“Alessandrina Manaro was a short round-faced woman of seventy-seven, and often sang Neapolitan songs with gusto.”
— Anthony V. Riccio
“Working at Leopold Morse in 1921”
“My mother had fourteen children and there was little money. So, I came to America in 1921 on the Canopic. Two days after I got to America, my sister said to me, “You gotta go to work because you gotta pay the money we sent you to come here.” My brother-in-law took me there, it was where the Prince Macaroni building is, there was a shop in there. I was sewing making sleeves on the jackets at the Leopold Morse factory and that’s where I met my husband, he was a tailor too. My first two days I made seventeen dollars. So, I says to my sister I’m gonna send the money back to my father and mother, you know, they had a big family. She said to me, “No, you gotta pay the board first and then whoever you marry pays for the trip when you came over here.” So, they took all my money from me, every week they took money from me, I had to pay board, and for the trip. Every Saturday, my brother-in-law used to take me to Jordan Marsh, he bought me clothes. I had long hair when I came from here, then I cut my hair. I didn’t want to go out from 28 Sheafe Street, I was afraid. At night they had all chairs, they sit outta in front a door, they played cards.
My sister no allow me to go no place because I was seventeen years old, I was a beautiful girl when I came from Italy, now I’m old anyway. So when I put on the sleeves on the jackets, I put this a sleeves I put over here because I never worked in Italy because we had a small store, we were born into the business, we sold goods by the yard, salt, soap, oil, bread. So, my boss came to me and said, “Che stai facendo? What are you doing?” Ho detto, sto mettendo le maniche, I said, I’m putting on sleeves. He said, “Tu, le maniche, hai messo storto— questa manica addà ì’ qua! You put the sleeves on crooked, they’re supposed to go like this!” And I pushed him, get the hell out of here! I was afraid, I just got here from the old country and I didn’t know much people here. So, he did with his hands and said, “To hell with the Italiani.” And I changed the sleeves and I started…every morning he’s checking on me when I was putting on the sleeves. And a little bit at a time he fell in love with me. Later, we got married.”