Autobiography - March 22, 2015
I don't remember my time in the ramshackle immigrant ghetto in Hamilton, Ontario. I was only a baby when we pulled up tent stakes and moved to Chicago. But the few black and white photos that document that place where we stated out were etched in my mind and on my retina. I had pored over them frequently and for so long that i wasn't sure if I had memories of the actual time or only of the photos.
My mother, Maria Gliori, and her sister, Paola (one year her junior), had come over from Scotland on a luxurious ocean liner--the Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth, I can't remember which. They had somehow settled in Hamilton. How they met my father, I don't know. I figure he was about 26 years old. He was married but apparently never home, making his living by driving cab, winning dance contests, and gambling (pool and poker). My mother was the more beautiful of the two sisters, but she was also the much more shy, so Auntie Paola was the original object of my father's affection.
How my gregarious, handsome father transitioned to my mother, I don't know. Somewhere in the pot, my brother--Mark-- was born, Nona arrived from Italy, three years passed, I was born (a love child), my parents got married, and we were rolling to Chicago.
The family folklore, gleaned from cobbling together scraps of overheard adult conversations, was that my father, armed with the money from selling our little house in the ghetto, went to an all-night poker game. Apparently, he lost all the money, but won it back again before dawn. Our sights were set on L.A., but a stop in Chicago to visit my mother's other emigre siblings ended up being the end of the line.
We plunked down in a little town on Chicago's West side. Our part of town was very blue collar, very White, dusty and dreary. All the action in our neighbourhood took place at the fabled "8 Corners", the equivalent in my father's eyes of Sodom and Gomorrah. I don't mean it was a haven of immorality. Worse, I'm sure, in my father's mind, it was a hang-out for the unambitious flotsam--"hoods" with no plan and no contribution to society. Although still a "buck" and only grade-6 educated, my father was nothing if not outstandingly hardworking, intelligent and capable of anything he set his mind to, so naturally, the slothful behaviour of the 8-Corners wastrels rankled him to no end.
to be continued...