Waterbury made me. Waterbury runs through my veins along side of my memories of the factory whistles at lunch time to running down the hill of Webster School to go St. Lucy’s church for catechism lessons on Monday release time. My extended Italian family of Becce, Scarpa, Semprini, Padula and Clapps families forms a map of my earliest world. Our mothers, aunts and cousins going downtown on the North Main Street bus to go shopping and having lunch at the Front Page was as cosmopolitan a life as a young girl’s life could be. Waterbury was and is gritty and real but glamorous too. Grand Street, town hall, the Silas Bronson Library, all of the churches on our elegant Green centered a life that taught me a how to live a big life.
The rich matrix of stories and gossip about family, school, church and our neighborhoods formed my first literature. That material is basis of a good deal of what I have written, particularly in The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America. — Joanna Clapps Herman
For more information, follow this link for a web-page that makes available a rich variety of resources on a Southern Italian American family farm in Waterbury, Connecticut. Our family originates in Basilicata or Lucania in the province of Potenza in the town of Tolve. This page has primary materials on immigration history and immigrant life: film, oral history in original dialect and transcribed, audio, official documents, maps, photographs, recipes, commentary on daily life and much more. All of the documents and photographs are downloadable and printable. The Becce Farm was the last fully working farm in Waterbury, closing it’s functioning in 2012.