Interview with Antoinette Palmeri
Antoinette Palmeri was born in 1929 in Montreal. Both of her parents were born in Italy. Her father, Vito Palmeri, immigrated to Canada when he was 16 years old, leaving both his parents behind in Salemi, Italy. He travelled back to Italy often to visit his aging parents and when he was in his mid-30s his parents advised him to take a wife. It was during one of his last trips to Italy that he met his wife, a seamstress. They married and came to Canada where they settled in Montreal. The couple had two children Antoinette and Frances. Antoinette recounts her early years of attending a school run by both American and French Canadian nuns, where she received a trilingual education. She also speaks of the various neighbourhoods in Montreal. She highlights the Italian customs she grew up with and the various Italian activities and associations she both participated in and knew of, such as the balillas and the Casa d’Italia. On June 10, 1940, two Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) came to the door during dinner to arrest her father. The family was in the middle of dinner and was allowed to continue eating as the officers waited patiently. Her father was first taken to Bordeaux Jail and then transferred to Petawawa where he remained for two years. In his absence the family struggled to make ends meet, with Antoinette’s mother working as a seamstress and washing clothes. The family received no relief despite their pleas to the government. Antoinette believes that it was her father’s association with fascism that led to his arrest. Upon his return her father spoke little of the experience, only telling a few stories of how the internees would take to practical joking to pass the time. Even in her later years Antoinette does not know many of the details surrounding her father’s internment as the event was never discussed in public, even amongst of families of the interned.