Salvatore "Toto" Abbate

My Great Grandfather

Strength must run in my veins

My great-grandfather, Salvatore Abbate was an immigrant from Sicily in the early 1900s. His father was a local "Don" who was captured by the police and killed in jail. Salvatore went by the nickname Toto. When Salvatore was 17 years old, his stepfather was arrested and killed. Salvatore's mother hid him in a freighter headed for America in order to save his life. Salavtore came to America to leave the Mafia behind. He worked hard in America and took night classes to learn to read, write, and speak English and learn about American history. Salvatore's proudest day was the day he became an American citizen.

Where did he fit into history?

Salvatore was born in Sicily on May 30th, 1895. The many problems in Italy led many Southern Italians and Sicilians to leave and search for a new life in America. Many Italians entered the country through Ellis Island. Toto would have come to America right at the time of World War I. During this time, Italy remained neutral.
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What other events did he witness?

Toto passed away in 1966. He saw many changes in America and Italy during this time.

He lived through World War II here in the United States. When Italy entered the war in 1940, Italians were looked down upon and treated like "terrorists". Many were rounded up along with the Japanese Americans to live in interment camps until the end of the war. He would have experienced the horror of the rise of Hitler as well as conflicting emotions about the Italian dictator Mussolini.

Toto lived through the American Civil Rights movement of the early 60's. He would have heard Martin Luther King speak but died before the assassination. Toto experienced the pain and sadness of the Kennedy assassination of 1963.

Toto's family memories

Toto had one child, a son named Carlo. Carlo married Dora Sbarbaro, and they had six children. Carlo is my grandfather. We have a very strong family bond, and our family stories have helped us become strong.

Salvatore was a hard-working, simple man during his life. He never complained about the little money he made cutting hair; in those days it was .75 cents! Sometimes his daily income was $5.00 or less. He would only complain if Rosina would empty his pockets at night.

I admire Toto for his strength and wish I would have been able to meet him. His blood runs in my veins, and I am proud of that.