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American Bread: My First Twenty Years in America

American Bread: My First Twenty Years in America

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American Bread: My First Twenty Years in America

334 Seiten
3 Stunden
Sep 26, 2012


Most learn of the struggle of immigrants during the early twentieth century through the impersonal analysis of secondary sources. Viewing these times through the eyes of author, Alfred DiGiacomo provides a rare personal glimpse of life for an Italian immigrant family during this time.
He brings us back to a small village in southern Italy called San Giorgio, Albanese - the birthplace of his parents - and gives us a glimpse of life within their village. We learn of his father, Francesco, and his journey to America, his service in World War I, and his return visit to Italy where he met and married his wife. Settling in Huntington Station, New York, the couple began their lives together during the Roaring Twenties and face, with their growing family, the hardships of the Great Depression of the thirties.
Mr. DiGiacomo describes everyday life - his schooling, work, and activities -while growing up as an Italian American in the small close-knit town. In doing so, he tells of the experience of all immigrants, who arrive during a period of transition and turmoil and whose sacrifice and determination allow the seed of hope for a new life to grow.
Sep 26, 2012

Über den Autor

Mr. DiGiacomo was born on November 29, 1922. He attended local schools graduating from High School in 1941. In the 30's his father was unemployed. When he was 14 he worked picking string beans. At 16 he worked part time in a grocery store. After graduation he worked there full time. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 serving 3 year, 2 years in Europe helping defeat the Nazi regime. He then worked as an architectural draftsman. In 1961 he became a licensed Architect designing numereous school buildings and other public buildings. In 1980 he was employed by Cornell University as Manger of Architectural and Engineering Services. After his retirement in1993 he wrote "A Soldier's Diary" a book about his 3 years in the U.S. Army Air Force.


American Bread - Alfred DiGiacomo


2012 by AlfredDiGiacomo. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

Published by AuthorHouse 04/23/2013

ISBN: 978-1-4772-6499-7 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4772-6498-0 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4772-6497-3 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012915886

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.


Chapter One

The Beginning

Chapter Two

The 1920S

Chapter Three

The 1930S

Chapter Four

School Days

Chapter Five

Working Days

Chapter Six


Chapter Seven

My Diary:

Chapter Eight

The 1940’S

Appendix No. 1

Huntington Station

Appendix No. 2

Florence Jackson

Appendix No. 3

Amadio-Fusaro Wedding

Appendix No. 4

The Net And The Quest

My Senior Theme By Alfred Digiacomo


Family Records





I was born on November 29, 1922 in the hamlet of Huntington Station. The first born of Italian immigrants. My father Frank came to the United States in 1906 when he was 18 years old. He served in the United States Army in World War 1 from 1917 to 1919 assigned to the 77th Infantry Division. He served in France and was part of the Lost Battalion which was surrounded for five days by the German forces suffering heavy losses. After his discharge, for his service in the U.S. Army he was granted his citizenship papers.

In 1921 he traveled back to Italy to his home town of San Giorgio. There he met and married my mother Frances. They returned to America in 1922 and settled in Huntington Station. They build a small house first which we always called the Little House at 17 Railroad Street. Later on in the 1920’s they built a larger house at 19 Railroad Street. Together they raised a family of five children, Alfred, Carmella, Marie, Franklin, and Rita.

My father was a laborer and later a mason working on many large building projects. He was unemployed many times through the Great Depression of the 1930’s when construction work was sporadic. Our backyard garden, the chickens we raised and my parents hard work helped carry us through.

When I was 14 and 15 years old, I picked string beans on a farm during the summer. At 16, I went to work part time at Sarrow’s Grocery store. After I graduated from Huntington High School in 1941, I worked there full time and was subsequently promoted to manager of the Diary Department. I enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 9, 1942 and served for three years of which two years were in Europe helping defeat the Nazi regime and liberating Europe.

Alfred DiGiacomo

To my Parents

Frank and Frances DiGiacomo


Who bravely traveled to a new world to give their children opportunities that they themselves could never have.

Southern Italy

Huntington Station


When I was 17 and came home from high school and was getting ready go to my after-school job at a grocery store, there were many times my mother and I would enjoy a grilled Munster cheese sandwich on white toast with a cup of tea. The toast was pre-sliced white bread. However while everyone else called it white bread, my Italian mother always called it American bread. White bread to her was always American bread. In her mind, there were only two kinds of bread: Italian bread and American bread.

But I am ahead of my story, let’s start at the beginning:


Both my parents came from a small village in Italy in the Province of Calabria. The Italian peninsular appears to be the shape of a high-heeled boot and at the instep of the boot is the Province of Calabria. Within the Province there is a mountainous area known as the Greek Sila, a region that the average tourist rarely visits. The region is unique in that it contains a number of villages settled by displaced Albanians. One of these villages is S. Giorgio, Albanese. It is a small village of about 1,800 inhabitants, located in the mountains of the Greek Sila. It is the home of both my parents.

S. Giorgio and the other Albanian villages were founded by displaced Albanians who had fled their Country in the 1400s when during the creation of their Ottoman Empire, the Turks conquered Albania. The Albanians, under the leadership of their hero, Van Scanderbeg, resisted the initial invasion. But, after Van Scanderbeg’s death in 1430, the Albanian’s lost the battle of Kosovo to the Turks. At this point, many Albanians fled their homeland, and settled in Calabria.

They were grated tracts of land to settle in area where a range of mountains covers the region called the Sila. It was accordingly called Greek as the natives confused these foreigners with the Greeks.

In addition to the village of S. Giorgio, there are about a dozen villages in the (Greek) Sila where the natives spoke Albanian (Arberesh) among themselves. Six Albanian settlements lie on these northern slopes of the Sila; S. Giorgio, Vaccarizzo, S. Casimo, Macchia, S. Demetrio, and Santa Sofia. S. Demetrio is the largest. Three of these villages are located near S. Giorgio. They are: Vaccarizzo, which is barely visible from S. Giorgio on the next mountain, Acri, and S. Cosmo, which is about two and one half miles west.


An Englishman, Norman Douglas toured Calabria in 1911 and wrote a book Old Calabria about his travels. In the Chapter The Greek Sila he describes his travel by horse drawn carts or wagons and his visit to several Albanian villages in the Greek Sila. He found a populace that believed in werewolves and whose hero’s were the bandits who lived in the mountains of the Sila.

He took a train from Cosenza to Castrovilleri and the rode in a horse drawn cart to the Albanian village of Spezzano where he spent the night. It took until evening the next day to start on his trip by horse drawn carriage to Vaccarizzo riding thru the night stopping at Terranova.

It was nearly midnight; he had dozed off and awoke when the carriage stopped. At last we started and I began to slumber once more, the carriage seemed to be going down a steep incline; endlessly it descended, with a pleasant swaying motion. Then an icy shiver roused me from my dreams.

It was the Crati whose rapid waves fraught with unhealthy chills, rippled brightly in the moonlight. We crossed the malarious valley and once more touched the hills.

From those treeless slopes there streamed fourth deliciously warm emanations stored up during the scorching hours of noon—an odor of dried cistis and other aromatic plants, balsamic by day almost overpowering at this hour. To aide and diversify the symphony of perfume, I lit a cigar and then gave myself up to contemplation of the heavenly bodies. He passed a solitary man, walking swiftly with a bowed head. What was he doing here??

Lupomanaro the driver said.

A werewolf…

I had always hoped to meet with a werewolf on his nocturnal rambles and now my wish was gratified. But I was disappointed to see him in human garb—even werewolves; it seems are much with the times.

After that I fell asleep in good earnest, nor did I wake up again till the sun was peering over the eastern hills. We were climbing up a long slope; the Albanian settlements of Vaccarizzo and S. Giorgio lay before us.

These non-Italian villages date from the centuries that followed the death of Scanderbeg, when the Grand Signior consolidated his power. The refugees arrived in flocks from over the sea, and were granted wild tracts of land whereon to settle—some of them on this incline of the Sila, which accordingly was called Greek Sila, the native confusing those foreigners with the Byzantines.

He spent a day in Vaccarizzo Where: I became a guest of a prosperous resident and was treated to genuine Albanian hospitality and excellent cheer.—Like all too many villages in South Italy this one is depopulated of its male inhabitants. Many of the men have emigrated to work in the United States. The two churches in Vaccarizzo, dark and unclean structures stand side by side, Greek and Catholic and I was shown through them by their respective priests The Greco-Catholic cult that these Albanians belong to is a compromise between the Orthodox and Roman: there priests may wear beards and marry wives, they use bread instead of the wafer for sacramental purposes.

Six Albanian settlements lie on these northern slopes of the Sila; S. Giorgio, Vaccarizzo, S. Casimo, Macchia, S. Demetrio, and Santa Sofia… . S. Demetrio is the largest of them and thither after an undisturbed night’s rest at the house of my kind host I drove to S. Demetrio in the sunlit hours the next morning.–It was exhilarating to traverse these middle heights with their aerial views over the Ionian and down olive-covered hillsides toward the wide valley of the Crati and the lofty Pollino range, now swimming in midsummer haze. The road winds in and out of gullies where rivulets descend from the mountains; they are clothed in cork-oak, ilex and other trees; golden orioles, jays, hoopies and rollers flash among the foliage. In winter these hills are swept by boreal blasts from the Apennines, but at this season it is a delightful tract of land.

San Demetrio, famous for its Italio-Albanian college, lies on a fertile incline sprinkled with olives and mulberries and chestnuts, fifteen hundred feet above sea level. They tell me that within the memory of living man no Englishman has ever entered the town. This is quite possible. I have not yet encountered a single English traveler in my wanderings in southern Italy. The town is exclusively Albanian; the Catholic Church has fallen in disrepair. But at the door of the Albanian sanctuary I was fortunate enough to intercept a native wedding, just as the procession was about to enter the portal. The bride’s features were veiled and of her squat figure little could be discerned under the gorgeous accoutrements of the occasion.

She was ablaze with ornaments and embroidery of gold, on neck and shoulders and wrist; a wide lace collar fell over a bodice of purple silk; silken too and of brightest green, was her pleated skirt. The priest seemed bored with his task and mumbled through one or two pages of holy books in record time; there were holdings of candles, interchanging of rings, sacraments of bread and wine and other solemn ceremonies—the most quaint being the crowning of their respective crowns from the head of one to that of the other.

Douglas attended a mountain festival to the Madonna di Pollino in July where peasants from 30 or 40 villages were represented. He wrote; "One is struck with the feast of costumes here, by far the brightest being those of the women who have come up from the seven or eight Albanian villages that surround these hills.

In their variegated array of chocolate-brown, arid white, of emerald-green and gold and flashing violet, these dames move about the sward like animated tropical flowers. But the Albanian girls of Civita stand out for aristocratic elegance—pleated black silk gowns, discreetly trimmed with gold and white lace, and open at the breast. The women of Morano, too, make a brave show. Night brings no respite; on the contrary, the din grows livelier, fires gleam brightly on the meadow and under the trees, dancers are unwearied, the bagpipers show no sign of exhaustion.

Here is his summary of his visit;

Here, then, I have livedfor the past few days, strolling among the fields, and attempting to shape some picture of these Albanians from their habits and such of their literature as has been placed at my disposal. So far, my impression of them has not changed since the days when I used to rest at their villages, in Greece.

They remind me of the Irish. Both races are scattered over the earth and seem to prosper best outside their native country; they have the same songs and bards, the same hero-chieftains, the same combativeness and frank hospitality; both are sunk in bigotry and broils; they resemble each other in their love of dirt, disorder, and display in their enthusiastic and adventurous spirit;

their versatile brilliance of mind, general note of inspired inefficiency and their incapacity for Self-government. And both profess a frenzied allegiance to an obsolete tongue which, were it really cultivated as they wish would put a barrier of triple brass between themselves and the rest of humanity.

Even so as the Irish despise the English as their worldly and effete relatives, so the Albanians look down upon the Greeks—even those of Pericles—with profoundest contempt. The Albanians, so says one of their writers, are the oldest people upon earth, and their language is the divine Pelasgic mother-tongue .

After spending some time in S. Demetrio visiting the College, he walked to S. Giacomo Acri in two and half hours. From there he left the Greek Sila and traveled to Longobucco.


Englishman Ralph Glasser visited the area in 1975. He is a social psychologist and economist who lived in S. Giorgio for about 6 months in 1975. He went to Calabria to study the most backward locality where the culture has made the fewest compromises. He sought a cultural enclave within an enclave, partaking of the European tradition and in its "backwardness’, by remaining most faithful to it.

The results of his study was presented in his 1977 book The Net and the Quest By Time Machine to the Nineteenth Century. In it he noted that for five hundred years the Italio-Albanese communities have gone their own way. Some still speak abberesh among themselves. And that physically too they differ from the Calabrese. They have pale skin, fresh complexions and grey eyes. Only in the last two or three generations has there been substantially marrying out. (My father had blue eyes).

(I met Ralph Glasser in S. Giorgio in 1979. He was waiting for a BBC crew to arrive to film an educational documentary on S. Giorgio titled The World About Us). Excerpts of his book are in Appendix Four.


S. Giorgio is typical Italian hill town, lying more than 1,200 feet above sea level, and accessed by one road winding its way up from the village of Frasso, a distance of some 15 miles.

The road winds it way up the mountains which is lined on both sides with olive groves, it winds past the S. Giorgio Cemetery and then as one reaches the top of the hillside it enters the village.

The one through road in the village is named Via Roma and as you enter the village, sitting to your right on a terrace above you, is the village church. The street side of the church terrace overlooks the houses and the other side overlooks a landscape of mountains and olive groves far on to the horizon. To the left of the terrace the ground falls away some 500 feet. Down there flows the river Fikthe where the women used to do their laundry on the rocks and carry the water up to their homes.

The parochial church built in 1712 is dedicated to the patron saint, S. Giorgio (Saint George) Megalomatire. The design of the exterior is Baroque with an imposing bell tower with a typical Byzantine cupola set on a square bell tower. A side altar is also capped with a dome. The interior consists of a main Nave with two side Naves framed by Romanesque arches.

The road is lined with two or three story masonry residences, some with small shops at street level. As one progresses down the street, it opens up to a Village Square, on which is located the Town Hall. A side road which contains the offices of the Carabineri converges into the Square next to the Town Hall.

On a raised courtyard sits the Town Hall. A memorial plaque containing a relief bust of Van Scanderbeg the Albanian folk hero is mounted on the retaining wall of the Town Hall-a tribute to the man and a marker to the town’s ancestry.

Continuing down the same road, we enter another square containing a statue and several side streets converging into the main road. In the Square are located some residences and a number of small shops including the Alimentari grocery, a butcher, a bar with the only public phone, the George Dramis appliance store La Pet Jaz and the Dramis family home.

The two lane road continues past many more residences and past a Shell gas station and continues on into the mountains on to S Giacomo di Acri. Barely visible from the village on the other mountain is the other Albanian village Vaccarizzo.

Native Costume of S. Giorgio, Albanese

The culture of Albania remained as well. The traditional costume worn by the women of S. Giorgio with its red skirt distinguishes itself from other Arberesh Communities.

In the 1800s, the village was ruled by landowners who hired laborers to tend to the olive groves. My maternal grandfather Pasquale Petrone was a supervisor for one of the landowners. Because of his station in life, he also had his own olive grove, part of which my mother received as a dowry. Around the middle 1930s, my mother gave her inheritance to her mother who later transferred it to her sister Emilia.

My Parents;

My Mother: Maria Francesca Petrone known as Frances was born in S. Giorgio on January 3, 1900. My mother told us she was born on Christmas Eve, so we observed her birthday on Christmas Eve, December 24. Years later when we found her marriage certificate we discovered the actual date of her birth. She may have been born on the Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve which is in January so when she came to America she assumed that it was the same Christmas Eve.

For many years mother could never figure out why the Roman Catholic ceremony here was different than the one in Italy and why the parish priest in her town was married but the priests here were not etc. Years later, when we read up on the Greek Orthodox Church that we realized Mom’s church was Greek Orthodox.

Mom and her Mother

Her father was Pasquale Petrone (1858) who died in 1936. Her mother was Filomena Scura (around 1860) who died in 1944. Her Grandparents on her mother’s side were Rita and Carmino Scura. Her grandparents on her father’s side were Francesco and Francesca Petrone.

Mom’s father Pasquale had two brothers and one sister. They are; Salvatore Petrone married to Theresa Anuniziatta. The other brother Annunziato Petrone married Marie Aurrichio. The sister, Maria Antonia married Pisazza Vincenzo.

Mom had two sisters, Maria Carmine and Emilia and a brother Georgio. Maria Carmine married Angelo Dramis. They had three children; Lucia, Napoleone, and Giorgio. Giorgio married Lena and had two children Mario and Carrado.

Emilia married Sergio Albrizio. They had six children; Gina, Lina, Lucia, Giorgetta, Tommaso, and Pasquale. They live in Abruzzi, Italy.

Mom’s brother Giorgio married Marianna Scura. They had five children: Dominico, Pasqualenia, Lanzorota,

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