MICHIGAN + A FAMILY HERITAGE

"First years in America were a time of growth, maturing"
By Angeline Caroselli
'I was 4 when my parents came to Detroit in 1911. We lived with an aunt and uncle on Russell Street.

At 5, I started kindergarten at the Russell School. Not knowing English made it hard, but most of the other children were of foreign parentage, so we got along beautifully. One afternoon, the teacher told us to sit on the floor, cross our legs and form a circle. As we did this, the children across from me started to laugh and point at my underpants. They were something to laugh at. The material was like mattress ticking, stripe in red and beige with elastic at the knees. When I realized what they were laughing at, I was so embarrassed I couldn't wait to go home. I cried all the way home. Opening the door, Ma said, "Bella, what happened? Did you get hurt? What's the matter?" I couldn't tell her, I was sobbing so hard. I kept saying, "I don't want to go back to school ever, never, never.  I hate them. They were laughing at me. Look at these funny pants."

Ma very gently sat me on her lap, trying to quiet me. Then she said, "Now stop crying and listen to me. We came to America to better ourselves, to be strong, to understand. Learn to get along with people, not to let what people say bother you. You know Bella, you will have to go to school a long time. I'll tell you what. Go wash your face and right now we are going to the dry goods store and buy you some American clothes. Tomorrow you will go to school, say 'morning,' smile. Don't worry if they laugh. I'll bet they won't. But remember, learn to take it. Be big." It worked. This was the beginning of the molding of my life.

At 8, I was attending St. Joseph's School on Jay and Orleans. At Christmastime, father asked me what I wanted. I said, "Pa, I would like a doll." "A doll?" Pa said very disturbed. Why that's for babies. You don't want a doll. You want a nice new coat, hat, gloves, shoes, oranges, chestnuts and lots of things." In my little mind, I thought Pa was right. Dolls are for babies.

Going back to school after Christmas, our teacher asked the class to stand and each child tell what she got for Christmas. This was an all-girls school taught by the nuns, but our nun was sick so a substitute took over. her name was Miss Kaiser. Most of the girls got dolls, buggies, etc. When my turn came I said, "A new coat, hat, shoes, oranges..." So Miss Kaiser said, "Didn't you get a doll?" I replied, "No, Miss Kaiser, dolls are for babies."

The next day I as asked to stay after school. I couldn't imagine why. Miss Kaiser called me up to her desk and put a big box on it. Inside was a beautiful doll. This made me very happy.

Angeline Caroselli studied short-hand, typing and bookkeeping at the Business Institute and used those skills to survive the Depression as a young widow with three small children. She now lives in Warren.'
(Feb 20, 1989)

There's some incredibly rich history that my great-grandmother recorded, I wish I could share all of it with you. There are some great lessons to be learned from it - and boy, has the world changed. Back then, people were just grateful to be able to come to America and begin a new life, and they displayed that gratefulness with patriotism and hard work to invest into their new country. 

My grandma now lives in a little town called Marine City where she and my grandpa (who was in the Army) raised their children. Every time I go back I learn more about my heritage and I want to remember the little things that make it such a special place. In January, Anna, Mom + I went back for several days and I was able to capture some meaningful + beautiful places and moments on camera... I realize this post might not mean anything to some people, but I do know it'll mean a lot to the people who are familiar with these people and this place.

The Riviera - everyone from town comes here and knows everyone else, and there's nothing like eating more pancakes than you can handle while looking out at the river.

It's always a little different going in the winter, but beautiful nonetheless.
There are some beautiful houses that line the river...
My grandma lives on Shady Lane...
...her home has always been a place of rest, comfort, sleeping in, laughter, and good Italian food. Doesn't get much better.
My great-great-grandparents who came to America from Italy - Angeline's parents.


My grandpa has passed away but he was a strong, loving man.

And the woman behind this beautiful place...Angeline's daughter, my grandma, Florine Fielhauer.