Oral history interviewing can give scholars and researchers a
first-hand description of historical places, people, and events.
Memory is always tricky, so, like most sources of information, oral
history data should be used in conjunction with other resource to
build up a complete picture. Still, it is often the best or only
way to find out certain vital facts and impressions. Oral history
is especially important when researching people who are not traditional
"historic figures"--people about whom little has been written during
their lives. In the twentieth century, with the invention of telephones,
easier travel and other technological innovations, letter writing
has declined, and thus one traditional means of learning about the
past is disappearing. Oral history can help to fill in that gap.
We conducted interviews with three Tirocchi family members: Dr.
Louis Cella, Laura's son, Primrose Tirocchi, Frank Tirocchi's daughter,
and Emily Valcarehghi Martinelli, Eugenia Tirocchi Valcarehghi's
daughter who also worked in the shop; a former shop worker, Mary
Rosa Traverso; and the husband of another worker, Panfilo Basilico.
Each was able to add detail to the story that was not otherwise
The shop workers informed us about the social interactions shared
between the employees "it was just like a family," Emily
Valcarehghi tells us, "even better than a family because we
never argued." They also recalled how the shop was organized,
with the younger girls less difficult sewing tasks, cleaning up
the shop, and delivering garments, and the more experienced workers
taking on more demanding work. Each of the interviewees had revealing
things to say about Madame Tirocchi herself: she "was a woman
unbelievable," says Panfilo Basilico, "there are very
few like that."
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