My Memories of
my Immigrant Parents

by Theresa Pinamonti Zeigler
(see also The Immigration of Carlo Pinamonti and Carlotta Valentini)


n 1935, when I was a little girl around six years old I thought that my mama and papa were old fashioned, because they came from the "old country." Many of the things they did then, seemed very strange to me. I can remember a few times when a letter would come from Italy with a black border around the envelope and then after opening it, my mama would be crying. After that would come days and months of mama wearing black until a year was up as she would be mourning the death of a beloved brother. Another time I remember that we were not allowed to turn the radio on for a very long time after the death of another brother. This was very hard for us because the radio was new to our house and we really loved listening to programs such as I Love a Mystery and The Shadow. It was purchased by my oldest brother, Guido, who worked in the lima bean fields in the farming area surrounding the city of Inglewood, where we lived. We did not know mama's brothers, because they lived in the 'old country' but we knew what they looked like from the black and white photographs that mama treasured. My papa, Carlo Pinamonti, had come to the United States at the age of 15 from the village of Rallo in the Val di Non, Trento, in Northern Italy, with his parents in 1900. Mama came in 1920 and married papa a few months later. She had been corresponding with him for nine years after the death of his young wife, (at the age of 18) who was her sister, Josephine. Josephine died from blood poisoning after having an abscessed tooth extracted in a coal mining camp in Colorado.


was born on November 19, 1929, in Inglewood, California. I was the sixth child of Carlotta (Valentini) Pinamonti and Carlo Pinamonti. This was shortly after the dark days of the depression began. I attended St. John's Chrysostom Roman Catholic Church and School in Inglewood, California.  There are no photographs of me as a baby. I would presume that there was no money for this. first1.jpg (3505 byte)The first photograph of me was made when I received my First Communion. I made my First Communion when I was seven and I remember the first part of that day vividly. I was very excited and my older sister, Josephine, helped me to get dressed and brush my long dark hair which she curled every single night using rags. When I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth the faucets were covered with white cotton towels made from flour sacks, which were neatly tied. Mama said that I did not need to brush my teeth. I also noticed that the faucets for the bathtub were covered with the white towels. After I dressed in my beautiful white dress and veil with matching white shoes, I came out to the kitchen and saw that the kitchen faucets also had the same white towels covering them. When I turned to Mama to ask why, she said "see you have already forgotten that you cannot have a drink of water before you receive your First Communion." Yes, I had forgotten. You see back then, when the little children made their First Communion in the Catholic Church, we were not allowed to drink water or eat anything from midnight the night before. Mama told me that covering all the faucets in the house with white cloths (white was a sign of innocence) was a tradition that she remembered from her childhood, growing up in her small village of Rallo.



was very nervous and excited on this day and cannot recall anything else that happened. I do not even remember the snapshots being taken, but I am very happy to have them. I also have in my possession, the prayer book given to me as a gift, on my 'special day', by the Heberger family of Inglewood. first3.jpg (8793 byte) I cherish this prayer book and keep it in a special place in my china cabinet. I have discovered as I grow older that mama was not 'old fashioned' as I had thought when I was a little girl, but just wanted to remember and keep the traditions that she brought with her from her homeland. Mama taught us self discipline with her traditions. It was indeed hard for her not to listen to music on her radio and wear black for such a long time. As the years went by, mama no longer wore the black for a year and no longer denied herself the pleasure of listening to her favorite radio stations.

This tradition of covering the faucets with a white cloth is no longer used today, but the memories of those white towels have a special a place in my heart, as I remember Mama, and her recalling her childhood and the special religious traditions that she brought from her 'mother' country. Her faith in God and her Catholic religion will remain with me always.

Other photos

Theresa Maria (Pinamonti) Zeigler August 22, 1999





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