My grandfather, Ferdinando Criscuolo, was born in January 1889 in Castellamare di Stabia Italy. In 1920 at the age of 31, he came to America with his family seeking a better life. He was 31 years old. “Gramps” died on July 4, 1964 in New Haven, CT
I was named after my grandfather. Back then Italian parents named their first son after the husband’s father and their second son (me) after the wife’s father. I was given the “Americanized version” of his name which is Frederick. I would have preferred the name Ferdinando in retrospect. The name Fred conjures thoughts of Fred Flintstone, Freddie the Freeloader, Fred Sanford, etc. There is even a bottle of water called FRED. I kid you not. Characters named Fred are usually the fall guy… the brunt of the joke. You get what I mean.
After his funeral, my grandmother summoned me and gave me the silver dollar that my grandfather always carried with him until his death. I was unaware at the time that he did so. When I examined it, I realized that It was dated 1920 the year he entered America. For “Gramps” it was his “good luck” charm. He carried this coin in his wallet for 44 years before it was given to me. I, like my grandfather, have carried it with me every day. I’ve faithfully done so since I was 17 years old. That was 53 years ago.
When I obtained the silver dollar, I placed it in my wallet as did my grandfather. Back then, the only other items in my wallet were my driver’s license, a student ID and a few dollars. Because the coin was large and heavy, it immediately engrained a round circle on the outside of my near empty wallet. Coincidently, the impression that it left on the outside of my wallet was the same circumference as a single packaged condom. It always gave me great pride to reach for my wallet to pay for a can of soda or buy a hot dog and French fries at Jimmie’s of Savin Rock. I always made sure the circle was face up for all to discreet see. It was like displaying my Badge of Manhood. Hey… I was seventeen. My years as a teenager were waning and I was on my way to becoming a man.
But I digress…Two weeks ago I traveled to Italy and had the pleasure of accompanying my oldest daughter Kimberly and her family. The purpose of the trip was to introduce her to all of our Italian cousins. As I went through security, I unloaded all of the loose articles I had on me. That included all of my gold chains (I’m Italian), watch, phone and wallet.
I was quickly reminded of what was tucked inside of my wallet. That raised circle stood out like a sore thumb. Well …maybe not quite a sore thumb but it did get my attention and made me think about the voyage this 1920 silver dollar was undertaking. It was 97 years ago my grandfather put it in his wallet and here I was carrying with me to Italy. It made me feel like “Gramps” was tagging along for the trip.
I’m back home now along with my very unique 1920 silver dollar. In a special way I feel that the journey which was initiated many years ago by my grandfather has gone full circle. I brought a part of him, a memory, back to Italy, albeit for just a short period of time, along with his grandson Frederick, his great granddaughter and her family.
Rest in Peace “Gramps.” Your coin is in good hands!