Day Old Donuts
Welcome to Figs and Famiglia, podcast that shares stories of the Italian American experience. My name is Tonya Russo Hamilton and I’m continuing the series in which I interview my father, Antonio Russo about his journey from southern Italy to the US as a young boy. In our previous episode he had just reunited with his biological family in Brooklyn, NY after four years being separated. And during those four years he had built a new life with his aunt and uncle in Portland, Oregon. He made a vow that he’d bring his two families together, and unbelievably so, at the age of 14 he did just that. He convinced his dad to take a train all the way from Brooklyn, NY to Portland, OR and in this episode they have finally arrived. This chapter in the book is titled Day Old Donuts, stay tuned at the end to find out the meaning behind the title.
February 7, 2021
The Train Ride
Welcome to Figs and Famiglia, a podcast that shares stories of the Italian American experience. My name is Tonya Russo Hamilton, and today we are continuing our series in which we are delving into the story of Antonio Russo and his journey from Naples, Italy as a young boy in 1951. In this episode we will hear chapter ten from his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil; A story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' At this point in the story Tony is fourteen years old and he had just been reunited with his biological family in Brooklyn NY. By now he had gotten a taste of life in Portland, Oregon and to him it was similar to his life in Italy and he had also formed a strong bond with the family who had taken care of him during the time he was separated from his biological family —his Uncle Tony and Aunt Gladys, and baby cousin, Joey. Upon reuniting with his family Tony had a mission to convince them to move to Portland and he did accomplish this mission. And he wondered if he had gotten more than he bargained for as he found himself leading a caravan with his dad and uncle across the country. This chapter is appropriately titled, The Train Ride. So, With a suitcase in hand filled with provolone cheese, bread, and wine Tony makes yet another trip across the country.
January 6, 2021
The Power of Persuasion
Welcome to Figs and Famiglia, a podcast that shares stories of the Italian American experience. My name is Tonya Russo Hamilton and for this first series of episodes, I’ve been interviewing my father, Antonio Russo about his journey from Naples, Italy to the U.S. by himself as a ten year old boy. In this episode, Tony is finally reunited with his biological family. It had been 4 years since he’d seen them last and he was anxious about what was awaiting him at their reunion. His life had finally settled into a rhythm in Portland, with his aunt, uncle, and baby cousin and now he was being sent away yet again. He landed in New York, now a teen, not the young boy he was the first time around, and the memories came flooding back. But as emotional and wonderful as the reunion was, Tony held fast to the promise that he had made to his aunt the day he left Portland. He told her, he’d be back, and he stayed true to his word, and set a plan in motion to convince his parents to make yet another journey and move across the U.S. from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon.
December 19, 2020
Young Tony had said goodbye to his family in the Bay of Naples as a ten year old boy in 1951. It was now 1955 and Tony was becoming a young man. He had just graduated from the 8th grade and had started to become acclimated to school and to life in Portland. Especially with the love and support of his aunt and uncle and baby cousin who had essentially become his new family. His biological family had finally arrived from Naples and had decided to establish a home in Brooklyn. Tony knew he had to go to NY to be with them but It was painful to leave his Portland family behind. He made a pact with himself that he would somehow bring his two families together. As nervous as he was to see them again, upon arriving back in New York and seeing his parents and brother and sister Tony was overcome with emotion. There they were, standing in a row, waving hello, just as they had waved goodbye from the Bay of Naples 4 years earlier.
December 10, 2020
Surgeries, Lassie, & Gorgeous George
In episode 7, we are talking once again with Antonio Russo about his journey by himself as a child, from Naples Italy, to Portland, Oregon. In this episode young Tony is riddled with medical concerns and luckily there is a doctor who is a friend of a neighbor, that is willing to operate on him. Although I’m not sure how lucky Tony thought he was. During this time as well the TV is introduced on the west coast and Tony takes a liking to two vastly different shows; Professional Wrestling, & Lassie. Tune in to hear Tony Read chapter 7 from his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil, a Story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame. And then stay tuned for an interview with Tony after the reading. You’re going to want to hear all about the Lassie pup naming contest that he entered! Enjoy!
November 30, 2020
Finding My Way
In this episode Tony Russo will read chapter 6 from his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, & Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' He's still struggling in school but finds that he enjoys physical education and the games at recess. But because he still hasn't learned the English language and hasn't caught up academically, he ends up in some serious physical altercations that take him to the principal's office. In chapter 6, there is also a new member of the family -Baby Joey. Joey is born in 1953 and life in Portland is getting exciting. Be sure to stay tuned after the reading as we have Joe Casorio, aka Baby Joey joining us for a conversation all the way from New Jersey!
November 19, 2020
This is episode 5 of a series in which I interview my father, Antonio Russo about his journey to the United States by himself as a child of 10 from Naples, Italy. In this episode, Tony makes his way from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon to live with an uncle whom he has never met. This uncle heard rumblings that things were tough in Brooklyn and young Tony was on the verge of being placed into a home for boys. Tony’s uncle, (also named Tony) blindly sent him a one way plane ticket to Portland. When Tony arrives in Portland he meets his uncle and his uncle's young wife and essentially becomes their first child. Tony will read chapter 5 from his book; Wrestling with the Devil, a Story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame. Be sure to stay tuned after the chapter to hear the interview with Tony and get more insights into the story!
November 14, 2020
Today we welcome back Tony Russo to discuss chapter 4 in his book, 'Wrestling with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, and Triumph, From the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' Chapter 4 is appropriately titled; 'Brooklyn.' Between 1950-1970 there were huge waves of Italian immigrants settling in Brooklyn, New York and young Tony was one of them. Although for him Brooklyn, was tumultuous, fast, and Furious. After stepping off the USS Independence straight from Naples amidst a sea of travelers young Tony sets out to look for his uncle. Tune in to find out how Tony's life in Brooklyn plays out.
November 2, 2020
Our third episode of Figs & Famiglia is an emotional one. Today we continue our conversation with Antonio Russo, author of 'Wresting with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' He’s going to share with us excerpts from chapter 3 which is when he is put on a ship in the Bay of Naples as a ten year old boy and sent off to America. This was devastating for his Italian family but they were driven for a better life. This quote from author Dianne Hales in the book; La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language, sheds some light as to the emotional toll this took on young Tony and his family. She states; “What Italian doesn’t say also is revealing. Italian has no words that precisely translate “lonely” (unthinkable for its gregarious speakers), “privacy” (equally unthinkable in an Italian family), The Italian phrase “da solo” translates as “by oneself, alone,” which doesn’t convey a yearning for connection in the way that “lonely” does. Italians weave such close and complex connections that perhaps they don’t experience loneliness. Perhaps the culture itself provides a sense of belonging." Young Tony definitely experiences loneliness, and loses his sense of belonging as well, but as you’ll find out in future chapters he’s driven to get that connection back. Enjoy this very special episode!
October 25, 2020
Sins & Devilish Antics
In our second episode of Figs & Famiglia we welcome back a very special guest; coach, teacher, & author, Antonio Russo. He will read the second chapter of his book; 'Wrestling with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, & Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' This chapter starts out light-hearted and humorous and takes a turn for the worst when Tony is thrown from a horse drawn carriage and critically injured. As a child, Tony had an insatiable thirst to live life to the fullest. He tried to please the adults around him but he always seemed to find himself getting into trouble. This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt sums up young Tony’s life. “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it. To taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.”
October 17, 2020
Obstacles Cannot Crush Me
Our first episode of Figs & Famiglia is the first in a series. We welcome a very special guest; coach, teacher, & author, Antonio Russo. He will read the first chapter of his book; 'Wrestling with the Devil; A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, & Triumph, from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame.' We will then dig deeper into the chapter and he will elaborate on some key points for us.
October 11, 2020