We lived in a moderately sized home with our parents, Luigi and Maria Tarantini. This house was not only our home, but it was also the location of our little bakery. Not only were there the regular chores of maintaining a household, but we, also made and sold bread and Pizza to the residents of our small town.
Everyone worked in our family. From washing clothes in the nearby creek or taking care of the fields and the farm animals to baking and selling bread. There was very little leisure time. But, that is not to say that when we could spare a little time and steal away to find someone to play the concertina. We did not hesitate to gather together to dance and sing with our very special neighbors and friends. These were the special and memorable moments - the laughter, the teasing, and the sharing that we will never forget.
Our Parents provided us with a safe and secure home. We always had enough food to eat and warm clothes to wear. They were strict disciplinarians and usually the emphasis was on work and not play.
Our Father came to Lettopalena about once every two or three years from America where he worked as a coal miner in Morgantown, West Virginia. Because he spent most of his time in the U.S., we children did not really get to know him or to understand him as well as we would have liked. He was a hard worker, and he tried to work and save money to give to us when he came to us in Italy.
Our Mother's life was difficult and trying, too. Her husband, our Father, was usually away in America which left her the responsibility of raising six children all on her own. It must have been very difficult to make decisions about our well being without the help of our Father. But we remember our lovely grandparents who helped us and our Mother, too. A family , back then, meant your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and aunts, and uncles. Everyone was important, and everyone had a voice in what was to happen to you and your family.
In 1937, our Father had saved enough money to allow all of us to return with him to America. We were going to live in a small town named Richard in West Virginia. We arrived in New York, first and spent a few days in Manhattan. From New York, we moved to the small village of Richard.
Richard, West Virginia, was a very small village with a coal miner's Company store. Practically, everyone worked in the mine. Our new home was very different from our lovely little Lettopalena. Gone were our beautiful vineyards, orchards, farm, bakery, and familiar friendly faces. Moving to America was one of the biggest adjustments we were to ever make in our lives. Most of us wanted to get right back on the next boat headed for Italy, but that was not to be.
Our Parents, being the strict disciplinarians that they were, sent most of us off to work. The oldest girls were sent to a local Shirt Factory to press shirts; the oldest boy was sent to the coal mines; and the youngest children were sent to school.
Moving to America meant learning a new language, making new friends, and becoming familiar with many new and unusual customs. Looking back, now, it was a difficult and frightening time in our lives. But it is the source of much laughter and hysterics when we recall all the comical events that occurred as a result of our misunderstanding the language or the people or our confusion as to how we were ever going to "fit in" in this new place.
But that was 58 years ago. And we did finally fit in. Our Parents are gone, now, but we thank God for them and their wisdom. Their hard work and sacrifice allowed all of us to have the opportunity to have our own families. Now, we share with our children and grandchildren the stories of our past. We laugh, and we cry, too. We, also, hope that our wisdom and sacrifice will allow them to be strong and wise enough to handle the struggles and obstacles which arise in every life. We hope, too, that they will pass onto their children our rich history which will make a difference in their lives because of who we were and who their ancestors were and what we did for all of them.
by Michael Tarantini, Valeria Falcocchio, Elsie Polce, Anne Borrelli, Tony Tarantini, Giovina DiStefano
Mary Carfang Tarantini Photo Index