It was more than 60 years ago — March 27, 1956 — and my family was waiting at the Port of Palermo in Sicily to board the SS Queen Fredericka. We were emigrating to America.
An official-looking man at the gate checked our papers — first those of my mother, then those of us five kids. He probably checked my papers last, since I had been crying nonstop on the train all the way from Altavilla Milicia.
My father, though, was held back, and they asked him what political affiliation he espoused. Never having had any political affiliation, my father thought about the only political person he knew — Angelo Caruso, our godfather, the godson of the King of Italy and a pioneer of Italian Eurocommunism — and answered, “Comunista.”
They took my father away immediately, telling my mother he could not go to America.
I cried for the next two days on the ship. When we arrived in New York seven days later, I asked my mother and grandmother every day when Papa would arrive in Chicago. I don’t remember any specific answers because they had none.
The separation and the crying lasted one year. In my family’s hometown of Altavilla, there were only three telephones in those days — at City Hall, the post office and, I believe, my godfather’s home. They had to run to the house of the person called and notify them to go to the post office for a call from America. Then the person in America would call you back. We did not call very often that year.
A fellow named Joe McCarthy, a Wisconsin senator who didn’t like people whose surnames ended in vowels, kept us from coming to America when we first petitioned to do so in 1949. It wasn’t until 1956 that Rep. Sydney Yates, a member of Congress who represented Chicago’s North Shore, managed to get our application approved.
Some would say that waiting seven years to come to America, and then crying for a year because you missed your father, was a small price to pay for Americanism.
Try it when no one can explain the “why” to you. Try it when you’re five.
Calogero Lombardo, Old Irving Park
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Pity the unappreciated rich
Yikes! A communications consultant for the Ricketts family is bent out of shape because the family is being criticized. He trots out the old trope of rags-to-riches-through-hard-work to stifle anyone who won’t cheerlead in unison for our betters. He then goes in for the crushing blow, of course, of telling us how much sports columnist Rick Telander’s house listed for.
The rich are so comical when we who are at the bottom of the ladder don’t take joy in their success.
Edward David Juillard, Morgan Park
Metra’s got me standing still
Metra now imposes a limit on ticket sales that applies only to its suburban Electric Line. Those of us who ride the line can no longer purchase 10-ride tickets or monthly tickets at the 15 stations outside the downtown stops. None of these 15 stations have live agents; only ticket machines. Metra says it is doing this because too many tickets have been purchased with stolen credit cards.
When I arrived at the Van Buren station 15 minutes before my train was scheduled to depart to buy a ticket for the month of July, every machine was “out of service” and only two live agents were available. The line was so long that I had to choose between missing my train or boarding without my new monthly pass. Not a single employee at the station or on the train was prepared to help.
If Metra is going to issue such a sweeping rule, it should be prepared on Day One to handle the change, making sure ticket machines work and there are extra employees on the days new monthly passes need to be purchased.
Iris D Shaffer, Flossmoor
A free press versus tyranny
President Donald Trump, who consistently seeks to demonize the media and press as the enemy within, was reluctant — it too him awhile — to lower the White House flags to half mast to honor the victims of a shooting at The Capital Gazette newspaper.
The press is our only hope against the tyranny of creeping fascism that this administration is perpetuating. As Noam Chomsky has stated: “Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism.” Without the corrective of a free and protected press, we will be at the mercy of a irrational racist demagogue whose whole agenda is to obscure the truth.
Edward David Juillard, Morgan Park