Immigration 1900-1929

Oral History: Joseph DeVivo

[Mr. DeVivo came to the United States in 1912 at the age of 8 • Oral history transcribed by Curt Meine]

And we went through the hills and the fields and the lilla villages of the country side until finally we reached Naples. Boy, what a big city! All the people! They brought us to the train station where we checked all the baggage, and that’s where the port was too. And we walked over to where we had to get on the steamship. I looked out over the Bay of Naples. Boy, all that water out there! I figured, well, the other side of this pond over there, that’s America.

But, here, that wasn’t America, that was Pompei.

Pompeii was on the other side of the bay with the volcano spitting smoke up in the air. America was a lot further on.

Sometimes the boat would get rough and we’d heave front and backward, the spray from the waves would reach way up on the upper decks, and lots of times they’d order us all to go below. Maybe it would rain. That was bad.

Third class it was, no seats, everybody was on the floors. We didn’t have nothing over our heads, just open deck.

Well, we went along, day after day. Every day it was something new. Finally on the fourteenth day, broad daylight, somebody seen a sail boat. “A barca vela! he called out. “A boat with veils” that meant. But I thought I heard “a whale”, so I thought there was a whale. We got closer and I saw that it was a boat.

All the people came running to the railings, lookin’ for land. Oh, ever’body was all excited, wondering how it was gonna be, what it was gonna look like. Finally we seen….the Statue of Liberty, standing out of the water, all by itself. Couldn’t see the skyline of New York, nothing else. But I seen the Statue from far away.

” America! America! Ama ‘rivae!” “We’re in America! We’re in America”

– Joseph DeVivo, an oral history