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WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 10, 2012, 10:09 PM

Childhood friends recall growing up in Dilworth's "Little Italy"

Dilworth, MN (WDAY TV) - It wasn't that long ago that Clay County was home to a thriving, hard-working Italian community that settled in Dilworth. Dozens of families that followed the railroad expansion west settled in a part of town known as "Little Italy."

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

It wasn't that long ago that Clay County was home to a thriving, hard-working Italian community that settled in Dilworth. Dozens of families that followed the railroad expansion west settled in a part of town known as "Little Italy." The neighborhood was south of the tracks.

While most of the families have left “Little Italy,” some of the women, children of those immigrants, make a point of getting together to relive the glory days.

Eighty-five year-old Marie Bedore and her 95 year-old childhood friend Margaret Olivieri giggle as they did as school girls back in Dilworth's "Little Italy" in the early 1900's. Rattling off names like Altobeli, Poliseno, Costello and Variano.

The women sort through photos of a fascinating part of our local history. When the Italians came to town, and never left.

Marie Bedore – Grew Up in Little Italy: “We were just like family, like you said, and us kids, we all got along.”

The big draw was the railroad. The Italians were newcomers, settling on the south side of the tracks in Dilworth.

Marie Bedore: “We would carry our lunch in the wintertime, and we’d sit on the one end of the lunchroom and on the other end of the lunchroom were the other people.”

Most of them were related. They all lived within spitting distance of each other - Italians with Hollywood good looks settling in with all the Scandinavians.

Marie Bedore: “The north side was the Norwegians and the Swedes. Swedish went there. None lived on the south side, just Italians.”

Back then, the Lady of Mount Caramel women did the work of the Catholic church in Dilworth. Marie and Margaret worked those spaghetti dinners for more than 70 years together.

So that is why days like this are so special. The few remaining women who settled and raised families in Little Italy, still getting together - ironically, on this day, at Paradiso Mexican Restaurant.

Back then the days were not easy. Margaret and her five siblings lived in an orphanage after their mother died. Their dad worked the railroad and did the best he could.

Margaret Olivieri – Grew Up in Little Italy: “We’d come home on Christmas, on the holidays.”

But they all had each other, these Italians who would wait for the train and barrels of grapes from Chicago for wine making day.

Marie Bedore: “My boys and Sybil's boys would come back to my house, and they were drunk from the sweet wine.”

And who can forget the day Al Capone came to Dilworth.

Marie Bedore: “All of a sudden the limousines pulled up and I said,”how did they get nice cars?” Then the women got out.”

Wedding celebrations would last for hours. Pasta and wine. Little Italy, alive with families that stood by each other in good and bad times. Those who remember those days, would not trade it for anything.

Those Italians from the south side of the tracks. The community may have disappeared, but the history of those days is proudly cherished.

Most of the original families in Dilworth slowly disappeared from Little Italy in the early 1980's. Margaret, whom you met in our story, was the last one to leave. Her son and family is now living in her house.

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