Meeting Laura Monti sets off more of Marino’s reminiscences and reflections – April 7, 2010
“Mama Mia! Che bellissima fanciulla.”
The words cannot express my feelings when I first met Miss Monti. Then I thought, “If I was only 60 years younger…”
I met Laura Monti through Kevin of the Arcata Eye. He asked me one day if I would like to meet an exchange student from Italy. I told him it may be interesting. A few weeks later, he called up and asked if he could bring this student out to my house.
Shortly, he showed up with this young lady. I wondered what we would have in common to talk about.
She spoke English very well. We talked of our home towns in Italy, she of Bologna and I of Casa de Monte, of places we each had seen in Italy.
I asked if she was homesick, and she told me not as much as she thought she would be.
She told me she would love to visit San Francisco. She loves America and would like to see more of it.
Afterwards, I wondered what she thought of this great country and of the homes we build with two-car garages that we stuff with outdated toys and assorted leftovers while our $30,000 autos sit out in the weather.
In Italy, autos are a luxury and for special situations. It is common to see a woman on her bicycle or small motorcycle doing her daily shopping.
I am glad Laura was not here during the early years after the war. Things were different then. Italy was not so popular, and Italians were thought to be imbeciles, with lots of jokes about losing the war.
At first, our parents thought Mussolini was bringing our country out of the Dark Ages. But when he threw his backing to Hitler, the populace turned against him. My father had two large phonograph records of Mussolini’s speches. But when he got friendly with Hitler and declared war on the United States, he took the records out to the garden and smashed them to pieces and buried them deep.
Then I was arrested for breaking curfew, and we had to move out of our homes and everyone worried about their families back in Italy. For five years, they worried about their families.
Nobody wanted that damn war anyway. They wanted it over and to be rid of Mussolini, and they surrendered as fast as they could.
As soon as the war was over, and they could write, they started a huge letter-writing campaign to make sure that everyone voted against the communists who were trying to take over Italy. It was through this letter-writing that the Communist Party was defeated.
I remember the womenfolk gathering old clothes to take to their families. I think that Gina and Sophia had a lot to do with what Americans thought of the Italians. Plus the fact that Italian cuisine became very popular. Then Hollywood made a lot of so-called “spaghetti westerns.” Also, many Italian and German prisoners of war opted to take up life in America.
After the Italians threw Mussolini out, our country changed its view of Italians. Now, Italy turns out some real fine firearms that are sought out by collectors. Some of the best autos in the worls are made in Italy. Also the most expensive. Ferrari, Lanchia and Fiat, to name a few.
One of my cousins took me to a small cemetery and I was surprised to see a lot of Sichis buried there. One in particular caught my eye. One of my grandmothers was named Ferrari.
I have been waiting for years, but no one has as yet put a Ferrari in my driveway.
Marino Sichi and his family moved to Arcata in 1927.