1913-1916 – Surviving in NY by Rudolph Valentino

In 1913, life as an Italian immigrant living in New York City was very hard. Upon my arrival from Italy, I was overwhelmed by everyone else who was arriving from other countries who had the same dream as me. I did not know the language and relied on the Italian Community to help with obtaining a job, food, and housing. While I can honestly claim I was not good with money then and now. There is a certain humbleness when you relive memories of how life began here. Oftentimes I was hungry and spent many lonely nights without a roof over my head, shame and remorse-these comprised the cross of my humiliation. My false pride was grounded mercilessly to bits then utterly pulverized. I was kicked out of one lodging after another changing rooms four or five times over two months. Sometimes my clothing in lieu of payment. Sometimes I pawned my things in order to have a hot meal or a bath. One hot day I walked five miles to city hall looking for work and turn down then walked five miles back to my room.

My last room was a cubby hole cost me two dollars a week. I went to the Mills Hotel and got a room for 12 cents for one night only. The food was plain and plentiful. This hotel was built in 1907, and most guests were like me doing what they could to survive like countless others.  The next night I slept in Central Park. I looked for work every day. Usually I did not get it, sometimes I made 50 cents by shining the brass on cars, or by doing anything that anyone would allow me to do. I was above no work.

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