OCTOBER 1927 TO MAY 1928
The date is November 1991, it is already a year since I dictated the first tape. It is seven in the evening and we will start with the arrival at Montreal at Bonaventure Station.
ARRIVAL IN MONTREAL
Bonaventure Station of the Canadian National Railways was located at the corner of Windsor street and St James street. We arrived at approximately between eight and nine in the morning. We were expecting some one to meet us, especially dad. But, because of the delay of the boat reaching New York he had not been informed of the delay, and for the previous two days , he had gone to the station but we were not in the arriving train on which we were booked. He was not able to find out what had happened. In those days transatlantic boats were often late without the reason being known at the arrival point. On that day, October 27, 1927, his family arrived. We went into the station and we did not know what to do. Eventually Travellers Aid people helped us to take a taxi. Mother had a written address on a piece of paper which she showed to the driver. The street was named Menai, not far from the station. It was a short street with a square in front of it called Chaboillez Square on the north side of St James (St Jacques ) street. Neither the street nor the square exist to-day.
FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH RELATIVES
The residents were relatives but I don't know in what capacities. The lady of the house recognized us immediately since we were expected for the last two days. She let us in with all the greetings of hugging and kissing. The house was on the second floor and had an inside stairway. They arranged for someone to go and get dad, or some one phoned him at work (very few phones in those days) and he arrived sometime later. In the meantime they prepared a large table for us and we were invited to eat. We must have recovered enough and certainly we should have been hungry because we had not eaten between New York and Montreal. When dad arrived from work he was still in his work clothes all covered with coal dust . He had been working unloading coal from ships. We got close to him but not too much because of his dirty condition. On seeing him Demetria said "I don't want him as my daddy because he is too black to be my daddy" (early discrimination). This remained as a joke within the family ever since. He took time out to bathe and change his clothes and with a white face, we, the children were now saying "This is daddy ' being somewhat more acceptable. In fact except for mother none of the children knew what to expect. The event turned into a real joy as we each approached our father, or rather he approached us, and in little time we were all very comfortable. From there we went to a house awaiting us. This was our first day in CANADA.
THE HOUSE ON DE LA ROCHE STREET
Dad had rented a house on De La Roche street just south of Beaubien. It was on the second floor and directly next to Zia Maria-Michela and Fabrizio Gentile and their five children, namely; Irena, Neofito, Helena, Angelina and Melina. Five children just about the same age as four of us. On the same street right across (the east side) were other relatives. Starting with Luciano Iadeluca and his wife Generosa (the sister of the first Aurelio) two children Cesare and Vincenzo. These two would have been in their twenties at that time. (Luciano was the one that managed to get dad into Canada in 1925) Next to him lived Silvestro Verdone (brother of the first Aurelio) and his wife Lucia and a son Luigi and his wife Patrizia. Another son Gennaro, was maried and living elsewhere. (I repeat, this Silvestro was a brother of the first Aurelio and also the brother of Generosa, living next to him).
I suppose we slept there that night. The house had furniture to accommodate all of us. Being the end of October it was cold by our standards. We must have bought new clothes on St Hubert street which was very close to where we lived. The house consisted of two rooms all along one side of a long corridor which extended to what was a living room followed by a kitchen. This became the area we used most for our meals and other activities. The two front rooms were our sleeping quarters for the whole family of six. Exactly how we shared those rooms I can't recall. The stove was in the kitchen and this was the only source of heat for the entire house. Every evening when dad arrived from work his first chore was to check the furnace and add some coal or wood which were stored in a shed at the rear of the house. The same procedure would be followed before going to bed at night and probably before leaving for work in the morning.
While we were in this house I contracted one of those contagious diseases, maybe chicken pox. I was put in a room all by myself with all the lights out and blinds closed and my drinking water was always warm. I would ask for cold water and they pretended to let the water run, and I could hear this, but the water was always warm to me. A big problem at the time was not to let it be known that there was contagion in the house because in such cases the doctor was obliged to report this to the city and someone would come over and apply a placard to the front door to inform people not to come in the house. Also the residents of that house were not supposed to go out for a period of forty days. This is what called 'quarantine'.
Our nearest neighbors were our cousins the Gentile family. We shared a common wall between the houses and the front gallery was also common to both houses and the front entrance doors were side by side. The Gentiles often came to visit and we spent many evenings together. The children being about the same age had much in common and the evenings were pleasant. Anna and Irena were born the same year. Litio and Neofito were also born the same year. Helena was born between them and myself, me, Aurelio and Angelina were born exactly the same day, month and year, March 8, l922. Then on our side there was Demetria born after me in 1924, and on the other side Melina was born in the same year while their family was living in Sault-Ste-Marie, Ontario.
Fabrizio Gentile the father of the family next door had a heart problem and I think he was unable to work. In many instances they relied on dad for whatever had to be done or for assistance. He eventually died on August 1st, 1928. This was very difficult on the family because at that time there was no social assistance of any type . At some point the mother Maria-Michela had to go to work herself to sustain the family, the children being to young to go to work.
Some of the incidents I recall while living at this house is that our cousins brought to our house a big puzzle. We all got around the table and all the pieces were spread on the table. This was all new to us, the idea of matching all the pieces together to end up with a large picture. We all tried to play at the same time and we were not getting anywhere except for yelling at each other. We could not all be working on it at the same time, so, mom came over and asked why we were making so much noise and we said that we all wanted the play but there was all sorts of confusion. She said she would fix everything up, she sat us all around the table and took a handful of pieces and gave each of us a small pile a and told us to work with those pieces only. The cousins said that it did not work like that and that all pieces had to come together. I am not sure how it ended but the puzzle was certainly not completed that evening.
THE HOCKEY GAME
Another event was that Litio went outside, downstairs where there were children playing hockey with sticks and pieces of ice. They were all French-Canadians playing together and he would have liked to play with them but he could not communicate with them. The players were all yelling at each other all kinds of things, "fait pas ca... tu sais pas jouer... maudit foux..." . The only word that Litio picked up because it was repeated so much was "maudit foux" and yelled to them until one of them approached him and smacked him on the face with his fist. He ran up stairs to mother crying and related what had happened. Mother consoled him but there was nothing she could do. When father got home that evening Litio told him what had happened and dad took Litio's head in his two hands and said to him "With incidents like this you will learn the language very fast" and kissed him and explained to him what actually happened.
I remember dad taking me to Eaton's to buy me a present because Christmas was approaching and we went to the toy department where, to me, there were millions of toys. After looking around for a while I was attracted by a bus that you crank up and it runs. It was probably fifteen inches long but to me it looked like an enormous bus that would run all by itself. Dad tried to interest me in another toy, a donkey pulling a cart, that was also spring activated for cranking and running. The donkey was maybe twenty five cents whereas the bus was fifty cents. I kept insisting that I wanted the big bus. Dad was trying to explain to the clerk that I had just come over from Italy and I would have seen donkeys every day but busses were rare to me. Of course he bought me the bus. We took it home and maybe we got other presents as well, but money was very scarce in those days. We played with the bus and everyone admired this toy. Our cousins came over and I demonstrated the bus and my cousin Neophyte came over and said that the bus should run faster and he could fix it. He took a screwdriver and jammed it in every hole on the bus and after a while we tested to see if it would run faster but it would not run at all. This was a big disappointment and ended in an argument but I can't recall. We were still good friends as we grew up and maintained good relations until dispersed by war time events.
OTHER RELATIVES ON DE LA ROCHE STREET
We would visit often our relatives that lived across the street. Luciano Iadeluca and his wife Generosa and Silvestro Verdone who lived next to him. I remember Silvestro particularly because when he was out on the street he would call me over and give me little candy fishes, probably the first time I had seen such candy.He was a very kind man with plenty of white hair. He looked very old to me but maybe he was not any older than I am now. Luciano had a family of two boys, Cesare and Vincenzo. Their house was at the back of the lot and the front was a beautiful garden with vegetables and many flowers. The front of the house was covered with a vine that extended up to the second floor of the cottage. We will encounter these people later as we kept in touch with them until, as happens to all human beings, they eventually all died.
Because we arrived late in the year school terms had already started. However on Beaubien street there were some unoccupied stores and some of them were used as class rooms. The shortage of schools existed even then. Dad was able to enroll Anna and Litio for the remainder of the school year, actually until the beginning of May when we moved to another house. The teaching was all in English.