The Caves of San Pietro is fiction – but its roots lie in the very real lives of very real people who lived through the experiences of those turbulent and sometimes terrible times. From the months leading up to America’s entry into World War II until VE Day, to be first-generation German or Italian meant one was subjected to suspicion, derision, or even violence.
The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 was devastating in densely populated places like New York City, leaving many orphans in its wake. The Orphan Trains actually began running in 1854 under the auspices of three charitable organizations working to provide better lives for kids living on the street in the big eastern cities. In the less-populated West and Midwest, there were more opportunities for them to be fostered or adopted – more opportunities for them to be abused, too, since the vetting of the homes they went into was cursory at best. The Peccaro children were fortunate to be adopted into loving homes where they could remain close and where their parental heritage wasn’t stripped away from them.
The Depression was hard on farming families, but the Mosters and Sickings did better than many. The young men weren’t afraid of hard work and even helped out other farmers, in order to make money in those challenging times. With the war looming and work scarce, it wasn’t too far-fetched for Tony and Frank to use that time to make peace with the ghosts of what happened in New York. Growing up, I heard stories of the great bike journey but never really put much stock in them. From my perspective in the 1970s, it just didn’t seem like one could actually do such a thing. It wasn’t until 2009, when my aunt passed away and I was helping to clean out her house, that I discovered just how wrong I had been.
Click on any of the links below to view a sample of the artifacts from the remarkable lives of the young Italian orphans who found a true home in the small German towns of north Texas.
|The Siblings||The Bicycle Journey||The War||Today|
Train image licensed from 123RF, copyright jgorsynik