sea chest

My grandfather brought this trunk to America in 1910 with him from Bari, Italy.
My grandfather brought this trunk to America in 1910 with him from Bari, Italy.

We called him Noonon (our version of Italian for grandfather). Gaetano was a character long before I knew why. He left his family in Bari, Italy for America in 1910. He was an indentured servant to an upstate farmer for seven years. At one point, close to the end of his contract, he ran away to New York City and got a job building the 8th Ave subway. He even moved to a more dangerous job of using dynamite to shorten the digging times. My uncle has a picture of him eating spaghetti with two tenement roommates. Apparently he survived in the city and saved up to start a coal business. He met my grandmother's family and married Lucia in 1920. They moved to Sea Cliff, away from all the relatives to start a new life. He and my grandmother spoke broken English but were very good in math and business. They owned homes and an apartment building. They lived frugally I am sure because of his humble beginnings. Noonon shopped at the Salvation Army for his clothes, even though we bought him new ones as gifts!
My grandfather was on the luxury liner, the Andrea D'Oria in 1956 when it sank. He survived that ordeal to tell his story in Italian. I remember the whole family being at his home to welcome him back and everyone was in tears. 
He was usually upbeat about his life and loved his adopted nation, becoming an naturalized citizen. 

Place(s): Ellis Island, Italy
Year: 1910

– Rosemary Giordano McKinley

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant