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This conversation with James Bacca and Amelia Odorizzi Bacca took place at theirhome in Onaway, Idaho on September 24, 1976. The interviewer was SAM SCHRAGER.
SAM SCHRAGER: Just where exactly, did you come from in Italy?
SS: I've heard that name I think.
AB: Trent is city and all the little town around and this town isNano. Yes.
JAMES BACCA: and Vfildino. Did you ever heard of that?I don't think that name is- no, what is that? Well, that's^where we come from, right there is close to Switzerland. Just kind of a valley, you know. Valley and mountain all around. Almost a hufidfai town in the valley there. Just little town, you know, smaller than this one.
Did you both come from the same town?
You knew each other when you were growing up?
Not very much, no. You know one of my brothers was the same age «.$ hir*.What made you decide to come to the States in the first place? To leave Italy?
Well, you see, we had three brothers here in Wyoming. My sister, afterWorld War I. My sister is the one- she was older than I, and of course -
AB: Well, I'll tell you why- they come from the old country- there was sixbrother, one sister. And you know over there, they're very poor people you know! that's how you live. "Whatever you raise, like you raise your garden^ J J Whatever you raise you eat, and that's it, you know. So his dad died when he was about seven year old I think.
JB: Six, I think.
AB: So he left his mother with all this big family, so they didn't haveany support whatsoever for the kids. So just as soon as he was the age, they start come to America, So the older brother come first. And now he in California, he's eighty-four year old. And then 'nother brother, that he died after he was up to Wyoming and he died there. And after 4fje -k/o*. then the sister come over and she married an Italian boy, too, and then they called for him. They send da mon so he can come over.
SS: Where were they in Wyoming? Where were they living?JB: Rock Springs, Wyoming because the town mine.
SS: What kind of mining were they doing?JB: That's all there is there, just coal mine. They get two line and they go down a little deeper and they have another mine like that. I don't know just how deep they can go down, you know. They's a lot of coal up there.
SS: Did your brothers plan to go back to Italy when they first came overhere? Or did they see it as a permanent move?
JB: Well,one brother went back to Italy; the other got kill and the othertwo, one in California and myself, we still here. Is the oldest one in California, I'm the youngest one, see.
SS: How rough was it in- where you grew up? How rough was it to make aliving in Italy?
JB: I 11 tell you, it was awful rough the war. 1918 they finish the WorldWar I and my God, didn't have hardly anything to eat there,you know. We had to go out in the field
AB: Had to go out in the field and eat the wheat, you know.
JB: Patch of wheat, stalk, and my gosh, you know, they go and they wastaking care of that, and they go out and get it anyway.
AB: Go out at night and get it
SS: You mean just what was left in the field after the harvesting?
JB: No, no, before the harvest. I still remember my poor mother used tomake a- you might say something like hotcakes and stuff like that. And the stuff wasn't ripe, and I still remember the bellyache I used to get- eat that stuff.
AB: You ground the wheat, no ripe, you know
JB: They used to ground it in the coffee grounder, you know, that's allwe had to ground it and mix whatever they could get.
SS: Could you get any pay for work?
JB: NO. 'Nother thing they don't have anything to work for anywhere, justthe little land they had there.
SS: Did most of the people work for big farmers?So there wasn't rich people. So, really, everybody had his own little plot? Your family owned a little bit of land?
AB: Yes Handed down, you know, generation to generation.
SS: But not enough to make a living?
AB. No, no, no. in other word, you know, if youA. boy inyour family- one boy could stay in the family, the oldest, and then the other brother and the other, they has to go and find theirself, you know, in the other country. nothing there for the other to do. And the girls, they usually get married so that different. And then the other brother- not for the boys, there wasn't nothing to do except for the older boy. and but the other, they don't get nothing.
SS: Was that the law or just a custom?
AB: It must be a custom, as far as I know. I never know about the law, butit the custom there.
SS: Did you have many brothers and sisters?
AB: I just have one brother, but I had three sister, yes.
SS: Was your family also in about the same
AB: Yes- it was just a little better, because, like I say, you know, the:more expensive so- So my brother was pretty lucky because he was all by himself so he How much schooling would you figure on getting there? How many grades in school? Through the eight grades. A lot don't finish the eight grade because in springtime they wanted the boys, you know, out in the fields to work, to help the father to work. far as I know when I was over there, so I don't know now.
SS: Did you get to go to eighth grade?
AB: Yes. I don't think he finish the eight grade, did you?
JB: Well, just about.
AB: I know they you out to work.
JB: Well, all the people work in the war, you know, and then the teacherlet me out- I graduated a little bit sooner from that, about two or three months before graduation I'd say.
SS: Did you go into the army?
JB: No. No, I was too young. Was too young to go in the army. You haveto be eighteen before they drafted, you know.
AB: He just did miss it.Well, did the war cause- the first war- cause a lot of- make things a lot rougher for the people? The First World War? Well, I'll tell you- five year^ the war last just about five years. I think it was about twenty-five or twenty-six that die from the war.
AB: From that town?
JB: Yes. And that town was just about 850 people them days. And nowthrough the flu right after the war, they had the flu, we bury thirty in one month.
AB: One night, you mean. That was terrible.
JB: Yes, special old people.
SS: Did you stay out of school in the spring to work? Did you stay out ofschool to work in the fields?
JB: No. I graduate just before I got out I went to workbecause my birthday in October,see, so I have to be just about four year old when I went to school, see. So I was about fifteen when I finished the school.
AB: When he finish the eight grade.He mean in spring, you know, in spring did you get out a little bit early every year? Because you have your brother^do the work you see.
SS: The older brothers would do the farm work and you would
JB: Yah, that right.What was the farm work that they did? What did they do on the farm? Well, they have a lot of grapes. They had them them days, now they don't have them any more. They change it all, since Italy take over the country, you know, they change it the grape culture. Pretty much all fruit there, you know. The grapes they don't get much volume any more. They have the-
JB: The grape all went out and so instead of planting grapes they plantorchards. They done that since I left there.
SS: Well, in normal times, not during the first war, but before the war,was there enough food for people to eat then? Or was it still short?
JB: Well, I can't remember that long, you know, I was a kid.
AB: See, all depend on about on your crop, too. If you had a nice cropthen you have enough to eat, if you don't have a nice crop, you just scimp a little bit. But the main that you eat over there- it's potatoes and corn meal. They eat potatoes three time a day. In the morning you make like brownies, you know-
AB: Hash brown potatoes.
SS: yeah.Cold potatoes in the evening again- we just fry in the morning and that's why.
What about lunch? Potatoes at lunch, too?
Well, at lunch you have a big meal, so we have corn meal for lunch.You know corn meal?
You make kind of a round and then we slice it and eat that withcheese. Because usually every~Kone cow, two cow, all depend- like I told you before, how much land you had. If you had quite you can support cow, you know, you have enough grass and then you have a one cow, if you don't you have a two cow. You milk the cow, instead of drink the milk we usually- they don't.drinkVilk over there
AB: they drink water or light, light wine, even for the kids, you know.That is the custom. If you take the milk to the— what you call them?
SS: The store?
AB: No, no. To the factory, where they make cheese.
SS: To the creameries.
AB: To the creameries. And you take your milk^or four or five or six month,depends on how much milk you have and then when you take all this milk for this many they give you two ...
JB: They weigh the milk.
AB: They weigh the milk and according to much milk you bring down everysix or seven months, they give you AB:ig^ cheese, like that. And they give you, I don't know how much butter. Oh, I say probably - JB: Twenty pounds-
AB: 0h don't think so, about ten pound or so. Course, we sell that,with that our income. The cheese, we keep it. And that what we eat the corn meal and potatoes. So
SS: All the year around.
AB: Right. You divide 'em up according to how much you have. And so that'5what we eat;^the corn meal- and then in the evening we just boil the potatoes. In summertime you have a little bit the lettuce or cabbage. So, when you said it was really bad was during the war? During the war, because the government got everything. Everything was— to eat we don't have nothing- boy they come in the house and if you have some thing We were right close to the front, too, you know. Yes, every night you hear the boom, boom. They have the cannon fire and the airplane go over head.
AB: Course you knQWj before we belonged to Austria. And then after World War I, Italytook over. changd agri JB: Yeah, that's why they see, they changed the*culture because and the food and water ain't worth asmuch
SS: The people in your - in the city and the towns where you lived, didthey think of themselves as being Austrians, or as being Italian?
AB: I think they like Austri
SS: So that's really the nationality, Austrian?
SS: Yes, that's the nationality, oh, yes. Austrian.Well, when you left, did that leave your mother without people to help her? JB: Well, I had two brothers there. two brothers over there. JB: Two brothers left there.
SS: Did you think pt wasAB:ig chance to get out and come to America? JB: Oh, yeah. I think that was a good deal! Because I had two brother in Wyoming, see, so it pretty much like going home anyway, see. They have a house and stuff to eat-
AB: And a job there-
SS Was it hard to get used to working in a mine after growing up on afarm?
JB: No No Lked to work in a mine. Yeah. First, of course, I'mit was working in a telling you that I was pretty much scare, you know, because pillar. I don't know if you know anyt'ing about mining or not. The place it goes about, oh, ninety and two hundred feet and they start close and the entry is small but^right away widen out and it'll be about, oh, fifty feet, I tfink, and goes clear up to the entry. And between one place and the other there'd be the pillar, see that'll hold the up see. Iwas working in the pillar, see. The entry lt: was the two- But we were working in the pillar. I was wor king alone but I had a friend down below that used to come up
SS: What did you do? What was the job that they had you do?JB: Well, you gotta dig coal, see.
SS: So you dug the coal right by the pillar?Yeah. Well^you work in a pillar, you know, it is easy to get coal you know because it squeeze out from the mount (ain) you see. All you
JB: have to do is to take out a little bit in the bottom and it squeezeout and then you have to dig down a little bit in the top. I used to do pretty good. I would make about $10 a day.
SS: Oh, that sounds like big money in those days.JB: Yeah, them days.
SS: Just digging the coal with a pick?JB: Yeah.
AB: Pick and shovel.JB: The company men, they used to get about $8 a day. I do better than that.
SS: That's gyppo, eh?
JB: Yeah. And, hell, they only work six hours a day. Take one hourto go eat and an hour to come out. That's a long ways in and out, you know. It wasn't really steep down; it goes down to the entry then it goes straight down. It take about an hour to go in you know and out.
SS: Were you worried about the safety?
JB: Well, I don't know just what the safety means. When I was in therefirst you know, you can hear the things cracking around here and there and I thought the mountain was coming out, so I go down and see my friend down below. (Laughter) He come up and say, "Well," he says, "I can't see nothing wrong here." "it's cracking here and there." He says, "The mountain'11 do that." But after I was in there say about a month and I know just what to do myself, see. All we have to do is prop it up right where you're working, see, with a prop up then, the mines they all got sides, see, and when they cave down dat won't anybody.
SS: But the walls really were cracking? When you work on 'em?
JB: 0h Ya that will squeeze the coal out, too. ya, because the weight ofthe mountain, see,Ksqueeze the coal out see. But as long as you have props on it, then you safe.
SS: Were there any bad accidents?
JB: Well, every once in a while you can hear about one, not very often.Something like this here in the mill, you know. Somebody get hurt. Sometime it will happen that they get killed. That right here in the mill, too, you know. Not very often.
SS: Was there a union in Wyoming, for the miners?
JB: Ya, ya. Had a union, ya. Everything was union then, you know, ya.You bet. After the union, we done better.
SS: Was that the United Mine Workers? In Wyoming?
JB: Ya. Ya, that's what it is. Ya.
SS: Did you live pretty good in Wyoming? Was it a good living situation?
JB: Yeah. Well, then I was boarding, then I had my sister there, too, youknow, so I was boarding with her when I was working in the mine. Yeah, had a good board. Well, everybody work hard in the mine, you know. Long-' work you know, and working long hours, but anyway- when day work, they work, I'd say. Then, of course, they come out and wash off. Them days we used to have a wash outside the house, you know. We had a house to wash in, wash yourself out, too, you know. They cal led it shanty, you know, it was right close to the house, they have it that building there so you can wash yourself and clean up. Now it's different. The company's got that, you can wash out come out of the mine and clean up-
SS: But you had to go home before you could wash?
JB: Ya, you had to come home to wash. Just like Negro when you come home.You look just like Negro when you come out of the mine because the coal you know, you get a little spot on it Dirty all over. You have to change clothes, everything, every day when you come out de mine.
SS: Was your sister married then?
JB: She was married, ya. I think she just got married when I come here.She come out year before I did.
SS: Had she come over with the brothers?JB: No.
SS: She came over by herself.JB: No, she come with-
AB: Another girl, didn't she?
Ya, 'nother girl. My brother married the girl, see.
Oh, so she came with your brother's wife?
That's right. Well, she wasn't his wife then.
She came to marry him, you know,I had the idea that most of the women from the old country, you know, they stayed over there, unless they got married and came over here, like you did.
AB: What do you mean?Well, most of them, I thought- unless they were already married, they wouldn't even come over. It's not like the men, like him, would just come over to work, but the women wouldn't just come over. Yeah, but she know she was going to marry him. They was writing to each other, see, so she come over here and marry, see. And his sister was the same thing. This fella, you know, was an Italian boy, too. She came over to get- to marry him, too.
AB: Yes, uh-huh.JB: Well, she doesn't know. She didn't know.
AB: No, I thought she knew.JB: She didn't know anybody at that time anyway. Anyway, she work here.
SIDE BShe worked as a— she tended bar?
She- yeah. Help him around there.
Did you find it takes very long to learn English?
We.ll, you know. You never went to school for that. 4 Just picked itup as we went.
Did it cause you any trouble before you knew to speak the language?I mean, like getting around and then knowing what you—?
No, in a mine you won't speak much anyway, see. The boss'11 come inand tell you; it's a lot of foreign in therecompany will be a little different- the boss he try to help the language-T^t+^do the job. I used to go in and work by gyppo- don't have to know much. (Chuckles)
You say when you started- when did you have to be able to talk toeach other- you say when you did the gyppo- it was just a day wage?
Yes. Ya, ya. They all was working days, you know. But they workedby company, you know- company men. But you got to know the language quite
AB:it otherwise you don't know whatt the boss wants you know.Did you have a foreman who could speak Austrian? No. No, I never know anyone that speak my language then, except the people they work on it, ya.
We wasn't Austrian; we speak Italian. Oh, ya, it was Italian, ya.We speak Italian, oh, yes. We didn't speak German. Just like over the other side of the mountain, they speak German and didn't speakany Italian. Out- the other side.
The way you haye to go, you knowthere just one way out and then it south and otherwise you got to go through the mountain, see. Then just go, like that, it only take bout, oh, say about a couple a hours, with the train, you know.
SS: Did you ever learn to speak German, too?No. No, I know something about it because been around five years, you know. And Austrian and German and Hungary, all kinds of nations there, so I don't know, someone that can speak German- most of these can speak German. You want something to eat, dey all know that part of it.
Were there a lot of people who had come over from where you lived, comeover to the United States? JB: Yeah, ya, quite a few.
SS: I had heard that a lot of people who came from Austria went back whenthe First World War started. Is that true? Did many come back from the United States?
JB: 1 didn't know anybody that come back there. Lot of people, they don'tcome around there anyway because, hell, the only way they come around if they want to go out then they be back here, see. But otherwise what do they want to go back there for?
SS: Well, what happened? Do you know? Before World War I, there were alot of people from Austria and Italy that were around in this country working on the section crews and working in the mills and that k ind of thing; but then I heard that they left around here around the time World War I started. I wonder where they went. Or if maybe they still were here.
JB: Some- You know Austria was then the enemy, see, and I don't know howit was. The United States they were helping Italy or how it was. World War II, when this country went over in Italy and fight it out
mostly down in the southern part of Italy. And they went up about closeto Rome, too. But I didn't know anybody-
SS: That came back from the United States.JB: No, because- another thing- I don't see why they would. They got away the first time, so that—
SS: You figure there really was an awful lot more opportunity over here.JB: 0h Ya ya I should say. You bet. Yeah. You got AB:e tter chance to make a living here than over there. Ya, I should say so.
SS: I was thinking maybe the big cities, you know, like where they havethe auto factories and-
JB: Well, course, ^was away from the big cities, you know. We don'tknow much about the big city. All I can say that whatever was going on in town there right around the whole valley, they was about in the same condition; about all the same.
SS: You came over - it was about '27, that you came over here?JB: I come to Wyoming in 1920.
SS: 1920, yeah, and did you stay there until '27?
I stay there til - well, I went to California I guess - California whenmy brother die. He die in a car accident. And my brother he wasn't in California then, he come up for the funeral. And after the funeral, he said, "Did you want to go to California?" "Well," I say, "Okay." He say, "Let's go." I like to see the country and I didn't like it down there, It was quite
AB:it cheaper than what itis up in the mine, and .to find a steady job. I didn't go in really the right place, because.if I woulda went in the northern part of Cali fornia, then you got a chance to go in the wood or in the sawmill and stuff like that, you know.^Then it was all farming and stuff like that. And lot of Mexican and the wage was pretty low. I work there in one place there where Hollywood is noW)digging a ditch. And I got ascared of a snek (snake).
JB: Rattlesnake, and I come pretty near breaking my leg there to get awayfrom it. And well, I didn't like it so, about- right around six months I come back in the mines. And I work in the mine, let's see, about-
AB: '27. 1927. That's when you come back here.JB: No I come here '27. I work in Montana after that. See, I work two year in Montana- ranches.
SS: Before you came- before '27?JB Yeah. Before I come here. Just before I come to Potlatch.
SS: What kind of work was that?JB Well, they have two or three hired men there-
AB: Big ranch, you know.Ya, ranch. Raising hay and make the hay for the stock in the summer. In the winter feeding them out to the stock, see. They had sheep that used to come up the lower country and they wintered there, the sheep. And I was feeding cow and horses. They had about sixty or seventy horses and I don't know how many cows they was feeding anyway. Take me all day to feed 'em. And that^the way it was. I remember that, my gosh, it get so cold out there. It was just on this side of Butte. And I asked the foreman, I say, "Why don't you keep a thermometer here so we know how cold it was- what to do when it gets cold?" "Well," he says, "if we keep the thermometer the men: won't stay." (Chuckles) I come out lots of time and I had just ice all around my cap here, you know. Sweater and thenA . Yeah, that's the way it was there, but I like ranching. JUii 4he. same.
SS: Was the pay pretty good then there or not?
Well, two dollars a day and board. (Chuckles) I guess them was prettygood wages them days. Well, my sister, her husband got sick and she was gone to the old country. 1925. I went up and seen my sister, tell her goodbye, and I find another man that he say like to go to coast. Well, I never been this side the country; been to California, so gotta go and see this side country, too, you know. Well, he had a fella here that he knows before he come in this country and he know him from the oii country. He knows the address, he was here in Potlatch. Well, I we did stop here and then we go from the coast there, you know. We stop ped there and we got a job here so we never got to go to the coast. (Laughs) I work in the same job for thirty-nine years. In the same job.
SS: What was the job?
SS: Is that what you first started doing? You started-
JB: Fire- fireman. Yeah. And then I work up to be You don'thave no better job.
SS: You mean that's the highest you could go?JB: Yeah, that's right, yeah.
Well, when you- why did you decide to leave that job in the coal minein the first place? It sounds like good money you were making.
jB: Yah, ya, But anyway, got to see something else, you know. I was youngthen, you got to see the world. I went to California. I come here. I see what was going on. You gotta work no matter where you go, and so after I came here, I stay in the same place. In Hollywood. Do you remember what you were making on the ditch job? Digging the ditch? What they paid you? It was probably pretty cheap.
JB: Ya. Ya, pretty cheap.
SS: What was your brother doing down there?
JB: Well, he was running a hotel. Was running hotel.
SS: How did you get that job as a fireman to start with here?
JB: Well, it just happened that way, see. Need a man and so I went in andfirst thing you know, I had the steady job. Somebody quit, see, and that's the way it go, see. You got a chance to work then. What was the job? What did you do, for instance, as a fireman? You got to walk back and forth in the fire, see. The fire with the fuel, hog fuel, see.
AB: To make steam^ the sawmill, that's what he did.That's all. Of course, we have to work night and days and every tine. How long a day did you work? Was it a twelve hour day? No. Just eight hours. Eight hours. But then you know, we had three shift, see. Sometime we change every week and then you change isvery month. It all depend on how the thing come out. And then pretty soon we change- Mostly you change every week, maybe.
JB: Mostly, yeah. Finally, today, you know, they got so they won't changeany more. The new man goes in the graveyard shift and come back in the afternoon and days.
Did you work five days a week or seven?Work seven days when I first started. Every day. That's a long ways. (Chuckles)
I've heard that that was a pretty good job; the fireman's job.Well, that's a little better than common labor.
SS: Did they pay—JB: I think it was getting about forty-five dollar an hour—
AB: Forty-five cents an hour. (ChucklesHeat's right. Ya. Irememberworking every day and sometime somebody won't show up and then you have to work a double shift. I never make two hundred dollar Never make a month dollar and they were paying once a month thea days. You mean you never made a hundred dollars in one month?
That's right. So that's pretty hard thing to go, you know.
Did that mean- could you put aside any money? Or did it just cost youall the money you made to live?
Well, the way we had been doing it- I used to bach myself, see. Andby doing that I have something left over, see. If you have the board and everything, it take about all you make Ahyway.
You mean you didn't live with any of your friends? Just all by yourself? You didn't live with other guys?
No. No. Well, Idid at first you know, then Ibached,, see. Iwasbaching over there. About three years, I think.
SS: Were there many guys that'd come -where you came from the area, thatwere here? Were there many guys from Northern Italy JB: There was few. Ya. Two, three, four, ya, they was four.
AB: Family . Just closest-JB: That's all. Really, I never see anyone from my own town.
SS: But from the country. From Northern Italy there, or from Austria wasfour or five people? Yeah about four- like here in Potlatch, yeah. Used to be- years ago, you know, there used to be a lot of |+ here from Italian. They say there was^bout half of the sawmill down there was pretty much^ , single men then, you know. Used to have * boarding house there in Potlatch. One for Italian people, one for Japan people, you know. But then you know when the Depression just about everybody left here, you know. Went even to Spokane^to Lewiston. They said thisa mill don't open any more,after the Depression, you know. So they went out and find jobs someplace , 4. of people else. So they left. ^To Lewiston, to Spokane.
Through the Depression they shut down entirely, even the powerplant.And they build the one uptown just to make the steamfeor the churches and stuff here. But when you first came here, there were . there were still just a hand ful of Italians. Yeah, it just started to slacken off when I first come from the old country, 1931. The Depression had just started to taken ahold, see and they started to laying off men.
Well, when you came in '27 were there a lot more Italians here, thanthere were in '31?
SS: A whole lot left just in those four years?
JB: Well, there weren't too many right then, you know. Before my timeused to be lot of 'em in here, see.
SS: I wonder what happened to those guys when they left here before youcame? I wonder if they just went to Spokane or—?
JB: Well, they find job anywhere,I suppose. I don't know. I don't knowwhat they do
AB: Lot of them went to Lewiston, because Lewiston is a much bigger sawmillthan here, you know. JB: Well, but that at Lewiston, it started after I come here.
JB: Well, A lot of Italian people there. They closed that down during the Depression,and then they never opened that up. And this one down here was the same thing, you know. When they started the Depression they Nnever^open the sawmill again, so that is why a lot of people left. Did you think that people from Eastern Europe, like Greeks and Italian people would have a harder time than these local boys, say, to get ahead in a sawmill? I mean, was there a little discrimination against the people from the old country?
Oh, I don't know.I don't think so. I think they been doing pretty goodhere.
JB: trade when you come over yooN the schooling, too.and the language have a lot to do, you know. But if you don't know- I mean, you know writing is one thing Well, I've heard a couple of people that I've talked to say that it would be harder for them, say as Greeks to get ahead than it would be for somebody that was local, that had been around here for a long time. Somebody that was local would have an easier time in say, getting a better job than somebody that wasn't.
JB: Well, now like I happen to be myself, work in the one joball the time. So, I don't know- the.people, they do around here- But he was talking about the advantage you could have if you was born here locally, more to go up, you know-
AB:etter job. That what he talking about.American boys, they have a little preference, ya.
AB: That what he^talking about
SS You decided- you had only been here for a short time when you went backto Italy and you married?
SS: You had only been here for a short time?
Been here three year. '27.SS: Been here for three years?
SS: Did you have a correspondence before?JB: No.
SS: So when you went back, did you know that you were going to get married to her?
JB: No Ididn't know it. (Laughter) Just happened that way... That^all.
SS: Can you tell me how that came about? Was the marriage arranged backthere?
AB: No. N he-sadd_no, No.SS I've heard that a lot of the parents would arrange marriages among the—
AB: They arrange for him, you know, a girl. Remember (. ke arrangedtor you to marry somebody* Remember? I guess he didn*t like the girl or something. I remember we meet the first time he come up to the house to see my brother, because he went to school why.
SS: Well, I've spoken to people that have come from- One woman I talked tofrom Sweden came over about 1927, and she said it was really difficult to leave Sweden, in fact, some women wouldn't leave, like her husband's mother never would leave Sweden to come over here. And how did you feel about leaving-
AB: Over there?
SS: Yes, just leaving to come over?
AB: I really didn t mind because I lost my parent, when I was,seven year old4|my brother and my sister, so I didn't have much of a family, you know.
SS: Yes, I think it does make a difference.
AB: 0h I think so, too. Ya, sure, because then you have somebody and Ididn't have anybody. My brother was married and had his own family. So I really was just in the way there because, you know. I didn't have anything, except- well, of course he would keep me there and I was working for, but- it wasn't my family any more, see. Like it was city and all Icould get ajob, butchere you didn't have that chance to get a job, so you have to work for your brother. Servant, really. He was Your parents died when you were just a girl? Was that during the war? Yeahj my daddy died from the flu and my mother the year before. She had been sick for a long while and I was six year old and she died.
SS: That flu must have been really
AB: Oh, yes. Very terrible.I know lot of young kidsbe all right. Alot of people just go in a coma. The fever go up to 105, 106, and that's sick you know, for days and days and days. We weren't able to store enough, you know, because by^hey^run out of medicine, you know. The same thing- around here, this country, people died the same way.
Did you stay back there for very long when you went back in 1930?
JB: Six month.Mussolini was there Did you feel- how about Mussolini? Did you want to get out of the country then because of him?
Well, he wasn't too bad. He was very severe, you know but in commandand everything. But hepoor people, I can tell you that. He was for poor people more than the other people, you know. H really make a for poor people. I can say that. Jim didn't like him! (Laughter)
I don't like He was there, you know, and he come up and see me and when he go homehe be stop, and they asked him what he do, whether he went, ev erything he went, after eleven o'clock at night, you know. And, boy, if you don't have an answer you go to jail. Oh, yeah.
SS: Were you an American citizen by that time?JB: Yeah.
SS: You had your citizenship papers here?JB: Yeah.
SS: So they couldn't do any- really do anything too bad to you, I wouldthink. JB: No, but anyway-
AB: They follow him around.JB: That's AB:ig country, you know,
AB:JB: Then those that work under him, they has to do their job, just like he says. That's why I don't like it. (Chuckles)
Now, I've heard that the unions- from my reading about Italian historyat that time, I've heard that the unions were very strong right after the First World War. Like around Turin where they had all the auto factories, the unions were very strong. The Communist party got really strong for a while, too, and the Socialist Party there and then it all turned around when Mussolini came in and they threw all those people a lot of those people in jail.
Yes, that's right. Yeah, he clean up things pretty much, you know;Mussolini did. Look how he got done anyway, first thing you know they hanged him. Well, was it hard to make— You were saying that it was easy to get her to come to America. Right? You had no trouble. Ijust have to sent the card here from Washington and come back, you know, and that would take about two months, altogether. Well, he has to go through Venice to get the
JB: Well, they go to the-American Consulate, that's in Venice.
Did you get married when you were still in Italy before you came over?
We get married in that time.
Oh, yeah. kAnd then we went to Venice to get my passport.^ The American Consul in Venice.
Could you take much of your belongings over here?
No, Ididn't take very much
So what did you think of this country when you got here?
(Laughter) It all so much different, you know, thaner there. I think it is good thing like the old country, too, now, because my sister iSt my sister she write to me. Why even in the schools now, they start teaching the kids different languages, espe cially English, and I think is a very nice thing to do. Because I do not like for anybody to go in any country to stay, you know and don't have any knowledge at all in the language. Because it is just pretty hard. It wasn't so bad for me ^cao^ We Wa1+4. But can imagine you come over here and just don't know anything, that's very bad. Did you move here to Onaway when you first came over here?
AB: Yeah, uh-huh.
Yeah, we tried to find a house in Potlatch, but can get no houses thedays. They were alljfilled up so we find ahouse here. I thought this town -that Onaway was just a little bit more indepen dent because Potlatch was a company town and this was a private one. This was no town at all, then, you know.
SS: Was no town?
AB: No. They didn't have no light, they didn't have no water, they didn'thave anything. In fact, the water, they the water Everybody used the well for year.
SS: Oh, really?
AB: The electricity came down- my two daughters was born, she was born in1936 when they put in the electricity. So really, when I come over here, because you heard to much in the old country about America. People go to America look like everything is come out of the spigot you know. And I was just stunned when I come over here, didn't have no water, no electricity. At least over there, we didn't have much ho+ we have that, you know.
Kind of disappointing.
Ya. Ya. It was- water and light- that,' the main thing, you know. Wedidn't have it. had it in Potlatch, yes, but not over here. Yeah, in 1936* the lights come in here.
You know, we talked about Prohibition here in the '20's. The peoplearound Potlatch say that the Italians made very good wine during that time. That was one of the main ways that there was to get some kind of alcoholic beverage at that time, otherwise it was bootlegged from other places like Spokane.
Well, he make his own wine all hecaose Becausewe use to over there, just enough for our own use.
Do you remember guys who were selling wine?JB: Who?
SS: Do you remember guys who were selling wine at that time in the '20's?Back then?
Well, I don't know anybody that was sellin' wine. They was sellin'whiskey. Bootleggers*.in other word, see.
SS: That was being done all over.JB: 0h yeah. All over the country, somebody bootleggin' you know.
AB: It was a lot of money, you know, if you can get away.JB: Get away, yeah.
SS: Well, they tell me that among the bachelors there was an awful lot ofgambling, too, in Potlatch. Lot of gambling.
Yes, Yeah, I t/ink so, especially when they have a lot of single mens,specially. I can't say nothing about that because I never go, much
SS: I heard about this bowling game. They told me that, and told me thatit was really popular game among some of the Italian men, that they
AB:all- what is that?
AB: They used to have it down there when they have-Yeah, was lot of Italian people JB: Italian and Greek, they play, too.
AB: Greek?JB: Uh-huh.
SS: Well, I heard it was mostly- it was really Italian, but some of theGreeks start playing-
They still doin' it in San Francisco and them big city like that, theyplaying that game now. I heard it here not too long ago they still have their Bocci game down there.
SS So tell me a little of what Potlatch was like at that time when youfirst came to work here.
JB: I t'ink- I never joined any union here.
SS: You never joined the union?
No, not dis one dey have now, but I join other one. I finally gottired, they changing union here every season you know. So I got tired I say I won't join no more union. That was the end of it. Dis one is dat de end of it. Dis one come in and den no more come in, see. Dat the way it happen.
Do you remember when the union first got in in Potlatch? I understandthe company didn't want a union here.
SS: Which one? Is that the LLLL? Or which union I wonder.JB: It must have been it.
SS: The LLL's was a company union.JB: Yeah. Dat's de one dey had den when I first come in, and den dey change it ut anyway, I finally got tired, I say, "I'm not going a join no union anymore."
SS: Do you remember the IWWs?JB: No, I tink that was-
SS: Was this before your time.JB: Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah.
SS: When you first came here did you live inAB:oardinghouse?
JB: No. No,
AB: With some friend of his.
I board with dem a while until a find a place to bach. I bach myselfthere for about three years.
I heard a lot of people would take part of their earnings and send them
It was a company union, the first one they have, yeah.
back to the old country. Is that the way it was when you were here?Send some money back to relatives at home?
Well, if you can help it, you know, we never be able to do that, because we have bg family right away and so we didn't. But I suppose somebody did, some did, to help, you know.
But when you came over there weren't other women from- that had justcome over- you know, that were- who had come from Italy and those coun tries, were there? I mean, you were probably the only ones that were around in Potlatch.
Yes, there was another one; two more. But one it was close to usWas in town about here to Princeton.
Where was she from? The same country?
Oh, yeah, the same country, not the same town,
Did you spend much time with her?
Yeah.Jou know when somebody talk your language, you know, that themain thing now. I never saw her before, St was nice.
How did you find it was to mix with the American people that had beenhere for a long time? Did it take you very long to get to know them?
AB: I aAreally nice lady, She was nice. SheMarie. Remember? When we was down in the house there. She was a Belgian? Bohemian?
Bohemia. This lady, she was here for years and years, speak Englishjust perfect. And I remember I was living in the house across and I didn't know- well, she want to ask me something, she ask But raising a little garden, I didn't know nothing about it , you know, and she show me how to fix the peas, you know, can peas and that. She was the nicest lady. Course she was really old compare what I was, you know. And she was a very nice lady.
SS: You say she had been here for
AB: She must come from the old country because she talk like them and sheBohemia(n). Yeah, uhuh. And her husband was an Englishman. No?
SS: So did she start you gardening?
Well, no, we did the gardening, but she :me to can. Tellme what to do and everything like that. So that helped. I couldn't speak very much until my kid went to school and then I started to talk right away because when My kid was little I had to speak English, I have to speak Italian to them too, you they^didn't know much but Ita- And that no good either, lian when they went to school. NBecause the other kids they make fun. So they learn English in school and then they taught you. ^ And they taught me, and I learned just to talk right away, yeah. But raising a family you probably were pretty busy, you probably didn't have too much time to-
No, that's it, you know. You can't go anywhere, so. And another thingyou know, when - some Italian you want to talk, you just go there. And so you don't learn that way. And When my kid went to school and then I really have to do something about it. And before when they was little, I didn't think of thing like that. And-
JB: And the kid, it don't take long to-
AB: When the kids, you know they come home they talk English between thehe children, and tfbn't talk English to me, no, he won't, so I couldn't learn that way
SS: That didn't help too much.But you probably didn't have too many people to talk Italian to, either.
JB: Yeah, that right, around here.
SS: What about church? Did you go to the—?
AB: We go to Catholic Church.
SS: Did you go to the Catholic Church here in Potlatch?
SS: That's one thing- I had heard in the early days, the Catholic Churcharound Potlatch and Elk River- most of the Italian workingmen didn't go. They didn't go to the church at all.
JB: That's right.And I heard that they - I heard, that it was kind of both ways- some people said they didn't want- some people say that the church didn't make them feel welcome enough in the old days, because there were a lot of bachelors.
No, I don't think it was that way at all. I think- I mean, you comeover here and then, I don't know how to tell you, but it just so much different you know, you don't feel like you go anyplace, you know, ^e. ^so you mix with the other people and probably that's why. You know, Jim didn't go to church til I come over here tither and he was a good Catholic.
JB: Well, I went to church since I come over here.
AB: Did you?JB: Oh, yeah.
SS: Before you married? You went to church here?JB: Yeah. All the people that I stayin' there-
AB: The family was a good church going.Did many of the single men go to church when you first- when you were first here? Well, I don't know, because I think I was the only single man.
AB Well the single men they never go to church except two time a year;Christmas and Easter. Single men go two time a year, usually. People ^i^^K
SS: Was there much social activity that went along with the church in Potlatch?
SS: Just the service?
AB: Went to church and the service, yeah.JB: The women, they have a-
AB: What they call the Altar Society. There wasAB:unch of lady, more for to be at church, cleaning, they called the Altar Society.
SS: Did you do that?
AB: No. No, because in those day I just couldn't, you know, with my family,just couldn't, no.
SS: Well the Depression was on pretty soon after you came back, wasn't it?I mean, didn't it shut the mill down pretty soon afterwards? 1930, or was it '32 they shut it down?
JB: Maybe. Maybe it was '31.
AB: No, I don't think so. The baby^was born and I think he was still working. wasborn in '32. JB: Oh, yeah.
AB: And then in the spring, in '32, the spring, I think, I remember now.JB: '32 and '33 and '34.
SS: What did you do, Jim, after the mill shut down?JB: Well, some odd job. If they need me they call me, see. If they don't have to stay home.
SS: But there was still some work from the company?JB: they work two- one and two and three days a week, you know.
SS: The planer?JB: Yeah.
SS; How come the planer could stay open when the mill shut down?
JB: Well, they have lot lumber in the yard, you know. It wasn't workingtoo much, one and two days a week, sometime three, but mostly one and Yeah. They^workufl^ n fact, the planer never shut down, you know,
Yeah, but you were out of work for more than a year, you remember?Oh, yeah. I been out more than two years.
AB: Out in the woods.
SS: In the woods, you say?
AB: He was working in the woods to make wood.
AB: No. noj what do you call that?JB: No, I didn't went out.
AB: Yes, you did, too.
SS: The CCs?
AB: The CCs.JB: No no. I never done that. We went out for ourself.
AB: I know that, but you worked for something-No, I went out, oh, I say about two months or so working the road, you know.
SS: The WPA?JB: Yeah, yeah.
AB: I thought you work for the CC, too.JB: That all I ever done.
SS: Well, was the company very good during that time to people that workedfor them? I mean, did they do what they could? The company didn't do a thing. JB: They give 'em credit, didn't they?
AB: What you mean, credit?
SS: At the store?JB: Yeah.
AB They don't give you more than credit.JB: Yeah.
AB: That all.
SS: That's not mnrhBACCA 33
AB: No. day you don't have anything, you know. Nothing.Course, they have this card- where they give you the food. They never give/ because we had the house.
SS: Because you owned the house?
AB: Yes. Because we owned the house— they won't give you anything, datwas terrible. Remember you went down once and they didn't give you anything.. But I don't think it was, we just came here.
SS: You mean you hadn't been around Potlatch long enough.
SS: Was this the company or the government?
AB:some food, some beans or some-
SS: But you'd been here for awhile.
AB: Anyway, they never give it to us. I remember
SS: You see, I've heard that the company was- helped some of the marriedpeople that had been around here a long time. That's what I heard during the Depression. Those were the people they gave preference to on the work. But I don't know how true that is. Did they give you much work?
SS: Compared to the other guys?
JB: No, not too much. The only place they work that was one thing inthe planer. And I don't know how they do it. .They kind of played it up, you know, I never got anything out of it.
SS: Did that really make it pretty rough for the families to get by thoseyears, and did you have any government assistance-
AB: We never had anything.The government. Yeah. - they givsyou
AB: Than you just go out in the country get fifty centsor whatever, you and then you got your wage and your that help. If you can pick up a sack of potatoes and your , you get along.
SS: What about the stuff you had to buy from the store? Did you have anycash to buy stuff?
AB: No, we didn't have very much. No.
SS: Those were rough times for a lot of people.
AB: Yeah.JB: Yah, you gotta have something, otherwise you don't get nothing. That'J right.
SS: What do you mean? You got to have something?
AB: I mean like, through the Depression, you know, you went down the storeand you don't have no money, - they charge. If you don't have some thing you know they don't give you anything. Because I remember- if you don't have property, and this man down there he say,"Yeah; you can have credit for thirty days."and ihat^it, you know. What you going to do if you charge and then in thirty day you don't have it then. for before you know, so you have to watch what you doing. Yeah.
SS: This store; did you trade at Cnaway?
AB: Yeah, Onaway, that what I'm talking about, yeah. Potlatch wenever tried to- big company not for us you know. Big company, they help have people, they have money and they don't poor people.
JB: Yeah, we used to have a store here, where the church is now, storethere and that pretty handy then, you know.
AB: Lot of .J they was trading the wood.And all the farmer bring the wood to this store, you know and change for the grocery.
Well, did you think about leaving and trying to go someplace else ordid you figure it wouldn't make any difference in the Depression? In the Depression? No, really no, because like say, we have the house here, and we didn't know where to go, you know because if you don't know anybody, you know, and beside we kid, two kid you know
Yeah, might-be bettjej. you just have to take a chance, you know.And so, we just o stay.
I've heard the company-
For us it wasn't bad, but it wasn't bad like for American people becausewe used to, see. We come over and it was very bad- we was use to it, you know.
It was easy to make-
Yah, was easy, you know, to make end meet with nothing, really. BUtlot of people like American people or probably people that was here for long time, they know better day, Awas pretty hard for those people. Yeah, and you don't have many chance to go anyway. There be depres sion all over, unless you find somebody that got a farm or something like that.
job or something like that/ Everybody inthose day was looking for work so.
You figured like the company store, if you'd asked them for credit,they wouldn't have given it to you?\
But like I say, \e try down there, and that's it so.I wondered if it would have made any difference there if you'd have been around this country for a long time, like you say, if you'd have been here for twenty years instead of just a couple. It might have made a difference, I don't know. I really couldn't tell. It shouldn't matter, one way or the other. We used to buy down there when he was working. It isn't like now, you know. Now you pay cash. Down there use pay once a month.
SS: At the store?
AB: You figure the bill you know. Once a month you check all your bill.
SS: Do you know what the prices were in Potlatch compared to here? Theprices of goods- were the prices good down there?
AB: Oh, yeah, I think it about same, down here as it was in- They didn'thave no sale. They put the price and that the price. You know. Now you always wait until Tuesday when they send out special.Xn those day they never. You know what you get. In those day doesn't matter.
When you were bringing up your kids there in the '30's, do you feelthat you raised them strictly? Or do you feel that you were easy on the kids?
Well, you know in those day they don't have it like they have nowyouknow, all this, playing bowling and everything. They don't have those thing^and all like that, so I really couldn't tell you that. I tried my best.
I just wonder because sometimes the people say that they raised theirkids pretty strict. That the kids had to toe the line and do whatever the parents told them, that seems different than the way it is these days. The parents are pretty easy with the kids, and I Just wondered if you-
Well, in the old country, what the father say that go. But I don'tthink he never was like that. I think there was too much over there. Scared of his father. I think it is no right. A father should be strict, yes, but^ , he should be. Do you think he was scared of his father when he grew up? Well, I don't know, because he lost his father when he was a little boy, you know. But I know my dad- I was scared of my dad, Oh, yes.
Your father was hard on the girls as well as the boys?
Oh, yes. Yeah, uh-huh. So I tried not to be that gruff, you know,tried to be more friendly. But you have to be strict sometime, too. But Ithink over there, parent are too strict, yes. you fear it, more, you know. And that'not good. Then you^'^be able to talk to them or anything like that because you scare them. You should respect your father and mother and not be scare. SS So you brought up the kids it was more to respect but not be afraid.
SS: When did the depression start ending for you? When did things getback ?
AB: huen Roosevel-t was elect president. Roosevelt,the business going, pretty good.Let's see was- JB: Hoover. Oh, Hoover was no good. Roosevelt was the one who-
SS: In '33 he started.
AB: And that when it started pretty much the job and thing like that, youknow. He was a good president.
When did the work start again in the mill?
Well, I think just about that, '33. No, ' 34- Roosevelt?No, he started in '33, but it took a while to get-
AB: ^'33- '34, in there.In '34 the* to open up. Did you get your job back as soon as the mill opened?
AB: Yeah, uh-huh.JB: Yeah, right
SS: What did you think of the foremen in the mill?
They alright. I never had nothing to do with him. He alright.I've heard some were good and some were bad. Some were strawbosses kind of.
JB: You'll find them everywhere. They be alright. Sometime the thingain't going just as you want it. Anyway, they are the bosses And if you want to work there, that the way it goes.
SS: What did you think of the big management? Who was the general managerwhen you came there? JB: That was Mr. Laird.
SS: He was here when you came?JB: He was here. Good man.
SS: You liked him?JB: Yeah. He was a good man. I see lot a manager after that, you know. Some they complain about it, as far as myself I didn't have nothing to complain about.
SS: What do you think made him a good manager? Laird? What was good abouthim?
JB: Well, he never go around there, see.. He take them bosses word.
SS: You mean, he didn't go around the mill?JB: That's it. He don't go around. O'Connor was around here, he was around every day, around the mill, you know. Somebody, they don't like that. It don't make no difference if anybody goes around or not, anyway, if there is body around or not. They had a card, see and that card'11 tell you if you do the job or not, see. So the way it is then and it don't make no difference if the boss our is around or not. We got to do work anyway.
SS: But you figured that Laird was better because he didn't snoop aroundthe mill? He took the—?
SS: He took the boss's word,
JB: Dat's what the men say. As far as myself it don't make no difference,see, because, we donlt see anybody that goes around, see. So if they come in the fire room then they see it, but otherwise, you know, but that's a dirty play to go in there, the fireroom, and they usually look in, and that's all, see. They won't come in.
SS: Do you think Laird was fair to the working men?
JB: I tink so. KEverybody said Laird a good man, Yeah.he Well, some people really liked him, and some people have said that thought he was better than anyone else. That he was kind of highhanded. You know, that he thought he was better. I've heard both ways about him. Well, I didn't see either one anyway to talk with them. . O'Connor used to come around in the 4wbo*i room and see him up there, see. Used to say hello, and how's things going. I can't say, because I didn't have nothing to do with him. If I was
AB:oss it would be different,see, talk with him^it would be different. The big bosses, they won't talk to everybody. There is just a handfull working in the mill now. All they do now, they get one saw ani they cut- all they do they, two by four and two by sixes, and they don't cut any lumber. The lumber come in there from the other sawmills, see.
Your job as fireman, was that pretty hot work?
Yeah. It was very hot, then they^have bigger load and everything.The way they do now, that's different, they low the pressure down and everything. ^They used to have to work to hold up the steam up, you know. Had lot of shovelir£ to do, too, you know. We can't have the sawmill that's not working, we has to shovel in the fuel bin, shovel onto fuel. Yeah, and that was really hard work. Did you have to work to keep the steam up at a steady pace all time or were there times when you had to work hard and sometimes when it was easy?
JB: Well, when the sawmill working then you get the fuel from the sawmill.
JB: But weekend, then the fuel bin it won't hold any more fuel sowe have to shovel it out, what is leftj^n the fuel bin. That was hard work , you know. Did you take breaks during the day besides at lunch time? Just the lunch time, that's all. Yep.^ Different now. The sawmill they get two breaks.now. Get three breaks. Nine o'clock and two o'clock and lunch, would be three now. Well, lunch, they shut off. The way we do down there, they just give enough breakKenough to eat your lunch
SS: That's what it was then?
Yeah. Jen minute or half an hour or an hour- just enough to eat yourlunch and go right back again.
SS: Did you eat your lunch right where you worked?JB: Yeah.
SS: How many guys did you work with?
JB: We was two firemen and a watertender there, see. The watertender whenthe fireman sit down to take the lunch then the watertender would come instil they get through eat the^ lunch.
Was he really tired when he'd come home at night?
Yes. kEe has to work^all the time, you know, every day.Yeah, walking- lot of walking. Got to walk all the time over them fires, see, and hot in the summer, especially.
SS: So you'd be sweating all the time in the summer?
JB: Yes, just about all the time.Well, I can see five days a week, but seven days sounds a little bit much.
AB: Sometime he was working overtime.
JB: Yeah. Somebody don't show up, see, then you have to work until somebody come. Especially night, didn't show up at night and then you know you gotta stay the rest of the shift. No time and a half for that neither.
SS: No overtime, huh? The thing that seems important to me - if youcould make enough money there to put some away and save up, or if it took you all you made to live on, then you couldn't get ahead. You know, if it took you all the money you were making to raise a family- I think a lot of people did. Did it take all your money pretty much just to raise a family?
JB: Yes.Yeah, he didn't get very high wages, you know. The people really was making the money was people working down like the- The gyppo, see, work in the yard, you know.
AB: they was making money^ould^save money.I heard that a lot of Italian people did the lumber piling and that in the yard. Yes, they was making money, yeah, you bet.
JB: The greenchain?
SS: Yeah. Well, they get the same wages -4kenue apt the greenchain.
AB: He work a contract, you know.JB: The greenchain?
JB: That was probably the lumber pilers.Oh, the lumber pilers. That's different, yeah. They make money. They worked awful hard, too, didn't they? Yeah, long hours, too. Sometime they go down early in the morning. But I don't know. I never done anything like that you know, I know just what it is.
SS: Your friends, when you were married and living here; who were the people that you were friendly with? Did you have some people that were close friends? Other couples that you spent time with?
JB: Oh, yes. They not here any more.
AB: A Ecchers, that's the name.JB: Ecchers. Michelis and Valors.
SS: Who?JB: Valors.
SS: What kind of name is that?
AB: That a-
SS: Is that an Italian name?AB Oh, yes. That Italian name, yeah.
SS: Were most of your close friends from Italy?
AB: Oh, no, no, no. KThey was, you know, like I said -pro)Q^yloQ+ ©+ +oun Wfa
SS: But still you haven't seen them over there. You just neet them here.But I meant like the other friends besides them- those other families they weren't Italian, were they? Ecchers? Yeah, yeah, they Italian. Oh, yeah.
SS: And who was the other family you named?
SS: Were they from Italy, too?
Oh, yes. And from the north, too.What did you do with your spare time when you weren't at work? You know on the weekends or that sort of thing.
AB: He worked every day, you know. We don't have much spare time.When did you start working five days a week? When did that change?
It change about, oh, I don't remember that.
SS: After World War II?
AB: No, I think it started before. I think probably you work about tenyears working every day, then just started six day, you know. And then five day. So you really didn't have time to do things like take a little trip or
Oh, my gosh,No way! First three year he was here wentdown and see his brother in California, and that has been; Craig is eighteen, eh? Graduate from high school about eighteen.
SS: Who is he, Craig?My grandson. Eighteen when you graduate from high school.
SS: Yeah. Eighteen. it be seventeen year, he went to California to see his brother.Well, we take vacation, like up toi*W Park and like that, you know. Go to Coeur d'Alene on the Fourth of July. Usually the company^have picnic every year and sometime at Coeur d' Alene and sometime at had a cow and a garden and a peeg, and^we have enough to take care of without
JB: Yeah, there has to be somebody at home all the time.
SS: When you used to get together with your friends; what would you domostly? Just sit around and talk?
AB: Yes. You talk about old country most, about old time, you know, thingand like that. How they was there and now they were here, you know. No matter how long you gone from your country, never forget it. That/one thing, you know. Did you ever go to dances around here?
JB: Say, where you from?
SS: Troy. I didn't grow up there, though.
SS: You have to be really lucky some time, you know, people, to get along.But you have that you know But T mean, you know people smart and they can go to school or something and then you can go someplace, but just common people. AWe have a good life here, much better than we used to. Well, I don't know if it makes any difference between- if you are common people or if you're not I'm sure that your kids must speak, you know, be just as much at home in this country as anybody whose grandparents and great grandparents were born here. That was your daughter I met, wasn't it?
AB: Yes, yes.
SS: She could have been the sixth generation American as far as you couldtell.
AB: Oh, yes, they don't speak any Italian at allBecause like I say, when they start to school I try not to talk—jut-h -r -Hu so I can learn.
JB: And then they forgot all the Italian.
AB: And then ^1 learn and then we always speak English, you know. I remember when I got my citizen: paper, oh, my gosh, I was scared to death and I remember the judge say, "Oh, you're doing great." Igive the right answer and I didn't have no trouble, but oh, it is a frightening thing you know.
SS Did you have to spend a lot of time studying for it?
AB: 1 did» quite bit, you know. And learned from kids. it different this book, youknow about the government, the right and be he be elect- who , and I learnt it. One thing that I wonder about myself is and I don't really think that there is enough equal opportunity in this country yet. I do feel that the bigshots and the people that have a lot of money have a lot of extra advantages.
AB: Oh, yes, I can say that.
SS: That's how I feel about it.
AB: You just take in the trial, you know, like people done something.Rich people done something, they don't get hardly anything, but the poor people just steal some bread probably because he's hungry, but he's got
AB:ig That isn't fair tome. Because he have the money to buy lawyer and everything like that you know. Then they got hardly anything.
SS: The law- like if somebody embezzles, you know, takes $50,000 fromanother company, from his company, and runs away with it, he might get a year in prison or something or two years, and a guy steals of transistor radios, he'll get twenty.
AB: Yeah, that is not justice. I have to tell you that in the old country there is not that kind of law.
SS: There isn't?
No. The law is for everybody, rich or poor. You don't get away withnothing. I never heard anything in the old country like this here- I don't know now- but all the thing they do - they punish a guy right there then and thatA the end of that. Because then other people got scart to do that, because they know they be punished. But like here, they do it because they know they can go free,. do. They just let it go. Yeah, but over there, that one thing you can say about the law^is equal and is strong, you know.
SS: That's interesting.SIDE E
AB: There is no such a thing here, no such thing, you don't get awaynothing, not if you're rich or you're poor.
SS: The Watergate cases were good examples of the way our law works.All the bigshots get- slapping on the wrists.
AB: And so- you betcha.JB: Just like that girl in San Francisco, you know.
AB: Patty Hearst.
SS: Yeah, Patty Hearst.
AB: She probably get about seven year now. She supposed to be thirty-fiveshestart at thirty-five year, now she back to seven by the time they finish -
SS: She'll be out in six months Right. I don't know the girl or anything like that.JB: But that's the way it goes.
SS: I don't know what it's like around here so much, but I know like inBovill that a lot of these guys that worked for the company for fifty years or more than fifty years. I know two people out there that are getting thirty dollars a month pension from the company after working for them for over fifty years and they didn't start a pension I guess until after World War II, I guess they didn't have any pension at all. But even so, that's awful low for having spent most of your life wor king for one company.
AB: -here, my husband. He work twenty-seven and he got fifty dollar. The people ten year now, they probably get two hundred dollars a month from the same company. That isn't right.
JB: Well, the union.
AB: I know, because the union. But it isn't right, I know. They shouldgo back and start, you know and-
SS: Yeah. They should.
AB: Because after all they work for the company, they bu ild the companyThat's up the people they did. All
SS: Well, when did he retire?
AB: No, '66.JB: Be ten year now.
SS: When did they go over to the steam turbins?JB: They still there.
SS: When did they start?JB Oh, they started right up when the power plant started up.
SS: Oh, I see.JB: They used to make their own juice.
SS: Oh, that's right.
AB: They used to heat all the town with steam you know, because the townbelong to the company there
JB: They sold it here about ten or fifteen year ago.
SS: Do y°u think they- the company made money off the town?JB: Oh, yeah. (Chuckles)
AB: Yes. They owned the steam from the power plant.
SS: And so they made the profit.
AB: Oh, yeah.but nothing fancy about it. So they really didn't put in too much money
SS: The that pe0pie pay they take it out from your check Theydon't wait for you to go and pay. So the rttft was surej you knoWi Like there is lot people^ow, you know, they might wait amonth or two to pay, and then they just took off and go, you know. But that was sure money because they take^out from your check before you get the money, see. Well, you know, they talk about- they used to talk a lot when I studied in the history of the early days, they used to talk about, 'rags to riches'. You know in America anybody could start out in rags and make it to riches. KThey think in the old country you just go to America and you get rich right away, you know. That's what I think about it. Is that what you grew up believing? Yeah, believe in over there, yes they do. They do.
SS: Well, it isn't the truth.
AB: It isn't the truth. Probably for afew you know, But most of the peoplethey have to work like anyplace else. Course, you got opportunity to work here and make life better. But to make a lot of money, it seems like a lot of times you do it at somebody else's expense. Well, if you want to be person. If you^a trade man especially, you can do awful good here in this coun try. A trade man, you mean like a plumber or that sort of thing?
AB: Yes, that right
He never have any chance to do that you know, to learn that.There's B:ig difference between the skill unions like the AFL and then the industrial liflfe the CIo was. Yep. Of course, take like myself- we had education, yes, but not enough to amount to anything.
AB: 'grade was not very much, you know. Of course in the eigh^grade
SS: I think they learn high school over there because over there they aremore strict, you know. When you go to school, you learn. Did they have you study Italian history when you were in the eighth grade? Well, history of Italy, I'm talking about.
AB: Oh, yes, oh, yes,
SS: With all the renaissance and-
AB: Yes, I used to know it, I don't remember it any more, butthat. That my best subject. My worse was arithmetic, I never could get that.
SS: The history- the Roman Empire.
AB: Yeah, all this, yeah. We learn all this- I like that.
SS: Florence is such a great city, too.
SS: Florence was a great city. Florence, we never been down there. Course, in thoseday didn't have no car or anything. Course now they doT they don't have the many they have here, but they do yes. If you go someplace you had to go on train. Well, did your good friends that were here, did they stay here til they died?
AB: Yes, uh-huh. Oh, yes.
SS: They were older than you?
AB: Yes, oh, yes. They was much older than we were.
SS: Had most of them been here before you came?
AB: They were here before, yeah.
SS: These couples?
AB: Oh, yeah.
JB: Yep. Now we just about dead. All these people here in Onaway.
SS: Well, I guess I should get going. I hadn't realized I had stayed here-
AB: I enjoy it.
SS: to Lewiston
AB: to Lewiston, to Spokane, and two or three went to Lewiston.
SS: And they never did come back?
AB: No.JB: That the one only one, George and I here.
AB: Here now.
SS: And then Vimeo is still- he was here-He was here til he went to Lewiston, yeah. Was he here when you first came here?
JB: Oh, yeah.
SS: I've tried to talk to him. Do you ever see him?
AB: Oh, he come up never know where they are know them. Oh, yes.
SS: Came over- married and came over.
AB: Oh, they usually come over and get marry, oh, yes. Course usuallythe man come first, and you know, they get job and everything, you know,
SS: I've heard other times of men going back to get married and then comingback over here. And sometimes they leave their wife behind and then come over.
AB: Yes, sometime Job and probabiy that why thereason.
SS: Did y°u find it- like I heard like I mentioned before that sometimeswomen didn't want to come over because they preferred the old country-
AB: The old life.
SS: Have you known that to be true in some people?
AB: In my case, no.You, no. But I meant like other women that you knew. I really don't know, because like I said, whenever they left over there they ' come back, you know, they alway stay, so they don't like it. Oh, I don't know I always remember my oldest sister, Maria, she always said, "Don't go over there," she say, "Because if you go, never see you." And I thought I come overhand just stay here for a few year then go back, you know. and she was right. But Ididn't believe her, you know, I say, "Oh, no, I come back and see you again." She say, "No, you ne ver see me." And she was right. And she was quite AB:it older than me, about twenty year older. I guess she know what she was saying, what she was talking about.
SS: Maybe because she had seen it happen before? the old
AB: Her husband he was^in cou ntry. He was in America and then hewent back and he never come back, you know.
JB: Yeah, I know, I know. And he got kill in the war.
AB: Yeah. And he was here when he was young boy, then he went back inthe old country; marry my sister and then they just stay there.
SS: And then he went to the war? 1914, he went to the war .in August he got killed.And th^y have a little boy, he was born in June and he went to war in August didn't get to see this little boy and he got killed. He went to the front right away. He didn't even know how to hold a gun or nothing,
they just sent 'em in just like
AB:unch of cowsIn Greece, you know, when they having the first big fight.
SS: They were going to send them off to die.marry
AB: Right. It was about a year, year and a half, and they had thislittle boy four months old.
SS: Which sister was this? You had more than one sister?
AB: I had two sisters.
SS: This was not the oldest? The one that was twenty years older?
AB: Yes, this was my oldest sister, the one I was telling you about.
SS: You weren't sure that you would stay here at that time? You thoughtyou might go back?
AB: I thought so, you know.
SS: That you would maybe go back?
AB: Yeah, I thought so for few year then I come back. And she toldme, "Don't go, because you never come back." I say, "Oh, yes, I come." I said. And she was right, you know.
SS: But with Jim being a citizen I'd thought he wouldn't be too likely togo back to stay for good.
JB: Well, yeah, yeah. You can come back anytime, you know.
SS: That's true, you could.
ASB: But then, you know , over there you can come back, but thereisn't anything to do, you don't have nothin' you don't have anything. There no job there, that's for sure.
SS: I wonder what people did do before they could leave the country and gosomeplace where there was more opportunity.well, lot young boys, I remember they used to go to Trieste or Taranto.
AB:ig city. And they do job like engineering the train or thosekind of job like that. Iknow lot boy^o job like that, you know. In the big city.
Had people been coming to the United States for a long time, do youthink from where you lived?
I can remember, oh, my gosh, yes. I know from our town, like I said,my husband's sister-^was married in 1913, I guess, yes, he die- and he was overAand come back, you know before 1913. I heard a lot of people were on the section gangs when they were first building the railroads in through this country. They were railroad men.
Uh-huh. I suppose. I don't know what my brother-in-law was doing, because like I said, I was just a little girl, but I know he was here be fore he marry my sister. What job^he *^ Idon't know. Would you say that a lot more people were going to America than anyplace else? If they had a chance they could. Oh, yes. To me where you lived they would go to America rather than say England or some place.
Oh, yes. In our town they do. Oh, yes. you know, 'don t have the kind of money to do AB:ig step like that you know- AYou know, there no law then, they might change the law, too,
AB: It fifty-five year now- fifty-six: year we been here in this country.JB: Just can't remember too much about it. (Laughter)
AB: Iremember, Igo back Iknow- to go back there Icould fly. But youknow we went to Trieste, that was aport, you know,7big boat. And it take teen day to go, and I stay teen day in bed.
SS: Really, you were that sick?
That sick. And when I get off of the boat I saidjust to mention the boat again make me sick. And I say, "Never, never again." 1^gonna die before I go on another boat, I say. we went couple time to see and I just love it. If you don't on the boat
AB:eautiful trip, you know. But if you get sick, forget about it. Couse, in thoseday they don't give you anything, now they have all this medicine.
SS: When you first came here in 1920, what did the country seem like toyou?
JB: I come from fr^nte- well really Belgium. That's where I tookthe hoat.Vctirtfdavri was a port.
SS: Did you land in New York City?JB: Well, yeah, we stop in England there little bit and pick up some passengers, and then ~ to New York.
SS: Did you then come straight out by train to Wyoming?
JB: Yeah. Four days, and night. Oh, boy, that's a long ways I never forget that. Thata long time to be in a train. (Chuckles) Oh, we change it once in Chicago. Did you talk to anybody on the train?
JB: I can't talk!
AB: Couldn't understand it.
JB: Yeah. I mean there wasn't any Italian people in the train.
No. In fact, I was alone when I left home and I find people there onthe boat, you know talk Italian, that all. But after New York then I didn't see anybody til I got to Rock Spring then I got somebody else to talk then.
Like you say, like coming home.
Did you ever see any accidents in the mill? Any bad accidents in thesawmill?
No, no, I didn't see any-
You did, too
Iknow man got kill when Iwas down there, but Iwasn't there.
He got kill in the same place he was working.
Well, on the greenchain. He was oiling the greenchain and he got tangled up with the overalls and stuff and he got ground up in the greenchain. The Bergen over there,^ Bergen over there. Oh, yeah,
He was working with you, same place.
That's right. Yeah, he was running the engine and he got kill when heshut it off- and I don't know what happen-
I thought when he go blowing the whistle something fell off-He was blowing the whistle- NO. no, he shut off the engine- And something backfired-
He shut off the engine, and somehow he got killed?Yeah. Idon't remember just what happen. That's been quite awhile ago. Ican't rememberftnow just what it is. This guy who got killed on the greenchain: do you remember who he was? His name was- fatter- Patter
AB: Patterson?JB: was his name.
AB: Oh, I don't know. I know the other one Jesse-JB: Huh?
AB: I know Jess Bergen.56 JB: The one that got kill there, shut off the engine, his name was Bergen.
AB: Bergen, Jess Bergen?
JB: Jess Bergen. I don't know just what happen, it been so long, you know. But anyway,he got killed.
SS: Did they call this Onaway when you first came here?
AB: Uh-huh. Oh, yes.
SS: But all it had was the one store? And that was the only place of business here?
AB: Yes. Oh, they had a gas station and sold 'thing, you know, likepop and stuff like that.
SS: I heard that some people would come here to shop instead of in Potlatch.People from Potlatch. Th^s right. Oh, yes, Iremember that, oh, yes. In those day we have to go store every day because \v\ "thcs* day ^^ei\ so whatever you need - especially summertime, you know. If you buy meat-We used to have a icebox- buy ice, you know to put in it. Just a small thing.
SS: Did you cook on a wood stove?
AB: Oh, yes. Until after the second war, I guess, that!Swe buy that one.The second war. The end of the second war, 'X- -thirt^. JB: Yeah, right after. Well, they started out before the war- after the war that they couldn't get the part-
No, he talking about the stove now. When we buy the stove, you know.JB: Oh, yeah.
SS: What were you talking about?
When we buy this refrigerator, we buy that around the Second World War,Because I remember they fix it because they didn't put in the right-
AB: Copper, or whatever they use-
JB: Copper that-I^like the^stove, you know, I didn't mind. Course it is dirty, you know, that^one thing I don't like about it, but I We still got one down the basement.
JB: Used to wash down there.
AB: Washing used to be B:igger deal, too.
Oh, my gosh, yes.in the tub, you know. Now thosekid complaining, they don't know what work is,no way! Washing and drying and everything.£ And you have to do it, you know, you just do it and you don't think about a thing like that. Do whatever you have to. Would you write down the names of those- of your friends? What did the men do for a living? Did they work at the sawmill, too? Yes, all three. They all work down the sawmill, don't they?
SS: What jobs did they do?
Well, one was kinda mechanic. He fix anything.He was a mechanic. He was working there in same place, but coursehe
SS: Piling lumber.
SS: What about,..?
He was working in the same place when you did.Oh,n o, he was working in the back of the shop. See, they have - they got a and gtuff all electric, see, and he was charging off the battery down there, stuff like that. That what he was working at- John.
AB: Yes. Now what was Tony wife name?JB: Eda.
AB: Oh, Eda.
SS: And they had come - had they all come from the south of Italy?
AB: No, no, they come more from nortin
SS: They all came from the north.
AB: Oh, yes from north. KYes, they talk German real good because theywas so close to the border, yes. And in the summertime they used to work for this German^ $Ue^ ^hc^l t*+ ** Grerm^^op/^ They had this big ranchjover there, what you call it, I don't know real and they work for those people. And so they speak German good You said the Valozs lived- did they live at Princeton?
You said one of the families lived as far away as PrincetonAB No, I mean in the old country. I this live in the same town.
SS Which family is this that lived so close? To you.
AB: To me?
AB: These two here.
SS: They both lived here?
AB: Yes. And this one they live a little bit farther up, you know.
Well, here, where did they live? Did they live in Onaway or Potlatch?These families.
They live in Onaway, right here.£ This family they live in Onaway formany year, and then they moved to Potlatch. This two, they never did. They come over here, they die here, all four.
JB: They come from Italy.
That's very interesting that they stayed and that you had good closefriends that come from near the same place.
Somebody. There a lot of American lady that are good to me. You make lot friend.But those lady friend- you know, she can't because she don't talk. I never forget the first time I went to the-, there was two time my kids I never forget this lad^ sheA here and she was the best nurse and she just help me to much. Then was two, three other nurse that they was just young kids, and I thought they was doing nothing and I saw peoples laughing at me you know
Well, you had these close friends, that probably made it slower foryou to speak English, too, since you must have been speaking to them a lot in Italian. Of course, like I say, you just have live it. Jim never talk it of course. you r KI think personally you should just go ahead and go to school, you know that the best thing. Take night course or something. That the real^way to do it, you know. Yes, but it's harder to where you have to go to take the class,
AB: Yeah, and^we didn't have no car or anything. You have to go to townof Onaway.
SS: The people from Italy that left in the Depression? Were they marriedcouples, too, that left.
AB: Oh, yes.
SS: I don't .think the Greeks were over here in couples around here, thesame way. Do you remember?
AB: I really didn't have much to do with Greeks.JB: I think they only got two Greek now, down at Potlatch.
SS: I don't know anyone besides Gus, I think he's the only one left now.Did you know the at an? Thare from Elk River and Bovill? They were Austrians. Povich, they called them.
JB: I didn't know them.
SS: Of courseElk River just went down all at once.
AB: - Aw they do a little better, before they just didn't haveanything to do- I mean there wasn't any job or anything. Logging for Potlatch. JB: "K That all they doing now.
AB: We know couple Italian family- they was never given a good job upthere and they have to leave the house and everything and they move here in Onaway. And then he can't find job here
END OF INTERVIEWTranscribed by Frances Rawlins, July 20, 1977
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Segment Synopsis: The town lost 25 men in the war, and thirty from the flu in one month. Grape growing replaced by fruit growing after Italy took over the area. Sufficiency of food depended on size of crop - potatoes and corn meal were main foods, cheese from the creamery. Selling butter for income. In the war the government got everything, and came into the houses. The area was part of Austria, and the people still prefer Austria to Italy.
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Segment Synopsis: He felt he was coming to his kin in Wyoming. He enjoyed coal mining there. Digging coal he made $10 a day. His concern about cracks in the mountain. Union improved lot of workers. Men had to wash outside at home, rather than at the mine. He boarded with sister: she came over with a friend who married her brother, and she married an Italian boy; she worked in a saloon. Not much English spoken in mine, (continued)
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Segment Synopsis: After his brother died, he went to California with his brother. He didn't like labor conditions in southern California. Digging a ditch, he encountered a rattlesnake. Ranching near Butte, Montana for two years - extreme cold. He got a job in Potlatch as fireman on his way to the coast with a friend. He left his lucrative mining job to see the world. Work as fireman seven days a week. By batching he saved a little money.
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Segment Synopsis: He worked a bit for company in depression and got a little road work. The company didn't help the people. They couldn't get government food because they owned a house, or because they were newcomers. They got by on their own, and feared having to sell their house. They wouldn't trade in Potlatch because the company helped those with some money.
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Segment Synopsis: Their Italian friends in Onaway. Italian women coming to America. Her sister told her not to go to America because she wouldn't return, but she thought she would, soon. Brother-in-law returned from America to marry, was sent to the war front and killed. Some Italians went to the cities of Italy; many were coming to America. She was sick on the entire trip to America. His trip to Wymoing by train.
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