Biography of Tony Gianetto
Oswego, New York, U.S.A.
I was five years of age when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Here are some of my recollections of the WWll years: My family lived across the street from Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY when the U.S Army moved in to this historic location of the French and Indian War era. There was at the time a fort (dating back to the 1700's and still standing, within a compound that we kids called the "fort". After the war we used to sneak in and play "soldiers" within the walls occupying ourselves for hours.) Anyway, we often observed the "real soldiers" doing their exercises along the road and just inside the chain link fence. This was the same fence that the refugees from Europe stood along inside visiting with townspeople like my family. Their's was the only contingent of refugees ever allowed on American soil during the war, having been brought there by the gov't to live out the war years in safety. Pres. Rosevelt gave the order and his wife Eleanor inspected the encampment later, much to the surprise and excitement of the city fathers! I remember the day that the refugees arrived by train down by Lake Ontario. They were literally hanging out of the train windows exchanging greetings with all who went down to see. (Later, several refugee children attended the same school as me (2nd Ward Elementary), and after the war many of these families remained to make Oswego their permanent homes. Other memories of the war efforts that we were all involved in were............collecting and crushing tin cans (boy did some of those cans hurt your feet if you didn't stomp on them just right!) and scrap metal which we sold to the "junk man" (he retired early and rich!!), bringing coffee cans of fat renderings to the butcher, collecting "tin foil" and raising our own "Victory Garden"; all to help end the war which my parents figured would be well over by the time my older brother reached "draft age". But it didn't, he went away with the US Artillery to eventually fight the Battle of the Bulge and being awarded a Bronze Star. I remember the cloth flag my mom hung in the window till he came home safe and sound a year after we moved from that location to another house closer to downtown in Oswego. I remember bringing a dime to school every Friday to buy War Stamps, and the rationing books that contained little stamps needed in order to purchase coffee, sugar and other staples. And then of course there were the scary air raid drills when all lights had to be switched off and shades drawn until the all clear. I remember the "V-Air Mail stamps, onion paper for writing on and the censored answers from my brother; and my mother sitting and crying endlessly through the early evenings after reading them. Being Catholic there was the practice of "lighting candles" at church for loved one's safe return and special prayers at Sunday Mass. ( We attended St. Joseph's Catholic Church, one of seven Catholic churches in the cities, mostly attended by those of the ethnic group they belonged.) My Aunt was a "Rosie the Riveter" in the local boiler factory (Fitzgibbons or Ames, can't remember which) which had to be converted in order to produce war tanks. This plant was also close by our modest frame house on the "lake shore (where mostly families of Italian descent lived). I remember the annual parades of WWI vets marching proudly down Bridge Street, the "main drag", ending up at the East Park where there were speeches and gun salutes ( I wish I had kept the spent cartridges we boys scurried to collect after the ceremony was over). These parades continued after the end of the war, when the men who came home safely marched in the parades and the ceremony included homage to those who had fallen and whose names were on a commemorative plaque permanently posted at the park. My Uncle participated in the "D Day" invasion and came home "shell shocked" and finally my brother returned in 1946 a my mom had received a telegram that he was on his way and she was so scared in receiving the news fearing the worse of course, that I had to go to the Western Union office to pick up the paper copy to confirm the news was indeed good.! Wish we still had that telegram too, but the important thing was the war was ended and everyone was happy again, except for families like the Crisafulli's and Quatrini's who lost sons "over here" and whose names became household words and whose local VFW posts bore their names in their titles. This is all off the top of my head. I mention local spots and town names in the hopes that someone from my hometown will read my account of these childhood memories, and do some remembering of their own. If anyone from Oswego, NY reads this and wishes to E-mail me, it would be fun hearing from you. (firstname.lastname@example.org) I left Oswego for S. Calif in 1961 to teach school, and recently retired after 38 years, the last 20 as an elementary school principal. During those years I was always sure to remind my students (and a few of the young teachers) the meaning of the special holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and why we were celebrating a "day off" school. I wish we had saved momentos of all of the above. I do have a ration book and the airmail stamps off my brother's letters, and ofcourse he has his bronze star that his son put in a frame for him, but that's about it. But we do have our memories, and even though I was too young for service in the forties and during the Korea "Police Action," the significance of all that was going on and the patriotism of the adults around me and teachers/patriotic programs at school leave special feelings in my heart.
If anyone from Oswego, NY reads this and wishes to E-mail me, it would be fun hearing from you.
- Tony Gianetto
aswego1 AT sbcglobal.net
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