Italian Immigrant Finds Career In Produce
Welcome to the Payette ID GenWeb Project
From "200 Years in the Making"
Highlighting Malheur, Payette, Washington, Owyhee and Baker County History in Idaho
Malheur Publishing Co. (Publishers of the Daily Argus Observer)
Bicentennial Edition, 1976, Page 1976-1976A
Beauty of Idaho drew Palumbos
By Chris Moore
Nearly 90 years have passed between the time J. C. (Jim) Palumbo made his appearance into this world in Termini Imerese, Italy, and this Bicentennial year of 1976 but the years have not dimmed the bright eyes nor the vivid memory.
The delightful businessman carved a livelihood out of the fruit and produce business in his adopted country and became something of an institution in the Treasure Valley.
Now living in Boise, he spent many years in Payette County where he established a flourishing fruit packing business.
Jim Palumbo came to the United States with a sister in 1899; he was only 12 years old. True, he was young to leave parents and home - but after all, his mother had worked in the family business and the sister who was leaving Italy upon her marriage to G. Caruso, had almost raised the lad.
"When I heard she was going, I told my mother "I have to go" and finally they let me."
This same determination was to help him in future years when business reverses would have discouraged a lesser man.
A treasure through the years is the basket in which Palumbo brought his worldly belongings to America. Well made, it is in excellent condition though he assures everyone "it has seen much use."
Jim Palumbo shows how he would load the basket in early days with his belongings or with fruit, slide a shoulder under it and move off. No imagination is needed to envision the sturdy lad, just learning the English language, carrying the basket laden with fruit to be sold.
"We raised fruit, grapes and peaches, in Italy - so it is no surprise this was our business here." Palumbo says, as he recalls a lifetime in fruit and produce.
Jim Palumbo, his brother Tony and the brother-in-law G. Caruso, first dealt in fruit in the eastern states and mid-west. The three men, actually Jim was but 15 then, did all the work from unloading produce at night to selling it during daylight hours. He soon became a veteran of train travel taking orders for produce which was sent to the town on the next train.
He recalls a flood while living in Logansport, Indiana "We took food to an uncle too sick to move. Coming out of the building, the water swept us clear across the street."
During this time Jim Palumbo was to meet Miss Rose Catanzaro who was to marry the youthful produce man and remain his companion and helpmate for a lifetime.
Momentos have been filed away in a huge album entitled "This is your life" and it traces the Palumbo's life from his through the years as the family business grew up to his retirement.
Idaho had a bumper crop of apples in 1921. This was the year a bad freeze wiped out the apple crop east of the Mississippi. Hearing of the crop, the partners sent Palumbo out to Idaho with his wife to see about shipping the crop to their markets in the eastern states.
"I fell in love with Idaho. When I return to Logansport. after three months out here, I sold my part of the business to Tony, (his brother) loaded my prized possessions in a railroad car, gathered up my family and started to Idaho."
The fruit business was good two Palumbo and in 1924 he built a large storage facility. Tony, delighted with Jim's progress, left Indiana for Idaho to build one of the largest cold storage buildings in the state at that time.
Palumbo soon made a reputation for himself and his produce and for 20 years, he worked at this profession. In addition, he became very active in Payette serving as Chamber of Commerce president and numerous other organizations felt his guiding hand.
One of the organizations which has felt his efforts was Boy Scouts. The scrapbook mentioned above has many momentos of those years of work when Palumbo directed fund drives, helped with camps and worked at various posts earning two coveted awards - the Silver Antelope and the Silver Beaver.
His efforts in behalf of youth earned him the St. George medal, a high Catholic honor.
Retirement seemed attractive in 1945 - but lasted only a short time. Palumbo, who moved to Boise on his retirement, started a business in Homedale. Retirement beckoned again - but again "I was just too young to quit" he said early in 1976 when interviewed for this story.
Pictures in the Palumbo collection indicate that he was always a bit adventurous. He raced motorcycles. One photo shows him on an "Indian" and he tells that it wasn't long after this was taken that he piled up - hitting a truck which inadvertently wandered into the race area.
Another photo shows a youthful Palumbo with his hand bandaged. His fingers were injured when caught in the propeller of an airplane. He and a friend organized the Logansport Aviation Company. "We had lots of crashes but no one ever got hurt. We flew people for so much per minute."
But Idaho had called and Palumbo was in on the ground floor in marketing fruits of the Gem state. Many of his labels were to become common household items. Palumbo's Pride marked fancy and extra fancy Idaho apples. This label also carried the picture of a Palumbo daughter, Agnes.
Travel was an important part of the Palumbos' life and many photos tell of their travels around the world. He recalls one such trip where one of those on the boat was said to be Mussolini's son. Photos trace the travels to such places as France, Monte Carlo, Italy. He has photos of his hometown and relatives in Termini. A devout Roman Catholic, his tour included St. Peter's and the Collesium, Basilica of St. Paul and the Pope's villa. Jim Palumbo was photographed on hot lava only six days old at Vesuvius and he saw the sites of Pompeii.
His pride in America shines as he talks of his activities in this nation he chose for his home while just a youngster. Jim Palumbo reminisces over changes through the years and clippings in his memoirs mark such events as the assassination of President Kennedy, an attempt on the life of President Ford and the saga of Patty Hearst.
Jim Palumbo complains briefly about slowing down some - then picks up his hat to hasten to another appointment, the spring still in his step.
He has packed a lot of living into those nearly 90 years - a typical American. He came to the land of opportunity, worked hard, made his mark and continues in his search to be useful wherever he might be.
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