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Thursday, January 8, 2015



Once upon a time, a long time  ago, Louis Montano came from Abruzzo  Italy to America. Maybe around the 1890's, not sure of the exact date. But the Compobosso area specifically Guardielfiera is very rocky and mountanous and very poor and rocky and there was no work there so Grandpa migrated and soon after asked for Mary Ciocco  to come to America and because he was working, she came alone from Ellis Island after a long boat trip alone and she wore a printed sign that said  I AM MARY CIOCCO AND AM GOING TO SAUGERTIES NY TO LOUIS MONTANO  and she came on the train to Saugerties all alone, and was met by John McDonough, the carpenter, because Grandpa was working. Who made that sign I wonder. The Montano tradition of work was there/set/embedded from the beginning. I see it as a very rich tradition and training and strength that we have inherited and when balanced with giving attention to all aspects of life, it is revitalizing.

Grandpa had been working in shoe repair with a cousin or some relative in Hudson NY and when he paid off his boat fee, he moved from working for somebody else and I think he looked at a place in Coxsaackie  to open a shop but then came to Saugerties where he opened a shoe repair shop below the Central Hotel, next to the current shoe store. That was 108 years ago.(Please clear up the details, not sure of this.) But the issue is that  Glasco  which is a few miles south of Saugerties was the place where all Italian workers and immigrants lived but Grandpa thought that the business opportunities were in Saugerties but not in Glasco so they lived in Saugerties. At a great price.

The consequences were that there was nobody to talk to , nobody to visit, nobody to feel safe and comfortable with because Italians at that time were the lowest on the totem pole and the newest immigrants and were not really included or welcomed. So the Montanos isolated and became very insulated and never really spoke English or even Italian. They were very very quiet people. And I remember that we couldn't say the word "mafia" in our house or around Dad and i'm sure that the family feared being seen as "mafia" and there was some reference to a "mafia" person coming to the shoestore  once but my siblings  would remember this. Another real reason for the Montanos to hide out, feel suspicion and take on a fearful and "detective-mind".

They had children and Grandma went to the movies for fun but mostly to Church and they had a boarding house and rented rooms and worked hard. How many days a week in the shoestore? Six and a half I think. Dad said he helped Grandma make the beds and clean the boarding house/hotel rooms and said there was a "bad man" living there and Grandpa threw him out. I think they found magazines in the room, not sure. All linens were washed by hand. Dad was his mother's helper.

They lived through the Spanish flu but when Grandma woke up from the flu, Grandpa showed her a photo of her only daughter in a coffin; Little Ula was dead at  3 years old and that stayed with Grandma and i'm sure with Grandpa forever and in fact  after Dad's stroke, he said, "I did it I did it" after one of the grandkids visited with a baby and he meant/indicated that as a 6 year old, he thought he caused his sister's death and I assured him he didn't and after my talking with him and assuring him that he didnt "do it" he sighed a big sigh of relief and the thought is that he carried that burden his whole life as children sometimes do when there is a death in the family. Maybe he had flu at that time and thought he passed it on to her, nobody can tell us that story now.

 On Sundays  Dad and Grandpa walked to Glasco (long walk) for oil and spaghetti and other Italian items. And again, it was hard but it was how they made a living and supported their family. But there was prejudice and Dad used to say later in life when we passed Nanny Goat Hill, "I played there and people used to call out to me from their windows so I could hear, "I wonder if there is a guinea and wop or daigo playing out here?" He needed to tell this story. I asked what did you do and how did you feel about that? He said, "I became very strong and fought."....or something like that. .not  an exact quote. But the Montanos had to be quiet and scared and suspicious and paranoid and all of the above because of their position and the feelings around them. I see the same attitude in the Mexicans in the village of Saugerties...they look down as they walk, never talk, never say hello, maybe they don't have papers but they are playing the paranoid immigrant role and they are the last on the pole this time. The newest immigrant gets that position.

Grandma had one family to talk to, the Imperatto family, they lived on 9W, near the Cemetary and they had a swimming pool and a car but most every one else in town was American and when the Sisters from Cabrini came they just sat together, not talking, because  "they had another dialect.."  I remember that...But the feeling was very nice when they were there.

We were taught to be for the family, inside the family and not to get involved with anyone or anything. There was even a bought and most likely "faux" Montano coat of arms made and I remember it had a painted or carved mountain and goat on top of the mountain.  The message and  words," Remember you are a Montano", although not carved into the coat-of-arms, was a family mantra that I heard and remember. That meant what? Be proud, be careful, be impeccable, be suspicious, be paranoid? None of the Montanos were in the army because at that time the Axis was Italy-Germany-Japan and because Dad and his  brothers were first generation Italians, they were all rejected from the army although they did go to Kingston for the induction physical where all three received a gold watch which was given to all inductees. But after the physical, they were rejected for service, left with a watch and embarrassment ? I remember thinking about this and remembering some hints of or talk about  "oh....he had flat feet and so was rejected...." Nothing about this was explained to us. But i'm sure this political slight did not help Dad and his family feel welcome or included or safe, living in a small  village and being Italian in the 40's! There was never talk of war or guns or army or politics in the house.
The family patron "saint" was Padre PIo. Grandma told me about him. When he was alive he actually visited the churches in their area of Abruzzi and was born near their home but most likely this was after Grandma and Grandpa had left Italy. Padre Pio received the Stigmata, Christ's 5 wounds on his body, he could bi-locate, knew the minds of hearts of people in the confessional, healed people, diverted planes from bombing  places in WW11 and has performed millions of miracles. And still does. She also talked to me about Maria Groetti, the saint who died instead of losing her "honor". I think she showed me pictures of both saints because she talked so little but I do remember this.  And when dad had his stroke, he was in the hospital and I brought a very large image of Padre Pio to him and he looked at it and said, "Oh  that's Joe Pio. He's the one who came and helped me." I have no idea how he helped dad but dad was very honest and I know it is true...I just don't have the details.

Dad gave his mother an insulin needle for diabetes every day and I remember that dad had to go someplace and he taught mom how to give his mother the needle and we would hold an orange on our leg and she would "give us a needle" practicing with a real needle on the orange. Grandma was always sending us chicken soup in a metal container with a thin metal handle.

And the story goes on and on and on and all of the ways that the Montano's were great, we imitate and all of the ways that they needed to change, we have a chance to do that. This fairytale posits and totally appreciates the good and forgives the not so good, like all fairytales. This fairytale hopes for hope and recovers from tears, knowing that wolves of the past are turned into elves for our future. This fairytale looks at the house made of stone and not of straw, this fairytale tames the giant and prepares the banquet. This fairytale rides the angel horse to the sky and drops the human-pulled plow. This fairytale ends the isolation and passes through the veil of the past. Because now, our Montano relatives watch us, bless us and guide us so that inherited short-comings should be easy conditions to change....and then the next generation can change what we haven't accomplished.

So that is the story of   THE MONTANOS -A STORY OF APPRECIATION. We thank them for their courage and honor and generosity and bravery. Now it is up to us. May they enlighten us all this Christmas and forever.

Not the end.
 Linda Mary Montano 2009

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