Even though this blog is mostly about my Puritan ancestors, who came over in the 1600s from England, every once in a while I think about the Italian side of my heritage. And this morning I was pondering how strange it is for the large community of Vietnamese people to be living in Minnesota, and then I wondered how in the world Italians got there. My grandfather, to be specific.
My grandfather, Lorenzo Scinto, was born in Italy and came to America as a small boy. He did the usual thing of going through Ellis Island, and the family settled in Chicago. And I'm guessing the spaghetti and pizza were wonderful in their Italian neighborhood. And then it gets strange.
As a young man, Lorenzo went to be a lumberjack in northern Michigan. I like to think of him, a handsome and rugged man who towered over just about no one, because he was 5' 3". But he must have been tough. I suppose that there were men from all over the world there, but somehow picturing my grandfather with all of the big Germans and Swedes is just hard for me to do. But he was there. And from there it was a short step to the iron mines.
|Grade school diploma for my grandfather Lorenzo Scinto. It was the highest education the family had ever achieved.|
My grandfather started working in the Iron Mines of Michigan. He must have been a pretty smart guy, because although he only had a grade school education, he became an engineer. And when he moved to the Iron Mines of Minnesota (the Mesabi range) he was well paid. He bought a house, always had new cars. He went by the name of John (actually Jack) and although I never met him, I'm told that he spoke perfect English, and of course Italian.
When his daughter (my mom) was in High School she met my dad (that's the other side of the family, of course) and after my dad got his Business Degree they moved down to the Twin Cities, spending some time in Mankato, and ultimately settling down in Minneapolis, where my dad worked for the Ford Motor Company for thirty years.
My last name is Hall, and even people who knew my mom's maiden name had no idea that Scinto was Italian. My brothers and I just look like ordinary white guys, and it surprises people that we have so much Italian blood. I fought against my "five o'clock" shadow for years, and my younger brother embraced that look, which became popular in the 1980s. Before that only gangsters walked around with stubble on their face.
Ultimately, I don't feel very Italian, except maybe that I love pasta and I can't imagine living anywhere that snows. My grandfather was very young when he left southern Italy, so he probably didn't remember the warm breezes. But I think there's a memory of Italy deep in my blood.
Image at the top of this post: My grandfather Lorenzo (Jack) Scinto, and a dog, Michigan, USA, 1915