Remember Italians

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

By Elroy F. Kinder

I read with great interest the front-page article on the Haarig/Good Hope Street area written by T.J. Greaney in the Thursday paper describing the area and what it once was and could become.

Almost all articles, including student research papers written by Southeast Missouri State University classes, have documented the predominately German immigrants who owned and operated businesses in that area.

Missing in all the articles and research are the Italian immigrant families that were very involved and visible in the heart of Haarig.

Who could not remember the smells of new leather and polish in the shoe-repair shop of John Lando, an immigrant from Palermo, Sicily, or the generous nickel ice cream cones from the Sciortino market?

Many of our senior citizens who shopped there in the 1920s and 1930s remember the John Sciortino Fruit Market that was located on the north side at 612 Good Hope next door to Bierschwal's meat market. Some may also remember his wagon and horses that delivered and peddled fresh fruits and vegetables and also picked up produce from the riverboats that stopped here on their way downriver delivering from the Soulard market in St. Louis. The store closed in 1939 after the death of John.

John Sciortino immigrated to America from Palermo in 1899 to join his brothers already in St. Louis. After working in the Soulard market in St. Louis and hearing that Cape Girardeau would be a good place to live, he came here in 1910 and began his business.

Shortly afterward, he returned to Sicily and returned with his new bride, Josephine. They lived and started their family in rooms above the market until he bought a large two-story brick home on the southwest corner of Morgan Oak and Frederick streets, not the location of Brenda's Place. It was removed in 1968 after both John and Josephine had died. Some items, including the fireplaces, are now in the Glenn House.

My heritage is three-quarters German, and in 1962 I married John and Josephine's sweet, dark-haired, black-eyed granddaughter, Mary Susan Sciortino.

Susan and I are gathering together a packet of newspaper clippings, pictures, local residents' memories and the history of the Sciortino family from Dr. Steven Hoffman and Dr. Frank Nickell at the university, hoping to assure the Italian presence in Haarig will be noted in future research papers.

If you remember visiting the Sciortino Fruit Market and Ice Cream Parlor and would like to share your memories, you many contact me or Susan at 334-4964 or 579-4893, or at 3227 Bloomfield Road, or by e-mail at

Elroy F. Kinder is a Cape Girardeau resident.

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