“Nobody’s given me a handout, I had to get it myself. Oh, I love Canada, sure. I am happy my parents came here, but they weren’t treated how they should have been treated, they were treated like second class citizens, that was not nice, we are supposed to be all brothers and sisters.”
Information about Tony Ferraro, a lovely member of the Italian community of Guelph. Collected in an interview conducted by Yasameen Tareq, with the presence of Ricardo Gazzola, another lovely member of the Italian community of Guelph.
Table of Contents
Life, Parents & Immigration
Anthony “Tony” Ferraro è un uomo italiano di 97 anni. Viene dal meridione d’Italia da una comunità calabrese chiamata San Giorgio Morgeto. Arrivò in Canada la prima volta con i suoi genitori nel 1925 all’età di due anni per visitare il fratello di suo padre come turista. Suo zio allora viveva a Wellington Ontario. Rimasero lì per circa due anni, fino a quando la madre di Tony ebbe nostalgia di casa, così suo padre le disse di tornare in Italia mentre lui sarebbe rimasto in Canada per cercare di guadagnare soldi. Tony ha dichiarato che lui e la sua famiglia hanno trovato il Canada molto freddo, rispetto al paese caldo da cui provenivano. Questo è uno dei motivi per cui lui e sua madre tornarono in Italia, non sopportavano il freddo. Afferma anche che a sua madre mancava la famiglia perché vivevano con i nonni di Tony, dalla parte della madre. Rimasero in Italia per 2 anni, dove nacque suo fratello, fino al 1935, quando il padre di Tony li contattò perché aveva un lavoro in Canada, e inviò soldi a sua madre che li usò per pagare il viaggio in Canada. Suo padre aveva fatto molti lavori nella sua vita, uno di questi era vendere blocchi di ghiaccio, che raccoglievano da una diga vicino alla Alan’s Rd, dove il ghiaccio si congelava. Più tardi nell’intervista Tony afferma con orgoglio che suo padre faceva 10 centesimi l’ora con questo lavoro, una quantità che era di enorme valore in quel momento. Tony ricorda come è arrivato a Toronto in quello che considerava un viaggio di lusso “we never came in first class you know, the name of the liner, was Italy’s best liner: the Rex, and we came in the third class, and to us, it was like we were in heaven because we never saw white bread, till we came to this country, always corn bread over there, never had white bread. And we told my dad, when we first came here, make sure he buys white bread, because we’ve never seen white bread before.”
Anthony “Tony” Ferraro is a lovely 97-year-old Italian man. He is from Southern Italy; a community in Calabria called San Giorgio Morgeto. The first time he came to Canada was with his parents in 1925 as a two-year-old to visit his uncle who had been living in Wellington Ontario at the time. They stayed there for about two years until Tony’s mother became too homesick, so his dad had told her to go back to Italy while he stayed in Canada to try to make a solid income. Tony stated that he and his family had found Canada to be very cold in comparison to the temperate whether of Italy. This was one of the reasons why he and his mother had gone back to Italy; they could not stand the bite of the Canadian cold. Tony also states that his mother had missed her family because they used to live with Tony’s grandparents, from his mother’s side, before they came to Canada. Tony and his mother had stayed in Italy for 2 years, where his mother had given birth to his brother, until 1935 when Tony’s dad had contacted them because he had found a job and was making a proper income in Canada, his father had also sent money over to his mother who had used it to pay for the trip to Canada.
Tony’s father had worked many different jobs throughout his life, one of them was selling ice blocks, which he and the other workers used to collected from a dam which was located near Alan’s road where big chunks of ice would freeze. Later in the interview Tony proudly states that his father was making 10 cents an hour with this job, an amount that was of tremendous value at that time; Tony explained that he is very proud of his father and everything he had done for Tony and his family throughout the years. Tony reminisces on how he came to Toronto in what he considered a luxurious trip which his father had worked hard to afford “we never came in first class you know, the name of the liner, was Italy’s best liner: the Rex, and we came in the third class, and to us, it was like we were in heaven because we never saw white bread, till we came to this country, always corn bread over there, never had white bread. And we told my dad, when we first came here, make sure he buys white bread, because we never seen white bread before.”
A Tough Life
Parlando ulteriormente dell’orribile freddo invernale, Tony afferma che per potersi riscaldare nel periodo invernale, prima o dopo essere andati a scuola, lui e suo fratello dovevano sempre andare a raccogliere ciò che rimaneva del carbone dai binari ferroviari dove gli ingegneri delle ferrovie lo gettavano, sapendo che la gente aveva bisogno per metterlo nella fornace per riscaldarsi “we’d go at night time, pick it up, put it in bags and take it home, because we couldn’t afford to buy any”. Tony procede per mostrare quanto duramente la vita della sua e della sua famiglia è stata, spiegando che non molte persone sarebbero state in grado di affrontare una vita così difficile. È stato forse a causa della dura vita della sua famiglia in Italia che riuscirono a sopravvivere e prosperare in circostanze come la famiglia di Tony proveniva da una provincia molto povera. Inoltre, l’Italia meridionale non è stata trattata così come l’Italia settentrionale è stata, per ragioni che non conosceva, e la gente del sud ha subito un molte sofferenze, come ha spiegato. Tuttavia, Tony si sente ancora nostalgico quando si ricorda gli inverni freddi, e quando parla di sua madre che ha usato per cucire l’unico maglione che Tony possedeva con diverse lane colorate e filato, più e più volte, fino a quando il suo maglione sembrava un arcobaleno e sembrava “a rainbow walking down the street” quando lo indossava.
Further speaking about the horrible winter cold, Tony states that in order for them to get warm in the winter time, him and his brother, after they came to Canada in 1935, had to always go before or after going to school to collect what was left of the coal by the railroad tracks near which the train engineers used to throw coal, knowing that people needed it to put it in the furnace to get warm. “we’d go at night time, pick it up, put it in bags and take it home, because we couldn’t afford to buy any”. Tony proceeds to show how hard his and his family’s lives had been, explaining how not many people would have been able to cope with such difficult lives. It was perhaps due to his family’s tough life in Italy that they were able to survive and thrive in such circumstances, as Tony’s family came from a very poor province because southern Italy had not been treated as well as northern Italy for reasons that he did not know, and people from the south endured a lot of suffering, as he explained. However, Tony is still able to be nostalgic about the memories of the cold winters when he speaks about his mother who used to patch the one sweater Tony owned with different colored patches and yarn, over and over again, until his sweater looked like a rainbow and he had look like a “rainbow walking down the street” when he wore it.
An Enemy Alien
All’inizio della seconda guerra mondiale, Tony e la sua generazione furono chiamati ad arruolarsi nell’esercito. A quell’epoca, aveva 18 anni ed era classificato come un “enemy alien” perché era nato in Italia, ” not only me but anybody else, Hungarians, Germans, polish and anyone born in Europe, we were classified as enemy aliens because these countries sided with the Germans instead of the British “. Tony non fu in grado di arruolarsi nella seconda guerra mondiale. Questo perché gli era stato chiesto dall’ufficiale arruolare a quale paese giurava la sua fedeltà; Italia, o Canada? a questa domanda Tony aveva risposto “both”, ha poi proceduto a spiegare menzionando che anche se ama il Canada e ha amici e familiari canadesi, aveva familiari e parenti italiani ancora in Italia, quindi semplicemente non stava scegliendo un paese rispetto all’altro. L’ufficiale rispose fissando Tony e dicendo ad un altro ufficiale: “give him his fair back home.” Doveva, tuttavia, ancora recarsi alla stazione di polizia una volta al mese in un luogo chiamato Wesley Barrington a London, Ontario, come tutti gli “enemy aliens” allora facevano: “Once a month, they finger printed us, just like criminals” disse Tony. Va notato che c’è una targa sul retro della Chiesa del Sacred Heart qui a Guelph che ha i nomi di tutti i nomi dei membri della congregazione che erano nell’esercito canadese; 62 di loro erano di origini italiane, tutti conosciuti da Tony. Tony parla con Ironia di come il cattivo trattamento che gli “enemy aliens” avevano ricevuto, li aveva in modo di più vicini, rendendo piccole comunità che erano in grado di sopravvivere e prosperare per generazioni.
When the second world war had started, Tony, and his generation had been called to report to the army. At that time, he had been 18 years old and was classified as an enemy alien because he was born in Italy, “not only me but anybody else, Hungarians, Germans, polish and anyone born in Europe, we were classified as enemy aliens because these countries sided with the Germans instead of the British”. Tony was unfortunately unable to enlist in the second world war. This is because he had been asked by the enlisting officer about which country he swears his allegiance to; Italy or Canada? to which Tony had replied “both”, he then proceeded to explain this by clarifying that even though he loves Canada and has Canadian friends and family, he has Italian family members and relatives in Italy as well and therefore was simply unable to choose one country over the other. The officer had replied by staring at Tony and telling another officer to “give him his fair back home” Tony said. Although he still had to report to the police station once a month in a place called Wesley Barrington in London, Ontario, like all enemy aliens had to do at the time. “Once a month, they finger printed us, just like criminals” Tony said. On a side note, there is a plaque at the back of Sacred Heart Church here in Guelph that has the names of all its attendants that were in the Canadian military, 62 of them were of Italian heritage, all of whom Tony knew or was acquainted with. Tony speaks of the Irony of how treating the enemy aliens badly caused them to become closer to one another, making small communities that were able to survive and thrive for generations.
Tony’s Dedication to His Family
Anche se Tony era molto bravo a scuola e gli piaceva molto, non ha mai avuto modo di finire il grado 8 siccome ha dovuto lasciare la scuola per lavorare e sostenere la sua famiglia. Parla con affetto di sua madre e di come ha dovuto dare a lei e a suo padre tutti i soldi che guadagnava. Tony ricorda di essersi lamentato con sua madre e di averle chiesto alcuni dei soldi che aveva guadagnato per comprare ” an ice-cream cone or something “, Tony ha detto che sua madre aveva guardato lui e suo fratello e aveva detto: ” does your father drink? does your father gamble? No, he don’t do all that, he is saving all that money for you people (Tony and his brother) so we can get our own house “. Tony ha dichiarato che ora da adulto capisce come si sentiva sua madre. Ha parlato di come avere un cono gelato allora era una gioia molto rara, anche se un cono gelato era un nichel o giù di lì; che era un sacco di soldi per loro.
Although tony had been a very good student in school and had enjoyed his school days tremendously, he never got to finish grade 8 as he had to leave school to work and support his family at a very young age. Tony spoke fondly of his mother and how he had to give her and his father all the money he had made as a young boy. Tony reminisced about complaining to his mother about wanting some of the money he had made to buy “an ice-cream cone or something”, saying that she would look at him and his brother and say “does your father drink? does your father gamble? No, he don’t do all that, he is saving all that money for you people (him and his brother) so we can get our own house”. Tony stated that now as an adult he understands how his mother felt. He speaks of how having an ice cream cone at that time was quite the spectacle, even though an ice cream cone was a nickel or so, as that was too expensive for them at that time.
A lovely Wife
La moglie di Tony era canadese di Orangeville, Ontario. Ha lottato nella sua relazione con Tony anche se lei lo amava e voleva sposarlo, la sua famiglia disapprovava il suo status Italiano e cattolico. Tony incontrò sua moglie a Baltimore Hats dove entrambi lavoravano, lei iniziò a seguirlo, lasciando Orangeville e venendo a Guelph a lavorare. Tony lavorava all’ultimo piano e veniva pagato in base a quanto lavoro faceva piuttosto che all’ora come sua moglie. Ricorda una storia divertente di come il sovrintendente gli disse di ” hurry up and marry this girl, you’re costing me money, Tony ” perché Tony le parlava ogni mattina. Finì per sposare sua moglie nel 1946 e trascorse 75 anni di amorevole matrimonio con lei fino alla sua morte un paio di mesi fa. L’amore tra di loro è evidente e vivo come sempre. Quando si sono sposati, Tony aveva 21 anni mentre sua moglie aveva 18 anni, è diventata cattolica per lui e ha anche preso lezioni nella chiesa che frequentava, anche dopo che Tony le aveva detto che non deve ” I told her you don’t have convert for me, but she said: ‘I want to go to church with you on Sundays’, so I said if that’s what you want to do then we’ll go and see a priest. So, went to see the priest and he converted her, and we used to go to church together, you see.”
Tony’s wife was a Canadian citizen from Orangeville, Ontario. Tony speaks of how she had struggled in her relationship with him because even though she loved him and wanted to marry him, her family had disapproved of his Italian and catholic status. Tony met his wife at the Biltmore hats where they both had worked (she started working after him) leaving Orangeville and coming to Guelph to work at that time. Tony used to work on the top floor and would get paid according to how much work he did rather than by the hour, which was how his wife was getting paid at that time. He recalls a funny story of how the superintendent told him to “hurry up and marry this girl, you’re costing me money, Tony” as Tony used to speak to her every single morning. He ended up marrying his wife in 1946 and spending 75 years of loving marriage with her until she passed away a couple of months ago, still the love between them is as alive as ever. Tony was 21 while his wife was 18 when they had gotten married, she turned catholic for him and also took lessons at the church he frequented, even after Tony told her that she does not have to; “I told her you don’t have convert for me, but she said ‘but I want to go to church with you on Sundays, so I said if that’s what you want to do then we’ll go and see a priest. So, went to see the priest and he converted her, and we used to go to church together, you see.”
Tony ha ha fatto molti lavori. Ha lavorato presso la società di Baltimore Hats a Guelph per 10 anni, realizzando cappelli. Ha parlato di come ha usato lasciare la scuola ogni mattina, dopo aver ottenuto l’autorizzazione dal preside, per mettersi in fila ogni giorno per sei mesi per cercare di trovare un lavoro fino a quando non ne ha ottenuto uno presso la società di cappelli di Baltimora, poi ha dovuto lasciare la scuola in modo permanente. Ha anche lavorato presso la Kearney-National Company per altri 7 anni, dove è stato sovrintendente e ha dichiarato con orgoglio che stava guadagnando abbastanza soldi ed è stato in grado di “improve himself everywhere he went”.
Dopo un po ‘di lavoro, Tony ha iniziato la propria attività aprendo un negozio di cappelli, e in seguito ha ottenuto un’offerta da un ” fellow from Hamilton” che gli ha chiesto di andare a lavorare con lui nella sua azienda di produzione di cappelli, e gli disse che gli avrebbe pagato un “big buck”. Ricardo ha iniziato a fare 80 dollari a settimana ed è stato molto felice “That was big money you know! And I could buy as many hats as I want at cost, and we used to manufacture as many hats at this place as we could (at the Hamilton manufacturing company)”. Tony prese quei cappelli e ne vendette il maggior numero possibile alla gente di Guelph. Riccardo Gazzola, un caro amico di Tony che era presente all’intervista, ha parlato di come durante l’estate, alcuni dei ragazzi della scuola che erano dell’età di Riccardo lavoravano con Tony. Riccardo ricorda anche come lui e questi ragazzi andavano a disturbare Tony al lavoro e diceva scherzosamente che vendeva erba perché così tanti della generazione di bambini di Ricardo andavano costantemente nel suo negozio.
Tony ha anche lavorato con suo fratello in una società chiamata D’s Beef, di cui suo fratello era il proprietario; il loro logo era “our reputation is your guarantee” come Tony ha dichiarato con orgoglio. L’attività ha avuto un tale successo che è stata in competizione con aziende famose come Canada Maple Leaf Foods e Schneider’s. Ha dichiarato di avere meno bestiame di quei negozi, ma ha assunto i migliori “cattle buyers” per aiutarli a comprare un buon bestiame. Lui e suo fratello riuscirono ad espandere l’attività a Windsor, a Niagara Falls e ad alcune aree di Toronto e Ottawa.
Tony worked many different jobs. He worked at the Baltimore hat company in Guelph for 10 years, making hats. He spoke of how he had to leave school every morning, after getting permission from the principal, to line up every day for six months to try to get a job, until he got one at the Baltimore hat company, then he had to leave school permanently. He also worked at the Kearney-National company for another 7 years where he was a superintendent and proudly stated that he was making a solid income and was able to “improve himself everywhere he went”.
After a while of working, Tony started his own business by opening a hat shop, and later got an offer from a “fellow from Hamilton” who asked him to go work with him in his hat manufacturing company, saying that he will pay him a “big buck”. Tony started making 80 dollars a week and was very happy “That was big money you know! And I could buy as many hats as I wanted at cost, and we used to manufacture as many hats at this place (at the Hamilton fellow’s manufacturing company)”. Tony took those hats and sold as many as he was able to sell to the people of Guelph. Ricardo Gazzola, a close friend of Tony who was present at the interview, spoke about how during the summer time, some of the kids from school who were of Ricardo’s age used to work there with Tony part time.
Tony also worked with his brother at a company called D’s Beef, which his brother owned, their logo was “our reputation is your guarantee” as Tony stated proudly. Which became so successful that it was competing with famous companies such as Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods and Schneider’s. He stated that he had less cattle than those stores, but he smartly hired the best “cattle buyers” to help them buy good cattle. Him and his brother were able to eventually expand the business to Windsor, Niagara Falls and some areas in Toronto and Ottawa.
The Good Memories; Past and Present
Una visione positiva della vita
Tony afferma con orgoglio che, anche se non ha mai avuto l’opportunità di finire la scuola, si era educato, ed è stato evidente dall’intervista quanto fosse istruito. Tony dovette anche imparare la lingua inglese da solo, poiché la sua famiglia parlava solo il dialetto italiano calabrese nella loro casa canadese. Ha parlato di una circostanza divertente quando voleva comprare un colino per maccheroni con sua madre e lei lo portò con sé al mercato, siccome il suo inglese era migliore. Lui, tuttavia, non sapeva quale fosse il nome del colino in inglese, così ha dovuto spiegare al proprietario del negozio “it’s got holes in it, the macaroni stays on top and the water goes away”. È anche orgoglioso del fatto che tutti i suoi figli sono andati a scuola e all’università. Parla con affetto dei suoi nipoti, uno dei quali è il nipote la cui foto era sul tavolo nella sua stanza dove abbiamo avuto l’intervista. È un medico dell’ospedale generale di Toronto e dell’ospedale ebraico Mount Sinai a Toronto, dopo aver ricevuto la laurea presso l’Università di Ottawa. Parla anche di suo figlio che ha iniziato la sua attività dove era un costruttore di piscine, affermando con orgoglio che i suoi due figli (i nipoti di Tony) lavorano con lui nella stessa attività. La figlia di Tony, di cui è anche orgoglioso, era un insegnante di scuola, ma ora è in pensione. Lei ha un figlio, due bambini che lo visitano frequentemente. Uno dei suoi figli è un grande giocatore di hockey e calcio, come ha detto Tony. Lui a 14 anni e sta giocando in un torneo di calcio in Indiana.
Quando gli ho chiesto in quale paese preferiva vivere e in quale paese aveva avuto una migliore esperienza in Italia o Canada, Tony ha risposto dicendo quanto gli piaceva il Canada e quanto fosse buono il Canada per lui. Tuttavia, è stato lui a far funzionare bene l’esperienza canadese lavorando e costruendo la sua vita e il suo business da solo “nobody’s given me a handout, I had to get it myself. Oh, I love Canada, sure. I am happy my parents came here, but they weren’t treated how they should have been treated, they were treated like second class citizens, that was not nice, we are supposed to be all brothers and sisters.”
Always A bright Perspective
Tony parla di tutte le lotte che ha sostenuto, di tutti i tempi bui che ha visto e di come tutto lo ha influenzato. Parla di come le esperienze negative che ha avuto sono incise nel suo cuore e come non potrà mai dimenticarle. Dice anche che viveva con costante paura che questi eventi si sarebbero verificati di nuovo, ma alla sua famiglia invece di se stesso, e di come ha fatto del suo meglio perché ciò non accadesse. Eppure, Tony e la sua famiglia sono riusciti a creare ricordi felici così come costruire una bella reputazione sia per il suo nome di famiglia e come le sue attività diverse. È stato in grado di fare tutto questo e mantenere belle relazioni sociali con i membri della comunità italiana e con il club italo-canadese, come si evince dalle immagini qui sotto (on the top left side of this webpage).
A positive view of Life
Tony proudly states that although he never had the opportunity to finish school, he had educated himself, and it was evident from the interview how educated he was. Tony also had to learn the English language by himself as his family only spoke the Calabrian Italian dialect at their Canadian home. He spoke of a funny instance with his mother when she wanted to buy a macaroni strainer and took him with her to the market as his English was better than hers. He, however, did not know what the name of the machine is in English, so he had to explain to the store owner “it’s got holes in it, the macaroni stays on top and the water goes away”. He is also proud of the fact that all his kids went to school and university. He fondly speaks of his grandchildren, one of which is his grandson, whose picture was on the table in his room where we had the interview, who is a doctor in the Toronto general hospital and the Jewish hospital Sanai hospital in Toronto after graduating from the University of Ottawa. He also speaks of his son who started his own business where he was a builder of swimming pools, stating proudly that his two sons (Tony’s grandchildren) work with him in the same business. Tony’s daughter, whom he is also proud of, was a school teacher but is now retired. She has a son, 2 children who visit him frequently. One of her sons is a great hockey player, as Tony said. He is 14 years old is playing in a football tournament in Indiana.
When I asked him about which country he preferred to live in and which country he had a better experience in, Italy or Canada, Tony had replied by saying how much he loved Canada, and how good Canada was to him. However, he was the one that made the Canadian experience good by working and building his life and business by himself “nobody’s given me a handout, I had to get it myself. Oh, I love Canada, sure. I am happy my parents came here, but they weren’t treated how they should have been treated, they were treated like second class citizens, that was not nice, we are supposed to be all brothers and sisters.”
Always A bright Perspective
Tony speaks of all the struggles he has been through; of all the dark times he had seen and how it all affected him. He speaks of how the negative experiences he had are engraved in his heart and how he can never forget them. He also says that he lived with constant fear of these events reoccurring but to his family instead of himself, and how he did his best for that not to happen. Still, Tony and his family managed to make happy memories as well as build a lovely reputation both for his family name as well as his different business. He was able to do all that and maintain lovely social relations with members of the Italian community as well as the Canadian- Italian club, as evident in the pictures below (on the top left side of this webpage).
A lovely Impression After a Single Interview
Dall’intervista, si può vedere che Tony è una persona molto gentile. Durante l’intervista, è stato molto gentile nelle sue risposte e ha cercato di parlare degli aspetti migliori di ogni situazione che ha incontrato, anche le situazioni negative. La sua espressione d’amore al Canada, un paese dove ha affrontato molte difficoltà nel suo passato, è fonte di ispirazione in quanto dimostra che una persona è responsabile del proprio destino e della propria felicità. È ovvio che il duro lavoro e i sacrifici di italiani come Tony Ferraro, che ha dovuto lasciare la scuola e lavorare diversi lavori in tenera età, hanno spianato la strada ai figli e ai nipoti italio-canadesi per avere una vita migliore ed essere in grado di andare a scuola e ottenere un’istruzione adeguata.
From the interview, one can see that Tony is a very delightful person. During the interview, he was very kind in his answers and tried to speak of the best aspects of every situation he encountered, even the negative ones. His expression of love to Canada, a country where he faced many difficulties in the past, is quite inspirational as it shows that a person is in charge his/her own destiny and happiness. It is obvious that the hard work and sacrifices of Italians such as Tony Ferraro, who had to leave school and work several jobs at a very young age, paved the way for the Canadian-Italian children and grandchildren to have better lives and be able to go to school and get proper education.