The Westinghouse Air Brake Factory, Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, 1905.
Dear Great-Grandfather Gennaro,
To see the records of your travels through Boston, New York and Wilmerding in search of work touched my heart. Based on what I’ve found so far you made the long ocean crossing to America almost every 2 years. If the opportunities in Agropoli were scarce what were you supposed to do? Despite the natural beauty of our ancestral home town, it doesn’t mean much when there isn’t enough money for rent, food and clothing.
I am sure that when you arrived in Wilmerding your cousin Raffael Matarazzo and other paesanos from Agropoli were ready to help in every way possible. I wonder what you thought of Wilmerding. It was a very hilly town, just like Agropoli. Yet when you looked at the mountains you would have known you were in another country. The Alleghenies are higher and greener than any hills or mountains along the Cilento coastline. Did you ever feel small when you looked at those mountains, being so far from home?
I can locate no further records of you in the United States after the trip to Wilmerding in 1913. I can only say that if you did not come back after that it was a good thing. After 1913 the mood in America towards immigrants, and Southern Italians in particular, was not good.
I will tell you more about how I came to know that in the next letter I write. For now please know that you are remembered, loved and thanked for the sacrifices you made to earn a living and support your family. My hope is that in time I will see you with Great Grandmother Emilia in a photo and maybe learn of a family story in which you are at center stage. If you’re anything like your son Sabato, my maternal Grandfather, you would have been a chiaccarone as my Grandmother Josie would say. Grandfather Sabato loved to hold court at a holiday dinners. He would share a variety of opinions, observations and sometimes absolute nonsense on the events and people of the day. Did Great-Grandmother Emilia ever say to you “Chiuda la bocca!” if you talked too much? Grandma Josie was always saying that when Grandpa Sabato went on too much. We always wondered who he took after.
EmilyAnn Frances May
Italian to English
(1) chiaccarone: a very talkative person; a chatterbox.
(2) Chiuda la bocca!: Shut your mouth!
EmilyAnn’s pedigree chart along the maternal line.
Gennaro Serrapede was EmilyAnn’s Great Grandfather along the maternal line.
Raffaele Matarazzo was Gennaro’s cousin. He worked at the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. As of this date (6/5/2015) we do not have documentation to support exactly what type of work Gennaro did while he was in the U.S.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, June 7, 2015 11 a.m. – Noon
My Uncle studied the photo and said that this is the front of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. The main part of Wilmerding is shown in the foreground of the photo. Our family lived on the side of town which faced the back of the factory. Those houses would have been towards the beginning of the hill in the back of the photo. Our immediate family lived on State Street.
Links to previous postings about Gennaro’s trips:
Photo of Westinghouse Air Brake Company, Wilmerding, PA
Library of Congress