Intervista con Mary Thornton

Mary Thornton is the daughter of internee, Guido Gioberti, who was interned in Camp Petawawa for about two years during World War II. Born in Hamilton, Mary moved to Italy with her family to learn the Italian language and culture. She returned to Canada at the age of 12 when times got hard in Italy. At the time of Guido’s arrest, the family was never even given the chance to say goodbye. Their only form of communication with him was through censored letters. Mary’s father made use of his time in the camp by learning several languages and reading as much as he could. She describes that on the day that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) ransacked their house she was “shivering” and “frightened to death.” Although the family was never given any explanations or provided with any apologies for this and other related events, Mary believes that the police or government did not even know what they were looking for. Mary recalls Casa d’Italia as a venue for social activities prior to the war, and does not believe that it was used as a political gathering ground. However, it was shut down during the war. She notes that before the war, the Hamilton Italian community was close-knit and very social. Things changed during the war, and the community no longer socialized out of fear of being accused of colluding. She notes that the discrimination faced reached a point whereby they changed their family name from “Gioberti” to “Gilbert,” so that they can acquire jobs. After her dad’s release, no one talked about what had happened to him, but instead tried to move forward with their lives.  She recounts how the war years shaped her life and that of her father’s, both negatively and positively. Mary worked as a seamstress and describes music as being a huge part of her family’s life. Her dad played in the Italo-Canadian Marine band before the war and was the bandmaster. She delineates the career path that led to her receiving numerous awards for costume design, and that resulted in her and her daughter forming the internationally renowned Toronto theatre company called Famous People Players.