With Dad’s 50th birthday approaching, I decided he deserved a really big surprise party, in recognition of his love and devotion to us as husband and father. I arranged a lovely dinner at the “Top O’ the Fox” on Foxtown Hill in Stroudsburg, and invited all the Pappalardos and the Vecchios, plus some of our close friends. There were about 45 of us altogether, and it was indeed a surprise to Dad. He was very touched by it, and could hardly eat a thing because if his excitement.
He received many beautiful gifts, including a rocking chair from our children. He appreciated their loving thoughts, but was a bit apprehensive as to the meanings that a rocking chair might imply. With five children still at home to support, he definitely would not have the financial means to sit in a rocking chair. Nevertheless, the chair, now 37 years old, is still in existence. It has since been given to our son Sal, since he bears his father’s name. Hopefully, it will be passed down in time to our grandson Sal, as it has much sentimental meaning.
Meanwhile our four older children at home were busy with school and all its activities. The only one at home was Frank, still a baby. Dad continued to do well with his tile jobs, and Josie was adjusting quite well to her new life without Grandpa. We insisted, however, that she share supper with us every night. She enjoyed the camaraderie as well as not having to cook. She was a good cook, but never really enjoyed it that much. Grandpa had always cooked because he liked doing it, although of course Josie had to be on hand to hand him the pots or whatever he needed during the preparation.
Oftentimes, the children would take turns and spend an overnight with Josie, but it had to be only one of them at a time. She felt that she could supervise better when there was only one to look after. The endless vitality and energy coming from growing boys had to be rationed in small doses as far as she was concerned! All in all it was enjoyable for her and for the children.
By 1959 our son Sal had graduated from high school and was accepted at Villanova, majoring in engineering. Villanova was ranked quite high academically, and had a tuition to match. But all parents try their best to help their children fulfill their dreams and aspirations. After a year at Villanova, Sal was disappointed to learn that his grades were not acceptable for him to continue there in that field of study. He came home that summer feeling very discouraged.
Meanwhile Freddie had a big tile job in New Jersey and asked our son to help him. Sal was elated with the money that Freddie paid him, as it was higher than the minimum wage. Of course Freddie got a good day’s work from Sal as well.
Despite the jingle of the money in Sal’s pocket, Dad strongly advised him to attend the local college, East Stroudsburg State College (now East Stroudsburg University). Being a state college, the tuition and costs were much lower than the private colleges. Sal was a bit reluctant at first, but realized it was worth trying. He seemed to be interested in teaching, and at that time, male teachers were beginning to be in demand.
Dad’s doctor, Dr. Shafer, was president of the Board of Trustees at ESU, as well as its college physician. With Dr. Shafer’s influence, Sal was accepted even though his application was not submitted until late August (normally too late). Upon Dr. Shafer’s advice, Sal stopped working for Freddie in order to have time to prepare and pass the entrance exam required by the college. Needless to say, this did not go over too well with Freddie, but Dad insisted that it had to be this way; Sal’s schooling took priority.
And so began Sal’s four successful years at ESU, which led to the beginning of his teaching career. He is still teaching today, fourth grade at the Morey Elementary School in Stroudsburg. It is heartwarming to hear the accolades and compliments from the parents of the children he has taught these many years. He has touched the lives of his fourth graders in many positive ways. He is still respected and admired by his students, their parents, and his fellow teachers with whom he has worked for over thirty years. This makes me ever so proud.
In 1960 Dad and I suggested that Josie should get away for awhile and take a trip to Italy to visit her friends and cousins who lived in the vicinity of Catania, Sicily. Grandpa had been gone for three years, and we thought the change would do her some good. She was receptive to the idea, but did not want to make the trip alone. She was able to interest her longtime friend, Mrs. Puglisi, to accompany her. Mrs. Puglisi had relatives in Italy as well. They agreed on a date and made reservations to go back and forth by ship in August 1962, via the Italian Line. It turned out to be an enjoyable trip for both of them. Mrs. Puglisi not only enjoyed the trip, but also met a man in Italy who proposed to marry her. She told him that she would have to get approval from her married daughter and family before making a decision. He agreed to her wishes and accompanied her and Josie back to the US. Two months later, after her family approved of the match, Mrs. Puglisi and her new found fiancée became husband and wife. They lived in the Bronx for many years until his death.
In the latter part of 1960 my brother Frank, who was still living with us, suffered a heart attack. Until this point in time he had been doing well at work. I continued to chauffeur him to and from work, as he was still without a car. As far as we could observe, he did not seem to be having any problems physically or otherwise. But when he awoke on this particular morning, he complained of chest pain and nausea. Dad delayed going to work and took Frank to Dr. Shafer. After a preliminary exam and an EKG, Dad took him to the hospital in East Stroudsburg, where he remained for two weeks. We notified Henry Tucker and informed him that Frank would not be able to work for a while.
Upon Frank’s discharge, Dr. Shafer gave him strict orders to remain at home resting for six weeks. After that he would be allowed to return to work on a part time basis, until such time as he was fully recovered. Frank apparently was not receptive to the idea of part time employment. After the six weeks of rest he resumed work and was back to his forty hours per week schedule.
Without any warning he began to drink heavily, and on the job, of all places. Of course this as not acceptable to Henry Tucker’s son, who was by now in charge of his father’s garage. Frank ignored repeated warnings and continued his excessive drinking. It was no surprise when we learned from Frank that he had been fired. Dad and I were very disappointed. After all, he was doing the work for which he was the most qualified, and doing it very well. It seemed that he had ignored everything and chosen to throw a good opportunity out the door. We had done all we could to help him, but we realized that he had to be the one to discipline himself.
He continued to remain home with us, now unemployed. He applied to the unemployment office in Stroudsburg, trying to collect weekly checks, without success. I imagine the conditions under which he was fired had something to do with their decision. We kept him in cigarettes and gave him a little pocket money. For his part, he accepted his change of idleness. Meanwhile, he kept trying weekly to get a different decision at the unemployment office.
By 1962 Dad and I were thinking of our 25th wedding anniversary, which was soon approaching. As we looked back we felt happy and proud of all the things we had accomplished together, despite our occasional setbacks. But we both agreed that our greatest gift of joy came from God, blessing us with six beautiful children. Over the years they have generously and unselfishly given us many material gifts. But best of all, they have given us those things which no price could match, namely their love and respect, and the joy of their laughter.
After much serious thought, Dad and I agreed we would treat ourselves to a Mediterranean tour of Italy as an anniversary gift to ourselves.
Of course we had to make plans for the care of our children during the eight weeks we would be away, and we were still concerned about my brother Frank as well. Jean had already graduated from high school and was now attending ESU, as was her brother Sal. Both would have the use of our car to get back and forth between school and home. They were mature enough to handle things for themselves at home. There was a freezer full of food, and many prepared foods, ready to serve. With the car, they could get to the store for daily necessities.
We arranged for Peter and Paul to stay at the home of our friendly milkman Ray and his wife Ellen. Ray was almost a part of our family. His milk deliveries three times a week always ended with him sitting down with us over coffee, chatting with Dad and me and the children as they were getting ready for school. During his coffee break, he never failed to telephone his wife to make sure she was awake to go to work at her job at Newberry’s department store. She still works there today. Ray is no longer a milkman, but works part time delivering flowers for a local florist.
We paid Ray and Ellen, of course, for the care of the boys. They were attending Saint Matthew’s parochial school, and Ellen made sure that they wore their clean white shirts with ties and their blue pants, which was the required uniform. Ray and Ellen did a fine job, and the boys were happy there.
As for our youngest, Frank, we arranged to have him stay with Stella and Kenny Stettler, our neighbors in Shawnee. We paid them as we did Ray and Ellen. Stella and Kenny had two young daughters, Kathy and Audrey, who smothered Frank with love and attention. They considered him their baby brother. Kenny and Stella were very attentive and provided Frank with excellent care. Having our children in good hands relieved Dad and me of all worry and anxiety while away.
With the details for the care of our children arranged, we proceeded to finalize our plans. The cruise was arranged through Wyckoff’s travel bureau. Besides seeing much of Italy, we would make stops in Lisbon, Portugal and Patras, Greece. We would be sailing on ships of the Italian Line, going on the Vulcania and returning on the Saturnia. We would sail in January 1962.
We asked Josie if she would be interested in going along with us. We suggested that she invite two of her close friends, Claire and Evelyn from Haverhill, Massachusetts. They were always ready to go on a trip. The three ladies were very much in favor of the whole idea and decided to come.
The big day arrived. We were departing from New York harbor. Needless to say, all of our children except our youngest, Frank were there to see us off. Also on hand were my brother Frank, my brother Julie and Carrie, my brother Johnny and Marie, Martha Schiele (Grandpa’s faithful bookkeeper at Nation Tile and Marble), and Dad’s brothers Frank and Joe. As the band played and confetti was thrown in all directions, our ship moved slowly out of the harbor. I can vividly remember seeing the faces of our loved ones moving farther and farther away from us. Of course Dad and I felt sad for the temporary separation, but our sadness was surpassed by the excitement of all that was to come for our enjoyment.
We had extended the five weeks of our planned tour with as additional three weeks in Sicily, so that Dad and I and Josie could visit with Josie’s cousins in Messina. The extra cost was minimal, as we stayed at the homes of Josie’s relatives, and they fed us typical large Italian meals. Of course we contributed whenever they allowed us to do so. All in all it was a wonderful visit for all of us, and most enjoyable. During these three weeks, Claire and Evelyn went on tours by themselves. The five of us then met in Palermo, where the Saturnia was waiting for us for our return home.
Dad had suffered a serious case of hepatitis aboard the ship as we approached Venice, our first port of call. He actually collapsed in bed when we arrived at the hotel. He had suffered bouts of nausea and cramps on the voyage from New York, and after two days of this I convinced him to see the ship’s doctor. This was a big mistake. The doctor’s diagnosis was a flare-up of ulcers (which Dad had a history of). Accordingly, he prescribed a diet of milk, eggs and cheese, and no meats or spicy food. This diet is poison to a body suffering from hepatitis. No wonder Dad collapsed when we reached Venice. I immediately summoned the doctor on call at the hotel. He was in our room within minutes, took one look at Dad, and immediately made a correct diagnosis of hepatitis. He spoke fluent English, and reassured us both that with medication, rest, and lots of clear broth and fruit, Dad would soon recover. Of course he emphasized the need to stay away from dairy products.
Before this, I was seriously thinking of flying back with Dad, to get him home quickly. But upon the doctor’s visit and expert diagnosis, I was relieved and confident that Dad would be well again. Fortunately, our stay in Venice was for three days, which gave Dad ample time to rest and recover.
The rest of our trip went well, and everything we saw was so impressive and hard to describe. We were impressed with Venice, Rome, the Vatican, Florence, Naples, the Amalfi Drive, the Isle of Capri, and oh so many other places. All that we saw and did was worthwhile and so enjoyable. The trip gave us many beautiful, never to be forgotten memories, including the delicious Italian cappuccino to which I was introduced and have loved ever since.
When we returned home, the children were excited and happy to see us. We too were happy to be reunited after an eight week separation.
We learned of many development that had taken place while we were away. For one thing, my brother Frank, who was still living in our home, was showing sever signs of discouragement and depression. He was still without a job and without money. With regret he decided to return to Long Island. His objective was to get unemployment checks, this time through the unemployment office in Hempstead. We were saddened by this decision, particularly the children. They loved Uncle Frank, as we all did.
Frank arranged to live with my brother Johnny and Marie, for a while anyway. After going to the unemployment office and filling out the necessary paperwork, he was successful in getting the full amount of benefits, which had accumulated retroactively! It amounted to a sizable sum. But unfortunately he soon fell into the same trap of excessive drinking, which caused Johnny and Marie and all of us much worry and concern.
Our daughter Rosemary’s marriage was not going very well, burdened now with three children, ages 5, 4 and 2. We had never really approved of her plans to marry, but this was her decision and her life. We as parents had to look on, hoping for the best.
We also learned that our son Sal was planning to marry Joanne Murphy in August of the same year, 1962. Sal still had one more year of college to complete before graduation, and that caused us much concern. We were very happy for them, but couldn’t help wondering whether Sal would be able to afford school and support a marriage at the same time. Joanne already had a job as a bank teller. She planned to continue working to help with expenses. Fortunately their plans turned out well despite their hardships. Sal not only graduated from ESU with a BS in elementary education, but they also became parents of their first child, Gina Mary. In addition, Sal obtained his first teaching position in Matamoras, about 35 miles from Stroudsburg. It was a good beginning, and we were happy for the three of them.
From the time I was in high school, my ambition in life was to become a teacher or (second choice) a nurse. Since marriage for me began at age 20 and continued immediately with the responsibilities of a large family, going to college was out of reach. However, Dad and I often talked about the possibilities for me to pursue a college degree some day. With two of our children married and our youngest already in first grade, I applied for admission to ESU. Despite my 30 year absence from school, and with only a commercial high school diploma, I passed the necessary tests and was admitted.
Josie, who was 73 at the time, also applied and joined me in ny first class, French I. She had always been interested in learning French, and with her background of Italian, she did very well in mastering it. She took the course on a pass-fail basis, as she was not interested in obtaining a degree. She passed with flying colors.
After the semester was over, she went to Florida, as she had always done to escape the ravages of winter. While she was gone, her school grades came in the mail, which indicated PASS. I immediately mailed her report card to her in Florida, and attached a blue ribbon to it. This tickled her, of course, and made her feel proud of her accomplishment. We were all proud of her positive attitude and determination.
Needless to say, Josie and I were the oldest students in the class, and the professor seemed to enjoy our participation despite the age difference. Professor Hope spoke Italian fluently as well as French and English. He and Josie would often carry on lengthy conversations in Italian, while the other students looked on and listened, wondering if they were in the right class! The professor lived in France and was here for one year on an exchange program. Being alone here with few friends, I invited him to our house twice for a good Italian dinner. I invited others in the foreign language department, plus a few other friends. We had a great time together, and Professor Hope was most appreciative. In French, he said some very nice things concerning our graciousness and hospitality. I achieved an A in the course, but I don’t really know whether it was the home cooking, or if I really did know my French!
After my introduction to just the one course, I then registered for three courses at a time each semester. Since our family was my first priority, I scheduled classes between 10 AM and 2 PM. This allowed me time to chauffeur our boys to the bus stop at Worthington Hall in Shawnee, where the parochial school bus picked them up each day. I then would be there to meet them when they were dropped off at 3:15.
According to my plan, it would take me eight years to achieve my degree, but despite the length of time, Dad and I decided it would be suitable for all concerned. I still managed to continue doing the necessary chauffeuring, shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry, as well as being available to whoever came to stay and visit with us, regardless of when they came. In the midst of all this, of course, I had my assigned homework and reading to do, as well as the clerical duties for Dad as those demands came up. But all of this goes to prove a point that one can achieve anything he so desires, but he must work hard, persevere, think positively, and above all use the gifts of mind and body which God has given to each and every one of us. Apparently this advice worked for me; by the year 1971 my goal of obtaining a college degree had been achieved.
Just two months prior to her 21st birthday (February 19, 1964) our daughter Jean informed us that she would be quitting ESU. She had already attended the college for a year and a half. Of course this was a disappointment to us, just as it had been when we received the same announcement from Rosemary. We tried to convince her that she was making a mistake, but we could also see that her mind was already made up.
And so she left us, with high hopes and aspirations. After many hugs on her way out, we assured her that our door would always be open, should her plans change in any way. As parents we felt the loss of her leaving us, but we were still hoping for the best for her. Jean kept in touch with us after her arrival in Florida, but as things turned out she did not remain there very long. Eventually she met and became involved with John Giuffre, who lived in Rochester, New York with his mother and sister. He had a married sister as well. Apparently Jean and John were attracted to each other, and a serious relationship soon began.
Some time later we were notified by letter that John Giuffre Jr. was born in February 1965, and that Jean and John were getting married in California. Needless to say, this came as a shock to Dad and me. We felt saddened that we could not be there to be a part of the wedding, but despite our disappointment we desperately hoped that the marriage would work out. But as time passed the marriage began to unravel at the seams (just as Rosemary’s was). It was just a matter of time.
Sometime later, at his mothers invitation, John Sr. returned to Rochester with Jean and John Jr. His mother Angie thought she could help by having the three of them with her. The arrangement did not work very well, and so by agreement, John Sr. remained with his mother and Jean came to our house, bringing John Jr. with her. In essence, we lost one when Jean left us, but we gained two when Jean returned with our grandson. Of course Dad and were relieved that Jean and John could enjoy the comforts of home with us, and despite Jean’s marital problems, we were glad to have her back home, safe and sound. Josie was just as relieved as we were.
Meanwhile Sal and Joanne’s family continued to increase. By good fortune, Sal found a teaching job at the Morey School in Stroudsburg. They moved from Matamoras to Stroud Township. We were happy that they were near to us, and to Joanne’s parents. By 1967 there were three little ones Gina, Sal and Susan in their family.
As for Rosemary and Frank, they now had five children: Denis Ann, Jean, Mary, Sal and Danielle. As grandparents we were already getting used to having little ones roaming around our house when they visited. Our Easter Egg hunt became an annual event, and the grandchildren enjoyed hunting in every nook and cranny outside. We marked eggs in ink with amounts of 5, 10 and 25 cents. It was fun to watch them gathering the eggs, and especially to hear the squeals of excitement when one was lucky enough to find a highly sought 25 cent egg. Dad (Grandpa) was the official cashier, as he sat curled in his favorite chair in the living room. One by one, and with great delight, he gave them the money they anxiously waited in line to get, and which they so justly deserved. Everybody was happy, especially Grandma and Grandpa.
More and more, as time passed, there were rumors that part of the Shawnee Valley would be inundated by water for 37 miles upstream to Port Jervis, New York, by the Tocks Island Dam. The main purpose of the dam was flood control. We had lived through the terrible flood of August 1955, and remembered the sharp rise of the Delaware River and the swollen creeks in the area. Many lives were lost, including young children at a church camp, and buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. Bridges and roads were washed out, electric and telephone lines were down. Our house had just a tiny bit of water in the basement, but the Shawnee Country Club and grounds were partially submerged. One mile from our house, towards Pardees Beach, the water was six feet above the River Road. It was a very long time before things returned to normal. Dad was very busy with the Civilian Defense and the Shawnee Fire Department. The women, including myself, cooked and served food to the firemen and anyone else who needed hot food and nourishment. It was wonderful to see all the townspeople working together.
As rumors of the impending dam construction circulated, land in our area and nearby vicinities began to increase in value.
Martha Schiele, Grandpa’s former bookkeeper, developed a very close relationship with Josie, Grandpa and all of us, ever since her days at the office, working for Grandpa. She worked for him for many years, until the business ceased to exist, due to the war. In her free time she often came to Shawnee for weekend visits, and sometimes longer ones. Our children called her Aunt Martha, and she loved them dearly. She was especially fond of Dad, and had a great deal of confidence in him.
On one of her visits she asked Dad to keep his eyes open for some real estate which, in his opinion, would be a good investment for her. We found a very desirable piece of property on Route 447 in East Stroudsburg. She was pleased with the location and the value. Later, with Martha’s approval and under Dad’s supervision, the land was developed as a trailer park. According to environmental standards, only 15 trailers were allowed to be installed, leaving a good portion of the land untouched and unused. Eventually, after settlement with the government for the sale of her house, Josie would have it moved from Shawnee and relocated on a part of this vacant land. And we would be occupying a new trailer in the park.
But that was still ahead and, for the present, unknown to us. At this point in time we were still enjoying our home, our family, and the beautiful valley in which we lived.