Dec 202009
 

November 29 2009, Manhattan

In line to board the ferry to Ellis Island, I reflect on how frightened my grandparents must have been when they made the crossing to this country 100 years ago. My paternal grandparents also had my father,

Francesco, six months old, in arms.

Who knows what conditions they must have endured on board, herded into steerage and then herded again onshore.

My mother’s mother Gemma made the crossing with her sisters. How did they keep together?

The depiction of steerage at the Ellis Island Museum shows hordes of people crowded and unseparated in the same large compartment. The etching of people in steerage showed families clustered together as standing about and falling with no room to sit.

When they got off Ellis Island, and I don’t know how long they were detained there, who met them on shore? How did they find their way to the railroad station?

On the Ellis Island tour I learned that the great majority of immigrants came between 1898 and 1924. The documentation said the center was closed in 1954 but does not explain what happened between 1924 and 1954. One percent of them were returned for sickness or lack of cash. But there were those who came who lacked the requisite $25. How could they pay for their passage on the return trip?

The detention center as it stands is surely incomplete or perhaps not even the authentic place. According to John DeLuca it must have contained far more people than we could tell on my visit. The documentation said it had several rooms of bunk beds.

Most compelling was the size of the Registry room. Photography of people waiting in benches were all organized and hived off into different sections.

Also remarkable were the photos of women going through the medical exam and the faces of people waiting in lines. Terrified faces.

To get to the ferry to Ellis Island I had to go through airport TSA security. However they let me keep my shoes on and their equipment did not detect my hip replacement. So how secure was it?

Emigrants had to pass through many tests to be allowed entry – medical, legal, literacy and sanity. At one station immigrants were standing in lines several abreast at huge long counter. People who were extremely anxious and confused were sometimes taken for insane and summarily detained.

Officials validated their identifications by checking their names, places of origin and destinations against the ship manifests.

At one end of the main auditorium was the entrance to a stairwell, dubbed the “stairs of separation” that led to three doors. Immigrants destined for the middle door were being detained. Those bearing right were heading for a real road connection to take them out of state.

Newcomers who entered the door on the left were staying in New York. At the bottom of the stairs, the new New Yorkers reached the so-called Door of Kisses, alluding to the practice that local relatives would be there to greet them.

A very desirable welcome but how many experienced such a happy event?

Dec 142009
 

Alameda Times-Star (CA)-December 14, 2009
Author: Joan Aragone, San Mateo County Times

As a child, I recall my mother talking about her high school years, showing me scrapbooks and telling me stories.

After much questioning, my reticent father opened up on the subject of his childhood, when he played on the open slopes of hillsides that are now covered with homes. It sounded like another world.

But when our parents and grandparents were young, most of them weren’t taking notes. As they got older, as in all families, life took over. Nobody had time to wonder about the past.

Eventually, the grandparents and their friends, with stories of life in the “old country,” were gone, then the parents. And now, when questions arise about those distant times, there’s nobody to ask.

Experience may have given us insights into challenges our parents and grandparents faced. What happened? Why were they like they were?

But, fortunately, for the benefit of memory keepers, things have changed. With personal computers and a more educated population, increasing numbers of aging Americans, who recognize the importance of writing down their stories, are creating personal records.

Some, who cover specific periods, may work alone or with family members. But others, especially those who write about entire lives, work with memoirists, professional writers who help organize and present often complex information in narrative form.

That’s the process for John De Luca, 76, of Redwood City ˜ executive vice president of the California Wine Institute, chairman of the board of directors of the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UCSF, and adviser to the president of the University of California on agriculture and business initiatives, among other positions ˜ who is working with San Francisco journalist Francine Brevetti, creator of Legend Crafter, on a narrative of his fascinating life.

Brevetti says her business “kind of grew.” While a business writer at the Oakland Tribune, Brevetti profiled a man who had mentioned he wanted his life story written. After leaving the paper, she worked with De Luca, and he referred her to another client.

“This kind of work enriched my soul,” she said.

Brevetti’s method is collaborative. Using a recorder, she asks questions, then using transcriptions, shapes the story into narrative. The storyteller then reads and revises the manuscript. Other sources may be interviewed as the family or subject requires. Projects can be long or short, some meant for publication, others for personal use within a family.

De Luca’s is a complex story. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan before moving to California. Then came a doctorate in Soviet Studies, service in the White House during the Vietnam era and, in a career switch that reflects his varied life, appointment as deputy mayor of San Francisco under Mayor Joe Alioto during the period of the Zodiac killer and other tumultuous events.

De Luca was a witness to history in many settings ˜ all before serving as president of the Wine Institute for 28 years, during which time he participated in interviews for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library Oral History Project on the California wine industry.

“The consensus was that I should put all this down,” he said. “I’m being responsive to family and friends.”

But with a busy schedule, he needed a collaborator.

“I’m 76, but I feel 26,” he said in a telephone interview.

“I’ll probably never ‘retire.’ I’m as busy now as I have ever been,” he said. “Francine provides the discipline that is difficult in my life as it continues.”

“Nobody understands how hard it is to write your own story,” Brevetti said. “It’s challenging, partly because of the memories. Some don’t want to return to bad memories. Some may not have memories. When they work with a professional, they just talk, or they can be guided through the memory. Not everybody wants to be published, they just want to record things for their families.”

For De Luca, the project is proving rewarding.

“There is a beautiful flood of recall that would have never been,” he said. “It’s an enrichment for me and my family.”

For information on Legend Crafter, go to www.francinebrevetti.com or www.legendcrafter.com.

To submit comments or story ideas, call 650-348-4332 or e-mail joanaragone@yahoo.com.

Nov 302009
 

November 2009

On the Ellis Island tour I learned that the great majority of immigrants came between 1898 and 1924.  The documentation said the center was closed in 1954 but does not explain what happened between 1924 and 1954.1% of them were returned for sickness or lack of cash.  But there were those who came who lacked the requisite $25.  How could they pay for their passage on the return trip?

The detention center as it stands is surely incomplete or perhaps not even the authentic place.  According to John DeLuca it must have contained far more people than we could tell on my visit.  The documentation said it had several rooms of  bunk beds.

Most compelling was the size of the Registry room.  Photography of people waiting in benches were all organized and hived off into different sections.

Also remarkable were the photos of women going through the medical exam and the faces of people waiting in lines.  Terrified faces.

To get to the ferry to Ellis Island I had to go through airport TSA security.  However they let me keep my shoes on and their equipment did not detect my hip replacement.  So how secure was it?

Emigrants had to pass through many tests to be allowed entry – medical, legal, literacy and sanity.  At one station immigrants were standing in lines several abreast at huge long counter. People who were extremely anxious and confused were sometimes taken for insane and summarily detained.

Officials validated their identifications by checking their names, places of origin and destinations against the ship manifests.

At one end of the main auditorium was the entrance to a stairwell, dubbed the “stairs of separation” that led to three doors.    Immigrants destined for the middle door were being detained. Those bearing right were heading for a real road connection to take them out of state.

Newcomers who entered the door on the left were staying in New York. At the bottom of the stairs, the new New Yorkers reached the so-called Door of Kisses, alluding to the practice that local relatives would be there to greet them.

 Posted by at 8:33 pm
Nov 082009
 

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Sunday, November 8, 2009
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune Correspondent

Jeremiah Anderson — like many people these days — was out of work.

He found help, direction and ultimately a job by consulting a coach, a profession that is currently getting a boost from the downturn in employment.

Anderson, of Castro Valley, had been out of work as an IT project manager since November 2007. After testing the waters in the real estate industry, he decided to return to IT project management in June 2008. But with the recession, he felt he needed help to stay ahead of the competition, he said.

Anderson enrolled in a workshop led by coaches Chani Pangali and Dan Rink, who consulted him on his résumé, guided him in preparing for interviews, and honed his job-hunting skills. Anderson credits the workshop and consultations in large part with finding him the job he ultimately landed in his field in November 2008.

Having nothing to do with athletics, coaching is a fairly new profession that gained ground in the 1990s.

According to Vikki Brock, a certified coach who has been researching the industry’s history and development, there are more than 275 coaching schools across the country today. In 1990, there were only three worldwide. The largest is the International Coach Federation, which has certified almost 4,000 professionals to date.

The issue of certification is a sensitive one. One can actually assert, “I’m a coach” and begin accepting clients without having certification. There is no statutory licensing process that qualifies one as a coach. Local coaching organizations say the ICF is beginning to set standards.

Further, there are many coaching specialties. Many work as adjuncts of corporate human resource departments training employees in leadership or performance excellence. Others are self-employed and may specialize in career change or in personal goals. Those so-called life coaches encourage change in all manner of human habits, including weight loss, quitting smoking and finding a mate.

Pangali, of Pleasanton, is not certified by the major coaching institutions. He already had a long successful history in academe, the IT industry and as an entrepreneur. He is also an executive of a professional association of trainers.

“My company provides training tools (to the public) previously available only inside organizations to employees to teach them how to improve their skills and their confidence,” Pangali said.

Pangali is constantly working to amplify his Web site, www.jobsuccess.org, which contains 670 training modules for job seekers. Most of them are free. Anderson remarked how valuable it is to access free training online at a time when the unemployed job seeker can rarely afford professional consultation.

Coaching can be expensive, ranging anywhere from $60 to $250 an hour, depending on the practitioner’s caliber and certifications.

Kirk Burgess, of Alameda, found he was stuck in his job a few years ago and consulted a career coach who “kicked my rear end to motivate me to look at other opportunities.”

A couple of years ago, he hired a life coach for his Oakland-based customer service company, CAS, where he was senior director of global service delivery. CAS was being absorbed by Rainmaker of Campbell. CAS had to let go of 50 employees, few of whom, Burgess felt, had the skills to distinguish themselves in their upcoming job searches.

Burgess asked life coach Thelma Austin to give his staff some training and direction for seeking new employment. Within two weeks, working both in groups and individually, Austin induced some considerable transformations, he said. Austin reports that 80 percent of the employees she worked with subsequently found jobs.

Often people feel held back from something they wanted to do, Austin observed. “How can I help you be where you are right now?” is her approach to clients. “If you could be anything you wanted, what would it be?”

Two international certifying organizations are based in the Bay Area — CTI in San Rafael and New Ventures West in San Francisco.

Leaders of both organizations agree on the importance of consumer education in finding a coach, since the field is still rapidly developing. They also endorse the efforts of the International Coach Federation to standardize practices.

Coaching is not therapy, observed Steve March, vice president of leadership training of an arm of New Ventures West. While therapy deals with the past and emphasizes healing, coaching stays in the present and strives to help the client become more effective, he said.

Mill Valley coach Brenda Scarborough has seen a change in public acceptance of this kind of help.

“Not so long ago there was a stigma associated with needing a coach,” Scarborough said. “But with the exploding of the industry that’s become totally different.”

How to Find a Coach

The Coaches Training Institute, www.thecoaches.com

The International Coach Directory, www.findacoach.com

Jobsuccess.org, www.jobsuccess.org

International Coach Federation, www.CoachFederation.org

New Ventures West, www.newventureswest.com

Sep 292009
 

Saturday night September 26 I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of Carla De Luca Worfolk’s documentary, “America’s Wines — The Legacy of Prohibition” at the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival.

Carla is John De Luca’s eldest daughter and a filmmaker. The De Luca family had invited representatives from University of California at Berkeley, especially from the Bancroft Library’s Regional Oral History Organization as well as luminaries in the wine industry.

The film itself stressed how the 18th Amendment forced Northern California’s wine makers to diversify into sweet wines and liqueurs which prolonged their survival and business.

It was very well done including a very competent history of the Prohibition movement. However I felt the treatment did not stress enough how the 18th Amendment ruined businesses, families and individual lives as well. It was essentially a paean to the current wine industry moguls to whom the De Luca family understandably is linked.

Aug 282009
 

I am thrilled to have won the assignment to write the memoirs of John De Luca, 30-year head of The Wine Institute. Not only has he awarded me this project but also his trust.

John’s life is a complex “mosaic”, in his words, of public and private efforts to bring people and ideas together. Writing his life story will be a challenging but uplifting endeavor. I can’t wait.

Aug 242009
 

August 8

My memoir client Pat Mahoney had been a guard on Alcatraz during the late 50s until the federal penitentiary closed in ’63. I met Pat and his family for breakfast at Marines Memorial Center. I expected we would be passengers on the regular Alcatraz ferry on our way to celebrate the prison’s anniversary.

Instead we drove to Fisherman’s Wharf and boarded a boat called the Endeavour, English spelling and all.

It turned out that this vessel had been the Warden Blackwell, one of the ferries that served Alcatraz and its population when the federal penitentiary operated. The current owner had bought it and completely refurbished and renamed it.

The day on the island was full of events and special tours. I joined a group going to see “The Citadel”. This was the official term for what everyone who lived on the island called The Dungeon.This truly miserable enclosure held the worst of the worst.

I also saw the prison hospital and the isolation ward where I sat in one of the cells called The Hole.

I bought a couple of books, Darwin E. Coon’s Alcatraz, the True End of the Line, and Frank Heaney’s, Inside the Walls of Alcatraz. Coon was a prisoner of whereas Heaney had been a guard.

The catering was superb. People were excited and convivial. I met another guard who had preceded Pat in his service at Alcatraz.

Unfortunately I did not get the chance to meet either of the two ex-cons who were reportedly there that day.

Aug 242009
 

August 7

On Friday night August 7 I was treated to a special gala — one of my clients who was a guard on Alcatraz Island hosted a great feast for members of the Alcatraz Alumni Association to celebrate the penitentiary’s 75th anniversary.

At this event I met my client Pat’s family, friends and other Alcatraz alumni, that is former penitentiary employees and their families. I made contacts with people I will need for pursuing his memoir. A great night.

Jul 122009
 
The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Saturday, July 12, 2008
Author:
Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

Every Wednesday 40 to 50 adults released from San Quentin within the previous week sit in a lecture hall on Edgewater Drive in East Oakland to sign up for services that are available for their rehabilitation.

More than 95 percent of these parolees are men and more than 95 percent are African-American.

The State of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation holds weekly Parole and Community Team meetings that parolees must attend within a week of their release.

While anyone can see the importance of connecting ex-offenders with services such as therapy, anger management, housing, drug rehabilitation, job skills preparation and the like, parole officers see the same San Quentin inmates streaming through the PACT meeting doors again and again, a revolving door of failure.

Still the importance of the Parole and Community Team system is obvious to the corrections department.

While parolees must sign up for at least two of the services available to them, how many will actually take advantage of these services and job training offers is an open question.

Speakers at a recent assembly tried to impress their audience the seriousness of their situation.

William Newsom, community re-entry liaison officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, emphasized, “We have this in common — we are all dealing with danger on the streets of Oakland. Twenty people I have helped are gone, dead.”

Kevin Grant, Violence Prevention Network Coordinator for the city of Oakland’s Department of Human Services, appeals to his audience’s interest in remaining free.

“How many of you have been in a PACT meeting before?” asked Grant, an ex-offender.

Only one participant at that particular meeting in February had never attended a PACT meeting before, meaning all the others were recidivists.

“Where were you a month ago? Who is tired of doing time?” Grant continued.

This time everyone raises his or her hand.

“How many of you are not going back?” Grant challenged them.

All but two raise their hands.

“I’ve been home since 1989,” Grant said, underlining his common history with the audience and he stresses their obligation as fathers to turn their lives around.

Re-entry counselor and consultant Ron Owens reminded them that they are descendants of slaves, “the strong ones”, who survived the passage from Africa, slavery, reconstruction and civil injustice.

“We didn’t go through all that to volunteer to be slaves again,” Owens said.

There follows a parade of social service providers, either connected with government agencies, faith-based or job training organizations.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has placed more emphasis on rehabilitation within the Department of Corrections since he’s been in office, said Parole Unit Supervisor Fred Bridgewater.

“Since the Department of Corrections has been moving headlong into this rehabilitative phase, we have seen more contracts (with nonprofit service providers) for programs. This gives opportunities for private folks to develop programs. I have seen a substantial increase in this area,” Bridgewater said.

In an adjoining room sit two to three dozen service providers, each waiting to pitch their organization’s services. Vernell M. Crittendon Jr., executive director of Putting Education to Work, exhorts participants to pursue higher education; Percy Campbell is the Peacemaking Community Captain of Youth Uprising, a violence prevention initiative; Raynetta L. Lewis, program coordinator for the Seventh Step Foundation, offers residence for adult male parolees; Bobby Edwards of the East Oakland Recovery Center provides substance-abuse treatment services; Bishara Costandi of Outside Lane finds trucking jobs for the formerly incarcerated; and Furdae Williams is a corporate representative of America Works, a program funded by violence prevention bond Measure Y, that provides job preparation and jobs for parolees.

These are just a handful. They all have five minutes to encourage their audience to sign on their clipboards’ stack of applications.

Bridgewater recalled that in the late 1990s, the city of Oakland and the parole division decided to collaborate in bringing more services to this susceptible population.

According to Bridgewater, this was an innovation in the state. “We had never seen such a thing before,” he said.

Today, every state parole district runs a Parole and Community Team meeting.

With the rate of recidivism evident from the audience, one could question how much benefit the PACT meetings bring to this population.

But Bridgewater wonders what the prison population would be like without the PACT meetings. He, however, has no statistics describing the relationship between those who attend PACT meetings and those who go back to prison.

But he is sure that “we would see more people going back to prison. If the statistics are that 50 percent are going back then I think we are making some kind of impact. I would hate to see it if these program were not in place. Also, this is one-stop shopping for these folks. They are put in contact with the very people they need to be in contact with.”

Joseph, a parolee who didn’t want to use his family name, was recently released from San Quentin after a six-month stint. In his lifetime he has been incarcerated several times for grand theft auto, possession (of drugs) and possession for sales, and this certainly was not his first PACT meeting. He had in the past tried some programs to prepare him for life outside, but he wasn’t impressed.

After one earlier release he went to a weeklong orientation to prepare him for employment at the Oakland Private Industry Council.

“It was tough sitting through lectures four hours a day,” he said.

He didn’t follow through.

At this particular PACT meeting he signed up for group therapy, counseling and Outside Lane’s truck-driving training.

Two weeks later, Joseph had a trucking job and was delighted. He dismissed any need to engage in the other services he had signed up for.

“I was supposed to do those other services — group therapy and counseling — but once I got the job, that’s all I wanted. I’m just trying to concentrate on getting to work on time,” he said.

May 152009
 

On Thursday morning March 14, I went to a local meeting of Business Network International, BNI.  Came the moment when it was my time to pitch my service, I really focused.  I stood, I leaned forward, my knuckles on the table, and I looked at my audience and asked:

 

“How many of you really know your parents? How surprised you would be if you gave them the gift of their memoir.

 

And how many of your kids really understand your lives?  How surprised they would be if you gave them the gift of your memoir.

 

Nobody wants to be forgotten. Don’t let this important task wait another year.”

 

I think I refined that pretty well.  I could still use some work but I got a good comment on it after the meeting.