Last week, I described the papers of Cleopatra McClellan Nelson, which were left in a grocery bag by our back door in 2013. Mrs. Nelson’s papers weren’t the only ones in that bag. It also contained the papers of Joseph Amodeo. If there was a connection between Nelson and Amodeo, I wasn’t able to find it, so I don’t know how their papers wound up together.
Nevertheless, in Amodeo’s papers we can also see the interesting life of an ordinary person.
Born in Norristown in 1917, Joseph Amodeo’s parents were immigrants from Sicily. His father owned a shoe shop at 303 East Moore Street in Norristown. Joseph began working in the shop as a boy, eventually inheriting it after his mother’s death.
Amodeo stayed in the shop for decades as his brothers and sisters grew up and moved away. His papers give us little hints about them. There is a letter from his brother Charles who was stationed in San Francisco while serving in the Signal Corps. His brother Harry got into some trouble with the police.
He seems to have straightened out and also served in the military during World War II.
As I often do when writing a blog post about a particular person, I did a little sleuthing on the internet. It was helpful, but I also discovered some of the shortcomings of internet research.
I found the Amodeo family in the 1940 census. The census taker’s handwriting isn’t great, and here’s what he wrote for Joseph’s occupation:
Since I know something about Mr. Amodeo’s life, I know that this says “shoemaker.” The person who transcribed this record, however, interpreted this as “stenographer.” Always check the original. I also found him on findagrave.com where he has a spouse listed, “Mary Maria Amodeo.” Mr. Amodeo never married; it’s possible this is referring to his sister Mary.
Still, I can say with some confidence that Joseph did not go into the military, as his brothers did. Among his papers was this proclamation on “aliens of enemy nationalities.” His mother, Anna Amodeo, would have fallen under the category of “enemy alien.”
Joseph Amodeo continued to work in his shop, a mainstay on the East End of Norristown, while the neighborhood around him changed. I found a great article on him from the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1994. The article makes a reference to an old stitching machine. Perhaps it was the same machine his father Melchiorre (Menzi) Amodeo purchased in 1931.
In the article, “Mr. Joe” seems determined to stay on E. Moore Street. The Norristown phone book lists him there until 2003. He died in 2004 and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.