Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Gallo Myth

The mystery of my mothers surname was never truly solved and I guess it never will be. A long time ago her grandfather had changed his surname from DePetling to Gallo for reasons still debated within my family. The story of my great grandfather began in the city of Trieste during the turn of the last century. The DePetlings were a wealthy family and owned one of the largest slaughterhouses in all of Tuscany. They were known among the people as the family of giants. All the DePetling men were extremely tall and very powerful, all except just one, my great grandfather. Perhaps that’s the reason why at the tender age of 14 he decided to stow away on a ship destined to America. Through the years some family members speculated otherwise and thought that he might have gotten a girl pregnant and was fleeing from the responsibility of fatherhood. Others went further to say perhaps he even killed a man and was escaping the authorities. The truth he took all the way to the grave.

But some facts remained; he was a very young man on board a ship filled with many other Italian immigrants in search of a new beginning. Because of his good education and likeability he ingratiated himself with the crew and they secretly made him a cabin boy. When the smoke-stacked skyline of New York City finally came into view all the immigrants aboard grew very excited and eager to set foot on the famed Ellis Island. But not my great grandfather, instead an immediate sense of dread and anxiety fell over him. Despite knowing several languages, he did not speak English and lacked the proper documents necessary to enter the country. As the ship entered Hudson Bay his fear of returning to Italy over took him and rather then take his chances with the authorities he took his chances with the elements. He dove off the side of the massive ship and swam to the shores of Manhattan. Years past and he learned English, struggled and worked hard until eventually he intertwined himself into the fabric of America. They say he didn’t change his name to Gallo until he heard that some of his brothers had traveled to America in search for him. His family never found him and life carried on.

In the end my mother and whole family all have very fond memories of him. He was a happy and spirited man. All the way into his old age he worked at the lavish restaurant inside the famed Statler Hilton Hotel as head maitre de. He wore a tuxedo everyday and was well known among the stars of the 30’s and 40’s. In fact he was often found carousing with Caruso (the illustrious opera singer) until the early morning hours, but that is another story entirely.

Friday, March 6, 2009