The Italiano Sisters

Wedding of Maria & Angelo Italiano (1904)

Rose Italiano Pacalo and Sister Charlotte Italiano

Rose and Charlotte’s grandparents came to Youngstown in the early 1900s.  Their grandfather, Angelo Italiano, came in 1901, from Reggio Calabria, and their grandmother, Maria Bernard, came from Constanzia.  Both came through Ellis Island.

They came directly to Youngstown, where they met and married in 1904.  They settled in a house at 604 Audubon Avenue, in the Smokey Hollow area, where they lived for most of their lives.  They came to Youngstown both because work was available in the steel mills and because they could get a house with some land, so they could have a big garden and build a brick oven for pizza and bread.

Clara + Pasty's Wedding (1930)

Angelo and Maria had 10 children, including Rose and Charlotte’s father, Pasty.  He met their mother, Clara Frances Calo, in the neighborhood, though the sisters don’t know exactly how their parents got together.  They married, moved into a home on Lansing Avenue, and had five children.  Clara’s mother lived with them, as did one of her brothers for a while, so the family home was full of people.

The neighborhood was mostly Italian, and the sisters remember playing on the streets with other children and knowing that all of the adults were keeping an eye on them.  The children also had responsibilities in the home, and the sisters remember how they had to get their household chores done early on Saturday mornings.

Patsy ran his own business repairing cars in the family’s garage in their home.  During World War II, he wasn’t drafted because he had such a large family – five children – but he served as a truck driver making deliveries in the region on behalf of the military.

Rose and Charlotte circa 1934

Rose and Charlotte’s parents – like many of their generation – spoke Italian in the home when they didn’t want the children to know what was being said, but the family’s primary language was English.  Neither Rose nor Charlotte learned Italian when they were growing up.

The family attended Immaculate Conception Catholic church, as did most of their neighbors.  The church closed in 2011, and Rose and Charlotte attended the final mass there.

They talk fondly about the food they grew up with – not just the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes or ham on Easter but also homemade pasta, salads from the family garden, and pizzelles.

But for Rose and Charlotte, the key to Italian heritage was always family.

Clara & Pasty with Sister Charlotte (1958)

While all of this sounds fairly traditional, the sisters were also pioneers in their family as the first to attend college.  Both had long careers. Sister Charlotte has been a teacher for 59 years, and Rose worked for many years as a medical technician before getting her teaching certificate.  She recently retired from teaching.

Rose & Nick's wedding

Rose and her husband, Nick Pacalo, spent many years away from Youngstown, but when they moved back, it still felt like home.  That experience reinforced Rose’s sense of the importance of understanding your family and its history.  That takes time and effort, but she believes that maintaining those ties could help the community.

Read the transcript of Mary Ellen Wilcox’s interview with Charlotte and Rose.

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