Life in Words
My Noni, Pauline (Palmira) Savio Osto was an immigrant to the United States from Borgoricco, Padua, Venice, Italy. She arrived in March of 1928, having just turned 16 years old. She came alone because her parents, who had had 2 sons in the United States since their own immigration, sent for her. The ship she arrived on was called the Conte Grande and it departed from the port of Genoa, Italy. She could not read or write (never did learn) and she arrived with $25. Which, I guess, back then was a fairly large sum (my guess is based on the rent that she and Primo paid for the house they were renting in 1940.)
I think it's interesting that the column next to nationality (Italian) is for "race or people" the Italians were divided into Northern and Southern Italian. As a child I didn't recognize what an important difference this was; I have Italian grandparents on both sides. However, on my mother's side, they are all Southern Italians from the Naples area and on my father's side, they are all Northern Italians from the Venice area.
A story I didn't know until I was nearly married was that Noni grew up thinking that her Aunt Virginia Borlini, was her mother. When they told her that her parents were sending for her to go to the United States, she hid in the barn for three days to try to avoid having to go. I wonder too about her parents.... Noni was born in March of 1913. Caterina Borlin Savio and her husband Riccardo Savio arrived in the United States in December 1913. This means that they abandoned their first-born at the age of 9 months. My Noni lived her early life thinking her aunt was her mother. Why would a couple leave their so very young child behind?
By the time of the 1930 Census, Noni was living with her parents, two brothers and a boarder in their home named Primo Osto. She was 17 years old and working as an operator in an asbestos plant. She could not read or write, nor did she speak much English.
I found another interesting story about her in Newspapers.com. Apparently, when she was 18 years old she had been sent to live with her Uncle Luigi Borlin. Unhappy with this, she convinced her cousin Lena Borlin to run away with her. Here are two newspaper articles that talk about the runaways. I love the line in the longer one that had these gems:
Pauline stated to the officer that she had been punished at home and it was because of resentment that she decided to leave.
She was rather handicapped however.... knows but little English, but is quite proficient in the Italian.
For those who knew her, can't you just imagine the flood of indignant Italian that must have flowed forth following being "caught" by the police.
Spirited and unconventional Noni's story gets more interesting when it comes to her children, but that's a story for another day. Noni married Primo Osto, the boarder in her family's home in New Jersey; he was also working as a dye operator in a local factory. He was 15 years older than she was.
By the 1940 Census they were renting a house of their own and had two children; my aunt Gloria and my Dad (Felio) He's listed on the Census as being named Lawrence. My Dad had many names, but that's also a story for another day. They lived in the house next door to Noni's parents.
Noni raised her three children primarily on her own; since Primo was much older than she was and was at some point injured at work. He left his family here in the US and returned to Italy and died in the mid 1970's.
Noni was an avid gardener and her gardens were everywhere around her house on Finderne Avenue in Bridgewater, New Jersey. One of the stories she told was that when she was pregnant with my Dad she helped her husband bring in stone for the foundations of the house. My uncle Leon still lives in that house.
Whenever we would go to visit, we always set up a table outdoors. In fact the only time I can remember eating indoors at my Noni's house was when we went there for Thanksgiving Dinner.