Grandpa's journey and life in La'Merica

by Raymond Tuminello
(Oak Lawn, Illinois)

My grandfather was born in a Sicilian hill town called Nicosia in 1880.Good work was hard to come by for unskilled laborers in Sicily in those days so he came to America when he was 24 in 1904.


The ship he sailed on was the SS Napoli. He had 50 dollars in his pocket, didn't speak the language, although he learned it, and carried with him the hopes and dreams of his generation to find a better life in this country. He came on this journey with several friends from his town.

When he arrived at Ellis Island, he was asked his occupation. I don't know what his response was but his occupation was listed as "countryman", which I believe was a generic term used by the immigration authorities for a "jack-of-all-trades". He finished his long and arduous journey in the Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport.

He went there because he had a cousin there who came before him and settled in a small area with a sizable population of people from Nicosia. He soon found a job like most of the immigrants who came in those days doing back breaking work.

He helped build this great city with his sweat, digging ditches, and carrying the hod. A hod carrier would climb a ladder with a large tub called a hod filled with mortar up to bricklayers working on buildings. It was grueling, demanding work but it was a job.

It enabled him to marry and eventually rear 9 children with my father Joseph born the second to the last. It was this hard work that kept him in good shape until he was very old, climbing to work on his second story roof well into his eighties. My father remembered my grandfather going to work in the morning with a shovel over his shoulder.

A shovel he had meticulously sharpened every night to make the next days digging easier. He stayed his whole life in Bridgeport never returning to the land of his birth. He did not forgot his roots though and drank his wine and enjoyed the wonderful Sicilian cuisine until the end.

His story doesn't sound very interesting or unusual but it was the story of millions who came here to find a better life. He lived to the ripe old age of 93. Many times I wonder if he ever regretted leaving Sicily. It had to be difficult to leave his homeland and his family never to see them again, but those times were very different and people such as those we will never see again.

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Jan 06, 2014
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Grandparents migration NEW
by: Deborah Testa Bodnar as Anonymous

My grandparents too immigrated from Nicosia at the turn of the century. Carlo and Carmella Testa
had ten children and resided on the south side of Chicago. I wish I had known them but my Dad Philip was the ninth of the ten and when he was born his older sisters were already married and starting their own families. As mentioned, there was no work in Nicosia for unskilled laborers so Papa came to America where he was able to find work building train tracks.

I am sure Papa and Nona would be proud of how well their children turned out and how successful their grandchildren and great grandchildren have become.

Jun 20, 2011
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So True!!!
by: Anonymous

The Italians stay true to form - with their cooking and gardening - Grandma loved her Roses !!! Grandpa loved his Vino !!!

May 02, 2011
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We must never forget....
by: Joanne Calafiore Klimek

Loved your story.....Can you imagine the sacrifices along the way ! Education was key to these great people and they struggled to get the best they could for their families. Hard labor was all they knew...as you said, backbreaking work. Mamas stayed home but there were no manicures and pedicures for them! Washing clothes by hand or wringer machines and definitely no dryers! Often meals were started in the early morning, cleaning the vegetables, making the pasta,trying to make a meal stretch for many. Everything for " la familia "
We must never forget the sacrifices that were done for us...pass these stories on...we can all learn so much !

May 01, 2011
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Bravo
by: TPL

Your story of your Grandfather was a true testament of all our heritage. I enjoyed your story. Bless you and your family and yes be Proud as I am of my Father and his Papa and Mama and their families. . It was a very hard road, but they were very happy to be in the USA.


May 01, 2011
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SIMILAR story
by: Anonymous

Your true past life story of your Grandfather was written up very good. ;and rang very true to my own Grandfather from Calabria Italy;and GrandMother. He was born in Calabria in 1892. ;and came over her to Pa...for the Coalmines first then married and was in WW1 for a year or so. He worked for bus system in Philly for 40 yrs! He made his own wine during the (Non-liquor) days. ;and had ^6 children,. He had a Victory Garden during WW2. Like many folks he too only wentto 5th grade levels there and my Grandmoher 3rd grade. ;but they both managed very well....and were married 58 yrs!
He was VERY proud to be Italian but extra happy or grateful and proud to be an American in USA!.
My grandmother made spaghetti each Sunday at their home; and I was one of the grandkids to enjoy! thanks PS THEY loved their rose bushes!

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