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Families

Ferrara Family

I visited Halifax Nova Scotia on July 15, 2003 where I spent an interesting morning touring and researching my arrival to Canada on the ship - Vulcania. We docked in Halifax on an overcast day on December 29, 1952.

This account is the story of Peppino, a nine-year-old boy emigrating to Canada from the town of Agnone, in the Molise region of Italy. He was travelling to Canada with his mother Argia Patriarca Ferrara and his eleven year old sister Filomena.

The voyage began on a snowy day in December with the cancellation of a bus trip. In its place a pickup truck owned by one of the town residents who had agreed to transport the family and Peppino’s uncle, Antonino Anniballe to Naples where they would begin their journey to Canada. Well wishes, farewells and tears were exchanged with close family members and friends. Shouts from a friend could be heard "you’re going to America, you’re going to be rich, send some money back". What filled him was the fear of the unknown and what the future would hold for him but also for the joy and hope of being reunited with his father.

The Vulcania, left Naples and sailed through the straits of Gibraltar, passed the coasts of Portugal, Spain and France and docked in England. After the stop in England the Vulcania endured the forces of Nature and proceeded to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Canada.

During the voyage, Peppino would pass the time by playing with his sister and other children, by regularly visiting the bar for an orange drink, with money he had found, probably lost by passengers who had land legs, a regular visit to peer into the mechanical room, to see and hear the powerful engines roar and also by looking through the porthole of the tiny bedroom to see the water splash on the window glass. On stormy days walking down the corridor to get to the dining room became a challenge. When the wave action was more turbulent fewer people attended the dining room until one day the attendance diminished to the point that Peppino found himself alone at their assigned table.

Finally calm seas and at a distance sighting land brought joy and relief to the passengers. He was glad too; soon he would be reunited with his father.

When the ship arrived at the port of Halifax, Peppino viewed a lot of commotion on the ship with the passengers and the dock with the unloading of the ship’s cargo. He could hear and see the unloading of trunks and baggage and worried that the trunks would fall and break open to reveal all that his mother had brought with them. They had brought tailored clothes, pots, pans, wool filled mattresses, bed coverings and of course some salamis, cheese and alcohol for the relatives of his father.

After some time, the passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship and enter the customs area for inspection of the trunks for contraband.

While waiting to board the train Peppino and Filomena walked along the dock at Pier 21 where they were approached by a portly man who said something they did not understand. They surmised the man was concerned for them because of their nearness to the deep water. More waiting and looking out the window of Pier 21, followed. Peppino viewed across the desolate area, which seemed a great distance from the long train waiting for passengers that would be transported to their destination and Peppino to his father.

The two-day trip to Windsor, Ontario included counting a lot of snowcapped trees and small houses decorated in coloured lights. He worried about this unfamiliar place that was America. Were there going to be friends there? A stop in Montreal reassured him when he saw the Cross-on the hill in the distance. This familiar sign made him feel a lot better. When he arrived in Windsor on New Year’s Eve he was excited to see his father, Francesco; this made him forget about the long trip and the family and friends left behind.

A week later he was registered in school and started in grade one. Peppino quickly learned the language and found many new friends. Later in the year there was an addition to the family, the birth of a new sister Loretta. At the age of thirteen he began to work part time at a bowling alley setting pins to earn money. He enjoyed and excelled in school.

Thinking back to the shouts from friends the success that Peppino achieved included a loving family, friends and retirement from an electrical utility managerial position where he was in charge of seventy employees. In his leisure time (the riches of this country) he volunteers in the community for the Italian Canadian HandiCAPABLE Association (www.icha.ca). The organization’s goal is to improve the quality of life for the mentally challenged in the Windsor, Essex County area.

He thanks this generous country Canada for this is a place where dreams can be realized and life can be enjoyed.