Tag Archives: Art Institute of Chicago

Through His Words: Day Two

6 Nov

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Two:

Sunday, July 17, 1938 
(On board ship)        
Chapter 2

Darling Maude,

A little news a day to tell you of some of the things aboard ship. I was fooled this morning in the matter of attending mass. It was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. but when I went there the services were over and this was the last mass for the rest of the day. 

What Alex didn’t realize was that each day on the ship, beginning that Sunday, the time would be set ahead 50 minutes. Six days, 60 minutes ahead each day would put their arrival in Napoli on the correct CET or Central European Time.

However, they have services each day and I shall make up for missing today.

Alex was a quiet man, but one of determination and of self-discipline. His father was a cobbler by trade. His mother died when he was a child. He was brought to America by his parents when he was four.

Alex attended Chicago public grade school, graduated from Joseph Medill High School, attended the Armour Institute of Technology, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Chicago Technical College for required architectural coursework, then finished the last year of his architectural studies under private tutors and under home-made sausage.


Per Aunt Marion, “My dad’s father made home-made Italian sausage and he would hang it in my dad’s bedroom to dry. My dad said that when he was studying to be an architect, he would lie in his bed to study and reach up and grab a hunk of sausage!

So that’s the secret to passing an exam!

In 1916, he passed the state board of exams for architects and became the first Italian American architect licensed in the state of Illinois. Cost to attend his celebration banquet at the Sherman House? $2.50.


I am trying to find out anything and everything that concerns my touring, and I am told there are many things I can’t or must not do. You know all the boxes of cigars I got when I left? Well, I can not bring them either into Italy or France, so I am making a hit with them by giving them to the stewards a little each day and they go over big, believe me!

He smoked Perfecto Garcia Queen cigars – seven a day at a cost of $1.00 each. When I look through all the old photographs, it’s hard to find one when there is not a cigar in his hand or mouth.


And while today I find this pretty gross, I am reminded of the times. Just recently, I saw a bit of the movie Coco Before Channel. There she was, Coco Chanel, classy and elegant, face to face with a wealthy patron pinning a custom hat or suit, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Incredible.

Many people are traveling alone on board and the coldness and the stiffness of the first couple of days will be broken in another day or so and more sociability will be in the atmosphere. You eat, drink, and sleep, and walk around the deck, and when you are finished doing this you start all over again. 

Adventure, loneliness, monotony, anticipation, inquisitiveness, wonder…a flock of feelings for the sole traveler on day two of his journey to his place of birth.

It has been a little cloudy today, but the ocean has been fairly calm. Tomorrow I expect to take a swim and play shuffle board as well as get suntanned and even burned perhaps.

Millions of kisses and love to everyone,


To be continued.



%d bloggers like this: