Dunmore Father and Son Trace Local History in Italy

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By Justin MacGregor

Carlo Pisa and his son Alfredo, both from the Bunker Hill section of Dunmore, recently shared the trip of a lifetime. This past August, the San Cataldo Society members embarked on a journey to Sicily and Italy’s mainland to spend time with family and trace local history.

Their experience began with a flight to Palermo, Sicily, followed by a two-hour ride to San Cataldo, where many Dunmoreans trace their roots. News of the arrival of the two Dunmoreans spread quickly and they were soon invited to city hall by Deputy Mayor Aldo Riggi.  

There, they were greeted by the local newspaper, which recently ran a story on their visit. The Pisas presented Deputy Mayor Riggi with a framed picture of the San Cataldo Club, as well as honorary membership cards. They were then taken on an escorted tour of the city by the chief of police. The tour included visits to the local church, winery, clock tower and social club. A familiar face appeared at the social club – former Mayor Attilio Callari. Mayor Callari, who visited Dunmore in the 1980s, greeted the Pisas and cheerfully discussed his 1986 trip. He also insisted that they “say hello to his good friend Sandi Cancelleri.”

“Mayor Callari’s picture from his trip 30 years ago is actually on the wall at our club,” said Alfredo. “He seemed to get a real kick out of that.”

san-cataldi-trip-photo-2-1Before returning to Palermo, the locals insisted that a trip to the local basket factory was in order. While there, owner Archangelo Cala discussed San Cataldo’s mining history. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, children known as “carusis” mined sulfur in the dangerous caverns under the city. Some of the children were as young as seven, and many perished.

“There are many similarities to what the immigrants here faced in the mines,” said Carlo. “Mr. Cala actually gave us a basket that was used by one of the carusis over 100 years ago. I am glad that it made it through customs,” he chuckled.

As they were saying goodbye to the group of prominent San Cataldo citizens, a car pulled up and Deputy Mayor Riggi’s wife Ivana approached the Pisas. A well known fashion designer, she presented Carlo with a beautiful brooch for his wife. The group also reiterated that all Dunmoreans are welcome to visit San Cataldo.

“The people of San Cataldo were incredibly generous and warm,” said Alfredo. “We were treated as family there. This trip has reopened a line of communication to these wonderful people.”

The next leg of their adventure brought them to Guardia Lombardi. Almost all of the Italian families that settled in the Bunker Hill section of Dunmore have an ancestral footprint in this region. Within minutes of arriving, they were met by their cousin Emmanuela Sica. She drove them to her home and the entire family enjoyed a huge meal together. After “finishing too much food and homemade wine,” Alfredo and Carlo were brought to a small village 15 minutes away that organizes weekly festivals in order to promote community pride and friendship.

“The festival reminded me a lot of our own Italian Festival,” said Alfredo. “There was live music at every corner, smiling faces everywhere, and, of course, more amazing food.”

After catching up with family, the Pisas departed the next morning and finished up their trip with stops in Rome, Sorrento, and Naples.

“Alfredo and I are more like brothers than father and son,” said Carlo. “Seeing our roots and spending time with family was a truly special time for us both that we will always treasure. Throughout Italy, people really take their time and enjoy life,” added Carlo.

The San Cataldo Club celebrated its 110th Anniversary on Oct. 30, 2016. A picture of the current society membership group was taken and it now rests next to the founding group’s original 1906 photo.

“Our new picture was sent to our sister social club in San Cataldo, Sicily,” said Alfredo.

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