June 12th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 24
Looking Back - John Kinnear
A Long Journey to Happiness: Marietta Mancini’s Story
Looking Back
courtesy Jillian Uloth
Pietro, Marietta and Filomena in Glasgow, 1902
So while I find it fascinating to go deeper into the family histories of our remarkable municipality it seems so do others. These days the vast array of resources available to curious family members can take them deep into their personal roots. So it was for Jillian Uloth, the great granddaughter of Marietta Mancine, who has done just that. Jillian, who is from Prince George, shared her research with the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative’s quarterly e-newsletter this June.

The Initiative’s e-newsletter is available to all on line at their site and is published four times a year with heritage news, event notices and feature stories. (www.crowsnest heritage.ca). There are now 55 issues out there that make for some fascinating reading. They and Jillian have graciously consented to me sharing this story along with some of my inevitable side comments just to give more perspective. So welcome to the family history of the Mancini family from Blairmore.

Jillian opens with: “Marietta Maria Mancini was born on March 9, 1902 in Glasgow, Scotland and was the first child and only daughter of Pietro and Filomena Mancini. Her father Pietro (Peter) had been orphaned at the young age of ten, back in the tiny town of Pastena, Italy and was left to fend for himself, often finding shelter in local barns at night. At the age of seventeen, it is said that he was befriended by a Scottish professor who decided to hire him as a valet on a voyage back to Scotland, which is how he ended up in Glasgow.
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Marietta’s mother Filomena was born in Glasgow in 1883 to Italian parents with the surname of Gizzi and grew up in a tenement slum in the Cowcaddens neighborhood of that city. After Marietta was born, her parents expanded their little family once more with the birth of Albert (Bob), and by 1907 had made the decision to pick up and move the family to Canada. They travelled on the steamship S.S. Athenia, docking in New Brunswick before making their way west to Blairmore.”

Sidenote: The S.S. Athenia that they travelled on went into service in 1903 and typically ran from Glasgow to St. John. N.B. or Montreal. It was sunk in 1917 by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland with the loss of 15 men and 440 horses. A second Athenia was launched in 1922 and saw passenger service until it was also sunk by a German submarine in 1939, in almost the same area of offshore Ireland, with the loss of 117 civilians including 28 US citizens. It was the first UK ship to be sunk by Germany during World War ll and the act was condemned as a war crime.

Jillian continues: “Blairmore was probably chosen due to a contact of some kind through the town’s large Italian community, and Peter was able to gain employment as a miner. The Mancinis moved into a centrally located home on Victoria Street with a brick foundation, basement and large garden on seven lots. The family continued to grow as four more boys were born in quick succession – Ralph, Rocco (Vic), Vincent (Vince), and Tony. During this time, the children who were of age attended school and Vince recalled that their home was not far from the Old Man River where the children would enjoy donning ‘gunny sacks’ to swim in during spells of warm weather.
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Despite a seemingly idyllic sounding setting, their father Peter had a cold demeanor and was physically abusive. Son Vince recalled evenings when he and the other Mancini children would hear their father’s boots crunching on the cobble stones leading up to the house as he walked home from work at night and they would run and hide to avoid being beaten. When their beloved mother Filomena passed away three days after giving birth to another baby boy in 1917, life for the Mancini children was about to get even more challenging.

Mrs. Holloway was a local nurse who had attended the birth of the children’s new baby brother in the Mancini home. After Filomena’s death, Mrs. Holloway decided to adopt the motherless baby and named him Walter Holloway.”

Sidenote: Mrs Holloway lived on the Blossomwood Ranch just north of Frank and in 1920 was confronted by a wounded and fleeing Bassoff after the Bellevue Café shootout. She bathed and bandaged the wound and then suggested he leave as her husband would soon be home, after which she contacted the police but Bassoff disappeared before they could nab him.

Jillian goes on to say: “Marietta, still only a child herself, was left to look after her five little brothers on her own, with the youngest being only four years old. The following winter of 1917/18 must have been horrible for the grief-stricken Mancini children as they coped with the loss of their mother and ill-treatment by their father. The enormous weight of responsibility placed on Marietta’s young shoulders while still attempting to attend school must have left deep, emotional scars; as an adult, she was never willing to discuss this period of her life.
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By the next year, formal complaints had been made that the children were not being properly cared for by Mr. Mancini and he was “charged with neglect, or ill-treatment or non-support of his children.” The Mancini youngsters were removed from their home by the Department of Dependent and Delinquent Children and separated into various housing. The Mancini home was temporarily “held as bond surety for the patrol of Mancini’s pending trial. A short time afterwards, Mancini appeared for hearing and was later let out on his own recognizance.” At this point, Peter placed an ad in the Blairmore Enterprise offering his home for sale and asking for immediate settlement by accepting only cash offers. He had then made the decision to leave Blairmore, after supposedly promising Marietta that he would travel back to Italy to bring home a new mother for his children.

In May 1919 while back in Pastena, Peter married Josephine Sarracino, a local young woman. Returning home to Blairmore with his new wife that September, the couple stayed for about two months, renting a room at a local hotel. By this time, Marietta was old enough to be assigned as a domestic for a nearby family and was sent away to work for her room and board. While she had not been treated kindly during this time, she refused to agree to her father’s proposed arrangement to live as a family with his new bride.
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After receiving payment from the sale of the house, Peter and Josephine quietly left town in the middle of the night and illegally fled over the border to Portal, North Dakota, leaving nothing to his children. Having been taken into care, Marietta’s younger brothers had not fared much better than she had. The Child Protection Act had been officially sanctioned in Alberta by 1909 and was essentially meant to be a social safety net for the legal protection of neglected and abandoned children. As wards of the province, children were often boarded in orphanages or sent to so-called ‘baby farms’ to be nurtured in a family setting. Vince later remembered he was sent to an orphanage with his brother Vic and they were treated terribly. He recalled the “Nuns ate steak while the children had only porridge to eat.”

During summers, the orphanage shipped them out to work as farm hands, often sleeping in barns and treated cruelly by one particular farm wife. These foster homes were paid “$3.00 per week, per child if necessary; in some the children’s services were provided in lieu of payment. Some foster parents abused the system, using the children as cheap labor.” When a bill was received by the town of Blairmore from the Department of Dependent and Delinquent Children in 1920 for the maintenance of the Mancini children, the town denied responsibility and refused to settle up. By 1922, the state became more aggressive in its approach and the office of the Department of Attorney General was “demanding immediate settlement of the sum of $3932.85, claimed as due under the Mother’s Allowance Act and the Children’s Protection Act in connection chiefly with the children of one Pete Mancini.”

Lots more to this story so be sure to tune in next week when Jillian’s research brings the Mancini family through its early travails into the later years. She reveals how Marietta, Albert (Bob),Ralph, Rocco (Vic), Vincent (Vince),Tony and adopted brother Walter all went on to make good lives for themselves despite their painful beginnings.

A Long Journey to Happiness - Part II

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June 12th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 24
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