Salvatore and Maria: Finding Paradise
by Paul L. Gentile
Bottom Dog Press

"The family was very close and celebrated every event together: birthdays, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, graduations... everything, and with all the family members present."

At thirteen, Salvatore Ciccone quit school and travelled alone from Italy to work in a coal mine at Starkville, CO. A family friend sponsored his immigration, served as translator, and explained life in the company-owned environment. Inside the mine, Salvatore crawled through low, dark tunnels to extract coal. Later, he worked outside the mine at the coke ovens. He shoveled coal in the ovens and then shoveled the heated coke into rail cars headed to the steel mill. Rather than drink away his tiny earnings in the bar, Salvatore sang or worked in his garden. He managed to send money home regularly.

Salvatore and Maria met because her family took in washing and sold eggs and milk. Maria’s father was a union organizer. Owners refused to obey laws requiring safer mines. Sometimes they fought the unions with guns, but mostly with shutdowns. When Salvatore and Maria married, they lived with her family until sadly leaving Starkville for steadier work in eastern steel mills. They travelled by train to Aliquippa, PA. Despite slow times, Salvatore sponsored younger relatives coming to America. He and Maria survived the depression, raising five children and finding paradise on a three-acre farm. Maria died of a stroke at fifty-seven and her dear "Salie" reluctantly remarried. He happily worked in his garden, dying thirty years later at eighty-seven.

Finding Paradise is the marriage of an Italian-heritage memoir and well-researched commentary on unfair treatment of miners and steel workers in early 20th century America. Family photos are a bonus. Gentile heard these true stories directly from Salvatore. The author, a third-generation Italian American and college graduate, taught school until retirement allowed time for travel and research. He wrote his grandfather's story in typical Italian style, with hints of melodrama drawing readers to turn the page.

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