Sunday, September 09, 2012

Growing Up "Italian"

I was born at the White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles in 1945.  I grew up in the Bandini Barrio of East Los Angeles.  My father always told my brothers and I that we were "Italians."
My Grandmother Garofalo spoke Italian with her friends and her family of her generation, and sometimes with my father; but spoke only in somewhat limited English with my brothers and I. My fraternal grandparents came to American in 1905 from Sicily. 
My mother was of German ancestry, and was born and raised in Ohio.  However, we were never told that we were "Germans."  Being "German" in America was not popular from 1935 -1970 because of Nazism. 
We were educated in Catholic Schools, celebrated holidays and events "Italian" style, and had strong ties with the "family." Expectations for our behavior was definitely influenced by Italian Catholicism and American values. Being a third-generation "Italian," removed me from many of the "Italian" cultural habits, and we spoke only English at home. 
My father was a conservative and voted Republican, and my mother was a quiet Democrat.  Attitudes of male chauvinism and some racism were not uncommon in our home.
A friend of mine, Yolanda Batistelli, from Los Angeles, recommended I watch the slide show by John Fusco presented below.  I watched as some of the lifestyle and history or our family unfolded before me, and let out a few tears in the process since all of the Familia before me has passed on.   
I think of myself now as a Californian, an American, and of German-Italian heritage.  I have lived in California for 63 years, except for the four years I was serving in the enlisted ranks of the United States Air Force from 1969-1973. 

One does not need to have "Grown up Italian" to relate to and appreciate the substance of this video about the four generations of families living and thriving in America from 1900 to 2000.  It is a universal message of hope, pride, change, Americans, workers, abundance, sharing, and families.  Enjoy!



  1. Thanks Mike. The post and video were a real pleasure and brought many fond childhood memories. The block I grew up on was very similar. Although we are not Italian, most of the neighbors were relatives from the dust bowl. There were similar get togethers and attitudes..and joy and fun.

  2. Karen and I lived in Bell Gardens for over 10 years. It was another poor neighborhood with Dust Bowl migrants and Hispanics. The vast majority were decent and hard working people. The post World War II boom in California and its suburbanization changed life for us all. We now live in a rural area of Northern California - kind of like what Los Angeles County was like in 1950. "La Familia" is still important to most folks.