Lola DeAscentiis and Rocco Cerretto

Recorded July 24, 2021 Archived July 24, 2021 36:10 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020913


Lola DeAscentiis (17) interviews her great-grandfather, Rocco Cerretto (99), about his experience being drafted during World War II and his life after coming home.

Subject Log / Time Code

Lola asks her great grandfather if he has any good memories to share about growing up in Rochester in the 1920s.
RC shares what he did when he came back home from WWII. LDA asks what it was like to be drafted into the Army.
“What you lived through, I learn about, wow,” LDA says to her great-grandfather as he talks about freeing prisoners of war from gas chambers.
“Why were you having trouble hearing?” LDA asks after her great-grandfather talks about retiring at 54.
RC talks about his daughters and shares memories he has of them.
RC shares the adventures he shared with his wife staying in Las Vegas for 18 years.
“Do you have a favorite memory from being a grandfather?” LDA asks.
LDA asks her grandfather how much has changed from 1922 to 2021.
RC shares the story of how he got a brown star for his service in World War II.
“Have you had the chance to go back to Europe since the war?” LDA asks.
“Now that you’re 99, what do you like to do everyday?” LDA asks.


  • Lola DeAscentiis
  • Rocco Cerretto

Recording Location

Virtual Recording


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00:02 Go ahead. So, say your name. My name is 99 years old, and the date today is Saturday, July 24th. Are we in Rochester, New York? And who am I?

00:33 Yeah, so who am I, how are we related today? Saturday, July, 24th, 2021. We are in Rochester, New York. I'm interviewing my great-grandfather Rocco cerretto.

00:53 Okay, so we're going to get started now. So you are 99 years old. So you were born in 1922. So growing up in Rochester. In the 1920s. You have a favorite memory from 20 to 24, 25.

01:16 It was depression and my father was out of work and he got a job in St. Louis, Missouri. My father was a glassblower and he would send money home.

01:29 And he would come visit us once in months.

01:33 And I remember very well, a lot of people are on welfare, and we were my father's ever made much money those days, but we survived.

01:45 But the hardest part was the people on welfare were living better than us.

01:52 Winter time, especially

01:56 What's bad? We had holes in our shoes. We had to put cardboard in them stuff from the weather, but they got new shoes. Welfare. People got more stuff than we did.

02:10 Where you stand in line to get shovels in the winter time and we shovel the street in front of the office buildings and it was kind of tough. I shine shoes is so loose papers and then that's the size of it. And now I'm curious about it because because depression, I quit school in the 10th grade, to make one of President Roosevelt.

02:41 Come up with an h. A n e n c, c camp.

02:48 Soil Conservation. Corps show is 16 17 years old. I join your conversation for

02:56 And I was away for about a year. How is sending stuff? And I got a dollar a day.

03:03 And we chop down trees and planting trees.

03:07 And I sent $17 home and kept her thing. What did you do with the $13? Because of the education and made my life, different complete, our success. I did, I retired and 54 years old, but I could have done a lot better education.

03:33 And I'm so bitter about that because of the depression. It wasn't fair to the people that were working the people on. Welfare got more. That's what I do. So after the depression ended and you were done after you came home after the year, then what did you do? And I got a job in the Glass Factory and then the war came in January 43. I had to go report to the Army.

04:08 And they drafted me into the army and I didn't got home 146, and when I got home.

04:17 I opened up a business.

04:20 My Milkman rolled me $2,500 to go in business.

04:25 And I was in business for 35 years.

04:29 I made a good living but I would have done a hell of a lot better if I had an education.

04:36 So, what was it?

04:38 Like, when you were drafted into the army, was that really scary, January, 43, New Year's Day. I had to go to the railroad station and they took us to the Niagara Falls and from there two days.

04:57 They gave us two shots and everything. And we went on a true friend of Mississippi. It took us three days to get the Mississippi.

05:07 And what, in six months, I went home for fertile and I got married.

05:14 And then they shipped us out to New York. We went overseas.

05:20 And then,

05:22 So what was that? Like what where did you go when you went overseas? Where did you originally go? First?

05:36 We had a little landed in England. In England. We caught rough. Seas. We had an Irish true and that'll put the boat on dry sack. As soon as we get, God's Westminster because the storm destroyed all the lifeboats and they had to repair the ship. It was a brand new ship of celebrity chef and we were special crew. It took us 12 days across the Queen. Mary pass this up three times because we were a special crew with Communications and we were six dragon all the way across the ocean. That's why the creamery fastest up three times. When did what were you coming into?

06:26 I was going into a war and we repaired all the telephone lines in England and

06:37 The German planes used to come over every other day and drop bombs to strafe and stuff like that. And I know on January 7th, I think your age.

06:51 We got in a big cargo shipping via invented.

06:56 We had to climb down a rope ladder.

06:59 And I get out of the car bars where are jeep was at and drive on the shore. We had when we went in January, but that was high tide. We couldn't go on with the landing craft. So we had a backup and tied up to a sunken ship and we had to wait for a long time to come in and that was on DJ and we got in it was bad. That was bad.

07:42 So once you got to Germany, what was the first thing that you did?

07:46 Oh, well, I was at I got the fresh.

07:50 Then we went through friends first.

07:53 And now I shall we went through, we were his dock home after while. This is what

08:04 We went to dalco, and we see the prisoners and it was a shame because I started giving him candy, and they stopped me because he says, I give them too much and it would get sick because there was just getting to bones.

08:22 And I was there when they close. How

08:30 Together.

08:39 What was what was it? Like, seeing that real life? Is there a prisoner of war camp and dishes of the gas? Chambers were turbo. And what they did to the Jewish people too sickening sickening and Goldberg.

09:05 So, was that, that must have been really scary, witnessing the Holocaust because I learn about that today in school. I learned about this today in school. So that must have been really scary being there. So, yeah, what you lived through, I learn about.

09:24 The Dachau in Germany were there, Nazis, there? Or had they all left by that all the workers and took them. People out of the gas chamber and stuff like that. And

09:45 Like I says that the military came in military, please and they start to take care of them all, but it was too.

09:57 And the people take care of the dead bodies from the American side, had to be drunk all day long. They were surprised with whiskey because their Horrors horrible job they had

10:19 We were in Germany. You also went, I think it was in an opera house that you had to stay when you're in Germany. Was it an opera house that you were hired the kitchen? Because we were so we followed the Infantry with Communications and we stayed in the opera house in Germany.

10:44 Germany was so nice clean town.

10:48 Was it Munich that you were in town in Germany? Munich people?

11:02 Wow, and they were constantly swimming, but they were never great. This is citizens.

11:16 How do I say about a month-and-a-half too much? Well, I'm really Travis Romanian John's how? I don't know, but I would sometimes stay overnight in the Break Free.

11:40 But I will 1420. When I've been went back to arrest camp.

11:47 For a couple of days.

11:49 And I didn't like French France, was very dirty. The Germany was better.

12:00 Over in the war in Europe. You have a favorite memory from being in Europe during the war they suck variable resistor.

12:16 We slept on the ground and Tents and everything, but when we were stationed for a few weeks, we will take over a house or something in that, was that?

12:28 I didn't like friends too much.

12:32 Yeah.

12:34 So before you went and fought in the War, you got married to Grandma Josie right before the war. So what was it like having to get married and then go off to work? I got married. Go speak, came back with me to the Army.

12:50 And we no sooner. Got to Mississippi. We got orders to leave for New York, and she had to come back home.

12:58 And her stepfather says, when she gets married, she had to get out of the house. So I called my mother, she take her. So Grandma Josie live with your mom, while you were in the war.

13:16 So I think we have some notes that you actually sent her some look at this Army postcard that you sent her.

13:29 Awesome is our friend, you met during the war during the war. So when you came back, when you came back after the war was over. Did you stay in touch with these friends that you met a lot of? Wow, and if the fuse, where is this?

13:53 So when the war ended you came home, and you came back first, come back to Rochester to see Grandma Josie again, Josie. When you came back and where did you where did you end up? Living after that? I got an apartment.

14:19 I know just rear-ended an apartment where I got home with a beautiful 2 bedroom.

14:25 And I bought a house, that's where I was in business for a couple years.

14:34 Does Josephine family moved, her sister came up, so instead of moving into the house. I let her live there and she was complaining that I was taking too long to pay for it.

14:48 And I got tired of listen to complain. So I care about

14:59 And,

15:01 After I give her the house, my house I was living in was sold.

15:06 So, I had to get on.

15:09 So my sister says come over here. So I moved in with my sister.

15:16 And my uncle has a beautiful apartment where Prince Furniture Company live and his son was building a new house. So I took over that apartment with beautiful apartment and then the couple years I build a home in Rochester. Nice home.

15:40 And grocery kept getting sick. She has pneumonia 10 times one year.

15:47 So I says, you know, if you get sick one more will move to Florida. So the doctor advised I get her out of the country out of the states. Do I move to Florida? I show my house and I bought a new share, a new car for her and her and her brother. And my two kids shows to Florida and as soon as I settle my property, I'll join you. So about two weeks I stole my property.

16:20 And I joined them in Trove to Florida.

16:24 And I stayed in Florida about three years, but I didn't like it, cuz the summertime's world deserves. All the people love Florida in the summer and your good flat tire just running over land crabs. I got this custody, but I had a good job in the post office.

16:47 And the first job I got, it was making $2 an hour for my gosh. You can't do this. So I said, okay, so I went to the post office and apply for a job.

17:05 And they says, you get a recommendation room, Rogers room will hire you with a friend of mine. Wasn't? I'm a manager of the post office prize.

18:06 Okay, CSO, keep on going. So so you're back in Rochester now and pick up her back to Rochester. I went to work in a gas station.

18:18 And after a couple of weeks,

18:23 I got a phone call from your oil company and it heard I was back and they wanted to give me a gas station.

18:31 I choked a and they gave me my old gas station and I stayed there.

18:38 Up until 1977. That's what I was 54 years old. I retired state try to get out of the business.

18:54 Trouble hearing. I lost my hair in the Army. Do you remember how that happened? I don't know where you can hear and I just look, I'm going home. Leave me alone and they gave me $10. When I got home a couple months. They gave me $10 a month. Anyhow.

19:19 They couldn't do nothing with my hair in because it's only going to get worse. It's gotten worse. Now. I got to hear anything. Can hardly hear.

19:28 But I'm happy to be alive.

19:34 Heyl real to downs, but they were great kids, right?

19:48 Your two daughters. Marry, Joe and Kathy were growing up.

19:53 Do I gave I spoiled it from turbo, everything they wanted. They got a brand new car. My beautiful yellow one, and I said no one tries to bite you.

20:10 She went out her boyfriend Drive drove in and destroyed it.

20:16 And they showed me for $5,000. Oh, wow, your mother grandmother.

20:29 Or cars for cars. The last one I bought her. She was working, then I smelled you off with the down payment. You got to pay for it. And that's what I did. And when she got married.

20:46 I walked her down the aisle. I see you. Sure you want to do this? Yes, you guys. We go turn around and walk away. She just no, okay fine.

20:57 And she got married.

21:08 And Grandma Josie through the Christmas tree down the stairs.

21:17 We got this beautiful apartment and I brought home a Christmas tree and she threw it down the steps. I married Joan. Kennedy in a big room. We had a big room mirrors on all walls. It was just crazy Prince furniture. Company owns a place and my uncle stolen in the people that are. So it says that we sure down the steps and hurt her and she suing because she wanted to sell it. She wanted to move with the Department, took me to court. They took me to court.

22:08 And we wanted the negatives to the picture of my lawyer is just out of them and they didn't have him show up with your lawyer says insist. We take the pictures at Lebanon somewhere or six will taking pictures, this evidence. So they took the pictures as evidence. The pictures are part of the evidence. So immediately my Lord says you're under, we got to try to skate out of court and then the judge his wife. He's just, the picture, shows her left leg. She's complaining about her, right? So, who took you to court? That was

22:59 Did they catch the guy that bought the property? Oh my goodness.

23:10 So, you were mentioning in 1977 what you retired is that

23:16 Right, retired. I am I finance the business or the guy working for me and I took so much money a month. Walmart for grandkids, right?

23:36 For a couple of winters.

23:38 And ghostly didn't like it too much.

23:44 What are used to go golfing every day? I don't care and then went one and one year, a guy. She's, why don't you follow me to Las Vegas. So we went to Las Vegas, we drove.

23:58 And we got to Vegas. We went to a place where we rented and we went to sleep. I woke up in the morning. So she still got her clothes on. I show you what he's doing to your clothes off.

24:11 She's rocking out and go to sleep. This place is loaded with cockroaches, were getting out of here.

24:22 And we went out and stayed in a motel.

24:25 So after a week, Joe's pizza's, do we have to go back to Florida? Why don't we stay here?

24:31 Hydro, okay. Let's look for a good place. So we went to the convention center and it was a nice little Motel.

24:41 Sure, I walked in.

24:44 And I shall like to see the apartment and it's just, can I see the manager?

24:49 When a manager come out, I was shocked. I knew him well from Rochester.

25:01 And his name was John. I see Jesus John. I'm looking for a place. Can you get back? I'll give you a good price 125 a week.

25:11 Wow. Wow, it's like cooking and we moved in there and I called up my friend Florida, sell my furniture. I rented the place by the year in Florida. I sell my furniture, everything and send me to check, show my lease and he did in a week's time emailed me to start and we stayed there for about 3-4 years. We stated the best places in Las Vegas for 18 years.

25:41 Dan Johnston. Got a slight stroke.

25:45 And she got into an accident and, and then we stopped going to Vegas.

25:51 Oh, so that he came back to Rochester. And you stayed here. How many grandkids did you have?

26:14 I have four grandkids.

26:18 Yo, it's going to and I went to see a mall in college.

26:25 And when they got all the college ranking 5000 a piece and right now I brought the idle good life what it would have been a lot better if I had a better education in school. At least one of your grandkids today. We just need to stay in school.

26:58 Yeah, so here you are at 99 years old. That's pretty incredible. So, it's been almost a hundred years. They were my brothers. All my brothers, went to the 10th grade and quit.

27:22 Do I get a job? My brother was chief of detectives?

27:27 He became a judge.

27:29 And my other brother was in a ready. Check squad for the Rochester Police Department. East Heather. Yeah, what's his name to Tony still out there breakfast from 1922 and you were born until 2021. How much has changed in the world? Horseshoe buckets were around when I was young.

28:11 Hey, we're digging up all over. Please put in the shores in the stock exchange. We used to sell newspapers for $0.05 and I'll make it a penny.

28:23 Hey, shiny shoes. Lot of times. I got a kick out of money because I trip if the guy was drunk. I shined a tip about the back, but that was like four days. So, yeah, so much has changed. So, today by sensor low.

28:55 All right. Now brothers almost $4 a loaf. The money.

29:20 What is amazing because?

29:22 When I got in business, the Boston telling newspapers.

29:28 Became a customer of mine.

29:34 There were two shoulders. That was their last name so funny.

29:42 It could have been a lot better. Passion, education.

29:46 But I can't complain. I'm still there and you have a lot of great grandkids now to write me to 388 great-grandkids. Well.

30:11 So another thing I know is that years later just recently I think you got an award for being in the Army, right? What award was that? Was it a bronze star that you bought? What was the story behind? What are playing?

30:37 And we just kept working, and we got through it and they gave

30:43 They gave everybody up on the poles around start, but I was a truck driver day to give me nothing. So, when I heard that Brian is trying to come home. I went to the captain Isis. I want a Bronze Star.

31:04 He's Rock. We can't do it. You can do it. I said I'm going to go to higher authority. I was with you guys when they are straight, that the guy was being strafed. Also, you got the wrong guy for being straight. So they had a special ceremony for the two truck drivers and we got both and

31:28 Do your best part of the captain? I was working with. He was transferred to Japan. So I took them there. Since you got to drive me to Parrish.

31:42 I drove the parish and we got there too late.

31:47 And now I got to come home, but in a Black Market, I sold everything.

31:53 And I end up staying with him for nine days. She just got for my company ice. What are you doing here? He says Rock the company's breaking up. Everybody's going home. Watch I said, as soon as I got to wait for my orders, you're okay. I got up in the middle of the night and went back to my camp.

32:26 In Munich, and they have my bag, all packed. This work, Work video chats and I see swear, you told me to bring him. He's supposed to come back. But yes, I don't know. I know soon as I got back. I took my bag and jumped on the back end of the truck and I went to Camp. Lucky Strike.

32:49 On our way to Camp, Lucky Strike, every railroad stop. We sold stuff. I almost stole everything.

32:58 Had a lot of

33:37 Okay. Now the best part.

33:41 I got a new phone. I took her some.

33:46 12 days to go over for your free, Mary pass up three times. We come back in two days. Three days. I slept, I want to see sick.

34:00 Anthony home, I got this charge. I got a home by in the 50s.

34:11 And a 50's, there's a knock on my door on a Sunday morning, Mary, Joe remembers?

34:19 Is the captain that I left for Paris?

34:24 Ed Iowa. What the hell are you doing? You love me in first. So have you ever had the chance to go back to Europe since the war? Did you ever go back? I went back to Paris once 10 days. I wanted to go to Normandie and she also agreed with. It was too far away.

34:58 So yes, yes. Oh, wow. So 99 years old. There was your 99. That's just that's incredible.

35:08 Do you have what is nowadays now that your 99? What do you like to do everyday?

35:19 Well, I can't drive you can't drive so I got to wait for someone to take me.

35:26 My brother, my brother's friend takes me out when he goes.

35:36 So is there anything else about is there anything else that you want to share? Do you have any growing up the I guess? Okay. So yeah, sometimes I wish I was done. You know I always do is get dressed in the morning to eat stay and I think it's time to go to bed around for almost a century. That's incredible. Yeah. Okay, so I think

36:07 Yeah.