As each of my brothers completed their eighth grade (their final year of education), they immediately began to look for employment in order to earn money. The custom of most Italian families was for sons to contribute a large portion of their wages to the household in order to help with the high cost of living incurred to support a large family. Our family was no exception to this rule.
- My oldest single brother, Tony, was a truck driver whose area to drive was in the confines of New York City. We lived about 30 miles from the outskirts of the city. Because of Tony’s early hours to report to work, he found it more convenient to stay at my brother Charlie’s house during the week. On weekends he would ride the train home, getting off at Rockville Centre. This would give him time to spend with us. He was very attached to my parents as well as to all of us. He never hesitated to pitch in to do the various chores around the house that always seemed to accumulate. In his very generous ways, he often would give my mother extra money to pay for some unforeseen bill that might have surfaced at the time. Marriage did not seem to interest him, and he accordingly postponed it for many years. He eventually married in his early 40’s, to Helen Foglia.
- My brother Julie worked odd jobs sporadically, until the day that he finally made the decision to go to college. This was a big order for my mother and father to fulfill, inasmuch as the expense of a college education was really out of reach. (While we still lived in New York City, Julie had earned his high school diploma by attending a preparatory school.) With pride and admiration, my parents encouraged him to continue his education. All of my brothers pitched in financially and contributed to the family fund so that Julie could attend Boston University. He worked odd jobs in the summertime to earn some money which he could use toward his college costs. He obtained his BS degree in secondary education, and later obtained his Master’s degree in education from Columbia University in New York City. We were extremely proud, as he was the first Vecchio to have received a college diploma. He eventually obtained a permanent teaching position at Malverne High School a year or two after I had graduated from there. He taught Social Studies, and was well-liked by faculty and students as well. He taught there for quite a few years, but then transferred his teaching to the Elmont High School, where he remained until retirement. When Julie was still at home before his marriage to Carrie, he enjoyed working on the outside grounds of our home. He did a lot of attractive landscaping using a wide variety of beautiful flowers and bushes and trees. Our neighbors were always complimentary concerning the attractive display Julie had designed and arranged.
- My brother Louie was extremely gifted with his hands, and enjoyed making handmade models of most anything that would be challenge for him to undertake. He worked in wood mostly, making wishing wells, models of churches, clocks, sewing boxes, etc. He obtained useful experience working as a designer in a jewelry store. Later he obtained a position with the Sperry Gyroscope Corporation, working on very delicate instrument parts. He held this position until his retirement. While single and living at home, he always contributed much of his time doing things around our house, especially painting and hanging wallpaper. He, like by brother Tony, delayed marriage for a long time. He married Rose in 1949.
- My brother Jimmy was successful in getting a job with the Knickerbocker Ice Company in New York City, which he held for many years. The salary he received was considered very lucrative compared to the average wage at that particular time. His work schedule, however, was not too pleasant, inasmuch as it changed every week. One week it was 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the next week it was 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and the third week it was 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. He never complained, but instead felt fortunate knowing that he had a secure job. He, like all my brothers, was generous in his ways. I especially remember him giving me 50 cents a week during my senior year in high school. It was such a wonderful feeling having coins in my pocketbook. Indeed, I felt very fortunate. Jimmy married Jenny Cass in 1934.
- My brother Johnny was born with many wonderful qualities, including a wonderful sense of humor and a hearty laugh that was extremely contagious. He had a warm outgoing personality that earned him a multitude of friends. I always remember him and my brother Louie to be very dependable, and you could always count on them to fulfill whatever promises they might have made to you. Johnny was extremely interested in scouting, which he pursued for many years. He secured his first job driving a truck for Abraham and Strauss, one of the better known department stores, delivering merchandise. His truck route was mostly the suburbs adjacent to New York City. Eventually this position led to a transfer of employment to United Parcel Service, which is today one of the largest delivery enterprises and known the world over. Johnny remained with UPS until his retirement. He married Marie Genovese in 1936.
- My brother Frank, while attending eighth grade, arranged to work part time at a nearby gas station. It was at this time that his interest in cars began. After graduation he found a permanent job in a fairly large garage where his natural aptitudes and abilities in the area of automobile mechanics seemed to grow. After his marriage to Helen Caparelli, they lived in Lynbrook. Soon he was able to save enough money to open up his own gas station and repair shop. Business flourished, but unfortunately, as time went by, their marriage fell apart and eventually ended in divorce. He resorted to alcohol and died at the early age of 57. A sad ending.
Frank, like my brother Johnny, was full of wit and fun to be around. He was soft spoken and had lots of charisma. Everybody loved Frank, especially Dad and I. The deep friendship the three of us enjoyed will be explained further in this journal.
As I review my years of growing up, I can vividly recall the closeness which Frankie, Johnny and I shared. We were three peas in a pod, alike in so many ways. We were easygoing, outgoing in our ways, had a great sense of humor, always ready to pull off harmless jokes whenever and wherever we could. To illustrate more fully, one of the plots Frankie, Johnny and I engineered one night involved my brother Jimmy.
Because my mother retired early for bed each evening (and rightfully so after her very strenuous and long days working in the house, cooking, shopping, etc.), those of us who happened to be at home were delegated to awaken my brother Jimmy in time for him to get to work for the 11 to 7 shift a Knickerbocker Ice. Jimmy was known to be a deep sleeper and not the easiest person to arouse.
On this particular very cold evening in January, Frankie, Johnny and I happened to be on “wake-up” patrol. At the appointed time, we went upstairs together to fulfill our obligations. Upon arriving at the top landing and looking through the small window located there, we discovered a huge, long, perfectly formed icicle hanging from the eaves of the roof. Without any spoken words, we looked at each other with broad grins and, in silent agreement of the same idea, we quietly opened the window to carefully remove and detach the jeweled icicle!!!
Without hesitation, Frank delegated himself to be the one to carry out the task ahead. As we neared Jimmy’s bedroom, we began to call out in unison, “Jim, time to get up. Get up, Jim, it’s 8 o’clock. You don’t want to miss your train.” By the time our opening remarks were already said, we opened the door and approached his bed. We found him comfortably asleep, under warm covers, showing no immediate signs of waking up. At this point we repeated our message, to no avail. Seconds later the opportune time had arrived, and sadly for Jimmy, Frankie very swiftly placed the icicle under the covers in the area of Jimmy’s private parts!! Needless to say, Jimmy was quickly and angrily aroused, reached for a shoe on the floor near his side of the bed, and with a quick aim fired the shoe at us. By that time, the three of us were out of his reach, as we quickly closed the door behind us, and in seconds we were at the bottom landing. The shoe did hit the closet door with much force, and caused a wide crack in one of its panels, which remained for many years. Well-awakened by this time and standing at the top landing, Jimmy angrily admonished us, using a bit of French in between. With all the commotion, my mother was soon awakened. She lost no time in reprimanding each of us, but my father slept through it all!! At that point, we were smart enough to get out of Jimmy’s way, and decided it was safer and wiser to retire for the night. At least our mission was accomplished – Jimmy was awake, he didn’t miss his train, and he arrived at work on time!!! By the next day, all was forgiven.
- My youngest brother, Eddie, worked at a nearby gas station after school as did Frank. He joined Frank and Johnny, playing baseball with the Lakeview Ramblers. Our family always attended the games, on Sunday afternoons most of the time, and we did our share of cheering. Of these three brothers, it was Eddie who was the star. He was a natural hitter, had a high batting average, and was an excellent first baseman.
He was one of the few in our family who attended high school. As you have already read, the majority of our brothers and sisters had only eight grades of schooling. Eddie, Julie and I were the exceptions.
While in high school, he played on the Malverne High School baseball team, and continued to add better and better statistics to his records. For some unknown reason, he chose to leave school after his junior year. He continued working at the gas station, and continued to play baseball as well. Fortunately, he was approached one day by one of New York University’s athletic scouts. Together with the help of Eddie’s baseball coach at school, he was awarded a four year paid athletic scholarship to N.Y.U. The requirement, of course, was that he had to complete his senior year of high school, which he did. He successfully completed his four years at N.Y.U. and obtained a BS in Physical Education.
It was his intention to teach, but World War II interrupted his plans. He enlisted in the Navy, earning a commission as Chief Petty Officer, and was assigned to Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. He married Doris Skahill and they lived together at the base near Camp Le Jeune. They remained there even after Eddie was discharged from the Navy and continued to make Jacksonville, North Carolina their home. Eddie and Doris had four children, half of whom are still residents of North Carolina. My brother Eddie recently passed away (June 2, 1994). I am the sole survivor of the Vecchio family and although they are all gone, I still enjoy the many happy memories of all of us as we grew up together, as one big happy family.
- My sister Rose always had a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is because she was the only sister I grew up with. My oldest sister Anna was married before I was born, and very much occupied with her husband and their seven children.
As I related earlier, Rose remained for many years at home to assist my mother. Later on, however, my mother eventually agreed to allow her to go to work in the city. She obtained a job in a very exclusive dress factory that catered to women who were of the social register, as well as those of the theater crowd. Rose was often fortunate enough to own and wear some of these exclusive designs. Meantime, she was at last out of the house, and now a businesswoman. Nevertheless, my parents still kept a watchful eye, making sure she did not get involved with the wrong company.
Interestingly, there was a gap of eleven years between each of the girls in our family. With such a wide difference of age between me and Rose, I sometimes felt like she was my surrogate mother. I say this because my mother was already beginning to show signs of fatigue at the time of my growing up, with the added tasks and demands of running a busy household. Accordingly, she delegated Rose to take care of all the details concerning my grooming, my wardrobe, haircuts when necessary, etc. This relieved my mother and gave her much needed time for other demands. Rose did a great job, with much love and patience. She always made sure that my shoes were well-polished, that my socks were securely held at the knee and not falling down, that my hair was clean and well-styled; she wanted me to be her well-dressed sister in every sense of the word. No wonder I loved her dearly.
We shared a three-quarter bed in one of the smaller bedrooms of our house, which was sparsely furnished. But this did not seem to bother us in any way. While getting ourselves dressed in the morning, or retiring for the night, we always openly confided with one another, sometimes going over problems either one of us might have encountered, which all seemed to relieve any anxiety that may have been hiding within us. We enjoyed sharing any funny incidents of the day which always seemed to crop up from time to time. And of course I related the activities that took place at school, as she always seemed to show much interest in what I was involved in. All in all we had a very close relationship and enjoyed much in common.
Several years after Dad and I were already married, my sister Rose married Tony Pagliuca. She was in her thirties at the time. Before her marriage, she went to school and became a beautician. She obtained her first job as a beautician working for a very busy hair salon in Hempstead, Long Island. Years later she opened up her own beauty shop in Queens Village, and did very well. She eventually sold it, as both she and Tony wanted to retire. Their plans were fulfilled, and they moved to Holiday, Florida and remained there until their deaths. They never had children.
I have listed in the above paragraphs a short resume concerning each of my brothers and sister who were single and living at home at the time. The purpose is to show how each of their personalities and their interests were diversified. It is a combination of all these differences that makes a family so unique and so interesting. The Vecchios could be identified as just such a family.