MY PARENTS were immigrants. Mother was born in Trieste, and Father was born in Foggia, Italy. I came along some three or four years after their passage through Castle Garden. Father was a musician. From what I learned later, the family had a modest but comfortable apartment in New York when I was born. Mother was a pretty little immigrant girl and had made friends in the neighborhood.
Two of these friends my mother had made by the time I came along were the mothers of sons who became associated with my activities in New York City. Mrs. Charles Kohler's son Charlie became a Tammany leader and a great influence in that organization. We always remained good friends, though I did put Charlie out of business. My mother's other friend was the mother of Dr. John Wade, who became during my administration Superintendent of Schools in New York, the greatest school system in the entire world. I had nothing to do with his promotion, but we developed a sentimental feeling for each other, though I did not meet him until I became President of the Board of Aldermen in 1920.
Mrs. Kohler was a sweet lady of Swiss origin. She was most kind to me at a time when I needed it. When I was a clerk in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1906, at $10 a week, Mrs. Kohler managed to feed and house me within my modest income during the three months that I held that job. She also took up the cudgels in my behalf politically and otherwise. When I was running for Congress in 1910 from a district in Greenwich Village, Charlie Kohler was a Tammany big shot in that Congressional district. One Saturday night when nearly every corner was covered with a truck and red lights and a campaign meeting, Mother Kohler was coming home from her Saturday night shopping, loaded with bundles, bags, and baskets. She stopped at one of the street corner meetings to listen and heard a Tammany orator lambaste me, telling the people that I was an immigrant just arrived, nothing but a "wop," and not fit to represent the great Fourteenth Congressional District in Washington. My opponent, then representing that great district in Congress, was President of the National Liquor Dealers' Association. Mother Kohler shouted out: "That's not so, that's a lie! Fiorello was born right in this districtl And you wait till Charlie gets home, I'll fix him! Cut that out and tell the truth!" And did Charlie get it when he came home!