UNCLE SAM

2001, Jim Forti

 

As part of my genealogical research, I interviewed my Uncle Sam (Allessandro) several years ago when visiting him in Los Angeles. He came to America in 1920 as a seven-year old. He was the oldest of my uncles and was one of two sons (Same and Guy) by my grandfather's first wife. She died in childbirth in 1919. I asked him what he remembered from his life as a young boy in the town of Barrafranca, province of Enna, Sicily. The following is his story:

My earliest memory is of taking the donkey to the well each morning. It was my responsibility to get the water that the family would use throughout the day. The donkey was equipped with a pannier, twin baskets that fit over the back of the donkey. Water containers in each basket were filled at the well and taken back to the house.

I remember when my mother died. The baby girl had died shortly after birth, but my mother lived several more days. They finally let me see her, but all I could do was cry. She asked me if I wanted her to live, but I was crying too much to answer, so I just nodded my head. But she died.

I remember the trip to America. Pa (grandfather) had remarried (to my grandmother) and they had another baby (my Uncle Joe). We left Barrafranca when Joe was 15 days old. Ma sat on the donkey holding Joe in her arms and Guy and I were placed in the baskets on either side of the donkey. Papa took the reins of the donkey and led us out of town. My next memory is of riding in a train. I had never seen one before. I remember the slats on the seats vibrating on my rear end. We then took a ship. I have only two memories of the voyage. Ma, while holding Joe in her arms, went to sit on a deck chair, but I pulled the chair away before she sat down. She and Joe crashed to the deck. I got a real beating from Pa for that stunt. Later during the trip, Joe got very sick. Ma was very worried that he might die. She went to a nurse and told her that she was afraid her baby might die and what could she do. The nurse said not to worry, if the baby died they would just throw it overboard and the fish would eat it. (Fortunately, Joe recovered) That is all I remember about Sicily.

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