Carlo Pinamonti and Carlotta Valentini
Theresa Pinamonti Zeigler
(see also My Memories of my Immigrant Parents)
arlo Pinamonti, my papa, was born in Rallo, January 9, 1885. At that time, Rallo was still under Austrian control, and did not become part of Italy until the end of World War I. This fact helped emigrants to the United States since they avoided much of the discrimination encountered by Italian emigrants.
The Pinamonti family is well known in Rallo. Carlo's grandfather, also Carlo Pinamonti, and his grandfather's brother don Giuseppe Pinamonti (a priest) promoted the building of roads and bridges in their area. At this time Carlo was the mayor of Rallo. Don Giuseppe designed, and with the help of his brother, built an aqueduct in 1852 to bring water from Lago de Tovel to the Val di Non.There was much opposition to this aqueduct, especially from those who had rights to control the water supply to certain of the Val di Non villages. These persons did not want to lose their rights to the water and source of income. The Pinamonti brothers were also known for their diverse literary works in dialect (Nonesi) and the Italian language. In 1952 a stone tablet honoring the brothers was placed on the Pinamonti house in Rallo. These two brothers are remembered in posterity for their courage and foresight in bringing the water to the Val di Non for agricultural purposes. Their efforts were partly responsible for the abundant apple orchards and other crops now found in Val di Non.
arlo, my papa, came to the United States in 1900 at the age of 15 with his mother, (my grandmother) Carolina (Odorizzi) Pinamonti and his sister Josephine and a brother Abelardo. Carlo's father, Battista (John) Pinamonti, (my grandfather) had come to the US, in 1895 to work in the coal mines of Colorado. He sent for his wife and family five years later. They all came through Ellis Island and New York and on to Trinidad, Colorado by train. From Trinidad, they traveled to Fremont County, Colorado. Coal was first mined in Fremont County, Colorado in 1860, when out-croppings were first discovered in what later became the town of Coal Creek. Until 1927, the camps were booming and the county was prospering and the neighboring towns of Florence and Canon City flourished. The mining camps closed in 1929. The first miners in Fremont County were the Scotch, Welsh and the Irish who had worked in the mines of the British Isles and knew their craft well since they started working in the pits as young as five years of age. The later miners recruited from Italy, Greece, Poland and Mexico were called "Greenies". Most of the Greenies were farmers in their homeland, and were recruited because they were strong and healthy and able to work the long difficult hours.
Each ethnic group looked down on the latest arrivals with scorn because of their inexperience. The coal companies encouraged this racism as they could thus pit one group against the other. Since there were no labor unions existing at the mines, the latest recruits usually could be paid a smaller wage, thus causing older miners to lose their jobs. Miners generally lived in wretched camps alongside the coal mines. The coal camps in Fremont County were never as bad as the 'closed camps' in the southern part of Colorado around Walsenburg, where everything was "company owned". However, conditions in the actual mines were bad. The men worked 10 to 12 hour shifts during the winter, and in the summer months the mines were closed, the men and their families lived on vegetables from their gardens and fish from the Arkansas River as their staple. Their annual pay was $350 to $500 per year.
In the early 1920's, the various ethnic groups had forgotten their differences and there was harmony amongst the miners, but by 1921 the Ku Klux Klan, Inc. came to Colorado and extended their influence throughout the state. The governor of Colorado during this time was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Especially hated were the Jews, Negroes and Catholics. Miners who had been friends for years became distrustful of each other. Some no longer spoke to old friends. Workers applying for jobs had their applications thrown out if their name was not Anglo-Saxon. People changed the spelling of their names to have those names more 'Americanized' even though some of them were second or third generations Americans. The Catholic church in Rockvale (6 miles from Radiant) had it's windows broken and the inside was desecrated. Crosses were burned at night on a hill, facing the Catholic Church in Rockvale. A parade was held in Canon City with 10,000 Klansmen wearing hoods and carrying flaming torches striking fear in most of the miners. The power of the Klan was finally broken as the years passed and by the end of World War II much of the bitterness that had been engendered by the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado was erased.*
arlo and his father worked in the mines for several years. They learned how to do shoring in the Radiant, Colorado coal mines. Life was harsh and they saved their money and eventually opened a saloon in Radiant. The family had a small home in Radiant and also had a small 'ranch' up in the hills away from the coal mining camp and retreated there every summer when the mines were idle. They had a small rock dwelling (house), a still house, outhouse, barn and horses. They used horses and buggies to go to town. One story told to me by a cousin, Angelica (Pinamonti) Kimpton, was that when she was a young teen and she was riding in a horse and buggy with Carlo, from the 'ranch' to the mining camp. Carlo stopped the buggy along the way to let Angelica get out to pick up an empty bucket (the buckets were used to deliver beer) by the side of the dirt road and when she reached down she heard a loud gunshot. She was startled and did not move. She looked close to her hand and saw a dead rattlesnake! She was very thankful that he was a very good marksman. Carlo was well liked by all his cousins and friends and was a very gentle, easy going handsome young man. He was always ready to help those in need.
In 1911, Carlo married Josephina Valentini, a pretty young woman of 17. They were only married around a year when she had to have a tooth extracted and died shortly thereafter of blood poisoning. Carlo did not marry again until 9 years later.
In 1920, early in the year, my mama Carlotta, sister of Carlo's first wife, Josephine came to America.
She was born in Rallo, Austria, on September 8, 1894. Carlotta was only five years old when Carlo left Rallo. She was a very intelligent pretty young woman. She traveled to the United States all alone, 3rd class (also known as "steerage") which meant that the passengers were generally crammed together in large uncomfortable compartments deep within the ship. The weather was rough at this time of the year and I recall her telling me that before she left Rallo, she and her family had prepared enough food to last for the whole trip. She also told me that many of the passengers became seasick and that the smell of people and vomit was terrible. This must have been quite a trip! She was adventurous and brave to have taken this voyage all alone to go to a new country and possibly marry a man she did not know. We, the children of Carlotta do not know whether the marriage was an arranged marriage. Some of us believe that she was a romanticist and thought she was in love with Carlo possibly from seeing his photograph. Carlotta arrived at Ellis Island, processed through the (to her eyes) maze of questions and examinations, and passed through to go on to New York. She was at the train station trying to find the correct train to Trinidad, Colorado when a man dressed in a uniform came and tried to take her suitcases. She thought that he was trying to steal them from her. It was finally made clear to her that this was the porter for the train and he was only trying to help her get her luggage aboard the train. She was met at the station in Trinidad, Colorado by Carlo and his parents and her sister, Amalia and many other relatives. In May of this same year (1920), Carlotta Valentini married Carlo Pinamonti, in the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Trinidad, Colorado.
The grocery store owned by Carlo Pinamonti in Inglewood, California
arlo and Carlotta, a petite young woman, had their firstborn son, Guido, on April 5, 1921 in Pyrolite also known as Radiant and Kentwood at various times. Guido was a very large baby and in mama's own words from her diary "molto bello grande." Three doctors were called in from nearby towns to help with the difficult delivery. She was in labor for three days. She also noted in her diary that her father had traveled from Italy to take care of financial affairs upon the death of a relative and was with her for the birth of her first child. Her mother had died in childbirth when she was only ten. On September 16, 1922, a baby girl was born in Pyrolite to Carlotta and Carlo and they named her Mary Josephine. She is described in Carlotta's diary as a good "buono" and pretty baby. We have always called her "Josie." On June 5, 1924, another boy was born to Carlotta and Carlo and he was named John. John was born in the town of Florence, Colorado and was a good sized baby. In her diary, Carlotta notes she was sick "molto amalata" after this birth.
Guido, Carlo and Carlotta's oldest son has a wonderful memory. He has a pleasant memory of a special time when, "I was 3 or 4 years old and my grandpa (Battista or John) came from Florence to get me and we rode in his 'buckboard' which was like a pickup truck. A seat up front and a trunk like a bed to haul hay and when Nono stopped to let the horses drink in a small stream, there were Finches (birds) chirping in the pinon trees and that was all that broke the quiet. Being with my nono evoked most pleasant feelings." Guido also has a vague memory of getting into trouble with his cousin Fred Dalpiaz when they were sleeping in a bunk house full of cobwebs and spiders and somehow they started a fire and the horses had to be turned out of the barn.
Life was very different in the coal mining camp in the desolate area of Colorado for Carlotta and she wanted to move to California as some friends of theirs did a short time before. Carlo agreed, although he hated to leave his parents and the life they had in that region. They both decided that there was a much greater chance for a better life in the growing economy and population of California.
They packed up and left in 1925, in a 1924 Buick touring sedan. Since there were no motels or hotels on this long approximately 1,100 mile trip, Carlo had three boards that he placed over the top of the seats, unrolled a mattress on the boards and Carlotta and baby John slept there and Guido (4) and Josephine (3) slept under the mattress on the front seat. They stopped to visit Zia Amalia (Valentini) and her husband Davida Michaeli and their family in Aguilar, Colorado and Guido recalls being very intrigued with his cousin Katie's doll house and furniture that was made of cardboard cut from butter cartons. They made the trip with the Pico family who were very close friends and camped along the way and Carlotta would wash the children's clothes and diapers in the nearby rivers and streams and hung them to dry on tree limbs. They cooked over an open fire and Guido remembers that at one stop, while they were 'camping' little Josie's comb fell into their camp fire and melted and that the smell lasted for a long time. It was a very difficult trip with the distance and the small children but they finally made it to California! They arrived in Los Angeles, California and they rented a house next door to the Migliazzo family who had arrived from Colorado just before them.
rriving in Los Angeles, California they rented a house next door to the Migliazzo family who were very good friends, and who had arrived from Colorado just before them. Albert Anthony was born on May 24, 1926. Albert was a very large baby. It was another difficult birth, and again Carlotta's words from her diary say "molto amalata". Carlotta had help afterwards from a Mrs. Coradini who came to stay for several days to help with the children and the new baby..
By 1927, Carlo and Carlotta decided to move to the suburbs of Los Angeles. They moved to the city of Inglewood and there on October 18, 1928, another son was born. He was named Carl Roy (Rosario). Carl, in mama's words, was a small pretty baby "picolo bello."
On November 19, 1929, I was born in the same house as my brother Carl. My mama said of me that I was nice and small "carina picola" and named me Teresina Maria. Theresa Maria.
According to my oldest brother Guido, Inglewood was a very nice city then and Carlo with a partner, John, was able to open a small produce store there in 1927, they did well and eventually they opened a larger grocery store next door. There was another grocery store in uptown Inglewood and the owners, Miller and Baine offered to buy them out.
Carlo and John accepted the offer. The agreement was that they would receive part in cash and the rest in payments. Carlo's partner wanted the cash, so Carlo accepted the papers for payments each month. Carlo and Carlotta had saved some money and he started another grocery store in Inglewood. In 1929 when the Great Depression hit the United States, Miller and Baine went out of business and could not pay the payments to Carlo. Although this was a great loss, Carlo's new grocery store was doing well, but many people were out of work and asked to buy the groceries on credit Due to his kind and sympathetic nature, Carlo let families have groceries without paying and this caused him to lose his new store. Carlo then did many different kinds of work. At one time he bought a truck and built a top on the back of it with wood, and lined it with sheet metal and laid down sawdust and sold fish from this truck. He had a special 'fish horn' and drove around to all the neighborhoods selling the fish that he bought at the fish market in downtown Los Angeles. Then Carlo went into a partnership with a friend, (Mr. Mills) and they trimmed palm trees and did lawn service work. He did this until he bought a large stake truck and would drive out into the Antelope Valley, in the Mojave Desert out of Los Angeles, which at that time was around a 3-4 hour drive. He would then buy alfalfa and bring it back and sell it to farmers in nearby towns. Guido, although just a little boy went with him to help with the work of loading the alfalfa onto the truck. Carlo was also interested in gold mining and he and two partners, filed a claim on a gold mine in another desert area called Victorville. He really enjoyed going there. There was a small wooden building and I remember going there with him for a day or two. I was never allowed to go near the mine shaft though as papa thought it was dangerous. After many years of trying to mine gold, the three partners let the claim lapse. A strange ending to this story is that about forty (40) years later, my husband's step-brother, Donald Zeigler laid claim to the same mine. He found out about the earlier claim when he went to the records office in the area to record his claim, and saw the name Carlo Pinamonti on it!
uring the depression years there were many families that were suffering and even with the men finding odd jobs, they needed extra help. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration was established in May of 1933. FERA, gave out food and clothing and in some instances some small amounts of money to help those people with small incomes and large families. FERA made 500 million dollars available to the states for quick relief. FERA matched $1.00 for each $3.00 to the states with their own relief programs. California started their program called the California State Relief Administration in 1934 Flour, rice and other staples were made available to the families in need and in California boxes of oranges were also given to the poor.
Eventually, Carlo went to work for the Works Progress Administration commonly called the WPA. The program was started in 1936 as there were as many as one out of four Americans could not find jobs, the Federal Government of the United States stepped in to become the employer of last resort. The 'New Deal' program put 8,500,000 jobless men to work and called it the Works Progress Administration or WPA. The work was mostly for projects requiring manual labor and the men built countless bridges, highways, buildings and parks from New York to California.
Carlo was in the WPA program and this sustained our family until he was able to get a job at Douglas Aircraft in El Segundo in 1940. He worked at Douglas until 1953. He died one year later on October 14, 1954.
Carlotta continued to live in her own home after the death of Carlo until the devastating death of her son John on April 26, 1959, at the age of 34. John left four (4) small girls. John died of heart disease. Carlotta then went to live with each of her children for a time and then came to live with my husband Arthur and me. She lived exactly three (3) months to the day after the death of her son John. She died on July 26, 1959 of heart disease.
The children of Carlo and Carlotta all live in California now with the exception of the oldest son, Guido and he lives in Oregon.
*I want to acknowledge at this time that the information in this part of my story, about the coal mining conditions and the influence of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado was taken from the book,King Coal by Antoinette V. Cresto
I would like to give special thanks to Sal Romano, of New York for information and translations. He also gave me much help and advice.
I must also give many thanks to my eldest brother, Dr. Guido Pinamonti, who with his wonderful memory was able to assist me in my endeavor to write this story.
To my neighbor Frank Fabris, I must also give thanks for some translations from my mama's (Carlotta) diary.
Theresa Maria (Pinamonti) Zeigler January 14, 1999