Share your family roots here at ORAL HISTORIES. Explore your fascinating family stories with a post in this specially designed family roots section.
Contact me here to share your Italifornian history with other Members.
Part of the vision included in the development of The Italifornian was to establish a forum to explore family roots and how they tie into the greater Italian American experience in California, hence, Italifornians. We all draw on a vast set of family experiences originating around the globe. When shared, they collectively weave a fascinating tapestry of community life. Family histories also offer a glimpse into how "big" events translate into "ordinary" human endeavors.
Those are the gems that offer amazing insight into how our families have coped and even succeeded in the face of adversity. I recall a recent note in an obituary of an Italian American woman, who had included in her final observations, how she felt wronged and emotionally wounded as a child, by her father being arrested as an "enemy alien" during World War II. On a more personal note, going through my father's papers after he died, I found a crumpled notarized document, stating my father did not participate in the famed 1936 San Francisco Waterfront strike, in order to try to enlist in the merchant marines. Trying to get a job in the midst of the Great Depression was a survival task little understood in today's world, and yet without a doubt was a part of family stories and lore, now long gone.
We all share these common life experiences but sadly we are rapidly losing connections with this sense of history and what it means to be an Italian American. Of course, one can say this about all ancestries, but that is not the purview of this website, and really this work must be done in the gardens one knows best. So we hope you take advantage of this precious opportunity and share some choice family tales, and contribute to our common pageantry as Italifornians.
Executive Editor & Co-Founder
The following interview with Sam Carlino was conducted by Joseph Caruso during The Italian Family Festa on August 20, 2022 at History Park San Jose
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Joseph: What motivated you to write Colorado’s Carlino Brothers?
Sam: 2010 is when I got motivated to write the book. 1985 is when I found out the truth about my family’s history. Going back to the motivation question, there were a lot of books and history that was being written about my grandfather that was actually untrue. There was a lot of speculation and things that were just kind of absurd, and I wanted to set the record straight with someone from the family who knew the inside story of how things really happened.
Going back to 1985, I was working at my sausage stand at the San Jose food market. Friday nights I’d make Italian sausage, and Saturday and Sunday I’d sell it at my stand out there. I was about 18 years old at the time. This old man came up and tried the sausage. He was probably about 75, maybe close to 80 years old, back in 1985, so that puts him being born around 1905 or 1910. He recognized the flavor of the sausage and he goes “God, I haven’t had sausage this good since Time Market,” and I said, “Well that’s the Time Market recipe”. He asked if I was a Carlino and I said “Yeah”, and he asked “Who’s your dad?” I said “Sam” and he started to name all my uncles. He goes “I remember when they were just boys. In fact I used to work for your grandfather”. I go “Really?”. And he says “yeah I remember the day he was killed”. “Killed? No, no my grandfather died of pneumonia.” “Pneumonia? Yeah right”. And he starts laughing at me. When you’re 18 years old and you have a 75 or 80-year-old guy laughing at you, you know you’re gonna be wrong. He goes “Pneumonia my ass. He died of lead poisoning. They shot him up. He was Colorado’s biggest bootlegger. He owned that state”. I’ll never forget that part: He owned that state. “I remember when he was killed”. And from that point on, that’s when the truth really came out about the family. My dad and his brothers were ashamed of where they’d come from. 180-degree turn from the time they came to California in 1932. They came out in October of ‘32. They were here in San Jose. By 1938 they had their first business up and running. They had a fruit and vegetable stand on Monterey Highway, and they ran that until the beginning of WWII. My other uncles went and built liberty ships in Oakland once the war started. My dad was drafted out of high school and he served in the army air corps over in the Pacific Theater. When they all came back they opened up Italian Market in 1950, so it was a nice turn of events for the family. They went 180 degrees from my grandfather, who was born in Sicily. My grandmother was born here in 1893, but they were only here for 5 years in New Orleans before she was born. My grandfather was born in Sicily in 1887. My dad was born in ‘24. But there’s a lot of interesting true crime. The book is not a novel at all, it's ten years of research on just true crime.
Sam Carlino is the grandson of Pete Carlino. Born and raised in Campbell, CA, Sam has been working since the age of 12. His father, Sam Sr., instilled in him a hard-work ethic, a love of family and country, and the importance of following through on every task at hand. Sam has been a journeyman butcher, restaurant owner, realtor, TV food show producer, director and host, avid outdoorsman, and amateur Mafia historian.