Sunday, June 26, 2005

No Uvas

By Ben Jauron

My paternal grandfather, John Jauron, was born and raised in Western Montana, but lives in Fresno, and in his backyard, since before I was born, he’s had grapevines. Every summer, he has so many grapes he doesn’t know what to do with them. And then as to this day, when his progeny come to visit him, he gives away grapes by the handful.

My maternal grandfather, Aldo Campanella, came to Brooklyn from the old country. Before my mother was born, he moved to San Bernardino County and started a winery. I guess the climate in Bedford Stuy wasn’t too conducive to the vintner’s trade. A vineyard is basically a grape farm, and that’s where my mother grew up. The winery folded and Aldo Campanella died before I was born.

When I was a little kid, John Jauron’s grapes were the only ones we ate, as per my mother’s dictates. As an adult, only now do I realize what a stretch it was for her to forego the crop that had played such a pivotal part in her early years.
And why did she — and by extension the whole family — abandon all grapes except the ones her father-in-law cultivated with his own hands? I think you’ve probably guessed by now, but let’s just say that terms like “Cesar Chavez” and “U.F.W” didn’t mean too much to me at the time. I just relished getting to go to grandma and grandpa’s house and actually getting to eat grapes. What a delicacy!

So the union was a big part of my life growing up, as evidenced by the dinner table. At the union meetings, sometimes new members talk about why they’ve joined. They say things like, “I got into trouble and the union helped me out,” or, “I really support you guys and what you’re working towards.” And all those reasons are great, don’t get me wrong, but when people ask me why I joined the union, my answer is simple:

“If it ever got out that I had a chance to join a union and didn’t take it, it would break my poor Italian mother’s heart.”

So that’s why, at least in part. Of course, I could tell you about how, before he left Western Montana for Fresno, John Jauron and his brothers working in the Anaconda Copper Mines went on strike and stood toe to toe with Montana State Militiamen, where nearly all men on both sides of the line were World War II veterans…

But that’s a different story…


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