After raising a family, exploring multiple careers, and having many adventures in Atlantic City, former Hoboken resident Bunny Petrozelli Amatucci has fulfilled a dream of capturing all of her memories on paper. In her new memoir “Back to Yesterday: Snippets of Hoboken ‘Then,’ Summers at the Jersey Shore, and a Kid Named ‘Frank,’ ” Amatucci reflects on her past – from growing up in Hoboken during the 1940s as part of a large Italian family to having children at a young age to her experiences as a small business owner. She also shares family memories from the time her father sang with Frank Sinatra.
Amatucci will sign books at Hoboken City Hall on Dec. 12 at 11:30 a.m. during Frank Sinatra’s annual birthday celebration. Also, later that evening, she will appear at the Hoboken Historical Museum at 7 p.m. for a reading and book signing.
In search of the dream
“I was a writer for as many years as I can remember,” said Amatucci during an interview last week. She had spent a lifetime writing poems and capturing moments in time through “bits and pieces” of writing. A few years ago her three children nudged her about what she planned to do with all of the poems and writing she had collected throughout the years, but it was also a bit of soul searching that propelled her forward.
“I am a bit of an oddball and have had an interesting life.” – Bunny Petrozelli Amatucci
Amatucci shared during the interview that what she ultimately sought throughout all of her life’s pursuits was the love and approval of her parents.
‘Old blue eyes’ and Skelly
Her father Jimmy “Skelly” Petrozelli was a gifted musician whose family had emigrated from Avellino, Italy. He sang with Frank Sinatra as part of a group called the “Hoboken Four” that in 1935 appeared on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour on NBC Radio and won a six-month contract to travel around the country and perform.
While Sinatra went on to become, well, Sinatra, Amatucci’s father met her mother Hazel in Keansburg at a place called Club Miami while he was bartending and entertaining with guitar and piano.
Amatucci describes memories of singing along to her father’s piano playing as a 6-year-old on return visits. She has the demo record with the song “Shine” that the Hoboken Four sang for the radio program.
The family settled in the first floor of 214 Monroe St. in Hoboken, where Amatucci spent her childhood. Almost the entire building was occupied by her large, extended Italian family. In her book she describes sitting out on the stoop with her cousins, who would all pretend to fight the “Hillers,” or kids from Jersey City who would come down the hill and cross the tracks.
She also describes going to the “Pigeon Store” with her father to pick out birds. She remembers the time he let all the caged pigeons fly free.
“Hoboken is not the Hoboken that I knew,” said Amatucci. “We had $28 a month apartments. We had no heat. We had no hot water. That is not Hoboken today.”
Of life, love, and trauma
“I couldn’t just pick and choose what happened in my life,” said Amatucci. In her memoir, she reveals intimate, personal details such as her battle with cancer; a family member’s drinking problem and suicide attempt, and other dramatic incidents.
“It was the truth,” said Amatucci about those events. “It was part of my life.”
Her frankness did not sit well with some people, and as a result she said she lost a few friends and family.
“I thought about being as delicate as I possibly could be without hurting anybody,” said Amatucci.
She added that throughout all of her life experiences, her family has been integral to getting her through the tough times.
“If I did not have them, I don’t where I would be,” said Amatucci.
Amatucci said she finds younger audiences are drawn to her read her book.
“I am a bit of an oddball and have had an interesting life,” she noted. “Whatever I did, I loved learning about it.”
She said she thinks people will be drawn to reading about her different career roles. She has been in real estate, owned a restaurant in Hoboken, owned a dog grooming business, run a boarding home for senior citizens, and worked at Panasonic in Secaucus, among other jobs.
“I’ve had an extensive history of careers in my lifetime. It doesn’t matter what they are, they are never the same,” said Amatucci. “I wanted to create things.”
Amatucci said that she wants readers to take away that no matter their age, “It is never the conclusion of the story,” she said. “There is another segment to come.”
She hopes that by reading her memoir people will learn that it is important to “take all the expertise that you have learned from your life and bring it to the next phase.”
“The fact that I turned 72 doesn’t stop me,” said Amatucci. “I keep acting like I am going to live forever.”
She is at work on her next project, which is a collection of poems. Amatucci currently lives in Lyndhurst. She has been married to Vinny Amatucci for nearly 55 years. She has two sons, a daughter, and five grandchildren.
“Back to Yesterday,” is self-published and available on Amazon. For more information, visit: http://www.back-to-yesterday.com/.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpt from ‘Back to Yesterday’
Poem: The Rolls Royce Coffee Lady…
An instant in the clock of life
Is all the time we’ve shared
Not even one full minute’s worth
With nothing to be spared.
But scores of time need not be spent
To know one’s worth or soul,
You’ve given me a little clock
Made up of Kelly Gold.