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Families

Tino Masecchia
September 1965

The Trip

It was on the 24th of September 1965, the day I turned 10 years old that we left San Vittore del Lazio, a small town some 150 km south of Rome. We left our aunt’s house very early in the morning to go to Naples where the ship Queen Frederica would take the family to Halifax. I remember looking out at the water mill just on the outskirt of the town from my uncle’s car and thinking "will I ever see this again?" My parents were in their early forties. I was the fourth of five children aged 2 to 18. The trip was long but exciting, looking back, the 8 days on the sea was a vacation the family ever took together but we did not realize it then. I felt the air getting colder as we approached the shores of Nova Scotia. We arrived at Pier 21 on the 3rd of October on my parents’ 20th wedding anniversary. All we had was the clothes we packed, a few knickknacks from the old house, a borrowed $10 in my father pocket and lots of hope.

My uncle had rented an old upper duplex on the corner of Park Avenue and Cremazie, the only residential house in the middle of an industrial neighbourhood. Everything looked so vast and tidy but the loud noise from the traffic on the Metropolitan Boulevard and the train from across the street kept on reminding us that we were far, very far from the tiny town tucked in the Appenini Mountains. My father and my older brother and sister soon found jobs in the nearby factories. I started school the very next day. Back in 4th grade which I had finish that summer in Italy. My aunt decided it was best for me to learn both languages so I was put in a bilingual class. The first weeks were spent mainly guessing which was French and which was English. Needless to say it was very discouraging but most of all depressing as winter was coming and I terribly missed my friends back home.

Remembering back those first weeks in Montreal, there are things that are engraved in my mind, the warm house, you see although the weather was warm in Italy, winters could be quite damp in a concrete house with no heating, so going to bed at night in warm sheets was great. Toasts was another novelty, I did not like the sliced bread at all as the dough always stuck on my palate but once toasted with marmalade it was much better. Shopping once a week instead of getting things as needed was great. I use to love to go with my mother at Steinberg’s and coming back with 6 or 7 bags and seeing a full fridge. It almost looked like a mini convenience store. $30 would feed the family for the week in those days. At times on a Sunday afternoon I would get permission from my parents and fifty cents to go and watch an Italian movie at Cinema Riviera on St Laurent Boulevard, now turned into a strip club. In mid-November we had the first major snow storm, the biggest ever seen in my life, we must have got over a foot of white stuff. In Italy we would have stayed home for at least 3 days but here it was school as usual with no big fuss about it. School was boring as I was quite by myself with not many people I could speak to. I dreamed a lot about San Vittore, my friends, and soccer games in the piazza and lazy afternoons by the stream. I terribly missed my friends back home.

After what seemed an eternity the warm weather finally arrived. School was over and I failed 4th grade. Imagine starting the same damn class for the third time. The only difference was that the first time it was in Italian the second English and French and the third in French. I decided that two languages to learn at the same time were too hard, so for the third time around I chose French only.

I remember the humidity was unbearable at times in the hot days of July. At home my mother kept her Italian routine, from 6:30 to 7:00 it was our family time as we all sat in front of a beautiful cooked meal using as many Italian ingredients as she could, which were easy to find at the local supermarket. Still the days were long and boring and it wasn’t getting any easier for me.

Later as I started to learn the languages things started to improve, at least now I could enjoy the new episodes of Batman on TV. It got even better in the later years of my teenage era and especially when I stared to date girls in High School.

I met my future wife Ann on October 24, 1975, just 6 months after she arrived from Ireland, a beautiful tall shy girl with green eyes. On September 24, 1977 on the day of my 22nd birthday we were married. Our three beautiful boys have a good blend of Italian and Irish looks. [They are] proud Canadians, with their roots solidly in their hearts. Today I travel constantly throughout our country as a Vice President for the leading fund manager in Canada and every time I come back to Montreal. I say this is the best city I know, this is home, or is it?