Over the holidays I was determined to find a specific picture of my mom pregnant with me. I dug through boxes, albums and stacks of old photographs. I never did find the one I was looking for, but I did find some great shots from throughout the years. I even found a handful of my grandparent’s originals from the early 1900’s. I snuck some of them home with me (sorry mom!) and can’t wait to find antique frames to pair them with.
As I was scanning them to preserve copies I thought I would share some with you. With the pictures I will tell a story about my family and our history. I always joke that since I am half Italian, half Irish and Catholic I must be doomed to be an alcoholic…totally joking, but I am destined to enjoy alcohol and talk really loud. I am only a few generations removed from Italy and Ireland and I was fortunate enough to grow up learning our immigration stories direct from source. The story that I always grasped to and am going to tell today comes from my great-grandfather “Pa” on my mother’s side.
My family is from Sicily and in the early 1900’s as Pa was coming and coming of age he met a young woman who caught his eye. From the beginning she captivated him and he began courting her. It was all very innocent back then. In these days organized crime was very different than it is now and well respected in this area of Italy. During Pa’s courtship a suspected member of the organized crime ring stole a goat from his sweetheart’s family. Still very young and innocent Pa decided to steal the goat back as an act of love, showing her family how much she meant to him. Well, this did not go over to well in the community…there are variations on what happened after the goat was returned, but no one knows what the real story is.
However, Pa was no longer able to stay in his small village and decided to immigrate to the United States. He came over on his own, through Ellis Island, leaving behind his sweetheart. Through connections he had in Italy he moved to Boston and was set up with a pretty sweet gig. He was brought into Al Capone’s crew, Capone had people everywhere and needed some assistance getting set up in Boston. Pa started out as a bookie, taking local bets…on horse races, boxing competitions, you name it. Through this he was able to save money and send for his sweetheart, bring her over, and quickly marry.
Once she came over and was settled they quickly started a family. My grandmother, Nana, was the first-born shortly after. She was the oldest of five children. The bookie role treated Pa well and earned him respect. As the alcohol ban continued longer than expected bootlegging became a very good source of income. Pa would help distribute alcohol throughout Boston, using his baby as his cover…wheeling a baby in a baby carriage through town never raised any eyebrows. Little did people know that the baby was packed tightly between bottles of booze under those blankets…sometimes there wasn’t even a baby in there! What a genius idea.
While there is a lot more that happens after this that is a story for another time. I just thought I would share a love story and how my family made their way to the United States. Pa was a great man who lived an active 98 years…I really hope I inherited his genes.
I love this story and I love my family. Like I mentioned earlier there a few variations on what happened with the goat incident but the overall story is complete truth and very sweet. My grandmother, nana, would tell stories of growing up in that era with such fondness. I only wish we had more pictures and more stories…