Centorrino Family History

Family history by John Centorrino

Photo - Nicolo Centorrino (3rd person) arriving at Pier 21 (1959)


Centorrino Family History


John Centorrino’s mother Concetta nee Martorano recounts the events that occurred in the early days of their arrival in Brantford.

In 1954 Concetta’s father and grandfather arrived in Canada and 2 years later she and her oldest brother Nandino arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax. They had taken the train from their village of San Ferdinando in Reggio Calabria to Rome and sailed to Canada. They initially rented an apartment on Arthur St. owned by an Italian family.

In 1957 Concetta’s mother and grandmother arrived in Brantford wth the rest of the family Anna, Pasquale and Antonio. They moved into an apartment above the College Skate Exchange owned by the Ferracioli (Ferras) family.

In 1958 they moved into an apartment on Erie Ave. Later that year Concetta’s mother bought a house on Victoria St.

In 1959 Nicola Centorrino arrived in Brantford. Shortly thereafter,  he and Concetta were married.

John was born in 1960 and the family lived with the grandparents on Victoria St. They moved to a series of apartments on Mary St., East Ave., and Arthur St. Eventually Nicola built a house on South St.

In 1971 Guiseppe was born and the Centorrino family was complete.


John Centorrino’s Recollections of Early Life in Brantford


John noted that an Italian family changed their last name to Williams. “I guess that is what many of them did back then to assimilate into "the new world", or many other reasons. It's my opinion that those that did where Old Italians meaning they came after the First World War. But when the huge majority of Italians came to Canada in the late 50's early 60's very few if any changed their names.”

“When Nonno (John’s grandfather) got here he was disillusioned, thinking that this was the land of mild and honey and life would be easier and yet he found himself working in farmers fields and sleeping with the cows as he did back home. He found his way out of the fields by searching out employment in the factories. The story has it that Nonno would stake out a place or ask around and if the person that was doing the interview was a woman he would make sure to bring a single rose to the interview. Maybe that's how he got his job at Harding Carpets?”

“Nonna (John’s grandmother) was a seamstress by the age of 13 (and a very good one I might add). Upon coming to Brantford she immediately found employment in her trade. At one point she worked for a lady who came up to her one day and told her. "Maria, I'm going to have to let you go" why was the reply. "I'm here everyday, I do good work" "Yes, too good" nobody's coming back". She then went on to work for Quinlan's/The Stag Shoppe making alterations on Men's suits and the like. She then worked making drapes for Alexians followed by working for a Mrs. Lambert on Colborne East until she finally decided to set up shop in her house and work for herself from her basement on Victoria Street to her house in Brier Park. Doing so until the day she died.”

“It was during these early years before and after my brother and I were born that my parents worked hard and still found the time to take night school classes at Brantford Collegiate Institute with my Godparents and learn English.  Dad learned how to weld so he could get a job at Massey’s and tried to keep his small shoe business afloat.  They were hard times but somehow, like all people back then, they found their way.”



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