Ann Montalbano Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L. Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Ann Montalbano Memoir M761. Montalbano, Ann (1910-1993) Interview and memoir 1 tape, 60 mins., 17 pp. Montalbano recalls emigration from Sicily, quarantined ships in New York, Springfield life in the early 20th century, WWII and retirement travel. Interview by Mary Ann Dillon, 1974 OPEN See collateral file: photos Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1974, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface This manuscript is the product of a tape-recorded interview conducted by Mary Ann Dillon for the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, March 29, 1974. Mary Ann Dillon transcribed and edited the transcript and Ann Montalbano reviewed the manuscript. Ann Montalbano was born in Montevago, Sicily, July 2, 1910. She came to the United States with her mother in 1921 to be reunited with her father who had been here for ten years. The story of how they left their homeland in Sicily, the quarantined ship in New York and the reunion of friends and family is told through the words of Ann Montalbano. Readers of the oral history memoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken word, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to preserve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangamon State University is not responsible for the factual accuracy of the memoir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. The manuscript may be read, quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708. Ann Montalbano, March 29, 1974, Springfield, Illinois. Mary Ann Dillon, Interviewer. A. We had such a wonderful life with lots of wonderful uncles and aunts, cousins, two grandmas and one grandpa in the small village of Montevago, Italy, Sicily. Right? Okay. But it all ended at the age of ten and a half years when World War I ended in 1919 and both my mother 4nd !_were able to ~nite with my father who had been in this wonderful land of America over ten years and which in all that time tried very desperately to get my mother and me together with him. But unsuccessfully, mostly on account of the war. In between time, the time came ·when my mother and I landed on the Island of Staten on a very old ship, the name, Gugliermo Percio on February 14, 1921. But at that time they were lots of ships coming in from all parts of the world and on account of sickness, lice and so forth all the ships were quarantined and had to wait, each ship, their turn to embark their patrons. As my father knew all about this the time we was supposed to land in New York, he came to meet us. A great man, loved by his many countrymen in Springfield, co-workers and so forth. Known in Springfield, Illinois as Leo Malone. Worked at the time on the Chicago and Alton railroad as extra gang foreman and well liked by his bosses and laborers mostly which were, at that time, way back in 1921, of Mexican descendants. His route was mostly south of Springfield. Always trying to keep up his railroad work in very good shape which he did trust his laborers very much and didn'thave no hard time at all working with them. His route was mostly sopth between Springfield as far back as Carbondale. Anyway, he told the-company that his wife and daughter were arriving in America and he needed.time off to come and pick us up. And he wrote to my mother. The company told him to take the time he needed and he came to New York staying with wonderful relations and friends in Brooklyn', New York about February 10, 1921. Q. Why did your father come to the United States? A. Well, Italy was always a poor country and they were lots of menfolks leaving the country with their wives. At that time their wives only had one child, two children the most. Come to the United States to make -~~ money and go back. But as my father liked his work real well he dt4n~t want to go back so he took the citizenship paper and he was U. S. citizen way back. You know maybe three, four years after he was here. So he called for my mother and me, which here I '·m gonna say I never knew my father, he left me at four months and I didn't remember him. See my dad, like I said, was here over ten years and I was ten and half wb~n ~e left our town so I didn't know my father. So, anyway, the time caae !where he tried all the time, "Come, come." We couldn't. Then he told <my mother, ''Well pay more money, pay more moneyt" And my mother did and still_she had to wait for her turn. Q. Who did she have to pay? A. Well whoever's got to do with it. They had agents to take care of these trips. Q. Did you sell your property? A. We sold all of our property because my father said, "Sell everything, cause I don't intend to come back." My mother tried very desperately not to come because she loved her home, we had a lovely home and we had six rooms. I remember. All her brothers and sisters and my dad's mother and my mother's mother and dad said, "Don't go, we'll never see you, we'll never see you." And so finally my dad wrote and he said, "You either come or forget me." So my mother, she runs to my grandma and she says, "Look at the letter." Cause my mother always repeated this you know and I always overhear. So my mother says to my grandma, '~oak at the letter I got, if I don't go he says forget it." So they say, "Well okay." So she tried very hard to go to the agent andlcoovince him] my husband wants me over there. "Okay, we'll put you in line." Because she wasn't the only one. Lilie I said we had thirty-two countrymen living here. When my mother and I landed in .1921 in Springfield there was a house at Third and Union and-there was thirtytwo men living there all by themselves, all working on the railroad, all from our hometown and all their wives and children over there. Because they all were doing the same thing. So anyway, we landed and when we got to Springfield all these thirty-two men gave me money and it amounted to $100. I had an uncle and he took me to the First National Bank and opened a bank account. My name was Antonette and they didn't know how to translate it so they said since I was little, ten and a half, Annie, Annie, and I still got my name Annie at the First National Bank. My opening account was $100 all given to me from the countrymen, laborers of my father. Some gave me fifty cents, some gave me a dollar, some gave me two dollars and that was it. So I always had a wonderful time. Q. How did you get from New York to Springfield? A. Well, I didn't finish that story. As my father knew about the time we were coming, he asked the railroad people that he had to come and pick us up. They said, "Take all the time you want." Okay. He arrived in Brooklyn, New York, about February the 7th because we were supposed to land about February the 14th and he stayed with wonderful relations and friends that I remember. As I said, the ships were all quarantine so my father, everyday with friends and relatives,::.used to come from Brooklyn, New York,-to Staten Island on boats to come and see us and we all go at the railing and look under to see our relations. Well, okay, I didn't know my father and I says to my mother, "Now whieh one is my·father?" And all them people, I couldn't see him, so I went up at the third deck, you know, and as little as I was, my mother was trying to see my father, calling me because she was worried I would fall down.~ So finally she says 1 "Come here." She got me in front. She says, "It's the man with the green felt hat." And the boat was going like this (up and down motion) and they tried to say some and we tried to say some and we couldn't hear. You know, the echo and all. So finally he used to bring food that the relatives prepared, in a basket, you know, boiled eggs, bananas, fruit, chicken soup and all that. My mother didn't know how to read or write but I did. I went up to the third grade in Italy. So he wrote a little note and the people on the ship, they furnished us with ropes and we throw the rope and we held it, my mother did, and they would tie this basket on and we'd pull it up. So there was a note written on there and my dad says, "Dear daughter, I cannot hear what you people are saying. Write it down what you want to say." Okay, that I did. First of all, I told him, "It's real cold. I need a coat or something, !:':~cause '-We didn't have any. So he says, "Okay. When you come down we'll see that you get a new coat." Aitd which it happened. And everyday, everyday they did this. Because we were there fourteen days exactly. We couldn't get off on account of people had sickness, and some had lice. There was lots and lots of ships, I can remember there was a ship over there, we hollered, ''Where you come from?" And they said, "Germany" or wherever. But you couldn't really make it out. So anyway,·my dad came fourteen days, everyday like that and he'd bring bananas. We never knew what bananas were, you know, so I tasted one. I said, "Ohhhh." So I write it down, "Never bring anymore them yellow things cause I don't like -_it! 11 (laughter) And now I have a dozen everyday, I love them. So there was anotper countryman that came with us. He says, "Oh don't say that, give them to me." Well, anyway, the time came after fourteen days, we embarked from the ship and my dad was there with relatives and he took us over to the relatives in Brooklyn, New York, and we stayed there another week. My dad had been there two weeks and they said, "Well you gotta stay now another week with us." So we were. Oh, they just made a big fuss over us everyday. They had big dinners and we couldn't go to each and everyone of them so they got together and had part-±es .everyday or every night. Because we had too many friends. So, I remember that. And I remember also that cousins from Brooklyn, New York, they took me to the first movie that I knew. We didn't have movie houses in Italy, so they took me to that. And I can't remember what was on in the movie, I was more excited seeing people and everything. And they bought me my first ice cream cone when we come .out a,il,d which I dearly loved it. I wanted more and more. Everytime I go to New York people say, "Remember when you used to say, "How come people don't work here?" It was because they all took,.time out because we were there, you see. And I kept saying, ''How come nobody works?" Because in the old country, where I come from, everybody was gone to work at four o'clock in -the morning out in the fields, you know. So the time came and my dad worked on the C &A Railroad. And }t.e was furnished with a pass for his wife and daughter and we came to Springfield on the train. We didn't even have to pay because my dad had ~he pass. So when we got to the station, there was a lot of people waiting for us and all. Our first house was 305 East Carpenter and at that.time there was fences all around and my mother, first thing she says to my father, "Are we living out in the country like on the farm?" She thought it was farms cause where we come from the fences were around the farm. Like you go today way out and there's a fence all the way around because it's their property you see. So my mother said to my father, "Are we gonna live out on the farm with all these fences?" And they start laughing and they say, "No, the fences show that each property is fenced in and that that's yours." So at that time there was a lot of our people living at Third and Carpenter. First thing they said, "You have to go to school." Okay. We came in March, I went to school about April the first, I went to school only two months because school ended for three months. So I went to McClernand School for two months and I had . • . First I couldn't speak, they could not put me in a certain room. So they put me in Mrs. Esther, I think her name was, Esther Frasier's room and she would take care of me ·because she had a class, she was sort of like a supervisor, and she had a class of the duiDb ones, they had to go over there, the dumb ones, and she would give them extra. And I was included there because I would listen at this onQ and I would listen to that one so I went there two months see. Then when school started again in September, we lived, like I said at Third and Carpenter and most of the children that were living there they went to St. Peter and Paul. So my father said, "I would rather for you to go to St. Peter and Paul with the Giganti girls." They are aunts of Sam Sgro, sisters of his mother. Okay, so every morning I go to school with the Giganti gitls at St. Peter and Paul and we had nuns and they were very good. Q. Did you speak English yet? A. No, no I couldn~t. So, they put me in the third grade. We had a wonderful sister at the time, Sister Cyri'la and she died inthe third grade. . I remember when they had her funeral, they laid her in state in St. Peter and Paul Church. Then we got another nun and mostly that one year, I passed, with the help of the Giganti girls. You know since I went to third grade in the old country, arithmetic was easy for me and it wasn't for the third grade but we were more advanced. And every time we used to do dividends on the board so she call me and all she had to do was multiply twenty-four x twel¥e or whatever and right away I got the answer. Okay. As far as spelling I couldn't do it, I was mostly listening all the time and anytime the nun wanted to tell me something she called either Frances or Mary Giganti from the fifth or sixth grade and they'd come and tell me what, cause they could speak a little Italian you see cause their mother and father. So anyway, I went to St. Peter and Paul up to the seventh grade which then I was sixteen years old. So Nancy was working then at the International Shoe Company. I knew Nancy from Italy. We came in March and she came in May and we started school, her and I, at the same time at St. Peter and Paul because she didn't hfl.ve to go to the McClernand School because she came in May you see. So'we both went to St. Peter and Paul in the third grade cause then she was sixteen and she quit, she says, "Heck I don't have to learn. I'll go to wo.rk and make money."· So she got a job at the shoe factory, International Shoe Company, at the time was at Tenth and Enos and she was working there a whole year when I became sixteen and I says, "Can you get me a job?u She said, "I'll ask my boss." Q. So. you spoke English by then? A. Yes, cause I had five years of school. Nancy, her father was building their house they live in on Carpenter and by the time, it took all summer to build that house, her and her mother lived in our house right here. We've lived in this house for fifty years! The house address was 1026 North Fifth Street. We moved here from 305 Carpenter in 1924. So my father says, "Yes, come and stay with us." So while the dad and other people were building that house, Nancy and her mother lived here in this house with us for three months. So she was going to work from this house. So my father, meantime, was working on the railroad as extra gang foreman and he used to come home only on the weekends, Saturday night, and was home with us only Sunday. So on Monday she told her boss, "I have a friend would like to wo:rk, would you give her a job?" ~d he said, "How old is she1" "Sixteen." So he says, "Bring her in Monday." See, okay, my dad didn't know nothing about,it. So Monday I goes over there and I says, "I'm Nancy's friend, I came to get a job." He says, "Okay." He called one of the floor ladies and said, "Put her to work." My mother didn't even know that I was going to get a job and stay. So ten o'clock came and eleven o'clock came and I never was home so I finally, at noon I came· home and I said, "I've been working five hou:rs already." The guy didn't even know me he just said, "Get to work." And that's it. But anyway during the time I went to school I enjoyed it very much, St. Peter and Paul's because naturally the Italian people come from Catholic background and religion and I enjoyed the nuns very much but as you could see when we were sixteen we all wanted to go to wo:rk. But I did have a wonderful time at St. Peter and Paul, I enjoyed it very muclt~-And I :remember when they had funerals they had bands. The funeral was at St. Mary's Church, a lot of them, which now is SeVenth and Mon:roe, is that high sky, Forum Thirty, that was St. Mary's Catholic Church there and back of that was St. Mary's Catholic School and the bishop lived there all in that one block area. So they had funeral masses for the Italians the:re and they had bands, you've read about bands in fune:ral marches from Louisiana. They had those and I remember at recess we used to run to the fences, St. Peter and Paul had a fence, and we'd all run to the fence to watch the funerals go by. And they marched so slow, you know, cause they walked from St. Mary's at Seventh and Monroe clear to North Grand on Sixth Street. And the b.;tnd-played in front of the hea:rse. Q. Well, were they happy? A. They were big pepple as I guess you would say. No, c~they weren't happy, they did it for honor. It was honor, a big honor to have a band. Q. Oh, I see, so they weren't having like a celebration? A. ~o, it was a big honor. That this person died and for a big honor they had the band. Now. I start working at the shoe factory and when my father: came home that Saturday night I said, "Pop, I been working for a week at the shoe factory." And he said, "What made you do that?" And I said, "I don't know." And he says, "I wanted you to go to school and go to the Ursuline Academy, over here." And I says, "Fooey on that, I make $9.10 for a week." And he says, "Well; if that's what you want that's what you want." And anyway we only had my father for a Sunday, that's all, cause he used to go on this extra gang and it was so far. And they used to come back on them handrails every Saturday night. And I remember it used to be so cold and we'-d just put coal in the furnace when he'd come. By that time my mother, every twenty or twenty-one months, had a child. So she had five children here in this house and they all went to St. Peter and Paul's grade ,school, they went to Ursuline Academy some, some went to Lanphier High School and two of my brothers went to Cathedral High School. Q. Well, how did you feel about having all of those kids after being an only child for so long? A. Well, I worked. I was going to school and then when I come home there was a lot of the chores to do all the time. We had this big house, this was a one-family house. Lot of yard, my dad.used to make a big garden and my mother wasn't able to do all of that. She was having a child every twenty-one months so I'd go to school "-arid ~come home and help her, I'd work after school, I always helped my mother. We didn't know what shows were or this or that. Work, work, work! So, then came the time that my dad died early. He died in 1937 of cancer. And my mother was left with six children, five little ones and me and I was always the oldest one and my dad knew that he was going to die and he always said, "Ann, take care of your mother and the children because I'm going to die1" So I always did that, I never did marry cause I always did take care of my mother and the children. See the oldest one wasn't quite six~een when my father died and she wanted to be able to finish Lanphier High SchooLand she did. When she became eighteen she had to go to work in order to help. But she wasn't quite sixteen when my father died. Do you remember reading or anything about Rabbi Cardon? He was a Rabbi of the Jewish and he had his church, I guess you call it, at Seventh and Mason. There's the St. John's parking lot there now and a doctor's office in the front. So, they had one child, and my sisters used to do babysitting for their only daughter, they were always going, husband and wife, and she says to me, "Ann, don't let Mamie quit school, we'll help you." And she says, "She'll watch Zelda and we'll do what we can." And they did. So Mamie went to school and finished Lanphier High School, that's my oldest sister, and we wanted her to finish school but we couldn't because my father died and there was no insurance at that time and so forth and so on. And so I was the only working, make thir.teen dollars and fourteen dollars a week. It was amazing! Q. What about during the Depression? A. That's when it hit us. The Depression was in 1930 and 1933. Well, my father wasn't dead then, he died in 1937. And we managed, we didn't have a hard time because my father worked and-used to bring his check. And we had this house, they paid for this house because my mother sold the land and the house and what my dad had here we paid. -cash for this house. Five thousan.d dollars. So we really had our home, my dad was working, we didn't have a hard time. We had our hard times after my dad~-.died. We couldn't eat the house cou.ld we! We had to have money coming in. Well, my dad died and he didn't have no insurance·, so it was up to us what money came in to eat on. We had our home, we had to pay taxes. So anyway, we managed. My sister Mamie was working for Rabbi Cardon, she worked at St. John's Hospital, and going to school at the same time, four dollars a week. A week! Q. What was she doing at St. John's? A. Cleaning, cleaning at that time. I know a lot of school kids used to go and clean the rooms. They had to wear cotton stockings, twenty cents a pair at Kresges.Dime Store. They had to have stockings on and shoes. And we used to pay twenty cents for them stockings. And the boys, ;:they were next in line. Frank was not quite fourteen and Tony was not quite twelve. They were delivering papers, one in the morning and one in the evening and then was almost the Depression time. At that time people didn't used to pay their paper boys. They say, "Co81& next week, come next week." Then maybe three or four weeks and didnh pay. And my brothers needed this money. So, they did the best they could, some paid and some didn't. So they used to bring home, every night, like a .aollar:~t~n. or a dollar thirty, they used to collect every night and they'd go to the store and buy groceries with it. and we ate. Because we didn't have to go to shows or we didn't have to do this or that. All we did was go to school, work and eat and dress. So it was plentiful, you know. Q. You still had your garden? Did you can? A. Yes.we still had our garden. We did canning. My mother canned all the tomatoes and we used a lot of spaghetti and the sauce. And we didn't eat sweets, we didn't know what sweets was. My mother used to buy a bushel apples for fifty cents and we had apple pie, and applesau-ce::: and all that. We used to have the peddler man and my mother'd buy the potatoes by the sack, a· dollar maybe or seventy-five cents and we had potatoes morning, noon and night. My mother used to buy flout: by the hundred pound sack and she'd bake bread three times a week and we'd come home at noon, three-times a day we were at this table together. Because they go to school, I go to work and I'd come home for lunch and they'd come home for lunch from school., we all had one hour. And my mother baked bread that morning and at noon she would fry the dough, because the bread wasn't ;ready to be cooked or she ftted the dough, you know, nice. And they were like doughnuts only flat. So we come home and we cut them iu the middle and we put jelly, delicious, I'll tell you. So, and a little applesauce or bananas, or whatevei'because this peddler knew my mothe~;, he was one of our countrymen and he lised to give them to my mother in a bigger quantity and cneaper. And he'd come twice a week. So we had plenty of food in our house. Bread, spaghetti, fruit and vegetables you see, plus what we had. Then when the boys became eighteen years old and World War II broke out they were drafted. They were eighteen years old and Uncle Sam called them and they served in World War II, Frank and Tony. Frank was in the service three and a half or four years and Tony was in the Navy for three years. Frank was in the Army and Tony was in the Navy. Frank became a Captain. I remember my brother Tony, the boys who were drafted had to go to Chicago to go through their tests to see if they passed and all that. Tony passed and had no choice and had to go into the Navy. He cried and cried, and just didn't want to go. They were scared you know, the boys they were scared, because they used to get killed left and right at that time. Andy Madonia, the commissioner's brother, the mother and the father never did see him again. He was called to duty and they took him to Okinawa, or wherever, and he got killed right now and there was a lot of them at that time. A Campo boy, the Monroe Market, that's what happened~ A lot of them didn't get to see their children again so naturally the kids were scared. But anyway they went to the service. Then Sam, he was the youngest, he served in the Korean War. And I always worked at the shoe factory. Mamie and Marguerite went to school •nd they both graduated Lanphier High School and Mamie, she went to work at the shoe factory, at the hospital and then she did a little office work which used to be at Tenth and Adams, a wholesale place. Then she got engaged and she got married. Mamie was married at twenty-three I think. Marguerite, that was my youngest sister, she graduated Lanphier and while she was going to school she used to work at the Roxy as the cashier. Right off the bat she walked home from school, ate something, and run to work at the Roxy and be a cashier. Walking! We always walked. And my brothers were ushers at the Roxy cause we knew Mr. Frisina. He was a cousin to my dad so he said that as soon as the kids were old enough they'll come to the Roxy, the boys be ushers and Marquerite will be the ticket girl~ So they always worked too, they went to school and worked one way or another. But I worked at the shoe factory and came home and helped my mother, ;see. Q. What about "friends? Did you get together a lot? A. Oh yes! On the weekends. On Sunday. We either visit or they visit! We had an aunt, she lived at 810 North Eleventh, she was the only one that had a car. One of them big Cadillacs, because her husband worked in the mine and they used to be a pool car, you know, she'd take six and seven miners to the mine and she'd take the car.:.home. Every morning she did that. All them miners, all dirty and she had to put them in there. So I remember on Sundays, she used to come and take us ,all for a ride. They didn't have no windows that you roll up and 4own like today. It was a big Cadillac car, it had windows with sort of plastic glass in canvas that you take them off in the summer and put them on the winter. You button or snap them on there. So she took us for a ride, I remember, at where Lanphier School is ,now, used to be the Reservoir, youtve heard:'.it on the fadio, she took us for a ride there and see you had,to climb a mounta:in like, you know, and the rese-rvat~n;was~-in~tlaex:e .arid ::then :there-was benches around. So she had three children, we were six plus my mother and my aunt and my other aunt had three children and we were all in this carl So I remember when we got out of that car somebody said, "Has that car got a basement?" (laughter) We were just piled one on top another but we had fun. We used to have lots of picnics in Lincoln Park. All got together you know. Q. What did you take? What kind of food? A. Fried chicken and spaghetti and salads, that's it. My aunt used to fry maybe~four or five chickens and my mother make a big pot of spaghetti and we'd go over there. We'd have people from Chicago and they enjoyed themselves, they say, "Oh this spaghetti tastes so good out here in the open air!" We lived at 305 East Carpenter with the Giganti girls about three years, all us girls and boys we were about the same age, we used to go to the fair at fair time. And we used to take a sack lunch, when we got hungry we sat on a hill, which now is the Illinois Building, we you got in your lunch, what you got in your lunchf" And hours eating our lunch and just going around and around, together, no one didn't get lost or nothing. That was a had fun. we sat twe were nice tim ale. "What here for ways Every year. Q. You said you lived with the Giganti girls? A. Next door, for three years, before we had this house. We bought this house in 1924. And we paid rent, Mrs. Maggio lives there yet, we paid her three year.s rent cause my father was working there on the railroad, it was closer for·him and everything. But then my mother had two children already over there, she had Mamie and Frank and we needed, we were only living in two and a half rooms. So my father says, he was working on the railroad and he saw this house for sale and he came home and he says ·to my mother, "I saw a house which I'm going to like and it's close to work." And my mother says, nokay." My mother didn't see this house before we· moved in. Just my father bought it and when we moved in my mother says, "Well, this is the house, it's a nice big house!" And that's how it was. Q. Is it just like it was then? A. Yes, five rooms down and three rooms up. And in there was still the same steps but it was open, now we just put......where that door is there was window--we put a door there and the steps outside and we closed this. And it's a private apartment and we didn't have to do too much. Course we put in a different sink. We didn't have that bathroom, it was~there but it was one that you pull the chain from the top and now there are both modernized bathrooms. We didn't have a bathroom upstairs so we put one up there. And that's how we got our income after my father died, that's what we did. Q. Oh, you rented out the upstairs. A. Yes, and we lived in these five rooms all the time. We had two bedrooms here and we had a couch here, this was our dining room then, it was always our dining room, s_o we bought a couch and the -boys slept on the couch. My mother slept on the couch in the living room lots of times but we had two big beds, how's that, one there and one there, and my mother solJletimes said, "Oh, I'm not going to sleep with· any of you." So she slept on the couch in the living room. So one by one they all got married and here I am, I took care of my mother, my mother lived to be 87 and she was blind the last twelve years. So I worked at the shoe factory all that time and I come home for lunch, we had a woman, she stayed here for five dollars a week. She didn't have to do nothing just see that my mother was okay. And my sister, Mamie, come back and forth too. That is after the kids all got married. I was here, just me and my mother, but the kids-come in and out after they all was got married. In 1964 the shoe factory shut down and I went and got myself a job at St. John's Hospital in the dietary, which I loved it very much and at 62 which was in 1972 I retired because I says, "Oh shoot, I'm going to retire as long as I'm getting a check and take care of my mother and don't have anybody." And she was getting very sick so I retired and two months after I retired I lost my mother. She got a stroke, so she didn't live very long after I retired. In fact she was in the hospital all that time and she died. So I retired in 1972 and I've had a wonderful time ever since. I don't stay home! I just been going all over! All over! And that's what I intend. Everybody says, ''Well don't you have a hobby?". I don't want no hobby! Q. What do you do all the time? A. Well, last year, see my mother died in September and by the time you get everything straightened out and everything, winter set in, I stayed home, I bought a beautiful colored television and I enjoyed it! I never enjoyed my television as much as the colored. Okay! Then summertime came and Nancy and I or other friends, we traveled a lot last year. My young sister, Marguerite, she got a wonderful deal. Her husband, she worked for the telephone company after she was eighteen and she met a wonderful husband from the telephone company and he's like an engineer and the compaay sent him to London and they lived there five years. She says, "Annie you always want to come back to the old country, you better come while we're here." So I did. I took a Catholic tour for three weeks, twenty-one days in six countries that was in 1968. So the tour ended in London and they come nere, so I took an extra two weeks and I stayed with Marguerite and we flew back to Sicily at our home town which that year, in January of 196$, theyhad ·a big earthquake and Marguerite and her husband had been there November -of 1967, six weeks after they were there they had that big earthquake. So she remembered before the earthquake, so I went there September of 1968 and when I got there, her and I, flew back to Sicily to our home town. ~:I was there only about a week because I had traveled three weeks and then I went back with Marguerite in London a week and then I came back to the United States and I was gone five weeks. Q. What was it like visiting Sicily, the first time you'd been back? A. After 50 years, let's see I came in 1921 and I went back in 1968 so that's 47 years. After 47 years I went back but I didn't find the city. They had the earthquake. Q. So your home town was destroyed? A. Destroyed! You couldn't tell a thing and they were all living in barracks and under the tents. It was the summertime, the first summer, cause it took them a: while to get these barracks, allthis time they lived under tents. None of my relation got killed or anything. About two hundred people got killed from that city but none of my relations. So, I didn't know any of my cousins after 47 years, I didn't know them. "Well, who you are?" and "Who are you?" And this and that and you know I didn't know any of them! Course my grandmas were dead and I had just found two aunts the others were all dead and well I couldn't say that I really knew them you know. After 47 years they were very much changed and my cousins, well we have six Mamies in my family. My mother's four brothers and two sisters, and you know the old fashioned way, at least in Italy, the first child you have is named after the father's father and the first daughter is named after the mother of the husband. Then the wife gets the second choice if they have a second boy it's her father's name and if they have a second daughter it's her mother's name. Okay! So my mother, they were four sisters and two brothers and each one had a Mamie and each one had a Tony, cause they had six or eight children, you see. So, "Who are you?" "I'm Mamie from Uncle Carl. I'm Mamie from Aunt Marguerite. I'm Mamie from Uncle Leo." Q. Had you been corresponding with.them? A~ We had been but they didn't know that I·was going to this trip. When I got to Rome on this trip I wrote a letter to one o:5 my cousins. ·I said, "I don't know who's living or dead~·" And I said, in Italian, "I came on a tour and now I'm in Rome but the tour ends in-London and I'm going to stay two weeks with my sister. I would like to see you people very much. Write to Marguerite if it's okay then Marguerite and I will fly to Palermo, Sicily and somebody will pick us up because I want to see as many as I can." Okay, by that time I was in London and we had a telegram saying, "Let us know exactly which flight you're taking and which day and we'll be right there." So Marguerite and I flew there, her husband couldn't come, he worked in the American Embassy in London, and we flew and there they were when we landed. Two cousins, a husband and a wife. So they took a taxi and we went to our home town. Course I could see nothing cause they were living in barracks. I stayed there a week and like I said, they come and see me or a cousin took us to their home and I couldn't really say that I knew one of them~ And the only way I knew them was that I knew that there was a Mamie and a Tony of Uncle Leo and a Mamie and a Tony of Aunt Marguerite and then on my father's side too. But I couldn't say, "Yes, I know youo'' I didn't. I didn't. I didn't. So anyway, they says, "Come back, why did you wait so long, you should have come couple years ago. We had our lovely home, we had our beautiful garden and this and that." I say, "Well; the chance was now and that's it." So I intend to go maybe this year again to Italy. Now last year I went, like I toldyou Marguerite and her husband, he works for the government, ITT, which is Telephone and Telegraph, and he's in Honolulu, Hawaii. Last year he was in Kauai, Hawaii, and I was there a whole month with them. I didn't have to pay room and board, you know, just my trip. And I loved it! So she says this year, "You want to come while we're in Honoltllu," which I -was there only two days. He worked in Kauai, Hawaii and naturally there ain't much to see there and the town of Kahaloa because he had to do his work so every night we went out to eat somewhere. There are resorts or their hotels are just gorgeous,. the ocean is beautiful, I wished I just lived there. And I enjoyed it very much. So my brother-in_,law says, "Two days before you leave we'll fly to Honolulu,you stay there two days and we stay there a couple more days and that's it." Okay. His time was up last year in November, not knowing that his company sent him back. When they came here in November they said, "How would you like to get back for a year in Honolulu?" So they came here to the United States, visited everybody and flew back over there, not knowing that they were going back. So there wcm_a hiE~nd that I worked with at St. John's Hospital, Josephine, I don't know if you've seen her, and we all went to South America last year. She's got a daughter there and I had a cousin, .:Mamie, from my Aunt Marguerite, I knew and I didn't, that she was living there, because they go back and forth. So, this Josephine, she says, "Say, why don't you come to South America with us." Cause she's got a married daughter there. I said, "Well, I really don't know if she's there or if she's in Italy." So, meantime, she wrote her daughter and she told her daughter that I was coming with her. Meantime, ::this::cousin of ·tiline, Mamie, went to visit Josephine's daughter and Josephine's daughter sa·id, "Say your cousin; , Ann, is coming with my mother. " And she says, "Well how nice." And .she wrote me, "Don't forget to tell me the day you're coming, so forth and so on." And I did and they were all at the 'airport in Caracas when we got there. So I got to stay with my cousin, Mamie, in Caracas, seventeen days through Josephine that she went to see her daughter. Q. What is Josephine's last name? A. Cusi~no. So I went seventeen days in Caracas, I was a whole month in Hawaii and we had company all last year. My sister catnQ, my brother came twice from Kansas City, Kansas. I had them here two weeks. I had relations from New York, for a month in Brooklyn and they wanted me to go with them. And I said, "I can't cause I got to go to Hawaii." You know I had that all figured out. And they always call and they say, ''When are you coming, when are you coming?" I says, "Well, I'll tell you, if I go to Italy I'll make it all one stop before or after." And I have enjoyed my life tremendously! Cause I enjoyed the school and I still have Frances Slavin living next door. I went to school at St. Peter and Paul with her, she's married and she kept the family home and she lives there with her husband, Jay Slavin, he's retired from the Illinois Journal-Register. They had two children, they both died on her. So we always had wonderful neighbors but they're all dead. · Just like my mother and father. And these apartments, there's nobody that when my mother and father were here. The only ones is Frances and Annette Weismeyer, abe's in the family home and she works at St. John's Hospital. Viola Gomes she's here from way back. All these people North from me, they were here before us and they're still here but South of me they've been sold since all the owners died. So you see they've been here before us and the daughters are still here. Q. Did I see a For Sale sign in front? A. Yes, I've had my sign up there for six months, they want it but they don't want to pay the price and my brother-in--law . . .. Q. Why do you want to sell it? A. Well, I don't stay home, really. And it's too much work. Why do I want this big house for? So much yard work. I been looking' for a little home out North, cause I don't want to move out from North. I belong in St. Joseph's Church and I know practically all the North,.erid people but it's been hard to sell my house. My brother•in-law say~, "Ann, don't just give it away, take your time, take your time." But ·it looks like I'm goi:rlg.itO die here. Well, I'm retired and the money that I get, I don't want to spend it on the house, I want to spend it on myself. I worked hard, but I enjoyed l_ife, I've traveled. Between working times I always used to take tours. My father and my sister, Mamie and me, we went to Chicago World's Fair. We had relations, we was out there one week. That was iri 1933. He died in 1937. I used to work at the shoe factory and they had tours and in 1947 we had a tour of Washington, D.C. and New York and for $95.00, ten days, Washington, D.c. and Taft Hotel in New York, by train. We enjoyed it, I'll tell you! We saw the White House, Mt. Vernon house, Washington's house and the Arlington Cemetery, and all that, then in New York. I still got the picture of the group on top of the Empire Building, I have relations and they came, between the tour they came to visit me. We were on the twenty-fourth floor at the Taft Hotel and my cousin says to her husband, "I''m going to sleep with Ann and Rose in that hoteL 11 The three of us in that room, she loved it. (laughter) Then we went over to her house. Then Rose and I took a friend of mine and we took the New York's World Fai,r in 1965 in railroad, a seven-day package tour and after the tour was ended coming back -I called my cousins in New York and I said, "Say, I've been here a week and the tour is done you want me to co~ over, okay, if you don't why we go home." And they says, "That's pretty good, you've had a good time, now you want to come and park over our house." So they come and pick us at the Taft Hotel, no, it was the New Yorker Hotel. We stayed one week with my relations and then we came home. And we also took a tour from the shoe factory to Denver, Colorado and Montana and Pikes Peak and all that. In 1951 I went to California and saw that cemetery they got over there and we saw Hollywood Bowl and you all the different things you see. And I was two days in Phoenix, Arizona. We had relations there. So you see I've been around. Between working I always take a tour and I love to travel. Q. So this year you are going back to Italy? Are you going to Sicily? A. Oh yes, no I won't go on a tour. If I go this year, it'll be just Sicil)Z'-:to my home town. Then they' 11 take us to little towns. But see I don't want to go to any of those countries cause I've been there and I want to stay with my relations this time caU$e they said, "My gosh after 47 years you come for one day." I say, ''Well, it just so happened like 'that, I'll be back, I'll be back." Q. Will Nancy go with you this year? A. Yes, she wants to go real bad. END OF TAPE When Miss Montalbano reviewed the transcript in July, 1976, she wanted to bring the story up to date. She sold her house in August, 1974 and in September she moved to a smaller, newer hous.e at /19 Rosaria. Her dream to go back to Sicily was put aside when she went to work for thirteen months at the YWCA and has now been for fifteen months in the cafeteria at Horace Mann. She has redecorated and improved the house and keeps up her yard and flowers. She still wants to go~ to Sicily when the house is the way she wants it. [Editor]
|Title||Montalbano, Ann - Interview and Memoir|
Emigration and Immigration
Springfield (Ill.)--Social Life
Voyages and Travels
World War, 1939-1945
|Description||Montalbano recalls emigration from Sicily, quarantined ships in New York, Springfield life in the early 20th century, WWII and retirement travel.|
|Creator||Montalbano, Ann (1910-1993)|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||Dillon, Mary Ann [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Title||Ann Montalbano Memoir|
|Source||Ann Montalbano Memoir.pdf|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L. Brookens Library
Ann Montalbano Memoir
M761. Montalbano, Ann (1910-1993) Interview and memoir 1 tape, 60 mins., 17 pp.
Montalbano recalls emigration from Sicily, quarantined ships in New York, Springfield life in the early 20th century, WWII and retirement travel.
Interview by Mary Ann Dillon, 1974 OPEN See collateral file: photos
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1974, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
This manuscript is the product of a tape-recorded interview conducted by Mary Ann Dillon for the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, March 29, 1974. Mary Ann Dillon transcribed and edited the transcript and Ann Montalbano reviewed the manuscript.
Ann Montalbano was born in Montevago, Sicily, July 2, 1910. She came to the United States with her mother in 1921 to be reunited with her father who had been here for ten years. The story of how they left their homeland in Sicily, the quarantined ship in New York and the reunion of friends and family is told through the words of Ann Montalbano.
Readers of the oral history memoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken word, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to preserve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangamon State University is not responsible for the factual accuracy of the memoir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge.
The manuscript may be read, quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708.
Ann Montalbano, March 29, 1974, Springfield, Illinois.
Mary Ann Dillon, Interviewer.
A. We had such a wonderful life with lots of wonderful uncles and aunts, cousins, two grandmas and one grandpa in the small village of Montevago, Italy, Sicily. Right? Okay. But it all ended at the age of ten and a half years when World War I ended in 1919 and both my mother 4nd !_were able to ~nite with my father who had been in this wonderful land of America over ten years and which in all that time tried very desperately to get my mother and me together with him. But unsuccessfully, mostly on account of the war. In between time, the time came
·when my mother and I landed on the Island of Staten on a very old ship, the name, Gugliermo Percio on February 14, 1921. But at that time they were lots of ships coming in from all parts of the world and on account of sickness, lice and so forth all the ships were quarantined and had to wait, each ship, their turn to embark their patrons. As my father knew all about this the time we was supposed to land in New York, he came to meet us. A great man, loved by his many countrymen in Springfield, co-workers and so forth. Known in Springfield, Illinois as Leo Malone. Worked at the time on the Chicago and Alton railroad as extra gang foreman and well liked by his bosses and laborers mostly which were, at that time, way back in 1921, of Mexican descendants. His route was mostly south of Springfield. Always trying to keep up his railroad work in very good shape which he did trust his laborers very much and didn'thave no hard time at all working with them. His route was mostly sopth between Springfield as far back as Carbondale. Anyway, he told the-company that his wife and daughter were arriving in America and he needed.time off to come and pick us up. And he wrote to my mother. The company told him to take the time he needed and he came to New York staying with wonderful relations and friends in Brooklyn', New York about February 10, 1921.
Q. Why did your father come to the United States?
A. Well, Italy was always a poor country and they were lots of menfolks leaving the country with their wives. At that time their wives only had one child, two children the most. Come to the United States to make -~~ money and go back. But as my father liked his work real well he dt4n~t want to go back so he took the citizenship paper and he was U. S. citizen way back. You know maybe three, four years after he was here. So he called for my mother and me, which here I '·m gonna say I never knew my father, he left me at four months and I didn't remember him. See my dad, like I said, was here over ten years and I was ten and half wb~n ~e left our town so I didn't know my father. So, anyway, the time caae !where he tried all the time, "Come, come." We couldn't. Then he told |