Pasquale and Maria Longo moved to Golden separately in the early 1960s.

Golden Moments: Italian couple found a home in B.C.

Pasquale and Maria Longo both arrived from Italy in the early 1960s and made Golden their new home.

Pasquale Longo left his home country of Italy by himself in 1961 in search of a new life.

“Things were pretty tough in Italy…there was a lot of unemployment,” he said. “That’s why I came to Canada.”

Pasquale was a young boy during World War II, but he still remembers the hardship that the war brought upon himself and his family.

“It was tough. We used to have a coupon for bread and we were only allowed so much bread a day and so much pasta,” he said. His family had to save what bread they got in case there wasn’t any available the next day.

After a 10 day trip across the Atlantic, he arrived in Halifax, where he boarded a train for Western Canada. He’s made Golden his home ever since.

His wife, Maria Longo, had a similar experience the year before. Maria also departed on a boat from Naples for the journey across the ocean, but she was travelling with her family.

“We came on a ship named Olympia. Even though it was April, it was horrible…Everyone was throwing up,” she said, laughing at the memory. “My brother fell down on the ship and hit his head and they had to give him three stitches.”

Maria says her family was poor in Italy and looking for a fresh start. While she was born two years after the end of the war, she has heard stories of what the war did to her family, including tragic events such as the death of her grandpa from a bomb and her father being held as a POW for seven years.

“It was just my grandma and mom, my dad was at war…It was not very nice. Good thing I missed that,” she said. “But I felt sorry for my grandma and my mom, and I never got to know [my grandpa].”

When they arrived, neither Pasquale nor Maria were accustomed to Canadian winters. Pasquale, who grew up just minutes from the Mediterranean Sea in Italy’s southern Calabria region, recalls seeing snow just once in his youth. Maria grew up about an hour from Rome but she too can’t remember many snowy days from her childhood.

“On May the 20th in 1960, they sent me to school and it snowed so bad,” Maria laughed. “I’ll never forget, I went to school and I had these Italian shoes…it’s a good thing it wasn’t too far to go…I kept slipping.”

The Longos met in 1963 when Pasquale’s friend was living with Maria’s family.

“There was something about him and I liked it. There was a connection,” Maria said.

The couple have been married for 50 years as of last month and have three kids and five grandkids. Pasquale got a job with CPR and worked there until 1968. That’s when he got a job with LP, where he remained until his retirement in 2002.

The Longos regularly attend the Catholic Church and keep busy with gardening. They grow many of their own vegetables, which Maria often uses to make her homemade pasta sauce.

Not surprisingly, the couple considers Golden their home now.

“I like Golden. Actually I love it,” Maria said with a smile.

“You work in one spot and you get friendly with the people. If you go somewhere else you have to start all over again,” Pasquale said. Having moved halfway around the world, Pasquale and Maria know what that experience is like all too well.

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