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November 2nd, 1998
- Leslie Robertson and Mary Menduk
(Please note words "italicized" are phonetic spelling.)
A: My folks come from I guess you can call it the
Northern part of Italy. My dad was from Noria the
Province of Casto Franco. My mother she come close to him
and they immigrated here in 1921.
Q: What were their names?
A: My dad was Angelo Louis Busato my mother was
Victoria Margarietta Borsato. Just about close together in fact
on the road there theyve got Borsato instead of Busato. But
anyway the guys say change it I dont bother.
Q: Do you know why they came or the circumstances of
their arrival here?
Well there was nothing there in Italy - my dad when
he was 14 years old had to go to Germany if he wanted to eat to
make a living - they were poor peasants aye. So after his
brother John come down to Ontario and called my dad, after he
was there six months my brother John got killed in one of the
shaft mines when they were going down just to pebble. At that
time your mine caps were just canvas just a pebble in his head
killed him. Then my dad from there left Timmins and come over
here. And he worked at the ovens.
Q: In Michel whereabouts which mines?
A: Right in Michel you know outside on the ovens used
to have coke ovens there. He worked there for three years then
they knew he was a pretty good horseman he got hired at the mine
coal company where they had 150 horses there. Oh God yeah and he
worked there till they closed it.
Q: Where did you live - so you were born in...
A: I was born in
Middletown and at the age of two we
moved what they call behind the Coke Ovens. The only thing that
separated Middletown and behind the Coke Ovens was the coke
ovens. There was two long batches of ovens aye thats all that
separated. Otherwise it was from here to the highway and it was
right there. And I lived there till I got married then I moved
Q: And you lived in a
A: In a company house. And from the company house
after I come down here.
Q: Can you describe what it was like to grow up in the
O God yeah oh yeah. I was a good boy I know that.
Yeah as we grew up there was the Marchis, Bonin, Gregoreks, and
uh Massaro was there Quarins. It was a little league of Nations
actually we were all combined there.
Q: What nationalities were there?
A: We had Slavs we had Russians.
Italians, French and
there was even a Jap that lived there for a while.
Q: Do you remember their name?
A: Most of them yeah the Jap was Coy I couldnt tell
you his last name but we called him Coy. And all the Marchis I
knew all the Marchis, father and mother or whatever. I knew all
their names same with the Gregoreks the Quarins I knew them all.
We played together and we were all good kids there. At the
spring of the year we used to play marbles. And these ovens were
lit so it was an arch so actually it gets dark early so to have
light and to have warmth wed pull all the bricks off these
doors wed be nice and warm, nice light there until they put
Mike Crawl as watchman. Mike Crawl had a stump he had a hook on
the one arm, my God Jesus when we seen that hed come after us
boy did we ever take off. We were afraid of that at first. So
anyway they had to put a watchman to keep us kids away from
Q: Off the end of the coke oven?
A: Yeah on the door it was arch like aye. Youve
probably seen theyve got them down at Morrissey yet some of
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.