Interview with Barbara Gallo
Is Part Of
Broome County Oral History Project
Interview with: Barbara Gallo
Interviewed by: Dan O’Neil
Date of interview: 24 January 1978
Dan: OK, Barbara, will you relate to me the life and working experiences of your father and uncle from the time of their immigration to the retirement in the community?
Barbara: My uncle Nick Gallo came over here in 1889 at the age of 19 years and he landed in New York and stayed there for a few months and then went to Scranton, PA, where he went into the, ah, stone cutting business with Mr. Frank Carlucci, who did a lot of work like that, and ah, one of the buildings that they, ah, were contracted to build was the new, the Courthouse, which now stands, ah, since the old one was burned own and Uncle Nick was the foreman on the job and, ah, I'm not certain whether he did much of the cutting there, but ah, later on, ah, then, ah, my dad, who was also had the trade as a stonecutter, ah, worked on the Press Building. On the doorway, and also, ah, did the work on the lions’ heads that are way up almost to the top of the building there, and his pay at that in those days was around $7 a day, which was quite high, and Uncle Nick, ah, after, gave up the work of stonecutting and married, ah, my Aunt Gussie Arrigoni, who owned a small store in the Moon Block, which was across from the Arlington Hotel. Then in 1914 he started this bank which was chartered by the State of New York—it was more of a savings bank than a commercial bank, which we now know. Ah, it was primarily for Italian immigrants—they had, ah, great trust in my uncle and would ask him to hold their money for them, and so with this he formed this bank, and then I guess he had the bank for about 12 or 14 years, and in 1926 he retired to Italy and gave up most of his assets that he had here, with the idea of staying, remaining in Italy. Then he did return to, ah, the United States, into Binghamton—he was involved politically with, ah, Harvey Hinman and John Mangan, Chancellor of the State of New York at the time, and he did much in the way of getting people to, the Italian citizens here to get out and vote so they would exercise their American citizenship, and he was, ah, a member of the Elks Club at the time and also ah Knighted by the King of Italy in, after, ah, World War I for his, whatever help that he contributed at the time towards—what would you say?—a better world, anyway, and then, ah, in 1930 or something he retired again.
Dan: Did he do anything when he came back after—
Barbara: No, he remarried. He was retired—it was only, you know, politically, ah, involved.
Dan: Politically involved—in other words, in 1930 he just, ah, severed all relations entirely.
Barbara: With the business.
Barbara: But he did have, also, at the time that he had the bank, he did have a wholesale grocery and, ah, this steamship agency, which, when he did retire, turned the steamship agency over to my dad, Michael. Ah, Michael came here in the later 1800s, around 1896 or so, and he worked, as I say, on the Press building there, but then—
Dan: When did—he came directly from Italy to Binghamton?
Barbara: No, he went to Scranton also.
Dan: Oh, he went to Scranton and worked for the same contractor your uncle did?
Dan: Then the reason he came to Binghamton was the Press building job?
Barbara: Right, right, but because of the—he had to give that up because of, ah, physical, ah, ailments that he acquired through, I guess, ah, the dust from the stone there, I suppose.
Barhara: He then gave that up and, ah, returned to Italy for a matter of just probably a couple of years or so, and he came back here in 19, ah, 1915, I believe it was. He married my mother, Rose Arrigoni, and they together had this wholesale grocery, and after a few years he was able to, ah, put aside some money and built the building there on Fayette Street, and they moved their grocery store over to that building there and that’s where it remained for about 40-some years, and together with that he had this steamship agency and the money exchange, which was a great help to the Italian community at that time. Mother, although she was American born, was very fluent in the Italian language and, ah, was often used as an interpreter for a lot of these Italian people—especially like going to the doctor or for legal purposes. Many times she would go to the, ah, where they would get their citizenship and, ah, help them in that way and explaining things to them, and she was quite active in church too. Which, going back to my Uncle Nick, was instrumental in getting the Italian, ah, Church of St. Mary’s of the Assumption here, ’cause there was a need for it at the time, see, and this community was increasing and therefore they, ah, worked with some other Italian people and was able to get the church started here.
Dan: Now you mentioned, ah, Barbara, that your Uncle Nick married your Aunt Gussie—
Barbara: Arrigoni—there were two sisters married to two brothers.
Dan: That’s what I was going to ask you—two sisters married two brothers, and was Gussie a native of the United States, or was she born—
Barbara: She was, she was the only, ah, the only child that was born over there—all the rest of the Arrigonis.
Dan: Oh, she was born over there.
Barbara: Yes, but she came here like two years old or—
Dan: Oh, I see. They got married here, though?
Barbara: Yes, yes, they were married here.
Dan: And Rose was your, ah, was your mother—ah, she had her own store, her own business, is that right?
Barbara: No, no, my Aunt Gussie.
Dan: Oh, Gussie, Gussie had it.
Barbara: Gussie had a candy store—they made candies and things. That’s where I guess they used to see each other.
Dan: But she gave that up when—ah, did she retain that when your uncle had the bank?
Barbara: No, no.
Dan: She gave that up?
Barbara: Then they had a child.
Dan: I see.
Barbara: She was, you might say, more or less retired in that business there.
Dan: I see. So your dad, primarily, outside of the job he did on the Press building, did most of his—most of his time in the wholesale, in the retail—
Barbara: Eventually went into the retail business because he used to go around as a wholesaler, he used to supply, ah, some of the restaurants and even places out of town with Italian food.
Dan: Uh huh.
Barbara: Like macaroni, which were all imported, and he did have his own brand on the merchandise—tomatoes, macaroni, and oil—called Gallo brand, which represented the—the label was a rooster, which meant Gallo.
Dan: I see.
Barbara: And he used to have that for quite a few years.
Dan: And your dad retired at what age, Barbara? Or what year, do you know?
Barbara: He retired about the age of 82.
Dan: About 82.
Barbara: About 82, because he was sick for about 8 years. He was 90 when he died.
Dan: And how old was your uncle when he died, remember?
Barbara: My uncle was 83 and he died around 1954 in Italy—he retired, he was there when he died.
Dan: Oh, he went back to Italy then. Oh, then he died over there.
Barbara: Ah, in, after WWII, 1942 or 1943, when the war ended, his daughter, who had resided there in Naples, Italy, came back here and, ’cause they were on in years and, ah, ah, she was wanted her parents to be with her, and it was so logical for them to go there, so they gave up their home here and retired there, and the only—my aunt died the same year, I think.
Dan: Oh, is that right?
Barbara: Over there, and my uncle died the following year.
Dan: Oh so your Aunt Gussie is, ah, and your uncle are buried over in Italy. OK, now you say your dad worked on the, your uncle worked on the Courthouse as a foreman, and of course I guess they, prior to that they had a fire at the Courthouse.
Barbara: I believe it was sort of a wooden structure in the early times.
Dan: Something like that—I saw a picture of it in the Susquehanna this past week or so, and ah, I suppose it had to be restored.
Barbara: Like the columns and all are, see, are all stone, and they needed to be shaped. Things, I don't believe, in those days, were brought in already made.
Dan: No—true, true.
Barbara: ’Cause, ah, like I say, my dad always talked about the work on the Courthouse. ’Course he did other work, you know, in other places. This was one of his pride and joy, I guess, and ah, like grapes around the archway, and then up above are the lions’ heads, which are rather large and he had to do it up there from a solid piece of granite.
Barbara: And, ah, it was all done on scaffolding, which they had to put up.
Dan: So it’s all by hand.
Barbara: All by hand and chisel.
Barbara: It was their trade from Italy and their reason for coming here was just, ah—
Dan: How long did it take him to complete that archway on the Press building?
Barbara: It took him about four months to complete that archway on the Press building.
Dan: You don't know how long, as far as the lions’ heads—it probably took longer to do that.
Barbara: Oh, it was longer than that, because like you say, they, ah, just, they were, if you could see them, their fangs or whatever they had are real long, like the length of an arm.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, uh huh. Did he work on any other Kilmer property at all?
Barbara: I don't recall—-ah, this was just, you know, what they would tell us from time to time.
Dan: Uh huh. And your dad took over the steamship agency and the money exchange from your uncle after he retired, and the bank was just closed.
Barbara: The bank had to be dissolved.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, OK. Now the, in the building of St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption—ah, that, of course, was a National church, and your uncle was instrumental in getting that started.
Barbara: In getting that started.
Dan: As a fundraiser, or—
Barbara: As a fundraiser and in other ways, you know.
Dan: This is going back before your time, Barbara—you don't know who built the church, do you?
Barbara: You mean, you mean, ah, the architect?
Barbara: No, I don't off hand.
Dan: Yeah, Father Pelligrini was the first Pastor.
Barhara: The first Pastor, and remained so until 1951, I believe. He was the one and only man and the Italian community used to, ah, hear Mass with him as Pastor down in the basement of St. Mary’s on Court Street until our church was finished—completed—but there was, way back, we used to have what they call the August 15th celebration, which for St. Mary’s, which was a fundraising thing. It was known throughout the Southern Tier.
Dan: You mean the Bazaar?
Barbara: Well, it wasn’t really so much a bazaar as it is now.
Dan: It was the Feast of the Assumption.
Barbara: It was a feast, but it was called a Field Day.
Barbara: And it was done out and they used to have people from all over come, and fireworks and things, but it was primarily a fundraising to help complete the cost of the building.
Dan: Is there any occupation in particular that the, ah, Italians indulged in more than anything else? Did they have a particular trade that they brought over with them? I mean, in other words—
Barbara: You mean the Italians.
Dan: The Italian community, in other words.
Barbara: Most of them were contracting.
Barbara: Must have been the majority of them were contractors—that was what they knew best.
Dan: Yeah, it seemed to be that barbering was quite a popular trade too in Italy, because a lot of the barbers that I know and acquainted with have all been Italians.
Barbara: There were probably a lot of cities like, you know, they learned that trade, of course there’s a lot of roadways in Italy and they were good at it.
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Barbara: As a matter of fact, like, ah, Dad’s uncle and his dad were, ah, worked on the Amulfi Drive in Italy, which is famous now.
Dan: Where is that? Is that in Salerno?
Barbara: It runs along the, along the coast of Italy. Sorrento all the way down, I don't know exactly where it starts—it’s below Naples somewheres it starts.
Dan: I see.
Barbara: And it’s all along the mountainside.
Dan: I see, and you say it's famous, you say, for what particular reason?
Barbara: Because of the way it’s built.
Dan: Oh, I see.
Barbara: It’s sheer mountainside and there isn't much room for cars to go through, especially the present day cars. If there are two cars coming, one will have to back down.
Dan: In other words, it was built for a horse and buggy.
Barbara: Probably, but it overlooks the ocean—you can see that.
Dan: Now you spoke of an uncle—ah, how many brothers were there in the family?
Barbara: Now I'm not certain of it, I thought there, ah, I thought they said there was ten brothers.
Dan: Ten—large family—and were they all stonecutters?
Barbara: Now are you referring to my dad's family itself, or just uncles? They started, but the uncles, his uncles.
Dan: Oh, it started with his uncle, I see.
Barbara: And his father.
Dan: How many, how many worked on the roadway of the family, including not just brothers but also relatives of your uncle?
Barbara: That I don't know.
Barbara: That goes back quite a way.
Dan: But you say there was ten in your uncle’s family or your dad’s family.
Barbara: My dad's father had quite a few brothers.
Dan: Oh, I see, I see.
Barbara: But my dad's family, there was three brothers and five sisters, and they all came, all but one, one brother, immigrated to the United States.
Dan: Is that right?
Barbara: And one to South America.
Dan: Were they all stone masons, stonecutters? Did they all take up that same trade?
Barbara: That was a trade there.
Dan: Yeah, yeah. OK, well is there anything else that you can add, Barbara, looking over your notes, you might have overlooked?
Barbara: This is all, like I say, just what we can remember from their talking about it at times.
Dan: Now the bank was located where, ah?
Barbara: Ah, at 168 Henry Street.
Dan: 168 Henry, and ah, your dad's grocery store was on Fayette Street, right?
Barbara: At two different locations. The final one was where he remained for forty-some years.
Dan: In other words, the one that is standing now at 9 Fayette Street.
Barbara: I think for the, ah, they did quite well, considering, you know, ah, you might say the handicap at first, you know—the language—but my Uncle Nick, ah, spoke English well. They were both educated, I mean, they had as far as high school in Italy.
Dan: When your uncle was Knighted, that gave him a title?
Barbara: Gave him a title of Cavalier, which at that time was quite something to have.
Dan: Yeah, did you tell me what year that was he was Knighted, Barbara? I don't know whether I have that down here or not.
Barbara: It was after World War, World War One.
Barbara : Umhm.
Dan: So it was after 1918, 1919, yeah.
Barbara: They had quite a banquet there for him—some of the civic leaders there, which was nice, but Uncle Nick was a great help to the, ah, as I say, the Italian community.
Dan: Well that’s good, I mean when the immigrants came over, you know, and especially, you know, don't know the language, why it’s nice to have somebody they can fall back on.
Barbara: Dad, during the Depression, was a great help to people, because they were in need and many, many times he, ah, would let them, you know, run up bills because they just didn't have the funds.
Barbara: And people were very good—they trusted him and then they appreciated it, and ah, I have even people now that come, sometimes I meet them and they'll, you know, have a great fondness for my dad. Like I say, he helped them when they needed help, which is a sort of joy for me to hear that, you know, he is still remembered in that way.
Dan: Right, right.
Barbara: I think that was when he was 90, but I don’t know what else.
Dan: OK, Barbara, well I certainly appreciate your taking your time out to be interviewed. Would you like me to run it back for you?