Concord Oral History Program.
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
My family was one of many Italian families that arrived in Concord with the 20th century. Others, including names like Curro, Denaro, Mazzeo and Sorrento, were to be found on Bedford Street and Old Bedford Road. They were from the same region in Italy called Faro Superiore Messina, and had been farmers there.
Within Concord there was a good combination of high and low land, with the high land particularly suitable for raising asparagus. Asparagus was such an important crop that the government set up an experimental station on the Charles Prescott land on Bedford Street to determine the cause and treatment of disease affecting the asparagus.
My father, Frank, arrived in Concord in 1923, with my mother, Grace, and a sister still in Italy. Like many other Italian farmers he worked for other established farmers in the area like Dee and Prescott, to bring the rest of the family over from Italy. After a time he was able to rent the land and finally buy the land.
During the depression my father was able to supplement his income from farming with masonry work. From owning his home and three acres of land on Old Bedford Road at the time of World War II, he eventually increased his holdings to 35 acres, 15 acres of which was cultivatable and the rest woodland. The woodland was sold in the early 1960's for house lots and is now the Monsen Road area.
All plowing and cultivating was done in the early days by horse, either owned or rented. Eventually the Italian farmers were able to raise sufficient produce of vegetables and fruit, and began setting up stands by the roadside. The lines of customers' cars by these stands extended along Bedford Street and Old Bedford Road. During the autumn days, especially, the stands were very colorful.
The Italian farm families of Bedford Street were a close knit community and made their own entertainment based on their Italian traditions. It was common for four or five families to visit with one another. The week before Good Friday was a time for dressing in costumes and visiting friends. With few cars then the families could easily walk to one another's homes in winter and would often stay until midnight.
Before World War II and into the 1950's there was an active partnership between the small farmer and the federal government through cost-sharing. Any practice of the farmer to improve his land such as liming and cover-cropping was cost-shared with the government, at rates anywhere from 30 to 60%. Taxes also were not as high as today.
In the early 1960's things began to change. There was less cost-sharing and an increased demand for houses which resulted in a number of smaller farmers selling their farms to house lots.
While my mother and sister were able to join my father in America in 1929, my passage was blocked within the bureaucracy of Benito Mussolini's government. The official reason given was that I had failed the physical because of eye problems. Yet my grandparents were never told what my illness was nor how they could treat my eyes.
It was a standard procedure for area representatives to congratulate their constituents who had become citizens and my father received such a letter from Congresswoman Edith Rogers with the closing paragraph that she would be available if he needed anything. My father explained about my passage being held up and Congresswoman Rogers intervened by contacting the American Consulate in Italy. Through her intervention my eyes were miraculously cured.