Thank you Uncle Sam
Calabrian families in America

In the square of Santa Severina one summer, Niall Allsop bumped into Gino Sculco from New Jersey who was enjoying a vacation back in the town of his birth. Gino explained how his father had emigrated in 1920, returned to Calabria and emigrated again in 1960, the second time accompanied by one of his sons. In 1967 Gino and his wife Sina followed in their footsteps.

He was so intrigued by the Sculco family’s story that Niall decided to travel to America to find out more about what motivated them and other Calabrian families who emigrated and to what extent their American Dream had become a reality.

Niall visited families in New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Wisconsin and met and heard about people whose resolve and enterprise was as breathtaking as their stories were touching and unique.

From the man who always thanked Uncle Sam when his monthly pension check arrived to the woman who emigrated alone, and from the man with three families to the man who emigrated three times, Thank you Uncle Sam is packed with real-life characters to make you laugh, cry and wonder at their capacity for survival.

Some families went to America early in the twentieth century; others as recently as the 1960s. Some stories are intriguing and complex; others straightforward and predictable.

Some of the people Niall met were in their sixties, seventies or eighties; others mere youngsters in comparison. Sometimes he spent just a few hours with them; sometimes he stayed overnight or longer.

Sometimes he knew quite a lot about the family before he met them; usually almost nothing. Some he had already met; most were total strangers.

The stories and experiences of all are both unique and commonplace—they are no more than people’s subjective memories, stories and occasional skeletons, shared with a stranger.

Niall Allsop travelled to America early in November 2012—just after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey and just before the Presidential election; he also spent Thanksgiving with a Calabrian-American family in Wisconsin.

Not surprisingly therefore Thank you Uncle Sam is also a travelogue, the story of other people, places and cars that he encountered along the way.

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