Monday, August 31, 2009

New York's Elvira Oliver (99) World's Oldest Blogger

Brooklyn-born great-grandmother is a proud Italian American

Elvira S. Oliver, aged 99, who grew up in New York's Brooklyn, has burst into the cybersphere as probably the oldest of the world's 100 million bloggers.

She is more than two years older than the previous oldest blogger, Randall Butisingh, a poet and philosopher living in Florida, who was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) 96 years ago.

Elvira's new blog will wow the millions of Americans (and Australians) proud of having an Italian ancestor.

She claims that 40 years ago she wrote a heartwarming story, "The Joys of Growing Up Italian" that has since been "stolen," and posted on hundreds of websites without permission or even a byline.

"When my son Floyd who lives in San Diego, California visited me recently to celebrate my birthday, he convinced me to become a blogger...and that I now would be the oldest blogger on Earth," she wrote a few days ago.

" He came to this conclusion after scrolling through the Internet and read that the two oldest bloggers, at the age of 109, had recently passed away....Olive Riley on July 12 [2008] in Australia; and Ruth Hamilton on January 18 in Florida."

Elvira (Italians pronounce the name El-VEE--ra) was born in Brooklyn in 1910 to Italian immigrants, and says she grew up so Italian in all her ways that she didn't realize until becoming a teenager that she was an American.

Here's what occurred later, as related on her website The Oldest Blogger on Earth:

"Many years slowly passed by, and after my beloved parents left this Earth for greener pastures, it became the custom for my family to gather at my house for special occasions. They came from Long Island: Centereach, Baldwin, and West Hempstead; from Brooklyn, N.Y.; from Sherburne, N.Y.; from Alexandria, VA. and even Burlington, VT.

"All participated in the festivities, enjoyed the comraderie, and filled their bellies with real Italian food with all the trimmings. Then after three or four days, and sometimes a week, all departed.

"One day in 1968, after a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration...and coming home from a rather hectic and busy day at the office, I entered an empty house. Alone and feeling somewhat nostalgic for the good old times, I sat down at my kitchen table, and on an old manual typewriter typed 'The Joys of Growing-up Italian', jottting down random thoughts, regardlessof gender or tense (past, present or future).

"Then after only a few friends and family members received a copy, I just placed it in a drawer and forgot about it. I did not come across it again until the Year 1976, when I moved to a beautiful house on the top of a small mountain in South Otselic, New York.

"Surrounded by forests, cornfields, dairy farms and down-to-earth country folk, I thought I was in Heaven. That particular area generated only a few paesans (Italians). As soon as I became acquainted with them, I eagerly presented them with a copy of my newly found essay.

"The Winter of 1977-1978 found St. Otselic's roads rather impassable for a city-bred girl. Over 10-feet of snow was piled up in my driveway, and I would have been confined in my home all winter, if it wasn't for the generosity of the farmers, who came to pick me up with their tractors for special appointments I had to keep.

"My daughter Angela's concern for my well-being guided me into a new direction. Once more I packed my belongings and dropped the baggage in a small lovely house in a senior development known as Silver Ridge Park in Toms River, New Jersey. There, I suddenly found myself , once again, engulfed in the Italian culture.

"Without saying too much more, many copies were made of 'The Joys of Growing-up Italian', and I gladly distributed it throughout the Village.

"I refined the essay in 1980, and again several more times...correcting grammar, genders, tenses and punctuation, etc. As I became older, all one had to mention is that he/she was of Italian descent, and off went a copy of my essay.

"This happened quite frequently, no matter where I wandered: on trains, buses, and even on airplanes. Addresses were exchanged and new friends were born.

"Several years ago, at a meeting of the Golden Age Seniors in Patterson, New York, next to me sat Claire... I learned she is a 'paesan'. Immediately I made known to her that I was the author of the essay 'The Joys of Growing-up Italian' on which I had received many compliments over the years.

"A startled look crossed her face, and in a subdued tone said: 'Elvira, it's on the Internet'. All Hell broke loose! I'm being plagarized!

"I will continue with this diatribe the next time I blog, if you find it interesting."
-- Posted by Elvira S Oliver at 7:37 PM Aug 26, 2009

Elvira lives on her own in Carmel, (pop. 30,000), about 50 miles north of New York City and 10 miles west of Danbury, Connecticut.

The original story is posted (without a byline) on many web sites, including here and one run by Italiamerica.org which has tweezed the headline to read The Joy of Growing Up an Italian American.

You can hear an extract from a CD of the essay set to music by visiting a commercial website.
For $7.95 you can buy "a 12 minute recording of the well known, anonymous story of 'THE JOYS OF GROWING UP ITALIAN' that immediately transforms you to your childhood."

In Orlando, Florida, a member of the Italian American Social Club has incorporated the essay (without any mention of its author) in his/her own reminiscences:

"I thought that my experience growing up Italian was not only joyful but also unique until I began sharing my experiences with many of my fellow Italian American Social Club members. We just call our IASC 'da club.'

"I am convinced that our stories of 'growing up Italian' are so similar that I have come to realize that this experience is probably being felt by over two or three million second or third generation Italian-Americans in this country.

"Most of our members who actively participate in our many events express feelings of being a part of 'la familia' or maybe feel they are 'from the old neighborhood,' just because of the way we share our Italian heritage and experiences. . . and how important it has become to each one of us.

"I would like to share with you the joy of how I grew up Italian. If you are Italian, this may be your story also."

[Then followed a copy of Elvira's essay]

"I now depend on Moosehaven and my fellow Moose members. The food is not Italian as we knew it, but it is good and we all enjoy it. I think it is the peace, security and the camaraderie that keeps [us] as content as we are.

"No matter what part of the country we came from, our experiences, joys and memories are mostly the same. We Italians have something extra because we all remember the joys of growing up Italian.

"This is not just my story but that of thousands and maybe millions of Italian-Americans or other ethnic Americans who built this great country for what it is. If you are not Italian, only we Italians know what you missed."

Today, descendants of early Italian immigrants number nearly 16 million, according to the U.S. census of 2000; although through intermarriage, the number of people in the United States with at least one Italian grandparent is estimated to be about 26 million.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Italian Americans are the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, with two-thirds in white-collar positions in business, medicine, law, education and other professions.

END

3 comments:

Martin H. said...

Eric,

I only came across your blog yesterday and after reading this latest post, your on my list of blogs for sure.

Looking forward to reading more.

Cheers Martin (a novice grandfather and blogger)

Tina Trivett said...

Great story. Elvira sounds like an interesting woman.

dan said...

A great post, Eric, enjoyed reading every word.

Danny in Taiwan