We are sharing an undated article Alfred Biglione wrote regarding the history of his family and his early life here in Clovis.
Al’s parents, Antonio and Catherina, were born in the 1870s in Cunio, Italy, a town located in the northern part of the country near the border of France. His father worked for 6 cents a day and his mother 2 cents a day tending sheep.
His mother would camp with the sheep day and night. Her daily meal was a sack of hard bread and milk from a goat.
The couple moved to France to earn a better living. Alfred was born in Marseilles in 1900. Antonio had always dreamed of coming to California. After saving $100 (paid $90 for passage), the family arrived in New York with $10. They joined other French and Italian immigrants who helped them find lodging and work.
His father found work with the railroad and received 60 cents for a 12-hour day. They moved to Stockton, where his father worked for the railroad ($1 for a 10-hour day). They moved to Clovis and his father worked for $1 per day for the Shaver Lake Lumber Company. He worked for them for 25 years while he farmed.
The family paid $12 per acre for a 10 acre farm on Fowler and Shaw Avenues. They built a shed barn and lived in it for six years. They decided to plant grapes.
Al and his mother would plant the vines at night and on Sundays. Washtubs full of water would be placed on a sled that was pulled by a mule. Each plant would receive a cup of water.
Siblings Joe, Katherine, Mary, John and James had arrived by 1908. Their brother Gene arrived later. They sold the farm and purchased a 20-acre ranch across the street, including a four bedroom house and a mature vineyard, for $3,800. His father rented adjoining farms to help generate cash to pay off the mortgage.
Al was not fluent in English when he entered Jefferson Grammar School. He excelled after spending two years in the first grade. He was paid $3 per month to clean and heat the one room school house. He graduated from Clovis High School in 1916 at age 16.
Al would not work by the hour (15 cents) during harvest but stated: “I always worked by the box so I could make more by working hard, which I did. Every dollar counted.”
Antonio would take Al’s earnings and return 10 cents per dollar until Al was 20 years old. He described his father as very strict. Al believed families could still benefit from those traditional standards.
At age 17, Al and his father purchased 120 acres at Copper and Willow avenues. They planted grapes and figs. Al would marry Marie (maiden name not verified) in 1924. They had no children. He joined General Petroleum for 19 years prior to opening Biglione Petroleum in Clovis. In 1946, he built a new plant at 745 Clovis Ave. and added a tire shop and a restaurant.
In 1968, he built a new plant on Clovis Avenue near Third Street. He retired in 1971. He and Marie farmed for 30 years at their ranch at 10725 North Willow.
Al was an active volunteer/civic leader. He was chairman of the Clovis booth of the Fresno District Fair for 29 years. The booth was dedicated in his honor in 1987. He was one of the first five citizens to be inducted into the Clovis Hall of Fame in 1975.
He served on the Board of the Clovis Unified School District for 13 years and was founder of the Garfield Water District. He was active in the Clovis Rodeo Association, Clovis Eagles, Clovis Lions Club and the Clovis Chamber of Commerce.
Al was inducted into the first Clovis Hall of Fame in 1975. The following men were honored at the same time: Dr. Clayton Pendergrass, Loris Grossi, Einar Cook and Lawrence “Shorty” Sassano.
Al and Marie Biglione left us a rich heritage.