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September 2nd, 1998
- Leslie Robertson and Mary Menduk
Q: If you could talk about where your family came from
in Italy, and when they first came to Canada and names of your
parents or whoever it was that came or where you were born.
A: Well Ill start with I was born in
Michel in 1918,
April the 15th. I have a brother and a sister. My sisters the
oldest one. We came to Canada no no came to Canada, my mother
came to Canada it must have been
before the war in 1914. My
father I think he was here in 1912. But he didnt work in Michel
here right away, he worked at Fort Steele. I remember him
telling me well Fort Steele and Wardner and when the work got -
they were having strikes and all that - then he came - he had
heard about the work over here, he came to Michel and worked.
And I think he worked all his life there just about. Then he
retired, loading coke. Coke loader.
Q: What were your parents names?
A: My father was Guiseppe DeAnna, my mother was Amabil
Q: And where were they from in Italy?
A: We were from Castione Di Zoppola Province de Udine
but now its Province of Cordenoni. Its in Northern Italy in
Friueli. They call it part of Friueli.
Q: Why would they have come to Canada?
A: Why, thats a long story. But anyway it happened
that there was a little black sheep in the family there that he
gambled on all the property they had and to recuperate they came
back to Canada thinking they could buy the land again but they
couldnt aye because he took off to, the oldest brother, he took
off he went to South America and to this day we dont know what
part of South America he went to and he took his family with him
and then the brothers that were left, the youngest brother was
left with just the house and all the furniture was taken out
everything to pay the debts. So my mother never forgave my
father he said because how could he have been so blind not to
see what was going on
cause hed like to go vacationing to
Venice and up north, you know up in the mountains there. He
squandered the money. Signing bad cheques and they caught up
with him. And the youngest brother got the house thats what my
mother tells me. And she was left I think she was sleeping on
the floor, they took the furniture but not the mattress and my
sister was one or two then I guess. So they - well I guess there
wasnt much to live on anymore. All the land was gone,
(inaudible) came to Canada thinking that to send back money but
he never did, they came here to Canada and they worked hard.
There was three, three brothers came to Canada, John, Fiore and
my father Joe.
Q: Did they tell you what it was like for them to
arrive here in Canada?
A: Well I imagine with not speaking English they were
you know the Italians kept to themselves and in behind the Coke
Ovens they bought the house behind the Coke Ovens thats where I
was born. It was a log house - four room house - a beautiful, it
was well built and to be, it must have been one of the first
homes that were built there in Michel because the Company houses
came after. Thats what I believe and we lived by the Creek,
they had water all around. But then they had an underground
spring and we called it a "fontana" we used to go and get the
water, it was cold water and clear water it was a heavy water
but it was good water. And it was just below the steps where the
house was built and uh what can you say I uh after I think after
two or four years I think he sent for mother. And she had my
sister was born and then she must have been two or three. I
cant recall very much and I was looking at the dates and my
father came here in 1912 and my mother must have come here in
1914 and she came from a big family too. I cant remember very
much what they told me - I dont know why did I forget the
grandfather DeAnna. I only remember that he was a blacksmith.
They were well-to-do. His mother, came from a well-to-do family
that inherited a lot of land I guess thats why they were
well-to-do people there. You know you have lots of land youre
considered rich in those days. And I went to see the house when
I went to Italy. I didnt get in but I remember. I remember the
house where you know where it was and see I went to the
graveyard to see the DeAnna family I couldnt find my
grandmothers grave nor my Ius [transcription error]. My mothers family.
This oral history transcript is extracted from the
Elk Valley Italian Oral History Project undertaken for the Fernie and District Historical Society
in 1998-99. The
Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would
like to thank Leslie Robertson and the interview team and the Fernie and District Historical Society,
which is a member of the consortium, for permission to reprint this material.