Many people whose lives have been affected by this episode in our nation's history are only now beginning to tell their stories. Some are included below.
If you know more, please contact us and let us know your secret story.
Where: Galveston, Texas
Who: Gloria Micheletti Sylvernale
I read the book about the internment of Italian Americans in California during WW2. This story was of much interest to me as my family in Galveston Texas experienced something similar to this. My father failed to become naturalized even though he had been in this country for many years - too busy feeding a large family and trying to make a success of his grocery store. Early one morning (5 or 6 AM) we were awakened by several FBI agents with a search warrant. They entered our home, tore the house apart and left it that way. Took my father in custody even though they had no reason to other than the fact that he was considered an enemy alien. The search of the home did not result in any findings, other than a flashlight, and a household radio. Of course, my mother was devastated, she was left with l0 children and the breadwinner had been taken away. My father was taken to Kelly Field*, San Antonio, Tx where he was held for 4 months or more, investigated and finally!released with no apology from the govt. My brothers subsequently served in the U.S. military and my father worked at the Galveston Dry Docks. As we were growing up we were taught to be proud to be an American. My husband was a pilot in the USAF during WW2 and a career officer in the AF. This an experience my family and I will never forget.
*Kelly AFB during the early l940's was used as a camp to intern many, not sure of the numbers, Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants from Galveston and Friendswood County. Friendswood County had a large concentration of Japanese who were cotton farmers. Also, among many other missions, Kelly was an advanced flight cadet training base. I was l3 years old when my father was taken away from our home. I visited my father while he was at Kelly with several members of my family and remember that the internees were housed in tents, in a double fenced enclosure made of heavy cyclone fencing with barbed wire across the top. Also 2 armed guards were sitting in towers at each corner of the enclosure. After investigating my father, he was released after 6 months along with several other people being held, but with restrictions imposed on him, i.e. no travel without permission, could not move from his residence, and had to report to the immigration dept every week. His only "crime" was his Italian ancestry. My father was drafted into the Italian army during WW1 and served from l9l8-l92l. He was a telegraph operator. My father arrived in Galveston Tx from Santa Maria del Guidice, Lucca, Italy in April l92l. He was a member of the Sons of Italy, which he considered a social org. Other than that, he was too busy trying to make a success of his business and taking care of his family. Yes, you may put my story on the website along with others if you wish. I agree, the story should be told and made a part of history. Thank you very much for your interest in putting this all together.
Who: Janis Cortese
I first heard of this event from a short segment on CNN that left my jaw hanging. I'd never once in my life heard of anything like this happening, and I'm 100% Italian. There were always incidents of prejudice or bigotry, and my parents put up with more than I did, growing up in the Depression in Philadelphia. My mom and her mother and grandmother were once thrown out of a catholic church that they had stopped in to hear mass; the church was not in their neighborhood, and the people in the building told them to "go to your own church." My grandmother replied, "This is my church." My father's childhood home was broken into and trashed by neighbors when they decided they didn't want any "wops" living next door to them.
But I'd heard nothing at all of the story of the internments and exclusions, until that CNN segment. I wanted to put up a website about it, and this is the result. When I went home for the holidays in 1997 and brought the brochure for the exhibit home to show my mom, she read it, and got a funny look on her face. Then, she went upstairs to her bedroom and took out my own grandfather's alien registration booklet, something I'd never seen before and never knew existed. It turns out that their home was invaded by policemen who took their short wave radio from them, which they used for such subversive activities as "listening to Jack Armstrong," according to my mother, Rosalie Cortese.
Where: Detroit, Michigan
Who: Joan DiGregorio
My father, Adamo E. Di Gregorio was arrested and questioned by the FBI in Detroit, Michigan circa December 8-10, 1941. At the time, he had deriviate US citizenship, due to my paternal grandfather's naturalized citizenship quite a few years prior. My father was also registered and employed at Ford Motor Company in the manufactur e and engineering of defense equipment. He was born in Cansano, Provinca L'Aquila, Abruzzo in 1913 and came to the USA in 1929 after completing military, polytechnical secondary school in Fermo, Italy. The arrest occurred in the middle of the night at much distress to the family; my eldest brother was 4 years old and my mother was pregnant with my older sister. My father indicates that he was released after rather strident examination due to having received confirmation from his superiors at Ford Motor Company, both of his employment status and as to having a defense clearance. My father, now a resident of Boca Raton, Florida read about! "Una Storia Segreta" in the Sept.98 issue of VIA and asked for my assistance in researching your work. We would very much appreciate any further information. Thank you.
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Who: Phil Patane
There was an application to fill out, with specific questions about my mother's birth since she was an alien without citizenship. I filled it out and sent it in. There was a photo in it. My father had taken out his citizenship papers and I had derivative citizenship, so I can't understand why my mother didn't, but that's it.
My mother would communicate with neighbors, and that made her feel better because there were others doing the same thing. She didn't let it bother her much, she was a real American. I remember when she was so happy to be able to climb the Statue of Liberty stairs. She was grateful.
I was working in defense at the time, at Republic Aviation in Farmingdale. I was born in Italy. Then someone in the Department of Defense said since you have only a derivative citizenship, you should take out your own. Which I did. I was about 24, 25 years old and I felt like being an Italian I really didn't have any right to be an American citizen. They can push me around, I have no rights, maybe they couldn't push other people, but me, I have none.
I felt pretty bad about this. I was a citizen but I'm not a citizen. What do they think, I'm going to spy on them?
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Who: Guy Giuliano
I was nine, ten years old. We were living on Avenue X in Gravesend, where probably 90% of the kids spoke Italian in school. In fact I tutored one of the kids in school. One day my mom said these guys came over, and they took our camera. I was insulted, I was American, why are you taking our camera? My mother was born in the United States, my father was not a citizen. She was insulted too--she was involved in church, in school, she was an air raid warden. And you're taking my camera?
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Who: Frank Cannata
When the Alien Registration Act was formed, you know, you had to go to the Post Office and register and be fingerprinted. I had to have been 6 or 7 at the time, it was 1941 or 1942, no I was probably 8, and I remember vividly the trauma in the household because my grandmother was crying so much, thinking she was going to jail. She was alone, my grandfather had died a year ago. And my mother patiently held her hand and told her no such thing was going to happen. She thought she was going to jail or be deported or some such thing. And my grandmother was strong, an incredibly strong person, the bedrock of the family, and I'd never seen her so upset before. So it stuck with me.
Where: Anniston, Alabama
Who: Dan P. Dougherty
Clarence Toon: My army basic training in 1943 was at Ft. McClelland near Anniston, Alabama which operated as a huge infantry replacement training center. Shortly after our arrival, I was called to company headquarters where I was shown into the office of the Executive Officer. He greeted me with "Private Dougherty, from this day forward you will be a member of Army Intelligence."
You could figure that being one month out of high school I wouldn't be assigned to breaking the Japanese code and you'd be right. Turns out the GI who had the bed next to mine was an
Italian-Americanfrom New York City whose family still owned property in Italy. The Army had no reason to suspect his loyalty but to make sure, I was to ask him leading questions and report what I learned in a weekly letter to be mailed each Friday to a post office box in Anniston. No one was to know about this and my letters were to be signed Clarence Toon. Nor was I to use my franking privilege. A three-cent stamp would be provided each week at company headquarters!
I monitored this fellow for several weeks. I never had anything to report because my inquiries served only to confirm his interests in girls and sports. Eventually he had an emergency appendectomy and I visited him one time in the hospital. He never returned to the unit, so my career as a crack Army Intelligence operative (blarney) was cut short.
A few years ago I met a fellow who had a similar assignment in World War II and he, too, signed his letters Clarence Toon. I tell my wife we Clarence Toons may be unsung heroes of World War II. When our covert actions are eventually declassified (big blarney), look for a book with glossy pages and lots of photos entitled "Top Secret: Clarence Toon," probably written by Stephen Ambrose.
Where: Pittsburg, CA
Who: Rose Viscuso Scudero
The year was 1942, and I was twelve & a half years old. My mother received a letter from the U.S. government stating that because she had not become a U.S. citizen, she would have to move to a specified area in the county we lived in because our house in Pittsburg was too close to Columbia Steel Co. and other vital industries and the San Joaquin River.
Because we were at war with Germany and Italy, it didn't matter that my father (a U.S. citizen) was employed at Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, CA, building the liberty ships for the Defense Dept. and my two brothers worked at Columbia Steel Co. Or that my three sisters worked in downtown Pittsburg establishments. My mother had to go, and since I was a minor, I had to accompany her.
I was attending junior high school and I felt bad about leaving all of my childhood friends. I thought it would be forever, so I gave away my collection of fancy pins that I wore on my sweaters to my classmates. My favorite was a phonograph record with two jitterbugs hanging from it.
I believe it was February or March of 1942 that we went to live in a rented house on West St. & Clayton Rd. in the outskirts of Concord, CA, about nineteen miles from our home in Pittsburg. Mt. Diablo was nearby. The view from our front porch was spectacular. Across the street was an abandoned small crop-duster airport and hangar next to acres of strawberry fields that had to be abandoned by a Japanese family that was sent to concentration camps. I can remember sitting in the strawberry patch and eating strawberries until I became ill. We had strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
We shared the house with my Aunt Sara & Uncle Filipo Nicolosi and my Aunt Mary Viscuso and her two children, Salvatore & Johnny. My uncle Filippo was a U.S. citizen but he stayed with us so that we had a man in the house.
I can remember my mother Rosa crying herself to sleep at night, missing her family. Other Pittsburg families settled in houses about a mile or so away and we would walk in the evenings to visit them. It was all country fields with a scattering of farm houses.
I attended Clayton Valley School and the bus would pick us up first in the morning and drop us off last after school so we had a ride all over the countryside. There were three classroooms in that school, and each class had three grade levels. Maybe six pupils in one level and five in the next and three in the next and so forth. The teacher would give reading assignments to one group while oral work with the other. I found it very much to my advantage because I learned much of what the upper class was being taught.
My family, brothers Dante & Salvatore and my sisters, Josephine, Gena & Marie and my father Giuseppe Viscuso would come to visit us on weekends. It was like a party when they came, but sad when they had to leave.
When school was out in June, we moved to downtown Concord because my Aunt Sara & Uncle Filippo were one of the first to be able to go back home to Pittsburg. My mother & Aunt Mary felt it would be safer to be in town since we didn't have a man in the house. WE lived upstairs from PIX PATIO, a very popular Bar & Grill at that time. The city park was across the street and at that time, Concord had only a few stores. It was a small country town with houses scattered several blocks apart.
I remember one day in June or July when my mother put me on a Greyhound bus and sent me to Pittsburg to find out if any news on when they could return home was available. When I arrived in Pittsburg, the news was good so they sent me back to Concord to alert everyone. I can remember the joy and the tears when I told my mother and aunt. Momma sent me on to alert the others in a one-mile radius, blocks apart from one another. I can remember knocking on doors and shouting, "YOU CAN GO HOME NOW!" and the excitement of it all....PAUL REVERE RIDES AGAIN.
Where: Chicago, Illinois
I was born May 23, 1939, in Chicago, IL. My father immigrated to the U.S. in 1925. He was born in the province of Venice, Italy and became a U.S. citizen in 1931. My mother was born in Indiana, to Italian immigrant parents. After my parents marriage in 1938, they settled on the south side of Chicago. My paternal grandfather lived with them and continued to live with us until the spring of 1943 (sic). He had to move to my father's sister's home (she did not have any small children.) You see, my grandfather never learned to speak English. We lived in a predominantly Italian neighborhood, where everyone spoke Italian. Even me as a little tyke, I could speak both English and Italian. At the table I would say something in Italian to my grandfather and talk to my mother or whoever else was there in English. After my grandfather had to move, Italian was NEVER again spoken in our home. At such a young age it is easy to learn a second langauge and just as easy to forget! As I think back and remember my grandfather, I have tears in my eyes because I could never talk to him. After he moved I never used the language again and never knew until now why my parents were so frightened to cause them to do this to me and my grandfather.
Where: Denver, CO
Who: Jim Petruzzelli
I visited the exhibition in San Diego last night with my best friend Louis Pierotti. We were both fascinated with the stories and pictures. I have two aunts who lived through the ordeal. My father just told me last weekend that they were not allowed to leave their homes after 8:00 at night. If it wasn't for the wonderful work that you have done with the exhibit, I never would have known an important part of my personal family history. Thank you so much.
Where: Brooklyn, NY
Who: Jane Bongiorno
I vaguely recall that during WWII my father, Antonio Davi, was taken for 3 months and held somewhere because he was an Italian American. The FBI came in the middle of the night and wouldn't even allow him to change his pajamas or put on shoes when they took him. Is there some way I can find out more details on this? I think it was because they suspected the plasterer's union of which he was a member was subversive.
Where: Los Banos, CA
Who: James Greco
I was about ten years old at the time. I can remember my grandamother and grandfather having to be in their home with lights off. Curfew was at ten pm. No flashlights, no radio and no weapons were allowed. They were checked on every night and treated worse than criminals. Forty percent of the community in 1942 were Italian Immigrants. I am sending a copy of my grandfather's Merced County Enemy Alien Registration.
Where: Portland, OR
Who: Fred Granata
I have one small story. I have been interested in this subject for years as I remember well as a teenager in 1942 when I read the notices posted on telephone poles here in Portland that Italian aliens were to be interned. I felt a degree of anxiety in that my 80-year-old grandfather was an alien. He was never interned, nor to my knowledge were any Portland Italians interned. I have often wondered about this and recently discovered the reason based on an oral history I am doing of Mrs. Nellie Trinci, a Portland Italian American. Her memory of this is distinct. In 1942 Portland's mayor was a man named Joe Carson, and he had many Italian American friends. He would often attend events at the Italian Lodge. When this order was issued, Carson stated that all of the Italian Americans here were loyal Ameircans and not fascists and would not cause trouble. A typical politician, he gave personal assurance of this. AS a result, Italian aliens were not confined but put under a curfew that prohibited their being on the streets after 9:00 PM. Just how Carson truly enforce such a warrantey and how he persuaded the higher authorities to relent is not clear to me. I intend to find verification of this story by searching archival records, if any are available, and seeking out other personss who might also remember what happened.
Where: Berkeley, CA
Who: Sergio Ottino
My mother, Amalia Querio and my father, Giacomo Ottino, both emigrated, separately, to California in 1921. Both of them left behind cousins, aunts and uncles. The were both from Piedmont, "piemontesi" so they were thrown together by a mutual language, customs and social gatherings customary at that time among immigrant groups in the US.
They were married in 1921, and shortly thereafter my father filed an application to become an American citizen. I very recently (two weeks ago) discovered a similar application filed by my mother about the same time. My father received his citizenship, but my mother apparently never followed through with her application.
We lived in Berkeley. My father was a partner with my maternal grandfather, my mother's brother, and brother-in-law. They ran a successful business of two grocery outlets and a salami factory in West Berkeley. The main store was the Franklin Market. The entire 'clan' lived in the one building, with living quarters upstairs and the grocery downstairs. They were well-known in the community and very well respected by the citizens and all the authorities, and very active in Italian circles like the Order Sons of Italy in America, and the Fratellanza club. I recall attending conventions in Weed and Santa Barbara where members from all over the state attended. These gatherings were openly cultivated by politicians for electoral support. Berkeley city officials came to our stores seeking votes and support during electoral campaigns.
While I was in high school, my mother supported a "dopo scuola" project which encouraged young people of Italian ancestry to learn the Italian language. I believe that this project was sponsored and supported by the Italian Consulate in San Francisco. Practically all of the first generation Italian Americans enrolled in this project at one time or another. I do recall one incident when the Secretary to the Consul came to a class and talked about the glory and grandeur of Italy under the guidance of Mussolini and the Fascists. He offered to instruct all of us in the use of the saber or foil in the art of fencing (there were no takers). There was also then a young persons' offspring of the Sons of Italy, called the "Loggia Giovanile." Again, my mother and other like-minded parents sponsored our membership and participation in our lodge called the "Loggia Giovanile Savoia No. 6." I have cited all this 'history' only to call attention to the fact that my mother and many, many others were very visible in our communities as supporters of things Italian.
When WWII broke out, I was a student at St. Mary's College High School. I recall being on debating teams and always taking an anti-war stance in all of our debates. Upon graduation, I matriculated at UC Berkeley, seeking a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Then in 1941, when the US entered the world conflict, I was still at UC. Almost immediately I saw all my Japanese friends moved out of their homes and taken away, former classmates and childhood friends. My first reaction was one of disbelief. My friends couldn't be disloyal, but then at age 18, I didn't question the motives behind this act.
Shortly afterwards we Italian Americans became aware of the fact that the Italians and Germans were to be similarly treated because they were part of the Tri-Partite Alliance, the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis. We learned that non-citizens (like my mother) were to be rounded up. The commanding General, John DeWitt, we discovered later, made this suggestion to our president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who gave his approval for this action. There was a popular story circulating the East Bay at that time about the lack of internment of the Italians. I believe the mayor of San Francisco was one Angelo J. Rossi, who had nominated FDR for the office of President at the Democratic Party Convention in 1928. Al Smith won the nomination. But Rossi had nominated FDR and was well known and respected in the Democratic Party. On the weekend preceding the "round-up," Rossi allegedly contacted the White House and asked FDR, "Mr. President, what are you going to tell the American people Monday morning when they learn that Joe DiMaggio's mother is in a concentration camp?" There was no "round-up." Instead, those non-citizens, my mother among them, were forced to move from their homes to other designated areas, but not to a detention center. About this time I applied for work and was accepted at Mare Island Navy Shipyard in Vallejo.
We were then living at 1207 Francisco Street in Berkeley, in the prohibited zone. My mother and a close friend in similar circumstances, "Ninin" Ponsetto, moved from our home and shared an apartment together at 2234 San Pablo Avenue, six blocks away, but across University Avenue and below the horizon of San Francisco Bay (presumably so that no signals could be sent to ships at sea.)
They resided there for some time, until I contracted a severe case of measles (for the third time) and my father had no one to care for me. He then called the Berkeley Police Department and talked with Inspector Chrales Ipsen and Captain Johnson, who was acting chief at that time, and informed him of our predicament. He told Captain Johnson that his son was sick, needed care, and so he was going to get his wife and bring her home. He said, "Tell the police to arrest me if they want to, but I am going to get my wife now and bring her home to care for our son." Capt. Johnson replied, as closely as I can recall, "Get her, put her on the floor of the car in the back seat, cover her with a blanket, and take her home, and tell her to stay inside!" My father did that, and nothing happened. Our "clan" was well-known and respected by the Berkeley police force and many city office holders, many of whom offered their apologies for this relocation of my mother and others.
By then I had been drafted into the United States Navy. My first assignment was to San Diego. I recall my wife and mother calling me on the phone. My mother would speak to me in English, and I would respond in "Piemonteis" or Italian. When I asked her why she didn't speak in "our" language, she replied that she didn't want to cause me any trouble since I was in the Navy. I remember replying that she could speak in English if she wanted to, but that I would continue to speak to her in our own language. She told me years later how much she appreciated my reply. She apparently was concerned that she had jeopardizerd my security and my future by association with an "enemy alien" mother.
This was a tragic episode in my life. I carry no scars or grudges. It probably has made me more understanding and tolerant of the plight of others that I believe may be unjustly accused. But I will never forget what we endured. While in the Navy, as a member of the SRU, Ship Repair Unit, there were two occasions when I was reminded that my mother was "not a citizen." For the first few weeks I got a lower priority than others. And for a while I was kept apart, with no access to certain areas.
Of course, many injustices occurred, and certainly we were never subjected to the indignities and travails of our Japanese friends, but this does not lessen the pain. Is it any wonder that so many Italian immigrants and first generation American-born became Republicans after the war? We blamed the government! Our resentments may have been misplaced, but all we remember is what happened, when it happened, where it happened, but why, we still don't understand. A fault of leadership, paranoia, lack of knowledge, misjudgment?
I've tried to determine what I would have done at the time had I been General DeWitt or even FDR. Perhaps caught up in the confusion and fear of a possible invasion, I might have taken the same action. Now, however, realizing that grave errors were committed, it is time for Italian Americans living in the USA, citizens or not, to have a public apology delivered to them for the unlawful actions taken at that time.
Where: Oakland, CA
Who: Velio Alberto Bronzini
I saw the article in L'Italo Americano, clicked on the web page number that was in the newspaper, and that really brought back memories of those dark days that the Italians in our neighborhood in east Oakland went through. If there is someone in our Government who believes this didn't happen, they can talk to me. I was thirteen years old, and we were all at the kitchen table having dinner, me, my parents, and my younger brother, when there was a knock on the front door and my mother answered. She came back into the kitchen and told my father that there were two policemen that wanted to talk to him. They had come to pick up our new Philco Radio because it had a shortwave band on it. That was only the beginning of the nightmare. We had to be in the house by a certain hour at night, there were some friends that would not associate with us, and a short time later, my father's business was declared to be in the Military Zone. Unfortunately for him, it was on the
westside of E. 12th St; had it been on the east side it would have been O.K. The end result of all this is that my father had to close his Produce Market, and my mother ended up in a hospital for two months with a total mental collapse. She used to repeat over and over: Non e` giusta, non abbiamo fatto niente a nessuno. I recall the women of the neighborhood comforting each other, each with their own crisis. I remember that many families were sad because their sons had left for the Military Service. My mother used to knit sweaters for that day when they all came home from the war. My father used to say that the biggest mistake they ever made was not getting their final naturalization papers before the war started; they found out the hard way what it was like to be an 'enemy alien.'
My parents harbored no hard feelings toward this country; they always felt it was their fault for not having become citizens sooner. My mother's favorite song was the Star Spangled Banner, and my father always held his hat over his heart when the colors marched by.
I strongly support your effort to get HR 2090 recognized by our Government. It must get into recorded history so that our children and all future generations can know what price those humble Italians paid to become Americans.
Where: Gary, Indiana
Who: Frank Brogno
I do not recall the exact day, but I do remember clearly what happened one evening at our home in Gary, Indiana a few days after Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The three of us, Mamma, Papa and myself were listening to a program on our new Philco radio--a Philco console which was delivered to us just two or three weeks before. It was the very first radio we owned and it was purchased on a lay-away plan over several months at Kobacker's Department Store in Gary. It was our family Christmas present and we were very proud to have our own radio. We often sat together after supper to enjoy the music, the news and entertainment from the nearby Chicago stations. Our new radio also had a shortwave band which could receive programs from Europe. Papa, especially, was thrilled at listening to Italian voices and music late in the evening from Rome. The sound of Italia in our 'front room:' we all smiled and sighed in amazement!
Then it happened--the moment when the smiles and sighs turned into stiff stares of shocking disbelief--and fear. A Gary Fire Department truck parked in front of our home. Two firemen came, one with a list of names and addresses in hand. This was the residence of Peter Brogno? Yes. They had orders to search the house for shortwave radios, for guns and other non-specified items. They searched the entire house from basement to second floor, as well as the small storage shanty in the side yard. They took the radio. They took my Papa's automatic revolver--a Spanish-made automatic which was given to him by his captain in the Italian Army when Papa was discharged at the end of WWI--a prize for having been an excellent member of the elite
Undicesimo Regimento Bersaglieri(sharpshooters rifle regiment).
Then came the tears and the anxiety about what would happen next. Would someone come to take us away? Papa's cheeks were awash in tears. I was a dumbfounded and speechless teenager, trying to reassure Papa and quiet my fiery and angry Mamma, who went to hover over my baby brother John in his crib (he was 18 months old) when she was not blasting away at the "mean and stupid firemen" with unrelenting anger and painful moans.
I believe it was three or four weeks later that the fire department came back to return the radio and the prized revolver. The firemen who returned the radio said nothing--not a thing--about what happened or why it happened. They came and went just as they had when they took away the radio and gun. In the first encounter they presented no court orders, no explanations. They left no signed receipts for what they took. They came only with a list of Italian American names and addresses, period. They gave no apologies when they came to search and no apologies when they returned the items. They said nothing. And no one has said anything to Papa, to Mamma or to me ever since. And more than 57 years have gone by!
Some reflections and notes about this traumatic blow.
My Papa, my Mamma and I were, all three, naturalized
citizensof the United States. We were very proud of being American citizens. I can still hear Papa proudly telling people how he attained his citizenship status "six months ahead of time." He was a very good student in his citizenship class at the International Institute in Gary. He had also helped dozens of Italian immigrants obtain their papers, and assisted the staff of the Institute with interpreting and translating letters and documents presented to them in Italian at no charge. He had learned to read and write English quite well in five years and had taught his father--who had never set foot in a schoolroom in either Italy or America--to read the daily newspaper in English. The older I become the more I marvel at both of them!
I personally felt deep pain in reaction to the cold and harsh rejection of my Italian origin. Like Papa, I also had become a good student. I had graduated as the valedictorian of my high school class just a few months prior to the sledge hammer blow to my Italian American self esteem. Yes, I began to feel shame. I felt growing concern and anxiety about who I was, where I came from, and very worried about belonging and being accepted as a "real American." I even entertained thoughts of changing my name. Perhaps, I thought, I could make my Italian name appear to be a "French" name: "French" because they were "on our side;" because I was about to join the Navy; because to be "French" was OK--it was much more "chic" as we now say about being Italian. I thought I would change my name just a bit, like this: BROGNO to "BROGNE'" But I never took the step and I'm happy I did not.
Finally, I must say it was a hurtful and difficult period for our Italian American family. The image of my Papa crying and my Mamma wailing is etched deeply in my memory. And they were such good and proud American citizens.