Connecticut History on the Web 

Readings

 Newcomers to the Land of Steady Habits

Below is a list of the readings used with this unit. You may go directly to a document or group of documents by clicking on its name, or you may scroll down through the whole collection.

 

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Contents

§ "Newcomers to the Land of Steady Habits, 1860-1930" - a handout of charts and tables showing the change in the composition of Connecticut's population and the country of origin of the newcomers.

§ "The Coming of the Irish" - a series of excerpts from newspapers and other sources of the 1840's and 1850's, documenting the wave of Irish immigrants during those years and the reaction of some of Connecticut's leading citizens.

§ "Cheap Labor" - a segment of a report from the Connecticut Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1885, suggesting one reason for increased immigration, and making reference to Italian immigration.

§ "Life in the Old Eastside" - excerpts from Take a Number, by Armando Perretta (used with permission of the author's family), which describe life among Italian Americans in the 1920's in Hartford.

§ "Immigration to Connecticut," by John F. Sutherland - an essay discussing the many peoples who have come to Connecticut.

§ "Interview with an Irish Immigrant" - a sample transcript of excerpts from an interview conducted by John F. Sutherland of a woman who came to Manchester as a child from Ireland.

§ "Suggestions for Successful Interviewing" - a checklist for students who want to do an interview of their own.  

 

This site was created by Mark Williams, a history teacher at The Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, Connecticut, under a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council. Some of the materials published here were originally created by Mark Williams as Connecticut Case Studies, under a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council, and printed by the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. John F. Sutherland of Manchester Community College, Ronald P. Dufour of Rhode Island College, Thomas P. Weinland of the University of Connecticut, Tracey Wilson of Conard High School, Robert K. Andrian of The Loomis Chaffee School, and State Historian Christopher Collier served as consultants. The Connecticut Humanities Council is the State Committee of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The viewpoints or recommendations expressed in the materials on this site of are not necessarily those of the Council or the Endowment. Teachers are encouraged to print and make copies of these materials for their students.

Newcomers to the Land of Steady Habits

1860-1930

Table 1 below shows the ethnic composition of Connecticut's population just after the American Revolution. When this table is compared to the composition of the population of the early 20th century, it is apparent that there was considerable change in the background of the people of Connecticut over the next century and a half. Following this chart Table 2 shows the origin of the newcomers to the state during the later part of that period. What sort of changes do you suppose people of Connecticut would be noticing during those 150 years?

[Source of data: Samuel Koenig, Immigrant Settlements in Connecticut: Their Growth and Characteristics (Hartford: State Department of Education, 1938), pp. 12 and 14; and John F. Sutherland, "Immigration to Connecticut," (see the text of this elsewhere in these readings).]

The majority of the people in the above table were actually born in America. The chart below shows the percentage distribution of the population of Connecticut, by nativity and color, for the decades 1900-1930. As can be seen with Table 2 below, not only was a significant portion of the state's population not born in America, but most of the foreign born were not of English descent.

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The Coming of the Irish

Because of poor harvests and religious and political turmoil, Irish immigrants began to arrive in large numbers in America in the 1840's. They and sizable groups of German immigrants were the first serious challenges to control of the United States by people of English descent. A great many decided to make their home in Connecticut, buying land left by westward moving Yankees if they had any money left from their voyage, or working in the growing cities in textile mills and metal industries. The following pages contain a selection of documents concerning the influx of Irish immigrants What sorts of issues do these documents raise? What kinds of things are important to know in order to understand the experience of the thousands of new Americans arriving in Connecticut in the 19th Century?

The Crossing

In 1844, Rev. David Ogden (1811-1845), an Episcopalian minister from New Canaan, Connecticut, was returning home from a trip to Scotland and England on board the ship "Kalamazoo," on which over 300 Irish emigrants had shipped for passage to America. It should be noted that here were quite a few Irish people crowding on to an America-bound vessel before the great Potato Famine usually credited with motivating Irish immigration. Ogden's journal of the trip offers a good picture of the difficulties faced by would-be Americans long before they set foot in their new homeland. Ogden had the good fortune of sharing the captain's cabin with the Captain, his wife and three children, and two other passengers, while crammed into the "steerage," the small compartments on the middle deck at the bow and stern of the ship, were the rest of the passengers. As you note the conditions of the Irish "steerage passengers," also take note of Rev. Ogden's attitude toward them, an indicator of the reception the immigrants would receive in Connecticut. [Source: Rev. David Ogden, "An Account of the Voyage of the Ship 'Kalamazoo' from Liverpool to New York, October 1 to December 6, 1844." Connecticut Historical Society Manuscript Collection.]

On Fri Oct 4th our ship got ready for sea and we hauled into the stream and were towed down the Mersey to Rock Light-house where we came to anchor: we had seven cabin passengers, two of whom were ladies, two hundred and ten in the steerage besides the crew, making in all on board 233 persons. The ship was literally alive with human beings so thick that when they were all on deck it was impossible to move around.

The names of them all were called over before the steam-boat left and as some of them had already begun to complain that the ship was too much crowded, he stated to them that if any were dissatisfied to go ashore in the steam boat for if he heard any complaint from them at sea he would throw them all overboard.

The wind continued dead ahead and we lay here at anchor from Fri night till Mon morning. All of which time was miserably spent, everything being in the utmost confusion.

 

[The ship soon left England, only to return after several days of severe weather. At that time additional passengers were taken on.]

Fri 25th We had a tolerable fair run for the last few days but no really fair wind

Ill luck seems constantly to attend us. To day we have had a very strong wind and the ship has pitched awfully into the sea, so that it was impossible to stand on the deck, the water frequently breaking over the sides in large quantities.

.........

That night was a very uncomfortable one, the wind amounted to almost a gale and so strong was it finally that we were obliged to abandon our course and run off before the wind till morning. Thus far we have had a most uncomfortable time, certainly no lack of wind, rain and rough seas - Had a fine time of vomiting and threw up a good deal of bile.

Sun Night 27th Sea rough and no comfort... Many of the poor Irish women are very sick and the medicine chest is in constant demand

The Capt has his hands full in dealing out to them. They are the most miserable wretches I ever saw for they will not help one another

We received in the cabin today two notices that two more women are in hourly expectation of delivery and as they have called me the Doctor I must go to studying mid wifery

It is a barbarous custom to go to sea with such a number of human beings as we have without a well-bred physician, for his services are required every hour in the day. The law of the land ought to compel it.

.........

Fri Nov 1 1844 In one of these sudden pitches last night, an Irishman fell heavily to the deck and broke his arm between the elbow and shoulder. He was immediately brought into the cabin where the Capt. again to our admiration, displayed his medical skill. After cutting his coat off him he soon succeeded in getting the bone in its place, splinted and bound up his arm, gave him a heavy glass of brandy and told him not to come aft again unless he came with his head under his arm. The poor man was in great agony, has no relations on board of ship and had but a blanket to wrap himself in.

The house on deck had been erected into a hospital. Here the poor man is placed with some sick women, whose lives we have thought to be in danger.

Scarcely an hour elapses but some word is coming to the Capt that some children or women are dying. One woman for 12 days had not left her bed of straw and when discovered, was nearly dead, she was brought up into the Cabin and was ordered to take some broth, but she refused and insisted on dying. "Damn you" said the Capt "you shall die, John and Jack here, throw this woman overboard" "Now take this broth or the fish shall feed on your old carcass"

She took the food and being placed in the hospital, soon got better

.........

The law requires the Capt. to give each adult person, one pound of bread a day, or its equivalent, five pounds of potatoes These are weighed out and distributed once a week.

The law allows each adult three quarts of water a day, which is dealt out daily except in case of storm.

..........

Fri 8th....Sickness is daily increasing among the passengers and unless our voyage is soon ended, we shall probably have more funerals, as there is much fear of ship fever.

Exposure, want of fresh air and unholesome internment is fast bringing them down.

In addition to this, they are become rebellious at the Capt, at his discipline and ship.

They even hint to him that there is such a thing as law in N.Y. and some of them, who have been in N.Y. before, act as sea lawyers and urge the others on to maintain their rights.

.........

The Capt. became somewhat alarmed about the provisions for his steerage passengers for the potatoes were daily rotting and there were 300 and more mouths to feed.

Two days of hunger among them would produce awful consequences and it now became certain that we were to have a long passage, being already 25 days out

..........

Mon Night 18th Doing nothing and no prospect but a dull one. The steerage passengers begin to steal from each other and the diarrhea prevails among them to a great extent. Poor creatures, unless we arrive soon some of them must die.

They have daily fights at the fire in order to get to it to cook. 310 of them having an equal right and there being but two places for them.

The history of these people is singular. Most of the Irish are going out with nothing, all saying that they have a fortieth or fiftieth cousin in America who is a very "decent" man and wealthy.

One man, and his family, is worth considerable money and is a miller. He leaves Ireland for his safety. He refused to join the repeal association and the neighbors burned all his buildings and tried to shoot him.

Others had been paupers in the parishes in England and their passages have been paid to America to shove them upon us. A great shame and one that will ultimately prove the ruin of all our institutions.

..........

Sun 24th This is the sixth Sunday on board the "Kalamazoo" and now on the banks of Newfoundland with a little more cheering prospect.

The fear of coming short of provisions for the steerage passengers increases, since most of the potatoes have decayed from having been wet.

We had another funeral on Fri morning that of an old woman about 60 years of age who died of bowel complaint which nothing could check. She had suffered with it all the voyage and was destitute of all the necessities of life; she had a daughter on board.

The night she died Mr. Hawley and I ventured to go and see her; her head was resting on the edge of a plank for a pillow and her bed of two blankets. She was sensible and could talk but so intolerable was the stench and dreadful the atmosphere that I was taken with gagging, retching in a minute's time and was obliged to leave her to die without aid: she expired at 12 o'clock. At the foot of the stairs stood three large tubs of filth, most horrible filth, and among 100 men they were not emptied. The wonder was that they were not all dying in a bunch.

...........

Tues Dec 3rd Wind still fair and ploughing the sea at the rate of 9 miles an hour.

Never was greater anxiety on the part of crew and passengers for the termination of a voyage. Soon, I trust, the shores of our native land will appear, for which, Oremus.

It is a hard matter for us to pass the time comfortably, since it is impossible to sleep all night and day too.

.........

Wed 4th The same complaint, looseness of the bowels has troubled me for two days past and I have been obliged to occupy my berth most of the time.

The disease among the steerage passengers has arisen, probably from impure atmosphere and the want of wholesome diet. Mr. Sinclair, an officer, says that their situation is infinitely worse than the situation of slaves on board slave ships that he has visited.

.........

Thurs 5th We had scarcely become quiet last night when the mate came below and said he saw a light and he thought a pilot was coming. It soon became manifest and every man was up and dressed in a trice

In a few minutes his boat was along side and a crowd was around him, it was about 1 o'clock. before he struck the deck he announced the astounding news that Polk was elected President. No one could believe it for we all felt sure that Mr. Clay was the successful candidate.

He confirmed the fact and we were sadly chop-fallen. The Capt said if he was not so far in, he would go back to Liverpool.....The shores are in sight around us and a thousand associations of the most thrilling nature crowd upon the mind.

Our parting from each other was attended with mutual feelings of regret;

May God bless and prosper our small circle with his choicest blessings.

 

The "Natives" Respond

It was not long before the rapid increase of the foreign-born population became apparent to observers in Connecticut. On September 4, 1850, The Hartford Courant announced, "In the cities, where one native citizen has migrated, ten foreigners have stepped in to take his place. The increase of that description of population in all our cities, especially from Ireland, will astonish us when the Census has been completely taken." Some applauded the trend and thought it a direct result of the appealing virtue of the republic. Editors of The Hartford Times wrote,

There are many worthy men and women who are poor, very poor. They are industrious too; work on our canals and railroads - help till the soil, assist in building houses, and some of these very poor persons have earned enough since they left their own wretched country, to build comfortable houses for themselves. We have a wide extent of territory, and want people to improve it - poor, very poor industrious people will do a great deal....They will make good citizens, ever ready to defend the rights of their adopted land, and obey its laws.

[The Hartford Times, Feb. 3 and August 10, 1847.]

The Courant was not so enthusiastic, however, having recognized that the Democratic Party, favored by the Times, was adding all the immigrants to its own ranks. After the election of Franklin Pierce as President, Courant editors wrote on Nov. 5, 1852,

There are many causes which combined have contributed to our defeat. The principal one, however, has been the union of our enemies and our own divisions....Another cause for our defeat has been the steady increase in the Democratic vote for the last ten years, principally from the accession of naturalized citizens. Men come here from the oppression of monarchy in Europe, unacquainted with the operation of our institutions, often ignorant of our language and knowing but one word of it - the cherished name of Democracy. With that sacred name is connected all that they have suffered and fled from abroad. Misled by its sound, here, they embrace the party which claims it, without examination, and annually assist in swelling its triumphs. This is more specially observable in our large cities, and in our new States.

It was not long, however, before the political connection became fully apparent in Connecticut. The New Haven Palladium got hold of a story in early 1853 that, just prior to the last election, a Democratic candidate for Congress, Colin M. Ingersoll, had contributed thirty dollars to the Catholic church in New Haven. The story elicited the following editorial:

Thirty Pieces of Silver

This is the amount of money which Mr. Ingersoll contributed to the Roman Catholic church in this city, only about two days previous to the late Presidential election. So large a sum from a gentleman of moderate means, and given so near the election, affords abundant evidence that the intent was to secure the Roman Catholic influence of this Congressional District, for the advancement of his own political interest....If Mr. Ingersoll is to gain support from the members of that church in the different towns in this district on the ground that he has done so much for Romanism, the question naturally arises how much does Protestantism owe him for such services. He should be taught that the sword he uses has a double edge, and that while he cuts away his opponents, he may at the same time be cutting away his friends. If Mr. Ingersoll is a Roman Catholic, we have not a word to say, except that his gift was too near the election. If a Protestant, a smaller sum at a different time would have answered all purposes of evincing a spirit of Protestant toleration and neighborhood - but thirty dollars looked and now looks like betraying with a kiss his entire Protestant community. What say they to such Iscariotism?

[The Palladium, March 31, 1853.]

 

By 1854, secret anti-Catholic organizations called "the Know-Nothings," had sprung up all over the nation, and Connecticut was not immune. Despite the secrecy, The Hartford Times obtained a copy of the constitution of the local chapter and printed the first three articles:

Art. 1. This organization shall be known as the state Council of the State of Connecticut.

Art. 2. Its object shall be to resist the insidious policy of the Church of Rome, and all other foreign influences against the institutions of our country, by placing in all offices in the gift of the people, whether by election or appointment, none but native-born Protestant citizens.

Art. 3. A person, to become a member of any subordinate Council, must be 21 years of age, must believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, as the Creator and preserver of the universe; he must be a native-born citizen, a Protestant, born of Protestant parents, reared under Protestant influence, and not united in marriage with a Roman Catholic.

 

So quick was the Know Nothing Party to gain influence in the state that it ran a successful candidate for governor in 1855, William Minor. The following is an excerpt from Governor-elect Minor's inaugural address. When Minor speaks of "ecclesiastical despotism" he is making a typical Yankee reference to the Roman Catholic Church, hatred of which stems from the earliest days of Puritan settlement in the Connecticut colony.

There is another topic not only of interest to this State but to the Nation, which the sentiment of the people requires should be presented to you. I refer to the foreign immigration, which in its extent and character, and the pernicious influence arising from it has excited the just alarm of our citizens....This large mass of aliens, some of them tinctured with the social infidelity of continental Europe - very many of them blind followers of an ecclesiastical despotism - a large majority of them without correct ideas of the duties appertaining to citizens of a republican government and by early prejudices totally unfitted to learn them - differing in language, in national customs and feelings, and scattered all over the country, still with tenacity holding on to and serving those customs - and from among them as appears from the statistics of crime and pauperism in the different States in this Union, comes a majority of the inmates of our prisons and Almshouses - when these things are considered; and in addition the facts that our taxes are largely increased for the support of our foreign population, - that in many instances the Almshouses of the Old World have been emptied, their prison doors thrown open, and the inmates of both transported by their Governments to our shores - a wise regard for our safety as a nation requires additional legislation with reference to foreign immigration.

.......

If the evils were confined to the extent and character of immigration, perhaps all danger might be avoided; but the large mass of our alien population, after a residence of five years only among us, are admitted to citizenship with all the power and rights incident thereto, unacquainted with the character of our government and of its institutions, - very many of them thoroughly imbued with the feelings that resistance to the ruler is the duty of the ruled - they are but poorly fitted properly to appreciate or discharge the duties of citizens of a republican government.

........

Again, combinations of our alien population - social, political and military - are existing all over the country. So far as the social combinations do not interfere with or distrust the rights of others they should remain unmolested. The political organizations so far as they are now existing, composed of nationalized citizens, cannot be disturbed; but I do not believe that military companies, to consist entirely of foreign citizens should be formed. Every thing about such a company reminds its members, not that they are American citizens, but that they owe allegiance yet to their native land.

A very large number of foreign citizens are members of a church, the spiritual head of which owes no allegiance to our Government or its laws - that church as a matter of history exacts the most implicit obedience from its members, who generally are very zealous and devoted to its interest; and so far as it attends only to spiritual matters it should not be interfered with, but the protection of our constitution and laws should be extended to it the same as to all our other religious denominations. A different course would be in violation of all the principles of our Government; for when our forefathers landed on Plymouth Rock, driven from their native home by religious persecutions, they laid the foundation deep and broad, of freedom of conscience and religious toleration....

But as a matter of policy connected with the privilege of citizenship to be conferred upon the alien, we have the right to inquire how far the allegiance due from the members of the Romish Church to their foreign spiritual head is compatible with the allegiance due to their adopted country; and if we find that combinations, for political action exist, composed of members of this church, throwing their entire vote one way or the other, as the wishes and feelings and interest of those controlling may dictate; and farther, if we find that these combinations are but instruments in the hands of demagogues, either native born or thrown upon our shores by revolutionary upheaving of Europe; then a strong reason is formed, why a longer residence should be required before the alien can be naturalized.

The subjects of immigration and naturalization are matters that can only be acted upon by the national legislature. But so far as our own State is concerned, you have the right to say who can exercise the privileges of freemen to make our laws and rule over us. You have also the right to express your sentiment upon any question of general interest, and that expression will have the effect to assist in creating an American feeling and action throughout the country; will give us those thoroughly imbued with those feelings to rule over us in all the departments of government, and to represent our interests abroad; will help restore our government to its primitive purity; will nationalize our army and navy; will cement the bonds of our national union, and will make our country great and prosperous.

 

Governor Minor recommended several laws to the 1855 legislature, including one that required titles to church real estate to be held by congregations, in violation of the usual practice of Catholic parishes. He also ordered the disbanding of Irish American units of the state militia. When the Civil War began in 1861, these soldiers had not forgotten the insult. When called to service, former Captain Thomas W. Cahill replied,

Six years ago I was captain of a company of volunteer militia and a native of New England. I was, with my comrades, thought to be unfit to shoulder a musket in time of peace, and the company was disbanded by the then Governor of the State, under circumstances peculiarly aggravating to military pride. The law by which we were disbanded still stands on the Statute Book, and as long as it is there my fellow soldiers and myself feel it to be an insult to us, and to all our fellow citizens of Irish birth and Catholic faith. If we were not fit to bear arms in time of peace, we might be dangerous in time of war.

 

[Quoted in Thomas S. Duggan, The Catholic Church in Connecticut (New York: The States History Company, 1930), p. 36.]

 

At Home in Hartford

 

In 1860 the United States Census Marshall, going from house to house in Hartford, captured, with the listing on the following pages, a picture of the families in a neighborhood which had been settled heavily by Irish and German immigrants. Many of these were working in either Colt's or Sharp's firearms factories. This is only a very small number of families from an immigrant neighborhood, and should not be taken as a representative sample of Hartford's total population. Nevertheless, the selection does offer some food for thought about the lives of Connecticut's newcomers. What questions does this census listing and the preceding documents raise in your mind?

 

Return to Contents.

 

Excerpts from

"Cheap Labor"

A Chapter from the Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the State of Connecticut November 30, 1885
 

Return to Contents.

 

Life in the Old Eastside

Armando T. Perretta, who grew up in the Italian immigrant community of Hartford's Eastside, published a novel in 1957 based upon the experiences of his family and neighbors. While the following excerpts are from a work of fiction, they present a clear picture of how this particular group of Italian-Americans lived their lives during the 1920's and 1930's as they raised their families and sought to fulfill their dreams. Today, the area described in these passages has been replaced by Constitution Plaza and Interstate 91. [Source: Armando T. Perretta. Take a Number. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1957, pages 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 29-35, 262-266. Used with permission of the author's family.]

In 1923, Hartford's Eastside, an area four blocks long and inhabited predominantly by Italians, was bounded on the north by the Morgan Street Freight Yards, on the south by Sheldon Street, on the east by the Connecticut River, and on the west by the police station, a dirty, graying building which squatted there as a sort of grim, but jovially ignored, chaperone to its temperamental charges.

The Eastside was a city within a city, and inside its clearly defined boundaries could be obtained anything to sustain life, to say nothing of the many commodities, both legal and illegal and, depending upon who was doing the interpreting, both moral and immoral, to make it endurable. Almost every door screened a speak-easy, and every home exuded a warmhearted hospitality that had no peer in the world. Wine flowed more freely than water, and the air was constantly filled with music and singing - unless there happened to be a brawl which commanded everyone's undivided attention. Its people, born sentimentalists, savored to the full both joy and heartache, and even the most trivial incident was ballooned up into a production comparable to the spectacles staged at the La Scala Milan.

Front Street, running north and south and bisecting the Eastside neatly, was its heart; action was its blood, and it throbbed strongly through the back yards and alleys which were its arteries. When police whistles or clanging fire trucks or near riots wrenched Tony Fazzone out of a deep sleep and sent him, wild-eyed with excitement, scrambling to his bedroom window, the entertainment was rarely out of his vision, for he could see on Front Street for two blocks in either direction....

[In the earlier evening, while other parts of the city grew quiet,] Front Street...teemed with life. Pushcarts lined the gutters, and vendors and customers and captured pilferers vied vociferously with each other; the music blaring from the loud-speaker set in the transom of the door to Salvatore Pielo's radio and record shop, which started a moment after its owner had turned the key in the door early in the morning, would be stilled only after he departed from it somewhere in the neighborhood of midnight; the sidewalks in front of the stores spilled over with crates of fruit imported from Sicily and bushel baskets of rare verdura and boxes of snails and chestnuts peeking out from their beds of straw; the windows of the numerous grocery stores were always filled with hanging provolone cheese, clusters of pepperoni sausage, prosciutti, Genoa salame, and the many other choice cold meats wrapped in colorful tissues which proclaimed to all that they had been imported from Italy and thus were the best; in the window of Pepe Pupolo's butcher shop there were whole lambs with halos of aromatic herbs, and the suckling pigs with gleaming apples in their mouths; the windows of the pastry shop were miniature wonderlands with their displays of the incomparable Italian pasticci and figurines of all descriptions sculptured from almond paste. And if it was a summer evening, the plump and jovial proprietor, Mr. Corrado, sat outside the door by his huge tub of limonata serenading passers by with his accordion. From the other side of town, adventurers who had heard what Front Street had to offer, rubbed elbows with the natives as they came in quest of those items which made living more palatable and outlooks a little rosier....

Don Peppino [Fazzone, Tony's father,] had migrated from Italy to a small town in Massachusetts, where some paesani had promised him work. It did not take him long to decide that the town was incapable of holding his guitar, let alone his expanding philosophies, and having a married sister who had settled in Hartford, he instituted discreet inquiries about the city. When he heard it was the capital of a provincia, he had someone print the correct spelling of the city down on a piece of paper and, with it, departed to the nearest railroad station....

Before destiny restored him to his proper niche in life [as Capo Collettore - head of the lottery], the Don, like so many of his friends and neighbors, was forced to the indignity of laboring in a factory to keep food in the mouths of his growing family. In keeping them from want, Don Peppino subjected himself to the severest of regimens, for he subscribed heartily to the belief that all work and no play made Jack a dull boy indeed, and it was his contention that as long as he arose in the morning, shaved and went to work, he could not be rightly chided over how strenuously or how late he had celebrated the night before....

 

In addition to all the troubles of his friends and lottery constituents which Don Peppino's interpretation of his duties forced upon his broad shoulders, he had his own. The Capo Collettore adhered strongly to the old school of thought and could never reconcile himself to the barbarous customs of America.

Though the elder Fazzones seldom left the confines of the Eastside, Nicky and Tony roamed all over the city. One of Tony's many duties was gathering wooden crates from the department store receiving platforms, smashing them into kindling wood, and then taking it up to his rear porch, where he stacked it neatly. After school and during summers he shined shoes on Main Street and in the streets around the town hall and the post office, which was located a block south of the police station. At times he scoured the Asylum Street alleys for loot which he could sell to the junk man, and in his leisure time he would go through the stores getting free rides on the elevators and staring, with the anguish of yearning, at the many toys.

Mrs. Fazzone, unlike her husband, had an insatiable interest in everything that went on outside her Eastside world. The only way she could learn of America was through her children, and she questioned them and listened with wonder at the descriptions of men assisting women into trolleys, how letters were mailed and delivered, and once, when Tony's school class had been taken to visit the museum, she made Tony give her an exhaustive account of everything he had seen and learned. When Tony told her it was all free and she could herself go anytime to see with her own eyes, she clasped her hands in joy, though she was never to go because she did not think she could dress herself properly for the occasion.

Of course, there were many things that confused her. Nicky demanding custard pie, to which he'd been treated by one of his friends in an Asylum Street cafeteria. Did the Front Street bakeries carry it? The uptown bakeries? Ah, but it is expensive and we cannot afford it....

And there was the time when Tony, with two pennies clutched fiercely in his fist, had boarded the trolley car for Camp Courant, a trip sponsored daily in the summer by the newspaper. The pennies, a friend who'd been there had told him, were to help pay for his lunch. When Tony saw the lunch he wouldn't give up the pennies and a minor tug of war had taken place between him and the camp attendant. The attendant won and Tony was given a dish of milk in which were what appeared to be tiny brown eggs....

And then Nicky, in another trip to the lunchroom, had tasted catsup. He liked it so much that one of his friends stole the bottle for him. Tony and Nicky only used it on sandwiches and fried potatoes, for Don Peppino, being told that it was a tomato sauce, took one sniff of the bottle and banished it from the table.

"It is what the Americani use on their spaghetti," he stated scornfully.

But what aggravated the Capo Collettore most was that all the rebellions against him took place at the dinner table, for the Fazzones, having different interests, were seldom all together at any other time. The Don, having seen how the subtle Americanization of his children had breached his rule of silence at the dinner table, was determined that another important one was not to be dented.

This was the rule that no one could rise from the table until the head of the family had finished eating. This imposed a tremendous hardship on Tony, Nicky, and Fran. The Fazzones, like most Italian families, never had dessert. Sweets were holiday treats, and even then were consumed only between meals. But after the main dish there were always olives, cheese, celery, and if things were going good, an occasional dish of fruit. Don Peppino lingered fondly over these items, often for as long as an hour, eating with an agonizing slowness, and Nicky and Tony, fretting to get outdoors, Fran to get her dishwashing over, had to sit at table until he was done....

"You and the customs of Italy!" [exclaimed Mrs. Fazzone] "In America it is different! Is it not said that the son of Carmello, who married na Americana, brings her coffee in bed? In America the men wait on the wives and the fathers go out with the sons to fish in the boats and some even play the basaballa with them."

"Per certamente! Can one expect figs from an apple tree? This is a land of peasants and savages who eat boiled meat and make soda and jelly from their grapes, which every one knows Il Bon Dio intended for wine."

"Ah, Italia, Italia, Italia," cried Mrs. Fazzone scornfully. "It is true, as my brother Theo says, that Italians know how to do all things, but they have nothing to do them with. Did not my mouth, as a young girl, water at the sight of the beautiful orange and fig trees in our fields which I could not eat because every single one was needed to pay the rent of the land? It is said in the magazines which Francesca reads to me that we Italians are lucky because we know how to make the delicious sauce that covers our spaghetti, bracciole, polpetti, and sazizza. And when did we this in Italy? At Christmas, if we were lucky! The rest of the year our spaghetti was eaten with greens and an occasional sauce from an over ripe tomato which had fallen from the vine. Go back to Italy! As for myself, I am grateful to America where one gets a piece of meat now and then for one's children."...

 

The Fazzones occupied a three-room flat in a large tenement block built in the shape of a squared letter U. The part of the building forming the base of the letter contained the three-room flats with the bedroom windows facing Front Street. To the right and left of these were the front bedrooms of the four-room box-car flats, which from there, extended back past the rear porches of the three-room flats to form the sides of the letter U. The Fazzone kitchen, running the width of the two bedrooms led out onto the porch. From there a stair well led down to a roof terrace which covered the stores on the street level. From this roof the brick walls of the four-room flats rose on either side to form a man-made canyon. In this canyon there was action all around the clock....

 

[The following is taken from a later portion of the book.]

But now it was late in October of 1932. New hopes were surging in the breasts of those who had for many years been denied seats at the festive board of dispensing political plums. Democracy was on the rise, the chickens which were supposed to be in the pots were cackling impudently in the barnyards, and the lumbering, decadent elephant was staggering to a crumbling end. The Eastside, overwhelmingly Democratic, prepared to move in for the kill.

Elections were no trivial things to the Eastsiders. It was a time when all men were asked to step out and be counted as friend or foe. Before the polls closed, new enmities would be formed, new reputations would topple the old ones, untold perfidies would be exposed, and new arrests would infuse old and jaded records with new life.

To the Eastsiders, Franklin D. Roosevelt was just a guy who happened to be on their ticket. They didn't care about the national level. The only candidates who counted were the ones who lived in the city and were judged according to how much guts they had when it came to squaring a rap and how available they were to a little oil money; the only other important thing was the showings they made in the various wards, for that would dictate the degree of attention the ward chairman would get for the favors that were requested of him....

As Election Day neared, the various candidates blared on and on with their speeches, forcing Mrs. Fazzone into one of those rare agreements with her husband, for they moved most of her favorite programs off the air. The incumbents reiterated over and over that they were standing on their records; the new blood demanded over and over that these very same records be examined, though no one, least of all the candidates, knew what they were or where they could be found. All expressed their confidence in the judgment of the voters, appealing to their finer instincts and their desire for honest government. In resounding speeches they pledged themselves to keep inviolate the sacred right of every American to vote as his conscience dictated.

On Election Eve all this unadulterated bull was stilled, and the professionals moved in.

One of the more important phases of an election was the gathering of balkies. Angelo Testadura was in charge of this operation, and for three days now the bums had been lifted from their benches in the park, dragged out of boxcars in the freight yards, kicked out of the alleys into the arms of waiting captors, and imprisoned in the back room of Testadura's speak-easy. There they were tapered off into sobriety and fed just enough booze to keep them that way. On Election Day they would be put through the polls under the names of dead voters. After they had voted once, Teddie the Barber, who always closed shop for the day, would have them shaved and, disguised in cleanliness, they would be put through again. Then they would be given a quart of raw wine and set free. Two hours later a reincarnated Spanish Inquisitor wouldn't have been able to get a hello out of them.

The busters had been working out for the week under the watchful eyes of a professional fight trainer. These were the men who would go from precinct to precinct starting fights with the Republican workers and decommissioning them for the rest of the day. It is a tribute to their skill and thoughtfulness that very seldom did their victims require more than a day or two to recuperate, rarely beyond a week.

The ice-pick crew had already been selected, equipped and briefed. These were the men who would go about the city puncturing the tires of the Opposition's cars.

The springers had been equipped with cash. These were the men who would sit in the police station all day long, ready to post bond for their colleagues and return them to action with a minimum loss of time.

The pointers had been at work for almost two weeks. These were the people who had been handed lists of down-the-liners and asked them to call up Republican Headquarters and request that they be chauffeured to the polls, where they would then vote Democratic. And of course there was a small group of telephoners. They would call Republican Headquarters all day long, requesting rides and giving fictitious addresses.

To protect themselves against the unethical acts of the Opposition, there were the peekers. This was a highly specialized job, and only the most skillful were selected. It was the duty of the peeker, acting officially in the guise of a moderator or challenger, to peek, as unobtrusively as possible, through the balloting machine curtains to ascertain how the voter had polled. In cases where the vote had been paid for, this action was more than justified. It was the peeker, also, who exposed the double-crossers.

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Interview with an Irish Immigrant

 

The following excerpts are from an interview was conducted by John F. Sutherland, of Manchester Community College's Institute of Local History. He is speaking with Lucy Addy Richardson, formerly of Portadown, Northern Ireland, and long time resident of Manchester, Connecticut, on June 5, 1980 .

Dr. Sutherland: Mrs. Richardson, I wonder if we could begin by my asking you to describe the town in which you grew up in Northern Ireland. Where were you born?

Mrs. Richardson: I was born in Northern Ireland in a little village called Bann Foot. There was a little street with ten houses on each side. That was in the middle of the countryside. There was a pump right in the middle of that street, right beside my home, and the public house was right there. I was born right beside the public house and that was away at the end of the world as I thought as a child. Living there with the Bann River on one side and Loch Neagh at the other side, it seemed that I was surrounded. I was away from everything, and that was the end of the world to me. I remember this anyway.

Dr. Sutherland: Can you tell me what your parents did for a living?

Mrs. Richardson: My mother was a hand-loom weaver, but at that time my father was a handyman around the countryside. He did a lot of different types of things; for instance, he would roof the houses, the thatched roofs. You have to be someone that understands just how to build those things. For the schoolmaster he would do odd jobs. He would work in the field - in the moss where the turf was cut. That's peat, you would call it here. It was what we used in the fire, of course we had the hearth fires and we didn't have coal or anything like that.

Dr. Sutherland: What kind of a community was Bann Foot, what did people do for a living? Was there a factory there? You said your mother was a weaver.

Mrs. Richardson: We had a weave shop, we called it, built onto our home. It was big enough for four of these looms. They are quite a large thing and they have a treadle. We had two looms there at that time, after I was born. My sister was ten years older, and she was a weaver and my mother was a weaver. But me being little, I was about five, and I remember winding the bobbins to keep my sister going with her loom. My mother was provided with the bobbins, and I didn't have to worry about her. Sometimes, now I think of it, I was just a child, and I really rebelled and sometimes I wouldn't have the bobbins in time. My sister would holler for the bobbins, I'd bring her a hat. So that really was my life at that time. Of course I was going to school at that time. We started school at three years old in that little village. Well my life was happy: I didn't know anything different. There wasn't anything much to do.

Dr. Sutherland: Who owned the looms in this shop?

Mrs. Richardson: Now that's one thing I don't know. See, I have never gone into those things too much. I just grew up there and didn't think. It must have been our parents, because they had to go over this River Bann to get a new thing to weave into the cloth - it's a beam. Then when they would weave that, finish that, they had to go over this River Bann again to the inspection place and get their money for it.

Dr. Sutherland: So they were weaving this cloth for someone else?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes.

Dr. Sutherland: What did most people in the community do for a living? Was it a farming community or what kind?

Mrs. Richardson: Well, where my home was, most of the people in that village were weavers. But there were farmhouses around the country, around Bann Foot, and they had the land, they owned it, they were more affluent than we were then. My father would work for them at times, and then my mother of course stayed home, but she wove, and she did practically everything for those children: she had nine during the period. I understand when she had her first child, her first children, there wasn't even a safety pin or anything like that, and they had to put straight pins in their babies' diapers. So it was really primitive.

..........

Dr. Sutherland: Why don't you tell me a little bit about school life. You say you started school at the age of three. How many years did you go to school?

Mrs. Richardson: Well, altogether &emdash; I went to another town when I was nine. Well, I was thirteen when I left school.

Dr. Sutherland: What was school like in Bann Foot? Can you describe the teachers and the students and the lessons you learned?

Mrs. Richardson: They're vague with me. I had a sister who had a photographic memory. Not me. I don't remember too much about schooling down in the Bann Foot. I just remember the teachers. They were very, very strict. You must never go out of line. And we were punished for the least little thing. We had a mistress who was a teacher, and her brother before that, but I didn't have him. I just had mistress Hannah Jane Atkinson, and I always thought she was so strict. I didn't think that she had any sympathy for children. In those days they didn't seem to have, because you were supposed to learn, and you had to obey. If you didn't, you suffered.

Dr. Sutherland: Did you have separate classes?

Mrs. Richardson: No, we only had one little room. Do you see that over there? (Referring to a painting on the wall)

Dr. Sutherland: Yes.

Mrs. Richardson: Well, that is the school that all our family went to. It really was the church and the school, and on Sunday, of course, it was the preaching house. That's where we went. My sister painted that. My younger sister.

Dr. Sutherland: It's very nice.

Mrs. Richardson: It looks a little different than when I remember it; they painted it and made it look better. There was just the one room, and we had forms to sit on. When we went for our lessons, our classes would get into like a horseshoe, and we'd stand there for this period. The lessons were for half an hour. We didn't think anything of it. I'm really not too clear in my memory, I can't see things just as good as I should.

Dr. Sutherland: Well, you're doing very well. I'd like to mention in the tape that Mrs. Richardson was pointing to a painting of the church and the school. You say it served as both the church and the school. What was the religion of most of the inhabitants of Bann Foot?

Mrs. Richardson: Methodist, that was.

Dr. Sutherland: Were most of the inhabitants that you remember Methodists in Bann Foot?

Mrs. Richardson: No, we had Catholics, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, that was really about all we had there.

Dr. Sutherland: How did they get along with each other?

Mrs. Richardson: Good. When I lived there, the Catholics and the Protestants, they were all friends. Just a certain time of the year then, animosities were aroused, and they were a little bothersome to each other. Otherwise they were friends.

Dr. Sutherland: What time of year was that?

Mrs. Richardson: The 12th of July.

Dr. Sutherland: The Boyne.

Mrs. Richardson: The Battle of the Boyne, yes, the Battle of the Boyne.

.............

Dr. Sutherland: When you were nine years old, your parents moved to Portadown. Why did they move?

Mrs. Richardson: As far as I know, it was because work was scarce, there wasn't much work then. It was getting bigger, and the families were getting bigger. We had relatives: my mother's people moved to Portadown before that and had been there a long time. And so we went there. And then of course I was old enough just too....I had to go to school at that time too, so I went to the Methodist school. Schools were all run by the government and certain religions. There was all schools because of their religions. I went to the Methodist. My folks who could work, then went into the factories.

Dr. Sutherland: What kind of factories?

Mrs. Richardson: Weavers, weaving factories, linen. You see these dishcloths you have? It was something like that.

Dr. Sutherland: Is that what most people did in Portadown was work in linen weaving?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes, there was a lot of factories there. They made these beautiful handkerchiefs and beautiful cloths and damask things with flowers on them. And of course they made the dishcloths too; that was certain factories just made those.

Dr. Sutherland: Did both your mother and father work as weavers in Portadown?

Mrs. Richardson: My mother didn't work; she had too many children. My father worked. Now he didn't weave in Portadown: he was a carpenter in one of the factories doing the carpentry work. Then work was finally scarce before we came here.

Dr. Sutherland: How was Portadown different to grow up in than in Bann Foot?

Mrs. Richardson: Well, it was a lot different. The children had more freedom and things like that. They could be barefoot a lot, and half of the time they didn't have shoes and when they didn't need to wear them, they didn't, but in Portadown you wore shoes better, or more so, but it was a little different. And then there was just a little bit more caste when you lived in Portadown. And in your schools there was caste. For instance, I had come there, I could sense it myself lots of times, I was intruding. Probably I wasn't high up enough for them, for some of the people there, just the same as it is today. But I enjoyed life there; I got in with lots of different people and children and friends, and I enjoyed it. I can't remember too much of our school, really but I know that much that I was, because I had come from the country, and I wasn't worldly wise, I was just a village child. (laughter).

.........

Dr. Sutherland: You were a family of nine children and your father, according to your description, was in and out of work. Were you poor?

Mrs. Richardson: We were just like the other people. (matter-of-fact tone of voice). The farmers, they were more affluent, they had plenty. There was a few people that were better off. We were just ordinary people in that village, and everyone had about the same life; they didn't want anything more. We never starved or anything; we were just country people didn't have too much. And then my father, sometimes he had more work than other people would have, being able to do that. But then there comes a time when work is scarce, especially in winter time. But I just don't know what time we did go to live in Portadown. Anyway, maybe it was the reason we had uncles there and aunts, and then my mother's family was around there.

..........

Dr. Sutherland: Why don't you tell me how you happened to come to America? That must have been a big family decision.

Mrs. Richardson: Well, I can't remember to much about it, because I was young, and I didn't realize too much about it. We were excited that we were coming. Parents didn't discuss things with children in those days. You understand? That's why there's lots of things I wish I had known, but they didn't discuss them because you were sent out from the older people if they were going to discuss things.

Dr. Sutherland: Do you know why they decided to come to America?

Mrs. Richardson: All I can remember is that work was scarce, and the family was getting bigger, and the boys were getting older. As far as I know, they wanted something different, somewhere where they could earn a living better than there. My mother's people had all gone to Portadown. We went there an lived in the same street. There was quite a few families of us. Most of them were Turkingtons. There were Turkingtons in my village in the Bann Foot. In fact it was permeated with those and they married in. My mother was a Turkington. My husband, he was born here, but his grandmother was Turkington. My Robert (our son), his wife's mother was Turkington too. They were connected with us all. We're kind of all relations. In Portadown there was quite a few Turkington families.

Dr. Sutherland: On the trip to America, did the whole family come to America.

Mrs. Richardson: Not at the same time.

Dr. Sutherland: Why don't you describe for me how.

Mrs. Richardson: If I can. Well, I know my father came alone. And of course, as you know somebody had to vouch for you, your character and everything else, I suppose, otherwise you couldn't come. So my father came to one of his cousins. In that time, he came over and then he lived with my cousin in Manchester. Families would keep boarders. That's the way they lived. They would have about half a dozen boarders from the old country, and then those boarders would help them with clearing up the meal table and doing lots of things in the house. But anyway, my father went and lived there with one of those cousins. He worked in Cheney's, as far as I know, a velvet weaver. Then, he sent for one of boys and again he sent for another and then again until there was....but during the interlude he went over home, back to the old country to see his family, and he brought some of the boys with him coming back. That was three boys and my father were here. Then they planned to bring others; we still had six people to come. So this is all surmising, I never thought much about it. At the time I don't realize the responsibility of these things. So we got a boat; it was the Campania. It was its last trip, it was so old. My father, with the boys, they had saved enough money, and they rented a home here for us to come. When we got here, we had a home. So we came over on the boat. I was sick most of the time, between seasickness and toothache, I don't remember too much about it. We came second class. That meant that we didn't have to go down in steerage. Steerage was where you stayed there, and you didn't get up on deck. It was really a terrible thing, and we used to look down at all those people, and see them and realize that we might have been down there. So finally we came over here. It took us a week. During the crossing, that was the time in 1914, when the Lusitania was sunk and the British started to fight.

..........

Dr. Sutherland: When your father first came over and lived with the cousin, did the cousin live on the same street or the same area [where your family lived after you arrived]?

Mrs. Richardson: On Winter Street.

Dr. Sutherland: Did most of your relatives live in that area?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes, there was one or two uncles had lived there, Turkingtons.

Dr. Sutherland: Were there lots of people from Portadown?

Mrs. Richardson: In this town and Bann Foot, a lot of the people came from the Bann Foot or the surrounding villages. It really was Irish - one third of the town or maybe half was Irish. There was lots of Italians at that time too. Then I got in with a lot of girls my own age. I started to get used to the place. In Portadown we had belonged to the Salvation Army, and when we came here, that's what we belonged to. I had a brother and a sister, they were ministers in the Salvation Army. Then, or course, my [son] Robert, he was a Salvationist, he played, he's a musician.

Dr. Sutherland: So you left the Methodist Church when you came here?

Mrs. Richardson: No, we didn't belong to the Methodist Church. My mother belonged to the Methodist Church, but her children had been going to the Salvation Army.

Dr. Sutherland: Why do you suppose so many people from Portadown came to Manchester?

Mrs. Richardson: Because there was a lot of their kin here. A great lot of them. That was the reason.

Dr. Sutherland: Had most of these people that you knew, worked in textiles in Portadown?

Mrs. Richardson: Oh, they had, yes. I knew a lot of them.

Dr. Sutherland: To your recollection, was your district that you lived in made up of a lot of people from Portadown or were there others as well.

Mrs. Richardson: What did you mean?

Dr. Sutherland: The streets, Newman Street and Winter Street.

Mrs. Richardson: Oh, here oh, yes. There were lots of people here that we knew, that came from where we were, from Portadown and the surrounding districts in Portadown. There was The Birches; there was Tandragee; there was all these Irish names of towns. This one lady who lives on the corner, she came from the country place and then she lived in Portadown, but I didn't know her there. Since she came, she's told me all about it. She has great recollections.

Dr. Sutherland: They tended to settle on those streets in Manchester where you lived, Newman and Winter....

Mrs. Richardson: Winter and Center Street. Center Street was really the best street in town then. Of course, there was no main street you might talk about. It was just one side, of course, and there was very few sidewalks about. It was really &emdash; we thought it was a meadow. It's really grown up. Now where I live today, this was just, you might say, a meadow, and we would come from one of those streets and there was a path right from Chestnut Street, the top of it, from Garden Street and we would go right across this, right to the mill and we'd come up New Street, and there were stairs down there toward where the trains were. We'd come that way too. So this has been all built up, where we used to go.

Dr. Sutherland: Did members of any other ethnic groups live in the neighborhood you lived in? Were there any Irish Catholics or Italians?

Mrs. Richardson: The majority was Irish, I would say. Over North, that's where the ethnic place was, the Polish, the Lithuanians, and there were some Italians over there, too. They came over on the train. There was another thing: there was caste there. That was really supposed to be poor. We were supposed to be in a better district. They were looked down upon, then. It was really too bad; I didn't realize it then, in my young day, but I do now. They came over on the train, and if you said you lived over North, you were looked down. It's different today. It's all built up.

.......

Dr. Sutherland: Did your family take in boarders?

Mrs. Richardson: We hadn't room. We had ten, but we did take in one girl. We really vouched for her, and she lived with us for a while. That's the only one. Where we put her, I don't remember. We had all those of our own, and where did we...? Oh, I don't know! We had two in a bed, and two beds in the room, so you would have four in the room. That's why we had to get a bigger home on Newman Street. That was better; we had another bedroom. These other people who had boarders, they would have about four of their own, anyway. They would take in the boarders, because they had to live, and they had to work hard. They had to have enough food, and they had a monster table, and the cooking....it was really a job. No, we had enough of our own to take care of.

Dr. Sutherland: Do you remember if the boarders were people who boarded for a long time, or were they people who came from abroad and boarded temporarily until....

Mrs. Richardson: Oh, the most of them stayed for years with their land ladies, or what you would call them, the boarding people. They would live there for years and really be a family. Then they would probably get married. But they stayed right there. There was groups of girls in there and groups of boys, and they had a wonderful life. (laughter). Used to hear them talk about all those things (laughter).

Dr. Sutherland: Did you come over with your mother?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes. There was my mother &emdash; when I talk about my family, I figure where they were. My mother and my oldest sister and my younger sister. I was in the middle of the family. There was five children and my mother.

Dr. Sutherland: Did you go to work as soon as you came over here?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes, I had to, and at that time I looked so tiny. The landlady that my father had, she said, "you know, you're gonna have to put your hair up; you'll have to get a long skirt, because they won't give you a job." So finally I went, and I got the job. And weaving, imagine, and silk weaving is entirely different to linen, that I was used to. Oh, I hated that job! And I really didn't care whether I worked or not. I was only young, seventeen, and I had girlfriends and, sometimes we'd go to the ladies room, and we stayed there for a half hour or so. I always remember, sometimes I would leave my loom going, and when I'd come back there would be something damaged in the web, and it would have to all be ripped out again, and oh! I got scolded for that. I hated the weaving! (Tape recorder turned off because of lawn mower outside). Finally I didn't want to work at the weaving anymore. It was hard to be shifted from one job to the other. I didn't seem to be very well. I was having trouble at the time with my system. I got a job over in the spinning mill, the Clock Mill. And I started as a doffer. Then I stayed at that for quite a while, and finally graduated to a spinner and I liked that pretty well. Before I was married, I wanted to change my job again, the spinning was quite heavy. I went into the doubling; that's another process of the silk. They double threads. So I learned that, and I stayed on that until I got married.

Dr. Sutherland: Why did you dislike weaving so much?

Mrs. Richardson: I never liked it really. It was too much responsibility. When you did something wrong with a cloth, it would keep coming through and then a thread &emdash; for instance one of the warp &emdash; would break, and the loom wouldn't stop and then when you'd come back, if you went away, that all had to be ripped out. And it was a hard task to do. I was young, and I didn't feel much like it. It was a job, that's all I thought about it. And I didn't earn much money; sometimes I'd earn about $5.00 a week.

........

Dr. Sutherland: We covered a lot of topics, a lot of ground and it's been a good interview. You're fun to talk to. I'd like to ask you one question that I ask almost everyone I talk with. If you went back now - you've lived in Manchester some sixty years &emdash; how is Manchester different now than it was in the late teens and the 1920's?

Mrs. Richardson: Well, one thing, then you knew practically everybody. You knew this family and the other family; there were so many families from the old country. You visited them, they visited you. At that time the mothers didn't work, and they visited in the afternoons. People worked longer, seven to six o'clock at one time. Then they gradually came down to five, and then &emdash; I don't know what they do now. There wasn't automobiles. We went downtown; there were certain nights, two nights a week, we'd dress up and go downtown. We'd meet everybody. And that's how we met.

Dr. Sutherland: What nights of the week were those?

Mrs. Richardson: One time it was Thursday and Saturday and another time it was Tuesday and Saturday. You'd meet everybody, it seemed, in the town. You'd converse with them and enjoy their company. The mothers, in the daytime, they would visit each others homes, go away and have a nice meal in the afternoon, then they would make the supper for their family when they'd come home. It was really nice, altogether different. But then when transportation was available and you got cars, things did change. It wasn't anything like today; you have neighbors and you don't know them as a rule. But here where we are, (Park Chestnut Apartments) we have old and young, and we do converse. I am a conversing person; I mean I'm friendly, and I know most of the people right here, and we talk. We don't visit altogether, I mean run in and out and things like that. You might call in for a few minutes if you want to talk about something, but we don't visit as a rule, because we all find that it's much better to be, so that we wouldn't get too close, there might be some people that talk, we don't know. We've had a very nice lot of people here. We sit out in the nice weather.....If I could stay here, I will be happy if my health keeps up. The only thing is, my family has longevity. My mother was 94 and my father was 91, and I am the only girl left. I have one brother who is 90, and he has terminal cancer. My other brother is 88, and he is fairly good. So those are the two and I. I lost two brothers just within the last year. I am really alone of my family here. I'm not counting my children, of course. It is a little lonesome. My children are good. In fact, I suppose I'd have to go if I didn't have them, but they are exceptionally good to me. I have a little car and I still drive. Do you think I'm crazy or something?

Dr. Sutherland: Not a bit. In fact I think you have told us a remarkable and fascinating story. A lot of this is going to be very, very useful. It's going to be good for your children to have it. These are very important things we discussed, and I thank you for taking the time.

Mrs. Richardson: Well I hope you enjoy it. To me it seems nonsensical, in a way.

Dr. Sutherland: No. These are very important things we discussed, and I thank you for taking the time.

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Suggestions for Successful Interviewing

 

Conducting an historical investigation with live sources requires a great deal of skill and practice. However, every good oral historian had to start somewhere, so don't think you have to be an expert at interviewing before you go to your first source. It would be a good idea, though, to take a few hints from those who do have experience in this fine art. Below is a list of things to keep in mind. This list was developed by John F. Sutherland, the Director of the Institute of Local History and Manchester Community College, a skilled and seasoned interviewer. [Source: Bruce M. Stave and John F. Sutherland, eds.,Talking about Connecticut: Oral History in the Nutmeg State (1985), p. 28.]

1. Contact narrator, making certain that he or she fully understands the project.

2. Acquaint yourself with general background of interviewee.

3. If possible, arrange a brief pre-interview visit so that you and the narrator may become personally acquainted.

4. Prepare a list of topics for discussion.

5. Thoroughly check out equipment prior to the interview. An interview should not be an on-the-job training session.

6. Make certain you have all the materials you need before departing for the interview: recorder, external microphone, adapters for two-pronged outlets, fresh batteries, tapes, pencils, pads.

7. Make certain you are interviewing in a room which will minimize external noise (i.e. airconditioning, washers, dishwashers, telephones, cuckoo clocks, etc.).

8. Make certain the recorder is recording. Identify yourself, the narrator, the date and place, the purpose of the project, and ask the narrator to agree to the project.

9. Interview. During interview, jot down proper nouns and other words whose spelling is questionable.

10. Conclude interview by again naming interviewer, narrator, and purpose of project.

11. Be sure to ask narrator about spelling and other questions which you may have concerning the interview.

12. When you arrive at home, make a list of proper nouns and other words and aspects of the interview which you think may be useful to future indexers and transcribers.

13. Send a thank you note to narrator.

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