September 9th, 1998
- Leslie Robertson and Mary Giuliano
Note: "B" indicates "Betty" and "A" indicates "Angelo"
Q: Were sitting at Betty and Angelo Schiannis kitchen
table on a kind of a gloomy fall day it seems like now. I wonder
I you folks would like to just start by telling us about where
in Italy your families are from and maybe when your parents came
to Fernie and the stories of their arrival.
B: Well I can start I wasnt born when they came but
they did come on the - it was in November of 1928 and this is
mother came over. Actually my dad was over before that
two or three times and I cant recall like what he told us. He
went back and then he came back and after that my mother came
over and she brought her son over - my brother. And they came
over on a boat and they landed in Montreal and then from the
boat they got on a train and they came from Montreal to Fernie
on a train. They got right off of the train in Fernie at the
station here the old station. And at first my mother didnt like
it at all.
Q: What did [your father] do Betty?
B: He was a miner. He worked One East mine. A lot of
Angelos dad he can interview you about his mother and dad too.
His part is quite interesting. But...
Q: The One East was a nightmare. Did your father tell
you about that?
B: Oh yeah Oh I can remember people coming home with a
boot of my dads and he would be in the hospital because his leg
was broken you know. Accidents Im telling you in one of those
pictures, the one thats got my mother - close to my mother he
had his finger chopped off. You can see it in the picture. Yeah
you can see it in the picture, its over there. And oh he was a
victim of many, many, many accidents. I guess everything was
done manually or with a horse.
A: All the miners that worked in One East were in
B: Yeah every one of them.
Q: Those bumps aye - those bumps?
B: My dad was in a bump for many hours.
A: And it always happened on afternoon shifts - like
my dad went in the mine I forget what time he went in. No sooner
got in and boom. It would bang and he was trapped in the mine
they didnt get him out until two oclock in the morning.
B: Yeah and he still survived. You can tell that in
A: He survived he had a broken arm. He was on his way
out... He was on his way out with another fellow and Mr. Pallone
was stuck and no light.
B: Oh it was terrible well when they have a bump I
mean it hits their lamp thats on their head and that thing
totally goes out. But they all....
Q: How did they keep going back there?
B: And they always went back - this is what I was
going to tell you.
A: Well sometimes they would take a maybe week off
before they went back.
B: Oh yeah but they went back but you know who it was
harder on? Our families, like our mothers and us when we got to
A: It was like it was waiting for something to happen.
B: We were just you know wed always wait for them to
come home. My mother would hate to see him go. Because she never
knew if he was going to come back. Im thinking you know she
just come over from Italy it was so hard. What was she going to
do and stuff
like that. It was a real nightmare and it was a
panic sometime like my mother... I remember when we were growing
up I could always see that fearful look on her face you know and
just hoping and watching by the door to see if they came home.
And then even in the winters we used to have blizzards and they
used to go and walk to the train which was up by the M F & M
Shops there where the M F & M building used to be - where the
pool is now. And you know shed never even know if he got there.
You could have been lost in a blizzard like the roads werent
plowed. I always remember them talking about that and it was a
real hard life for them and especially coming over to a new
country and sort of you know having nobody to lean on you know.
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.