Stories of the Italian American experience.
"Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are, or why we're here." — Sue Monk Kidd
Day Old Donuts
Welcome to Figs and Famiglia, podcast that shares stories of the Italian American experience. My name is Tonya Russo Hamilton and I’m continuing the series in which I interview my father, Antonio Russo about his journey from southern Italy to the US as a young boy. In our previous episode he had just reunited with his biological family in Brooklyn, NY after four years being separated. And during those four years he had built a new life with his aunt and uncle in Portland, Oregon. He made a vow that he’d bring his two families together, and unbelievably so, at the age of 14 he did just that. He convinced his dad to take a train all the way from Brooklyn, NY to Portland, OR and in this episode they have finally arrived. This chapter in the book is titled Day Old Donuts, stay tuned at the end to find out the meaning behind the title.
The Train Ride
Welcome to Figs and Famiglia, a podcast that shares stories of the Italian American experience. My name is Tonya Russo Hamilton, and today we are continuing our series in which we are delving into the story of Antonio Russo and his journey from Naples, Italy as a young boy in 1951. In this episode we will hear chapter ten from his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil; A story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' At this point in the story Tony is fourteen years old and he had just been reunited with his biological family in Brooklyn NY. By now he had gotten a taste of life in Portland, Oregon and to him it was similar to his life in Italy and he had also formed a strong bond with the family who had taken care of him during the time he was separated from his biological family —his Uncle Tony and Aunt Gladys, and baby cousin, Joey. Upon reuniting with his family Tony had a mission to convince them to move to Portland and he did accomplish this mission. And he wondered if he had gotten more than he bargained for as he found himself leading a caravan with his dad and uncle across the country. This chapter is appropriately titled, The Train Ride. So, With a suitcase in hand filled with provolone cheese, bread, and wine Tony makes yet another trip across the country.
The Power of Persuasion
Welcome to Figs and Famiglia, a podcast that shares stories of the Italian American experience. My name is Tonya Russo Hamilton and for this first series of episodes, I’ve been interviewing my father, Antonio Russo about his journey from Naples, Italy to the U.S. by himself as a ten year old boy. In this episode, Tony is finally reunited with his biological family. It had been 4 years since he’d seen them last and he was anxious about what was awaiting him at their reunion. His life had finally settled into a rhythm in Portland, with his aunt, uncle, and baby cousin and now he was being sent away yet again. He landed in New York, now a teen, not the young boy he was the first time around, and the memories came flooding back. But as emotional and wonderful as the reunion was, Tony held fast to the promise that he had made to his aunt the day he left Portland. He told her, he’d be back, and he stayed true to his word, and set a plan in motion to convince his parents to make yet another journey and move across the U.S. from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon.
Young Tony had said goodbye to his family in the Bay of Naples as a ten year old boy in 1951. It was now 1955 and Tony was becoming a young man. He had just graduated from the 8th grade and had started to become acclimated to school and to life in Portland. Especially with the love and support of his aunt and uncle and baby cousin who had essentially become his new family.
His biological family had finally arrived from Naples and had decided to establish a home in Brooklyn. Tony knew he had to go to NY to be with them but It was painful to leave his Portland family behind. He made a pact with himself that he would somehow bring his two families together.
As nervous as he was to see them again, upon arriving back in New York and seeing his parents and brother and sister Tony was overcome with emotion. There they were, standing in a row, waving hello, just as they had waved goodbye from the Bay of Naples 4 years earlier.
Surgeries, Lassie, & Gorgeous George
In episode 7, we are talking once again with Antonio Russo about his journey by himself as a child, from Naples Italy, to Portland, Oregon. In this episode young Tony is riddled with medical concerns and luckily there is a doctor who is a friend of a neighbor, that is willing to operate on him. Although I’m not sure how lucky Tony thought he was. During this time as well the TV is introduced on the west coast and Tony takes a liking to two vastly different shows; Professional Wrestling, & Lassie. Tune in to hear Tony Read chapter 7 from his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil, a Story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame. And then stay tuned for an interview with Tony after the reading. You’re going to want to hear all about the Lassie pup naming contest that he entered! Enjoy!
Finding My Way
In this episode Tony Russo will read chapter 6 from his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, & Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' He's still struggling in school but finds that he enjoys physical education and the games at recess. But because he still hasn't learned the English language and hasn't caught up academically, he ends up in some serious physical altercations that take him to the principal's office. In chapter 6, there is also a new member of the family -Baby Joey. Joey is born in 1953 and life in Portland is getting exciting. Be sure to stay tuned after the reading as we have Joe Casorio, aka Baby Joey joining us for a conversation all the way from New Jersey!
I have an autographed copy of the book of coach Russo’s life. I was fortunate to spend a year in Italy a few years ago and his story means so much more from that experience especially driving around Naples and seeing the Russo name in the front of the houses and buildings. Coach Russo was the only voice I could hear when I was in the mat for the few years wrestling in high school. What a significant influence on many a young persons life.