Friday, September 22, 2017


Joseph Palumbo with relatives
Joseph Palumbo attended “Evening Elementary School” at P.S. 13 in Brooklyn, NY to learn to read, write and speak English.  It was after a long day’s work that he would gather the strength to go to class.  For at least 2 of those years, 1923 to 1925, Joseph wrote in the same composition notebook. 
He learned about the founding fathers; Washington, Jefferson, Adams.  He learned about Lincoln and the civil war.  Joseph wrote about everyday events and customs that to many immigrants may have been confusing.  How to call a doctor from a corner store and use a telephone, remember to bring a nickel and the phone number.  How to buy a ready-made suit in a store or ride in an elevator with an operator.  City government and how it works.  The steps needed to stay healthy.  Written in pencil on ruled paper, you could see in the penmanship Joseph’s commitment to learning.  And carefully noted on top of his assignments was an occasional “snow day” when school was not held.

The first entry is on January 14, 1923 and it is a story about “Tony”.  “Tony is a lively boy who liked to run and jump.  One-day Tony ran in front of an automobile. Tony was knocked down and got a cut on his forehead and a scraped knee.” 
Tony and the automobile
It goes on to describe Tony’s day in detail, the driver who hit him, the kind doctor, the hospital and Tony’s prognosis. (He had to stay in bed for a few days to be on the mend.)  There are nearly 50 stories like that in Joseph’s composition book. 

Joseph was born in Procida, Italy, October 4, 1897.  Leaving Naples, Italy on the SS Providence, 25th January 1921 as Giuseppe Palumbo he arrived in New York on the 9th of February 1921.  He lived and worked in Brooklyn, as a machinist and carpenter.  He petitioned for citizenship 15 July 1927.   And took the oath not long after.  
Marriage Certificate

His bride to be was Mary Grippo, escorted to New York by her brothers, as this was an arranged marriage. In 1928, in New Jersey, Joseph-the new American citizen and Mary were married.  They went on to have a happy life, had several children and grandchildren, and traveled back to Italy several times to see relatives.

The composition notebook, photos and documents were found in a worn, black, travel case, stashed in the back of a closet.  Somebody thought to save the items, perhaps they forgot they were there. In any case, I was privileged to “meet” Giuseppe Palumbo.
Certificate of Completion
Visiting the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York, taking a tour of a tenement and walking the neighborhood to learn about the immigrant life, was eye-opening.  Learning about Joseph through these documents brought the immigrant experience to another level. 
Letter from the Principal
Joseph Palumbo is not part of my family.  He is the grandfather of a friend.  His story and my family's story are similar though.  Both came from far off countries, both wanted a better life, both were willing to work hard, both were willing to learn and participate in the building of our nation and both were proud to become Americans.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Her name is Rebecca Levine Rain.  She is the sister to Hyman Levine (written about in a previous post), from Derazhne, Russia, (Ukraine).  Married to Samuel Rain, Rebecca and Sam had 9 children.

Rebecca Levine Rain
 (photo courtesy of Russ B., grandson)
The 1910, 1920 and 1930 census lists her immigration arrival as 1904.  As of yet, I've not been able to find her, Sam or assorted children.  Although I have dates and ship name for Sam, none have proven correct.

1910 through 1917 had the Rain family living in Lynn, MA.  Samuel at the time was a tailor, and was getting into real estate.  There is a Rain Building at 203 Essex Street, in Lynn, MA, that bears his name.

Around 1918 the Rain family is in Haverhill, MA.  Samuel is still a tailor. As told from a great-grandson, Samuel was involved in making uniforms for soldiers during WW I.  Not sure if that is how they got to Haverhill.

By 1920 the family is found in Salem, New Hampshire.  Sam decided to become a chicken farmer.  In the Salem, NH Annual Report for the year ending January 31, 1921 we find Henry Harry Rain (child # 7) listed in the graduation exercises of the Salem Public Schools. He read a composition "The Pilgrims - The Voyage and the Colonies" (not sure if his or not).

Salem , NH Annual Report 1921

The Salem, NH Annual Report for the year ending January 31, 1930 indicates Sam Rain was reimbursed by the town for hens killed by roving dogs in the amount of $ 41.  Upon visiting Salem, NH during the summer of 2017 the site of their chicken farm is now developed.  The staff at the Kelley Library was most helpful in finding the annual reports.

Salem, NH Annual Report 1930

Sam died in Salem, NH of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 21, 1934. He is buried in the Children of Israel Cemetery in Haverhill, MA.  Rebecca moved to Lawrence, MA not long after Sam died.  It appears she lived with one of the married daughters.  Rebecca passed in 1945 and is buried next to Sam. 

(photo courtesy of ddjohnsonri)