At the age of 15 or 16 my grandfather left his home, his father, and like his siblings before him set out for "America", hoping for.. a better life, even though his father, a calzolaio (shoemaker) had a good craft and could offer his family a decent home and life as a tradesperson. He came to Newcastle, Pennsylvania like his brothers, to work in the mills. He married another Italian immigrant from Lucania/Basilicata, Rachele Anacleta (whose mother had to sign for her to marry she being only 15) and began a family. Over the years he lost a leg to an accident in the mill (below the knee) and, paid approximately $300. for this loss (not a small sum for the time, but not worth his loss I would venture to say) he opened his own store and bought a player piano for his wife as she had desired one she saw in a store..ah, la musica...
In the early 20's he decided to petition for citizenship, perhaps in response to the times, but was never to complete this process as he died in '21 of consumption (tuberculosis) a disease that also took his second child, my aunt, some few years later. It is interesting to note that, although his brothers, the first of whom emigrated some ten years before him, changed their names to an americanized form, Fair, he never used this name and died Alfonso Fera. My father, not as determined or attached, did use this American form of the name, a name which I later dropped in favor of the original, in honor of my grandfather.
My great-grandfather never saw any of his children again after they left
their small town in Italy. He died alone in 1901. One hundred years later,
I stood in the kitchen of a distant relative and met second, third, fourth
cousins and talked to a woman in her seventies perhaps, who, upon learning
my name, said in dialect (which I can both speak and understand as well
as Italian) "Oh, the Fera's, they went to Newcastle, all of them!"
She was right, and apparently, in small towns all over Italy, those who
remained, even now, know where "we" have gone...even to the exact
town or city. We are not really forgotten. Such is the power of the Italian
consciousness and "la famiglia".
If you would like to write to Allyson Fera, use the form below.