“I lived on Wallace Street
in the Wooster Square area…all shirt factories and dress factories.
All the Italians, they worked in shirt shops. You go in a house on Wooster
Street and you’ll find fifty shirt makers in those apartments. Four
story buildings. And rows of machines. Some of the men went to work
in shirt shops—in the packing department, some in the pressing department,
some stitched. I was number ten in the family. Most of the family above
[me] had to quit school to go to work.
“We had 14 kids. Everybody
had to pull in their share. I had seven sisters and all seven of them
either worked in a shirt factory and one worked in a dress factory.
They worked in the shirt factories for years. One place of employment
for forty years.
“The shops were on one side
of the street, the houses were on the other side of the street so all
they had to do was walk out the front door and go to work...
“When New York got completely
organized, the ‘runaway shops’ came to New Haven. They ran to New
Haven where there were no union shops. And they would open up a storefront.
They’d put twenty, thirty machines on the fourth floor and most of
the stitching plants were on the fourth floor with no elevator. Conditions
…”Then in the 1930s came
the Amalgamated and they started organizing drives in the area.”
Excerpts from a 1999 interview with Anthony Riccio, published in Riccio's The Italian American Experience in New Haven: Images and Oral Histories, 2006