Age 79. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.
Mario is originally from Amato, Italy. He moved to Winnipeg at the age of 17 with his mother and brother. He said the move was very hard because they did not know any english. “We learned just by an old lady the old ladies that were there. we kept saying ‘how do you call this? how do you call that’ yknow? So that’s how we learned.”
I asked Mario about the size of Winnipeg when he first arrived. “Amount of people, I don’t really know… But we had the street cars. And the trolley buses. Like San Fransisco and all over the place, I don’t know why they took them out.” He remarked on this same issue later. I mentioned how rails would be useful today, considering Winnipeg’s dire need for rapid transit. Mario noted that other big cities still have them, so why did we take ours out?
Mario started his life in Winnipeg’s West end. “I lived in Lalexandra. It’s Logan and Alexandra. It’s almost uh, by the Arlington bridge. Near there. There were lots of the Italians, because we all came at that time. It was like a group, but now there’s no more there. Now they’re all in River Heights and all over the place.” When he moved to his current home, the neighbourhood was just bushes. “When we came here was just bushes. No trees, no nothing.” He lives in Tuxedo.
Mario met his wife here in Canada. “Actually, my mother was friends with her mother. One day they came to see my mom, and right away I went to her house. That’s how I met my wife Angie. She says “what you doing here?” and i says “I just came. that’s it. came to see you.” and that was it. I would just phone her, and go see her because our parents were good friends.” I’d guess it helps when your families already get along.
Mario spent most of his life as a hairdresser here in Winnipeg. It sounded like he had things pretty good. “Oh ya… well, we had all good people. Really nice people because they were from the river, eh. There was nothing like ‘here’ (referencing the South end.)” Getting upper-class clients from the wealthier neighbourhoods was good for his family and for business.
Night life in Winnipeg used to involve orchestras and Frank Sinatra. Mario would spend his weekends at dance halls with friends. “Back then we had the Copa, the Copa Cobana. It’s still there but they do something else now… socials.” The establishments have changed, but people do the same sort of thing at the bar on my weekends too. They didn’t have liquor in dance halls, though.
Mario has moved more than twice in his life. Once he was married, he moved out from the West end into Tuxedo. He said he’s “lived at Alexandra, then we went to Langside, then from Langside i got married and we went Beverly. This is the best. It’s nice and quiet.” Referring to the middle Tuxedo area.
When I asked if Mario liked Winnipeg, he responded appropriately. “Ah ya. Winnipeg’s my… 2nd best place. I mean, we still like Italy, because we were born there. But nothing to go back to. I’ll just go on holidays. It’s nice for holidays, when you have money in your pocket. But there is nothing there.”
Canada is known for its mixed population. Periods of heavy immigration punctuate Canadian history. Yet immigration is a hot topic to this very day. Canada has tightened its borders under recent government, and now global events are calling the change into question. If you’re not sure about Canada’s current immigration policies, or would like to see them changed, please contact your local MP for a friendly conversation. Here is a link that can let you know who your local MP is, and provide their contact information: http://www.canada.ca/en/contact/