Title: Interview with Domenico Giunta (May 18, 1984)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006519/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Domenico Giunta (May 18, 1984)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 18, 1984
Spatial Coverage: 12057
Hillsborough County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006519
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Hillsborough' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: HILL 42

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Interviewee: Domenico Giunta
Interviewer: Gary Mormino
Date: May 18, 1984
Place: Ybor City, Fl.

M: Mr. Giunta, you had a few statements you were going to read. trl to.gT e -ttr-


G: Let me begin by saying the Italian immigrants who settled in Tampa some sixty or more

years ago built homes in close proximity to one another because in the villages from

which they came, they lived in houses that were wall to wall in&asetTeon. History

tells us that this type of close habitation was made necessary because of frequent

pillaging forays by roving bands of vandals and the villagers found from bitter

experience that survival depended on banding together for protection whenever
cooperative effort was necessary. The uncertainty of possib-l harm kept them constantly

on alert resulting in.their living in communities where cooperation, respect and

togetherness was a way of life. This kind of living had existed for untold ages of

the past, dating even back to the middle ages. If we keep this fact in perspective, it

is no wonder that the Scilian immigrants who settled in Tampa in particular, but in

many other areas of the United States in general, came here to live in close-knit

communities where homes were within arms reach of each other. Their ancestral fears

were still inbred in them and they stuck together because of a common bond of survival

language customs, religion and ethnic and moral values. The typical immigrant came

from agrarian roots, but he readily adapted to the institutions of labor for hire and

to work in American-factories and industries. The steady sure flow of a weekly income

was the realization of the pot of gold at rainbows end that was, for thise immigrants,

after years of laboring with unfriendly soil and a harvest that was always dependent

on the whims of unpredictable weather. Even though the typcial immigrant settled in

an urban setting, he continued his romance with the soil after settling in America,

but with a very great difference because now he engaged in gardening and farming as

a hobby, not a necessity. It is for this reason that very early homes were surrounded

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 2

G: by vegetable and flower garden, a family orchard, a family cow, a small flock of

chickens, a backyard bread oven, a laundry shed and ai herb garden. Not every home
n) C ()V1 on -c "9'
was boastful of each and all of these previouslyAnecessities of self-contained and

independent survival needs, but there existed one practice then, shared by all to the

very last person and that was the element of sharing. Sharing that must be spelled with

a capital "S". To prove my point of how the community practiced sharing religiously,

let me describe a typical childbirth event. Even though a local midwife took charge

of the delivery in the home, three to six next door housewives assisted before and

after delivery for days and at times, even weeks, for mere friendship. Never for

payment. Not every family owned a cow, nor a lemon tree, nor lemon grass, nor a flock

of chickens or honey bees or a complete variety of medicinal herbs, but when need

arose, the community never failed to its obligations of sharing, be it a lemon, a

bottle of honey, a loaf of bread, a cup of sugar, or on rare occasions, even money.

It is this conglomeration of moral and ethnic values, based on respect for the parents

the father as the unchallenged family head, respect for the elders, love and unity

for family, respect for honest labor, love for the song and nature, cooperation,

togetherness in all endeavors and above all, sharing and the practice of thrift that

made it possible for the Italian immig, t to make a success of himself and his family

here in America. If there:is any one social institution that the Italian immigrant

valued even above love of family, it must be said that that institution was education.

Because he came from an agrarian environment and soil-based economy in the old country

a strong back had greater economic and social value than a sharp mind. Simple farm

chores required muscles, not brains. The moment that same immigrant was released from

the bonds of demeaning hard labor and once he saw that the acquisition of those element,

that constituted wealth were dependent on an education that required first a mastery

of the English language and secondly, mastery of a specialized skill, he proceeded to

get it for his children at all costs. It was too late for the immigrant)newly arrived,

to share in the wealth inherent in an American education, but he swore to high heaven

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 3

G: that that education was not going to be denied to his children and his children's

children. In keeping with-his promise, we saw a proliferation of first-generation

Italian Americans emerge and succeed in all of the honored professions, namely law,

medicine, architecture, engineering, art, music, sculpture and above all, teaching.

I myself am a product of two parents who never set foot within a school classroom,

never learned the alphabet, did not know of its existence, but swore to each other that

their children would receive an education no matter the cost, no matter the sacrifices.

Today)I stand witness to being one of those first generation Italian Americans who

benefited from his parental foresight and sacrifices. I am seventy years old an dam

enjoying the fruits of retirement after having taught school in the public schools

of Hillsborough County,Florida for a total of thirty-eight years, including ten years

as a teacher of adult education. I attended three universities, namely the University

of Tampa, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida. After seven

years of university studies, I completed the degree of bachelor of science in

business administration, the degree of bachelor of science in education and a master's

degree in adult education. All this, thanks to the foresight of two loving, caring,

appreciative but illiterate parents. In turn I have done my duty in continuing the

sacrifices initiated by my parents, and that is, to educate each of my four children

who are second-generation Italian Americans. All of my four children today hold four-

year degrees, three hold.master's degrees, and one has earned a doctor's degree. On the

subject of sharing, I want to mention two institutions that originated in Tampa.

And I never finished that, but those two are the cooperative grocery store in which

fifteen, twenty or more neighbors would put in ten, twenty-five or a hundred dollars

for the establishment of a grocery store. Not a dollar was paid in salary. The members

participated evenings in manning the store. They purchased all their groceries there

at retail. They sold to normembers at retail. At the end of each quarter, they would

divide the profits. Honesty was at a height that r unbelievable. Another example

of sharing in Tampa was the origin of the mutual/ id sciety by the Italians, the

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 4

G: Cubans and the Spaniards. It was the beginnings of what today is known as medicare

where for a nominal fee, paid monthly, they would be assured of medical and hospital

care, and at the beginning, even in their old age, they would be taken care of in

the hospitals for the rest of their lives. Today, medicare put an end to th5institutioi

unfortunately and they are all going out of business for lack of financing

and because of prohibitive cost.

M: Very, very interesting. Yo'vei) certainly given us a lot to question and ask you

about. Let's, -let' t may we start in the old country. I'd be interested in your

family's background. What about your mother your-moo-her and father's family in

La Via Vecchia.

G: They were farmers. o

M: Lf9ioeQrn CON Bl

G: Yeah. Peasants.

M: And what was your mother's maiden name?

G: Valent .e.

M: Valentee.

G: Victoria Valent e-.

M: And your father?

G: Father, Sabatoro 4uo,144

M: -Un huh and he was a conl o in the old country?

G: Ye tha9 right.

M: What about his father?

G: Sharecropper you might say. Sharecropper I c (O'. ( i/

G: Because at the end of the harvest, they would each have to give so much of their crop

to the landlord.

M: Landlord. And what village in Sicily?

G: It was San TV

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 5

M: For both of them?

G: Yea, both of them. r1 t IF

M: What stor2did they tell you about Sanc P when you were growing up?

Whaq your image of, have you ever returned to Sant 4 i' ?

G: I was there in 1977.

M: What was your image as a young child of what Sicily was like?

G: Wei:- when I went there 77, I was not surprised at all with what I saw. My family

and the people here bhase- done a very good job of making me understand the hardships

that they endured. One of them, for example, was going after water at the outskirts of

town from a stream. The, that was -I the girls' job in every family. They would have

a five gallon or so heavy clay pots and they would carry one on the shoulder and

it was very interesting to note that that same stream above a certain point, they used

it for water, for drinking water and for cooking and below a certain point, they used

that same stream to carry away sewage and they used similar pots at the end of each day

to go and dump it in this stream and that is no longer true in the village where my

parents came. They all had flowing water and they all had sewage disposals.

M: Did you get to see ygAr, the old homestead?

G: I did.

M: Uf-nr. Right.

G: And I understand there was another one two hundred and fifty years old, the same walls.

The timbers, every so often, decayed, but the walls seemed like they were going to be

there forever.

M: Did you have any relatives in --o.r .

G: My first cousins. And today they are in their late eighties. The youngest.

M: Yea why did the Valente's and the Giunto's immigrate?

G: Because of hard times. First it was a rebellion that the peasants made against their

landlords because of unfair treatment and, just like in many other places, te Wnere-

the landlord / / were in power and they were able to incarcerate dozens of

Hills-Ybor 42A
Pgge 6

G: these peasants. My father was one of them that was incarcerated for about thirty

days in Palermo.

M: Wduld this be
G: i b

M: -Uh-hh. Is that right?


M: Could you,-esnt -Tr elaborate on that, what you heard about that)ja*e"te e, this

was in 1894 the _c_._-- rebellion in Sar

G: No, all I recall is that it was the peasants against the managing landlords and

th e-ot -:ewas3 there was a period of two or three years where the harvest \A-L A

J BYe ATv ^" L\o e.y and times are very hard and when you have one

tb tSoA' 4 'tdPorrow which remains the lentils and fava beans and thefe

____ the following year you would pay back, but when that carried on

for two or three years, they werene able even to borrow for seed because they hAdn

paid the past two years, So they borrowed money from relatives and they sought passage

and they came here and it took them about three or four years before they re-paid

what they had borrowed in I over there which they sent back in money.

M: How did they hear about Tampa? I mean, did your father ever say...

G: There were migrations, they came here first in 191o

M: 1908.

G: And he went back after the rest of the family in 1912, but back in those years, shortly

after the aBjiH- centurythere had been other migrations as early as 1887 to

other areas not in Florida such as Louisiana and places in Pennsylvania, California

M: From Sai4 4 A4N

G: Yeas and word e that these people were making a very good living hereevidenced

by the fact that they were sending money to their relatives over there.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 7

G: And bth of them beig- hre as well as to come over here and just,

word spread like wild fire of the wonders of America. And they began to have the

courage to migrate.

M: How old was your father at the age of migration?

G: Just about thirty-three I think.

M: Wsmba right, and your mother? Were they married before they came?

G: Yea, They were married about three or four years.

M: How many children did they have?

G: They had three of my sisters and two of my brothers. Frank and 4< cIO

M: Fau Iv interviewed Frank,. ad

G: Happiy, etcy havae the family was strong over there....

M: 'iaa n. I think you said that. Did he ever talk about an individual by the name of

Luigi _nC__C ?

G: Yes.

M: Was, do you recall.-hs story about Luigi f-rcT ce

G: I recall him as one who was trying to show the peasants that they were being mistreated

and that they had to stick together to get whatever they deserved and because he was

something like, I would say, Dr. Martin Luther King here, they assassinated him.

M: UtimT. Da-y-, he was also involved in the '_ rebellions. Did your father

know ) oy)CC ,7 loosely?

G: Yes, sure.

M: And-and when he was incarcerated,-who, who arrested him? Do you know anything about it?

G: The wFl UeJ'^

M: And 4zba how was he treated and

G: Well, the accusation was for going against the establishment.% /She W he charges

brought up.

M: Right, right.

G: Lies, lies.

M: Right, "-i4uh.

Hills-Ybor 42 A
Page 8

G: All they did was to get together and march to the federal building, whatever was

there, to make known that they were being treated unfairly and 'DOfCl just like

the Spaniard here in Tampa from uba, what was his name?

M: Martique

G: Martique, sat make known the population's wishes. Over there tmhought-, it was taken

together with a group that was assembled there and it was-g a scary tactic, it seems

to me, cause they really had no accusation and after a short period of time, they

were all let free. It was too quiet and brutal to punish you anymore.

M: What were your father's politics in Sicily? Did he ever tell you?

G: He was an

M: Would he ever describe himself as a democrat, a socialist, a republican?

G: No, he was not a radical. He\just mind his own business. But he was with a group and

he knew when he was being mistreated. And he would stick with the group.

M: And did you say who loaned him the money to immigrate to America?

G: Relatives.

M: Relatives who were in America or in Sicily?

G: Yes, persons who were already here. Some of his in-laws.

M: 7-.. A: '"you had mentioned a stream of migration. There had also been one to

St. Cloud L-A, Florida. Did he not go to St. Cloud?

G: 'i.:t.ti No, he came straight on in

M: Because he had relatives?

G: Because he had relatives there already. And that is the reason.

M: Right.

G: But aot of the relatives had already made two or three moves from Pennsylvania to

St. Cloud to

M: What did they have in Pennsylvania?
they worked in the
G: In Pennsylvania, waw ...S --S coal mines.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 9

M: Really. Do you know where?

G: Yeah. -BSt' and Keystone. And S

M: You're right. Many-&StTa'anrs in

G: The were Tuik yes. So there were several 44, i ttb three Wb6M" war.

checkerboard before they finally settled in Tampa. By that time, the cigar factory had

opened and it was such a very easy occupation, just work with the hands, iapng.

making cigars and wrapping them, compared with a doggone heavy hoe in your hand,

weighed three pounds so you can see why they all rushed over here and it was job that

both the women as well as men could do.

M: DriD5,e did he arrive with the family in tact?

G: No, most everybody came with just members of the family just to make enough

to make some money to go after them or send for them. You found that to be very, very

true with hundreds of families. No family, except in later years, came complete.

M: When he arrived in Tampa then in 1908, what was his reaction to Tampa of 1908?

-_o T Ybor City when he arrived?

G: They found a community that was with open arms, that they were all fea4yto give them

a space in their homes because for several months Vf you were
apartment, you lived with friends KAd-Ire ab or with relatives, and because they

were all very close living, the family split up in about three or four houses and they

used to eat at one particular house. That happened for about two or three months. In

the meantime, a house was found and they moved into it. Then within a year or two

three of the members of my family began working cigar factories, in L1aT time they

if 4,14 two blocks away from here and for $570J they built a six-room

house, e >O they became homeowners for the first time in their lives.

M: .z_' A- a few months after arriving

G: No, it was about a year later

T-M: h-. Right, right. You remember any, you wern' born but from talking to your

brother, people in the family, any letters which he wrote home'. father, to Scily,

describing life in Ttmpni In the new world

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 10

G: My brothers, both of them, wrote and spoke Italian, Frank and Angels, so they wrote,

they used to write very quickly and they tell them of how we were doing well and

continuously I remember the letters just getting the good news which is what we had

until the 1930's bankruptcy, of course. We had our family lost almost all of our savings

th&t we had made up to that time. Luckily we had just built this house in\A25, valued

as before or we wouldn't have had the money to build this house, but up to that time,

the family was doing very well, very well.

M: Letw-Le what, s kind of work did your father find? At his first job.

G: He worked e ..ked at the railroad tracks

M: In Tampa.

G: Laying Ties.

M: How did he get that job? Did he have an in?

G: There were openings without ins. They were laying tracks all over the place. And so

they were in need of labor and there was always a great lack of it. Then whtni after

that stopped after about seven, eight or nine years, he worked at a dairy for several

years, helping out daily and then the rest of his years were spent in --------

farming, but when cigar factories began to have need for persons et tobacco to get

it ready for the cigar role so he used to go to work at three o'clock in the morning

to wet tobacco.

M: This was later in his life.

G: Laterand-to get ready for the cigar workers beginning at seven o'clock in the morning

so for about five to seven years he worked at that. Then) ,:, there was a strike and

during that time he went to work as a helper in a restaurant and bakery, helping bake

bread. After that, the rest of his time was spent in labor for hire as a farmer,

finally ending in buying some of the property that he had worked for and farming on

his own. By that time, my mother had retired and

M: et' go back to your mother now. Upon arriving, when did she join your father?

G: They came together.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 11

M: They came together. Okay, now did she work or take care of the family?

G: She immediately went to work with 3io.a (Co

M: Who took care of the kids?

G: She paid a Spanish woman for that, babysitter. She used to carry two us, one on each

arm, all the way from over here to what is the cigar factory w.-i clockers,
I Rt

M: Reji

G: Re 1j She lived about two blocks away from us so it was very handy to leave

us on the way and then pick us up about two-thirty

M: Se eave you where?

G: At this woman's....

M: Spanish woman's house, uh huh.

G: With my brother.

M: And she got a job at the cigar factory immediately

G: The job was to remove the cigar vein iAJ cigar-nee.-s stripping.

M: Stripping uf ih.

G: Making 4 r) l4 'fout of -C 1AAF

M: She was a stripper, then.

G: She was a stripper, which was a very simple job. And compared with the hard work

that she had done in Italy,ii, '1i4-1 was paradise, you know. Come home with twelve

to fifteen dollars a week and Dad with eighteen to twenty dollars a week and two of

my sisters earne4 eight to twelve dollars a week. My goodness. Kerosene at seven cents

a gallon. One -eGe dlv'gt at night and one person v go to the kitchen, well,

everybody j eag so we would burn two kerosene lamps at one time. One person

would hold the lamp all the way to the back. I fi P tl ,/^ 1 l.( {! V you know.
tha K7 why EV '
and able to make ends meet and they &able to make ends meet.

M: How did he get the job as, with the cigar factory? It was Eerfectok Garcia then?

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 12

there were
G:'Well, as I said, more openings than there were workers. That hy they came from Cuba

and from all over by the hundreds.

M: And she, Rene, did she ever graduate to a higher position?

G: No, she always remained aX'e

M: A stripper, uh-r.t T

G: dApparently because she was the payment went up. She was satisfied with that

and she knew that very soon, the family would be able to maintain her at home and as

a result, she retired quite early, I believe. Forty-eight to fifty-two years of age.

At that tim,, Frank went to work at a bank. Jhgela had become a master printer and two

of my sisters were working also, and that left only my younger brother and myself

4rr :r s

M: -He would have arrived before the 1910 strike. Didgle ever tell you about it, talked

about t+atE the strike.

G: Oh, yes. -he-ac. strikes of -, th7 were involved in. One of them they called

it iQ (Cffr) That's a long time, you know. Not to be

Fortunately my dad was working railroad tracks

but my sisters were without work.

M: Your mother belonged to the 4agetey?

G: They stayed at home, they just stayed there.

M: Right, and then she was probably there in the 1920 strike?

G: That's right also.

M:I She working during. the \ strike in 1931?

G: No. By then she' retired. We came here in 125 and she had already retired about two

or more years before we came here. So that makes it about 1i23. 1923 that my brothers

/'j -a that was, my brother's leading ambition in -life to see their mother

retired at home. God bless her, enjoy her for a long time.

\f)h l ___,__.

M: That taken in Sicily?

G: No, that was taken here.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 13

M: Here, uh-hut--

G: Back about 1914.

M: So you were born in 1914 and you were, which child? The fifth?

G: In the family?

M: Ye>.

G: Sixth.

M: You were the sixth child, urnhTh. What were your memories of growing up in Ybor City?

What are your first memories of Ybor City? A

G: I liked being very, very slow-though easy-going. And wasn4 anywhere in the neighborhood(

the word fear was never in our vocabulary. 4-4d-not-hear, my mother used to go to

work at two-thirty in the morning to start this stripping and she used to leave in the

dark'at times carry one, sometimes carry two of us with the bottles of milk that we

would be using while we were there for the day and nobody ever bothered her in all

those years and you never heard of anybody being bothered either. Everybody was ialQ)iTr'l

iljust earning a dollar. Now-they-have i the big trouble is dope because it is an

item that you cannot get for your honest labor. You have to get it by paying a price

beyond your means and the only way stealing, killing and the like. That. thA a big

trouble today I believe and the answer to our criminality .-, the cause of it i- in

America St; drugs and these people are/trying to get it. Even doctors catafford it,

and the result of this of course-- embezzlement and thievery and all the rest.

M: What,-whet-about your early schooling in Ybor City? Did you grow up learning Italian

and Spanish simultaneously?

G: My brothers talked

G: Italian

M: Italian.

G: My brothers taught me Italian cause they went,-theywet to an Italian school here which

was a settlement by Italian missions s e-'Wer \ i,'Ci ,

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 14

M: Which religion,-wh-ih-rei-igion, do you remember?

G: Must have been Methodist.

M: Methodist, okay.

G: Strange, but true.

M: Right. L ,-i0 "1 ) ow you mention religion. What religion were your


G: Catholic.

M: Devout?

G: Very devout.

M: 7etaFr. Did they go to church?

G: Not here. But over there, absolutely. '4sstrange how once they came over here, because

they were in an environment where the people were not too church-going, they only
In 0 f
went during religious hboy-d-ays and festivals and i oil

M: Were you baptised?

G: Oh, yes. All of us were.

M: So you went to the big things, baptismal, burial, things like that.

G: Oh, yes.

M: Did your father ever tell you why he was suspicious of the church here?

G: No, I wouldn't say that he was, no. Conditions were such that it made it easy not

to go. Over there, everybody went, and in other words, you dare not go or youC2be

different and you wco )even do what the Kennedy's did.

M: Ri. Right.


G: I think they still do in those villages.

M: Your brothers went to the Methodist missions and where they spoke Italian. Now did you

grow up learning Spanish first because of the Spanish...

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 15

G: I grew up a strictly Italian

M: And when did you learn Tpanish?

G: After being a teenager.

M: Really, you did't earn Spanish up until

G: Not earlier. Because as a teenager, then as I started junior high,-a-_eryy--very

at Washington Junior High, there were almost sixty percent or more Qban and Spanish,

so at lunch time, in the morning and at other times during the classroom, the speech

was always in Spanish and I picked it up there. Then I took courses in high school.

M: UhM i. Yeaf.

(a third person adds a question...)

A: Did you learn any Spanish from the nuse that kept you -the- ab7rttt.er that- kep you

as a baby? 0

G: No, as I recall I must have been too young. Shefjust give words c O TY )i'li'j .

Stop it, you knowJ these words o '1Q Stop it. And she kept about four others and

she had several baby 4^,Se and she had two of us baby pinned)d '-L '0)/ eHoer

words of admonition a-t;s when we were doing something wrong If I were trying to get

out or something so there was very little time to appreciate that. Now on the other

hand, my daughter right now, my eldest daughter, lives in LU she has a family

of six children. All her children are at schoolhand so this past year she is taking

care of the baby girl nf one of the school teachers that she taught with and that

baby is being treated as if she were her own. The only one in the family, all her

children are away My goodness, you ought to see what a beauty she is and

how my daughter, she even takes her to the lof e library every Tuesday which is about

half a mile away from there together to join the other children and have these puppet

shows and little stories that they tell, you know. Can you imagine that difference

with me being just put in a play pen early in the morning and then atf about nine o'clock

she would feed us one of the two bottles of milk my mother would give with a mixture

of coffee and milk and then about one-thirty or two o'clock, just before mother's

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 16

G: time to pick us up. S-d-'Dgive us the other six or eight oz bottles and that was it.

Thank goodness it didn't last very long cause I went to school, but tjaat was no where

M: At school, how would the Italians and Spanish and Cubans get along?

G: It was the L.-! i' .'/' -. ea.nig Italian, Spanish and Cuban.

M: Did you call yourself Latin?

G: Yef.

M: Yeas okay. __ _

G: We were all known as Latins.

M: All right, okay.

G: By the anglo-saxons.

M: But did you identify yourself as Latin?

G: Yes.

M: Okay, all right.

G: The Latins usually stuck together because they understood, they had a common language

which was Spanish. The Italians spoke Spanish and the Spanish spoke that language so

the unifying language of the three nationalities'was Spanish,so we were stuck together

as a group and so that made the anglo-saxons on the other side of the fence, and

whenever a fist fights in- f"' broke out, in rivaling and so on, it was always those

two factions. The Latins against the crackers.

M: -UM-tssTr6

G: Yeaq (laughter)

M: r--t he how about your parents now. How did they get along with the Cubans and

the Spanish ?

G: Absolutely wonderfully. The entire communities was one

M: We were talking the other day,;e maybe you reiterate some of this about, what

you remember about your early years when your parents would come home at dinner and

you said your sister was then working in the cigar factory. Can you kind of recreate

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 17

M: that, hth- setting.

G: Yes. In the cigar factories, there was instituted the practice of hiring a reader

who was a well-educated Spaniard and this person used to read for thirty minutes

in the morning and thirty minutes in the afternoon followed by thirty minutes

of news of the day and then the rest of the second thirty minutes was spent in

reading one chapter of a book that the general factory members voted on. They were

given about a dozen books or novels and they were told to select which one would

they want the reader to read for them next and so they made first choice, second

choice, third choice, .sQso that period of three6jY7 ef-ay month, those three

books that had the highest percentage of call were read and 'J b.) / ; what

happened in my family happened in, every other family and that was the members of

the family had heard these novels, went home and made known what the day's reading

consisted of and they were always items of great social value that we appreciate back

in those days. Love of family) aa thrift aph education at- children a"4 nature /rove

of nature. And each evening my sister used to come home and give us, verbally, the

episode that took place. That must have lost it about seven years in my family up to

the time that I became then a teenager and I used to roam around with my yeg. I did

not have time to stick around the family table after supper, but earlier, we stuck

around the family tables and thirty minutes or so after supper to listen to my sister

give us the episode of the day, and the news that she had heard from the lector.

M: What was the family favorite? Which story, or which novel 4i,-E ey7 ..1 ,

G: I cadtsay one in particular.

Mw- ow ao ou t-he

G: Atut how beautiful the ...... ..

M:' res he have any favorites?

G: Yes, there was only one man that broke the Spanish barrier and that is, all lectors

were Spaniards, and only one was an Italian. And that was the grandfather of

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 18


G: He was the only Italian lector because he became familiar I/well-

versed and I d .Lt- now whether he applied as a----~~~~ fTor Spanish, but he was

able to both speak it as well as write it and he rose up to that position which is

very, very unusual. He was the only one in Tampa that ever became an Italian lector.

M: YeaE. What about the meat for instance, what would be the typical fare?

G: The-whe-t Back in those days; the meals were prepared as much as a week in advance and

they were quite repetitive. I- -was-ther be pasta two or three times a week with

a different \^0' One time it would be with lentils. Another time it would be
with a vegetable like _. Another time it would be with beans. Then we would

have a meat almost at least twice a week beside the weekends. Always on'Saturday and

on Sunday. Sunday would be meatballs and the tomato sauce with spaghetti and on

Saturday it would be sausage or steak and during the week, a variety of some kind of

stew and we would prepare lentils, for example, do you know that lentils are real

laxatives? Nowadays of course you buy them all ready. You know what lentils are?

M: Yes.,

G: Back in our day we used to barter in ten or fifteen Ibs.lat a time and they were not

cleaned or gleaned the way they are nowadays. Nowadays I dol / now how they do it, but

you dbn find a stone aall. But back in our days there were many stones the color of

lentils and the size of lentils and we broke many a tooth because of that in our earlier

years. So what we used to do is, my two brothers were the experts. Every evening after

the story by my sister, we were given a pile of lentils on the table and each of us

had to clean our little,-elemra uur lit e- pile or we wo i t leave the table and we

always kept about one or two weeks supply of lentils clean so all Mother had to do

in the morning, she used to clean and wash and they would soften up. Impurities would

come to the top and she would sweep those up and then right away she would start

boiling them and by the time Dad came, which was at sundown, and the rest of the family

was at home, we would have supper just before dark. That was important because in the

backdoor 0'inl) nD)^ p here were no lights so w[ we would have had to use the

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 19

G: the kerosene lamp and that was always in the parlour. That was the big place for it.

The kerosene lamp was the parlour r7.

M: You were describing the Cuckina Faciliana of your day.

G: So, you have the repetitive meals that were planned in advance and have an item that's

for example, codfish.

M: Mai? i

G: Codfish, and we used to buy it whole and w~ have a nail on one of our kitchen walls

and you could snap it on that nail and just cut pieces you want so weekly Weid)have

a little variety of codfish, fried codfish which was a very inexpensive meal but

yet it was very very nutritious.

M: How much of your diet was supplied by the family in terms of gardening and fowl?

G: Oh say, easily, forty percent.

M: Did your mother make her own pasta and bread?

G: Oh, yes. Many kinds of pastries and ______0__

M: Right. What, was Sunday particularly a festive occasion. Did all the family get

together or was this just your nuclear family or, was Sunday the big meal of the week?

G: It was a big meal of the week, but not for eating )ust the family ate together except

on holy day

M: 6Tmhk-.W a-habl ut, what where the great holidays you remember?

G: There would be Christmas and New Year Year and

M: Describe a Sicilian Christmas of your childhood.

G: Well, there would be as many as twenty to twenty-five persons present and-we-weald

remain-, we would go early in the afternoon in the house that was doing the inviting

and we would play cards until two, three o'clock in the morning and then we would

walk home. Walk home as much as ten or twelve blocks because that was before the day

that the first Fords came out, but in later years, back when I was a teenager, we had

bought the first kidof car, a Ford, and we were able to remain even later at these

family gatherings because we were a greater distance 32cOt from west Tampa to Ybor City

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 20

G: as we visited our relatives we were able to remain longer hours and go greater

distances. We used to have, as a result of that, picnics away from home, such as

M: Did you typically go on a fourth of July picnic by your family or with the Italian


G: At times it would be with the family, but they used to be, back in those days, holidays

such as Memorial Day, May 30thand _, and Fourth of July and

Labor Day, they used to be J.J1 paxty over here at DeSoto Park when they had

the casino and a dance hall and picnic grounds and the street car used to be a nickle

and Ybor City and West Tampa Beach had bands in which .memberS participated just for

the fun of it and so these two bands would take turns and have dance music and the

public would dance for free. They were in the city proper, civic parks. Those two

places were two areas that for years had this kind of big community picnics.

M: Jm-ff- Right. Going back to-say, we were discussing Christmas, whe-wa, what was

associated with Sicilian customs of Christmas? For instance, did the come to

Ybor City or not? Are you familiar with ?

G: No.

M: The Sicilian wish the Cor- l(oL\ nC td4 ( C.v \d eng C.t 3

That must be

G: Thau- ,hat-s, we use that in November third.

M: (4, liyafJ 1Y Epiphany also.

G: Yo r right.

M: That should be,

G: Tha wheree we go

M: What about food stuff. What was unusual about Christmas in terms of the way your

family ate? Anything special?

G: They would begin two to three weeks prior to the holiday in making pastries that

lasted because it was before the day of refrigeration and there had to be pastries

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 21

G: that lasted. Sugar and they kept well and then of course, there would be a great
variety at the-.\ '. enhanced by things that the family grew by way of fruits

nuts; such as pecans and other things that were purchased. Peanuts were always

another item that were roasted and were present with chesnuts. A carry-over from

Sicily, a things that...

M: Of carry-over holidays, did you-'ever celebrate as a boy the Festa de la Santa Rosalia?

G: I believe tllatw what you called-Madame de la Ropa.

M: She came out of the

G: Like it

M: Similar, similar to the

G: Yes.

M: You ge7-you remember that

G: Ye, there was a church -to which we went to before we move over to our place because
they tore it down. Right across from Garcia's Services. Used to be called

q Church and a grocer a bleck away from here went to Italy in the early

1130s and brought back a replica Madame de la Roca which is from a /4 5i' "

He was a from ir' and he donated to the church and every year

after he brought it, on that particular day, the community, especially the church-goers,

would get this madonna which was, as I remember, about three feet tall, at the head

of the procession and they made the rounds in the neighborhood here about ten or

fifteen blocks, go around and take her back on the pedestal on the outside grounds
(yV. BGlr ckj C ch
of the church. That continued til the old man, muat--have-bn a rtor over here, died.

He was a profound religious man and he brought it and donated it to the (Cfor0ou iT.

That was our involvement in outside celebration. That was the only one.

M: You also mentioned earlier the Italians tan t were frequently moving out to East Ybor

City and you are obviously an example of this. Have you any idea of the patterns

of which Italians moved from Central Ybor City to IA Atri tr to this area

where we are today? This is around t- 7e 7h, Eleventh Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 22

G:J The reason for their moving is hey became more financially independent and they began

to appreciate spaciousiand living the way they had lived back then, and again ...d

like to have you see, the-enly- look at this block. Tha) typical of Ybor
C T''hi o
City. Tt's used to beYou see the houses just arms length reach of?


G: They used to hand over a cup of sugar across and hand over vegetables or what not.

They needing a lemon or a few eggs, they can reach right across that way, so they

appreciated spaciousness. That doe n') have much space either front or back. And so

they bought one or two i:ots, and they built the center of(it tI to one side of it

and they began to have i- gardens and pieA-of room from what they remembered

they did in the old country. You see?

M: Mr-n1. Give ns an example of your father, how your father bought this particular


G: My father had worked for some ten to twelve years or more for this medical doctor

who owned about forty acres of this area. At that time it was one giant farm.before it

was subdivided into rs and lots and when the doctor retired, he decided that he

wanted to get rid of his farming interests so he divided it into blocks, cut out

streets and began to sell lots.

M: How many acres-were the lots?

G: Eight lots to every block measured an exact acre, each lot being 50'X100', so he

encouraged his former employees to purchase acreages of his property which my father


M: We were discussing the Italian transition in farming. Your father was approached by the

doctor to purchase some lots..

G: My father purchased an acre of the ground that he had previously tilled for this


M: 1iiPai ea

G: 1921.

M do

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 23

G: He paid five hundred dollars fer lot

M: Five hundred dollars '

G: -P erlt--p ero; no per lot.

M: Oh, so that was eight lots, four thousand dollars for eight.

G: Th )right.

M: Seems like a lot of money.

G: Yes.

M: Okay.

G: He began to farm it on his own. He went into the business of raising vegetables

and produce and retail it himself.

M: How would he do that?

G: He had a horse and wagon. He delivered to stores. He sold to individual families in

the streets of Ybor City.

M: -What, did he specialize in any one vegetable?

G: No, it was a variety of truck.

M: Uh-hrt. Right. And did his sons help him?

G: Only weekends. By that time, well, the young ones, my-brother and myself, the two

youngest ones, we were with him continuous after school and my two older brothers,

they already were workingby that time, one in a bank,-the other as a plumber. And they

helped out foaim ng, r filling in orders on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays.

WhMich-the farm was a way of keeping us together, mQreLg, he-, otherwise they would

i',T e _woTd have lived in the city.

G: Was he able to make a living as a truck driver.

M: Yes. With the help of the rest of the family being engaged in other endeavors, say, two

brothers working at those two jobs, my sister working at the cigar factory, mother taking

care of the home by that time and helping him out.

G: What about pay day. What would happen on pay day? Where would the paychecks go?

M: My brother was a family banker.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 24


M: And every Monday meant going to the bank and make a deposit.

G: Everyone turned the check in to your brother, eq, no cuts off the top.

M: AndEthe-, they kept whatever was necessary but it was really something you dc.ri'T

see nowadays in families. That room is mine and don 'tou dare touch it, but yet,

youir going to give me food and quarters as long as I live.

9: Did you get living allowance, did you get, did you have some money of your own in your


G: Oh, yes. You always did. Sure.

?: Well where did you spend your money?

G: I didrxltind much use for money except, even in high school, I used money to buy the

streetcar fare. I took lunch from home. Once in a while, I would buy me an ice cream

cone after lunch but it was frugality that is unbelievable right now.

M: You mention that your father did not have an education, nor your mother, yet he

became a retail truck farmer. How did he acquire the, the

G: Value of mnne-?

M: Value, tha right. Economy.

G: That is something I wonder to this day. They could count numerically from zero to

a hundred, both of them. They did know the existence of the alphabet but yet they

knew all of the denominations of money and they could 7ive you an accounting of five,

six or seven items tEat my mother was going to buy at the store. She was able to tell

you that it was three dollars and twenty-five cents faster than I can put it down on

paper and add them Itts unbelievable they way you depend on the mind more than on

the pencil.

M: Coup3eho"f-Tlirre, the scores of other Italians imitated your father in this, you know, th

great vegetable empires, the Valenti's and the __, Zambeco's and the Guardiardo'

Could you comment on that. Were you observing them as a young man? Did the truck

farmers, the dairy, things such as that...

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 25

G: Well, each of those were able to find an outlet for their product, whatever it was.

Dairying, poultry raising and the like because the community ca. in general was

being so thickly populated that people were interested in making money and not raising

their own and so there was a need for supply his demand. And so arose the bakery and

the dairymen and the vegetable farmer and the grocer and many of the other little

private family industries that arose as a result of that.

M: Why the Italians in particular. Why did they do this? You doI'tfind many Spaniards

and Cubans in the same enterprises.

G: All right. The ones who began to operate the dairies was because they were shepards

in Italy. The ones that opened up stores here is because like the and

castellanos, four generations back they were store owners in Italy. and so it's..

(*tepe easnQnere

(Belin Tape A, Side 2)

G: Jf% a continuation. My father was a peasant and he continued that over here. But in

doing so, they never lost track of the importance of an education in this

You do not do as I do. I have to do this because I have to. But you do lt'ave to and

you can do better an going to see that you do better because &n' L:ing to give

you an education. Andhheldid that. Like many other hundreds of families did the same.

M: Did, could you elaborate on that. Exactly what his attitude was toward education in his

children in terms of what kind of jobs-did he want you to go into?

G: No, they left that up to us, but they realized that if you had an education, later

you could step into anything you wanted by continuing an education which is what

happened in our case. Nb, they did not direct us into any one channel. They knew that

education in general would help you go wherever you wan o go, that the sky is the

limit if you want to continue.

M: Well, we havept discussed the role of the Mutual Aid Society yet. What are your

earliest memories of Illumione Italiano?

G: That they satisfied both'a cultural, social, recreational and medical need, all through

HILLS-Ybor 42A
Page 26

G: those years. And it was the only way to acquire all those things. It was the unified

cooperativeness by the payment of a small monthly fee. My mother-in-law went to pay

hMrs this week at the Italian club. The dues are nine dollars and ten cents for a

month and that gives, I believe, a right to three dollars a day for every day that

she's hospitalized, in cash payment, besides the use of the hospital plus all medicines

and all hospital care, but the doctors will have to paid by her. It' separate. Course

now with medicare, which pays eighty percent, and if she pays only twenty, t' just

a pittance by comparison.

M: Your father belonged to Illumione?

G: Oh, yes. The, the families, mine as well as all of the others, before they ever bought

a loaf of bread, first they paid their dues and they instilled in their children the

importance of paying those club dues. Cause they never knew when they might need it.

And children grew up, and I grew up that way, appreciating that fact. And t'En of course

you have medicare and with all kinds of insurance supplements that you have, the clubs

do!i have that importance. One by 'one, t a pity, they all dying out. So I hope

that one of these days some way will be found of preserving-the Italian club building

for cultural purposes even though the other part may die out completely. No?

The medical care part.

M: What, the year you were born, the original Italian club burned. Do you remember the

present club being built as a young boy? You would have been three years old.

G: Ohlno. Never.

M: Nw-wen, do you remember, you obviously would have gone over there right after it

opened. W9ij)d the building seem like to you as a young boy, going in to the Italian


G: To tell you the truth, the difference exteriorly;,therc9 no change at all as far

as I can remember in the exterior.

M: Well, what struck you about that building as a young boy? Did the building impress you

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 27

G: I used to go there for movies. Ten cents. And they used to have sugar or


M: Were the movies in English or Italian?

G: No, they were always in English. Always. Now once in a while...

M: Would your father take you there to the club to tag along?

G: gn beginning at age eleven on, I used to take my younger brother, two years

younger, and go every Sunday afternoon about two o'clock they had matinees, for a dime

you could get in, see a show, and then see vaudeville for the next half hour and it

was a real hour and a half or so of true clean entertainment.

M: Now did your -fther, would he go there at night with the other men, you know, maybe


G: My father was not one to socialize that way. I believe one of the main reasons is

he used to be so tired from his work that he had to be ready to get up early in the

morning the following day, but these persons that worked in the cigar factory that,-4hey

got off at two-thirty or three o'clock. They went to work at seven or eight and

naturally the work is light, in the shade and come two or three o'clock in the

afternoon, all they had to do was take a shower, eat and naturally take a walk and


M: That just reminded me of a question. Did your father ever, what was his attitude

toward cigar workers? \ a A what if you had told him, I want to be a cigar maker.

What would he haVe said?

G: H 'appreciate'it because he himself worked at-z for a time, in cigar factories. His

job was carrying the tobacco from the warehouse over to these women, like my mother,

Each of them had a barrel out of which thee get the leaves and his job was to get the

tobacco and carry it to these different persons and that was done very early in the

morning. The wee hours of the morning, between two and five, so he had his share

of working in a cigar factory. My mother did, my sister did and my eldest brother

Angelo, who left it because of the strike, and he noticed that continued

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 28

G: on several other future occasions, so to get away from it, he decided to go and learn

plumbing. The'j what took him away from the cigar factory. Otherwise he would have

spent his lifetime there. He was uf Liue he became a plumbing contractor and then

after high school, my youngest brother went -in business with him and he became a

master plumber and now es head of the plumbing at Beulah for the Hitsboro County,

my youngest brother, so they each did well for themselves, but they all had a taste

of cigar factory except my brother and I, my youngest brother.

M: Unr-. Right.

G: So my father had high respect for the cigar factory because that is the beginning of

their American life.

?: Some people say that the cigar workers were very capricious about going on strike, that

if the mood fitted them to go on strike, they -would go on strike. Did your father

ever talk to you about that or your brother or sister ? Would you say tht

true or not?

G: How is that again?

?: Well, I have been talking to a lot of people and some of them say that they feel that

the cigar workers, when they would go on strike, did't always go for good reasons.

That sometimes they just were tired of working and they mate up an excuse or they

didtlike the way the foreman looked at them or something. Would you say that th T's

true or not?

G: I do thinkk there was ever a unanimity in-ay- any group that goes on strike, but I

believe the cigar factory workers were pretty well united in the moves that they took.

I believe they were from what I recall of my family.

?: So your family..

G: They were pretty loyal people.

?: felt that the strikes were,- bat _teTee motivated, that they had good


Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 29

G: I always believed, and my family made me understand, that they were for very good


M: Many,-maany people would surges that, for instance, if the tobacco was too brittle one

day, the union 9w' Pater La Calle, everyone would just go out to the street. Do

you remember any examples of that?

G: I recall that in some factories being a real poor, poor material. The cigar owners

tried to make a bigger profit by buying cheaper tobacco and expecting the workers to

produce the same finished product which you cannot do unless you have a very

beautiful Havana see? And so when the foreman would go to the employee and

give him- the devil for not producing and t4eey, all they could do is "well, give me

better materials anf!J give you a better product". So they only thing they could

do for them is, in frustration, leave the dern seat empty. Th ydtrike and if other

factories were not guilty of that same infringement, of giving poor materials, still

they, because they were all very jointed and closely-knit, they went on strike to

protect this factory's five or six hundred or eight hundred workers. And sometimes

there was something over there. That,-tnat owner did not want to have the lector anymore

because he said they had caused the workers to lose their attention to their work, and

even though they Vwere paid by the piece. So maybe the demand was so great they felt

the cigar workers could produce even more and for that, I recall there was a strike

also once for removing the lectors. That was-a big blow to the cigar factory workers,

for many of them, that was the only doggone education they -had. You know, especially

my sister,-for example, never having gone to school, but man, what an education it was

to her and she was able to give--you the names of a dozen authors and their books just

like that, and yet never went to school, never read a book. She only heard. She only

heard by listening.

?: Well, it's said that the cigar workers had great appreciation for culture, for music

for art, --

G: They surely did.

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 30

?: Where did that come from? Where did they get it?

G: I believe thaf a very interesting question. Hard to answer, but I tell you one thing.

The Centro Estudian6, which is still existing, that club on Nebraska and Pc': they

brought here some of the world's greatest singers, including Caruso, __, and

many of the others.


G: Yeas


G: And the Italian Club brought some to, and yet w never been

able to do that since theft. I believe one reason is the, .h_ T.V. and the radio and

the movies and commercialized entertainment has put an end to that. Back then the

phonograph had just begun and very few families owned that back in 1920, 1925, and so

things like this, personshad already started making pretty good money and they were

able to attend these functions. They were appreciative of culture. They appreciated

music, they appreciated art and singing and all kinds of fine things. They appreciated

fine clothes too and they used to wear some of the most beautiful clothes back in the

twenties and the thirties. They had the money and they showed it on their person.

M: Speaking of clothes- and finery, courtship is an interesting pattern in Ybor City.

How did one go about dating when you were a young man? A young 0 Q /O

G: Courtship would begin luually, as it frequently does, at place of work, and back in

those days, in the twenties and the thirties, one of the best source of finding a

wife was the five and dime stores. We had Silvers,.MvdCrory's, Cresses, Grants and two

or three others that employed just dozens and dozens of girls between the ageSof

fourteen and nineteen or so and the young men would just stream from counter to counter

and make eyes and then following that, beginning about ten-thirty, followed the dances

at the social Spanish clubs. Almost every Saturday night the girls would rush home, gl

and doll up and with their mother or their older sister or an aunt, always with

somebody as a chaperone, they would go to the dance halls and there, the young man that

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 31

G: had been going eyes and behind the counter would meet her a second time, and then

the following week, again. Within a few months, courtship had begun and then, if you

were interested in the girl, you always asked for her hand in marriage by going

with an adult, usually your father, your mother or if they are not available, an uncle

or an older brother or sister, and you would make previous arrangements that you are

going there to ask for the girl's hand in marriage, and naturally because they had

already directly or indirectly known the individual or seen him, they were ready to

give an answer. It was just a formality. If the person was not going to be accepted,

they would have told the girl to let go again long before they would have said come

and see us. So by the time they -did go, it was already...

M: What about the different attitudes between the Cubans, Spaniards and the Italians.

Would you say they all looked'upon courtship the same? Or were some fathers more

strict than others?

G: I have reason to believe that the Italians were the strictest of the three nationalities

(d1 saying Cuba, Spanish and Italian.

.ML So .c4n-- -mhatImt-II sniayg. gyT -j

G: I had reason to believe, from what I recall..

M: Did Cuban women have a reputation for being a little lighter than the others in terms


G: Yes, tha? true.

M: in terms of dating habits. --

G: Ye they started dating without, and going places without chaperones, earlier than

the Italians. I believe the Italians started in greater numbers when the girls

started going to senior high school. A say in the thirties they started going in

large numbers to the senior high schools and so naturally there, with the social

activities, it didYt call for no chaperones and families, whether they liked it or not,

they could/' take their daughter for example, or the young man, to a damn football

game or to a pep rally, so gradually, then the automobile had come in to use and

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 32

G: families let go of their children. To go,-tZ5- to a school function even though

after the function was over you go fifty miles away in the dark, in the eyes of

the neighbors and everybody else, it was okay because the daughter left, where's she

going, some grandma would ask. E s going to a high school dance, or ihs going

to a high school football game. Oh. And here was Oh, permisimo, see.

?: How long would this engagement last? I-wanrt I- get Lak Lu marriage.

G: Usually, ugally,- nine months to a year. I doni-tthink i-'e ever, serious cases never

lasted more than a year. They-d make plans early.

?: Always a year or nine months.

G: Once,-once they got the so-called family permission, an admission to the family, they

would start setting a date within six to nine months thereafter.

?: And what was the wedding like? Usually in a church or the courthouse or was there

a party or reception?

G: As I recall back in those days, church weddings were not as numerous as they are today.

To--e, today it seems like they appreciate church weddings more, girls do. They prefer

a church wedding than a home wedding.

?: Is that your wedding picture?

G: Ye<.

?: And where did you marry?

G: I was married at church.


G: Yes, down the street.

M: Is your wife Italian?

G: Oh, yes.

M: What was her maiden name?


M: What about your brothers? How many of them married Italian brides?

And your sister?

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 33

G: All of them.

M: So they all married Italians. How about your sister.?

G: Also. Italian.

M: She remained true to faith. What about the wedding ceremony? What was the, the

festivities like? Did they sing "Cella "?

G: They,-thee would have naturally the relatives numbering several hundred frequently.

There would be a big barrel or two or beer in the backyard and everybody just feasted

on roasted peanuts and a variety of candy which back then was twenty-five cents a Ib,

today t wo dollars and thirty five cents a lb. And beer.

?: Was there any cakee- a tha-a...

G: The cake then later in the evening was the center of activity. It was passed around

to everybody.

M: -Wlhat, what about funerals in Ybor City? Do you remember any funerals, going as a young


G: Yes.

M: What was the funeral like in Ybor City?

G: One of the most impressive was one of the last funerals I recall and that was the

funeral of a certain The founder of the bakery. Great-

grandfather of the great artist. The funeral home was at the building which is still

there, the corner of ninth avenue and seventeenth street, across the street from the

phone building there. -Pne.. right now there, concrete block building white, that

is used as a rehabilitative center facing Ninth Avenue. That used to be the Italian

school that my brothers attended. And right in front, which is now

q aw\ there used to a funeral home.

M: Run by whom?

G: O'" and Fernandez, and before him, used to be for many years. Now

a typical funeral back in the twenties consisted of having the casket in the parlor

of the home of the deceased. Then when the time came, those who were better able to

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 34

G: afford it, would have the Ybor City or West Tampa respectively... over there, the West

Tampa bank, over here, the Ybor City bank, they would be in the lead and they would

play mournful music on foot. The-, the only ones liable to be hired wagon-drawn

wagons; what you call those things?

M: A hearse. Cortege.

G: -Nowadays they are cadillacs owned by the good homes, but back then they were owned by

livery stables, not by the funeral home and you would rent one of these for ten or

twelve dollars and split it with five or six people who would ride with you. Now

they, this particular funeral of proceeded north on Twenty-first Street

to two blocks north of Columbus Drive. Up to there, it was paved, but then from there

over to the Italian Club Cemetary, was nothing but dry, ugly sand, ten or twelve inches

deep, so what they did was, the band would'stop playing there and disband and the

wagon, the hearse,)with the coffin would proceed by itself and all the others would

alight because the sand was too great for them to negotiate it with the horse and

carriage and they would walk back of the hearse, used to be about eight or nine

blocks from there to the Italian Club Cemetary which is on Twenty-fifth Street.

So from Twefy-, Twenty-first to Twenty-fifth is four blocks, then from Seventeenth
-(fe yr lbl('-.bi s _-_4t
to Twenty-first, it was af11 f- total of eight blocks they walked. Tnere

was a back in the twenties. After that of course came the automobile, and

they had cadillacs that were'rented & _. Funeral homes had their

own six or eight of them that they rented out to families to,

?: Did people make speeches at the funeral?

C. %Pardon?

?: '-WAre -hee--s4P4f'.-1eFnTu

G: I believe back in those days they did, especially when a businessman died. They always

had a word to say, especially because he belonged to clubs and the club had the

secretary, who was usually a pretty good orator, and, as a family respect, they gave a

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 35

G: short talk for the individual. \--,

M: In light of that, that same question, aw, i iu Iw, who were the elite in the

community? What individuals held the most power? Were Lt-t-here- let me just name a

few people- and you can comment on the role, John Grimaldi, Giovanni Grimaldi of the


G: Individuals such as that, the reason why, and the Lecattus and the The reason.

why they were able to wield power and authority is because they did something the rest

of the community, they were able to speak English, and whoever was able to speak

English, allithe rest of the community went to them for help to read a letter or to

have the simplest of contracts explained or to draw up a contract. The simplest of

things that nowadays anybody can do, but back then, the number of persons that could

speak English was so limited that in Ybor City, those were about the two big, big ones.

Lecarre and Grimaldi. In their time then they became Italian counselors. So naturally

they were in a great way able to help. The Italians were calling members of the

family to come over here.

M: Now they also were politicnllv involved, well, particularly T.ecsire's son-in-law,

Nick Nuccio. What abbut the role-of politicians in early Ybor City.

G: Because the average immigrant that had come here did not speak English and depended

on these families, naturally when it came time to vote, in exchange for the favor, it
was a foregone conclusion that you owed them that at least. A vote doesn't,cost

anything. Say sure, I-will vote for whoever you say, so they became pawns and in so

doinp, they started wielding tremendous nower.

M; Everyone seems to have a Nick N11ccio story. Do you have one?

G: No. Nothing other than that he was an honest politician, the likes of which I don't-

think you'll ever see again. The ones nowadays seem to be crazy for money at all costs

and Nucci seemed to have been satisfied with a salary.

M: Did you ever, for instance, go down and see him at Cuervos, crossing

in the morning" ?

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 36

G: No, I never did, but I worked for a time after graduation from college before going

into teaching while I was waiting my first teaching assignment, I worked for the

state welfare board during the day. The WPA. Work Progress Administration. And my

job was to certify people for jobs if they had no income and to find out what skills

they had and I gave commodities. Sugar, mattresses, pillows, bedsheets, potatoes, rice

flour to these people who were in need, so they came to me to be certified and after

an interview, I would decide what their needs were and i'dgo to their home and

investigate to see if the conditions were the way they said. Nuccio, back in those

days, being a county commissioner, had many persons that he owed favors to because

they were heads of families that could bring him thirty, forty, fifty motes or more, or

they would-associate in the clubs and there they would make friends with many others,

so he owed them a favor. So he came to me and requested that I help him out and so we

carried on a lasting relationship, which was .until I got my teaching position and I
left the job because it paid sixty-seven, seventy-two dollars a month. Teaching paid

about a hundred and twenty-five and it was the beginning of a career I wanted to

follow. I knew that this was a welfare job, that any day it would fold up. Which it

did about ten months after I left it. So Nuccio would send me people continuously and

I, in all honesty, carried on interviews, and they were all very needy people. There's )

no doubt it. Times are hard. They didn'lt-ave any income, and so I certified them and

helped him out and of course, .1-are-ce- h catnme, we became godfathers to each other

and that relationship(tape cuts off for some seconds)

M: You-said-eyou were explaining how you acquired an education and your career choices..

G: My two older brothers were instrumental in getting me to acquire a college education.

They appreciated the fact that, having had to leave the home at an early age, and not

net continue higher education, to help support the family, that need was no longer

true with them both working and they definitely wanted me to enter one of the


M: And you graduated from high school what year?

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 37

G: I graduated from Hillsborough High School in 1932.

M: What did you .-- at that time in 1932, in the midst of the depression, what was

your career ambition?.

G: It was to go to the University of Florida to study, to be a teacher, but times were

hard, the banks had just failed two years before. All the family savings had been

lost. The University of Tampa had just opened in Hil'sborough High School having

evening classes as a junior college, so as an alternative, I started taking classes

there evenings, starting about four o'clock in the afternoon until ten. By the time

I finished my first year there, the city had given the junior college acquisition of

the old Tampa Bay Hotel property for a dollar a year and the university began as the

University of Tampa if the downtown ground and I moved there the first year that the

jUiversity opened 1933 I believe it was, -ad I continued studying there and taking

courses summers at the University of Florida to expedite my four-year degree.

M: You went up to Gainesville?

G: Summers, yes. Used to go there....

M: What kind of teacher did you want to be then?

G: Math and science.

M: What did youffather think about that?

G: I had lost my father in 1930. Two years before, I was a freshman in high school when

he died. T I fell in the hands of my two brothers as concerned by future. They were

my two fathers.

M: Your brothers were in the plumbing business then?

G: One a plumber and Frank a banker.

M: A banker.09.

G: Yea;. Frank had taken accounting and he began getting jobs with bigger advancements.

Word spread of how good he was and banks began to fight for him.

M: Okay.

G: When he left, he already was heading of the bookkeeping 'department at Citizens Bank

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 38

G: And when the bahk failed, and then from there of course he liquidated the Bank of

Ybor City and after that, he went to the IasaVi Bank

M: Angelo Masavi.

G: Angelo Masavi, who had very high respect for Frank and he was rising through the

ranks of the Masavi bank when together with his in-laws; they decided that they should

go into the grocery business on Elm. _-Twase-w4-he

M: This is the Greco's, right?

G: That's when they first opened up that first unit known as the big barn and it met with

such a great success that they started a chain that became a wonderful family, and it

had-almost four units by the time they sold out.

M: pash and arry. So your brothers helped you through college.

G: O'I -h )

M: And when did you graduate? When were you graduated?

G: First time in 1936. Then I completed my other degree in 1)38.

M: Did you find employment immediately in/!36?

G: I had to wait about one semester.

M: What was your first job?

G: West Tampa Junior High.

M: And give me a thumbnail sketch of your educational experience in the schools?

G: I taught there at West Tampa Junior High, started teaching general science and math

in the eighth or ninth grades. From there there was an interruption because of World

War II and I had taken courses in electronics, so there were openings at the Tampa

shipyard and when school let out in 1943, I went to work at the shipyards installing

communications equipment on board ship. Then T, when September rolled around and school

were opening and I tried to leave, the shipyards and the draft board said you cannot

leave, your effort is greater there than in the classroom. And so they kRpt me there

until the end of the war. Of course the salary was about five times greater and there

were times ', 7 \' r. that I worked seven days a week, sometimes 48 hours a week, five

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 39

G: or six straight Sundays and it was almost a nervous breakdown that I suffered from

overwork, but all these ships had deadlines to meet and when a ship was to be gone,

for example, by August fifteenth, they would tell me what electronics equipment had

to be installed and what units by a certain date and because the men were not always

reliable, I send two men down to work and 'd-go back to check on them and they were

shooting crapI, d leave another man to do another job at one end of the ship. I--d

go back to check on the work to see and the spotlight that had been installed and he

had gone to the restroom which was at the other end of the yard, and he would go

naturally the long way around, you see. If-it had, if we had left at ten o'clock in

the morning, by the time he got there, it was lunch time, -so he'd'take his lunch hour

and then he' come back by about two o'clock. Then at other times, there were all kinds

of entanglements of killing time which are sickening to me. I was there, sincerely, to

win the war. I was trying to speed things up and tha(s the reason why in no time, in

three months time, an employee, as an apprentice, I was raised to foreman. Without

favoritism or nothing. It was just the fact that my work was so fast and so appreciated

that management was interested in pushing me up. In no time, I found myself there, but

my biggest kick was the men that I had were not up to what I expected. They were slowing

down production continuously. See if you can tell what that is.

M: Oh, my. ----__

?: It's beautiful. ,

G: Make believe that you.'e in a Georgia plantation back in 1875, nesth the tree of

the Magnolia tree. What is it?

7: It a mint julep.

G: Mint Julep. (laughter)

?: Like back in Georgia.

M: Regarding the war, and I know yodu' going to give me a kind of a word association thing

Where were you December 7, 1941?

G: I was at home in the kitchen. And on the radio on top of a refrigerator, I heard

the news. That was 1941. Invitations had already been sent out the Friday before for

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 40

G:- a December 21st wedding, so I rushed over to my in-laws, my future in-laws, to ask

them, what should we do and so we decided that we would go ahead with the wedding

as planned, which we did, so on Sunday the 21st, which was the beginning of the

Christmas recess, we were married in church and then the reception at her home, and

we had already payed and planned for a honeymoon to Havana, Cuba and we went on the

last trip of the steamship Florida, because on the return trip, they dismantled

everything. Our last meal had to be eaten standing up because it became a troop

carrier. They A-mped us in Miami and it left, ;fti wherever it was, New Jersey or

some place, to be outfitted with guns to enter a convoy to carry troops overseas.

M: What was the reaction of Pearl Harbor in World War II in Ybor City? People milling

in the streets, or

G: They were all united like every where else for the war effort.

M: What about another day, V J Day. What was Ybor City like'on VJ Day, 1945?

G: Well, they held all kinds of celebrations. The clubs used for dances and there were

parades and the other big celebration was when Dr. Babble returned from the Pacific

after having been a prisoner of war. By the way, es)a great lover of my vegetables


M: I've interviewed him also.

G: and with his nephew who comes frequently. I send him...

M: They call Adamo in Tampa, though. tts really Adamo.

G: Adamo. Dr. Adamo.

M: Sadly, many people think that World War II was also the apogee of Ybor City, that

after the war, things began changing. Young people began moving out. Do you agree or

not? When?did Ybor City really begin to change?

G: I believe the war may have had something to do with it, boys coming from overseas

hae traveled and begin to get ideas about moving away from -tELhome, and that

brought about a little bit of looseness in the family to some degree, but we have

to add to that commercialized amusement came in, and came TV, came radio, came color

TV, came the movies and the outdoor movies, the drive-in? i't- e,. -
"" i y

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 41

G: all those contributed towards taking the boy and the girl away from the family unit.

Entertainment no longer was like it used to be where there would be a party and then

you would have it at home and invite your cousins and two or three musicians were in

the family. NGo, never paid, never, and they would just play on a Sunday evening or

Saturday night into the wee hours of the morning and everybody would enjoy themselves.

Then it all became commercialized. You know the very unusual thing about the

entertainment at my wedding was that when I started teaching at West Tampa, in my

classes I had boys that were musically-minded, and I had about twelve or more that

played a-variety of musical instruments and they, just for fun, they used to get-

together in various homes and tho just have serenades and enjoy themselves on

Friday nights or Saturday-nights. ien whenever .the as a birthday in the

community, they would all get together. Then they joined the school band and they became

even more experts at their instruments, so by the time I had taught there, 38,'139,/740

5/41, that was about four years, came the day of my wedding, and naturally I invited

all of my previous pupils that I was in touch with as well as all my students I was

teaching, and one of the boys, as a surprise, one day he came and says listen, he

says, you will not hire any music for your wedding becauseiv'ye arranged to have

music for you, and so at my mother-in-laws house, nine of them showed up and they

played some of the most beautiful Italian music that you could ever imagine. We went on

our honeymoon and we wereturned back and one Saturday, shortly after our return, my

wife and I had just gone to bed, about eleven thirty at night on a Saturday night, and

we heard the banging of car doors along this street herp. First one, then two, then

three, then four, so we peeped through the venetian blinds and we noticed one guy

with a guitar, another guy with another musical instrument. They hundhed and they ran

across the street running toward the front. S6 we made believe that we were sleeping

and I realized immediately what was going to take place and there again, they

surprised us with the most beautiful serenade, all my former pupils that you could

ever imagine. Things that you can never forget. lIt!l never happen again because

for example, I tried to-being a lover of nature, I used to have a 4-H club When,

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 42

G: before buses, at Franklin Junior High, and after school I would take them on field

trips. One time to a chicken processing plant over here, another time to a nursery.

Then I would distribute the other, we were about twelve to fifteen members, each of

them as interested as my own children in 4-H club work. So I used to go and distribute

them h:ne, some o' them as far away as Some of them But

then busing came. And what about busing? Well, as you know, the bus there, ten minutes

before school begins. We used to meet a while after school in my 4-H club once a week

and then talk about the different projects and go and visit the different pupils and

check on their projects, but with the coming of buses, the bus is waiting. Within

five minutes after the bell rings at three o'clock, they had to be in their buses,

seated and moving. So that killed my 4-H work and I used to have a science club, I used

to have a photography club. And I used to meet on different afternoons for an hour.

At West Terp, I used to go back over there cause the janitor lived in the building

and my classroom in the dark became a perfect darkroom or developiAg-so in my
experimental table that I used eed-fme the hours of nine and eleven, I did then have

four or five girls. They were members of the group. I had a club of about twelve or

fifteen. The boys would walk home. It was seven or eight blocks away. In the neighbor-

hood they all walked, but the girls, I would take them in my car and distribute them

home. Their parents would be waiting, they knew where they were, cause I had gone

after them, or some of them would bring them to me at school, and frequently the

janitor would go with me to deliver these girls. The kind of set up that'simpossible

to do anymore. Then I used to have the oven back here, used to have weiner roasts on

various occasions and I would invite my club members and the parents would bring them,

and the parents would come pick them up. I was never able to do that again then with

busing. It just tore up the love -between the teacher and pupil completely. And in my

opinion, it destroyed the complete educational process. For some pupils, I taught

them more after school in this environment than I did in the classroom. I used to

have individual boys that were a horror to other teachers and teachers would come to me

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 43

G: and say, listen, how does that boy behave with you? Said, A in conduct? You mean to

tell me he does work in your class. Yeadhe does. He belongs to one of my clubs and to

belong to a club, he had to be perfect in scholarship as well as in discipline.

Scholarship in my class, but good discipline in all the other teachers, so this particu-

lar boy was making poor grades in some of their classes but he had to be good to be in

my clubs and the teachers were wondering how come. Well, when you get a pupil away from

school and are able to talk to him, ij different than a classroom environment, and I

straightened up many a crooked boy that way, all through my clubs. For years I had

those two clubs, photography club and science club. And pupils a er--j-st today, as I

meet them forty years later says, you know, the biggest thing that ever happened to me

was your letting me to be a member of your club. It changed my outlook of education, and

I can see where it does.

?: and the effect that that had on

the neighborhood.

G: It was as if an atomic bomb had hit Ybor City, thaJi it. It just demolished all the

houses and nothing came in its place except the empty lots that you see today.

M: Whl o blame? Who do you blame?

G: The federal government didihthave an answer. They thought that by removing old homes,

they-wrrer iruvrTg, they would be removing a blot, but they didial realize that it

would be scattering the neighborhood and destroying all these things that w&e

talking about. Neighborliness, coopertiveness and love and respect for each other,

ethnic values, which have been gone to winds forever. It can never come back. St

9 m saying that it -can never come-back because now with the second or third generation

children, speaking various languages, many of them three, as I do, and many of them

having a good income, they don't)epend on friendship. They doi(jt ve to. The dollar

will make as many friends as you care to, and thac)s too true nowadays. Too many of

them are now making good money and they find commercial amusement at the expense of

family amusement and the family has just been torn away, but I doc9 we'll ever see

Hills-Ybor 42A
Page 44

G:. it the way that I dpo-- think we-'-I ever see it the way we used to.

M: How did the Giunta's remain in Ybor City? ou'e certainly unusual in that sense. Most

people left. Why did you remain behind?

G: I believe my father is to get credit for that. He sort of planted us here by having

bought this property.

M: How do you relate to it now. The neighborhood's obviously black now. What similarities

do you draw between the black population in Ybor City and how well, have you- gotten

along well with Afro-Americans in the area?

G: Absolutely. Always have. The respect they have for me 6f course is based on service.

There-isythe-r-e-r here for example is that colored boy came over. He had not received

his income tax refund and he wanted to khow how come, so I wrote a letter and I wrote

his address. I stamped the envelope and I gave it to him. Many persons come to have

insurance items read and letters read, and I never charge them a single thing. They

come nO notarization papers. I never charge them, s't p in a way a given service,

and I have very high respect from them. I believe if I were to walk down a dark street,

Jvweu4L, half a dozen others were to follow me, I would be the last one to be hurt.

Because one or other has been serviced by me and / And thaws been

for years now. For years I'v treated them like that, and they appreciate it. Then

with the vegetables, the e no one that ever comes to purchase something that does

not receive something as a gift in return. NoW where does that have its beginnings?

Heret'- a story on that. I had an uncle that had a little grocery store on Twenty-second

Street and Nineth Avenue, and he used to come and give me his horse and wagon weekly

orders, like on a Tuesday, and he would deliver them to us on Friday when I was a child

four or five years old. And when he got through writing down the several items that

my mother was ordering, he would turn to me, cause I was always at my mother's apron,

listening, and I admired the old man. I always used to walk to the wagon. YHe used to

give me a ride for about a hundred feet then get me off with a little two wheel, four

wheel wagon and, like doctors used to use back in ^^_ C-__ ai d

Ybor-Hills 42A
Page 45

G: run back home after getting that little ride so several years I recall that he used

to ask me after ad took my mother's order, he said, LoO) what do

you want? And so naturally, I would want & cookie or a cracker or something that I had

seen at the store when I had gone there. Chewing gum and so sure enough, when my

mother's order had been distributed on a table from special baskets that he used which

she returned back to the store. He used those baskets over and over again. They were

made out of spindles like that chair that I got, so then he would always have at the

very bottom, hidden, and he would say, let me see. Didn' 'you order something Ti mek

I think. I said yesh, V` U ''.1' 11 Yes, I believe I remember now, and somewhere

S;i ".'. :'would come, it was a little pretty bag, all twisted and he would

bring it over to me so I never forgot the beauty of giving something for nothing and

to all these people, (i7ive them something extra cause thy-buy something and the '

appreciate it You go to the grocery store, pizza for past

thirty years. Iv yet to have a And *I tell you

something else about it. Everytime that there(' something new like this, we

SI say this is a gift to you and your wife. And every time there'

something new, like and they-are very scarce. Best

business purchase a bunch. Here, for you and your wife. I have yet to receive from that

man the first penny of merchandise. Why are people that way, doctor? I don'taderstand


M: ___

G: I hope my V'__ has because tfe beautiful thing to give something

like that. Giving. The Bible says it. My church preaches-it. It is greater, what is

that word, it is greater tor-wP ?-To give than to receive?

?: More blessEd?

G: It is more blessed to give than to receive _Im)a believer in that, and if I

give more it's because I ont have more, but gosh, how I would enjoy giving more if

I could.

Ybor-Hills 42A
Page 46

M: And in conclusion, w'Egt in fifty years, what do you think Ybor City will be like?

G: I believe that a'lot of the space which is now Vacant which was previously occupied by

homes, will find a variety of businesses which will cater to the public in general,

not necessarily those in the immediate community. Just like for example, today I go and

buy at University Mall, so I believe people from Carroll wiard come to

Ybor City and buy things like has to offer or cacciatore. Merchandise that

is not easily available in all parts of the city. And Ybor City could begin to attract

products and merchandise that the public from far away places will be glad to make

use of, but I do-not believe it will ever be a residential community as in the past.

M: "What.-. in a sentence or two, what should Ybor City be remembered for?

You know, you, re'a historian. Capsulize it in a sentence. What was Ybor City about?

How would you explain to an outsider?

G: I believe the Ybor City community should be remembered for having proved those values

which were held up so religiously by the immigrants coming here, but not having been

-able to put them into play because of financial ability and when they came over

here to the new world, they were finally able to prove thatV bit of financial help

they could attain all of those values that they believed it. Number one, education and

a good livelihood.

M:! W-11, it has been most enjoyable, most enjoyable. You

G: 9've enjoyed it so, any cooperation I can give you in the future,

M: Ni gusto.

G: I'll look forward to seeing you again.

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