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Give Me that Old-Time Profession! (2)


More professions of yore. None of the four shown below exist today, although maybe they should. (This is the second in a series. The first one—with the introduction to the series—is here.  Parts 3   4   5   6 )




The Scribe. Lo scrivano, in Italian. There is a 1954 film called Miseria e Nobiltà in which the great Totò plays the role of a scribe—that is, one who wrote letters for people who could not read and write themselves. Generally, scribes parked themselves in obvious places, such as in front of the post-office and waited for clients. The scene with Totò was meant to be funny—and is. Illiteracy, itself, is of course no laughing matter. The most recent (2005) UNESCO numbers say that Italy, in general, has a 1.3% illiteracy rate, an average of 0.9% for men and 1.6% for women. (That is, more or less, on a par with other European nations). Regional statistics are harder to come by, as are calculations of "functional illiteracy" (you can sign your name but can't read the want-ads to look for a job). In general, the rate is conceded to be higher in southern Italy than in the north. I personally know one illiterate in Naples, an elderly woman who grew up on a isolated farm in the 1930s and whose parents simply never sent her to school; she stayed on the farm and worked. That was illegal but common rural practice. The scribe in this drawing is male—always the case—and the client female, though it could as well have been a male (as in the film with Totò). The sign on the front of the table advertises the fact that the scribe can translate from French, as well.



The Travelling Hairdresser. The card is labelled Capéra, a dialect word for hairdresser. This very drawing is on the wall of the hairdresser my wife goes to. The proprietor thinks it's funny that people in his profession used to actually go to a woman's home to do her hair. In olden days, mostly women did this job, one not to be confused with that of the  barbiere (barber) for men. Actually, for enough money, I think you could still get someone to come over and do the job.






Hey, Mr. Tambourine man.
What can I say? I have never seen a guy walking around selling tambourines, although I don't exclude it in the outback somewhere, maybe a local village festival. All the places in Naples that I know of that sell tambourines are on via San Sebastiano, the so-called "music street," which runs south from Piazza Bellini near the conservatory. The shop sells most of the folk percussion instruments that you can think of, although there is limited use for them at the conservatory. (Well, maybe Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, but, if memory serves, he scored for his own percussion instruments, which today are still called the "Orff percussion set."

 (The shop I am thinking of is the one described at this link.)










The Franfellicaro. I had to ask around. Most people know the dialect word franfellica as an insult. If you call a person a franfellica, it's roughly like saying "You look like something the cat dragged in." Strangely, though, it took me a while to find a person who actually knew what the object, itself, was and, thus, what a person did who actually sold these things. A franfellica is a soft caramel candy, the forerunner to the lolly-pop. High-tech vendors (not in this drawing, as far as I can determine) would actually poke a stick in one end of the candy and you could eat it without getting your hands gooey.







to main index                 intro to this series & part 1     3