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  • The Bread Man
    Page 1 of 2

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    At one time or another, my entire family migrated from a little town in the mountains of Calabria called Alessandria del Carretto. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents and my father were all born in this town so that makes me a first generation American. Over the year's family members travelled to and from Alessandria to America, some stayed for a lifetime, others went back and forth, and some just couldn't adjust to America's way of life and decided there was no place like home.

    As was typical of many Italians back then, the husbands/dads would come to America on a work Visa because there was no work in their mountain village. They would stay here as long as their Visa would allow, return home for a short time, and then come back to America for more work. During the planning of one of the return trips to America, Uncle Ciccio's mom and dad, my great-grandparents, decided the whole family would make the trip to America and it was during this time that Uncle Ciccio was born, making him the first natural born American citizen in the Mitidieri1 family. When Uncle Ciccio was about three months old, his dad's Visa was going to expire so it was time to make the trip back to Calabria one more time. Once the family got back to Italy, for some reason unbeknownst to any of us, my bisnonna decided she and the kids were not going back to America.

    Bisnonno continued crossing the ocean. Years later, when it was time for Uncle Ciccio to start la scuola elementari, the people who ran the elementary school would only let Uncle Ciccio into school if he relinquished his American citizenship. As the story goes, bisnonna was not about to let that happen. Uncle Ciccio kept his American citizenship, but never went to school. Many more years later, at the age of about 15 or 16 Uncle Ciccio made the trip to America on his own in search of something more, something better than what he had in Alessandria. I can't imagine the courage it must have taken for a teenage boy to leave his family and all that he knew in search of his dream in a foreign country, but that's what Uncle Ciccio did.

    There was a family in the Chicago area that knew of my Uncle Ciccio's family and they became his sponsor, giving him a place to live and helping him adjust to this new world because even though Uncle Ciccio was born in America, he was considered a foreigner who didn't speak English, with no formal education or skills. Finding work was difficult so Uncle Ciccio would take any odd job offered to him and then the Depression hit the country, and the sponsor family could no longer afford one more mouth to feed in the house. Uncle Ciccio struck out once again on his own in hopes of making his dream come true.

    An acquaintance who owned a small store offered him a temporary place to sleep, lent him $25 dollars and taught him how to be an egg man. Basically, Uncle Ciccio took that first $25, bought eggs and went to the more affluent neighborhoods to sell the eggs at a profit. In time he was able to pay back the initial loan but it was at this time that he began to think of his future. He knew he needed a more stable job and started formulating a plan. Factory work was the most logical but he knew it could be backbreaking and dangerous. He needed something better, something fool proof. As I remember him, he loved being outdoors so maybe a milkman? But again as the story has been told to me, milk was heavy, perishable and one of the things people could learn to do without when times were tough, but not bread, who could possibly live without bread? So off he goes to the neighborhood bread bakery, Torino, and applies for a job as a bread delivery man – and gets the job, not only gets the job, but keeps the job for close to 35 years until it was time to retire at the age of 65.

    1In Italy, the name is still spelled Mitidieri. When most of the relatives came to America for some reason it was changed to Mitidiero, except for a rare few who decided to maintain Mitidieri.

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    Article Published 3/15/2012

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