ALBERTO VINCENZO CARLO BERTORELLI. 1903 – 1989
Alberto was born in 1903 in the little village of Gravago, Bardi, in Italy to a poor family who lived off their smallholding. In 1921, at the age of 17, he left Italy and went to Merthyr Tydfil to work for an Italian family. After some years learning the trade, Alberto planned to buy a horse and cart to start on his own, selling ice-cream; but his cousin Severo Resteghini in Burnham-on-Sea, became very ill and asked Alberto to give him hand.
So in 1934/35 he moved to Burnham-on-Sea. Although cousin Severo was married, his wife was unable to take care of the business. Severo did not improve and returned to Italy where he died. His wife returned to their village in Italy for the funeral, where she too died. Alberto felt obliged to continue with the ice-cream business, to be able to pay off bills that had accumulated He built up a very good name for himself, and his home made ice cream, and trade grew.
In 1936 he married Luisa, also from Italy, at the old Convent Chapel. The couple celebrated, by having a meal in the city of Bristol and then returned home. In 1937 their first son Giuseppe was born, followed by a daughter Maria in 1939.
In August 1940, all Italians were taken from their family homes, including Alberto and his friend friend Bernie, from Weston-S-Mare. Both of them were meant to be put on the ship “Andorra Star” which was heading for Canada. However, there was no room for Alberto, who was sent to an internment camp on the theIsle of Man. Tragically the Andorra Star was torpedoed.
Luisa with two small children, and in the early stages of her third pregnancy was taken to Wincanton, living conditions were very tough and the food very poor. The third child, Francesco, was born there. It was about 6 months before the couple could communicate to each other by post.
Alberto was released after two years and sent to work on a farm, 6 ½ miles from Wincanton. The family lived in a tied cottage; to supplement Alberto’s meagre wage Luisa cleaned for the farmer. . Alberto learnt the art of building and thatching hayricks, besides the milking of cows. While there, their fourth child Anthony John Vincent was born.
In November of 1947 Alberto and his family were at last able to return to Burnham.. He found he had to carry many repairs to their home and to the factory where the ice-cream was made. Soon he obtained his licence to manufacture his ice-cream again, which he did in a small way, by hand, until he could replace all the machinery.
News soon spread that he was back in the business and he started to sell ice-cream from home, and around the countryside on a tricycle. Trade grew, and they rented a place on the beach selling ice-cream from a cart. Soon he was able to purchase a second hand van, which was adapted to sell ice-cream.
He then purchased a large van and sold fish and chips in the winter. In 1953, Alberto and Luisa bought a little fish and chip shop in Abingdon Street giving up the ice cream business. He gradually changed and updated the neglected property to accommodate his family, and built up a good business, especially with local people.
When Alberto was in his early 70s he semi-retired, and the business was passed onto his two younger sons Francesco and Anthony. They expanded, buying new premises at the top of Abingdon Street, and refurbished, modernised and refitted the new building. Alberto continued to help his sons part time for a few years more before having to retire altogether.
Alberto suffered a stroke and died in 1989, aged 85.
Thanks to Pat Nicholls for research.
As a child ,when our grandparents visited, we would visit Alberto’s and have fish & chips with bread and butter. I can remember being served by him and his sons. Later my brother and I would buy chips and ask for a bag of scratchings. The family always had time for a chat and a smile. His first shop was opposite Lynton Road and his advert was shown at the Ritz cinema at the interval. I often wonder what happened to those early film adverts. I remember Alberto was quite plump with dark hair and a moustache. One son took after him and the other very thin. They were always very polite.