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Copp’s Hill Moment: Lobster Shells and Crime Scenes

(Thomas F. Schiavoni recalls the late adventures of the memorable Ciampa sisters, lifelong residents of Snow Hill Street.)

The second of the three Ciampa sisters, Evelyn often had to defer to her elder sibling Lena in menu planning and food preparation in the kitchen. Josie, being the youngest, didn’t stand a chance. She was perpetually stuck with clean-up duty. But, Ev patiently awaited the right moment when she could commandeer the stove top and oven for her own creations. One afternoon an opportunity presented itself when Lena left on an errand “downtown” – for North Enders, anywhere beyond the Haymarket. The oldest sister would be away for several hours allowing plenty of time for Ev to make her move. She had secretly ordered three lobsters in advance and soon flung open the cabinets and counter drawers as she scurried about in search of ingredients to stuff and bake the expensive crustaceans.

Ev was feeling pleased with herself when Lena trudged up the stairs, lugging shopping bags from Filene’s with Josie in tow. Sniffing the aroma, Lena immediately launched into a cross-examination. What did they cost? Where did Ev get them? Why didn’t she buy fish? Why hadn’t she boiled them? What about smelly garbage left to rot until the next trash day after a long holiday weekend? As the series of questions unfolded, Ev stood there in silence like a cigar store Indian.

Dinner conversation was sparse until Lena exhaled grudgingly, “Not bad.” Beaming, Ev accepted that as the closest she would come to a compliment for the night. But, Lena was still preoccupied.

“What about the garbage until Monday morning?”

That one had Ev stumped, but not for long.

“I’m taking Gunner out for his walk,” Ev announced an hour after the last dish was cleared.

Lena and Josie ignored her, distracted as they were by a handsome TV game show host interviewing a contestant dressed as if he had just wrapped up his last frame at the bowling alley. What they did not realize was that Ev had carefully planned and executed her move with such precision that they would not notice the paper bundle hidden beneath her coat. It contained the remains of lobster carcasses wrapped in supermarket newspaper flyers which had been dropped in the doorway. Shrugging, she exited with their wire-haired fox terrier on a leash and headed for Charter Street and the overlook at Copp’s Hill Terrace.. Under a lamppost she spied a litter container, surreptitiously dropped the tightly-bound parcel into the barrel, then beat a hasty retreat. That took care of that.

Ev was all smiles upon her return home, and Lena could not figure out why her prediction about fish smells wafting from the garbage room in the basement never panned out. But, about a week later, a letter from the Boston Inspectional Services Department arrived in the mail addressed to Lena Ciampa. Her systolic rate suddenly spiked as she ripped open the envelope and beheld a notice of a $1,000.00 fine for the illegal disposal of household trash in a city park receptacle. The crime scene was plainly noted: Copp’s Hill Terrace. After she caught her breath, Lena let out a yelp – actually, more like a scream – and her younger sisters came running red-faced and perplexed.

When Ev finally caught the gist of Lena’s distraught sputtering, she began to blubber. Her confession was forthcoming immediately. But how could the folks at ISD have figured out who had dumped the bright orange shells? There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth throughout the household – something primal and of biblical proportions. And, the anger and hysteria were winding down until Josie hung up the phone on some not very pleasant person at City Hall. It seems that Lena’s name was printed on the address label of the advertising circular wrapped around the garbage. How foolish was that? Ev started to sob all over again.

The matter was eventually resolved because New York City is not the only place where one can finagle a bagel. And, the ladies went on with their lives, even indulging in a lobster feast now and then. But, on each of those occasions Ev would wince as she was once again subjected to Lena’s obligatory admonition to watch what she did with those _____ (rhymes with clam) shells.


North End resident, Thomas F. Schiavoni writes about neighborhood life and city living.

16 Replies to “Copp’s Hill Moment: Lobster Shells and Crime Scenes

  1. Thanks, Tom for a delightful and interestingly written account of life in the best neighborhood in Boston.

  2. What a great story! This is how I grew up in the North End, the North End I loved! I remember those sisters and the dog too…..
    Thanks for making me chuckle first thing in the morning!
    Growing up (and sill now) we never ate meat on Fridays, so my parents would worry about the smell of fish in the house until Monday’s garbage pickup. My Ma used to put the shells in the freezer until Sunday night. 🙂

  3. i can never understand why a person gives thumbs down to positive posts like the comments on the Ciampa sisters & the accomplishments of Mrs Gannon.

  4. What a lovely story Tom. Thank you for sharing.
    Leslie Ludka & family (neighbors to the wonderful Ciampa family)

  5. These 3 ladies were my great aunts! This story truly depicted one of the hilarious moments they had. They were so funny and I have such wonderful memories of them. Thank you for writing this and bringing back great memories of them. Miss them so much!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing a story about “The Aunties”. I had such great memories of them growing up. I shared the story with some other Ciampa relatives, and you really brought a smile to all our faces. They were great and your story really captured them. I even called my mom (Teresa Ciampa) in FLA and read it to her. Thank you again!

  7. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story about “The Aunties on the Hill”. They were so loving, and you were always welcome in their home. This story brought back so many happy memories of my great aunts and I am just glad my children were lucky enough to meet them. I can actually see Auntie Ev doing this. Thank you again!!!

  8. These are my Great Aunties. They may be gone but never forgotten So many great times in their house over the years.. I still can hear them calling Gunnah!!!!!

  9. From Patty C…I have fond memories of my three Aunties from Snow Hill St. Lena taught me how to sew on Grandma’s pedal driven Singer sewing machine that I have today on display in my living room. Evelyn was the feisty one who loved to cook, and whenever we visited with our young babies, she loved to pinch their cheeks. Josie was a kind, gentle, and loving person who I always regarded as the peace maker. I love and miss all three of them.

    1. I also miss the aunts When I was growing up in the north end I always enjoyed going to visit the aunts and nana, when ever I went to visit,I always come out with a full belly yumyum,they sure new how to cook all my favorite foods, I sure miss them,they will always be in my heart. Jc

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