Leopoldo Andreoli, 208 Elm St. Very young–appears 11 or 12 years old. Is a “Loom boy” in spinning room of the Ayer Mill; has a steady job now and makes $5.15 a week now. Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 1911, Lewis Hine.
“Every once in a while, my father would talk to some of the older people, and they would talk about the old days in the mill and how they were treated.” -Raymond Andreoli, son of Leo Andreoli
On November 25, 1903, Alfredo Andreoli, 32 years old, landed at Ellis Island in New York. He had left his wife Sarah and their six children in Naples. He headed to Lawrence, picked up a job as a laborer, and moved into an apartment at 66 Elm Street, a two-story brick duplex that had been built in 1900. It still stands. He returned to Italy in 1904, and brought back his family on June 19, 1905. When they landed in Boston, wife Sarah was six months pregnant with their seventh child. One of the other children was Leopoldo (called Leo), born on May 15, 1896. Alfredo and Sarah had married in 1894.
The family moved into an apartment at 136 Common Street. The address is now an empty lot. By 1910, the family had moved to 189 Elm Street, where Plainsman Park is now located. Alfredo was a carder at the Ayer Mill, which was built in 1909 by the notorious William Wood, owner of the Wood Mill, which is mentioned in the newspaper article above. When the Bread & Roses Strike broke out in 1911, the family had recently moved to 208 Elm Street (also Plainsman Park now). Son Leo was also working at the Ayer Mill.
By 1920, Alfredo (now simply Alfred) and Sarah had moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and had three additional children. But Leo stayed in Lawrence and married Elvira Montifusco in 1919. Leo continued to work in the mills. Over the years, he and Elvira lived in several more locations in Lawrence. In 1930, Elvira was working in a print works, and there were four children in the home. They would have four more in the 1930s, including Raymond, whom I interviewed. He had never seen the Hine photos.
Leo died in Lawrence in June of 1967. He was 71 years old. His wife Elvira died in 1980.
Lewis Hine caption: Leopoldo Andreoli, 208 Elm St. Very young–appears 11 or 12 years old. Is a “Loom boy” in spinning room of the Ayer Mill; has a steady job now and makes $5.15 a week now. Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 1911.
Edited interview with Raymond Andreoli (RA), son of Leo Andreoli. Interview conducted by Joe Manning (JM) on March 7, 2012.
JM: What did you think of the pictures of your father?
RA: He looked like he was saying, ‘Why are you taking a picture of me?’
JM: Did you know that he was working at that age?
RA: Yes, in a way. Every once in a while, my father would talk to some of the older people, and they would talk about the old days in the mill and how they were treated.
JM: What year were you born?
JM: At that time, where was your father working?
RA: He was working in the mills. He worked his whole life in the mills. But he used to repair shoes on the side. In those days, everybody used to do something else to make a little buck here and a little buck there.
JM: Where were your parents living when you were born?
RA: In a four-story building on Lincoln Court. When I was about four years old, I can remember looking down through a hole in the floor and talking to my friend in the apartment beneath us. We moved from there to 125 Jackson Street, and then we moved to Conduit Street.
JM: How many children did your parents have?
RA: Eight. I was number seven. My youngest brother died when he was three years old and I was four. We both had polio, but he didn’t make it and I did. I’m the only one left.
JM: Did you graduate from high school?
RA: I never went to high school. I went to work so I could help my family with the rent and other stuff. I was about 14 or 15 then. My father was a disabled veteran. In 1948, he was out of work. In those days, you could go to work when you were young if you could show that you needed to help your family.
JM: Where did you work?
RA: I worked as a furniture stripper. I would strip down old furniture. I made 16 cents an hour. I went into the service in 1950, and got out in 1956. After that, I worked mostly for companies that manufactured goods for the military. At one point, I traveled all over the world repairing things and teaching GIs how to use the products.
JM: You said your father was a disabled veteran. What kind of a disability did he have?
RA: I have no idea. I didn’t even know about it until after he died. I was helping my mother with her bills, and I found out that my father had been collecting a disability pension, which was only about $15 a month.
JM: Did your parents speak Italian?
RA: Yes, but only at home. When I started school, my mother said, ‘You were born in this country, you’re an American, and you speak American.’ In the area that I lived in, the only time you heard a foreign language spoken was at somebody’s house. Out in the street, everybody spoke English, whether you were in the German section or the Polish section or the Jewish section or the Italian section.
JM: Did you know your father’s parents?
RA: Not really. They moved to Providence, Rhode Island about the time I was born, and they didn’t get back to Lawrence much.
JM: Did you marry?
RA: Yes, but we didn’t have any children.
JM: Did your father tell you any stories about growing up?
RA: No. He was more in touch with my sisters, because I was the youngest. I didn’t see him that much. He would come home from work late, and we didn’t do much together. But my mother was an angel. She did everything she could for me and the family.
JM: Did your father ever say anything about the Bread & Roses Strike?
RA: Not that I remember. It’s funny, but when he got old, he didn’t like the unions anymore. He used to say to me: ‘Unions were good when they first came out. They helped the people. But today, unions are nothing but a bunch of crooks.’
Lewis Hine caption: Group working in Ayer Mill. Joe Christy, 21 Common St.; Sam Gangi, 82 Pleasant Valley St.; Harold Olds, 81 Springfield St.; Wallace Hager, 12 Baily St.; Sebastino Genovese, 50 1/2 Common St.; Leopoldo Andreoli, 208 Elm St.; Nicoli Farcella, 120 Common St.; Salvatore Finchelli, 115 Garden St.; Joseph D’Angelo, 6 Common St.; Pasquale De Arnado, 125 Oak St.; Salvatore Quatirtto, 48 Union St. Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 1911.
Leopoldo (Leo) Andreoli: 1896 – 1967
*Story published in 2012.