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INTERVIEWED BY LUCIA MARTINEZ 15 Nov 1979 in WALSENBURG
SCANNED AND EDITED BY DICK CHENAULT – Dec 2005
PROOFED BY KAREN MITCHELL – Dec 2005
Parents – Elisa Berte, stepfather Ferdinand Floria Berte
Maternal grandparents - ? Berte, Carlota Berte
Paternal grandparents - unknown
Ethnic group – Tyrolean Austro-Italian
Date of Family arrival in County – 1921
Location of first family settlement – Walsenburg
MB: So you're going to ask me questions?
SC: Yes, I'll ask you some questions.
MB: Are you from Texas?
SC: Originally. I live in Gardner now.
MB: Oh, Gardner, you like it around here?
SC: Yes, very much. I sure do.
SC: When did you first come here?
MB: 1921. In March we arrived here.
SC: And who is we?
MB: Me and my auntie. Victoria Berte, the one that you already saw.
SC: I spoke to her son. How did you come over here?
MB: You mean...
SC: How did you travel?
MB: Did you want me to tell you how I come, who called me?
SC: Sure the whole thing.
MB: I come 1921. I come by boat.
SC: Where did you come from?
MB: From Tyrol. Austria. It was after the World War I. See, Austria was Austria before the World War I. And after the war I come here. It was 1921. So we come in Walsenburg, me and my Auntie. I was called, myself. I was called by a auntie, not this one. Another one. My mother's sister. She called me if I want to come. So, after thinking over, yes and no, I come. And then my auntie knew my husband. He was...
SC: This was the aunt that called you?
MB: Yes, my auntie Eccher, she was the one who called me. I have an uncle and auntie. My uncle married Victoria. He was my mother's brother. Luiga Eccher was my mother's sister. So she called me here and I come and I met my husband here and got married.
SC: So you came with Mrs. Berte. Was she married at the tine?
MB: No. She wasn't. And she was older then me. I was just 17. I couldn't come if somebody wasn't with me, you know how they do. So she come and marry my uncle.
SC: Were they engaged? Did she come to see him?
MB: They knew from old country. They both come from the same town. Caveoline, Tyrol. Now is Italy, but before it was Austria. You are too young, but you know in World War I they have a war and Austria lose the war, the Italian come in.
SC: How did you travel?
MB: By boat.
SC: Did you come to New York?
MB: It was a funny thing. We come... my uncle and my auntie also, we supposed to stop in New York and there was a friend of the family who had a hotel and he should come and get us. And then from there come out. But instead the ship stopped in Philadelphia and there we was put for couple days in the immigration home, until my uncle and auntie sent us the ticket to come here. From there they put us in a train. We do not know how to speak, you know, like two package. And we come with the train. And like I say, I don't know nothing about it. I couldn't talk. So when I stop in Colorado Springs, I didn't know where it was, but in the meantime, when we were waiting for the train to come to Walsenburg. We come down from the train, not even to come here in Walsenburg. I met... Well, you want me to tell you everything?
SC: Sure. It's interesting.
MB: Well, we arrived there and I say to my auntie. “Victoria, we are hungry, what can we do? We don't understand how to talk to ask for something”. I always have a little spirit. We never think to clean up before. So they have a little how you call it, in 1921, not a restaurant but a little restaurant...
SC: Like a diner?
MB: Yes, a little restaurant, like a train. So we go in and we sit down. And I say now, “How can we ask for food?” So on the left side was somebody eating breakfast. It was early. And I said, “Victoria,,, (She wasn't my auntie yet)... you like what he eat? And she say, “Yes'. And they come and ask me what I want and I said...
SC: You pointed.
MB: I make the motion. Well, to make this story short, we eat and then we went in the depot there and we ask a colored guy, and he was very kind... I show him that we were dirty and he show us how to get cleaned up. And then when everything was over we find somebody that speak Italian... young boy and he write to me, after.
SC: Oh, yes.
MB: And he help us out and when the train was ready to Walsenburg, we come. And we reach here and my auntie and my uncle come and meet us in the depot. And we reach here the 17 of March. We stay 21 days in the ship. We left in February. And it was the Queen of Italy, the Regina Italia. And so that was it. Then it was March 10th, my auntie.., she got married in March. Did she tell you?
SC: No, it was Mr. Berte, her son that I spoke to.
MB: Well, now we talking about mine. I think she got married about March or so. But me, I wait. I wait until the first of August and then I got married. This fellow, with my auntie and uncle, he was very good friends.
SC: So you arrived in March and were married in August?
MB: The first of August. See I got my picture in there. You see that? That is my wedding picture. And you see that, First of August 1921.
SC: We have a photographer who works with us. Maybe we can get a picture of that later.
SC: Where did you live when you got here?
MB: Yes, my auntie the one, Mrs. Eccher, was running the hotel on Main Street.
SC: What was the name of that?
MB: It was Victoria Hotel. Now it's closed. Was on top of Bellotti's store, what you call it, Main Hotel, but in that time was Victoria Hotel. So I stay with my auntie and I help her out in the hotel until I got married and then... they was living here, a little house on 9th Street. Then I got married and I was living on 7th Street, across the street from St. Mary's High School. So I stay there and I have my first boy there.
We stay there two years then we move another place and then we go to mining camp, Ravenwood. You go up instead to go the new road... before they used to go that way to Trinidad. It was a little camp, not too far from here. I don't think it's 10 miles. It's not too far. Then., but before that I moved from down there and I got to another house and I have another boy. And two operations. Then I move over there and I have my third boy. Then we buy this house and moved down 1928. We moved from Ravenwood to here. And then I stay here all the time and have another boy and another girl.
SC: When you lived at Ravenwood, did the coal company own the house?
MB: Yes, we rented. And we moved down... maybe you don't remember because you wasn't here., but they called it the Wobblie Strike. It was a strike, in the mines. At that time I was ready to have my third child. It was in January. I don't want my husband to go be a scab. So we stayed there and finally the bosses or whatever they come and tell us “Either you go to work or you move". So we moved in January. It was cold with the baby. Oh, we struggle.
SC: And then you moved here?
MB: Yes, a friend of mine that was living there come up tell us that this house is for sale so we come down. It wasn't like it is now. Just the outside, built, but not finished, but with time we make it comfortable for ourselves. Then we always stay here. Then my husband, from the mine, he was sick all the time, he was coughing. So he went to the doctor and his lungs was drying up. You know, with the mine and all that. So he went, well, he die in 1959. And 6 years before he had this operation and they tell him he can live maybe five or six year but he die.
SC: That was his lungs?
MB: Yes. They operate. They cut a piece off, after that operation he live six more year. Always sick, always hurting him, and then he die. And he was young yet, he was 66 years old.
SC: What was the name of what was wrong with him?
MB: My son know better to explain to you, but they just tell me that his lungs was drying up. The dirt... And they tell him if they don't cut it maybe he going to get cancer. But I don't think he have it see, because before he die he tell me, “I wish I never have this operation'.' But the doctor do the best he can. Either way. With the lungs like that or take one out. But they make an operation. They cut. And then he complain all the time that it is hurting, hurting. He go to the go hospital and then the heart start. With all that after the operation he have a little heart attack. And he die.
SC: Did he work in the mines after you moved to this house?
MB: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. He worked in the Cameron mine, and he work in the Morning Glory mine. He work until he have this operation. Then after this operation the doctor say he couldn't go in the mine no more. So he retired.
SC: How long did the Wobblie Strike last?
MB: I don't remember but I remember we were in very, very bad condition. The mine wasn't working. No money coming in.
SC: What were the issues in the strike?
MB: You know, honey, I really don't know about this thing, because I was a housewife, and I couldn't speak too much and I couldn't go around and I wasn't smart enough to know the issues, but I think maybe they wanted more money. It was because they wanted more wages, I don't know. And they call the Wobblie Strike. Then my husband.. they closed the mine later on. Then he worked out a little bit and then they started the mine again and he go to Cameron and work. He, all his life he worked in mine and hard work all the time.
SC: Were there any benefits during the strike? Did you get money or food from the union?
MB: They used to have little food or something, nothing much. Like I say, it was very tough to raise a family in that time. But my husband got a little job from the town to paint some bridges, whatever. He take everything he could to keep him going.
SC: What did you think when you got here? Do you remember your feelings as a young girl when you arrived in Colorado?
MB: I was hurt. I don't like it here, I cry and cry, I don't know nobody except my uncle and auntie, but even then I don't see them for a long time, because they was in United States before, and I cry and I tell you one thing, if the way wasn't with the sea, with the water, I walk home. Even if it wasn't America. Now I can Thank the Lord that... I don't say hasn't been up and down troubles you know, to raise a family, but I can say that I'm o.k. And I went visiting 15 years ago, me and my daughter, we went visit the old country. It was pretty nice, but we still like it here. Now I never want to go back but at the time, well, what will you expect. You don't know nobody. They talk a different language. I got married and I say now I have to go and buy something to eat and I have to tell the, “What you call this?” and keep on thinking and go and say, “I want a piece of meat': or whatever, you know. But we make it, we make it. Now I don't change it for the world. I love America here. In the beginning it was all different, it wasn't like now, neither.
SC: How was it different?
MB: Very much poorer. This Walsenburg was nothing. Nothing much. After I find out I have few friends from the county come here and I got friends right away, you know, for that part, but it was smaller. It wasn't like now. Even to raise my family, it wasn't like they raise them today.
SC: How was it different?
MB: More poor, for my part. Miners... you know in that time we used to work starting in September or October, November, December, January, February, March and then out. All summer. So you make some money, you pay your bills, then you start again. In that time it was very different from now. Course we always have clothing and food, but like day and night, compared today. Today we got everything too much. I think today we spoil the kids too much. But in that time, we raised them, and I send my family to Catholic Church, they pass their grade there and they doing pretty good.
SC: So how many children do you have?
MB: I had four but I lost one. One baby there, nice baby, three years old he was. I had Mario, my oldest.
SC: Where is he and what does he do?
MB: He is here in Walsenburg, he live on 6th Street, and he work for the gas. Louis, we call he Geno, but his name is Louis. He work now in Pueblo and he work now for the Army Depot. And he stay up there and come when he can here. Then Joey died. Then George, and he's also in Walsenburg, and he's working for the Credit Union. He's a representative for the Credit Union. Then I have a girl., June Marie, and she's in Arvada and she's got a girl Tiffani.
SC: Do you have any other grandchildren?
MB: Yes, my Mario, he's got one girl. And she's in the service with her husband. She is in England. And they might come back next year. And George, he had two boys. And one is in college. One in... let me see.., this college, in Indiana. The other One... that Catholic College...
SC: Notre Dame?
MB: Yes. And then we have one that she is not well, and that's all.
SC: Was the church active? Did you do things with the church?
MB: Oh, yes, all the time. When I have my kids small they building.., still at that time, I think when I come, it was just one year I was here, and they build another part of the Catholic School there and it was Italian priest, Father Licioti, he is on here and then we used to make... Let me see if I can find Father Licioti to show to you... a bazaar we make a bazaar every year to help out. And we used to go soliciting at that time around here with people, for something, what they can offer, you know. I always do that. And even now I am in the Tabernacle Society and make the altar bread, you know, for the communion. And buy the flowers for Easter and Christmas and I was yesterday at the meeting of the Tabernacle Society. Let's see if I can find Father Licioti... See years and years ago how the nuns used to go around.
SC: Do you remember that, the nuns in the wagon?
MB: No, this is 1914. And that was the time the war come out. 1914 to 1918. And this is the convent, the sisters owned. It is still there. Oh, this is Father Licioti, see. He come here May 13, 1913. But I come here, 1921. And here is the school as it was then and then they make another part, see. And he was working very hard, too. This is a nice book. Monsignor Delaney, he wrote it.
SC: Yes, I read it. It is a nice book.
SC: Were there clubs or fraternal orders you or your husband were active in?
MB: No, my husband wasn't too active... He keep his union up, but me I always have the Tabernacle Society and working for the church. And now I got a sewing club. We go out. We are eight women and just the other day we go out to dinner and then we play and another day we work. Anything that we can, shoes or whatever, crochet and afghans.
SC: What was his union, was that the United Mine Workers?
MB: Yes, the union the miners was in was the United Mine Workers, like they do now. This why that my husband die now I receive my black lung.
SC: What was your husband's line of work in the old country?
MB: He cone from another place. Turino, Italy. We are close to Austria. I never know him before, I only know him here. But for what I know. . . went and met the family, father and mother was gone but met the brother and sister. They are farmers. They have land and was working.
SC: But he cane to work in the mines?
MB: Very young, he tell me. I think he tell me he is 17, too. And he was too young when he start to work. He couldn't go in the nine but he was helping. He start when he was very young in the mines.
SC: Was the Italian community... did you keep pretty much to yourselves?
MB: Well, it was the ones that come from over there that can speak my language, see. So I really don't know too much... But I don't think so. I think it was pretty much like now.
SC: I guess especially in the mines where people were working...
MB: Yes, the mines was American, Spanish, German, French, Italian. No matter, you know, who build this United States. Is all the people that come from the other. This why they call them this United States of America, see. (pause.)
SC: So you spoke Italian at home...
MB: Not now. Now with the accent I have, honey.
SC: When the children were younger?
MB: I talk Italian, because I don't know how to speak otherwise, and I send the kids to school and then they come home and then I have to go down and talk to the sister. Then I have to learn how to do my business, see.
SC: Did you have brothers and sisters in the old country?
MB: Well, I have brother and sister. I know my mother and my grandmother and everybody, and then my mother got married again, see, so I was staying with the grandma. And like I say they are all in South America, the brothers and sister, and my mother die and my stepfather die and now I got two sisters in South America and two brothers and one die. But see, we don't communicate too much because see I come here when I was young and my mother and stepfather they went over there and I used to write to them. One brother that used to write to me all the time, he died.
SC: Was there any violence that you remember during the Wobblie Strike? Any incidents?
MB: Not at that time that I know, but my husband used to say that in 1913 they killed people down there in Ludlow. Then it was very bad. He used to tell me there was fighting, but the Wobblie Strike.., there was poverty, yes, but not that I remember something really wild.
SC: How did you live during the strike? Did you have money saved that you could live on?
MB: Well, in the time of strike I have a good friend and he has a store.
SC: Who was that?
MB: Mr. Ruffini. He help us out till he can't, till one day he have to cut down every place because he couldn't support all the people. Later we paid him back. But we make it. Not like today, honey. Struggle, wash, iron, patch. Patch. Oh, I patch so much overalls, God in heaven knows. You know, but we come out of it. My family never starve and I always keep it clean and we make it, Thank the Lord. The Lord was with us.
MB: Well, I tell you before, we got married and he was working in the mine and that's all. We have a good time, too, we used to have picnic.
SC: Where would you picnic?
MB: It was a place up at Cuchara Camps. Sulphur Springs they used to call it. Before you go up to Cuchara Camp, it was a place to go in there and it have sulphar water come out. Sulphur Springs they used to call it. I remember one time we go up, me, I wasn't married yet, and my auntie was there and my uncle, and we go up and well, we don't have nothing prepared, so we went in a farm and we buy a chicken, we prepare it and we fry it and we eat. Oh, it was nice. You see, I gonna show you this picture was taken up there. Yah, this was at Sulphur Springs, and then he is the one that die. Look at that pretty baby.
SC: Oh, that is you. That's beautiful.
MB: Yes, and I want a picture and the little baby say, 'Me too. Me, too'. I was happy because now I have his picture. This was in summer and he die in February.
SC: Beautiful. And you are beautiful, too. So you'd dress all up for this outing out there, in your dress and high heels, and hat.
MB: Yes, now in pants. My daughter say, “Mother, look at that hat'.' But we used to use it that way.
SC: Well, it's beautiful.
MB: Here. Before I come here I was working for a family, I have a patron over there.
SC: You were working in their home?
MB: As a servant, yes. This group... this is my auntie's from over there. My auntie just got this.. is in Italian and this is the family I used to work for over there. She is still alive. Then the first baby they had, his name was Mario. So when I had my baby I took the name Mario. I like to stay there very much but I thought maybe I can get better here, you know what I mean.
SC: What was it like working at your aunt's hotel? Was she the manager?
MB: She ran it.
SC: And what was her name?
MB: Luigia and Frederico Eccher.
SC: How would you spell that?
MB: Well, have some papers here, honey. ECCHER.
SC: So what was it like working in the hotel. Was it busy?
MB: Oh, yes, yes. Make up the beds and clean up the room. It was pretty nice. In that time, used to bring the sheets but the pillow cases, we have to wash them by hand. And I got sick. Change climate, you know. And I was sick, oh, my I was sick.
SC: So who lived in the hotel?
MB: People rented their rooms. Some want it by days some by week, some by month. See. Used to go up and clean up.
SC: Did miners live there?
MB: Bachelors, more, you know. The people that don't have any home.
SC: Was there a restaurant?
MB: No, it was just sleeping place.
SC: What did it look like, downtown Walsenburg? Was it different than now?
MB: Well, the Main Street, it was about like it is now. But pavement, we don't have pavement like we got it now. And like I said, the school. The courthouse was exactly like it is now. That's what I remember, that. And high school, they built it after, I think. They built lots of schools around. It was more smaller. And quiet, no cars like now. My uncle buy a car and he used to come and give a ride. It was an old car. My husband have a car when I come. When I come he come and get me with a car, because he save a little money. But otherwise it wasn't too many cars.
SC: Would you go in a car up the Cuchara Camp?
MB: Oh, yes.
SC: Was there other entertainment. What would you do for entertainment?
MB: Well, the only fun that I can see, when I have my family and my husband used to play the accordion and then my sons, and used to have a good time here in the house. Before was my husband and then we buy one for my son and he was playing accordion and we enjoy it. That was the enjoyment, and the picnic.
SC: I have some forms that we fill out that tell a little background. Your name is Mary...
MB: Well, really and truly my name on the paper when come from the old country
SC: Did you have a middle name?
MB: No, honey, but before I got married my name was Berte. But I am Batuello.
SC: And the address here is...
MB: 239 W. 9th.
SC: I will say “should photograph” and get pictures of the wedding picture, too.
MB: To bad... I have the family picture but my husband when he was sick, I plead with him, “Come on, let's go and get a picture so we can leave the picture and he say “Pretty soon, Mary, I don't feel good, pretty soon'! And Christmas, end of July he died. But we got the wedding picture. Oh, I got some picture with him but there is the family picture and this... you can see it here. This is what we take after. This is me when I was with uncle and auntie in old country. Here is my husband, and me, my daughter, Mario and his wife and their two kids. Her first husband died in the war. This is my husband. This is my husband and me. This is me. I sent this here. This what my husband fall in love with.
SC: I see. You sent this picture over. It's beautiful.
MB: I send it to my auntie, yes. Oh, he was a nice guy.
SC: All this crochet stuff. Do you do a lot of crochet?
MB: Used to, especially small. I make a nice tablecloth for my daughter. But now my eyes are bad and I knit. Here is my husband and me and Georgie.
MB: And here is my Victoria. And this is my Mario when he was three. This a time of not too much, see, look at the shoes. This is the folks of my husband. And this is me and my husband and Mario. This is a picture of the family. This is when my babies was small. See, Mario, Louie, Georgie and me and my husband. You can see this is me from my birthday. Let me see if I can find family. This is when my June got married, see. This is her daughter, Tiffani. This is when I went to visit a friend of mine in Las Vegas and the dam. We went with the boat. You know I went a lots of places, honey. When I was young I never go no place because I have the family, but after, but not right away, because when my husband die. . . but now I care a little bit, you know. And I went to Italy.
MB: This is my padrone, this is his wife, second. This is a servant, and this is me. This and this is two Russian prisoners. My padrone have lots of land and he take that to work in the land. And he was wonderful. And this is a man is from another town.
SC: This was the couple you worked for.
MB: Yes, padrone, means what I work. Before, like I say, he have another lady. I got the picture some place else.
SC: Is this you?
MB: I tell you, honey, I was in an institute, like an orphanage, because my mother was in Germany and I was there and when I come to work for them I took a picture.
SC: You don't look so happy there.
MB: No. Look I got the same dress.
MB: This is of the family, see... Mario my son. And he got lots of... like honors in the war. This is why I am in the VFW now.
SC: That was Mario.
MB: Yes, the first one. I am pretty busy. Some tines I go down to the Senior citizens.
SC: So what was the date of your birth?
MB: 23th of November 1903.
SC: What was your mother's maiden name?
SC: She was a Berte also?
MB: Yes, in the old country, honey, lots of names alike.
SC: So she was a Berte and your father also. What was her first name?
MB: Of who?
SC: Your mother.
SC: And your father?
SC: And what was his last name?
SC: Do you know your mother parent's names?
MB: My mother's parents... oh, my grandma, sure. Carlotta.
SC: Can you describe your wedding.
MB: Yes, I got married the first of August, 1921, in St. Mary's Church by father Liciotti. And the best man and the best woman was Enrico Berte, my uncle and my auntie. And we had a party in my uncle's house after the wedding.
SC: And you wore a white dress...
MB: I wore a white dress with a veil and a crown.
SC: Were you happy then?
MB: Yes, I was happy. It took me a couple months to get adjusted, to get acclimated, but I was happy, yes.
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