« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
Some of the well-known fraternal orders have a very few Italian members of the younger generation, but in some instances the local lodge has refused to admit Italians. The young men feel this ostracism very keenly, the more so because, they say, it does not obtain in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, or other neighboring cities. In this connection the growing spirit of race consciousness, manifested in various ways and openly proclaimed by the young men, is to be noted. Business cooperation, economic independence, strong social organizations, and demonstrated political strength, together with increased intelligence, is responsible for a developing discontent. The older people are hopelessly divided into factions along race lines, Sicilians against Neapolitans, but there is more unanimity of purpose and sentiment among the young men, who want more political and social recognition. They feel that the Americans, while they meet them frankly and openly and extend the warm hand of fellowship, do not allow the Italians to exert any public influence or hold any responsible official or social positions.
One harmless manifestation of this spirit is discernable in connection with the celebration of a great religious festival-that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, locally known as the “Italian Fourth,” on July 16. This celebration, by all odds the greatest gala occasion of the year, far outshining the Independence Day celebration, is organized and carried out entirely on Italian initiative. A committee, or one of the Italian societies, has the matter in charge, and thousands of Italians from the neighborhood, from Vineland, from Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and elsewhere pour into Hammonton on the great day. A long procession marches several miles through the dust and heat. Men, women, and children of all ages are dressed in their best and follow the procession. Two ball games, a bowery dance, a grand ball, and an excellent display of fireworks are features of the occasion.
“Recently,” said a prominent townsman, “the Americans endeavored to get up a sort of counter celebration for Independence Day. The Italians were invited to participate in the parade. They came in a body with an Italian flag, the emblem of the Italian Beneficial Society, flying at their head. When it was explained that only the American flag could be carried in a Fourth of July parade, the Italians indignantly, but firmly and quietly, refused to march, and withdrew. The Fourth of July celebrations are small and modest compared with Italian Day.” This is given as another illustration of the firm race feeling that the you g people exhibit on occasion. It must be added that the school children enter heartily into all exercises planned for American holidays, and that there is no un-American spirit manifested on national celebrations. The Italian wants recognition, puts his own celebration first, and takes pride in saying that it far outshines any other local event.
For the most part the social instincts find expression, aside from the public enterprises mentioned, in weddings, christenings, a few private dances or receptions, and much neighborly visiting. Visiting among the farmers takes place on Sunday, and families go to the houses of friends or relatives to spend the day. Often there is music and dancing. The men play cards and smoke and the women talk. There is sour wine or beer to drink at all gatherings, public or private, but little excess. The Italian dance is whole-souled and joyous,
with plenty of music and abandon. Guitars, accordions, and violins are the preferred instruments of music. Weddings are celebrated by noisy demonstrations, feasting, drinking, and dancing. Sometimes the merriment is kept up for more than one day. There are usually two ceremonies--one civil, by the justice of the peace, one religious in the church. Christenings are also times of merriment. At all gatherings there is some drinking of wine and beer and a great deal of noise and music..
In general the Italians keep early hours, but the berry pickers frequently gather for music and dancing in the evening after the day's work is done. It is doubtless true that even the fact of settlement on the small farms at Hammonton isolates the individual family in some measure and prevents the perfect commingling allowed where all live together in a small village and go back and forth to their farms each day. It is probably true also that the spirit of independence or isolation is growing rather than decreasing.
The Italians are very friendly and generally kind and hospitable. There is a certain suspicion of strangers that comes from ignorance of the English language, but among neighbors there is general cordiality. With occasional exceptions, they are good neighbors. They help each other, give preference to Italian business firms and Italian products, but they deal with any race, and frequently drop an Italian commission firm and give trade to an American. The handicap of language is perhaps the greatest bar to free social intercourse. Suspicion and lack of confidence quickly disappear when there is a common tongue, and those who know them best call them a simple, kind-hearted, hospitable, and social people.
The Italians, both in town and country, are to a great degree segregated. Certain sections in the open country and the west end of the village are almost entirely populated by the one race. Two of the schools in the Italian quarter had not a non-Italian child in attendance. In certain respects this fact helps to perpetuate nationalism and race loyalty and to keep intact the Italian language and traditions. But there is in general much less that is “foreign" about the Italians in Hammonton than about those in the country districts out from Vineland—“Little Italy,” for example. In the first place the church, which is, in many instances, a conserver of race characteristics, language, and customs, has in Hammonton a mixed congregation. Both American and Italian Catholics attend and participate in the service. The schools are so situated that but two are wholly Italian. Americans and Italians mingle freely, the Italian language is not used in any school exercise, and even the Italian-born child soon learns to speak English and to imitate his American classmate.
The fact that the village is so situated that all members of the settlement can visit it frequently, that nearly all marketing of produce must be done there, and that the nature of their crops brings them to town and into business relations frequently is another fact that explains their rapid Americanization. The opportunities for employment in the village are ample in industries where American girls and boys are also employed, one of the greatest assimilative forces being this commingling of the young people during and after work hours.
At Elm and at Waterford the Italians have bought old farms and are almost surrounded by the American farmers. There are some nuclei here and there, around which a number of Italian farms have
clustered, but it has been impossible to avoid American neighbors. There is some race prejudice, as has been said, but this is dying out, although American farmers especially are very likely to lament that the Italians are not altogether desirable, and that they are rapidly crowding in and forcing the American farmer out. Americans ordinarily do not like to live where most of their neighbors are Italians. In the shops this prejudice is more marked. Some of the lodges frankly shut out the Italians, and few are admitted to social enterprises on the same footing with Americans.
There have been some cases of intermarriage with other nationalities from the first years of the colony. Several Italians have intermarried with Germans, and two brothers have been mentioned who married English girls, sisters, early in the history of the Italians at Hammonton. The Italian men are more likely to seek American girls, since the men go out more and mingle more freely with the young people of other races than do the Italian women. At any rate few intermarriages have been recorded between Italian women and men of other races.
Probably 90 per cent of the Italians belong to the Roman Catholic Church. In Hammonton there is but one Catholic Church, St. Joseph's, which both Italians and non-Italians attend. An Italian and a German priest are in charge.
Some of the Italians belong to the Protestant churches in town, one very interesting group attending a Presbyterian mission church. It is called the Italian Presbyterian Mission, and is supported partly by the Presbyterian Church; an Italian pastor from Rome is maintained. This mission church was established, according to the present pastor, in 1895, with about 20 members. There are now 40 adult members and an interesting Sunday school with an attendance of about 70. The pastor can speak little English and most of his Sunday school helpers are women who come from the local Presbyterian Church. The pastor laments the fact that the young Italians can not read or write their own language, and proposes to establish a night school to remedy this condition, so far as his own congregation is concerned.
The Italian in this community has few characteristic vices. There was some complaint that among the berry pickers there was a propensity for pilfering and petty larceny. More complaint is made in this respect by farmers at Hammonton than at Vineland. It was said that small articles that can be readily carried away-hand tools, garments hung out of doors, parts of harness, occasionally children's toys, pencils, and small articles in stores-sometimes disappear. The Italians are not burglars, and Hammonton farmers usually do without locks on barns and granaries, but potatoes and fruit are sometimes taken from the fields, and infrequently pigs are stolen at night. Whether guilty or not the Italians usually are blamed for all the petty thieving that occurs in the community.
However, business morality and strict integrity so far as contractual obligations go are characteristic of the Hammonton Italians, if the
testimony of business men and others who have had financial deal ings with them is correct, “but," it was said, “nearly everyone wili lie without compunction about other matters if it serves his purpose. In this respect, however, there is said to be a noticeable improvement which seems to accompany an advance in intelligence and material prosperity.
of their thrift and industry there is no question, and the standard of personal morality in the family is above the average. Both religion and tradition throw safeguards around the purity of the young. On the other hand, there is much profanity, and, according to a strict standard, a great deal of Sunday desecration. Berry picking and shipping by express go on on Sunday, and this tendency to do Sunday work extends to other farm operations. All in all, considerable labor is done on the first day of the week. Otherwise, Sunday is a day of amusement or church going. There is not much to say about the use of liquor. The trite but oft-repeated reply to questions on that point is, "The Italian drinks a great deal of wine, beer, and whisky, but there is very little drunkenness." There are a good many quarrels among the Italians themselves that grow out of indulgence in liquor. Fights and stabbing affrays are not frequent, but some occur.
In the summer of 1909 an Italian was killed with a wagon bolt, on a lonely piece of road some miles from Hammonton.
His slayer said the quarrel was over a bottle of whisky. A justice of the peace declared that a great many of the quarrels arose out of quick temper and hot blood. The Italians are quarrelsome, get "fighting mad” in an instant, and get over it as quickly. In general, they have a wholesome respect for law and except among themselves are very peaceful.
The Italians do not go to law as readily as some races. No statistics are at hand on the actual number of crimes committed or their character, but justices and lawyers mention a number of murders within their recollection, a long list of serious stabbing affrays, some shootings, and one or two cases of attempted rape (all among themselves). They sometimes carry revolvers, but the two-edged knife is the usual weapon both of defense and offense. There are among them a few desperate men, bad characters, but on the whole crimes are ordinarily committed in hot blood. In sober moments, most Italians are willing to leave the settlement of their difficulties to the officers of the law. In short, they are guilty of more crimes, commit more violence and crimes against person, than the Americans, but they have a much better reputation than their city fellows, and with increasing education and enlightenment these vicious traits are passing. The quiet demeanor and orderly behavior of a great crowd of Italians on the “Italian Fourth" were noticeable. Although a detail of special marshals was appointed, they had little to do. No serious disturbance of any sort arose; the streets were blocked with people, but no violence occurred, only a very few arrests, more for precaution than punishment, and not one of them was a local Italian.
The Italian farm family is, as has been said, the economic unit. Family ties are strong. The children obey and aid their parents; the wife is subject to her husband. When every child is an income earner, it is an advantage to have a large family. To have many children
s not only an honor, but a blessing. Six, eight, or ten children in a family is common. The childless household is infrequent, and the mother with but two or three children is an object of pity. There seems to be no voluntary restriction of the birth rate, no matter how large the family.
The girls are carefully watched, and the boys are under surveillance until they come to maturity. The mothers desire that their children stay at home in the evenings and take great pains to keep them off the streets. Some of the young men stay on the farms and help their fathers after coming of age, and minors turn all their savings into the common fund. Husbands are jealous of the virtue of their wives. There is little unfaithfulness, especially on the side of the wife, and seldom, indeed, does a divorce occur or a family quarrel find its way into the courts. Justices tell of instances where the husband had habitually beaten the wife, but in no case had wife beating been made a ground of legal complaint on the part of the woman. Chastisement of his wife is a prerogative of the husband.
In the early years the records of vital statistics showed a very high infant mortality. Babies apparently were not given the proper clothing or care demanded by the more rigorous climate of New Jersey, and many died before they had lived out their first year. The mortality of children is much higher than the adult death rate. With proper medical care, more knowledge of the demands of the climate, and a higher degree of intelligence, the death rate will fall.
a In fact it has fallen considerably when compared with the earlier winters. The open air and the comparatively mild climate seem to suit the children, who, in general, look strong and healthy.
The girls marry young, about 50 per cent of them before they are 20 years of age. The New Jersey law requires that the wife be at least 18 and the husband not less than 21, unless the parents consent to an earlier union. Justices say that many couples under age must be refused marriage licenses. The marriage age of the man is about the same as the average elsewhere.
Opportunities for education at Hammonton are good. The town maintains, according to the annual school report dated February 28, 1909, a high school, a grammar school, and a primary school in the village, and 10 common schools in the outlying districts. There were 1,242 children enrolled in the various schools, with an average attendance of 1,057. Of these, 792 were enrolled in the village, and 450 in the 7 rural schools. The corps of teachers numbers 42, a supervising principal, 36 teachers, 4 assistants, and a general substitute. A truant officer is employed, the truant expense account being $169.37 for the year. Within very recent years more attention has been given to the enforcement of the compulsory school law, and the 1909 report shows a gain of 181 in attendance, although the enrollment increased only 60. The table following shows the enrollment and attendance by schools.