[Frederick Rocco Pantalone:
A Granddaughter's Perspective]
The confusing and frightening events of that June day in 1940 took place almost 8 years before I was born. By the time I was born in late 1947, life had almost settled back to normal in their family home, a stone’s throw away from St. Anthony’s Church, at 818 Gladstone Avenue in Ottawa. My grandfather, Frederick Rocco Pantalone, who I adored, died when I was 13 years old and too young to comprehend the nuances and magnitude of all that happened that day in June. My beloved Grandfather was about to become a Prisoner of War for 8 months.
Still, when I became a young adult, this important chapter in our family history was never discussed in our home. My father, Gordon V. Pantalone, never spoke of his father’s internment experience. He and I would have splintered conversations about it in the final years of his life. I yearned to delve in to more detail about that day, those months, the life my Grandfather came back to, but it was so obvious to me that I conjured up sad memories, long ago buried, that I didn’t pursued it with him. It has only been in recent years that I have learned through articles, books and documentaries, of this sad and shameful time in our Canadian history. I have also come to learn that my father’s reticence to speak about this time in his life is somewhat typical of the children of the interned. Fear, shock, denial, acceptance, silence – a grieving process of sorts – helped my grandparents and their children move on past the pain, to ultimately lead productive and happy lives once again. I so admire and respect them for being able to do so. However, some in my generation are only now processing these events from a place 70 years removed from those days, months and years. For many of us, our grandparents’ and parents’ acceptance of the actions of the government of the day has been replaced with awe and anger that this could have ever happened! In almost all cases, it should not have happened. I look to the government of this day to offer a formal apology for the actions of its predecessor -- actions which were, in the words of Ontario Minister of State for Seniors Julian Fantino, “deeply offensive to the simple notion of respect for human dignity and the presumption of innocence”.
For every Italian-Canadian P.O.W. interned during these bleak months and years, the day finally came to attempt to return his and his family’s life to normalcy. It was not easy for any – but for some, the shameful discrimination, prejudice and gut-wrenching blows were to continue. My grandfather, who had so proudly risen to the rank of lieutenant in the Ottawa Fire Department, discovered that he had lost his job and pension. A judge had earlier commented that “this man should never have been arrested, should never have been detained”, but the City of Ottawa Fire Department deemed otherwise. I suspect that this was even more devastating to him than his 8 months of incarceration.
One hard-working man wronged by two levels of government in a city and a country that he loved until the day he died. I have such great love, admiration and pride for my father and his parents for being able to survive and rise above. Pride is replaced by shame and sadness when contemplating the actions of those two levels of government in 1940-1941.
"remember your parents fondly...he was Mary Carbones brother...my dad's (George) mother...never knew this happened...thanks for sharing..." - Doug Spadafore
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