea's family in Rome. He died soon afterwards from an infection before he had a chance to visit his new home and brothers and sister in Norcia.
 
Stories which were told by my mom and dad and those I personally experienced during my years at Thornhill will always be fondly remembered. I tell my Northern friends how Italian's were segregated in WV. We could only live on Tally Hill (being Italian) however we eventually integrated into Thornhill, which then became known as Little Italy. The families living there were the Basconi's, Massaroni's, Brugnoli's, Pietrantozzi's, DeMarchi's, Silvertri's and Stochi's. The only other family living in Thornhill at at the peak time were the Martins' who owned the furniture and clothing store. Some Italian families would have live-in boarders to supplement family income. During the years we were growing up attending Mora Elementary and McComas High Schools our family had three boarders who lived in our basement. They were Spanish, Hungarian, and an African American.

The years of 1945 through 1948 while attending Thornhill Elementary School were very memorable years. Ms. Harless was our teacher who would keep everyone in order with a switch. The one room school consisted of 20 to 25 students in grades 1st through 4th. My cousin Reno Silvestri and I would stop by his grandparent's home, Agnese and Adelino Brugnoli's to have hot bread with butter. The bread was baked Italian style - at low heat for hours in an outdoor oven. It just didn't get any better. Sometimes we took crawfish which we had caught to Reno's grandmother to be fry and put on the homemade bread. On weekends it was always exciting to watch the Italian men as they slaughtered pigs and processed their different meats. That great Italian sausage was and still is one of my favorites. I fondly recall the Italian game of Bocce which was played by the Italian men. Reno and Ricki Silvestri, Sonnny Pietrantozzi and myself were allowed to play sometimes. The game is played with 4 wooden balls about 6" in diameter and a small ball about 3" in diameter. The winners, two on a team were called the boss and under boss. The boss and under boss determined who would get a beer to drink and who went dry or had no beer at all.

Basconi's Place was one jumping place on a Saturday night during the Thornhill heydays. Basconi's Place was the only place in the McComas area to watch TV and in color. (color TV was a piece of green, red and yellow plastic taped on the front of the screen). Those were the days. In order to get TV reception down into Thornhill my father designed a telescope type of construction with an antenna mounted at the top. We ran the line from atop a hill at Thornhill - down to Basconi's Place and TV arrived at Thornhill in 1949. I remember it like it was yesterday. On the nights which featured championship boxing the place would be packed with mostly men and a few women being the Gilmore girls. You could watch a great fight, listen to music and if no one got out of hand you could get a shot of bootleg booze.

I'll always remember hearing sound of the sirens blaring as the ambulance went by our house (first house on the right in this photo). This was normally the sign that someone was injured in the mines or a slate fall had occurred. We would always pray when this happened and wondered if dad was involved. On two different occasions he was injured. Once when he had bones crushed in his skull, which required surgery, and the second time was when he was taking lamps into the mines. The person who filled the lamps with acid had forgotten to tighten the lamps securely. My father taking them into the mines thought water was dripping from the ceiling, but instead it acid leaking from the batteries. This caused major burns down his back again requiring surgery.

My father, like so many other West Virginia coal miners worked very hard. One of the reasons, he like to tell, was so his children could receive an education and hopefully have a better life than he had as a coal miner. An education was always stressed in our family and as such I am proud to say that all three of us Basconi children received college degrees. If my father were alive today he would be so proud to know that 7 of his 8 grandchildren have college degrees with the 8th starting college within two years.

In a story told and written by Michael Brugnoli of Providence, RI. Amelia Venturi Basconi (Tony's grandmother) had a sister Agnese who was still living in Italy. Agnese wanted very badly to come to America to be with her sister Amelia, but she had no money to pay for the trip. She asked Adelino Brugnoli, a friend of Amedeo Basconi (Tony's grandfather) if he had any means or way to assist. A discreet deal was struck, Adelino would provide the money for her passage to America. It was agreed if Adelino liked and married Agnese there would be need to repay the money. If, on the other hand, he did not find Agnese suitable for marriage, then the money could be returned when the couple Amedeo and Amelia had saved enough to repay the debt. Adelino indeed found Agnese suitable. They married and had 10 children, Nellie, Ida, Gulia, Andonia, Sesto, Argeo, Gino, Dario, Angelo and Dino. See the newspaper clipping that follows.
Taken from a newspaper clipping around 1944:
Mr. and Mrs. Adelindo Brugnoli of McComas have six sons, a son-in-law and nephew now serving in the armed forces of the United States. Pfc Gino Brugnoli entered the service in October 1942 and is now stationed at Camp Claiborne, LA, Pfc Angelo Brugnoli was inducted into the Army in August 1942 and is now stationed at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. Pfc Sesto Brugnoli entered the Army in August 1942 and served in the Hawaiian Islands and New Guinea before going to the Philippines where he is now serving. Sgt Dario Brugnoli is now stationed in Holland. He was inducted into the service October,1944 and recently left Camp Blanding, Fla for an unknown destination. Pvt Argeo Brugnoli entered the service in September 1944 and is now receiving training at Camp Fannin, Tex. Argeo and Dino are twin brothers and are 19 years of age. Pfc Jess Atilli son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs Brugnoli is now stationed somewhere in Italy. He was inducted into the service in May 1944. His wife resides at Sofia. Miro Basconi, nephew, is a Petty Officer First Class in the U.S. Navy stationed at Norfolk,VA. He entered the service on March 19, 1941.
Click here to view the article and pictures of the family.
More Photo's supplied by Amedeo(Tony):
Another view of Thornhill.
Enis (Sensi) Basconi as a child with her family
Benedetta, Edith and Juanita (Basconi)
Amalia Basconi(son Mario and his wife Edith)
Mora Elementary School 1950
Mora Elementary School 1951
Thornhill Elementary School 1952 Grades 1-4
if you recognize anyone in these school photos - I'll post their names! Email: Pat
Juanita Sylvester's Class at Pinnacle
photo supplied by Elsie Bailey
Sylverster School Certificate
certificate supplied by Elsie Bailey
McComas Band around 1930s(picture taken at Crane Creek
(Tony said this is one of his favorite pictures)
Does anyone have any history on this band email me if you do - I'll post it. thanks Pat!

Driving under the Crank Creek Tipple
Palmers Radio Repair of Thornhill
Ernies Motor Repair of Crystal
Old Baseball Field near Thornhill This is the same area the McComas Carnivals performed at.
Old Baseball Field near Thornhill Nov 2001 photo by Pat Smith
Thornhill Waterfall Note from Pat: We all remember this - today it still supplies drinking water when a drought affects local drinking supplies. Additionally this was the local car wash. Unfortunately it was manual :>} - you filled and carried buckets of water to the car to do the washing (many many buckets full of water).

Hodges Hollow According to Jenny DeMarchi of Beckley the DeMarchi's store once operated at the location on the left at the bottom of this hill in Thornhill.  The building remains today but has been vacant for years. Jenny's father Pete and an Uncle called Fats were the two individuals that owned the store (its the two story building on the left of the photo with a white front on the 2nd floor).  To the best of Jenny's knowledge/memory the road up the mountain was called Hodges Mountain.  The only people that lived on the mountain were Hodges, Taylor's and MacMillian's
Old DeMarchi Store at Thornhill 2001 photo by Pat Smith
Sawmill Operation at Thornhill 2001 photo by Pat Smith
Cecil Martin's Garage & Store at Thornhill
Cecil Martin Obituary October 23, 2001
Moyer Martin Furniture, Bluewell, WV 2001 (formerly of Thornhill) photo by Pat Smith
Moyer Martin Sales Receipt - Cecil was salesman 1941 receipt supplied by Elsie Bailey-Martin relocated his furniture store from Thornhill to Yukon, WV


Ballgame at the Thornhill Ball Field photo supplied by Gina Bocock daughter of Maxine Bird, and Gino Brugnoli(Dino Brugnoli took the picture)

Another picture of Thornhill photo supplied by Gina Bocock daughter of Maxine Bird, and Gino Brugnoli(Dino Brugnoli took the picture)

Another picture of Thornhill photo supplied by Gina Bocock daughter of Maxine Bird, and Gino Brugnoli(Dino Brugnoli took the picture)