When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Silvio Tona

Silvio was born in Villa di Tirano [province, Sondrio; region, Lombardia] on the 27th of June, 1900. Silvio was the second oldest of four brothers. His mother died in 1903 when he was just three years old. After his mother died an aunt took care of him until his father remarried. Silvio worked on the family farm and attended school until he was 14 years old. He served in the army from 23rd of March 1918, until February of 1919 when he was discharged. Then he joined the 'costume guards' for the next 3 years. The first time Silvio heard about Canada was the 2nd of May, 1924. He had a relative who lived in Rimbey who operated a farm. He was told that he could have a job if he came over, so he went. He took the train with his cousin to Genoa, and then took a boat for 10 days to New York. Once he got to New York, he boarded a train to Calgary, and then to Rimbey. Silvio spent about 25 years working the coal mines in British Columbia and Alberta before developing a lung condition known as silicosis. In 1955 he took a job as a handyman in a hotel at Edson. Over the years Silvio returned to the old country numerous times to visit. He never married, and spends his time reading books at the library or visiting old friends.

The interview was conducted by Carmela Marino and Anna Bruni for the Italians Settle in Edmonton Project in 1983 resulting in the commemorative booklet of the same name.

This was a 25th anniversary project of the Santa Maria Goretti Parish. A Society was set up and a committee struck to undertake the research. The President was Frank Sdao and the research was led by Dr. Adriana Albi Davies.

Silvio Tona: Oral History Excerpts

Mr. Tona compares his wine-making in Italy to that in Canada.

Click here to listen!

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