According to Ellis Island's Port of New York Passenger Records, my Sicilian-born grandfather, Calogero "Charles" Catalanotto, arrived in America on January 11, 1920 from Palermo, Italy aboard a ship called the Italia; thus beginning his journey into American life. He was five-years old.
Growing up in New Rochelle, New York, Charles and his family did what all immigrants knew what to do when coming to America at that time: they learned the native language, English, and worked hard to achieve the American dream while maintaining their cultural traditions in their household.
Along with many young men, Charles was drafted to fight in World War II as a soldier in the United States Army. Proud to serve his country, my grandfather deployed to Germany.Charles with his wife Mary
After his return to the United States, Charles was fixed up with a beautiful lady named Mary. An independent woman with a strong will, Mary was not easily attainable. But, after several dates and a promise of companionship, Charles won her heart and together they established a family, having two daughters, Lydia and Bernadette.
Despite having two small children, both Charles and Mary worked hard in their respective businesses: Charles owned and operated a barbershop on Cortelyou Road in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, as Mary, a seamstress, logged long hours at a factory while simultaneously selling women's undergarments out of the front room of her house, known to the neighbors as, "Mary's Cotton Shop."
On a cold December day in 1978, Charles succumbed to a massive heart attack in the basement of the Canarsie home he shared with Mary. He was sixty-four years-old.