Flood in '66.
Daniel Quinn (Senior) 1925(?)
with his parents
My father, Daniel too, was born in St. Albans (a small town 35km from London, known in Roman times as Verulamium, when it was Britain's
first major city on the Roman road from Dover to Hadrian's Wall). The stay was short, because a couple of years later, the family moved to
Walthamstow, another small town in the London suburb, which in the 1960s became part of "Greater London".
He was the youngest of 5 children (he had a sister and three brothers). His father (my grandfather) was employed in a large rubber and tire factory. Attending a technical school, he found work as an apprentice in an electrical materials company at the age of 16. Later, he attended a postgraduate course, gaining extensive experience in the high voltage transformer industry.
Daniel Quinn (Sr)
He married very young, at 19, and in 1937 he had a daughter (Patricia). In the same period, very fond of music, he formed small orchestras in which he sang the most popular American songs.
My Father and Music (1939)
In 1939, work was scarce and so he decided to enlist in the Merchant Navy. It was not a very happy choice, as he was assigned to a ship sailing
GB-Jamaica. A ship for the transport of bananas and therefore designed to roll continuously, so as not to spoil the bananas, but as for the poor
sailors ...! Back home, he worked for a large company in Scotland, also in the electricity sector, to set up 110,000 Volt electrical networks.
Shortly after came the call to arms and was assigned to the Royal Engineers. For three years he served abroad, in North Africa and in Italy, continuously engaged in the construction of electrical systems for military hospitals. He was promoted to Sergeant and, almost at the end of the conflict, spent about a year in Rome, responsible for all military installations. His last job, in that capacity, was the electrical system at Ciampino airport.
At the end of the war he returned to London, but found that the relationship with his wife had deteriorated beyond repair. Hence the decision to return to Italy, where he met my future mother. In 1948 they married and he began working in the family leather shop in Piazza Santa Croce. Always full of initiative, he opened an office next to the shop for the import of building accessories of an English company, Rawplug. However, the growing commitment of the main business forced him to sell this second business after a few years.
Meanwhile, it was 1951, to my parents' great joy, I arrived.
At the beginning of the 60s he created a semi-professional recording studio, always next to the shop: his great passion for music had certainly
not fallen asleep! His studio was used for various musical recordings, even with a 40-piece orchestra, collaborating several times with the
Corrado Tedeschi Publishing House (Nuova Enigmistica Tascabile), which at the time traded in 45 rpm records.
His circle of friends in the music field grew. In particular, he became very close friends with Narciso Parigi (a world famous singer) and other musicians from Florence. Also in the 1960s, he organized musical evenings at the "Chalet dei Tigli", at the entrance to the Cascine park, but unfortunately the music scene was rapidly changing, and he never found the success he deserved.
Here you can hear his voice on one of those occasions, at which I was also present, and which was recorded 'amateurishly':
No wonder, therefore, that I too have developed a strong attraction to music, although of a very different genre, as I tell
In 1966, my parents decided to retire from work and made arrangements to sell the leather business. But in the month of November something
terriible hapened to Florence: the Floods.
My father had significant health problems, originating in the war period: in Africa he had cought Amoeba, which was discovered almost by
chance in the early 1960s. The doctor who diagnosed it, Prof. Giunta, said that it would be a difficult path to heal and for some time he
was given, as a cure, a strong acid to drink! This got rid of the amoeba, but it reduced his intestine to the thickness of an onion leaf.
Today, there are far less invasive systems, but little was known about these tropical diseases at the time.
In the following years, together with my parents I spent several summer periods in England, where my parents had bought a small house in the Somerset countryside. In those summer months I took long rides to discover the many characteristic villages, such as Wells, Cheddar, Glastonbury, Weston-Super-Mare, etc.
My father's teachings have been so many. Aside from sharing his passion for music, he also gave me a strong interest in electricity and electronics. In his late years, the joy of having a gradson illuminated the long afternoons spent listening to music, sitting in his favorite chair. He passed away one night in February 1995 and I was in Rome.
Iolanda Misuri Quinn (1950?)
My mother Iolanda was born and raised in Florence. She too started working very young, partly to help her father and partly as an
apprentice and saleswoman in other shops.
When the war came, times were very hard. The shop was supposed to be closed. So my mother, very enterprising, got in touch with the Red Cross and managed to get a lift to go to Rome. She brought with her a couple of suitcases of goods (wallets, frames, a few bags) and went to the HQs of the British and American troops, where they organized small exhibitions of local crafts. She almost always managed to sell the goods she had brought and to come back with food (rice, eggs, etc ...) that she bought with the revenue from the sales. She told me that once, on the way to Milan, the train stopped outside Bologna because there was an air raid. Everyone jumped out for cover, but she remained undeterred in her place.
Many bombs fell, even not far from the train. When, after the danger, the other passengers got back on the train all praised her for the courage she had shown. The reality was a little different: she hadn't moved partly out of fear of bombs, which had paralyzed her legs, and partly out of fear of having to leave her goods unattended ...
The Misuri shop (1950)
Mr & Mrs Quinn (1950)
Shortly before the war ended, in '43, her father died of a heart attack on his way home and so she had to take over the reins of the shop,
helped in part by my grandmother, who, however, had to take care of her other son, who was sick in hospital . One day a bold young Englishman
(my father) came to the shop and offered to help. Soon what was a friendship became something more and in 1948 they got married.
Those were still tough years, but slowly the economy picked up and, above all, tourists began to arrive, mostly Americans. The business grew better and better, so much so that they were able to hire several workers and salesmen. The first 'groups', accompanied by guides with whom my father made several friends, ensured a flow of good customers, interested in true Florentine craftsmanship. Years of intense work followed, sometimes even 'after hours', to satisfy 'groups' that were passing through, but only in the evening. I remember a time, as a child, when hearing the phone ring at dinner time had become a nightmare.
Then came the competition (sometimes not quite fair): other entrepreneurs threw themselves into this expanding market and other leather goods shops flourished. My father almost suffered a nervous breakdown when, inside the Basilica of Santa Croce, the "Leather School" was opened. It was inconceivable for him to hold trade in a church!
But let's get back to my mother. She had a strong commercial instinct and managed to set up the business very successfully, while my father was involved (we would say today) more in public relations and contacts with large foreign travel agencies. The economic 'boom' of the 1960s led to good earnings and my mother, with a good nose, thought about investing as much as she could in "the bricks". She bought a building adjacent to the shop, which she slowly restored and modernized, resulting in some 'modern' apartments that could be rented. These operations proved to be very providential, later, to cushion the considerable economic damage caused the floods of '66.. My mother passed away in 2011, at 96.