The house in Lakeview, which was now home to us, had a lot of charm, and seemed to reflect strength and durability. On the first floor was a large, bright and sunny kitchen (which, in later years, Dad tiled), a large formal dining room, with a wide opening that led to a living room. The windows in the living room include a spacious bow window facing the enclosed porch. The house had a wide porch that was attached to the front of the house as well as to the side of the house.
The front door of the porch led to a large indoor vestibule and an open stairway going up to the second floor. The second floor contained two large bedrooms and two smaller ones; also a full sized bathroom. Of course, the tub was the old-fashioned kind with legs! In the smallest bedroom there was a door and a stairway that led to a huge attic, which for many years contained trunks full of memorabilia of bygone years.
Lakeview was truly a ghost town – at least that was our first impression. It was a far cry from the busy city we had just left. There was a little grocery store conveniently located lust a short block away from our house. About a half mile away there was a firehouse which was manned only by volunteers. (My brother Johnny was a volunteer fireman for many years until his death.)
In addition, there were several large farms around us, all of which helped to retain the wide-open spaces around us, without any threat of housing developments.
The elementary school where I would soon be enrolled was within walking distance from our home. It was located on Woodfield Road.
The high school that I attended later was about 1½ miles away. There were no available buses, but walking to school never seemed to pose any problems for the majority of students who attended. This high school was known as Malverne High School and was a part of our school district number 12.
The houses around us were neat and amply spaced apart. The incorporated towns that were adjacent to us were known as Malverne, Lynbrook, and Rockville Centre. Each of these towns were carefully zoned, and also had the advantage of rail service and a railroad station. That was the big factor responsible for their steady growth and development.
Before our move to Long Island took place, my oldest brother married Frances Taverno. They set up their new home in an apartment in New York City, just as my sister Anna and James had done.
With two of our family members married and living independently on their own, there remained nine of us, plus my mother and father – eleven newcomers in a new community. We were exposed to a new area, new neighbors with customs and ways which perhaps might seem a bit different for us to understand. Each of us was carrying hidden doubts and fears that we desperately tried not to show.
I was six years old at the time of our move. Considering my young years, the transition for me was fairly easy, since I was about to begin school with beginners like myself. I felt I would not be conspicuous as someone who did not belong. After all, we would all be first graders together.
However, for some of my older brothers who were still young enough to attend school, it meant a drastic change for them. They were forced to change schools and, sadly enough, to leave their friends behind. Now they had to cope with a new school, new teachers, and new friends, while carrying a feeling of hope inside that they would be accepted in this process of transition.
I was told that my older sister Rose, who had just graduated from the eighth grade in the city, prior to our move to Lakeview, refused to enroll at Malverne High School, as she felt very apprehensive about the whole idea. She did not want to run the risk of being objected by the “new kids”. Accordingly, she remained at home giving my mother much needed help in doing the many household tasks that needed to be done daily.
In Italian families, girls were not expected to work outside the home. In this way, they were protected and sheltered from falling into the influence of the wrong crowd or the wrong interests. Generally, young unmarried ladies were kept busy at home learning the arts of serving, embroidery, knitting and cooking. This was to prepare them eventually for marriage ahead.
My brothers, in addition to myself, who were of school age and who had to transfer to our new school were Eddie, Frankie, Johnny and Jimmy. The others were either working or, if not employed, were kept very busy looking for employment or working around the house.
It is gratifying to know, as I look back, how smoothly things went in this transition. We soon began to become involved with many activities, many of which were related to school. Accordingly, we seemed to be making new friends as each day passed by. Our house soon became a hub of activity and a place to meet. Our friends were of a wide variety of nationalities and were of various ages, depending upon whose friend he or she was in relation to each of us. They consisted of those whom we met at school, or at work, or at church, or at the baseball field where my brothers often played. All of them lost no time in dropping in on the Vecchio household as there was always something going on all the time. They liked coming, and we liked seeing them as well. We had the wonderful feeling that we were accepted, and it felt good.
As our friends dropped in to visit, they soon began to recognize the diverse makeup of our personalities, as well as some of our talents.
Among the joys I always remember was the abundance of good humor and camaraderie we all shared with one another. Many times it resembled a three act comedy, all with lots of spontaneity and laughter. A lot of this took place around the dinner table at night. A lot of the humor consisted of accounts which had taken place that particular day, or perhaps some newly learned jokes. We all contributed a fair share.
After supper, my brother Louie would play his banjo and Julie would accompany him on the piano. (He played the piano by ear as I do.) Together with my brother Frank and myself, we would sing the oldies in harmony. Even while the kitchen was being cleared and the dishes removed, it never took long for the rest of the family to join us in song. It was a real community sing.
At times when our family attended Italian weddings, we (Frank, Julie and I) were called upon to sing some of the requests as a trio. While it was far from professional, it was lots of fun, and seemed to be enjoyed by all present.
My brother Julie had a beautiful tenor voice, although he never took voice lessons. I can recall him singing the various arias of certain operas while relaxing at home, particularly the prelude to Pagliacci; that always seemed to be his favorite. His voice was powerful and had such clarity and beauty – it was always a treat to listen to him. I suppose this was the beginning of my interest in classical music; it was my first exposure. Over these past 15 years it has been my friend Theron who has kept my interest in opera and classical music very much alive. He has invited me on a yearly basis as his guest to attend the various operas of Puccini, Verdi, and other composers as well. These operas have been performed by the New York City Opera Company at the Hershey Theater in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Their performances have always earned rave reviews. Often while listening carefully to the musical scores of these various operas, the visions of Julie and the beautiful sounds coming from him as he sang years ago always come to mind – a beautiful memory to savor.
Elaborating a little more on the accommodations we had while living in our home, our one bathroom, which was supposed to take care of the needs of eleven of us, was a scarce commodity much of the time. The one who was lucky enough to occupy the bathroom had to either plead for priority (Famous quote was “I gotta go bad!”) or had to be sneaky and fast enough to get in there first. In a dire emergency, the undeveloped woods directly across the street from our house was always available. The woods were part of the New York State park system – admission free!!! As for the need for a place to shave (and there were many hairy-faced candidates in our house), the kitchen sink often served as the second sink. A large basin was used to catch all the hair and soap which fell from the razor, and its contents were thrown outside – water, hair and soap. Over the kitchen sink was a small mirror, and below it, attached to the wall, was a comb and brush, all of which afforded the finishing touches to both the hair on the head and the face as well.
As for entertainment, we seldom had the money for movies or paid entertainment. Radio was a vital part of our entertainment, besides what we created among ourselves as I have explained. With the radio on, we all sat in the living room together and enjoyed many of the popular shows of that era, such as Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, the Fred Allen Show, Amos ‘n’ Andy, and many others. We often closed our eyes and concentrated very closely on the sounds and voices that were a part of the comedic situations being transmitted over the air waves. It certainly stretched one’s imagination, to the point where we imagined it was all happening in our very own living room.
Because of the cost factor, we had no telephone for many years. (In later years my mother and father consented.) In a way, this proved to be an ideal way for my parents to keep tabs on us, as our friends had to come to our house to get clearance, from my mother mostly, as to whatever the plan might involve. Naturally we all had to abide by whatever limitations my mother and father insisted on before final approval was given. We were not always happy with the conditions that were set, but by and large, we were satisfied and happy to be able to get out. By comparison, today’s teenagers have an entirely different life style, with much more independence and mobility.
And so, despite any anxiety we might have had concerning the move from New York City to Lakeview, we all seemed to have adjusted to it very well. We had a mother and father on whom we could count for guidance and support. We also, as a family growing up, had each other. We confided in each other, worked and played together, and yes, many times we argued with one another as well. But despite our differences of personality, we were a unit of one – a very happy, proud and close family.