On March 15, 1921, my father decided I should go to a foreign country and make my own destiny. Three days later, while walking in the Piazza by the Chamber of Commerce, the secretary called his father in to pick up my passport. My father was stunned and couldn't believe it. He had made seven trips to America by this time and had applied seven times for a passport and never had he gotten it before a month had passed plus he had always had to give the secretary a capon and two chickens before he was given his. He pointed at me saying, " You should be ashamed of yourself. This will remain on the record of the history of Settefrati. Do you realize that you're not wanted in this town anymore? No one ever got or will ever get a passport in 48 hours as you did. You are marked 'undesirable'."
On April 3rd, I went to say good bye to all my relatives who gave me a few lire and kisses. My Uncle Michael, who loved me dearly, gave me nothing because he had nothing, but when he put his face against mine it was wet with tears. I went to say good bye to my teacher who told me he also had nothing to give me because he couldn't afford it. I told him I knew that but had wanted to see him before I left. He turned his head away and I noticed a single tear down his face.
We got on the bus 4 kilometers from town. We had a suitcase and one sack full of different forms of cheese that different housewives were sending to their relatives in America. I was assigned to carry the cheese. My father took the 32 lire I'd received from friends and relatives.
On April 6, 1921 we boarded the SS Canada. Our bunks were on the very bottom of the ship. They were filthy and the lighting poor. We received a fork, a tablespoon, a tin cup and a tin dish. We had to get on line to fill our plates and cups. We sat on the floor. There were a few tables but they were always taken. Everywhere we looked we could see people getting sick. The food was bad and the smells made me sick several times too.
On April 18, 1921 we landed at New York City. We were allowed off the ship first since my father was an American citizen. We walked to the 9th Avenue El, with me still carrying the cheese.
We arrived at my Uncle Tony's house on 2284 1st Avenue between 117th and 118th Street. He was living in a 3 room apartment where 2 families shared a bathroom with no bath that was located in the hallway. There was no heat or hot water. The rent was 11 dollars a month. Six people were living there.
I lived on 319 West 69th Street. It was the only street that still had cobblestones. It was known as little Italy since all the paesani lived there. The apartments were cold flats, but very clean and the wooden floors were scrubbed by the housewives three or four times a week. Laundry was done in huge pots which were put on the stove to boil.
My 18 year old brother Raymond had recently gotten married and was living in Stamford, Conn. I'll never forget him coming to get us for a visit in his Model T Ford. On the way to Stamford he had four flat tires and we reached our destination on the rims."