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Angelo Tomalino

AIR #75
August 22, 1965

Poverty dominated much of Italy in 1900. What peasant would dare dream that he might some day retire in California? A wild dream - but dreams do sometimes come true. Carlo Tomalino heard that across the thousands of miles of land and sea the United States was giving away land in Montana - 160 acres to a man, just for the taking. He wasn't thinking California then, but surely a man with 160 acres could soon accumulate a fortune, come back to Italy, and "have it made."

So Carlo Tomalino left his wife and two small sons in Italy and came to Montana to get a home ready for them. He chose a quarter section on Murphy Table, about six miles northwest of Intake, for his homesite and began to make improvements on it. Homestead requirements were liberal, and he didn't have to stay on the homestead all the time so he was able to work out a good deal. George McCone and Jack Martin were his main employers. He soon learned that 160 acres of dry land in Montana were not to be reckoned as 160 acres in Italy. But who could hope for 160 acres in Italy? The homestead held more promise than the Old Country, and after about four years he was able to send for his family. (And after about fifty years he moved to California.)

Angelo was rather small to remember much about his arrival in this country, but he does recall that his father came in a wagon to meet them at the train. The bottom of the wagon was covered with straw so they snuggled down into the straw and slept a good part of that last stage of their journey. Night fell before they reached Murphy Table, and the bright shining of the stars made a deep impression on him.

Aboard ship two things made an impression on him - the propeller and the food. There was a hole in the floor of the ship where you could look down and see the big propeller churning the water. The hole had a fence around it to prevent accidents, but fences don't mean too much to a five-year-old boy. He had slipped away from his mother and when she found him, he was lying on his stomach under that fence, gazing down at the fascinating sight below. His mother, however, was not fascinated and jerked him out in a hurry.

And the food. They had not been eating very well in Italy, and to him the food was wonderful. Some of the other passengers evidently didn't enjoy it quite so much because quite a number of them were sick during the voyage. He remembers, too, standing at the rail watching for whales, but the whales kept out of sight.

Each spring they would watch for the Indians to return from their winter quarters. They always found the visits interesting, yet they were about half scared to have them come. The Indians always had a generous supply of beads. One or two would come to the door and knock, then trade beads for loaves of homemade bread. They couldn't understand each other's language, but the Indians managed to make their wants known, and Mrs. Tomalino, a bit apprehensive about having them around when her husband was out working, would quickly accommodate them. The last year the Indians came through they were driving a Model T Ford. The radiator was steaming and they were having a hard time keeping it going, but they were traveling in style.

As Angelo looks back to his boyhood encounters with cowboys and Indians he says he just can't see much resemblance to the cowboys and Indians portrayed in present-day shows.

After high school Angelo started working for the county surveyor and worked under several different surveyors. The Roosevelt 'landslide' of 1932 swept his boss out of office so Angelo was out of a job. He had been interested in radio for some time and had taken a radio course by mail so now he took to radio repair full time. His 'office' was wherever he could rent a little space - a corner of Dick Statham's garage, a spot in E.G. Ufer's Standard Mercantile hardware store, a little space in the G.D. Hollecker Store. For the latter he paid five dollars a month. Finally he decided it would be more satisfactory to move into quarters of his own and opened his shop on North Merrill.

In the early days of radio when not many homes boasted a set, Angelo made a practice of setting up a radio on the sidewalk to let the public listen. One of his early ads in THE DAWSON COUNTY REVIEW invited: "Listen to the Louis-Schmeling Fight via RCA radio in front of the Standard Mercantile Co. Wednesday, June 22."

He reports that a regular mob would gather around to listen to such a special feature. You could draw a bigger crowd with a little radio set than with color TV now. People marveled that the words and the music could come from that little box!


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