The neighborhood brought numerous friendships and good times. It was a very tight community to grow up in. We socialized outdoors and laughed an awful lot. We lived in a community that looked out for each other in many ways. We lived a kind of Roseto effect.
What is the Roseto effect? A very good definition can be found at this URL: http://www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/14_2%20The%20Roseto%20Effect.htm, which looks like it came from a relatively old University of Illinois at Chicago class titled “Dental Anthropology, Human Evolution, and Hominid Evolution.” It’s basically proof of how people nourish people and the importance of social networks that support good health and longevity. It is based on a 1960s study of an Italian-American community in Roseto, PA, so named after its corresponding village in Italy, Roseto Valfortore.
Italian immigrants settled in PA during the late 1800s, finding work at the slate quarries and for the railroad and in blouse factories. As noted in the aforementioned definition:
"Medical researchers were drawn to Roseto by a bewildering statistic: in defiance of medical logic, Rosetans seemed nearly immune to one of the most common causes of death. They died of heart attacks at a rate only half of the rest of America. Doctors were mystified in that residents led what medical textbooks predicted would be short lives."
The Roseto men, for instance, smoked and drank a lot of wine. Plus, their diets were not the best by today’s standards, as they frequently consumed meals that were very high in fat, such as cooked-in-lard sausages and meatballs with pasta and bread. They also “spent their days in backbreaking, hazardous labor, working 200 feet down in nearby slate quarries.”
In addition to not getting heart disease, Roseto, PA in the 50s and 60s had zero crime rates and had never applied for any public assistance. The households typically consisted of three generations, with high levels of respect for the elderly. In addition, Rosetans walked a lot, had social clubs, were religious and frequently took part in community- and church-organized celebrations. All of this combined contributed toward good health and longevity.
The research on Roseto confirmed what sociologists had already known - that healthy communities are stable and predictable.
"Into the 1960s, Roseto was the epitome of predictability and conformity. In clothing, housing or automobiles, any display of wealth was taboo . . . All of that conformity reduced the distance between the haves and have-nots, thereby reinforcing everyone’s sense of conformity also spared Rosetans the stress that comes with freedom of choice. . . Possibly the strongest conformity in the village was the work ethic. Not only did everyone work here, they worked toward a common goal – a better life for their children."
Finally, Roseto’s first priest and high community influencer, Pasquale de Nisco, preached education, a legacy that lived on into the mid twentieth century in which statistics showed that Rosetans worked hard to send their children to college “at a rate far above the national average.”
Ironically, the rise of a more educated populace brought a larger white-collar class that ultimately suburbanized Roseto by the 1970s, bringing in its wake a fenced-yard mentality. The first heart attack of a Rosetan who was under 45 happened in 1971. Today Rosteans’ vulnerability to heart attack is equivalent to the national average.