When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Military Service Photo Gallery

The troops needed to be sent off to war with pomp and ceremony and the Italian band was enlisted to do this.  Two soldiers of Italian ancestry from the Pass fought in the World War I. The Peressini family was well-established in the Crowsnest Pass.  In July, 1936, General Franco sought to overthrow the democratic government of Spain.  The Spanish resistance called upon international volunteers and 1,500 Canadians answered the call and enlisted in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.  Franco was backed by Italian leader Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler (the triumvirate of Fascist regimes in Europe).  At least seven men from the Crowsnest Pass volunteered and these included Anthony Peressini from Blairmore.  He was among the 721 Canadians who died in Spain and was killed in the last engagement of the "Mac-Pap" Battalion in summer of 1938 at the Ebro River.  His death is a touching example of the patriotism of these new Canadians.  On February 12th, 2000 a bronze statue was erected at the British Columbia Legislature and on the 20th October, 2001, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson unveiled a Monument to the Batttalion in Ottawa. Four Peressini brothers—Augusto, Diodoro (Doro), Romano and Giacomo—left Valvasone, province of Udine, in 1905 with their Father Andrea to work in Lille. In spite of “enemy alien” designation young men from the Italian community enlisted and their families supported the war effort.

It would appear that young men of the Italian community enlisted in all of the services and Archie Riva is pictured in his air force uniform. Paul Baratelli was apprenticed as a blacksmith and came to Canada from Northwest Italy in 1900 at the age of 16.  He worked at blacksmithing at mines and logging camps throughout his working life.  He “ordered” a mail order bride and married a girl from his hometown in 1908 and they had two sons, one of whom is pictured above.  The couple were community-minded and were members of the Rebekah and the Odd Fellows Lodges. Joe Motti, Seaforth Highlanders, was killed on May 17th, 1943 on Italian Beach as the Allied troops marched up the toe of Italy. The Peressinis were strong supporters of the Canadian war effort.  Here Albino Peressini, Calgary Highlanders, is seen with his friends Geno Orlando, Tony Sekina and Romano Peressini.

Geraldine Frey and James Montalbetti are pictured here on their wedding day with their attendants Neil Wilson and Margaret Price Clark.  The large wedding reception seemed inappropriate in war time and, frequently, the bride was dressed in a suit and the groom was in uniform.

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