Battaglia brings Martin's Grocery back to life
Donald Battaglia is what one might call a reluctant artist.
He doesn’t claim to be an artist, yet he handcrafts, out of pine, delicate artisanal facsimiles of previous and standing local landmarks; and in impressive detail. He has made churches, barns, houses, whatever he thought was inspirational.
Until recently, his model of Martin’s Grocery Store sat on display in the Franklin Senior Activity Center, but has since been unceremoniously uninstalled.
He shrugged when he said that he mostly gives his creations away as gifts to family and friends; and hasn’t sold, nor does he intend to sell any of his work.
He said he also works with iron, “like swing iron, and stuff like that, because, I used to be a fitter.”
He went on to say that he doesn’t recall how long he has been working with pine in such a way, adding, “I don’t know if you remember, but at the Grevemberg (House) they used to have a fair, and they had a little (model) house that was over yonder, and at that time my son was young, and he said, ‘I like that.’ And I said, ‘Well, I can make that.’
“So, that’s how I got into it, making a model Acadian house like the one at the fair.”
Battaglia admitted that though he did at one time think of going into business selling his models, “There just wasn’t a market for them,” adding, “I’m 79 years old. I’ve got the time now, but I don’t care; and I’ve taken on most of the things I am going to take on. I’ve got a collection of things, but that is it.”
He said he had previously stopped making models until about 10 years ago. After that hiatus, he donated two models to St. Jules Catholic Church, in Lafayette; and when New Orleans flooded during Hurricane Katrina, Battaglia’s cousin, who is a nun, brought a model to New Orleans to be auctioned off to help with relief efforts.
His grandkids each got their own model buildings, but those, Battaglia said, were “the last ones.”
However, Battaglia’s modus operandi seems to be to give the models as gifts, and as ways of showing gratitude. So, even though he said he doesn’t intend to make any more pine models, we may be able to coax him out of retirement through good deeds and giving spirits.
It seems reasonable. After all, ‘tis the season.