Part II. You may have seen this before but it was gobbled up and only had 5 responders…Enjoy.
My great grandfather Alfredo Salvioni was born in a little town located in Italy called Barga, Italy on April 1, 1889 to Mary Marroni and Luigi Salvioni.
Barga is now considered a medieval town that is a like a maze, and is surrounded by walls. Barga is famous for their summer music festivals, called 'Operabarga,' which offer a celebration of jazz music. The fall brings an array of autumn colors of chestnut and summers that are never too hot, because the mountain air embraced the people of Barga.
Growing up in Barga would not only offer my great-grandfather a beautiful place to grow up, but would also offer him the opportunity to learn about two very different cultures: that of his Italian heritage, and (through his father), he would come to know the Scottish heritage as well. Barga is now known as the "most scottish town" in Italy.
In the late 1800’s, the town of Barga was affected by what Americans refer to as a depression – the economic conditions of Barga were really bad. As the story goes, men would travel to far away place that was not well known to the residents of Barga, a place called Scotland, that would offer so much opportunity to the Italian people.
Alfredo’s father Luigi emigrated to Scotland to sell ice cream – and would send money home to the family, only returning during the summer to visit. Although the visits were short, Luigi would tell Alfredo stories about this great land of opportunity. However, they wouldn’t be the stories that he would imagine.
They were stories of a man who had to work long, hard, hot, 18-hour days. The money that was sent back to the family seemed like a lot…but not for how hard he had worked. But, that is the role of the Italian man: to provide for his family at whatever cost necessary.
In early 1909, his father would take ill and was unable to work. It then became the duty of the eldest son to provide for his family. As eldest son, Alfredo would try and learn a trade and work in Barga, but opportunities were nil, and the economy was not getting any better.
Again, strange men would come to town speaking of opportunities that were there for the taking – but this time, he heard “the streets are paved with gold!” Alfredo ran home to speak to his father about this new land of opportunities. His father would tell Alfredo that it was the Americas that the strangers spoke about.
The Americas were familiar to Alfredo because his Uncle Giuseppe (his mother's older brother) and Aunt Natalina had just left for the Americas. They settled in a town that was full of opportunity, Chicago, as it had just been rebuilt from a fire, from what he heard.
It took a few months working odd jobs and farming for Alfredo to save up the thirty dollars needed to buy a passenger ticket on the LaSavoie, and in October of 1909, with 40 extra dollars to spend on food and travel to Chicago, Alfred would say good-bye to his family and set off to the land where streets were paved with gold.
The steerage compartment, where he was staying, was nothing like he had imagined, nor was the week- long journey. There was no privacy to change clothes or even use the bathroom. He would use his suitcase for a pillow, and his clothes to cover himself when it got cold. The food on the ship was always soup or stew…it depended on the leftovers from first class. In addition, he was allowed to be on deck and had to bathe with saltwater that irritated his skin.
Essentially seen as cargo, and not human passengers, to Alfredo’s surprise he had to be checked in. As soon as he arrived at port, in Ellis Island, New York, a man came on board to inspect this human cargo. If a person was inspected and found to be ill or debilitated, they were sent back to the country they came from. Alfredo could only pray that he would pass inspection. The man who was across from him was branded with an X and sent back home, so even more thoughts and prayers ran through his mind as they examined him.
After passing the inspection, he was then led to a barge where they went through his belongings and put a tag on him that had a number on it and the ship he traveled on. He was then directed to get into a single- file line and to follow the director, who would take then to the second floor registry room.
A doctor came and examined Alfred, whose skin was only slightly irritated from the salt water sponge baths, but here, they were making sure that Alfred had no deformities or handicaps. After the brief medical inspection, he was directed to an American man who spoke Italian.
The Italian speaking man began to ask Alfredo questions, such as "what’s your name?"
"How will you support yourself?"
"Do you have family here?"
"Where are you from?"
Alfredo would remember that when he boarded in La Havre, he was told to remember how he had answered the questionnaire, and now he understood why.
He was informed that if any answers were different than those given at the time of departure, then they would not be permitted to stay in the Americas. Alfredo was fortunate that he had such a good memory. This would show that he had good mental capabilities. Finally, he was allowed to proceed to his destination.
By way of train, he finally arrived in Chicago, Illinois, at his aunt's house on Halsted Street. At first glance, he saw many different ethnicities on the block. Some German, Polish, and Italian – but when he walked into his Uncle Giuseppe and Aunt Natalina's house, he knew he was home.
Alfredo would learn quickly to adapt to this Americanized Italian lifestyle, where his Uncle was now Joseph, his aunt was now Lena, and he was now Alfred. Immediately upon arrival, he got a job as a bartender at the local pub in town that was run by a family of Italian immigrants by the name of Baggio.
He would become fast friends with a man by the name of Fortunato Baggio, who was known in America as Frank. Frank and Alfred worked hard and both would send money home to their families in Barga.
A few months went by, and Alfred found himself still in poverty and not finding better opportunities, nor was he finding these streets paved with gold. Frank would find he was having the same problems.
One evening while tending the bar, an unfamiliar face came into the bar. Alfred watched as Frank greeted this beautiful woman. She was introduced to Alfred as Anita of the Morganti family, from Barga. She had just arrived and had a message for Alfred, from his mother, who informed him that his father had died a week ago, and Mrs. Morganti was nice enough to deliver the message on her voyage to America.
It was a hard time for Alfred, and as his new-found friend, Anita would console him and comfort him in his time of need. It didn’t take long before Alfred and Anita fell madly in love and marred just a few months later, in 1911.
They were happy and humble, but Alfred wanted more. He wanted to have a family, and in order to do so, he hadto have a better job so he could give them things that he never had as a boy in Barga.
He left bartending in 1913 for a better job opportunity. A friend referred him to Pullman Car Shops, to get a job as an unskilled laborer, which would eventually give him the opportunity to be trained. But, working for Pullman meant that essentially you gave your life to Pullman.
A Pullman employee was required to eat, sleep, and work on Pullman property. They even had a little grocery store, which reminds me of what a military base is like. It seemed like a great opportunity which would provide everything that they would need to begin a family, which would happen only a year later.
On July 9, 1914, Alfred's first son, Luigi Salvioni, was born – named after his beloved father who had passed away a few years prior. Alfred, and his adapting wife Anne, were doing okay in America – but much better than they would ever have done in Barga – and they were proud. Alfred would continue to work, Anne kept house and took care of Louis (Luigi), their son.
Alfred, Anne, and Frank would keep in touch, and Frank became what Americans call a godparent to Luigi. However, financially, Frank was not doing as well as Alfred, and resorted to making money on the side, in an unlawful manner.
Alfred would often visit Frank in the bar and notice that he had new friends – and in fact had a new name: Happy. It would be found out in a later conversation that Frank was running booze for some members of the Al Capone gang.
Alfred did not judge, for he knew the struggles that America brings. Some were lucky and even fortunate. Some were not, and although he did not judge, he would not involve himself in that kind of dangerous activity because he had a family to take care of.
At the beginning of 1916, Alfred would continually work as Anne was expecting their second child. However, work was getting harder and became unbearable for Alfred, as he had come down with a cold. Even though Alfred had a cold that continually got worse as time progressed, he would work through it, because he was the sole provider for his family.
In the middle of March, Alfred had worked himself so hard that he was physically exhausted and could no longer work. Just a week later, on March 23, my grandfather Alberto Salvioni was born – something which Alfred would normally be jumping for joy over, but he could not even touch his new son, for fear of the undiagnosed illness.
Even though they were essentially doing well, they still could not afford to have health care, so home remedies had to do. Anne found it hard to scrape by, but she had family support and the help of their friend Frank, who now was beginning to do well.
On April 1, 1916, Anne had a small get-together at their little home on Lafayette, with family and friends to celebrate Alfred’s birthday; he was turning 27. Alfred put on a brave face and asked to speak to Frank in private.
He informed Frank that he was not feeling well, which Frank already knew. He then told Frank that he wanted him to make a promise that if he didn’t make it, that he would take care of Anne and the kids. Alfred also informed him that he and Anne had spoken about this recently, which he felt was the basis of the party.
Frank knew that Anne threw the party to try and take such morbid thoughts away from her husband,as she watched him grow more delirious every day. But, without questioning or patronizing him, Frank assured Alfred that it was an obligation that need not be spoken about, and he need not say any more.
As the evening came to a close, he would say goodbye to all of his friends who came to see him, and greet the new baby, and would then retreat back to his room where he would stay until his death – which came only 25 days later.
Anne had to bury her first love, and the father of her two small children. Then, she had to marry a man she had to learn to love. The story of Alfredo is so tragic that it would be an unspoken piece of her life. Before the boys could understand, Frank became the man – and father – that Alfredo wanted him to be.
He began to work with a reputable company, gained his citizenship, and adopted Alfredo’s children and gave them his name. He raised them as if they were his own – so much so that the boys never knew otherwise, and no one was quick to tell them either.
My grandpa Albert married my grandma Bertha and moved to California, never to return to Chicago, while Louis stayed in Illinois with his father Frank. But, Albert was much like his father Alfredo, and was driven to have something more than what he had at the tavern. He did not want the associations that went along with the Baggio name, and after his mother Anne passed away, he left Chicago for good.
My grandpa Albert would live out his father, Alfred’s, dreams. He educated himself, built a family, and became a tool and dye worker for Walt Disney. He eventually learned to design things and helped in the making and building of the Small World, at Disneyland. His children, Marilyn (my mom) and Carol, would be sent to Catholic Schools, have music lessons, and were expected to behave like young ladies, especially when attending Christmas parties at Walt Disney’s house.
Eventually after Walt Disney passed away and things began to change, he began to work for Techno-Color in Los Angeles – helping us to receive the most vividly-colored television pictures ever.
My mother never questioned her parents about their heritage and my mother would never even know that she had a grandfather, even though he was not biological, until his death in 1972.
Upon starting my family history research, my mother told me that she overheard a conversation that her dad and mom were having about papers they had received upon his mother’s death. She only remembered that he had mentioned that he didn’t know this Salvioni person, and he grew up in Chicago not knowing any Salvionis.
She told me that she was always too afraid to ask, and to afraid to be nosy. I was distraught that she didn’t investigate further. I told her that I was going to call my grandpa and ask him about it, at which time she told me I had better not.
However, by this time, my grandma (the enforcer) had passed away, and I being only one of three of his grandchildren, was the only one who corresponded with my grandfather monthly by way of telephone, cards, or letters.
In 2003, I finally got up the nerve to ask my grandpa about what my mom had heard. Grandpa verified that what she said was true.
What was true?
That he had been adopted by Frank Baggio. I then asked him how he knew that he was adopted, and he said that when his mom passed away, he had received the adoption papers.
I was speechless. I then asked him what his father's name was and he said “Alfredo Salvioni,” and he went on to tell me that what all it said. It had no other information and my brother Louis didn’t even know what was going on.
He told me that he would like to know about his father because he was just curious about what kind of man he was. I then told him that I was happy to hear him say that, because I was going to investigate.
Six months passed by, and I could find absolutely nothing and no family members had any information and having been busy, I hadn’t talked to my grandpa in almost two months. I called him to give him an update when his wife Eli told me that she had to put him in a nursing home because he had been suffering from dementia for almost 4 years. I told her why I called and she told me that I shouldn’t take anything he said to heart – that he was a crazy old man.
I was upset to say the least; I had received cards from him for my kids and money for my birthday, as always. I had seen no signs of dementia. But, Eli also told me that she was amazed at how fluent he was with me and acted like a dummy around her. She disgusted me.
In January 2004, a lady contacted me to get some family information for her, from Virginia. I was ready to send the information through email to her when I noticed that she lived in Chicago, Illinois. I decided to make an inquiry of my own.
I explained the situation to her and she said she would do some searching and would get back to me. She also could not find anything. However, she had a contact that worked at the LDS foundation in Salt Lake City. She indicated if this contact could not find anything, than maybe it was the dementia speaking, instead of history. I remember thinking to myself how wonderful it would be to give this to my grandfather on his birthday in March.
Unfortunately, the lady who was working at LDS, her husband passed away shortly after my letter and I was unable to get an answer or look up from her. I was in dire need of information, but I refuse to disrespect anyone for it. I figured when the time was right, she would get to it.
I had been sending letters to my grandpa for months and was now, in Feb 2004, unable to talk to him on the phone because the nurse said he was sleeping (every time).
On March 17 2004, I awoke to laughter in the house and pinches for those not were not wearing green. But the pain from the pinches was not what would scar me that day – it was a phone call from my mother who told me that my grandpa had passed away.
I was so distraught. The only grandparent I had ever known was now gone, and I was even more distraught that I was unable to find out who his father was. In talking to his wife, she asked me if there was anything in particular that I wanted before my mother and her sister came and rummaged though his stuff.
I told her “I don’t want anything of value to you; I just want my grandpa’s papers, birth records, documents, etc.” She said she would oblige. I figured this way at least I would be able to look for him in my grandfather’s honor.
I finally got out of my stupor the day of his birthday. I decided that his birthday should be celebrated, and went out to the store to buy a candle to burn in his honor. I decided on the St. Christopher candle because it is something that reminds me of my grandfather. He had St. Christopher on his chain around his neck, and was on his rosary card, too.
When I got home, I saw a letter in my box from Chicago. It was from the same lady who asked me for a look up months ago, I thought. I opened up the letter and it wasn’t a letter. It was a document – the death certificate for Alfredo Salvioni. It stated that he had died from a work-related illness at Pullman Car Shops where he was a Glazer. Cause of death: lead poisoning.
In the days that followed, I was able to get a birth record, and the location of the cemetery. I asked another lady in Chicago if she would go out to the cemetery and take a photo of his grave. She obliged and A few days later I got an email that said,
“I went to Mt. Olivet and to Alfredo Salvioni’s gravesite and unfortunately there is no headstone. His is in the very front of the old section facing the railroad that used to be known as Pullman. Also, he is buried near Al Capone, the famous mafia guy”.
I was sad that night when I went to sleep, and I even cried a little, thinking about how unfair it was that I was able to get all this information only weeks after my grandfather passed away. I remember falling asleep with that thought rolling through my mind, which must have triggered a “feel better” dream.
In my dream, I saw two figures. One was my grandfather, who was with a young man who was wearing overalls, had dark black hair, and stood about 5’7 feet tall. I looked at my grandfather and asked, “Who is this?” His only reply was, “I know, and now…he will never be forgotten” and in a instant, I knew who the man was and replied by saying,
"He won't be forgotten, I promise!"