This week I was excited to learn more from my Papa about his family history. We had explored pretty in depth about the history of his father's family, the LoBues, but we had only touched lightly on his mother's family, the Gallinas. He was close with all his family, but especially his mother's side, and I was excited to hear these heart-warming stories again, but also learn some things I did not know.
Albanians in Sicily
In the 14th century, the King of Sicily invited mercenaries from Albanian to put down a rebellion in Sicily. For their service, the Sicilian King rewarded them with land he owned in central Sicily. The mercenaries were able to bring their families from Albania, which was having its own war against the Ottoman Turks and took the opportunity to get their families out. My Papa’s mother’s ancestors were these Christian Albanians who retained some of their language when they came to Sicily, which was very similar to the Greek language.
Because of this similarity, the Albanians were called Greeks in central Sicily. Most of them lived in the capital of the region of Sicily they occupied called piana de Gracia (Grecian plain). That is where my Papa’s grandmother’s family originated from. My Papa’s grandfather grew up around the villages of Contessa and Talena. Because Sicily was prone to attacks, many of their villages were built at the top of hills and were very much like strong-holds to protect against attackers (Magellan TV is has very good documentary called Italy from Above, and the first two episodes cover Sicily and its surrounding islands. I highly recommend it if you are interested in learning more). Eventually, by the late 1800s, the population was growing so much that there were not enough land or resources to support it. So many Italians left Sicily and moved to the United States, including my Papa’s great-grandfather, Joaquin Capaci.
Capacis in New Orleans
Joaquin and his brother had been merchants in Sicily and continued that line of work in New Orleans. They eventually saved up enough money to start their own store on the outskirts of New Orleans. Once they were able to establish themselves there, the brothers were able to bring their families to the United States. Joaquin’s wife was named Maria Shairo Capaci who came over with their daughter, Rose Capaci, who was my Papa’s maternal grandmother.
Rose was about one-year-old when they came to the United States and she grew up there in New Orleans. Eventually she met her future husband, Vincent Gallina, who came from central Sicily with his brother as stowaways on a ship. His illegal status did not prevent him from finding work, but, when he went to marry Rose, her father adamantly refused the marriage until Vincent could go back to Sicily and return legally. He did return to Sicily and came back to the United States in 1906 where he and Rose promptly married and move to California with his brothers and their families.
Rose and Vincent in Los Angeles & Move to San Francisco
Rose and Vincent initially moved to Los Angeles where his brothers had ended up, and they wanted to get into farming. This had been their line of work or their family’s line of work in central Sicily, where they had grown mostly tree crops. There was about 160 acres of land that they were looking at to buy and farm in Los Angeles. But it was on a mountainside and really rocky, which meant it was only good for raising cattle which the brothers knew nothing about. So, they passed on the purchase.This was between 1906 and 1912, before the movie industry had moved to the area. When Vincent’s daughters looked into where the property might have been, they discovered that that land was in the heart of what is now Beverly Hills.
Despite this purchase falling through, the Gallinas continued to look for farm land and learned that there was a lot of good land to be had in the Bay Area, particularly the Santa Clara Valley of San Jose. They ended up buying proper in a little village by the name of Cupertino. The ranch was on Prospect Avenue and bordered on an irrigation ditch that was adjacent to their property. Across the street is where the Apple campus and headquarters is now located. My Papa’s mother grew up on that ranch and was in the first graduating class of Fremont High School, something she was very proud of.
Rose Capaci Gallina, or Mama as they called her had had a very interesting life even before she came to California with her husband and his family. She was one of four children, and the only girl. She was known to have a lot of energy and projects going. Her daughters always said that they could not keep up with her energy level and work ethic. She was very smart, but she had never actually learned how to read. This was mostly due in part to being recruited one day when she was a young child to work in a cotton mill turning cotton into thread and therefore stopped going to school. She had hated school and enjoyed the work she was doing at the mill.
While she was working, she had been hiding the money was making from her parents but one day they found it. When they confronted her, she told them what she was doing and they made her begin going to school again. But she struggled in school greatly and complained, so eventually they conceded to letting her work and save her money. Though never diagnosed, more than likely she had a disability like dyslexia. Her daughters had tried to teach her to read later on but she had a hard time distinguishing the letters of the alphabet and could never get the hang of it. But she knew money very well, and knew how to keep track of it and add it very quickly. Her husband made a decent life for them too, and they had the ranch in Cupertino until the twenties when they lost it during the Great Depression.
The Great Depression
According to my Papa’s mom, when the depression hit, Vincent unfortunately could not keep up payments on the ranch and ended up losing it to foreclosure. But Rose pushed Vincent to keep enough money to at least get a house and through her determination and finagling, they got enough of a down payment to buy a house near downtown San Jose on Gifford Avenue. To survive, Rose and Vincent and their elder daughters got jobs in canneries.
During this time, there were a lot of fruit trees in the area such as cherries, peaches, plums, prunes, and nectarines, so there were many canneries there such as Libby and Dole. The family would get up at four in the morning, go and work nine to ten hours per day, come home and then do it again the next day. This was how they supported themselves during the depression and fortunately, because of the canneries, they always had work. But Vincent had another skill that he was able to put to use which was landscaping and landscaping art, which he had learned in Los Angeles when they lived there and something he had a passion for.
Vincent’s Life’s Work & Legacy
Eventually, Vincent found work with the city in their maintenance department and eventually became a landscape designer for the city. He would design the walkways, fencing, and rock work in the parks of San Jose. In fact,there is a park that is still there called Alum Rock park, in a little canyon outside of San Jose. He apparently oversaw and ran the entire design project, including all these beautiful rock walls and walkways. It seems that most of them are still standing within this park today.
During the depression, the government gave money to the cities to rebuild and beautiful them so that jobs could be created to stimulate the economy. This program was called the Works Progress Administration or WPA. This led to the creation and beautification of many parks, hospitals, and schools during this time. Vincent continued this work until he retired in the late forties or early fifties. At some point, during the 1930s, Vincent’s daughter, Mary, met her future husband there in San Jose.
A Sweet Encounter
My Papa’s mother, Mary was one of four girls. The girls were able to get jobs to support the family as well during the Great Depression, both in canneries and department stores and one as a nurse. Fred LoBue Sr., during this time, would sometimes have to go up to San Jose and help with the cherry orchard there, and he would try to see friends he had there while he was there. There was one particular young lady with the last name of Bon Giovanni who he had gone with for a little while but was just friends with at this time.
Well one evening, he picked up this girl and one of her friends, Mary Gallina. The trio went on their outing together, with Fred Sr. driving and the young lady in the middle of the bench seat and Mary in the passenger seat. While he was dropping them off, Fred leaned over the girl in the middle and asked Mary if she would like to go on a date with him. And that was the start of Mary and Fred Sr.’s romance. Fortunately, the girl was understanding and her sister was more of a friend to Mary, and that sister eventually became the Godmother to my Papa’s brother, Richard.
For a while, Mary and Fred Sr. maintained a long-distance relationship while he worked in the Central Valley, but during that time he wrote her some beautiful love letters. They were then married in April of 1938. It was during this time that Fred and his brothers were beginning to start the packing house in the Central Valley. Mary, a young newlywed with a Kodak camera, recorded all this by taking pictures of them building and assembling the first packing house, most of which were used as memorabilia in the later renditions of the packing house. It is interesting for me, knowing her when I was a child, imagining my great-grandmother Mary being about my age, taking pictures of her husband, getting to know the area that is now my hometown, and making a new life as a married woman.
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About the Author
Lauren is a writer and business woman from the California Central Valley. Returning Time is a tribute to her grandparents and those loved ones who have passed on. She retells their stories here and on the Returning Time podcast.
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