This marvelously secluded home on tiny Briggs Lane has belonged since 1960 to members of the Pacellini family. Victor Emmanuel “Mr. Vic” Pacellini (1923-2008), a fisherman, was born in Provincetown while King Vittorio Emanuele III occupied the Italian throne. His parents were Clara (Costa) Pacellini of Provincetown, through whom Victor was related to dozens of local residents, and Louis Pacellini, a native of Turin. “Loved the man,” said Joel Grozier, who fished with Pacellini on the dragger Alwa. “Had a profound effect on me, more than I can say.”⁵
Though he was only a boy during Prohibition, Victor nonetheless managed to make money in the rumrunning trade, Grozier recalled.¹ At night, Provincetown fishermen would head 12 miles out to sea where bootleggers’ mother ships waited — beyond the reach of U.S. law — along Rum Row. They would load their boats with hundreds of illicit bottles, often carried in burlap sacks. Fully immersible, these sacks could be dropped off at strategic spots underwater in Provincetown Harbor. An uncle paid Victor the handsome sum of $5 ($75-plus in our terms) for going out with a hook to retrieve some of those sacks and then row them back to the West End, where a young kid in a dory would have been an unexceptionable sight.
The Pacellini home is at right in this 2012 photo by David W. Dunlap. Snaking along the left side of the picture is tiny Briggs Lane.
Between Bradford and Commercial Streets is an amazingly tranquil inner neighborhood that is rarely seen by visitors. The Pacellinis live here. David W. Dunlap (2016).
World War II began while Pacellini was still at P.H.S. He quit school to join the Army, and was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment in the Pacific, in the same company as Arthur Roderick. The 19th took a leading role in the Battle of Leyte, the amphibious invasion of Leyte Island in October 1944, at the outset of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s campaign to retake the Philippine archipelago from Japanese forces. Private Pacellini, a 21-year-old rifleman, was among the first soldiers to be landed on the beach. Forty years later, he described it as the most perilous journey of his life. “If someone says they weren’t afraid, they’re crazy,” he said. “It was a nightmare, but you knew there was a cause for this.”² When the troops reached the town of Palo, a young girl greeted them with an American flag that she had furled up and hidden in a box during the Japanese occupation.
After 34 unrelieved days of battle at Leyte, and suffering from trench feet and jungle rot, Private Pacellini was briefly hospitalized. He returned to the front lines for the subsequent Battles of Luzon and Mindanao in 1945. The 19th was still fighting the Japanese around Davao after V-J Day in August. While some enemy troops had surrendered, Pacellini wrote to The Advocate, “others prefer to stay in the hills and on occasion cause plenty of trouble.”³ Pacellini was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, which is given to honor heroic or meritorious achievement or service.
This was obviously not a man to be trifled with, as Marlon Brando learned one night shortly after the war at the New Central House (now the Crown & Anchor), when he made the mistake of flirting drunkenly with Pacellini’s girlfriend, who was a waitress there. “Leave the woman alone,” Pacellini ordered, Peter Manso wrote in Brando: The Biography (1994).¹⁰ “Lay off, soldier boy. I’m not doing anything,” Brando said, speaking to a man a year older than he was and forged by warfare. He shoved Pacellini away. Pacellini grabbed Brando and pushed him over to the bar in a headlock, saying, “Why don’t you be a good boy.” When Brando, in Cuban heels, took a swing at Pacellini, the young actor quickly found himself knocked to the floor, then slammed against the wall.
Pacellini and friend in an undated photograph from Bill Berardi’s “Faces of Provincetown” collection, assembled and scanned at Provincetown High School, under the direction of Judith Stayton, and held by the family of Gordon Ferreira.
Pacellini skippered Peter & Linda, which was owned by Seraphine Codinha. The image is from the Municipal Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 4790.
In 1947, Pacellini married Gladys Cecile Page (1924-2002), a native of Columbus, Ga., who had come to town to be with him. Gladys worked as a waitress at the Provincetown Inn, 1 Commercial Street, for more than a quarter of a century. The couple had four children: Vincent Victor Pacellini, Delanie (Pacellini) Santos, Romona “Mona” (Pacellini) Blauvelt (1953-1987), and Diana (Pacellini) Tobias.
The Pacellinis purchased the property at 128B Commercial Street in 1960 from Leo and Dorothea Damore. Like 128A Commercial Street and 130A Commercial Street, this house actually sits on Briggs Lane, a four-foot-wide pathway between Bradford and Commercial. The Pacellini’s property came with the legal privilege of using Briggs Lane and also “of taking water from the well.”
Over his years in the fishery, from the 1940s through the 1990s, Pacellini skippered or served on a number of boats, including Judy and Tony (captain), Peter and Linda (captain), Jennie B, and New England. A newspaper reporter who caught up with Pacellini in 1984, when he was working aboard Alwa, said this:
“Except for a sprinkling of gray in his dark, wavy hair, Pacellini has not changed much from the stocky and muscular man of 40 years ago. Tattoos cover both his arms, but Pacellini is quick to admit the Polynesian woman in a grass skirt running the length of his right forearm does not dance as fluidly as she once did when his fist is clenched and released.”⁴
Victor Pacellini was among the first troops to land on the Philippine island of Leyte in 1944, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur began the long and bloody work of wresting the archipelago from Japanese occupation. In the 1986 Fourth of July parade, Francis “Sarge” Thompkins played the part of MacArthur. Pacellini and Wilbur M. Cook stood behind him. The image is from the Municipal Collection on the Provincetown History Preservation Project website, Page 6149.
Come a Fourth of July parade, Pacellini could always be counted on to appear proudly — in uniform — with other members of the Lewis A. Young Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “He was always in the Memorial Day ceremonies as well,” said Alan Carrier, a neighbor at 128 Commercial Street. “One hundred percent solid American patriot.”⁸ The photographer Charles Fields captured the scene in Plate 41 of Provincetown and the National Seashore (2002), as Pacellini and Albert Oliveira wave to spectators from an open convertible. You can see the Bronze Star pinned over Pacellini’s heart.
Among his many friends, Pacellini counted Howard Mitcham, chef, raconteur, and author of The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook (1975), which includes Pacellini’s recipe for baked squid stuffed with bacon and chicken livers, and sprinkled with tomato puree and white wine (Page 138). In the book, Mitcham reveals that Pacellini will take small tender squids out with him when fishing and fry them on the exhaust pipe and muffler of the boat engine until they are “brown and crisp as a potato chip.” There is also a photo of Pacellini hoisting a box of flounders from the hold of Peter and Linda (Page 239).
Pacellini did not stop in his 60s. Grozier fished with Mr. Vic when he was 70 years old. “Very few could be better at 20 years younger,” Grozier said. Victor and Gladys’s daughter Mona died in 1987. Gladys died in 2002, leaving Pacellini a widower. “When I fished with Victor Pacellini, he went to his daughter’s grave every day when we got in,” Grozier said in 2018. “When his wife died, he went twice a day. It’s something that has never left me to this day.”⁶
There was another thing to tie up — the matter of a high-school diploma. In November 2000, Pacellini was among eight veterans of World War II who were finally awarded the degrees they missed because they had been off fighting the war. The sheepskins came with honors, of course. Michael Marino, the principal of Provincetown High School, handed out the diplomas in the auditorium. “Those receiving their diplomas were more elated than they cared to demonstrate publicly, but it was a sense of accomplishment,” Rachel White wrote in the 2013 Provincetown Portuguese Festival booklet. “A piece of the puzzle in their life that was missing until now.”
Death finally came to Mr. Vic in 2008. He was remembered fondly in that year’s Provincetown Portuguese Festival booklet: “A highly decorated veteran, he could tell a good story, enjoyed celebrating the Blessing of the Fleet, and was a fabulous dancer.” The Pacellini children, now in their 60s and 70s, continue own the family home.
¶ Last updated on 24 December 2018
128B Commercial Street on the Town Map.
Thumbnail image: Victor Pacellini in an undated photograph from Bill Berardi’s “Faces of Provincetown” collection, assembled and scanned at Provincetown High School, under the direction of Judith Stayton, and held by the family of Gordon Ferreira.
For further reading online
• Romona M. Pacellini (Blauvelt)
Find a Grave Memorial No. 106542218.
• Gladys Cecile (Page) Pacellini
Find a Grave Memorial No. 106542193.
• Victor Emmanuel Pacelline
Find a Grave Memorial No. 106363344.
¹ “Last Man Standing: Grozier Hails From Long Line of Truro Characters,” by Ann Wood, The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local, 24 January 2014.
² “Cape Man Relives Fight,” by Peter E. Howard. From an unidentified and undated newspaper clipping (presumably 20 October 1984), reproduced in Taro Leaf, a journal of the 24th Infantry Division Association.
³ The Provincetown Advocate, 6 September 1945.
⁴ “Cape Man Relives Fight.”
⁵ My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, 11 May 2018.
⁶ My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, 14 January 2018.
⁷ Dorothea B. Damore et vir to Gladys Pacellini et vir, 30 August 1960, Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, Book 1088, Page 158.
⁸ My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection, Facebook, 11 May 2018.
⁹ The others were Manuel Brown, Class of 1943; Arthur Costa, Class of 1940; Frank Henrique, Class of 1945; Manuel Rego, Class of 1944; Gilbert Rose, Close of 1943; Robert Cabral, Class of 1945; and Robert White, Class of 1945.
¹⁰ Brando: The Biography, by Peter Manso, 1994, Page 163.