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When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Ines Anderson
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Page 1 | 2

September 2nd, 1998

Interviewers:

  • 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 I’ll start with I was born in Michel in 1918, April the 15th. I have a brother and a sister. My sister’s the oldest one. We came to Canada no no came to Canada, my mother came to Canada it must have been One of the many panels from Festa Italiana.before the war in 1914. My father I think he was here in 1912. But he didn’t 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 parent’s names?

A: My father was Guiseppe DeAnna, my mother was Amabil Ius.

Q: And where were they from in Italy?

A: We were from Castione Di Zoppola Province de Udine but now it’s Province of Cordenoni. It’s in Northern Italy in Friueli. They call it part of Friueli.

Q: Why would they have come to Canada?

A: Why, that’s 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 couldn’t aye because he took off to, the oldest brother, he took off he went to South America and to this day we don’t 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 One of the many panels from Festa Italiana.cause he’d 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 that’s 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 wasn’t 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 that’s 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. That’s 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 can’t 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 can’t remember very much what they told me - I don’t 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 that’s why they were well-to-do people there. You know you have lots of land you’re considered rich in those days. And I went to see the house when I went to Italy. I didn’t 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 couldn’t find my grandmother’s grave nor my Ius [transcription error]. My mother’s 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.

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