TB Comes to the Ginney Block


Mr. and Mrs. Michael Girolamo and children lived in the last flat on the third floor, at the east end of the Ginney Block. It was a known fact that the Girolamo family was having difficulty financially because Michael Girolamo, a carpenter, was not working regularly. As time passed, his pay days were fewer and fewer, bringing in less and less income. Enterprising Michelina Girolamo, his wife began to take in washing to add to the family exchequer. Since most of the families in the Ginney Block did their own laundry, Mrs. Girolamo soon found that doing laundry for others was not bringing an adequate supplement to the family income. Having no other recourse, the Girolamo family decided to take in a boarder. After all, several other families in the Ginney Block had done this, and experience had shown that room and board had been a rather lucrative additional source of income for those families.

So it was that the Girolamo family took in Giovanni Andriola, a bachelor who had recently come from Calabria, Italy, and for six months had been working in the Steel Mills in the Flats below the Ginney Block. Up until this time, he had been looking for an Italian family to live with. The Girolamos had learned about Giovanni from Maria Di Maria, who also had told them that Giovanni would pay well for his room and board because he was making good money in the steel mill.




Accommodations in the Girolamo flat were just as tight as in every other family's flat in the Block. In order to provide for their boarder, they had to squeeze another small single bed and small clothing wardrobe into their son Joe's bedroom, which happened to be one of the two windowless bedrooms of the flat. Needless to say young Joe who was only nine years old suddenly found himself with a forty year old roommate in very cramped quarters.

Within a short time, Giovanni Andriola began to make the rounds, visiting the other families in the block to become acquainted. On Easter Sunday, he appeared at our door just before dinner. Since it was a holy day, the family was altogether, including my brother Nick, who by this time was a college pre-medical senior. Giovanni stayed for dinner.

As dinner progressed, we noticed that Giovanni Andriola kept coughing, at regular intervals, in a way distinctly different than the usual cold or flu cough, and that his cough seemed to rack his entire upper torso. Not being used to this type of coughing, I felt rather uncomfortable and somewhat annoyed by the constant hacking. At one point, as dinner came to an end, I saw a peculiar look on my brother Nick's face. After Giovanni Andriola left that evening, my brother advised my father and mother to boil all cups, glasses, dishes, cutlery and napkins use by Giovanni in scalding hot water. My brother also opened all the doors and windows to completely aerate our flat. He explained that he feared that Giovanni could have tuberculosis, and that these measures were necessary precautions to safeguard our family from the T. B. germs.




At Christmas time, we heard that Giovanni had entered the tuberculosis ward at City Hospital, where he died on New Year's Day of 1925, of what people at that time use to refer to as galloping consumption.

By Spring of the New Year, shortly after his tenth birthday, little Joe Girolamo was also sent to the City Hospital's T. B. ward, where he died on Palm Sunday. By June of the same year, his twelve year old sister, Theresa, succumbed to the dreaded lung disease at the same hospital. Before the end of the year, Michelina and her husband, Michael, were hospitalized at the same time, at City Hospital, where they too died as their children had, victims of the tragic illness brought into their home by Giovanni Andriola, their boarder.