Dominic
Tisa


DOMINIC TISA was born on April 21, 1916 in Philadelphia PA to Sicilian immigrant parents Benedetto and Maria Tisa. The family, which included brothers John, Charles, and Joseph Tisa,  lived at 1040 Reese Street in Philadelphia when the Census was taken in 1920. The Tisas subsequently moved to Camden where in 1930 they lived at 214 Benson Street.. In 1942 he opened a barbershop at 503 South 3rd Street, near Berkley Street known as Tisa's London Barber Shop. By 1949 he had met and married Antoinette Rose Lavazio. By 1947 the couple had  settled at 969 Monitor Road, in the Fairview section of Camden.

Antoinette Tisa pursued her operatic singing career in Philadelphia and South Jersey from the 1940s through the 1960s, starring in operas such as Aida, La Traviata, and Faust. She also was a 

featured soloist in various churches in Camden throughout her career. Antoinette Tisa passed away in May of 1993. Dominic Tisa, last a resident of Mt. Laurel, died in 1999.

Dominic Tisa's brother John Tisa, had an interesting career which included taking part in the Spanish Civil War, working as a labor organizer, and as the owner of Tisa's Pet Shop in Pennsauken NJ for many years. Brother Joseph Tisa for many years ran a shoeshine stand on Broadway at Mickle Street, underneath the elevated railroad tracks then known as the "Chinese Wall".


My father, Dominic Tisa, was born in 1916 in Philadelphia.  His father insisted that all of the brothers apprenticed with trades chosen by him because with a trade they could earn a living and succeed in America without having to depend on someone else to pay their wages. My father first apprenticed to be a shoemaker but later, encouraged by his brother John, who was trained to be a barber, took a job in the same barbershop.  His first barbershop was on 3rd street in South Camden and called Tisa's London Barbershop. When I asked him why he named his shop so when he was in an Italian neighborhood, he said that he wanted to give the shop a classy name and one that would stand out in the all-Italian area of Camden. And to make it classy he played only cultured music, as he like to call classical and prided himself with saying that his was the only barbershop in Jersey with classical music.  Tisa's London Barbershop was a full service shop offering haircuts, shaves, neck massage, shoeshine and even bets on the horses.

There were the extras like the hair singeing done with long wax tapers to, as he explained to the costumer, seal in the hair protein. A small tank of leeches to clean the blood was on the marble counter along with the bottles of various colored hair tonics, scissors, combs and brushes. When he wanted to put on airs, he called himself a "Tonsaloral Doctor" instead of a barber. The first job that I had at 9 or so was shining shoes on Saturday in the shop. I charged 15 cents and they would always give me a quarter, 25 cents, and tell me to keep the change. Except for Little Johnny Malone, he always gave me a silver half a dollar. At the end of the day I gave my mother a part of my earnings to contribute to the household.

The Camden barbershop was on Berkley Street near my grand- parent's house and so on many days my grandfather would spend time there. One Saturday when I was shining shoes in the shop I remember my grandfather hanging out, as he liked to do. Walking around the shop with his hands clutched behind his back he came across the famous 1953 Marilyn Monroe calendar and as he looked at the nude Marilyn on red satin sheets he said in Sicilian; "If I were only 10 years younger!" and all the guys in the shop laughed but at the time I didn't understand why.

Benedict Tisa
October 2008


Many thanks to Benedict Tisa for his assistance in creating this page.


RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE