CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The early afternoon entertainment for the Italian Heritage Festival — an accordionist — drew more vacant seats than occupied ones on Saturday.
That’s all right with Sheila Liljenquist. It’s easier to keep an eye on her grandmother Genevieve Musci and great-aunt Arlena Cody Bashnett sitting in the front row.
The white-haired sisters of Italian descent don’t mind that the booming speakers are 10 feet in front of them. They need to be close to hear. But Sheila minds. So, she stands farther away and catches up with friends.
Genevieve, 101, wears a slight smile as she listens from her wheelchair, never losing hold of her black Kate Spade purse. Arlena, 96, is next to her, listening with her eyes half opened and closed — sometimes the only sign that she hasn’t fallen asleep is the tapping of her foot to the music.
A tall man whom Arlena met an hour ago approaches.
“Would you like to dance?”
With the same energy as a teenage girl being asked to Homecoming, Arlena springs to her feet. Without hesitation, she takes hold of his left hand with her right and places the other on his back. The pair begins circling in a two-step, polka-style dance around West Main Street in Clarksburg.
In a high-pitched shrill, she looks up at him and boasts, “I’m 96!”
Many stop to watch. Someone videos the action and later posts it to Facebook.
It received over 1,400 “likes” and 20,000 views in less than 24 hours.
Genevieve, or Gene, and Arlena are commonly called “Gramma” and “Ginga” by their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and, now, the millions of people who have discovered videos of the sisters exchanging combative cuss words while they argue over a washcloth or have a dispute over directions in a car.
Thanks to two of Gene’s grandchildren, Frank Fumich and Sheila, the pair have become somewhat of an online sensation. In July, Frank started a public figure Facebook page, “Gramma and Ginga — G&G,” which he and Sheila virtually manage, adding videos of the two bickering often. The page already has more than 160,000 likes. But if you ask the sisters to explain what Facebook is, they’ll look at you with blank stares.
The ladies, who have never owned a computer, have their own YouTube channel under the same name, “Gramma and Ginga.”
Their most famous video shows Gene, “Gramma,” sitting in the center of her kitchen in a wooden rocking chair. She’s examining an old photograph. Arelena, “Ginga,” sits on a long, green couch against a sidewall and attempts to speak to her hard-of-hearing sister.
“And I wish you’d quit looking at all of those old pictures. Wouldn’t they make you sad?”
Gramma doesn’t acknowledge her.
“Would you like to be that young and pretty?”
Ginga shouts, “You hear me?!”
Gramma turns, “What?”
Without hesitation, she screams at her younger sister, “I don’t have my hearing aid on. What in the hell do you want?”
That video, which is under 2 minutes long, has received nearly 16 million views on Facebook. It was posted on Aug. 10…