Donjawon’s

Posted: December 30, 2010 in ALL POSTS, Memoirs
Tags: , , , , ,

The title of this blog is most assuredly misspelled(as you will find out), but we always  pronounced it:

Donjawon’s was the name of  or rather what my friend’s and I called a small Italian-ice shop on a corner of one of the streets in my  Auburn, NY neighborhood.   The shop, located on the corner of Washington & Orchard, was a one-room tiny affair, not much bigger than a phone booth.  It was attached to the corner of Donjawon’s house and was the perfect size for the proprietor who I towered over when I was in the fourth grade.

Donjawon, a tiny always jovial very elderly Italian gentleman,  may have been small, but his ability to produce the best lemon and cantaloupe Italian-ice to be had in Auburn, was undisputed and the warm memory of his offerings looms large.   Just the other day when my good friend Steve Delfavero and I were reminiscing about those days he revealed the secret of these amazing treats as it was  passed on to him by Donjawon himself.  Donjawon’s  secret was buying all the fruit that was just starting to go bad from various markets and grocery stores around town and then cutting off the bad part and using the very ripe remaining fruit as a basis for his concoctions — thus the incredible flavor.

What really spurred me to write this blog though was that recently I went back to that neighborhood the house was still on the corner, but the shop although still there, has long since become a shed.   But, as I was looking at that shed it hit me.  His name was not Donjawon.   It was Don Juan.  Someone had just mispronounced his name at one point, pronouncing the ‘j’ that should have been silent, and then it was passed along by the language ignorant.

Afterward:
Actually, when I was telling my friend Mark(who is Spanish) about this story over the phone, he pointed out to me that being Italian, the name would be Don Giovanni (the Italian inequivalent of Don Juan, in fact the title of Mozart’s Opera in Italian about the great lover Don Juan). But, when I later spoke with another of my Italian friends from Auburn, who also has knowledge of Italian, I found out that yes Don Giovanni is the Italian for Don Juan, and Giovanni is the inequivalent of the English John, as is the Spanish Juan. But he also pointed out that Giovanni is not the only word in Italian that equates with John, Juan pronounced Jew on is another word for John in Italian. The mystery of the name Don Juan’s is solved.

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Comments
  1. Spencer LaPatra says:

    Maybe we don’t always need to know what goes on behind the scenes. Sorry to all the reality show obsessed people out there.

  2. Yes, I remember the place and loved ALL his products… in fact, we used to deliver the “ripe” fruit to his store. However, I question the accuracy of your theory about his real name. Don Juan is a Spanish name and this guy was definitely Italian. The pronunciation was probably some slang or other error introduced over time… not really sure what his “real” name might be but I’m pretty confident it wasn’t Don Juan. It could have even been Dom xxxx for all we know. As a side note, the little grocery store across the street bought out his “formula” (and equipment) and continued to sell the same quality ices for many years…. not sure if it even exists, anymore.

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