Marinoni with a few pieces of his bullet proof furniture. In his retirement, the 100 year-old inventor has found a second career, constucting furniture for friends and relatives as well as working out more efficient ways to work through daily problems.
John Marinoni (lower right) along with his mother, sister and brother in the norther province of Bergamo, Rovetta, Italy. Circa 1919.
For many in the Castle Valley, tales of Ellis Island and a new start are relevant only because of Vito Corleone and his flashback the Godfather Part II. To century old Castle Country coal mining legend John A. Marinoni however, the experience of sailing to American shores with the hope of a new and better life is simultaneously magical and very real.
Marinoni, who turned 100 earlier in December, was born Giovanni Alfredo Marinoni in the northern province of Bergamo, Rovetta, Italy. He immigrated to the United States aboard the Guiseppe Verdi in 1919 at the age of six along with his mother, older sister and younger brother.
"Ships were a little different back then, I can remember being on the boat with sheep and pigs, other animals as well," recalled Marinoni, sitting with his daughter in his room at Pinnacle Nursing here in Price. "I can remember the waves. One hit the ship so hard it almost threw me over. If it wasn't for a fellow passenger I never would have made it to America."
According to Marinoni, the perils of the voyage didn't stop once his family reached land.
"We almost lost by brother there at Ellis Island," he said. "My brother Clemente had pink-eye and they weren't going to allow him to come with us. My mother cried so hard he was finally allowed to rejoin us and we came into America a family."
After landing in New York, the group took a train to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho to join his father and uncle. Marinoni's American education was delayed until 1921, as he had to learn English before starting school.
"It took some time, learning the language," he said. "But I was always good with numbers, so my marks in math were always better."
While the young man took pains to learn the language, he also maintained a constant interest in learning. He reported studying over an electronics book every night despite not being able to understand the English.
Marinoni's life in Utah began on a freight train in 1931 and with Utah came mining. From Maple Creek to Peerless and Standardville, John developed a reputation as one of the best "grease monkeys" around. In 1934, Marinoni left coal for the richer ore of gold, moving to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was at the coal mine that he would meet and marry his wife Annie Caserio. The pair's marriage lasted for 69 years before she passed in 2004.
As his family life began, Marinoni moved to Washington's Puget Sound during WWII, where he worked for the Navy fixing war ships. John and Annie's first child, Charlene, came during this period, prompting Marinoni to take night classes in order to obtain his high school diploma.
The first generation immigrant's education would not stop there. Only 25 years after stepping onto Ellis Island, he graduated from Washington State with a Safety Engineering Degree.
In 1946, Marinoni moved back to Price and worked for his father, who at the time, owned Soldier Creek Mine. The Marinoni Mine (as it was known then) was a family affair as John worked with his father Andrew and his brother Clemente and Joe. Their sister, Aurelia, was the mine's accountant and their mother Rita served as the cook. In 1953, John's second daughter Judy was welcomed to the family as Marinoni and his siblings bought the mine from his father and changed its name to Premium Coal.
"I remember we had a kitchen in the scale house," said Marinoni's oldest daughter Charlene, sitting beside her father at Pinnacle Nursing. "It was the center of business activities there. Everyone was welcome to a hot meal while business was discussed."
According to the former Carbon High teacher, her father's family goals always centered on education and safety.
"I can remember he took every class they offered in mining," she said. "He wanted to improve himself as well as the miners he worked with. My father still believes the key to success is the combination of education and practical experience. He always stressed the importance of life-long learning."
Marinoni's children and grandchildren grew up around the mine, playing on the hills of coal and speaking to the miners by name. They ran the scales and even took time "picking bony," which mean to pull the rocks from coal stockpiles, something their father had done for work in his youth.
The Marinoni's sold the mine to Portland Cement Company in 1974. And while the facility is still called the Soldier Creek Mine, it has not been in production since the 1990s.
Forever a giving