Talking about Antimo…

Grandpa Antimo Puca While interviewing my cousin Herby for family recollections, he mentioned that our grandfather, Antimo (Tony) operated a produce store, around the corner from Arthur Avenue (across from St.Barnabus Hospital.) *Note: The timeline for this story is around the mid to late 1950’s.* Herby clearly recalled the fact that, written on the storefront awning, were the words, “Tony’s Live and Let Live…” Hence, Tony’s favorite quote was, “Live and Let Live!
Antimo Puca was the second child born to Stefano Puca and Teresina Milo. He was born in the small town of Sant’Antimo, Naples, on the 25th day of August, 1896. The first child born to his parents was a boy named Antimo. He was named in the traditional fashion, to honor Stefano’s father, Antimo Puca. Tragically, this baby died. Perhaps he died from the Cholera epidemic which was running rampant across Italy, at that time. Anyway, when the second child was also born a boy, he was named Antimo.
Antimo’s parents, Stefano and Teresa, were married in Sant’Antimo on the 25th day of November, 1892. Teresa was 23 and Stefano was 21. In September of 1901, Stefano made the decision to travel to America in search of a better way to support his family. He traveled, in steerage, on the S.S. Burgundia, from the Fabre Line’s fleet of steamships. Upon arrival at Ellis Island’s immigration processing station, he passed through and went to East Harlem to live with his cousin, on Lexington Avenue. Stefano went back to Italy, and in 1905, he was back in New York, having traveled in “steerage” on Fabre Line’s S.S.Germania.
At that time, Stefano was living at 2123 1st Avenue in E.Harlem. The 3-story “old law tenement” was located between E.109th and 110th Streets. Today, the building is no longer there, however, the adjacent tenements still stand. They are relics of the past. Mementos of a time, long gone. These surviving tenements are the final vestiges of the mass exodus from Europe. They were built for the purpose of housing multitudes of immigrant laborers.
When I visit East Harlem, I feel what my family before me felt. Standing on the very sidewalks that they stepped upon, looking at the tenements that they once dwelled in, helps me to understand what sacrifice they endured. I am able to envision their arrival from Naples. The emptiness that they felt when they stepped into the dark and musty tenement hallways. The despair that they possessed within, wondering if they made the right choice to leave the only home that they ever knew. New York City was a far cry from the town of Sant’Antimo, and Benevento. The fresh air, the open fields, familiar faces, are all a shadow of the past.
The new reality for people like Stefano Puca would be hard labor, sacrifice and the burning hope for a new and better life. They would work around the clock, only to earn about 10 dollars a week. But this would be enough to pay their rent, buy their food, and send money back to their families abroad. Within 4 years time, the Puca’s will reunite in East Harlem. Stefano will come back to New York in April, and Teresina and her 6 year old daughter, Rosina, will arrive on the 3rd of July. Antimo’s name was crossed out from the ship manifest. He did not travel with his mother and sister. Perhaps he was sick and the shipping line, “White Star Line,” refused his entrance onto the “S.S. Romanic.” Perhaps he was reluctant to go to America. He was only 8 1/2 yrs. old at this time, and he may have been rebellious to the idea of leaving his home. At any rate, what I do know is that, on the 28th day of March, 1906, 9 days before Mt.Vesuvious in Naples would erupt, Antimo Puca arrived at Ellis Island, having traveled in steerage on the S.S. Cretic. He was accompanied by his uncle, and they were detained on Ellis Island for 2 days, until Stefano signed as surety for them. Written on their Detention list were the letters.”LPC.” This stands for the words, “Likely Public Charge.” Until they could prove that they would not be a financial burden on the United States, they would be held in detention, on Ellis Island. Luckily, their detention was short. Most likely, they sent a Western Union wire to Stefano, explaining that he must come to Ellis Island to sign for their release.

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5 Comments on “Talking about Antimo…”

  1. Fred Petito says:

    Dear Angela,

    My sister Phyllis forwarded this site to me some time ago and I’m just about getting around to viewing it. Interesting opening lines in your commentary as I remember as a child going to the Bronx Terminal Market with my father, whose baptismal name also was Antimo, and he was born in March 1899 in the Comune di Sant’ Antimo, Provincia di Napoli. When visiting the Market we bought fresh vegetables not only for my Dad’s Fruit & Vegetable store on 112th St., in East Harlem, just west of 2nd Avenue; but also on occassion we also picked up same for his “pasano” who had also had a Fruit and Vegetable store in the Arthur Avenue area (as I recall) of the Bronx.

    I don’t remeber that person’s name and my mine-eye doesn’t have a clear image of him, but I do know that my Dad and his friend always got along very well. My Italian was passable then, but you have to remember I was probably a disinterested young East Harlem smart guy. However I knew that there were good feeling between them. I always knew when my Dad was comfortable with someone as his voice usually rose a half-tone higher and took on a more convivial syntax with warmth and good natureness.

    Your commentary does evoke good memories and to be honest with you I always didn’t want to go the Market with him. But i would give much to do it one more time.

    Thanks for your article as there’s nothing like having one’s memory jogged by an oblique reference to get the heart strings going again. . . and, you know something, there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Sincerely . . . Fred Petito

    P.S. I did meet someone named Puca two year’s ago at my middle brother’s (Little Tommy) wake. My oldest brother, Sonny — who passed this past October, introduced me to him.

  2. Tony says:

    Tony, Antonio or Antony have nothing to do with the name “Antimo,” a different name. The Italian name “Antimo” comes from the Latin Anthimus which means “like a flower” and is very popular in Campania.

    • Angela says:

      You are correct. However, my grandfather was known by the nickname “Tony,” and used the name Anthony instead of Antimo. I don’t know why he didn’t use his rightful name. I’m guessing that he desired a more “Americanized” version of his actual name. Having said that, he often mentioned that his real name was Antimo. That is why I refer to him as Antimo, instead of Anthony,or Antonio. Whichever way his name was spoken or written, he will always be “Grandpa” to me. 🙂

  3. Christine Petito-Thorn says:

    Angela, My name is Christine Petito, my father is Angelo from 112 St. I wanted to research my family from Italy but did not know where to start. Somehow I came upon your website, and thanks to the information provided by both Phyllis and Fred Petito I was able to trace my family ancestry to Sant’ Antimo, Napoli. I found a great free website, it has the Comune Civil Registration records for Sant’ Antimo Napoli from 1809-1929. It allowed me to trace my family back 5 generations and by doing so I found out that Phyllis, Fred and you are my cousins. If anyone is interested in researching these records from Sant’ Antimo, type this address https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1483011 in the top left bar. It will bring you directly to the records for Sant’ Antimo. There are also 136 different Comune records from Italy on this site. As for Antimo Petito and Antimo Puco, although they were not directly related there would have been a type of kinship between these two men because Antimo Petito’s Uncle Angelo Petito and Aunt Christina Milo (my great grandparents) were also Antimo Puco’s aunt and uncle.

    Sincerely,
    Christine Petito


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