The Girl in the Italian Bakery
By Kenneth Tingle
By Richard E. Noble
The Girl in the Italian Bakery has very little to do with Italian bakeries or the girls who work in them. It is about Lawrence, Massachusetts. More specifically it is about the life of Kenneth Tingle growing up in Lawrence. Lawrence is and was a tough, hard scrabble, industrial mill town. Its most outstanding quality was and is poverty.
I also grew up in Lawrence and I have also written books about the experience. I feel that Kenny and I are two of a kind. We were both “go along with the crowd” type guys with a lot of sensitivity and a good sense of humor.
Kenny was twenty-five years behind me and though his life story is totally different it is, in another sense, totally the same.
Kenny literally thanks God for his salvation from Lawrence. I am more secular. I thank my older brother who provided me with an airplane ticket to Fort Lauderdale and $300 in cash. My older sister was living in Fort Lauderdale and she needed some help. My brother couldn’t go to assist but he saw that my life in Lawrence was going nowhere but down hill. Like Kenny I got out of Lawrence by the skin of my teeth.
Next, Kenny thanks his good fortune in finding the United States Marine Corps. I thank my lucky stars for my introduction to my wife Carol. We have been partners now for over thirty years. She doesn’t know it and I know she doesn’t think that she did anything special – but she did.
Kenny talks of a bond with Lawrence - a bond that, in some mysterious way, was embedded into his genes. I feel exactly the same. I feel that those redbrick mill buildings and rundown tenement houses are a part of me. Like Kenny, I will not return other than to visit. The first time I went back there for a reunion of the “old street corner gang” I stayed with my uncle and slept in the old tenement house that I was raised in. I was over fifty years old at the time of that visit and I literally cried myself to sleep. My wife and I were sleeping in twin beds and I tried my best to contain myself so that she didn’t hear me. She has never mentioned it. I am still trying to figure out what caused the tears. I haven’t the slightest idea.
I keep my bond with Lawrence alive by studying its history and reading and writing books like Kenny’s.
I've given Kenny's book to my wife to read. I am curious about her reaction. She went with me on one trip to Lawrence. She knows what Lawrence looks like but only what it feels like via my tales and stories. I'm interested to find out her reaction to Kenny's presentation.