I was living at Greentree Drive at the time this story began. Our landlord allowed tenants to plant flowers if they so desired. Accordingly, I took advantage of this opportunity, and planted a colorful flowerbed which pleased me as well as my immediate neighbors. In the early 70’s, I had purchased a garden planter in the shape of a white duck, which had yellow wings painted on each side. I was teaching school and living in Gilbert at the time this purchase was made. This duck wasn’t anything to brag about, but the exhibition of the flowers which it held helped to give it a little pizzazz.
After my move from Gilbert to Greentree Drive, I made sure my duck was safely transported together with all of my belongings, and proudly located near my front door.
The demise of this poor duck began to unfold in 1984 while at Greentree Drive. While there, I was happy being close to all of my family and arranged to have them over as much as possible. I lured them with lots of home cooking which they enjoyed as much as I did in preparing the dinners.
Invariably, from time to time, my poor duck was misplaced. These incidents occurred quite often, and their reactions were verbal responses of innocence. I would interrogate each of my kids with questions like, “O.K., where did you put my duck?” But this interrogation was fruitless, causing me to search in likely places where it might be hidden; such as behind bushes or trees outside the apartment. One time in desperation after doing the outside ‘run,’ I searched the apartment and finally stumbled on it, tucked inside my clothes hamper the day after one of these dinner visits. I know God has always endowed me with patience, but at times I had to say extra prayers for an extra supply of patience to cope with my mischievous kids.
Finally, one day, the inevitable happened. On Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985, my poor duck was officially kidnapped – absolutely nowhere to be found. A few days after this terrible incident, I received my first ransom note in the mail with stipulations to follow for the safety and return of my duck. (Refer to brown memo concerning the terms.) A few days later, a second ransom note was received in the mail, indicating very serious terms for the safe return of this poor duck. (Refer to white paper.) To add to the worry and desperation I was feeling at the time, a photo was enclosed with the second letter. The photo showed two figures (heads were eliminated) pointing two guns ready to shot this helpless animal.
In desperation, I posted a memo concerning this kidnapped duck, and asked for help or any info from anybody who might have seen it. (See memo.)
A few days later, a letter addressed to Mataji, which contained two written memos, was slipped under my door. Of course, after I read both memos [memo #1 & memo #2], and reflected upon the photo, I knew then, that the kidnappers were my son Peter, and daughter-in-law Lynn. Those rascals. As memo #2 indicated, I was cordially invited to Peter and Lynn’s for dinner. Upon my arrival there, Lynn ushered me outside. Lo and behold, a miracle unfolded. Sitting on a remote table in an obscure location in the yard was my poor lonely duck. This time he was no longer white and yellow, but instead he proudly projected his white coat, generously covered with large black spots – truly a Dalmatian Duck. Spots or no spots, I was happy to be reunited once again with this poor duck, who had experienced so much pain and suffering.
In 1988, I moved to Holiday, Florida, to care for my older sister who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, my duck came along with me in my move, to give me courage and support, as I witnessed daily my sister’s memory fading into confusion and non-recognition, a symptom of this impairment. My duck continued to proudly display himself and the beautiful flowers it held as well. All my neighbors were enraptured with the uniqueness and color of this unusual duck. Of course, all of them were well-informed of the traumatic experiences this poor duck had lived through these many years. But now he was safe and sound, and none of my kids were around to plot another kidnapping.
But my wonderful relationship with this friendly duck was shattered again. In June of 1990, my sister Rose passed away. She was at last at peace with our Lord, and I was grateful that I had the opportunity to be with her during her final years.
I was also grateful having both Rosemary and Sal and granddaughter Mary, and my brother Eddie and wife Doris, with me during this time of mourning. They remained with me for several days.
Rosemary and Sal were the last to leave, and before their departure, I realized my poor duck was missing – again! I immediately asked them about this disappearance of this poor animal, and of course, both denied any guilt (with straight faces.) Unfortunately I did not have time to initiate a search, because there were last minute things I had to tend to, before driving them to Tampa to pick up their flight to Philadelphia.
After seeing them off at the airport, and giving them lots of hugs (despite my suspicions as to their parts in the kidnapping.) I returned home to Holiday, and began a thorough search for the missing duck – deja vue. No luck.
So I decided to I would write both Sal and Rosemary – a registered letter, return receipt requested. (See copy of my letter to Rosemary.) You will note contents of the letter help to embellish the sadness I was feeling together with my ‘humor’ as well. The real humor of this whole story was that Rosemary had to race to the post office before closing time to claim this registered letter. When she arrived at the post office, she was asked for identification which she did not have with her. This necessitated a trip back home to obtain her driver’s license, and then back to the post office to retrieve this special letter! Of course, she was relieved that it was not from the IRS requesting an audit!
To end this saga, my duck was finally found after a two day search. It was well hidden in back of a very large bush in the front of Rose’s house. In due time I received Sal and Rosemary’s signed receipts. Despite the sadness and seriousness of my sister’s funeral, my kids were there to give me support, and still found time to mischievous, funny but loving – and I continue to enjoy their ways.
The duck still lives. It is now enjoying a comfortable residence at Peter & Lynn’s, and I continue to enjoy seeing it whenever I go there to visit. All’s well that ends well.
It’s been a goal of mine to get this book back online for a while now.
As I was looking over the files I noticed that Uncle Frank had written his editor’s note well over a decade ago, on my birthday no less, and I said: ‘No more waiting! Today is the day.’
I’ll be adding photos to accompany the text as time permits, so please bookmark this page and check back from time to time. Of course, if you have any images to share, or notice anything that needs correction, please let me know.
Darice Joy Pappalardo Pauselius
Daughter of Paul (Mary & Sal’s fourth child) and LisaJo
April 29, 2013
* * *
This whole thing started when my sister Jean gave Mom a journal as a gift. Jean thought Mom might like to “jot things down” now and then. Mom decided to write her life story so that her family would have a permanent record. In typical Mom-fashion, she threw herself into this project, and filled four journals in about two months. Of course, each book had a table of contents and every page was numbered.
When the books were finished, someone had the bright idea that the story should be typed on a computer, so that neat-looking copies could be made and distributed to anyone who wanted one. My niece Gina and I were the only volunteers. Looking back, I realize that my mother is probably the best typist in our family, although she has very little computer experience. Why didn’t we just give Mom a computer and let her type her own d__n book?! Just kidding, Mom.
Gina typed one of the books in a couple of weeks. It only took me four years to type the other three. Thanks to Gina for her typing, and thanks to Michele for tolerating the hours that I spent in front of the computer. Most of all, thanks to you, Mom for giving us this treasure!
I’ve taken some editorial liberties with Mom’s original text. Most of the changes were made to eliminate redundancies and make the text more concise. I hope that I have improved the readability without sacrificing the flavor of the original writing. Of course the original journals are available if anyone wants to see them. As of this writing, most of the text has not been proofed, so if you find any errors, please contact me.
I hope you enjoy Mom’s story.
Frank S. Pappalardo
December 22, 1999
As I approach my 78th birthday, I thought perhaps an abbreviated account of my life might be of interest to “our” kids, our grandchildren, and yes, our great grandchildren as well.
Keep in mind that since I was the youngest of eleven living children, many events which took place at the time prior to my birth were unknown to me, and therefore out of my sphere of recollection. However, I will attempt to write and record the highlights of what I do know and remember.
Inasmuch as the society in which we live constantly reflects ongoing changes from year to year (and always in the name of progress), we become aware that these changes, whatever they may be, have affected us and continue to affect us in many different ways. Therefore, it is always interesting to take note and compare the many events and changes of a lifetime. We must agree that along the way as we experience these changes, we do learn and gain much knowledge from them.
I personally can attest that life’s experiences, with God’s help, can only improve one’s mind and character, as we are tested and challenged along the way to live by God’s wisdom and love within our home, our workplace, and among our friends, family and neighbors.
Note: In these accounts, my husband and father of our children is referred to as “Dad”.
My father, Vincenzo (James) Vecchio was born in a little town called Capaccio (near Salerno and Naples) in Italy, on November 27, 1869. He came to America in April 1882, when he was almost 13 years old.
I do not know anything about his parents, or who accompanied him at the time of his emigration, but I recall that he had a brother Henry (Enrico), a brother Diamond, and I believe a sister as well (name unknown).
In the family book of records that my father meticulously compiled, he mentions a Donato Vecchio, on whose identity I am unable to shed any light. In speaking of this book of the Vecchio family records, it is amazing to observe the concise order and the neatness of my father’s penmanship. He had a very strong determination and concern to keep an accurate account of our family records. He felt that this was vital and necessary to each of us, such as the details of our birth, including time, location, godparents, etc. The original book containing these records is in Johnny Mike (Vecchio)’s possession. Copies of the information involved can be found in a large white Bible, which I generally keep on the nightstand next to my bed.
Keeping in mind that my father lived in this country for almost nine years before marrying my mother, he lost no time to learn our English language and became fluent in mastering it. He was determined to learn the new and exciting ways and customs of this new country, America. He no doubt had natural talents and good aptitudes, in addition to the primary background of education, which he acquired in Italy before coming to America.
As soon as the proper time had arrived, my father applied and successfully became an American citizen. In marrying my mother later on, she automatically, by law, became a citizen of the United States as well.
It is the vast combination of the many diverse and ethnic people who have migrated to this great country that has helped it to grow and to prosper. And there is no doubt that our country has always afforded many opportunities and freedoms for each of us to enjoy to the fullest. As a result, there is a healthy balance of achievement and progress that continues on a daily basis, in answer to our growing demands. Our country has developed and grown to its present standard of greatness through the foresight and leadership of our founding fathers, by our sound government and its leaders, and by the contributions and allegiance of its American citizens.
To add a little information concerning my father, I would describe him as a quiet man. He was regarded by all of us in our family as a loving, generous, gentle, and protective father. Our security, care, and daily needs were always his first and foremost priorities. As an example, each evening at dusk, I can remember him going from room to room, lowering the shades on all the windows, making sure no passersby would have the opportunity to look in on his family. He did not want his family’s security or privacy jeopardized in any way.
He was meticulous in his dress, as well as carrying out any of his responsibilities at home or at work. He was not the outgoing person (as my mother always was), but he was always careful to exercise caution, courtesy, and respect in all of his social contacts and relationships.
You will find a more detailed account of my father’s characteristics of personality and some background of him discussed more fully in the chapter entitled “Very Early Years in New York City“.
My mother, Maria (Mary) Costandini, was born in a little town called Picerno, Italy (near Siena and Florence) on January 15, 1878. She was eleven years old when she came to America in 1889. I seem to believe that she emigrated here with her parents, Rosa (Rose) and ??? Costandini, as well as her sisters Clara and Grace, a brother Fritz, and perhaps another brother (name unknown, if such a brother existed).
As a child, I can recall discussions concerning the untimely death of her father. I believe he was working on a road construction site here in New York City (as did many immigrants), and succumbed to a fatal blasting accident. This left my grandmother a widow at an early age, to take care of family responsibilities alone. I understand that as a means to help her with the expenses of running a household and the support of her family, she operated a small store, selling general food supplies, including a penny candy counter, which was very popular at that time. There was a vast assortment of brightly colored candies, encased in glass; each item was priced at one penny. Needless to say, these candy displays were eye-catching, and many a little face rested on the glass itself, during the process of making a decision. Making the decision to buy five pennies worth of candy was no easy task, and it often put to test the amount of patience a store owner had in serving his young customers.
From my mother’s narration while growing up at this particular time in her life, she related that once in a while she was left in charge of the store, while it was necessary for her mother to run a few quick errands. It was at this time that she was faced with a few little tots who did not have the money to buy the “sweet things” staring them in the face. Of course, the generosity with which my mother was well endowed took care of the needs and desires of these innocent little ones. There was no demand or exchange of pennies required. Instead, a generous amount of confections was carefully handed by my mother to the little outstretched hands. The smiles of satisfaction and pleasure on their round faces was a picture of joy and gratitude. My mother in her generosity felt that money was not necessary to satisfy the heartfelt wishes of an innocent child. Needless to say, my mother was not left in charge too often, as my grandmother soon realized that generosity without income just doesn’t work out too well, nor does it pay bills.
As often was the case in the early years of my mother’s childhood, marriages were often arranged between heads of families. Many times the emotions and the feelings of the prospective bride and groom were secondary, and it was the logic of economic security for the newlyweds that became top priority.
As was required, both the families involved went through the formalities of family introductions by holding dinners and visits at each other’s homes. This gave each of the families the opportunity to learn more about each other as well as the prospective bride and groom. The criteria for the bride were virginity (of course) and an assessment of her capabilities as to household management, cooking, serving, knitting, etc. As for the bridegroom, he did not necessarily have to have a lot of money, but most importantly, he had to have an occupation that would be ample to support himself as well as a wife and a family. In addition to the qualities of good character, the prospective bridegroom had to have ambition to work. He also had to be a perfect role model as husband, father, provider and protector, ready to take on all responsibilities of married life.
Such an arrangement as described above resulted in my mother and father’s marriage. My mother and father were married on September 20, 1891 and started their life together in an apartment located at 303 East 111th Street, New York City. This area is now known as Harlem, and is considered an undesirable and low grade area in which to live. Of course, at the turn of the 20th century, this section was safe and far different than it is today. She was thirteen years old (imagine!) and my father was a very mature and responsible young man of 21 years. The marriage took place two years after my mother’s arrival in America, and nine years after my father’s arrival.
My mother could not read or write English, and with such an early marriage, together with all its responsibilities, she did not have the time to go to school to learn our language properly. However, she relied upon the knowledge and expertise of my father. He was well qualified and able to take care of any and all responsibilities as to our family affairs, as well as the intricate matters of records pertaining to our home and family. In addition, my brothers and sisters, including myself, were able to assist my mother by reading communications to her, or by writing communications for her, as the needs arose.
But the language barrier never, ever deterred my mother from making friends or meeting people socially. She was an outgoing and friendly person, endowed with a jolly disposition, a radiant smile, and a positive, upbeat attitude at all times. (I have been told by many whom she knew that I inherited her traits.)
At the time my mother was growing up, marriage for young girls meant having large families. Women were dedicated to all the work and responsibility which motherhood was involved with, with little time for anything else.
Such was the case concerning my mother’s marriage. She had her first child ten months after she married. After that, she continued to have babies just about every two years. She had a total of thirteen children, two of whom died at an early age. In addition she had a miscarriage. She also gave birth to a full-term stillborn baby boy two years after I was born. I was told by others in the family that the tragedy and shock of my maternal grandmother’s death, which occurred at the same time of my brother’s birth supposedly, had been the cause of his death at the time of delivery. This, of course, is only family opinion without any medical diagnosis or research to confirm such a statement.
On the following pages are listed the names of the thirteen children in our family, together with pertinent information concerning them.
My mother died on May 7, 1947. She was 69 years old.
Vecchio Family Members
|Julius (#1)||4/2/1896||8/14/1896||4 ½ months|
|Julius (#2)||Carrie (last name?)||1/24/1902||6/29/1965||63|
|Louis||Rose (last name?)||5/9/1904||6/20/1982||78|
|Frank||Helen Caparelli *||5/14/1913||4/11/1970||56|
|Mary Edna||Salvatore F. Pappalardo||9/19/1917|
|* Divorced in 1951|
The first six years of my life were spent in New York City. I was born at home as was the custom at that time, with the aid of a midwife. We were living at the time at 246 48 East 112th Street. Later at some unknown date, we moved from 112th Street to East 116th Street, between Second and Third Avenues.
From my recollections, the latter location was considered a choice neighborhood. It consisted of well-kept brownstone apartment houses which were occupied mostly by doctors, lawyers, etc. and their extended families. The rooms were spacious and well ventilated, particularly the kitchen where we all seemed to congregate most of the time. The rooms were bright with an abundance of sunshine coming through the windows. The apartment was well heated and contained a full indoor bathroom.
In contrast, the 112th Street apartment was categorized as a railroad flat, due to its design. After one entered the large kitchen from the hallway, there were a series of bedrooms, connected to one another by doorways. This resembled a series of railroad cars linked to one another. Of course this floor plan restricted privacy to a minimum. At the end of the last bedroom, a doorway led from it to the front parlor, where its windows faced the busy street. When weather permitted, it was common for mothers in each building to open the front parlor windows and lean over the windowsills, on which were placed soft pillows in order to afford their arms the necessary comfort. From this vantage-point they were able to supervise carefully, while watching all the family members at play on the sidewalks outside. They seemed to assemble in groups according to the particular game of interest, and all of this without a Recreational Director! As I was growing up during this time, our family participated in a lot of these games, such as marbles, jacks, and kicking a flattened can called a patsy into neatly chalked squares on the sidewalk, each square being properly numbered for scoring. We also displayed our agility and expertise as we jumped rope, and performed all sorts of jumps with our very fast moving feet. Then there was “stickball” which my brothers were often playing. It consisted of one person pitching an ordinary ball and another person on hand ready to connect and hit the ball with an ordinary sawed-off broomstick. All of this was fun and most satisfying for all of us – and it was all free of charge!
After expending all this energy while playing, we often had the desire to buy and enjoy the famous Italian ices from the candy store at the corner of our street. The ices were served in small paper cups and could be purchased for just pennies. Accordingly, my brothers and I would call loudly to my mother, together in concert, as she watched us from her lookout window, and plead for her to drop the necessary coins to us to buy this delicious ice. She disappeared for a few moments, and we knew then that our petitions would be answered. She was digging up the money needed to buy our treats. She returned very soon, and as we eagerly waited, she very carefully wrapped the coins needed for the purchase in a little square cloth, which was securely wrapped. Seconds later the cloth was dropped down to us. Needless to say, we were all prepared with our arms raised high to retrieve this big catch. This was always a bonus for us to enjoy such a treat.
While we were busy at play, my mother was able to socialize with the mothers (mostly) from the adjacent buildings. They were looking out of their respective windows, carrying out the same routine of supervising their children.
I can vividly recall as I looked upward from the sidewalk where I played with my friends, that I was totally impressed with the combined variety of mothers’ faces, including my own mother. They were scanning the whole scene below, but were carefully watching the activities of their own children, to make sure they were not getting hurt or hurting anybody else. Still looking upward, each face seemed to look like a framed picture within itself, encased and framed by the window out of which each mother surveyed the scene below. What a wonderful way to watch young children grow and develop!
Concerning the front parlor where my mother’s lookout station was located, there was also an access door from the apartment hallway directly to this room. The parlor was used mostly to entertain guests and very special friends whenever they were invited. Family members refrained from sitting on the good furniture on display in this room, and as a general rule we has little access to this special room and only under strict supervision. The real hardship for all of us was that there was no bathroom in the apartment itself. Instead there was a very small room at the head of the hall stairway, just large enough to house a toilet with an overhead water closet and a long chain which, when pulled, would release sufficient water for flushing. This toilet facility was shared by both tenants on each floor! Unfortunately, most tenants had large families, as we had as well. Needless to say, the toilet was used non-stop, in the daytime and early evenings anyway.
As for bathing, this was accomplished in the kitchen area, where there was a full sized old-fashioned tub with legs. Today it is considered a collectible. The bathtub was covered with a removable veneer board, which was utilized as a drain board and a counter as well. Since the kitchen sink was located directly next to the bathtub, this proved to be very practical. However, you can imagine how privacy for bathing could cause problems at times. Privacy could only be achieved by means of a planned schedule, and full cooperation among our family neighbors. At times patience seemed to be in short supply, but in general we did manage to survive and live through the whole ordeal. The following sketch illustrates the floor plan of the 112th Street apartment.
I am unaware of what work my father was engaged in prior to my birth, but I assume the improvement in our housing and our move to East 116th Street was brought about by an improvement in his occupation and subsequently in our financial status. Fortunately, through my father’s abilities and qualifications, and having a good command of the English language as well, he was accepted and hired as a Secretary Delegate in the Rockmen’s Labor Union. His office was located nearby to our new apartment. The members of this union were men who were hired to do road and highway projects. They used picks and shovels with lots of muscle power and determination. For the most part, they were Italian immigrants who were eager to work and start a new life here in America. My father’s job requirements were varied. He not only kept extremely accurate records pertaining to the union membership which included data concerning dues, minutes of meetings, records of by-laws, etc., but he also acted in the capacity of interpreter and liaison person as well between the members and management. This was most helpful to the workers, as their understanding of the English language was very poor and very limited. This posed problems for them at times, and when this did happen my father was available to explain to them the information they needed to know, with great ease and understanding. He also supported and defended them, making sure they were being treated fairly at all times. All of this elevated my father, in the eyes of his fellow workers, to a high pedestal of honor and respect. He was truly a friend to all with whom he worked.
During this particular time in my life, there are vivid pictures of my father that come to mind. They reflect his image in so many wonderful ways. Before he left for work each day, I could see him grooming himself before a full-length mirror hanging from the wall. He was always so well attired, wearing a dark tailored suit, a white shirt which came with a removable highly starched collar, and a tie to complement his suit. His special pin, which properly identified the union of which he was a member, was always pinned in its proper place on the lapel of his jacket. He was a perfect model of what a well-attired businessman should look like.
I also remember him as a gentle, loving father and husband. Each morning he made certain to bring my mother her first cup of coffee while she was still in bed, as she slowly awakened, contemplating the many tasks ahead of her for the day that was ready to begin. After she was served, he proceeded to come to each of us, while we also were still in bed, awaiting his entrance. He carefully dipped a teaspoon in a large mug of coffee which he carefully held in his hand, and with much order and precision, he gave each of us several sips of the very excellent coffee he brewed in his own special way. While pampering us, he never failed to give us his daily lecture as to the importance of honesty, obedience, and respect. This was a daily ritual before he left for work each day, and which we had to hear before our day was ready to begin. We had his words of wisdom almost memorized word for word. We heard it so often.
By analysis, a valid description of both my mother and father would be that of being truly loving parents whose goal in life was to give us total love and security, tempered with firm rules of discipline and respect of human values.
While still living in New York City, there were many things and events that took place at that time, which have become permanent images in my mind these many years. I have listed four of these experiences which can put in proper perspective the “then” and the “now”.
- In my opinion, the iceman was always one of my heroes. Each day he would enter our street, using a horse and wagon, which was properly identified with the large painted letters ICE, and was filled to the brim with blocks and blocks of ice. After properly parking the wagon, he would jump down from his driver’s perch, proceed to the back of the wagon, pull the heavy canvas curtain which helped to keep the ice from melting, and with his very sharp ice pick, would chip a block of ice. The block of ice was then lifted to his shoulder, which was covered with a burlap bag to insulate his shoulder from the cold temperature of the ice. Next he would enter the apartment building and then proceed to the proper apartment, regardless of what floor it was on or the amount of stairs he had to climb. He would carefully place the ice in the old-fashioned iceboxes, all the while carrying on a friendly conversation with whomever was in the kitchen at the time. These iceboxes were not very large. Each icebox was divided into two sections, an upper compartment and a lower compartment, each with a door. The lower compartment held a minimal amount of food, usually milk, butter, and eggs, and perhaps a small dish or two of leftovers. The block of ice was always kept in the upper compartment. Underneath the bottom of the icebox was placed a rather deep metal tray to catch and hold the melted ice water. It was important to remember to empty this tray daily. If it was forgotten, you had a very wet floor to contend with, and the tenant below had a dripping ceiling and a vicious temper to go with it.
All the while the ice man was busy on his rounds delivering the ice, we lost no time in scooping up the chips of ice that were in abundance on the floor of the wagon. There was something special about these fallen pieces of ice that attracted us. Sometimes our cheeks felt like frostbite was ready to set in, but we devoured it all nonetheless. When the iceman returned after his last delivery, we thanked him and he smiled in approval. He knew we would be there again the next day scheduled for ice delivery, and we would be ready for some more ice chips. He could always depend on our business!
- From time to time a horse-drawn carousel wagon containing model horses that mechanically moved up, down and around to the rhythm and tune of some automated music, would come through the street where we lived. The horses were very colorful and ornate. As soon as we heard the music announcing to us that the wagon was on its way, we immediately asked either my mother or father for the necessary money required to ride the horses. The real thrill was to go around, always with the hope of catching the gold ring. It seemed to be so close at times, and in reach of our outstretched hands, but seldom were we so fortunate. Most of the times we were fortunate to ride the carousel, but occasionally there were times that we were denied the opportunity, only because money happened to be a scarce item at that particular time. With such a large family, the important essentials of food, clothing, etc. were first priorities.
- There were certain noises that I can distinctly remember as I was growing up, which were definitely conspicuous, yet seemed to blend with the action and life of the city streets, sounding off with an identity all its own. Such was the case with the horse-drawn milk wagons that went through the streets of the city very early each morning. The unique noise of the wagon wheels, together with the steady rhythm of the horses’ hooves emitted a combination of sounds and rhythms that in a sense resembled a musical composition all its own. We all seemed to rely on hearing these sounds each morning, as it indicated to all of us that a brand new day was about to begin.
We were one of the families in our block that did not have milk delivered to us. Instead, one of my brothers was delegated to go to the nearby grocery store each day to purchase it there. They were assigned to take turns on particular days to carry out this errand, so that no one was overworked and the task at hand was shared fairly. There was a special handled metal milk jug that was carried from home to the store where the milk was purchased. The owner of the store kept the ice cold creamy milk in a special large vat. When my brother arrived with the metal milk jug in hand, the owner of the store would ladle the milk from his vat into our milk jug, and place the tightly fitted cover on its top. After leaving the store with the milk in hand, my brother then would stop at the bakery as instructed, to purchase a large bag of freshly baked rolls. Upon my brother’s arrival at home, we immediately sat down at the table to enjoy our very simple but delicious breakfast: warm rolls with butter and a cup of hot coffee that was mixed with heated milk. I never remembered drinking fruit juice, as is served today with breakfast. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the rolls and coffee. It seemed to be a perfect way to start the day.
The noise of the elevated trains that ran overhead on Third Avenue was another noise we all soon became accustomed to. Speaking of those elevated trains, I vividly remember riding on them occasionally with my mother. What a thrill it was for me to look into the various windows of the apartment buildings, as our train speeded by. At each fleeting moment, my eyes seemed like they were working overtime, trying to focus and to observe what the inhabitants of these apartments were doing at the time the train was passing by. I saw some sitting on chairs, some eating at a table, some standing in the middle of a room talking, some young children engaged in play – in short, they were people just like us, doing the same things we did. Observing all this from the train was a lot of fun and it also provided the spectator a little insight on human behavior.
- Food shopping at the beginning of the 20th century was far different than our modern one-stop markets of today. To begin with, refrigeration for the homeowner was inadequate. Because of the small iceboxes and their minimal storage space, it became necessary to shop daily for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. I remember accompanying my mother occasionally to an area along Third Avenue. Underneath the elevated trains that ran overhead were located rows and rows of vending carts. The vendors who manned these carts sold almost anything you might want or need. Besides fresh fruit and vegetables, they displayed and sold such things as linens, towels, underwear, socks, gloves, handkerchiefs, sweaters, jackets, etc. My mother carried a large and sturdy heavy-duty shopping bag each time she set out to do the daily shopping. I recall her going from cart to cart, selecting fresh varieties of whatever vegetables and fruit she had planned on using that particular day for our menu. Of course, now and then she would try her luck at getting the vendor to reduce the price a bit to fit her budget. It worked sometimes, but not all the time.
From Third Avenue she would then proceed to her favorite Italian butcher shop. There she would find a large variety of very fresh meats, and her butcher would cut and trim whatever she selected to suit her taste. I can remember seeing the large racks of meats hanging on special hooks in the cold storage area, through a glass window that separated the storage room from the front part of the butcher shop.
After returning home with a full bag of provisions, she immediately began to plan the dinner for that particular day. Considering the size of our family, everything that my mother cooked was usually eaten in its entirety; rarely were there leftovers. Of course, our meals were always served with lots of fresh, crispy Italian bread. It helped to fill us up, and it helped to stretch the food as well. A glass of dark red wine was also served with our dinner once a week, usually on Sunday. It was too costly to serve it on a daily basis. My older brothers and sisters were allowed to indulge on a very limited basis, and only according to age.
As you can easily imagine, cooking for such a large family was no easy task. But my mother seemed to manage it all with such ease and pleasure. She was considered a wonderful cook by all of us, and by all others who were fortunate to be invited to our table. The wonderful smells that filled our kitchen as the food was being prepared signaled to each of us that another delicious meal was on its way, ready to be devoured with much pleasure and satisfaction. It is during this time of which I speak, that I can clearly remember that there always seemed to be many invited guests sitting around our large kitchen table. Many times the guests were the nurses and doctors who were on the staff of the Fifth Avenue Hospital in New York City. My mother always had a deep interest in the nursing profession, and found great pleasure in encouraging the friendships of these nurses and doctors by preparing great dinners for them. Among her guests very often was the Supervisor of Nurses, Miss Frances Lurkins. Miss Lurkins was absolutely impressed with my mother’s charm and her friendly and generous ways. I suppose part of the admiration she had for her related to how well she seemed to handle such a large family. But a large part of this admiration was because my mother unselfishly volunteered and gave much of her time and labor as well to help in the many drives that the hospital often sponsored to raise money. It seems the hospital was expanding constantly and was always in need of funds. My mother did lots of tedious crocheting and made intricate pieces of fine lace work to help raise the needed money. In addition, she also went door to door in our neighborhood, soliciting donations. Considering her many responsibilities at home, it is no wonder that she was so highly regarded and admired among her friends.
Gradually while all of this was in progress, my mother continued to make friends with more and more of the staff members, nurses, doctors, etc. She was beginning to become well known on almost every floor of the hospital. Because of her many contributions to the hospital, our family was granted a bed, at no cost to us, should ever a medical emergency arise. Quite an honor, I would say.
Among the doctors my mother had the pleasure of meeting over the years was a Dr. Mary Edna Butterworth, a pediatrician. Almost instantly a new and close relationship began, which later on was extended to Dr. Butterworth’s unmarried sisters, Charlotte and Alice. Dr. Butterworth also had a married brother, Sam, whom we never met. The Butterworth women lived in a beautiful 18-room mansion situated on 137 acres of farmland in Morristown, New Jersey. I do not know if the ladies were born there, but I do know that they spent many years growing up there.
It was this acquaintance, which my mother initiated, that later involved me in the friendship with the Butterworths as well. This friendship is still ongoing. From what I was told by my mother, I was named at birth in honor of Dr. Mary Edna Butterworth, thus my name being Mary Edna. A short while after I was born, Dr. Butterworth died at a very young age, succumbing to cancer. This was a deep blow to the remaining two sisters, who continued to occupy the big house in Morristown.
When I was twelve years old and ready for Confirmation, my mother asked Charlotte Butterworth if she would consent to sponsor me as my godmother. Of course she was elated and eagerly accepted, feeling very honored to be asked. So my name now became Mary Edna Charlotte in its extended form. From that day forward I corresponded faithfully with my godmother until her death at age 90. In her role as godmother, she always responded to all my letters, with much interest. Up until the time Dad and I were married, my mother and I and sometimes other members of our family always went to Morristown to visit the Butterworths once a year, usually in the summer. That visit was always a special treat, and we were treated with much warmth and hospitality. Years later, Dad and I arranged a visit there with our children. I believe it was Rosemary, Sal, and Jean. Still today, Sal remembers very vividly that visit – the big house, the barn, and the beautiful grounds surrounding this majestic home.
Many years later both Alice and Charlotte died. The estate was eventually left to Theron H. Butterworth (nephew) and his sister, Elizabeth Gordon (niece). It was while going through papers in the Butterworth home during the time of the estate settlement that Theron discovered the many letters which I had written to his Aunt Charlotte (my godmother) over the many years we had corresponded. After finding these letters, he immediately packed them together and mailed them to Dad and me. He felt that they would be meaningful to us, and should be kept in our possession. Unfortunately these letters were misplaced or lost during one of our moves. They would have been interesting to read and to share with you all now, since I began writing them at age 12 until my 39th birthday, near the time when my godmother died – a total of 27 years of events and happenings. Theron’s letter, which accompanied the package he mailed to us, was the first communication between us. Needless to say, this opened up a whole new friendship. I acknowledged the receipt of the letters, for which I thanked him, and expressed my appreciation for his thoughtfulness. At this point in time, we exchanged letters about twice a year. My letters were full of our family activities, and his letters were mostly about his work in Public Health with the Federal government. Prior to this assignment he worked for the World Health Organization, spending much time overseas.
After Dad’s death Theron and I continued to correspond. In May of 1980 Theron extended an invitation to me as well as Grandma (Josie) to visit him at his apartment in Arlington, Virginia. He assured both of us that his apartment was spacious and large enough to accommodate us comfortably. But after discussing the invitation with Josie, she and I decided that we accept his kind invitation to visit him, but we would rent a hotel room in Washington D.C. close enough to where he lived, so that visits back and forth could be conveniently arranged. It all worked out beautifully. Needless to say, we were wined and dined and accorded lots of attention. On our first evening in Washington Theron met us at the hotel and took us out to dinner. Our conversations were most interesting to each of us, as we became acquainted with each other. Of course Theron recounted many stories concerning my mother, which were related to him by his Aunt Mary Edna, the doctor. He vividly remembered the time my mother gave him a bag of valentine candy hearts on Saint Valentine’s Day. He was about seven years old, at a time in a child’s life when candy is always a big treat.
On the second evening of our stay in Washington, Theron arranged to have a taxi pick us up at the hotel to bring us to his apartment. He cooked a delicious chicken dinner especially for us, baked a special loaf of zucchini bread, and made homemade chunky applesauce with raisins. We enjoyed the friendliness and hospitality that Theron accorded us all the while we were in his company. Around 10 PM we agreed to leave. Theron had ordered the taxi to take us home safely to our hotel.
The third day of our stay afforded us some sightseeing to add to the few tours we had already taken. Before leaving for home in Pennsylvania the next morning, we telephoned Theron to say goodbye, and to thank him for all his kindness and hospitality.
Since our initial meeting in Arlington, Theron and I have enjoyed a wonderful friendship these past 15 years, which still continues to the present time.
In January of 1981 Theron moved from Arlington to Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he still resides. We have exchanged many visits, many times, at each of our locations.
I find Theron a very interesting and generous man, well read, well educated (he has a doctorate degree in Bacteriology), well-traveled, gentle, thoughtful, and truly a gentleman in every sense of the word. I consider him a true friend. He apparently enjoys my company and my outgoing ways, which seem to complement his wit and dry humor. On his visits here in East Stroudsburg, he is always amazed as he observes our wonderful family in action, “Pappalardo vintage”, and never hesitates to express his admiration. This, of course, makes me very proud, and humbly grateful. Dad and I were truly blessed.
Sometime in 1923, a drastic change occurred which eventually affected the lives of each and every one in our family. The change I am referring to was our move from 116th Street to a little unincorporated town called Lakeview, Long Island.
As I was told, our move was indirectly brought about by my oldest sister, Anna. Before I was born in 1917, my sister was the first in our family to marry. She married James Pavia, who was a printer by trade, was a member of the Printers Union, and accordingly received a good salary in that position. After their marriage they rented and lived in an apartment in New York City. Soon after their family began to increase; in those days large families were the rule rather than the exception. I am not certain, but I suspect that due to this increase in family size and their need for extra space, my sister and husband decided to leave the city. After looking at various properties, they arranged to purchase a large two-story 20-year-old frame house in Lakeview. It was situated on a spacious 100′ by 100′ plot of land at the corner of Pinebrook Avenue and Woodfield Road. Later, I will describe this house more fully. The new location was certainly open and quiet, and far different than the noisy congestion of the city.
Accordingly, Anna and James moved into their new house “in the country” and seemed to enjoy the change. However, their residence there lasted only for two or three years, as they decided to sell it and purchase a brand new home which they had seen and liked. The new home was located only a short distance from the Woodfield Road house. Anna was attracted to the new house plan, which contained lots of modern improvements, plenty of closet space, and all the things an active and growing family needs to add to their comfort.
It was at this point in time that my sister and her husband convinced my mother and father, after much discussion, that they should buy the Woodfield Road house. Selling the house to my mother and father would make it financially possible for Anna and James to purchase the new home they very much wanted to buy. Of course, just like a high-pressure saleswoman would do, Anna stressed and enumerated a long list of advantages that our family would realize by making this move from a noisy and congested city. In addition we, as a family, would be in close proximity of one another (about two miles).
Apparently Anna and James were successful in selling the idea for us to leave the city. An agreement of sale was reached with the approval of all concerned. (I do not know what the agreed purchase price was.) At last the respective moves for both families were consummated. A new chapter in our lives was ready to begin. There were nine of us besides my father and mother who would be affected by this move. The unanswered question was, were we ready to accept the changes ahead?
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.
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.
I have reserved this chapter to express my thoughts and impressions during my years as a child, then as a teenager growing up, and finally as a young woman getting ready to marry.
But before I begin, I must speak about a very noticeable change which was very much in evidence at the time when I was eight years old – two years after our move to Lakeview. Not only was it a very noticeable change for each of us to witness, but we were all completely “in the dark” concerning the whys and wherefores. The mystery and silence of this whole situation continued for many, many years, long after Dad and I married. It was then that the facts of the situation were finally discussed openly among all of us in the family.
Without any prior notice or knowledge, we realized very suddenly one day that my father was no longer the very qualified Secretary Delegate of the Rockmen’s Labor Union, but neither was he the breadwinner of our family.
As was later divulged to us, it was because of threats made to my father and all our family that caused him to resign immediately from his position at the union office. At that particular time, union bosses were not only beginning to get very powerful, but many of them became involved in crooked scams, in order to line their own pockets with money. Such was the case at the time of which I speak. The powers that were in charge expected my father to demand and collect extra dues and assessments from the hard-working laborers. All of this would be without any benefits to the members, nor would it benefit the International Union fund. Instead, the money was to be fraudulently collected and put into the hands of the big bosses for their own personal use. When my father flatly refused to carry out their orders, he received a threatening letter stating that not only he, but his family as well, would be “wiped out”.
Needless to say, my father became worried and fearful, not only for his safety but for the safety of all of us. With calmness and diplomacy, in the need to protect us from any harm, he submitted his resignation for reasons of poor health. He did not want to “make any waves” concerning the web of crookedness that was ready to surface. At the same time, his resignation would remove him from any of the illegal entanglements that were ready to be implemented. For his own protection, he made copies of all the records he kept while he was in charge, concerning all important data, up to and until the time of his resignation. He did this to defend his honesty and integrity. At the same time, he wanted to maintain the respect of the many immigrant employees who always looked up to him with great respect.
From that day forward, we only knew what we were told – that my father was no longer employed because he was in poor health. But sadly, all of this brought about a complete change in his personality. He shied away from any responsibility as head of the household. More and more, my mother took on the duties and responsibilities that up until now he had done. This tended to make him withdraw from many things, even people, and he soon began to take long naps each day. Life for him was completely changed. It was a far different routine from his previous years working in the union office – changed from a routine of leadership, management, communication, etc. to a daily regimen of inactivity.
As the oldest single brother at home, Tony assumed my father’s role, and with this role, became the disciplinarian as well. With Tony and my mother in control, we all “toed the line”. Even thought there was a slight change of command, family life at the Vecchio household continued in its usual happy setting, with many interesting things happening continually.
My experiences at school were a very big part of my life, and accordingly contributed to many happy years of my growing up as a child. To go to school was a treat for me, never a dreaded chore. I loved every minute I spent in the classroom.
My years in the Woodfield Road elementary school flew by quickly. While I was a third grade student, my teacher recommended to my mother that I transfer to the fourth grade in January, which I did. In June of that same year I was promoted to fifth grade, thus completing two years in one. (I don’t believe they continue this practice in the public school systems any longer. I graduated from eighth grade at age twelve, and then proceed to go to the high school in Malverne.)
Having left an eighth grade class of 13 students, my admission to high school seemed to open a whole new world for me. I soon realized that now I was confronted with a much larger group of students, who at first seemed strange and a bit unfriendly. But soon I learned that we could and would become good friends, as we anticipated four exciting years ahead.
Beginning with my first day in high school, I was determined to participate in as many activities as I possibly could – and I did. I was active in the Student Council, took part in the class plays that were presented each year, played volleyball, joined the gymnastic team, sang in the glee club each year, and was selected as a member of the National Honor Society. I graduated with scholastic honors, at age 16, in June, 1934.
My courses of study in high school consisted mainly of business courses such as typing, bookkeeping, shorthand, commercial law, etc. My high school diploma was identified as a commercial diploma. During those years, young girls were encouraged to work in offices as secretaries and it was fairly easy to find those positions, particularly in New York City, where there were a variety of offices. It was ideal to work for insurance companies or law offices or banks, as they offered many opportunities to their employees to advance themselves as time progressed.
My achievements in school made my family very proud. After all, I was one of the very few in my family who completed high school.
But it is interesting to note here the rather rigid rules to which I was subjected. Despite all of this, I never, ever questioned my mother’s reasoning and always accepted her good judgment. The first rule I adhered to was making sure I returned home immediately after school was over – no stops anywhere. My girlfriends were allowed to come to my house to visit, or perhaps sit around our large table and work on homework together. On the other hand, there were times my friends wanted me to visit with them at their houses. In order for this to happen, my friends had to come to my house to get my mother’s permission, since we had no telephone. Most times these requests were granted, which pleased us very much. Meanwhile my mother knew exactly where I was and who I was with.
Starting with elementary school through high school, I developed a close relationship with three girlfriends whose friendship continued on an ongoing lifetime pattern. Their names were Dorothy Papst, Lillie Andros, and Gladys Ward. Unfortunately, Lillie was killed in an automobile accident, and Gladys died of natural causes several years ago. Dorothy is the lone survivor of the three.
I’d like to add a little interesting note concerning Gladys Ward, as it was she who was responsible for my brother John meeting Marie Genovese. It seems that before the time that Gladys’ parents moved to Lakeview, Marie’s family and the Wards were next door neighbors living in the city. Marie and Gladys were young children at the time and, as neighbors, played together. It was on a summer visit at the Wards’ house in Lakeview many years later, that Marie had the opportunity to meet my brother Johnny. It was love at first sight. A few years later they were married.
While I was in high school, I realized that dating was acceptable under parents’ supervision, but in my case, it was not a privilege that my mother allowed. She was the typical strict Italian mother, still of the “old school”, who would not allow me to go out with a boy alone. (I was too young and it was too risky!!) To demonstrate this theory of discipline, the following incident will give the reader an inside view of my mother’s reasoning. I asked for permission to attend the Senior Prom, as this would be one of the last affairs I would be able to attend before graduation. All the seniors were looking forward to this big event. There were two boys who were interested in taking me, but before saying yes to the one I was interested in (Carl Carlson), I decided to get an OK from my mother.
Needless to say, the answer was an emphatic no. She would not consent to my going out with a boy; however she granted me permission to go to the prom with my brother Frank. I did not brood or lament, but rather looked forward to attending this much talked-about affair. And so, off we went, Frank and I, ready to join and meet all my classmates with their dates. Yes, I wore a pretty long yellow gown, and yes, Frank bought me a beautiful corsage, but yes, we had to be home by 11 PM!! Things are quite different today – yes? Nevertheless, we had a wonderful evening. Everybody in attendance seemed to enjoy the camaraderie, the dancing, and the refreshments that were served. It was a perfect evening, and would be remembered for many years.
Perhaps you might be interested to know what kind of entertainment was available to me as I was growing up. As a young child, it consisted of my playing with dolls, playing house, or sometimes playing school. (I always wanted to be the teacher, but that privilege had to be shared among those of us who were playing together at the time.) I also enjoyed coloring with crayons in special coloring books, and sometimes I tried to draw things freehand, hoping a halfway decent picture might be the final result.
With lots of ground space around our house, it was a perfect place to play tag or hide-and-seek or 1-2-3 red light, and other outdoor games as well. I often joined my brothers tossing and catching softball, which helped them to keep in shape for their scheduled baseball games.
It is interesting to note here that I never owned or rode a bicycle or roller skates or ice skates, and so I grew up without ever enjoying the freedom and the pleasure derived from these sports.
As a teenager my interests began to change. The varied activities in which I participated while attending high school gave me much pleasure and satisfaction. In addition to this, my girlfriends often joined me at my house. Together we listened to the radio to hear the popular songs of the day. We knew the top ten by heart, as well as the artists who made them popular. We were very interested in the new dance of that era, and with the accompaniment of the radio, we would go through the routine of the dance steps, including the Charleston. We often fantasized that we were a part of the Rockettes!! We would also take the time to practice and sing the songs we had learned and were still learning in our high school Glee Club. On many an afternoon this took place in the presence and earshot of my family. After we completed each song, they never failed to give us generous rounds of applause, all of which built up our egos rapidly. How wonderful to have a fan club, even if it is just your family.
Occasionally I was allowed to go to the movies (matinee of course) with several of my girlfriends. The big treat was stopping after the movie at the ice cream soda shop, where we savored delicious ice cream sodas or milkshakes, depending on our individual choices at the time.
Of course, in whatever spare time I had available, I managed to read as many books as possible, which I borrowed from our school library or the one located in Malverne. For me, reading has always been an enjoyable pastime and an educational one as well.
In summary, as you can see, I enjoyed doing a variety of things while growing up, all of which afforded me much pleasure and many happy moments.
Living at home during the last three years before I married took on a whole new look and meaning.
We, like many other families, suffered the financial effects of the Great Depression during the 1930’s. Many businesses were forced to close down completely, unemployment was at an all-time high, foreclosures were common events, Wall Street was a barometer of financial chaos, and bread lines and soup kitchens were common sights. For a while, several of my brothers joined the ranks of the unemployed, and on a daily basis they feverishly scoured the want ads in the paper for any kind of job opportunity that might become available.
I recall during that time period that my brother Louie, after much job searching, was finally successful in getting a job as a chauffeur and gardener. The people who hired him were quite wealthy and owned a beautiful home in Rockville Centre. Louie was required to work six days a week at $10 per week, and was expected to purchase his own chauffeur’s cap!! Louie, of course, was more than willing to accept any and all job requirements, as he was anxious to have the opportunity of earning money once again.
With less money available to her during these hard times, my mother was forced to make many concessions. She expertly prepared cheaper yet satisfying meals for “our gang” at home. She did a marvelous job of serving what we referred to as a “poor man’s supper”. Our menus consisted mainly of generous portions of soup, flavored mostly with cheaply priced soup bones, and lots of hearty vegetables, or perhaps a large pot of lentils or beans. The beans were cooked with lots of garlic, celery and onions, and just prior to serving time, a variety of small pasta shapes were added to the bean combination (Pasta e Fagioli). It was mouth-watering and most enjoyable to eat. In addition to the above, we always looked forward to my mother’s delicious spaghetti and meatball dinners. Friends and relatives always raved about her special tasty sauce, as we did as well. Spaghetti was always on the menu in our house on Thursday and Sunday. That custom seemed to be the case in most Italian homes.
All of the meals my mother prepared were served with crisp Italian bread and a big bowl of salad. Despite the connotation of “poor man’s dinner”, we always felt very fortunate, enjoying the food that fully satisfied our very large appetites. We knew very well that each meal was prepared with much care and love, despite its simplicity.
Almost immediately after graduation from high school in 1934, I obtained my first and only job, having been hired as a secretary-bookkeeper in a real estate office in Malverne. I was hired by Lucian J. Bisbee who operated the office alone except for one part time salesman. At the time Mr. Bisbee was in his late 70’s. After the interview was over he informed me that I was accepted , and I would start the next day. He also told me that my wage was $10 per week for 5 ½ days. I was thrilled to know that I would now join the ranks of others who were wage earners like myself. One of the advantages of this job was its location. It was situated just one mile from my house, making it convenient to walk to and from the office without any difficulty. Besides, the exercise was healthy. Just as my brothers did, I also contributed toward the household fund to help toward expenses. In my particular case, I gave my mother $8 and was able to buy personal items I might need with the balance of my salary. I seemed to budget my needs very well.
As for attendance at church, my mother and father left the decision whether to attend strictly up to each of us. They felt that we were mature enough to make such a decision. As parents they prepared us well, to obtain the necessary catechetical instructions in Sunday School. We also received the sacraments of baptism, communion, and confirmation. Therefore, with such a strong base, we were able to pursue our faith in our religion on our own.
As a young child, without any prodding, I was always drawn with a deep desire to attend church. I always found much peace there, and still do today. To pray and to communicate with our Lord Jesus Christ nourishes and heals our minds and our souls, and gives to each of us the opportunities to enjoy the world we live in.
Accordingly, as I grew older, I became more and more attached to our local church and found comfort in its religious teachings. I also was attracted to its activities as well, which our pastor, Father Lynch and his assistant, Father Burke offered to the young people of our parish (Our Lady of Lourdes R.C. Church in Malverne). The organization that was formed to sponsor such activities was called the Legion of Mary. It was directed and moderated by Father Burke. While it was considered a social club for young people, it also fostered and encouraged activities which emphasized social, moral, religious and human values. We met once a month in the church hall on Wednesday evenings. At our very first meeting I was elected to be Secretary, a post which I held for three years, only because no one wanted the job!! We attended novenas together and heard missionaries delivering interesting sermons, which were geared to stimulate our minds in a positive way. We also participated in projects to raise money for worthwhile causes, including financial help for young missionaries. We often arranged to go on bus trips to places of interest, which was always enjoyable.
But the real treat for all of us who belonged to the Legion of Mary was our weekly tea parties. They took place on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 6 PM, and were held in our church hall. We had live music for dancing and refreshments were served as well, which consisted of tea, coffee and lots of delicious doughnuts. The admission price was 50 cents – a real bargain without a doubt.
After the dance was over, a large number of us would proceed from the church to the house of any member who would consent to such a planned invasion of people. Upon our arrival there, we immediately rolled up the rug, turned up the radio, and continued our dancing non-stop. The host or hostess would graciously offer light refreshments. We listened to the big band sounds of that particular time as we danced around the room. It was good clean fun and it all ended by 9 PM, which was curfew for all of us.
Fortunately for me, I was allowed to take part in all of this pleasure only because I was in the safe company of my brothers Frank and Johnny, both of whom were members of the Legion of Mary as well.
It was around this particular time that my destiny was beginning to take shape and form. New members were being solicited to join the Legion of Mary from our church altar each Sunday. There were two Pappalardo brothers who heard this appeal one particular Sunday while attending mass. At the next scheduled meeting both brothers, Sal and Joe, appeared to formally register for membership in our club. I, as Secretary, asked for their names in order to make the necessary notations in our membership roll. Dad proudly remembered and bragged to everybody years later the details of this first encounter. His famous quote in reply to me when I dutifully asked him for his name, address, etc. was as follows: “The name is Pappalardo… Salvatore Pappalardo. It is spelled P-A-P-P-A-L-A-R-D-O. You better learn how to spell it because it’s going to be your name someday!!!” Needless to say, I was speechless. How could this perfect stranger have the nerve to say such a thing to someone he did not know? I found out later that he felt as though he knew me because he knew my brothers Frank, Johnny and Eddie through their association with baseball. My brothers played on a team called the Lakeview Ramblers, and Dad and Joe played with the team sponsored by the Malverne Club. Often both teams opposed each other during the scheduled games. In all probability, and unbeknownst to me, he must have noticed me as I sat on the bench as a regular spectator together with my family, rooting loudly for the Ramblers.
That club meeting was my first encounter with Dad and his brother Joe. After that very first meeting, Dad began to mingle with other members (some of whom he knew) and began to gather information about me, such as where I lived, where I worked, etc. With the information he had gathered, and to my complete surprise, he stopped in at my office at 5 PM and politely offered to drive me home. I was a bit confused and totally unprepared at the moment as to just how to respond. But something inside of me said to accept his kind invitation, and I replied in the affirmative with gratitude. That was the beginning of what turned out to be a two year courtship, a formal engagement on June 19, 1937, and subsequently an exchange of marriage vows at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Malverne on September 4, 1937.
When I walked into our house with this young man whom my mother had never met, I was a bit apprehensive as to what my mother’s reaction would be. I used my smarts and introduced Dad as a friend of both Frank and Johnny, and explained to her that they all played baseball together in the same league. As luck would have it, she was favorably impressed with Dad’s demeanor, as he warmly extended his hand to shake hers. Without hesitation she invited him to stay to have supper with us, and Dad in gratitude gladly accepted. Fortunately my brother Frank was at home at the time of our arrival, and he too accorded Dad a big welcome and a handshake as well. Of course, there would be many more Vecchios yet for Dad to meet, but judging from the initial meeting, Dad recognized that my mother was definitely on his side. With this evidence of support, he was confident that in the weeks and months ahead, he could and hopefully would be accepted by all of my family. As far as he was concerned, it was a good beginning, and he was optimistic.
I became interested in joining our church choir. Mr. Kuhn, the Choir Director, was always recruiting new members. Consequently, I was admitted and was assigned to sing in the alto section, just as I had been singing with our high school glee club. Soon after I joined, I convinced my brothers Frank and Julie to join as well. They enjoyed singing as much as I did. Later on Dad and Uncle Joe also joined. Going to choir rehearsal was something we all looked forward to doing, as it soon became a social occasion as well. After rehearsals were over, we all went downstairs in the church hall to have coffee and cake together, discussing the events of the week, and enjoying the camaraderie to the fullest. Dad was feeling good about this whole new development as it gave him a wonderful opportunity to get to know me better, and to progress in his relationship with the Vecchios. I too was hopeful that this relationship which had just begun would continue.
While growing up, I must admit that my family lauded me with much attention and praise. Perhaps it was because I was the youngest. Perhaps it was because of my achievements at school. But mostly, I guess it was the fact that I was the outgoing one, which made my presence at home and among my friends very much in evidence (talking being one of my favorite pastimes!!).
With this kind of home background, the closeness among ourselves seemed to grow deeper as the months and years passed by. Of course, there were trivial squabbles that would crop up now and then, but they were always resolved satisfactorily in the end. Perhaps having to work together as a family taught us a lot. One of the duties we were taught and required to fulfill came under the heading of hospitality. My mother was firm in her belief that anyone and everyone who came to our house should be made welcome and always to feel as comfortable as being at home. Accordingly, she passed this social obligation on to us; it was to be fulfilled without any excuses. We never objected and carried out her expectations with ease. As we brought in an extra chair, or cleared dishes from the table, or brought in additional items such as coffee or fruit or cake, we injected our witticisms and jokes along the way. Those sitting around the table replied with impromptu responses that always added color and humor to the conversation going on at the time. As was the custom, my brother Louie, without any coaxing, always took out his banjo. In minutes we were all singing together a variety of songs – some old, some new and, of course, some of the Italian folk songs, including O Sole Mio. It was a great way to relax and conclude another one of my mother’s delicious meals.
At this point I must relate one of the many funny incidents that occurred at the time of one of our family dinners. This particular one was attended by Uncle Henry (Vecchio) and Aunt Rose and a few of their grown children (our cousins). They lived in New York City near the area where we once lived. It was always a treat for them to leave the city for a brief time to visit us “in the country”, as they identified the location where we lived. After the dinner was over, my sister Rose delegated herself to be dishwasher, and each of us grabbed a dish towel to dry the stack of dishes. Since this dinner took place on a Sunday, Dad was invited to attend as well. He seized the opportunity to include himself as a member of our kitchen crew, knowing that this would keep him in the good graces of the Vecchios. As my sister Rose was carefully preparing the soapy water for washing, we very quietly plotted among ourselves, Dad included, to pull a fast one on poor Rose. The rest of the conspirators included Eddie, Frankie, Johnny, and of course, me. Soon the dish washing brigade was in full operation, and with so many hands to assist, the stack of dishes were clean and dried. However, Rose was unaware that we kept immersing the clean dishes which we had already dried back again into the soapy water. She commented as she was busy soaping the dishes, that she didn’t realize there were that many dishes to wash. After about 20 minutes of this torture (with no tell-tale clues coming from us), she realized that she had been an innocent victim of foul play. In good nature but with determination, she removed her apron, threw the dish cloth back in the soapy water, and firmly said, “I quit!!” We all laughed but agreed to atone for our sins by finishing off the already cleaned dishes and washed the pots as an extra bonus. Meanwhile, Rose left the kitchen to join the others in the living room. She deserved a break, and in her good nature just marked this down as another Vecchio prank, in which Dad had the special recognition of being a participant.
Dad’s presence at our house continued to accelerate, and all the while it helped to build a warm relationship with all my family, but particularly with my brother Frank. Both Dad and Frank seemed to hit it off since their very first meeting at our house, and they became almost inseparable. As the attraction between Dad and me grew, he continued almost daily to pick me up after work at the office. In gratitude, my mother never hesitated to ask him to stay and join us for supper. This gave her the advantage to know him and to observe him better as each day progressed, but she still was not ready to give either one of us permission to go on dates alone – yet.
Looking back on those times, I must say that Dad got along famously with all my brothers, and they in turn treated him fairly and kindly as well. There was a lot of common ground among them which they shared, including a wide range of discussions concerning politics, entertainment, sports, etc., to name a few. As for baseball, there were allegiances in many different camps. My brothers Tony and Julie rooted for the (National League) New York Giants; Jimmy and Louie were (American League) New York Yankee fans; Eddie, Frank and Johnny appreciated both teams. But Dad was definitely a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and carried on his praise and admiration for the Dodgers alone. He suffered much argument and abuse from all my brothers, all in a kidding way of course. To give him much needed support, I soon became a Dodgers fan as well. Soon the opportune time would arrive when I would be enjoying baseball games at Ebbets Field to watch the famous Brooklyn Dodgers play.
Dad continued to enjoy his visits with me and all my family at home, but he was also desperately hoping that he would be given permission to take me out somewhere, sometime, and preferably soon – just he and I. But up to this point, my mother was still firm in her feelings that this was not about to happen yet.
Alas, destiny was on our side. This time my brother Frank, with Dad’s assistance, helped to make a probability a reality. As it happened, Frank had a special girlfriend, Mildred Whittemore, of whom he was very fond. But without a car of his own, he was unable to ask Mildred out on a date. As for Dad, he had a car available to him, but it was no use to him as far as taking me out on a date, without my mother’s permission, But soon Dad and Frank put their heads together and plotted a solution for the benefit of all parties concerned. What about double dating for the four of us? What an excellent idea!!! It was worth the try to get the necessary clearance. Surprise of all surprises, upon Dad’s presentation of this request to get my mother’s approval, he was given positive assurance of consent and approval with little or no hesitation, all of which pleased the four of us. For Frank, it gave him the opportunity to date his girlfriend with the use of Dad’s car. For Dad and me, it was equally as exciting to know that at long last we were being given a limited amount of freedom as well as the pleasure of being together. And as for my mother, she was feeling very secure in the knowledge that her young daughter was in good hands, having the protection and security of an older brother in attendance. Of course, curfew for us was 11 PM, and we were smart enough not to violate this rule. And so it began – our courtship and dating, for its two year duration until our eventual marriage.
During our two year relationship, Dad and I managed to keep busy socially. We went to weddings, parties, baseball games, concerts, movies, and often took interesting day trips together with the members of the Legion of Mary. In addition, Dad and his brother Joe were members of the Malverne Fire Department. Consequently, we were often invited to attend their exciting fire tournaments, as well as fabulous dinner dances which the fire department offered to all its members gratis.
But during the very early months of our courtship, I was suddenly confronted with many thoughts of anxiety and doubt as to whether our relationship should continue, despite the encouragement and approval from all my family. Was this the young man with whom I could share my life, and would I be unselfishly dedicated to him as well as the family which would follow? Would he be willing and able to cope with my outgoing ways, my naiveté, and my own varied interests? Would he be as fully dedicated to family life and responsibility as I hoped he would be? Accordingly, after searching my soul for answers, I announced to Dad that we should not continue to see one another any longer. Of course he showed many expressions of disappointment and surprise, but gracefully accepted my decision with much dignity. I shall always remember his response. He said, “Mary, I want you to know that I’ve really enjoyed being in your company, and regardless of your present decision, if there is anything I can do for you, should the need arise, don’t hesitate to call me.” I was impressed with his gentleness and understanding. I thanked him for listening, and as we parted, I knew that both our minds were crowded with many thoughts and flashbacks, which included the good times we had shared up until this moment.
Needless to say, this development caused much havoc with two people in particular at our house. The first person was my brother Frank, who was devastated when he learned of it. Gone was his opportunity to continue dating Mildred Whittemore – no car, no girlfriend. The second person was my mother, who showed both disappointment and anger as well. She expressed to me in no uncertain terms that I never should have given Dad the “heave-ho”, and that he was far too kind a person to have deserved such a break. No matter what reasoning I gave her to justify my actions, her ears were shut, as she proceeded to argue in Dad’s defense. For the time being the case was closed.
A very long week (for me) went by, and without admitting it to anyone but myself, I was missing Dad’s presence very much. Meanwhile, both Frank and my mother showed their disappointment with the outcome of this affair in many ways.
But destiny was at work again, as Frank came to grips with the situation on his own. He decided to look up Dad, and came up with an idea which he felt would be a perfect solution to this dilemma. He suggested to Dad that the four of us (Mildred, Frank, Dad and I) should go to a movie that particular evening. Dad, in shock upon hearing Frank’s suggestion, very cautiously asked him, “Did you speak to your sister about this?”, whereupon Frank’s reply was, “No, but don’t worry about her. I’ll arrange everything.” As things continued to develop, I walked home from work that evening, and upon my arrival was immediately greeted by Frank. In just a matter of seconds, he laid out the plan. The four of us were going to a movie together. Dad would be picking us up at 7:30, Mildred at 7:40, and then to an 8:00 movie. Terrific!!
I guess the love bug at that moment must have been working overtime, because I was feeling ecstatic as I heard the good news. I knew now, for sure, that I was anxious to resume my relationship with Dad after experiencing a long week without his company. Needless to say, my mother was just as happy as I was, as we all waited for Dad’s reappearance once again and his permanent return.
The saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is certainly true in every sense of the word. Dad’s absence, even though only a week, made both of us certain that we were definitely meant for each other. I have always been grateful to Frank and my mother for the very special roles they played in the events of our lives, both mine and Dad’s.
A short while after the above event took place, and with our assurance to everyone at home that Dad and I were definitely together again, invitations for dinner at our house were extended to Dad’s father and Josie. In Italian families, as in many other families, getting to know the families and backgrounds of both bride and groom was then, and is still today very important. Through mutual social occasions such as dinners, a good rapport between families can be established, while learning more about each other. At that very first dinner meeting, we had the pleasure of meeting Dad’s father (Grandpa) and his stepmother Josie (Grandma). We were very much impressed with both of them. Their command of the English language was very good, although Grandpa spoke with a slight Italian accent. They were finely dressed, very cordial, and expressed great interest in learning more about all of us.
Soon after this initial meeting, visits between both families accelerated. Little by little, as time passed, we met Dad’s five brothers and their families as well. Four of them lived in Brooklyn, and of course Dad and his brother Joe lived in Malverne. We also arranged a separate meeting with Dad’s mother, Santa Distefano. She and Grandpa had been separated for many years, and she lived in various places, including Swartswood, New Jersey.
Cordiality between both families continued to grow. Dad’s brothers seemed to enjoy coming to our house whenever the occasion arose. They all seemed to fit in well with all of us. Interestingly, there was a similarity between both families: a dominance of the male gender – six Pappalardo boys, eight Vecchio boys. I did notice, however, that these Pappalardo brothers seemed to lack the unity among themselves that was always present among our family members. Perhaps whatever disunity might have been present could have been attributed to some of the unsettled times which they experienced while growing up. Dad and his brother Joe, however, were always close with one another. They were, for a while, both single, lived in Malverne together, and shared the same interests, including the fire department as well as baseball.
In 1934 my brother Jimmy was married to Jenny Cass, and two years later, Johnny was married to Marie Genovese. Jimmy and Jenny set up their first apartment on West 21st Street in New York City, near Jenny’s parents. Marie and Johnny eventually settled in Lakeview. These were the first two marriages that I witnessed. My oldest sister Anna and my oldest brother Charlie were both married before I was born.
At this point in time, there were still five single brothers and two single sisters living under the Vecchio roof. Up until this particular time, my father and mother had boasted of twelve grandchildren. But there would be many more on the way, following the marriages that were yet to take place, including Dad’s and mine. The total number eventually increased to 32. In addition there were a great number of great grandchildren – I do not know the exact number.
The following table illustrates the number and names of the children each of my brothers and sisters had, and the number of grandchildren.
|Charlie* (and Frances*)||Vincent*, Peter*, Mary*, Edward, Carmela*||3||2||5|
|Anna* (and James*)||Edith, Josephine, Marie, Clara, Antoinette, Joseph*, Anne||1||6||7|
|Tony* (and Helen)||Mary Ann, Vincent||1||1||2|
|Jimmy* (and Jenny*)||Vincent, Marianne, Michael, Rose Marie, Paula||3||2||5|
|Johnny* (and Marie)||Johnny Mike||1||0||1|
|Frank* (and Helen)||Frank, Gail||1||1||2|
|Eddie* (and Doris)||Edward, Robert, Maria, thomas||3||1||4|
|Mary (and Sal*)||Rosemary, Sal, Jean, Paul*, Peter, Frank||4||2||6|
|* – deceased|
|Note: Rose (and Tony), Louie (and Rose), and Julie (and Carrie) were childless.|
Events continued to accelerate at our house after the recent weddings of both Jimmy and Johnny, and we were all trying to get adjusted to having two less around the dinner table.
Our formal engagement took place on June 19, 1937, but the events that prefaced it were interesting. One particular Sunday afternoon, long before the above June date, Dad and I attended the customary weekly tea dance at church, together with Frank and Johnny. The hall was filled with members of the Legion of Mary as well as guests, and the band was in full swing. In minutes, couples paired off and everybody, including ourselves, was dancing to the music and the catchy rhythms of the live band.
After a few fast numbers, the band played a slower and softer piece. Dad and I were enjoying the change of pace, and the song itself, entitled “I’ll Get By”. As we danced, the band vocalist softly began to sing the words, “I’ll get by, as long as I have you…”. We were both very wrapped up in the song and its message, which seemed to have meaning for both of us. Suddenly, with little warning, I heard a voice softly whispering in my ear, “Will you marry me?” Wow!! I thought quickly to myself – this is a proposal and it’s happening right now. What do I do? What do I say? I recovered from the shock of what I heard in seconds, and was quick enough and smart enough to say “Yes, I will.” I was certain at that very moment that this was my golden opportunity to enter into a life of promise and love and happiness with a partner who, in the years ahead, did fulfill all my expectations. Needless to say, as we danced, we were filled with the feeling that the world was ours alone. We were indeed two happy people.
Of course, now it was necessary to get approval from my parents as well as “big brother” Tony. Fortunately, approval was given without hesitation. However, my mother, being the honest and frank person she always was, said to Dad, “You have our blessings to marry our daughter, but I’m going to be honest with you – we have no money for a wedding reception.” Of course, that was the gospel truth And not an exaggeration by any means. Our family finances were far from lucrative, and certainly not large enough to finance a reception whose list of invited guests would be endless.
Dad quickly responded that this would pose no problem, and that he would be more than happy to bear whatever expense would be incurred. A true and generous gentleman, I would say, who was displaying his ability to handle any situation at any cost. Besides, he did not want to postpone our wedding for any reason.
Despite her pride, my mother gladly accepted Dad’s offer, and thanked him for his generosity and consideration.
With full family support behind both of us, Dad and I eagerly looked forward to our marriage still ahead. But first we had to plan a date for our official engagement. We mutually agreed upon June 19, 1937.
Accordingly, my mother, as mother of the bride, arranged to have a small gathering at our house to mark the occasion, limiting the guest list to family members and a few close friends. Of course, with big families such as ours, the term “small” can be loosely interpreted.
The day of our engagement was finally here, and guests would soon be arriving. But before their arrival, Dad privately slipped the engagement ring on my finger. Inside the ring were very tiny markings. The inscription read: S.P. TO M.V. 6-19-37. How beautiful and how personal!! I was happy and full of gratitude. I could only see complete joy ahead for both of us.
The guests soon came, and before long our house was full of people. There was lively conversation going on in every corner. They all seemed to be enjoying the compatibility, the delicious refreshments, and the “home-made” Vecchio musical entertainment as well. Of course, during all of this, I proudly displayed my new ring to everybody present. Their reactions of admiration elicited many oohs and aahs as well. At the proper time, I opened up all the beautiful gifts that were given to me for this special occasion. They were eventually well-used and became a part of our home after our wedding. It was a beautiful day which we all shared, and long remembered.
With Dad’s constant visits to our house, he soon became a participant with my brothers in planning many harmless family jokes. It seems the Vecchio humor had begun to rub off on him. But of course, it was never known who the person would be to fall prey to the planned plot.
Such was the case one particular time when a scheme was planned to “pull a fast one” on Dad. The conspirators in this case were my brother Tony and, of all people, my mother!!! On this particular Sunday afternoon, Dad came to visit with me. He entered the kitchen through our back entrance as he always did. He was carrying a large, beautifully wrapped box of chocolates for me and my family. He was greeted by my mother and Tony, who were both in the kitchen at the time. After asking them where I was, Dad was promptly directed to go into the living room to join all of us. We were very much occupied listening to the radio at the time. (Radio was big entertainment those days.) Before leaving the kitchen en route to the living room, Dad placed the box of candy on the kitchen table. As he entered the living room, he greeted everybody and proceeded to sit down on the sofa next to me. After some time had passed, he informed me that there was a box of candy waiting for me on the kitchen table. I proceeded to the kitchen to retrieve the candy. My mother and Tony were still in the kitchen, and with no expressions on their faces or hints of divulging the plot they had schemed, handed the box of candy to me, still beautifully wrapped. I brought the candy into the living room to share it with everybody there. I carefully removed the beautiful wrapping paper first, then removed the top cover, and finally removed the special paper that always covers the top layer of the confections. But lo and behold!! What did I discover – a box full of coal ashes!! (We had a coal furnace at home at that time.) You can well imagine the shock on Dad’s face. He was totally embarrassed and had no explanation to offer. By that time, we were all in stitches laughing, but nevertheless, we were “in the dark” as to the identity of the pranksters. The two schemers, my mother and Tony, immediately appeared in the living room to witness the results of their joke coming over “live”. They too were rolling over with loud laughter. It was a funny scene to witness as it actually happened.
Dad realized that the Vecchio humor was still running on “high” and he had no intention of changing any of it. He took it all in good stride and enjoyed the whole thing as we did as well. Of course, my mother was gracious enough to place all the chocolates that had been removed from the box, on a serving dish, for all of us to savor and enjoy, and in so doing she felt exonerated.
With marriage in the foreseeable future, Dad felt sure that he could carry any responsibility which marriage would present. He felt, too, that he was financially able to support a wife and eventually a family. After all, he worked steady for his father, as did his five brothers. His father operated a very lucrative tile and marble business known as Nation Tile and Marble Works, Inc. The huge brick building which contained the office, warehouse, and showroom was located in East New York, a part of Brooklyn.
Grandpa, in his wisdom, trained his six sons to learn this up and coming trade of setting ceramic tile, which at that time was growing in demand, as were its labor unions. Accordingly, after eighth grade graduation, each of them soon had a trowel in his hands, but only after receiving the proper amount of training and apprenticeship. After all, Grandpa was the expert in that field, and what better way was there for his sons to learn the trade? Dad and his brothers were soon accepted into the Tile Layers Union. Grandpa had already been a member of the Union for many years. In 1937, the wage for a tile setter was $13.50 per day, which was considered good money at that time.
I must set aside a paragraph here to elaborate on Dad’s perseverance to further his education. While working for Grandpa, Dad became interested in drafting and architectural design. Fortunately, he was accepted at Cooper Union in New York City, a highly rated college. He attended classes at night, and tuition was free. There were two requirements for admission. You had to be a resident of New York City and you were required to pass the entrance exam. He had no trouble with either requirement, and accordingly was accepted. In his junior year he was awarded second prize in a design competition. He completed his four years of academic training and graduated in 1929, with a degree in architectural design. I always proudly told him that he deserved much praise and recognition for all his efforts and determination in attaining his goal. He had many natural talents and advantages in his favor: he had a high IQ, was an avid reader, and had a photographic memory. I always marveled at his degree of remembering what he read with so much accuracy. Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can be proud to know that a part of their intelligence has been a byproduct of Dad’s genes.
As soon as Dad was given approval for our marriage, he realized then that he had to start saving – and in a hurry! Accordingly, he very wisely set up a special checking account in both our names, so that the necessary funds would be available to either of us if needed. Initiating and maintaining the checking account was the ideal way to save money toward the wedding. Dad was well aware of his easy and generous ways of spending money, and accordingly agreed that I should be the disciplinarian to maintain good habits of less spending and more saving. It became habit forming, and our checkbook balance soon began to grow.
Of course, I could not contribute to this account, as I still wanted to continue helping out at home. Dad understood the situation very well and was in total agreement.
With much optimism, we both were looking forward to fulfilling our wedding plans still ahead of us, and were ready to accept and do whatever would be necessary to complete them in time for our wedding – September 4, 1937.
Dad’s father, Salvatore, was born in Italy on December 12, 1878. (He died on September 2, 1957.) While I am uncertain as to the exact location of his birth, I was informed that as a boy, he lived in or near Catania, Sicily. He lived with his mother and father (names unknown), a brother Dominic, and a sister (name unknown). His father died while he was fairly young. It was his mother’s decision at that time to place him (and most likely his brother as well) in a nearby orphanage. This gave her the opportunity to work and earn money for the family. I do not know the name of the orphanage or its location, but I understand that in later years, after he had already become a successful businessman in America, he and Josie always included in their frequent trips to Italy a visit to this orphanage. A sizable monetary contribution was always given each time they went to visit.
From what I was told, Grandpa and his brother Dominic emigrated to this country when Grandpa was about 18 years old, leaving their mother and sister behind in Italy. Facts concerning his family beyond this particular time are unknown.
While Grandpa was still in residence at the orphanage, it was required that each boy living there had to learn a trade of some kind. This was compulsory so that the boys who eventually matured and left the orphanage would be well prepared to support themselves.
Grandpa often told us the story that while at the orphanage, his interests were quite varied, and sporadically changed from time to time. It became a real test of patience for the administrators in charge of the various programs. At first Grandpa tried his hand in music and joined their school band, which was tutored by excellent music teachers. He soon tired of that and switched to farming, working in the fields with the experienced farmers. But that apparently did not interest him enough for him to remain with that program. And so he decided he would try learning the skills of leather and shoemaking. Unfortunately all these areas of interest produced little or no results. Grandpa became more and more uncooperative on all fronts. Finally, in desperation, the faculty advised him in no uncertain terms that his privileges of choice were now terminated, and whether he liked it or not, he was ordered to become an apprentice in the art of marble. And in the course of time, a highly skilled master of marble is exactly what he became, thanks to the wisdom of those in charge who channeled him in the right direction.
In reflecting on his years at the orphanage, Grandpa spoke of how he worked alongside the marble masters in the cemeteries, as they very carefully chiseled the names of the deceased on the many white marble headstones. Marble is known to be very delicate in its composition, and as such requires the skill of a qualified craftsman to know just how to work it and handle it. Grandpa mastered the proper procedures in handling the marble slabs, and soon became gifted in his work. We were always so proud of his many accomplishments, and the skill of his work.
With this background of skill and accomplishment, it is easy to understand that in later years he developed a very successful tile and marble business. He enjoyed an impeccable reputation for completing high quality work in all his installations. His business, known as Nation Tile and Marble Works Inc., was considered at one time to be one of the biggest and best in New York State. They completed large contracts and installations for hospitals, banks, schools, apartment houses, etc. The administrators of the orphanage would have been proud to witness these successful accomplishments, and rightly so.
Grandpa’s business continued to grow daily, and the areas in which he worked expanded as well. Grandpa and Josie were living on Dean Street in Brooklyn, in a rather congested neighborhood. By this time, with the success of Grandpa’s business, they were financially able to make plans to leave the city. Accordingly, they purchased a beautiful corner plot of land on Woodside Avenue and Alnwick Road in Malverne. They felt the need for more open space and less noise and congestion, and moving away from the city was the perfect solution.
The home that was designed and built in Malverne was of Italian design and truly outstanding. It was a one-story all-brick home, soft tan in color, with a beautiful red tile hip roof and an attached two car garage. The floor plan included a large living room with a large tile fireplace. On either side of the fireplace were two windows which contained beautiful glass mosaic designs of the Pansini (Josie’s family) and Pappalardo coats of arms. Hanging from the ceiling in each corner of the dining room was a beautiful electric light fixture designed as a cluster of grapes. You can imagine the beauty of these glass fixtures when they were lit – the hanging grapes were dazzling. These glass fixtures were made and imported from the Murano glass works in Venice, Italy. The other rooms included spacious bedrooms, a large tiled kitchen, 2 ½ bathrooms completely tiled, and a large tiled outdoor patio. The entire basement was completely tiled, with an extra den and lavatory. This room was large enough to hold about 100 people, and many parties were conveniently held here. This room also contained another beautiful tile fireplace.
The grounds were lavishly landscaped. There were rock gardens and fountains, all made of lava from Mount Etna, which was shipped from Italy in trunks. The flowers and trees were carefully placed around the fountains and rock gardens, all of which enhanced the outdoor setting with much color and beauty. One of the trees that was planted was a Japanese cherry tree, which seemed to dominate the setting when it was in full bloom. It was definitely a perfect magazine cover for House Beautiful, and to the present day is admired by anyone who sees it.
Dad and his brother Joe followed Grandpa and Josie in their move from the city to Woodside Avenue and lived with them for some years. Both boys were still unmarried at the time. Dad’s brother Frank, however, chose not to make the move, but rather to remain in Brooklyn to be near his friends. Of course, the three oldest brothers were already married and living with their families in Brooklyn. Fortunately, accessibility to Brooklyn and New York City was easily afforded by the Long Island Railroad. The Malverne station was conveniently located close to the Woodside Avenue home. And so, despite the move and the distance, Dad’s family was able to use the train or (if they preferred) the car to travel back and forth, as the needs would arise.
The Woodside Avenue property was eventually sold in the mid 30’s, as Grandpa and Josie felt it was too large and too expensive to maintain. By this time, Dad and his brother Joe were seldom home, being occupied with the fire department, the Malverne Club, baseball, dating, etc. as well as their tile work. But Grandpa, being the sharp businessman that he always was, purchased a large parcel of choice lots on Chestnut Street in Malverne, at $150 per lot. It was a steal and too good a buy to pass up. Using six lots of this original parcel, Grandpa designed and built another beautiful home to replace the one he sold on Woodside Avenue. The Chestnut Street property that remained will be discussed later in more detail.
As for Grandpa and Josie’s new house on Chestnut Street, it was the traditional Pappalardo masterpiece like Woodside Avenue, but the architectural lines were different. This one was a two-story tan brick home. It was very spacious, with six rooms, two baths, a finished basement, two fireplaces, an attached garage, etc. It was set in a peaceful wooded area, preserving beautiful oak trees. There was a minimal amount of lawn, but a lot of green bushes, mountain laurel, and other foliage to complement the rustic setting. The house was set back off the road and a long driveway edged with stone led to the attached garage. Over the garage was a large screened-in porch, with a beautiful tile floor. This porch was well-used as a dining and sitting area, and was nestled among the trees in its own beautiful rustic setting. The address was 22 Chestnut Street; in later years there would be more Pappalardo homes on this same street, but as I mentioned, this will be discussed in detail later.
The facts concerning Grandpa’s marriage to Santa Distefano (who was also born in Italy) are practically unknown. Whether they were married in Italy or America is unclear, but as I understand it, Freddie (the oldest) and Teddy (third oldest) were both born in Italy. The other four sons were all born in America.
Grandpa and Santa (Grandma) had seven children. The first, a girl named Francescina, died at a very early age. The next six were all boys. Their names, according to age, are listed below.
The Pappalardo Brothers
|Alfred (Freddie)||Oct, 1901||1983|
|Theodore (Teddy)||Jan, 1905*||1989*|
|Frank (Frankie)||Apr, 1907*||1987*|
|Salvatore (Sal)||Dec, 1908||1974|
|Joseph (Joe)||May, 1911|
|* – approximate|
Josie (Pansini) Pappalardo was born in Italy on January 26, 1889. I am not certain, but I believe she was born in or around Catania, Sicily. Her father’s name was Tito, and her mother’s maiden name was Santa Brusa.
Josie was a young girl of 15 when she arrived in America with her mother and her two brothers, Anthony and Mario. Her father worked for a bank in Perugia, Italy. While in Italy, he died at a very young age. This left Josie’s mother a widow at a young age, with the full responsibility of supporting a family of four.
Upon her arrival in this country, Josie was eager to attend night school where courses in English were being offered. But her maternal uncle, who had arrived earlier in this country and had sponsored his sister’s family to emigrate, protested loudly (out of envy, mostly). From Josie’s account, she implied that her uncle did not want to see his niece advancing her education in any way. As was the custom at that time, the place for girls growing up was at home.
However, Josie in her wisdom pursued getting a job in a nearby dress factory with the approval of her mother and her brothers. In a short time, Mario and Anthony also were employed. They worked in tile and marble, and were members of the same tile union to which the Pappalardos belonged. This turned out well for the Pansini family, as there were three wage earners who could contribute financially toward their household expenses.
As I understand, during this particular time, Grandpa and Santa and family were living in the same vicinity in Brooklyn as the Pansinis. It was at this time that Josie became aware of the many Pappalardo youngsters playing outside in the street. They seemed to be outside a great deal, and never seemed deterred by the weather. But what she was not aware of was that in due time, she would be the one who would help to raise them during their early years of childhood up to and until the time when they would be old enough to live on their own.
It is not my intention to analyze or elaborate on the complications of Grandpa’s and Santa’s marital situation. There have been a number of explanations and accounts given over the years concerning the breakup of the marriage, some of which are confusing, contradictory, and painful as well. But in fairness and truth, it is fair to say that Dad and all his brothers were the unfortunate victims of the situation, inasmuch as their years of growing up were at times tenuous, and occasionally there was a definite need for bonding and unity among themselves.
Josie continued to spend several more years at home with her mother and brothers, all the while noting that Grandpa’s marital problems were rapidly escalating. She especially noted the adverse effects this was having on the six boys. As Josie became more and more interested in Grandpa’s situation, her mother and brothers were very adamant in their objections to her involvement with this serious family problem. As a result, her family abandoned her, and she left her home abruptly. Despite the alienation she suffered, she joined Grandpa and was determined to help in any way she could.
They lived in an apartment somewhere in Brooklyn. Josie immediately began her new role of homemaker and caregiver. She made certain that the house was kept clean, meals were nourishing and well-prepared, laundry was done, and the boys were well-dressed and clean. Grandpa worked very hard doing marble work and trying to earn as much money as he could to support the family. Josie also helped; in her spare time she carried on a little business at home, sewing beautiful outfits for infants and babies. She was an excellent seamstress, having learned much from her mother. Little by little, she began to get more and more customers. With Grandpa’s salary and her little home business, their finances improved and things were looking better. The boys attended public school regularly, and they were beginning to enjoy a normal routine with regularity and discipline, which added much pleasure and comfort for them as they were growing up.
But as the years passed by (I was told), there were times that, due to financial hardship or lack of space to accommodate all the boys, it became necessary to split some of them. I know from Dad’s account that for a short while he and Joe lived with Uncle Dominic (Grandpa’s brother) and his wife Carmela, who were childless. Since Uncle Dominic’s apartment was very close to where Grandpa and Josie lived, it was a perfect solution, for the time being anyway. Nevertheless, for Dad and Joe, it was a transition they had to make, as temporary as it may have been at the time. I understand also, that at a later time, Dad’s brothers Freddie and Frank were placed in a special home for boys for a short while. The reason for this temporary move is not known. What is known is that broken marriages take their toll in many different ways.
As the years passed, Santa remained apart from her children and Grandpa as well. Later on, in the 30’s, she moved into a little house of her own located in Swartswood, New Jersey (near Newton). While living there she had a friend by the name of Sam. I do not know how long this friendship continued. After living in Swartswood for many years, she began to feel the effects of the severe winters. To make her feel more comfortable, with less responsibilities, Dad’s brother Freddie and his wife Mary arranged to have her live in an apartment over a garage adjacent to their home in Shawnee. Freddie had purchased large parcels of land in Shawnee along the Delaware River. Over the years he developed part of the land, and built several houses on various parcels, including a very lovely spacious one overlooking the river for himself and Mary. The apartment occupied by Santa was very bright, cheerful, and large enough to satisfy her needs. This move to Shawnee took place in the mid 60’s, and it proved to be a comfortable way for Santa to live out her remaining years.
Some years later, the US Government condemned all the property in the valley where we lived for the purpose of constructing the Tocks Island Dam and Recreation Area. This process affected a large number of the residents who lived in the Shawnee Valley, which include Freddie and ourselves. It meant we were all compelled to move, which was a blow to everybody. Our move from Shawnee will be discussed later.
As for Dad’s brother Freddie, his need to move because of the condemnation was solved by his decision to move to Florida. He and Mary purchased a very lovely and spacious home situated on a pretty lake in Clearwater, Florida. They arranged to take Santa with them, and provided her with a large room and private bath in the new home they had just purchased. She enjoyed the mild climate for which Florida is noted, and quickly adjusted to the change.
After living with Freddie in Clearwater for several years, she suffered a stroke. Because of its serious effects and her need for special care, it became necessary to place her in a nursing home, located very close to Freddie and Mary’s home. She remained in the nursing home for several years and received excellent care there. Meanwhile, Freddie and Mary visited her quite often, as did the rest of her sons, if and when they had the opportunity to arrange a trip to Florida. I do not know the exact date of Santa’s birth, but I know she was well on in years at the time of her death, which I believe occurred in the mid 70’s.
Despite the separation that existed between Santa and her sons, each of them, including Dad, always contributed financially toward her support and needs. They also completed many necessary repairs that were needed from time to time while she lived in Swartswood. By their good deeds, they truly lived and practiced one of the commandments we all must live by: Honor thy father and thy mother. With love and respect for one another, we not only can enjoy life together, but in so doing, we can achieve and find peace and understanding as well.
At the time of our marriage, all of Dad’s brothers except Frank had already married. Frank married Mae Connors a year after our wedding, in 1938.
Ironically, all five brothers went through divorce, one after the other, which was a devastating development for all concerned, especially Grandpa. He, having painfully experienced separation and divorce, was well aware of the hardships which a marriage breakup would eventually bring to all family members involved. The transition to the “second set” of Pappalardo marriages took place over a number of years. Three of these second marriages took place before I ever knew or met Dad. Many years later, after Dad and I were married, Frank’s divorce took place. Like his brothers, he remarried. Joe was the last one to go through divorce, after having been married almost 50 years. To this date, he has not remarried. Nevertheless, it was the newer set of sisters-in-law with whom I became acquainted. After our marriage, a cordial and warm relationship among all of us soon developed and grew as the years went by.
A record of the marriages and pertinent information concerning Dad’s brothers follows.
The Pappalardo Marriages
|Alfred (Freddie)*||Perpetua (last name?)*||Alfred|
|Mary (last name?)*||none|
|Dominic (Denny)*||Marian Pitts*||Salvatore, Dominic*|
|Mae (last name?)||Daniel, Earl|
|Theodore (Teddy)*||Philomena “Minnie”* (last name?)||Salvatore, Gloria*|
|Frank (Frankie)*||Mae Connors||none|
|Phyllis Sapienza (a widow whose 2 sons were already grown and married)||none|
|Joseph (Joe) (Divorced very late in life. Has not remarried.)||Anastasia “Stasia” Freel*||Joan, Peggy, Maureen, Stasia, Kathy, Mary Frances, Judy, Eileen, Joseph Jr.|
|Salvatore (Sal)*||Mary Edna C. Vecchio||Rosemary, Sal, Jean, Paul*, Peter, Frank|
|* – deceased|
Of course, Dad and I were the fortunate ones to escape the devastation of having to live through a divorce or ever be threatened by it. We knew from the very beginning that our marriage and our life together was well reinforced with love and mutual respect for one another, and that nothing could ever shatter it in any way. As the years progressed, our marriage continued to grow with faith, gentleness and much caring, and remained that way until the very end.
As all well meaning parents still do today, unselfishly caring for and providing their children with much needed love and security, we too shared ourselves and everything we ever owned with all our children, for they were and still are our blessings from God. For these blessings we have always been grateful.
Immediately after our engagement, and with full approval from both our families, the date for our wedding was set for September 4, 1937. Needless to say, our minds were filled with the many tasks which were yet to be taken care of before the big day. We proceeded to execute the necessary plans and details during the time that still remained without too much difficulty. Of course, both our families were ready to pitch in whenever and wherever needed.
Although the wedding expenses were to be borne by Dad as was agreed, my mother nevertheless wanted to do something for us to lighten our load financially. Accordingly, she agreed to buy our living room curtains and drapes, bedspread, and a generous supply of towels and bed linen. It was greatly appreciated by both of us, and was put to good use immediately.
My brother Julie bought my wedding gown and accessories. On this score, it was my sister Rose who spent hours with me to help me select my “dream” gown. It was made of off-white satin, and had a long train attached to it. It was just beautiful. Julie also agreed to sing at my nuptial mass. Among the selections that we chose for him to sing was Schubert’s Ave Maria. We were all moved by the beauty of his voice, and it was remembered for many years by all who attended.
My brother Tony furnished our kitchen with a lovely maple kitchen table with four matching chairs. It was just the right size for our kitchen.
Our big gift form Grandpa and Josie, besides a monetary gift, was a complete four piece mahogany bedroom set. It was gorgeous. I could not help compare the size and accommodation of this spacious bedroom in our new apartment with the tiny bedroom and its small inadequate dresser which Rose and I shared at home. This all seemed like living in luxury as far as I was concerned.
Now the only thing left for us to buy was a living room set. Fortunately that was taken care of a month before our wedding. We were lucky enough to find an ad in the classified section advertising a ten piece living room set priced at $110. It was a steal and in excellent condition. The lady we bought it from was in dire need to sell in a hurry, as she had already purchased a new ultra-modern living room suite that was scheduled for immediate delivery. We were more than happy to take the used set off her hands, and so satisfaction was felt and appreciated by both of us. The wood trim on the chairs was rather ornate, but the furniture was solidly made, and it took care of our needs for many years, despite the hard use our kids administered to each and every chair!
Since Dad and I both wanted to have a full group of attendants to witness our wedding, we agreed to have four ushers and four bridesmaids in addition to our Best Man and Maid of Honor. After the selections were made, sufficient notice was properly given to each involved, and all gladly accepted.
Our attendants were:
In addition to the plans for the wedding itself, it was important for us to find an apartment. There were some questions which needed answering. Where should we locate? What size apartment should it be? How much rent can we afford to pay? These were questions that had to be carefully considered before making any rash decisions.
After much discussion, Dad and I finally decided we would prefer to live near both our families. This pleased me very much, as I felt the need to be as close to my family as possible. Living within a two mile radius of one another was ideal for all of us.
Fortunately, after scouring the newspapers, we succeeded in finding the apartment we were looking for. We located a newly decorated, upper floor, three room and bath apartment at 25 Aberdeen Street in Malverne, for $40 per month. The apartment was adjacent to Malverne High School, where I had formerly attended. The location was ideal, as it was within walking distance of church, stores, railroad station, doctors and professionals. The neighborhood was very nice; all the houses were well taken care of, and lawns were well manicured. The owner of the house was a widow, Mrs. Madeline Warreng. In the three years that we lived there, we developed a very close relationship, and remained good friends until her death.
Our apartment consisted of a large living room, a large bedroom, a bright kitchen, and a full tile bathroom. Imagine having a bathroom for just two of us, compared with one bathroom which the eleven of us shared at home in Lakeview!! Quite a big improvement for me. In addition, our apartment had hot water all the time. At home in Lakeview, we heated water as needed on top of the stove for such things as washing dishes, shaving, etc. We only lit the gas water heater for baths or some special reason. I was beginning to see a whole new world of space and comfort.
Our wedding was almost at hand, and we were kept busy with the details involved with the reception following the wedding. Marrying off a daughter can be very costly for those parents who have the financial means to supply a lavish reception. Such was not the case as far as our wedding was concerned, as we planned it on a minimal budget.
In addition to our large families, Dad and I had lots of friends. As we prepared our guest list, the roster seemed to grow and grow. Among those included, besides family, were my former schoolmates, members of the Legion of Mary, the church choir, the Malverne Fire Department, and both baseball teams (the Lakeview Ramblers and the Malverne Club). In addition, Dad and his brother Joe had developed a close relationship with the mayor of Malverne, Bill Gaddis, and his son Bill Jr. Both Bills were active members of the Malverne Club, as were Dad and Joe. In order to accommodate everybody and avoid slighting anybody, we planned what was identified as a “football” wedding – a far cry from today’s standards.
The refreshments we chose consisted of an endless number of ham and cheese sandwiches served on rolls, plenty of beer on tap, Italian cordials (liqueurs), a large tray of Italian cookies, and of course, a beautifully decorated wedding cake.
My oldest brother Charlie agreed to purchase the huge quantities of ham and cheese that would be needed to make the sandwiches. He had a friend in New York City who had a butcher shop near where he and his wife lived. The cost of the entire bill was remarkably low. Charlie also offered to buy the necessary alcohol and flavorings to make the cordials. As agreed, Dad reimbursed him for the cost of all the items.
We hired a five piece band to play for us on the evening of the reception. It was led by Maurice Pearsall, the brother of one of my wedding attendants. The cost was $50 for the entire evening, for as long as we wanted them.
The social hall we chose for our reception was brand new – the American Legion Hall on Franklin Avenue and Legion Place in Malverne. The rental cost was $25 for the evening (with no restriction on closing time), plus a $10 fee for janitorial services. We put a quick $10 deposit on it, in order to seal the bargain!!
In reviewing the arrangements we had just finalized, we were very pleased with the economical package we put together. The extra bonus was that everybody could attend, and no one would be slighted.
The day before the wedding was to take place, the hall was ornately decorated, the tables were conveniently set up, chairs in place, everything was in readiness.
On the eve of our wedding, all of us who were to participate went to the church for the customary rehearsal. As soon as rehearsal was over, we proceeded back to my house to join the rest of the family, who already had their sleeves rolled up and were busily stuffing the fresh rolls with generous slices of ham and cheese. There was no doubt in our minds that this wedding was definitely a family affair.
The morning of September 4, 1937 was finally at hand. Our nuptial mass was scheduled to begin at 11 AM at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Malverne. Father Lynch (the pastor) was delegated to marry us. Very early in the morning, by arrangement with my hairdresser, my sister Rose and I had our hair beautifully styled and set for the big occasion. We returned home in plenty of time to begin to dress, and to get into our gowns. Some of our attendants dressed at their homes, but those who lived out of town dressed at our house (all of this with one bathroom at our disposal!!!). We were to be dressed and ready to leave by 10:30 AM.
For some weeks before the wedding was to take place, there was much concern and discussion among those of us in the family as to the advisability of my father escorting me down the aisle as is traditionally done. All of us had noticed, as the time for the wedding neared, that my father was showing more evidence of withdrawal, with little desire to be tied down to any set formality. He did express his approval and enthusiasm for Dad and me, concerning the event that would soon take place, yet he preferred not to be in the limelight – center stage, so to speak. Instead, his preference was to be a proud spectator on the sidelines.
For this reason, it was agreed by all of us that my oldest brother Charlie would be the one who would fulfill my father’s obligation. He would and did play the dual role of loving father and oldest brother. This was the perfect solution to avoid any unwanted emotional stress or anxiety.
The hour had arrived. We were dressed and ready to enter the special cars lined up outside in front of our house, which would take us to the church. The day was sunny, and very hot.
As we, the bridal party, arrived at church, we assembled in the vestibule in proper order, ready to open the ceremony that was about to begin. Meanwhile, my father and family members and Dad’s family were properly escorted to their designated seats. The seating for all the arriving guests proceeded without flaws. After the guests were all seated, as tradition dictates, my mother was the last to be escorted down the aisle, next to my father who was already seated in the front row. This was the signal that the nuptial mass was ready to begin.
As the organ softly played the traditional wedding march, our wedding party walked deliberately and carefully, in step with the rhythms that accompanied us in our walk. My brother, in his special assigned role, carefully held my arm as we walked down the aisle together, and I cautiously held on to my beautiful bridal bouquet of fragrant white gardenias. The church was filled with sweet odors coming from the many floral arrangements. As I looked ahead toward the altar, I saw Dad anxiously standing with his brother Frank, waiting for his bride to join him.. With the traditional kiss, my brother gently led me to Dad. At that moment, our anxieties had vanished. Smiles of happiness were in full view to each of us and to all who were watching us. Our life together was about ready to begin.
The mass was beautiful, and the entire wedding party added much color and beauty to the entire ceremony. I spoke earlier of the beautiful music which my brother Julie agreed to sing at our wedding. His voice was so clear and so beautiful, and all of us who heard him that day agreed that his singing made the mass very special – particularly his rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria.
But good humor always seems to fit into many varied occasions, including weddings. By mutual agreement among all the members of the Malverne Fire Department, they had plotted to pull a false fire alarm during our nuptial mass. As Dad and I solemnly knelt at the altar, we suddenly heard the loud siren going off. We immediately looked at each other in astonishment. He smiled at me, evidently sensing that this was one fire he was not about to go to. But truthfully, I was a bit shaken, being caught “off guard”, so to speak. In a joking but audible command, I said to him, “Don’t you dare leave!!” At this point we both grinned at each other and grasped our hands tightly together, which was our reassurance that we were definitely staying to get married. We could not and did not turn around to view our friends and family seated in the pews, but we could feel and almost hear their quiet chuckles as they witnessed the big joke the volunteer firemen had just executed, It was talked about and remembered by all of us for a long time.
With the completion of the mass and the beginning of the musical strains of the recessional, our wedding party proceeded to go up the aisle to the vestibule in back of the church. There we greeted all our guests, and sometime later proceeded to get into our cars to get the wedding photos taken at the photographer’s studio.
It seemed to be getting hotter and hotter as the day wore on, but we took it all in good stride. On arrival, we all got out of our respective cars and started walking toward the photographer’s studio. But true to form, my brother Frank was up to one of his unpredictable tricks again. Without any warning, Frank grabbed both Dad and me, one in each arm, and ushered us into the butcher shop next to the studio. Just picture, if you can, me carefully holding my train and my floral bouquet, and Dad trying to figure out Frank’s plan. We were firmly ushered into the shop, which was filled with the usual Saturday customers. By this time, our wedding attendants had followed us inside, and the customers were as confused as we were. After our grand entrance, Frank blurted out loudly, “It’s too hot outside. The bride and groom both need to cool off.” Frank continued his hold on Dad and me and led us to the large meat cooler, brushing aside the butchers who were busy cutting meat on their wooden blocks!! Needless to say, there were howls of laughter from everybody witnessing this farce. While the laughter was escalating, Frank gently led us inside the cooler and shut the door. There we were, the two of us, surrounded by hind quarters of beef, pork, long links of sausage, etc. It was hardly a nuptial setting, but in truth, the lower temperature felt great. After two minutes in the deep freeze, we were released from captivity. As we all left the butcher shop, we heard rounds of applause from the customers. They enjoyed it all, and so did we.
We soon composed ourselves, and proceeded in earnest to the photographers next door to get our pictures taken. The photographer sensed that this wedding party would be a bit unpredictable, and might perhaps pose a few problems. But we soon calmed down and cooperated fully with the man in charge.
Immediately following the photo session, we all proceed to Niederstein’s in Rockville Centre, where a wedding breakfast was awaiting us. The breakfast was just for the wedding party and our parents. The tables were beautifully decorated, the breakfast was nicely served, the musical background was softly played and in good taste, and generally the atmosphere was perfect.
Following the breakfast we all left to go back to my house in Lakeview. By that time it was mid-afternoon. Our house was already filled with our family members as well as some out-of-town guests. They were all busy reviewing the day’s events that had taken place thus far. Lots of coffee and cake was available for everyone to enjoy. There was music playing on the radio which added to all the conversation going on.. Everybody was keyed up and looking forward to the big reception yet ahead.
By 7 PM we all left in the designated cars and proceeded to the reception. As we had done for the church ceremony, our wedding party lined up in proper order, ready to make our entrance into the hall, which was already filled with guests. As soon as we filed through the doors, the band played “Here Comes the Bride”, and immediately there was a big ovation set in motion – applause, whistles, cheers, etc. The festivities had just begun.
Our wedding party began to proceed to our special table where we were to be seated for the evening. It was a slow process, as we were greeted, hugged, kissed and admired along the way by everyone. The hall was full of excitement, happy guests, good food, good music, and lots of camaraderie.
The band provided all of us with a full evening of good lively music and lots of fun. It did not take long for the floor to be full of dancing couples. There were lots of fast feet and a variety of rhythms in motion. As the evening progressed and the music continued, I was suddenly handed the baton by the band leader Maurice, so that I could continue leading the musicians!! With full confidence in myself, I accepted the honor presented to me, and played the role of musical director. I used very exaggerated arm movements to impress my musicians with my musical abilities (minimal as they were), and proudly swung the baton in every direction imaginable. It was funny to watch, as I was told by everybody who saw me swinging my arms non-stop, in my long bridal gown, train and all!! Weddings like this don’t happen every day.
As the evening continued in full tempo, Dad and I realized that everyone was having a wonderful time, including the Mayor. We felt grateful to know that our efforts and plans for this happy occasion had worked out so well. Dad and I, meanwhile, made it a point to go to each table to personally thank each guest for coming to our wedding reception and for sharing this special occasion with us.
The time came for the cutting of the wedding cake, and according to tradition, we served each other the first piece, after which the guests were properly served. The music and dancing continued, as the hours passed by. Before leaving the hall, my bridal bouquet had to bee tossed to some eligible young lady who was still a candidate for marriage. My flowers were caught by my bridesmaid, Lillian Rainey. However, the flowers were not very instrumental in her getting married right away; as it turned out, she married five years after our wedding.
Dad and I finally left the reception hall around 11:30 en route to my house in Lakeview, where our bags were already packed and ready to go with us on our honeymoon. Dad and I were upstairs getting dressed and ready to leave. Meanwhile the rest of my family left the reception hall and slowly began to return home. Needless to say, with all of us together again, Dad and I were delayed from leaving for another hour, as there were just so many things to talk about and to share with all of them. It was, in essence, a replay of our wedding in its entirety.
At last it was time for us to take off. Just as we all had imagined would happen, it was a send-off of mixed emotions. My mother and my sister Rose were having a hard time trying to hold back tears as they watched Dad and I getting closer to the door, ready to leave. But somehow they managed to recover their composure, smiled broadly, hugged us both, and wished us well. The rest of our family followed suit with a litany of good wishes that almost sounded like a chorus in unison. But the final farewell which my father gave us has always been remembered and never forgotten. True to his role as a loving father, he approached Dad and said to him as he shook his hand, “Take care of our daughter. She has always been close to us. And now that you are her husband, we have made space for you too. You are now part of our family. Welcome and good luck.” What a beautiful message. I held up stoically without tears, but I was filled with so much love and admiration for this wonderful man, my father. Dad and I both grabbed our bags and left, as we waved goodbye.
Our car was in the driveway, ready for our getaway. But now a problem arose – where we going to spend our first night together, and where would we spend our honeymoon? Ironically, neither one of us had given this any prior thought or consideration. And to make matters worse, how foolish could one be, considering that this was the Labor Day weekend!!
As we backed out of the driveway, it was almost 1 AM, and at that point Dad immediately headed for New York City. He decided on trying for a hotel in Brooklyn, since he was very familiar with that area, having lived there for many years as a boy and a young man. Lucky for us, we pulled up to the Hotel Granada at about 2 AM, and were able to get a room despite the holiday. The first dilemma in our married life had been solved satisfactorily.
Before leaving the hotel the next day (almost like obedient children!) we sent telegrams to my mother and father, as well as Grandpa and Josie, informing them that we were leaving New York City that day and were on our way to “parts unknown”. We truly had no idea where we would spend our honeymoon. We both decided to get into the car and just drive until we found something we liked. The second night we stopped at Darien, Connecticut, and from there we continued until we found the place that attracted us. It was actually a sports camp that happened to be closing up for the winter. It was situated on Long Lake, near Naples, Maine and Lake Sebago. It was owned and operated by Arthur C. Trott. It was a beautiful spot with lovely grounds and lots of trees. There were many separate cabins overlooking the lake, and the lake afforded everybody good fishing, boating and swimming. It was quiet and restful, and just a perfect place to spend a honeymoon. The bonus for us was that we were the only guests there, and so had the entire place at our disposal. The cost for Dad and me for one week was $40 per person, including meals, private cabin and all recreational facilities.
Our week there was filled with so many interesting things to do and see. We took many side trips by car to enjoy the beautiful Maine countryside.
On Sunday after going to mass, Dad and I decided to get in the canoe and go for a little sail on the lake. We did not bother to change into comfortable clothes, but instead we went into the boat in our church finery. The lake was like a mirror – very still, and the entire scene was like a picture post card. But almost in an instant, a squall came up. Now waves seemed to surface everywhere, opposing each other with extreme rhythms and movements. I had heard the word squall mentioned many times, but now we were in the middle of one actually happening. Dad appeared calm, but I sensed that he was aware, as I was, of the danger we were both facing, and without life jackets besides. Dad rowed the canoe with extreme caution, carefully avoiding any confrontation with the angry waves that were all around us. After a half hour had passed, and already late for lunch, Arthur Trott set out in his motor boat to search for the missing honeymooners. After spotting us, Arthur carefully guided us the rest of the way. We reached shore safely, and after getting ourselves out of the canoe, we thanked Arthur for all his concern and assistance. We proceeded to our cabin to freshen up before going to the dining room, where a delicious hot New England Sunday dinner was waiting for us, ready to be served. We were thankful for the food, but most thankful that we were there bodily to enjoy it, after escaping the ravages of the squall.
The night before our departure from Long Lake, we packed the car and telephoned our parents that we would be arriving home in a few days. We planned on doing the trip home in two days. We knew there would be a big welcome waiting for us, and we were right. When we arrived at my parents’ home in Lakeview, they were all on hand awaiting our arrival, including Grandpa and Josie. The dining room table was set for all of us, and it had all the makings of a real feast. Of course, everybody wanted to hear about our trip, and in addition, more talk and discussion about our wedding continued as well.
After a wonderful homecoming, and as the evening wore on, Dad and I thanked everybody for all their love and interest. At that point we were ready to leave the Vecchio household, to begin our new life together as Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore Pappalardo, address: 25 Aberdeen Street, Malverne.
In the interest of brevity, I have tried to minimize the events of my last 57 years, and accordingly have grouped them into ten-year periods. In each decade, I have expounded on those events which were most noteworthy at the time.
In contrast, you will note that I have devoted much detail of content to the events of the first 20 years of my life. The reasons for this are varied. First, one of my primary objectives in writing this journal is to describe to the reader what living accommodations were like for those whose families were large, yet whose financial resources were minimal. This was the environment in which I lived. Secondly, despite living under such disadvantages, I would suggest that a child growing up in a home filled with love and security could nevertheless enjoy a happy and healthy childhood, and could also achieve success in the career of his choice, whatever it might happen to be. Thirdly, living together as a well-knit family does help to develop traits of good character in each of us, while still gaining the ability to understand, to get along, and to share many things with one another. In essence, the family is the early beginning of community living, which later extends itself to the school, to the workplace, etc. I was most fortunate to have grown up in such a setting. And now, to continue with my story.
With our honeymoon now a wonderful memory, we were ready to begin our life together. Dad and I knew that there would be many adjustments for each of us to make. We knew also that we had envisioned many dreams and plans for ourselves in the years still ahead for us, in the hopes that most, if not all, would be fulfilled. With determination and high hopes, we were prepared to begin.
From the very first day of our occupancy, our little apartment was well used and shared not only by us, but by friends and family as well. I guess I inherited from my mother a love and interest in cooking dinners as she had done, and extending invitations to those who were available to come. What better way was there to fraternize with friends and family?
Of course, the first ones to be invited for dinner were my mother and father, and Grandpa and Josie. Because of the size of both our families and the limited space of our apartment, we could not have everybody at one time. But eventually everyone was invited as time progressed.
Dad and I both agreed that I would continue working at the real estate office, for a while anyway. Two salaries would help to add some extra dollars to our budget. Mr. Bisbee was happy to know that I would be coming back. However, the plan did not work too long. After six months of our marriage, I realized that I was pregnant, which pleased both of us very much, as well as both our families. Dad insisted that I quit my job after the first trimester, which is hardly the practice today. Most modern mothers work up until their ninth month. I suspect that Dad wanted me to be well-rested in preparation for our new addition, who was scheduled to arrive in early December.
It so happened that Dad and I were invited to my mother’s and father’s house for dinner on a particular Sunday, December 4th. It was while there that Mother Nature gave me notice that Baby Pappalardo was on its way. After telephoning our doctor first, he advised us that I should go to the hospital right away. Accordingly, Dad and I and my mother took off for South Nassau Communities Hospital in Rockville Centre. After I checked in and was properly assigned to a room, there were no immediate signs of a baby’ arrival just yet. On the doctor’s advice, Dad and my mother returned home, to play the waiting game there. On Monday they both appeared back at the hospital – still no baby. They both returned home again late Monday evening in the hopes that the baby would arrive momentarily. They waited patiently for the phone to ring signaling the good news, but to no avail. Finally, by early Tuesday morning, December 6th, the big event happened. We were blessed with a beautiful girl, Rosemary, named after her godmother (my sister Rose), and my mother. Of course, within the hour, Dad was at my bedside, as well as my mother and father and Dad’s family as well. It was easy to recognize that everybody was proud and happy to welcome our new addition.
Babies always bring about much celebration and excitement, and our firstborn was no exception. We had such a celebration for Rosemary’s baptism, which happened to be January 1st. The Pappalardos and the Vecchios were all present for the occasion. As for Rosemary, she slept through it all.
Without a second bedroom, we managed to make space for a crib for Rosemary in our bedroom, which was quite large and able to accommodate an extra piece of furniture.
From the moment we brought our baby home from the hospital, Rosemary was never lacking attention by any means. She was constantly being bounce from one lap to another. Family and friends made a fuss over her wherever we went, and she loved every bit of it.
Dad and I soon got into the routine of being a threesome without any difficulty, and I must say that Rosemary was a good baby. She did her share of sleeping, and when she was awake she was very pleasant. Meanwhile, our landlady, Mrs. Warreng, began to get very attached to her. So did we all.
In the late spring of 1940, I found that I was pregnant again. With a new baby on the way, we soon realized that, as much as we loved our apartment, it would not be suitable for four of us to live there comfortably.
Dad and I often thought of buying or building a home, but financially it was out of our reach. Our only assets were our car and a small amount of money in the bank. Grandpa and Josie were both very encouraging in this regard, and indicated they would help us to get started. I spoke earlier of the large parcel of property on Chestnut Street in Malverne, which Grandpa had purchased some years ago. They used a part of this parcel to build a new home for themselves to replace the Woodside Avenue home which they had sold. There still remained on this parcel ample room for two more homes.
Accordingly, after much discussion, Grandpa offered to finance and build a house for us according to our own specifications. Needless to say, we were overjoyed and gratified when we learned of this generous offer. We realized that this would be our golden opportunity to own a home at long last, a place that we would eventually call “ours”. The understanding was that upon final completion of the house, we were to get the necessary mortgage money from our local bank. In this way, we would be able to pay Grandpa back for the building costs which he had personally paid on our behalf.
The total cost of the house was $6,500. After applying at the bank for a first mortgage, we were informed that the maximum amount they would give us was $4,000. It was a 20-year mortgage, with monthly payments of $26.40, not including taxes. We gladly accepted these terms. Home ownership never looked so good!! As for the $2,500 balance to be paid, Grandpa agreed to carry a second mortgage to accommodate us. This amount was paid off in three years. Grandpa and Josie were proud of our dependability in the handling of our responsibilities, and we were most appreciative of all the help they had given us at this special time in our lives.
Our new address would be 44 Chestnut Street, Malverne, New York. Grandpa’s and Josie’s address was 66 Chestnut Street, since their move from Woodside Avenue had already taken place. We would really get to be close neighbors now. (Before this we were about 2 ½ miles apart.) How lucky for all of us. This move to Chestnut Street solidified the beatutiful and warm relationship we had always enjoyed since Dad and I married. As grandparents, they doted on and adored Rosemary, and this continued with each and every one of the babies that were born after Rosemary’s arrival. As for my ratings with Grandpa and Josie, I was loved and highly respected by both of them. They considered me more as a daughter than a daughter-in-law. I too held both of them in high esteem and loved them dearly. They were on an equal plane with my own mother and father.
With Grandpa in charge of construction, it was easy to understand how our home was so sturdy and so well built. It was a 1 ½ story brick home, built on a 80′ by 100’plot on the corner of Chestnut Street and Willow Place. Our kitchen was all tile, bright, sunny, and very large. There was a large living room with a tile fireplace. Also on the first floor were two bedrooms and a full tile bathroom. Off the kitchen was a huge screened porch with a beautiful tile floor. This porch was over the attached one-car garage. Later, after Rosemary’s first birthday, we finished off the upper floor with two large bedrooms and another tile bathroom. The basement was high and dry, and we later finished off a recreation room there, suitable for gatherings which we often had from time to time. Our home was all we had hoped it would be and even more. It answered all our needs and it was an ideal setting for raising a family.
We moved from Aberdeen Street in early January of 1941. It was a sad time for Mrs. Warreng to see us leave, as she had become very attached to us, and especially to Rosemary. The three years we lived there were very happy, and we had always enjoyed Mrs. Warreng’s friendship as well as her excellent baking. She was employed at one time as a cook at the local high school cafeteria, and was considered an excellent baker. We always enjoyed her coffee crumb cake with the big crumbs on top; it was mouth-watering.
In worldly news, this was a time of much concern for everybody. Adolph Hitler, together with Benito Mussolini, were already recklessly invading countries in Europe, including Great Britain, disregarding the honor and dignity of human lives. Then, on December 7, 1941, Japan executed her sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The announcement of the attack, as we heard it on the radio, stunned each and every one of us. We all realized the seriousness of the attack, and the loss of lives of our American sailors and soldiers who, without notice, had given up their lives with no just cause. World War II for America had just begun, and the next few years would affect all of us in many different ways.
The economic picture of our country had begun its transformation. First of all, private construction was almost at a standstill, as almost all the building materials were given to or bought by our government for our defense and military needs. This meant the end of Grandpa’s tile business, which he later dissolved. The building that housed Nation Tile and Marble Works was deeded over to the mortgage company, as Grandpa could not afford to pay the overhead expenses that steadily accrued. It was a sad way to end the many years that Grandpa had dedicated to develop the thriving business that he once owned and operated.
Employment was high in the numerous defense plants. All those who were unemployed or recently laid off from companies that could no longer operate because of the lack of materials soon found employment at places like Grumman, Republic and Sperry Gyroscope, to name a few. Wages were good, and overtime added to the take-home pay. Dad’s brothers Frank and Denny worked on an ammunition fleet of ships in Baltimore. Dad’s brother Joe worked at Grumman’s, and Dad worked at Republic. I do not know where Teddy was employed.
In 1938, Dad’s brother Freddie has already purchased an 80 acre parcel of land along both sides of River Road in Shawnee, Pennsylvania for the sum of $4,500. At today’s prices this was a steal!! Some of the land sat along the Delaware River, and some of the land across the road was mountainous property. Freddie started constructing his first beautiful home for himself and Mary on land that overlooked the river. Because of war priorities, he was not able to completely finish it. They were able to live in it, but had to use a coal stove in lieu of a heating system.
They were also without electricity and had to use oil lamps. In order to get the electricity, he had to apply for preferential treatment by registering as a farmer. He chose to be a farmer who raised chickens!! In due time, after approval by the utility company, he constructed a barn with material he already had on hand and lumber from his neighbor who had a sawmill. Many trees from Freddie’s property were cut to size at the sawmill. With the aid of the barn to house the chickens, Freddie and Mary soon developed a thriving chicken and egg business during the war years. He was now a successful farmer and he also had acquired the electricity he would need for future development of his land.
Besides the priority of materials for the military, everybody’s consumption of certain goods was rationed and regulated by our government. This included shoes, gasoline, and food items such as sugar, coffee and meats. All of this was controlled with the issuance of ration books to each member of every family. Ceiling prices were in effect to curb the sharks that were out there trying to get rich quick. Nevertheless, those who had the money to buy illegal “black market” stamps were able to buy as much as they wanted without suffering any wartime restrictions or deprivations.
By the beginning of 1942 in the Vecchio household, five more weddings had taken place, including my sister Rose. The only one remaining single was my brother Louie. It was hard to imagine how a home once filled with so many people and so much activity was suddenly changed to just three people and little sound. My father was beginning to show signs of forgetfulness and loss of memory. As for my mother, she was fighting high blood pressure, as well as hiding worry over financial problems that would surface from time to time. With just about everyone married now, there were no more weekly contributions coming in toward household expenses as my brothers, my sister and I had given when we were at home. Nevertheless, Louie did more than his share, not only financially, but also in taking car eof whatever needed to be done around the house. He was truly a dedicated son.
With the war in progress, there were some changes of employment in the Vecchio household. My sister Rose and her husband Tony were employed at Grumman’s. My brother Louie worked for Sperry Gyroscope. My brother Julie obtained a position as social studies teacher at the local high school where I graduated. My brother Jimmy still retained his job with Knickerbocker Ice Company. My brother Tony was now driving a cab in New York City. Johnny was still employed with United Parcel. My brother Eddie enlisted in the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer and was stationed at Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. My brother Frank was now the mechanic and owner of his own lucrative gas station and garage. He and his wife lived next door to the business. My brother Charlie was engaged in the operation of big road machinery in and around the area where he lived in New York City.
I have reviewed and updated the employment picture of both the Pappalardos and the Vecchios to show how national conditions can affect the lives of so many. Living through World War II taught us many things, including the need to sacrifice and to help in any way we could to attain victory and peace once again.
Our second child, a son, Salvatore John, was born on February 28, 1941. It was a happy time for us, despite the gravity of the events of the war. Grandpa and Josie had just returned from Florida, and were greeted upon their arrival home by a raging snowstorm. Telephone lines were down in the area where Grandpa lived; thus Dad could not reach them by phone to give them the good news. Dad solved the communication dilemma by delegating the Malverne Taxi to go to Grandpa and Josie’s house to deliver the message personally that they were once again grandparents, and to a namesake (Salvatore) at that. As soon as roads were cleared, Dad arranged to pick them up, and brought them to the hospital to see the new baby and me. It was a wonderful reunion, as we had not seen them for several months.
Returning home with our new baby was a happy occasion. Rosemary was eager and anxious to hold her baby brother, and when she did, all the grownups of the family were on hand to make sure that she had a firm grip on baby Sal. She handled her brother very well, and from that day forward took on the role of “big sister” with much confidence.
With the Selective Service Act in force, all eligible men up to age 40 (I believe) were required to register at their local draft board for military duty. Dad accordingly registered at the Malverne Draft Board. He was 33 years old at the time. The registration numbers allotted to the registrants were selected at random, and the quota that was dictated by the Department of Defense determined the amount of men selected by the draft board.
With this cloud of uncertainty hanging over us, we continued to go on as usual with our daily lives. Dad faithfully continued with his job at Republic, and from time to time showed signs of exhaustion. He sometimes worked, if needed, seven days a week, and some were ten-hour days. He never complained, and on days that he came home late, I always made sure, after serving him a hot supper, that Rosemary was still available to him, so that they could enjoy a little time together. Being two years younger, Sal was already in bed and fast asleep.
With working long hours, and with the promise of a raise always denied him or put on the back burner, Dad had threatened many times to resign from his job at Republic, but he was successfully appeased by his bosses. They cited many good reasons for him to remain with the company, one of them being that employment in a defense plant would excuse him from military duty.
When I informed Dad that I was pregnant again, he was happy to hear the news. But he was more than sure, now that there would be another mouth to feed, that he must have that raise or else resign as he had threatened. Before handing in his resignation, he was fortunate enough to secure a position with the drafting department of the County of Nassau in Mineola, New York. This was a wonderful opportunity for him to use the background of learning he had acquired at Cooper Union in architectural design. The County needed draftsmen, as they were designing all streets and roads to accommodate plans for the installation of sewers. The salary was a little less than Republic, but the hours were less demanding, and the camaraderie of the office personnel was super.
Dad properly submitted his resignation to leave Republic, giving them the required two weeks notice, and they in turn gave him a letter of recommendation for his high quality of workmanship. Dad was now ready to begin his new position. From his very first day he was extremely happy working in his new surroundings, and in a very short time he developed many good friendships there.
On February 19, 1943, we were blessed with a darling baby girl, Jean. Now Rosemary had not only a brother but a sister, too. She was thrilled, as was Sal John. Our family was indeed growing. Jean was of lighter complexion than both Rosemary and Sal, and her hair was blonde in color. As I recall from stories my mother told me, some of the Costandinis were redheads and of fair complexion. This was typical of families who lived in northern Italy, where my mother was born. My brother Johnny was a redhead with light skin and freckles, and looked somewhat Irish. My sister Angelina who died at age 2 was of that same coloring. I, too as a child had blonde hair and a fair complexion.
Our new home on Chestnut Street was comfortable and amply large enough to take care of our growing family of five. As usual it was always full of people dropping in to visit us and to see the new baby. On weekends we often played cards after enjoying a dinner together. Sometimes it was with Julie and Carrie, sometimes with Teddy and Anna, and sometimes it was men only – my brother Louie and Dad’s brothers Teddy and Frank. When the men played it was always poker; otherwise it was pinochle.
Meanwhile, whenever possible, my mother always managed to have my brother Louie drive her to our house to spend a little time with us and all our children. Josie also arranged to come from next door to join us as well. Josie and my mother got along famously, and continued to remain close as the years went by.
In due time the inevitable happened. Both Dad and my brother John received their notices that they had been selected by number to join our armed forces. They were notified to appear at the designated recruitment location in New York City to undergo the required physical examination. Both passed their physicals, but the fact that Dad passed is still debatable. When Dad and I went to our family physician prior to our marriage for physicals and blood work, Dad was informed that he had heart problems, brought about by an undetected bout of rheumatic fever he had suffered when he was eight years old. Instead of the bed rest which was required to avoid serious complications, he was doing what all eight-year-olds do – running, climbing trees, playing baseball, and everything else imaginable. As a result his heart was damaged, and he suffered its effects as he grew older.
After learning that our husbands would be soon inducted and would be leaving us for an indefinite period, my sister-in-law Marie and I slowly began to realize that we would soon have to adjust to a new way of life, both financially and emotionally. Marie had Johnny Mike, age 3½, to be concerned about, and I had three little ones, ages 5½, 3½ and 14 months. It was mind-boggling, but like everyone else we had to be strong.
Ironically, both Dad and my brother were inducted on the same day, April 29, 1944. Johnny joined the Navy and Dad, with a background in construction, joined the Army Corps of Engineers. Dad and I could very well see many changes looming for all of us.
That day, April 29, 1944, was a day I shall never forget. At various opportune times, he and I had often talked about his coming departure with Rosemary and Sal (Jean was too young), but I don’t think that the seriousness of it or its implications had made any kind of impression on them. From time to time they had been exposed to pictures in the daily newspaper of sailors and soldiers in uniform engaged in military offensives, and seemed to accept it all as normal.
Dad’s notice for induction stated that he was to report at a location in Mineola where there would be a fleet of Army buses lined up and ready to transport the men. They were scheduled to go to Camp Upton, Long Island for further briefing and assignment, and to receive their uniforms.
It was agreed among us that Grandpa and I would accompany Dad to Mineola and Josie would remain at home with the three children. Little did we know that on that very morning the two oldest ones had come down with chicken pox and were running the usual fever that goes with it.
As the time drew nearer for us to leave and for Dad to say goodbye to our three little ones, you can imagine the tears and emotions that followed. Tears rolled down little cheeks that were dotted with red spots. It was not a happy picture to look at, making it difficult for all of us as we huddled together, hugging one another and trying to wipe away the tears. The fever and discomfort of the chicken pox certainly did not help the situation in any way, making it hard to part under these conditions. Dad tried very hard to keep his composure and managed to hug each of the children and Josie with a last goodbye. We left the room and proceeded to get into the car en route to Mineola. The picture of Josie standing at the window holding Jean in her arms, with Rosemary and Sal clinging to her side, is as clear today as that day in April. Grandpa, Dad and I waved goodbye from the car, trying to hold back the tears. At this emotional time, the only comfort for the four we left behind was their consolation of each other. At 14 months, Jean was the bravest of all – she was too young to comprehend the whole situation.
When we arrived at the embarkation point in Mineola, we witnessed a wide variety of people, expressing a wide variety of emotions. One could easily detect the young unattached soldier showing much enthusiasm and national pride in being an important part of the U.S. Army. He seemed to be very much in control of his composure, and perhaps at that moment was already thinking very seriously of making the Army his lifetime career.
In contrast were those men who were in love and were now forced to leave their sweethearts behind in answer to their call of duty. It was evident that every minute that remained to them before boarding the bus was precious, as the coupled lovers embraced for the last time.
And then there were the husbands like Dad, who were also preparing themselves for this painful separation, not only from their wives (some pregnant), but from their children as well.
Soon the long line of buses was ready to depart and, one by one, the men boarded, bound for Camp Upton, where each of them would be processed, assigned and outfitted with their proper uniforms. Grandpa and I stoically stood by waving to Dad, who by now had seated himself next to a window where he could easily see us. As we watched the last bus disappear from sight, Grandpa and I got into the car. The ride back to our house was very quiet – almost void of conversation. Many thoughts raced through both our minds, as we tried to figure out what was happening. But from that very moment I knew that I had to be strong for the sake of the children, as well as myself.
Several months before, Josie and Grandpa had decided that they would sell their home next door to us, as it was too big and too expensive to maintain. With the war still in progress, they were aware that building a replacement home was out of the question for the time being. In a very short time they had a buyer and needed to make arrangements to move. With Dad’s induction a reality, they suggested using the upstairs finished floor of our home, if that was OK with me. With Dad away, I thought this was an excellent idea, as it provided each of us the much-needed moral support during this difficult time. In addition, the $35 per month rent they offered to pay me would help stretch the $120 monthly stipend that I was receiving for Dad’s service.
With this income I managed to pay for the mortgage, taxes, heat, utilities, food, clothing, medical bills, insurance, etc. Needless to say there wasn’t a nickel left over after all the bills were paid, but fortunately every bill was paid on time, never overdue.
About a month after Dad left for the Army, Grandpa and Josie officially moved in with us. They squeezed in as much furniture as was possible, in both of the rooms upstairs. They also bought and installed a small cooking range, a kitchen sink, and a small refrigerator to take care of the light cooking for breakfast and lunch. The main dinner meal always took place in our big kitchen. Grandpa had done much of the cooking in recent years, and insisted on continuing the practice. As for their excess furniture, it was properly protected and stored in our basement.
We had always been close neighbors, but now that we were living together, we were even closer. It was an ideal situation during the war emergency. Josie and Grandpa had a convenient place to live until such time that building a replacement home was possible. And for the children and myself it was a comfort to know that I was not alone. Should any emergency arise, there was ample family support, and in close proximity.
Josie was always generous, as was Grandpa, but she was also wise in her thinking and frugal. She knew that the money realized from the sale of their home at 66 Chestnut Street could very well diminish over the years, before the time that they would be ready to build once again. To insure against this, she decided to earn money by working in a factory in Lynbrook, where army jackets were manufactured.
Josie was an excellent seamstress and well qualified for the work. She sewed the pockets on the jackets and was paid a piecework rate. Because of her speed, she was able to earn a very handsome weekly salary. Her boss was in awe not only of her speed, but also of the perfect workmanship she produced.
Josie’s employment left Grandpa alone to a degree. But being the very active person he always was as a businessman, he immediately occupied himself with a vegetable garden, did light repairs around the house, and of course did the cooking as well. He took great pride in making pots of chicken soup, as he felt it was satisfying and healthy for his grandchildren and all of us as well. He was right. Many times he would take the Long Island Railroad to Brooklyn to buy fish, bread, cheese or vegetables at the favorite stores which he had patronized over the years. We savored and enjoyed every morsel as well as the crispy loaves of Italian bread.
As for his cooking, it was super, but the drawback was that he could never operate without Josie by his side to assist him, or else a qualified substitute to take her place. Needless to say, I automatically became the permanent substitute. This was not always easy, believe me, with three young children demanding my attention, all at the same time. With Grandpa, the timing of his needs was unpredictable. A plan to can tomatoes on a moment’s notice was not unusual.
I was told many times, by Josie and others who knew Grandpa and his ways, that I was considered an unusual daughter-in-law, endowed with an endless supply of patience. Whether their evaluation was correct I do not know, but I do know that we were taught while growing up at home to always respect those older than ourselves, and to conform to their wishes, regardless of our own personal feelings. I always accepted anything Grandpa suggested that I do or not do, resulting in a close harmony between us at all times. He loved me as he would a daughter, and the feeling was mutual. We were fortunate indeed to have Josie and Grandpa as parents and grandparents. Our relationship continued to grow more and more, with much love, care and concern for each of us.
The routine of each day was the same and, much of the time was run according to the specifications of the “Grandpa Plan”. For example, by 5:15 PM the table was properly set for the six of us. The children were washed, seated and ready for supper, as we awaited Josie’s entrance through the door at precisely 5:15.If she did not arrive on time, Grandpa’s standard request was for me to call the factory and inquire whether Josie had already left. To appease him, I would always comply, but down deep I felt that this was an unnecessary request, as in due time she would be home. Upon calling the factory, I would get the usual response, “She already left.” Within minutes, Josie would arrive. Of course she had to give Grandpa an explanation of why she was detained, which satisfied Grandpa. At that point we were all ready to eat supper, and things were running normal again!
Life for everyone went on as usual, despite the daily tragedies of the war, which were difficult to read and hear about. We had become accustomed to the rationing that was well in effect, and we were well informed as to routine measures for defense as outlined by the Civilian Defense Authority. Meanwhile, many volunteers donated much of their time to work in hospitals and many other agencies that assisted in the war effort. They knitted, they rolled bandages, they served food, they drove cars for the motor corps, and provided many other worthwhile services. Because of home responsibilities, I was unable to volunteer. My responsibility, with Josie’s and Grandpa’s help, was to keep our home safe, warm and comfortable, and to lovingly care for our three little ones, who needed all the support and love they could possibly get.
My closing activity each night, despite my tiredness, was to write a letter to Dad. He was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri at that time, going through the necessary basic training. In each letter I recounted the day’s activities and assured him that all was going well on the home front. I am sorry and disappointed that these letters were lost during one of our various moves over the years. They would have supplied all of us with many interesting accounts of events that occurred at that time.
The big news in mid-September was that Dad would be granted his first 16-day furlough. Needless to say, we were all keyed up for this event. It was hard to believe that Dad would be on a train headed for home and would soon be sitting at the table having dinner with us once again.
We had no car of our own at that time. When a car was needed, I had the use of Josie’s two-door Chevrolet Coupe, large enough for two persons, three if they squeezed together. To eliminate any problems as to who would accompany me to meet Dad at the train station, I decided to go alone. I was there to meet the train as it pulled into the Malverne railroad station at 6:30 AM. Before the train had come to a halt, my heart started to race. Our precious moment had arrived. As he stepped down from the train I ran to him, and after he dropped his duffel bag on the ground, we embraced each other tightly, not caring about those who were walking about the station and witnessing our moment together. We were on cloud nine and in a world all our own.
By the time we arrived home the front door was already opened wide, and out came the children, running to Dad helter-skelter, almost knocking him over. They were so excited and happy to see their Daddy once again, and he was as happy as they were to be back home with the kids.
As each day passed, Dad and I and the kids did our share of visiting with family and friends. Each visit was a celebration in itself. We had a few reunions at our house as well. But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and as we had expected, it was now time for Dad to leave us again. We all handled the situation very well this time, and we were ready to resume our normal routine as we did before. Of course we all held on to our hopes that some day soon this war would come to an end, and that our servicemen could return once more to their loved ones at home.
Five months had already passed since Dad and my brother had left home for military duty. With all but one of my brothers and my sister now married and out of the house, life at our homestead in Lakeview was far different than it had been. The liveliness that once was present was no longer evident. My mother now cooked for three instead of eleven, which did not make her very happy. Cooking for crowds and serving them was her forte and always gave her much pleasure. But by now, hard work, worry and poor health had begun to take their toll on both my mother and my father. This gave all of us much concern, particularly my brother Louie who still lived at home with them.
On October 7, 1944 I received a distressing phone call from my mother’s neighbor, Gladys Matthews, informing me that while they were having their morning coffee together, as was their usual custom, my mother suffered a severe stroke. Louie had already left for work. His usual shift at Sperry was 5 PM to 1:30 AM, but he had been called in to work extra hours to fill some special orders for the defense department. This left my mother alone with my father, and Gladys.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, I telephoned my brother Frank at his garage, asking him to pick me up immediately. I arranged with Josie and Grandpa to keep an eye on the children while I was gone.
Frank must have put the pedal to the floor, because it seemed to me that he was at my door in minutes. When Frank and I arrived at my mother’s, we found her sitting on her favorite chair in the living room, with my father and Gladys standing on either side of her. Her first reaction on seeing us was to cry uncontrollably. I’m sure she already realized that something terrible had just happened to her. Her mouth was already twisted; she could not speak and her entire left side was completely paralyzed. It was a sad sight to witness. As for my father, he seemed very much confused and appeared to be in a daze, finding it very difficult to understand the things that were happening as each moment passed by.
Both Frank and I embraced my mother, trying our best to soothe her while reassuring her that she was soon going to be all right. In the meantime I lost no time at all in calling for a doctor to examine her. Yes, at that time doctors did make house calls.
As soon as the doctor arrived, he confirmed what we already knew, that it was definitely a stroke, which was triggered by the high blood pressure that she had been troubled with over the years. He informed us that with the war still in full progress, hospital beds were at a premium and were mostly reserved for emergency cases. In my mother’s case, her slow recovery would demand long time care. He suggested a nursing home where she would receive appropriate professional care, or, on lieu of that, keeping her at home with adequate home care and attention. Before leaving, he left prescriptions for medications to treat her present condition. In addition he suggested massage and therapy to be administered at home by a professional therapist, but it was a bit too early yet to start this procedure.
We thanked the doctor for his immediate response, as well as for his professional advice and suggestions. He assured us that he would be happy to take on my mother’s case for follow-up treatment, and we gladly accepted his offer. Having the doctor come to our home was a convenience for us, especially for my mother.
After the doctor left I walked over to my mother and held her hand tightly to give her reassurance. Looking directly at her with a warm smile, I said, “You’re coming home with me. I’ll be able to take good care of you. Just don’t worry, because everything is going to be all right.” These words seemed to comfort her, even though she couldn’t respond verbally.
At that point I put on a pot of coffee to help us get some renewed energy, and to help us come up with some idea as to how we were going to get this 185 pound woman into my brother’s car. After having our coffee, we decided to put my mother on an ordinary kitchen chair. It worked very well. We slowly pushed the chair to the front entrance. Frank pulled his car up on the lawn, right up to the doorway. Then we took the chair with my mother strapped in it and lowered her very carefully down the three steps. We opened the car door to the front seat, and lifted her from the chair to the front seat. My father and I sat in the back of the car with the empty chair between us. When we arrived at my house, we repeated the procedure with the chair. We were successful in getting her settled into her bed, and she soon fell fast asleep, exhausted. Josie and Grandpa and the children quietly looked on, coming to grips with the whole sad situation.
I knew that now, in addition to our three children, there would be the added responsibility of my mother’s care as well. As far as I was concerned, I was determined and prepared to give her all the love and comfort and attention which she justly deserved. But most of all, I wanted her to feel happy and “at home” in her new surroundings. The closeness my mother and always shared apparently contributed to her immediate acceptance of the idea of living with us. Having the children around her gave her much joy and helped her to forget her physical handicaps.
We all became accustomed to our new routine, now that my mother was living with us. After several weeks we realized that the stroke had been severe, and that she would never regain the use of her left side. She remained confined to bed until she died.
Besides doing the regular household chores, my typical day’s routine went something like this:
8:00 am – Breakfast for children.
8:30 – Bathe my mother, change bed linens, serve her breakfast.
9:30 – Wash and hang children’s laundry. For entertainment, my mother listened to the radio in her room. She thoroughly enjoyed programs such as Stella Dallas, John’s Other Wife, The Goldbergs, and many others. Josie and Grandpa would visit with my mother often, and of course the children were in and out of her room, making lots of conversation. By this time her speech had returned.
12:00 Noon – Lunch for children. My brother Louie would come for lunch, with my father, before leaving for work each day.
12:15 – Lunch served to my mother. After her lunch was finished, Louie and I lifted her out of bed into a rocking chair. We would then slide the chair to the back porch for her to enjoy the outdoor scenery: the trees, bushes, flowers, birds, etc. Before Louie left for work, he and I would return my mother to her room, lift her into bed, and freshen her up as well as her bed linens.
5:15 – The children, Josie, Grandpa and I (and my father, when he was there) ate supper in the kitchen.
5:30 – Supper served to my mother.
7:00 – Children bathed and ready for bed.
8:00 – Bedtime for children.
8:15 – After September 1945, my brother Johnny would come each night to help me get my mother out of bed just as Louie and I did every afternoon. This change of position made her feel more comfortable, and she particularly enjoyed the mobility of getting out of the bedroom to other parts of the house.
9:30 – Johnny and I returned my mother to her bedroom, and the lights in her room were out for the night. Johnny then returned home.
10:00 – Daily letter written to Dad.
10:30 – Finished undone tasks, soaked children’s laundry overnight. I had no washing machine, and did laundry by hand. All other laundry that had to be done was picked up by the laundry truck and returned the next day, washed and wet. I hung them to dry on the line. This was considered the economy plan. You could have them dried, pressed and folded, but that was too expensive for my budget.
11:00-11:30 PM – Bedtime.
Needless to say, my mother had lots of company, mostly family, who cam to visit with her. Many of them were from out of town, which kept me quite busy cooking and preparing food for all off us. But all of it pleased my mother, seeing everybody together.
Concerning my father’s care, I suggested to my brother Louie that he could stay with us during the day and go home at night just to sleep. We tried this for a few weeks, but problems soon arose.
As I mentioned, my father was beginning to have memory lapses, and was becoming more and more confused as time went on. He had several episodes of getting lost and having to be returned home in a police car. My brother Louie was worried, as there was no one at home in Lakeview to supervise and care for him. I, of course, was fully occupied with the care of my mother and our children. After a family consultation, we all agreed that my father should be placed in a nursing home. Arrangements were made and finalized. He responded well and became acclimated to the transition. He remained there until his death in 1949.
Needless to say, I immediately informed Dad by letter of the whole situation concerning my mother’s stroke and her stay with us. Dad wrote back right away, expressing his deep sadness that she was undergoing so much pain and suffering. But he was happy to know that I made the decision to bring her to our house. He agreed with me that that was where she belonged – with us. This gave all of us involved a feeling of contentment.
As time passed, the U.S. continued to make progress and to gain more and more success in our war maneuvers. By May 1945, Germany had surrendered to the Allies on VE Day, and by August, Japan had surrendered as well, on VJ Day. There were numerous celebrations and ticker tape parades taking place in every city and town across our country. Excitement and national pride everywhere was high. Our soldiers would once more be reunited with their loved ones, ready to resume living their lives as before.
My brother Johnny was discharged in September 1945, and Dad was discharged on December 9, 1945. We were overjoyed to have them home again, and it didn’t take our children very long to realize that their Daddy was home for good. It was such a wonderful feeling.
My brother Johnny resumed his job with United Parcel. Dad was offered his former job as draftsman with the County of Nassau. He chose instead to go back into tile work, working independently for himself. He also helped hi brother Denny in the construction of his new home in West Hempstead, which had just been started.
Upon Dad’s return home, he lost no time in having wonderful talks with my mother during her convalescence. You could really see how much she enjoyed the conversation and his support. She was also happy and relieved knowing that her son and son-in-law were both back home once again, safe and sound.
My routine in caring for my mother continued at the same hectic pace, with one exception. On the advice of my mother’s doctor, I was able to obtain a washing machine with the presentation of a letter written by the doctor certifying our need for this appliance because of my mother’s illness. Appliances, like building supplies, were still in short supply. Accordingly, it was necessary to be put on a waiting list, and wait your turn for the next available appliance. Of course we were delighted to have this modern convenience. It eliminated doing the children’s daily wash on the scrub board, as well as the need for the laundry man to pick up our soiled laundry each week.
By September 1945, Rosemary had entered school. Although we lived in the incorporated village of Malverne, we were a part of the Valley Stream school district. The school bus stop was located two blocks from our house. Rosemary did not seem to mind the walk. As most children do, she soon adjusted to the new beginnings at school.
Besides getting used to school, she also seemed very willing to watch over her younger brother and sister whenever they were playing outside. She always kept a close eye on them, and took on the role of mother hen voluntarily. Of course, I was there as well, but it was gratifying to know that she was seriously taking on her job as “big sister”.
After having suffered several other “mini-strokes” in the course of time that followed, my mother passed away in our home on May 7, 1947. It was a devastating blow to all of us in the family, especially to me and Dad and the children. We had always had a very close relationship, but over the past few years, our feelings grew deeper and deeper. It would take some time for all of us to adjust to the silence in the bedroom that once was hers.
Her mission in life was now completed, having unselfishly given, without measured limits, love and care and comfort to all around her. We indeed were the beneficiaries to have had her in our midst for the years that she lived among us.
A short while before Dad’s discharge from the army, Josie and Grandpa began to make plans to build another replacement home for themselves, on the remaining parcel of land they still owned on Chestnut Street. With the war almost at an end, building supplies slowly began to become available.
By the early spring of 1946, they had already moved out of the upstairs apartment and were settled in their new home at 22 Chestnut Street. It was a brick split level house, situated on a corner plot, and as usual, perfectly constructed with all the precise details for which Grandpa was noted.
Building and construction and real estate in general were on the upswing. Business began to develop and flourish. The service men returning from the war took advantage of the GI Bill of Rights offered to them by our government, and enrolled in various colleges of their choice, tuition free. This was a wonderful opportunity to earn a college degree and to obtain a well-paying position upon graduation. Things in general were looking good. Everybody was engaged in finding their niche, and feeling optimistic about it.
In addition to Rosemary, both Sal and Jean were now enrolled in school. All three enjoyed making friends at school and with the neighbors’ children. When not in school, they enjoyed the space and surroundings around our home. Traffic was minimal, and the area was still a quiet and ideal place to raise children. The children took great delight in walking to Josie and Grandpa’s new home to visit. Their house was on the same side of the street as ours, about 300 feet away – a small enough distance for them to safely venture alone. Rosemary would take charge of her “little brood”. As usual, she always handled her responsibilities very well.
With the upstairs still vacant after Josie and Grandpa’s move, Dad and I decided to rent it. This would help us financially, as there were so many things we had postponed buying while Dad was in the service. Our finished room downstairs had already been converted into another bedroom at the time Josie and Grandpa had moved in, so we were not lacking any space. We rented the apartment to a very lovely widow lady, Mrs. Sylvia, and her single daughter who went to business each day. They were ideal tenants, and paid their monthly rent of $50 on time, without fail.
In the spring of 1948 I learned I was pregnant again. As usual, we were happy to learn of the good news, and grateful that Dad would be at home to welcome the new addition. On October 12, 1948, Paul Christopher was born. Because he was born on Columbus Day, Rosemary talked Dad and I into giving him a middle name at birth. All five of our other children had only one name given them at birth. Their second name was given at confirmation. Paul was the exception because of Rosemary’s strong influence. I’m glad she made the suggestion; it was very appropriate.
The town of Malverne was growing like all the other towns after the war. As a result, more and more people were moving in, and school enrollment increased steadily. In the Valley Stream school district it became necessary for the children to attend split sessions – morning and afternoon. Our children went in the morning, but like the rest, were subjected to afternoon sessions as well, according to their scheduled assignments by the administration.
In the District 13 elementary school where our children attended, the enrollment was 1,400 in kindergarten through sixth grade. Besides the crowded conditions, Dad and I objected to the split sessions. Morning classes meant getting the kids on the bus very early, and the afternoon sessions brought them home almost at dusk. This was not acceptable to us, since our children had to walk to and from the bus stop. Daylight hours dwindled as winter approached.
All of this led Dad and I to begin to make plans to make a move from Malverne, particularly while the children were young enough to make the necessary adjustments. We were especially interested in California. Our plan was not to sell our home, but to rent it. This would give us a place to return to, should plans go awry.
Meanwhile, I did my homework for three months, getting information on tile work opportunities for Dad, and rental costs for housing. We were very interested in the areas of San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, all in southern California, and all considered as prime real estate to this day.
I subscribed to the local newspapers in that area. The information from the papers was very encouraging. Prices of homes and rentals were very attractive and affordable. The real estate boom with its inflated prices had not yet hit California. Anybody who had money to invest at this time could find many lucrative opportunities. As for tile work, it was very much in demand in the construction of homes and buildings there. Many homes were designed in Spanish architecture, in which tile was a notable feature both inside and out.
Dad and I lined up a tenant for our house, a nurse who was very interested. We did not go into details of a lease yet; it was still a bit too soon. The obstacle we had yet to face was to convince Grandpa of the wisdom of the move. Months before we had privately informed Josie of our plans, and asked her to tactfully break the news to him. She was very much in favor of our plan, but in her wisdom, she never gave him the news. She was certain that he would vehemently oppose the idea, and would be very upset with the thought of our leaving.
The result was that even Dad could not muster the courage to tell his father of our carefully laid plans. And so, of course, the only one remaining to carry out the difficult task was myself!
At the opportune time, in the presence of Dad, I carefully laid out our plan, and informed Grandpa of our intentions. His face became absolutely livid, as he stood motionless. When he recovered from the shock of the news, he gave us many reasons why, in his judgement, this move would be a disaster. His main objection was that crossing the country would be very difficult for the children to cope with. I think he had thoughts of us traveling in a covered wagon, like in the gold rush of 1848!
Our reasoning and attempts to diminish his concerns fell on deaf ears. As he was getting ready to leave, he gave us an ultimatum that, to this day, we laugh about. He informed us that if we attempted to go ahead with our move, he would immediately see an attorney and get an injunction against us, citing as the reason “cruelty to my grandchildren”! He then left, and Dad and I laughed at the desperation that Grandpa had developed into a serious legal case. We were upset to see him reacting so badly, but were certainly not worried about his legal threat!
Nevertheless, that evening, after much discussion, we decided to cancel our plans to move. We were both very disappointed of course, but I was very concerned that if we acted against Grandpa’s wishes, he might suffer a stroke from the stress and worry, and I did not want to be the one guilty of bringing that on. Once again, one of the rules I learned as a child was brought into play here; namely, always respect your elders, and never contradict them.
Needless to say, Josie felt badly for us; she knew how much we had counted on going through with our plans. But her hands were tied, knowing Grandpa’s ways as she did. He truly was generous and loving in so many ways, but he was also possessive of those whom he loved dearly – and we were among those he dearly loved.
Dad and I and the children, along with Josie and Grandpa, had visited Freddie and Mary in Shawnee, Pennsylvania several times, spending several days each time we were there. We were impressed with the beauty of the Pocono Mountains, and the expanse of green space. The children had a great time running around freely outside with no limits or barriers, and enjoying the Delaware River which ran along Freddie’s property, about 100 feet from his house.
Observing the favorable reactions of our children after spending visits in Shawnee from time to time, Dad and I once again began to consider plans to make the move from Malverne. But this time the destination we had in mind was Shawnee. The distance between Malverne and Shawnee was not too far, and by car it only took 2 ½ to 3 hours depending on traffic.
As we began to have serious thoughts to make this move, we discussed the idea with Josie and Grandpa. Both were very much in favor of the plan, which was very encouraging for us. Dad and I decided to contact his brother Freddie to ask him if he and Mary would be able to rent us the “chicken coop”, as we called the big barn that Freddie had built. It had been emptied of chickens and eggs, and was now converted into two lovely modern apartments, one on each floor. They were happy to hear of our intentions to move, and reserved the lower floor for us, at $80 per month. The upper apartment was rented to the postmaster of Shawnee and his family.
Freddie also assured Dad that a big tile job that had been awarded to him would be coming up. The job was at the new General Hospital (now Pocono Hospital) in East Stroudsburg. Work was scheduled to begin in the spring of 1950, and from all indications, there was a huge amount of tile to be installed. This would provide ample employment for Dad, for a while anyway, as well as for Freddie and his son Al. We planned to make our move to Shawnee sometime in 1950.
Meanwhile, after many years of bachelorhood, my brother Louie finally made plans to get married. My mother was gone now, my father was in a nursing home, and Louie was living alone in our big house in Lakeview. He planned to sell the house, which had been in his name for many years. (He was the one who financed it, and paid for all necessary repairs.) He and his fiancée, Rose, planned to then rent an apartment.
Their marriage took place in July 1949. As for selling the Lakeview home, they ran into a lot of difficulty. All of the prospective buyers seemed to be black, and were unable to get a mortgage from the various banks. But as they say, things sometimes work out for the best, as happened in this case. My brother Johnny had been looking for some time to buy a home.
Johnny was able to negotiate with Louie on the purchase price, and was successful in obtaining a mortgage. For Johnny, Marie and Johnny Mike, it was a wonderful feeling for them to be moving into their very own home, no longer as a tenant but as an owner. As for Louie and the rest of us in the family, we were overjoyed to know that our homestead was still going to be occupied by the Vecchios for a long time to come. It was truly a happy ending and a happy beginning as well.
On October 1, 1949, we were all saddened to learn that my father had died in the nursing home, having succumbed to complications from prostate problems. The last time Dad and I had visited him, he appeared to be acclimated to the routine and environment of the nursing home, and although he was a bit thinner, he had good color in his face. He enjoyed our conversation, but still exhibited the memory lapses he had suffered over the years.
With my father’s passing, it seemed as if another chapter of the Vecchio family had ended. We still latched on to the beautiful memories of the wonderful years that my mother and father provided for each of us. They would always be ours to cherish and to keep as our very own.
After the Christmas holiday of 1949 had passed, we made definite plans to leave Malverne. We were successful in finding a tenant for our house, and we also allowed Mrs. Sylvia to continue renting the upstairs apartment. Our furniture was carefully stored in the basement, eliminating the cost of storage fees. We decided to have our piano moved, along with boxes of necessary linens, clothing, etc., and hired a professional long distance mover.
Dad had purchased the piano for Rosemary, who had started taking lessons from our neighbor, Mrs. Thomson. ????lived with Mr. Thomson’s elderly mother????? Mr. and Mrs. Thomson loved having Rosemary with them, and would sometimes invite her out to lunch as their guest. They always complemented her for her well-polished behavior at the table. Such comments are always nice to hear. It is gratifying to know that parental lectures concerning good behavior are in reality very productive, and not lost in the process.
In February of 1950, we said our good-byes to Josie and Grandpa and all our friends. We packed ourselves into the car, en route to our new residence awaiting us in Shawnee-on-Delaware, as it was and still is officially called. We couldn’t help but feel the quietness of our three children sitting in the back seat.
I’m sure that many thoughts were racing through their little minds as we drove steadily along the highway. No doubt, they were already feeling their removal from the Malverne where they had grown up, and which they knew so well. Leaving their friends behind was not an easy task, nor was being introduced to a new school.
I held Paul, 16 months old at the time, on my lap in the front seat. Seat belts and children’s car seats were unheard of then. Paul was the only one in the car who was free of all doubts and anxieties.
After we were well outside of the city limits, we soon began to see the green countryside as we motored through New Jersey. This gave our children a lift, and their moods improved noticeably as we drove on. Soon we approached the Delaware Water Gap bridge. Of course their eyes lit up to see the beauty of the carved mountainside which the forces of nature had created, and the famous Indian Head, as it appeared to look down on the impressive Delaware River flowing along with steady force.
After passing Neesen’s post office and store in Minisink Hills, and the Empire Box Company, we turned onto River Road. We then passed Roy’s Tavern, the tiny Shawnee post office, Smitty’s general store, Worthington Hall (which also housed the Shawnee Fire Company), Fred Waring’s very posh Shawnee Country Club and golf course as well as his own private home. All of this was situated only three miles from Freddie and Mary’s house and parcels of land.
Still approaching Freddie’s, we passed Eagle Rock Lodge, Burnley’s house, Hialeah Park (a summer home development along the banks of the Delaware), the Davis home (later sold to the Newcombes), the Irvin Walter farm and sawmill, the Harry Kautz farm, and the beautiful old stone home which was purchased and occupied by the Robackers for the summer months. The Robackers were both teachers and lived near White Plains, NY. A stream, which was fed by an underground spring in the mountain above River Road, flowed under a small bridge and emptied itself into the river.
We then made a right turn into Freddie’s long driveway. There stood his beautiful home, which was now finished, complete with heat, electricity and water. Alongside of this impressive home was the “chicken coop” which would be home to us for the next 18 months. Dad started blowing the horn as we neared the house. By that time Freddie and Mary were already outside, to greet us and welcome us to our new state of residence – Pennsylvania.
The children lost no time in getting out of the car, ready to explore their new surroundings and play with Butch, Freddie and Mary’s dog. He was just a mutt, but well conditioned as an outside dog in all kinds of weather. He was a beautiful dog, and particularly friendly and gentle with children, ours being no exception.
After having lunch with Freddie and Mary, we all proceeded to unpack the car. At night we tried our new beds for the first time, immediately feeling the comforts of home. It had certainly been an exciting, full day, and we were already looking forward to the events and changes the future would be bringing us.
The next matter to be taken care of (of the numerous activities yet to be done) was to register our children for school at the Smithfield elementary school on River Road, about four miles away. Dad and I left the children with Mary for the short while we were gone. We entered the building and proceeded down the hall to the office of the principal, Mr. Bartholomew (who was also the band director). He greeted us warmly and before asking us any questions, offered us a piece of his birthday cake, which was in full view in the center of a table in his office.
We politely accepted his offer and were served coffee as well. While serving us, he suggested that we call him Mr. B, as did everyone else. We were very much impressed with the informality and his friendly nature. Our first question to him was, “Mr. B, how many students are registered here?” to which he quickly replied “202”! Of course we were shocked, comparing this minimal number to the 1400 students enrolled in the Valley Stream school our children had attended. And Smithfield’s enrollment included kindergarten through eighth grade, while Valley Stream’s was K through 6 only.
At that moment we informed Mr. B that Smithfield’s enrollment figure would now increase to 205, and accordingly we formally registered Rosemary (age 12), Sal (10), and Jean (8). We gave him all the necessary transfer information. We were assured that the school bus would make the stop at the top of Freddie’s driveway, and were given the times of pickup and return. As we left Mr. B’s office we thanked him for all his help and for his friendly hospitality.
We left the school feeling very encouraged and optimistic, sensing that this change would be a definite improvement for all three of our children. Classes were not crowded, and all the teachers at the school took a very personal interest in each of their students, recognizing those who had unusual talents and skills, and volunteering extra help to those who needed it.
With preparations made for school, our next task was getting to know and making friends with our neighbors and others we began to meet from time to time. Many of them were natives, having been born in the area and hardly ever leaving it.
Construction of the hospital was on schedule and soon Freddie, his son Al, Dad, and their helpers were very busy installing tile as was contracted. This gave Dad an opportunity to meet many of the local people who were also working on the project doing plumbing, electrical, and other jobs. I had the opportunity to meet many of the parents of children who were in the same classes or activities as our children.
Regardless of who we met or where we met them, Dad and I agreed that, generally speaking, they did not show us much acceptance or signs of approval concerning our arrival in the area they considered “theirs”. It is not uncommon for so-called natives to have this attitude toward newcomers whom they feel are invading their small towns and hamlets. But with patience on our part, and our showing no signs of hostility, we slowly began to gain acceptance of the local townsfolk.
Soon Dad was invited to join the Shawnee Volunteer Fire Department, and later became its president for two years. I was a member of the Fire Auxiliary, which was actively engaged in cakewalks, square dances, etc. to raise money for the fire company. Dad was also a member of the Civil Defense, and we were both active in the Smithfield PTA. We wanted to be a part of the school our children attended, to help them in their transition. They were doing very well, making new friends, as each day went by.
When the hospital job was finished, employment for Dad was terminated. Whatever tile work Freddie had was basically done by Freddie and his son Al. At that time the Poconos had not yet developed into the very busy resort area it now is. Many of the boarding house owners were not interested in making tile improvements, or any other kind of improvements for that matter. They continued to offer their guests a very simple package: clean rooms, good meals, and a large porch well-furnished with chairs and rocking chairs on which to sit and chat for relaxation. This was basically a farm community with just a few famous landmarks such as Sky Top Lodge and Buck Hill Falls, where the affluent spent their summers.
Dad and I were concerned about the lack of employment and its effects on our financial stability. Yet we desperately wanted to remain in Pennsylvania. We were pleased to see the children enjoying the countryside as we did.
So we decided to sell our home in Malverne, and were successful in finding a buyer for the price of $15,750 (with $750 going to the real estate agency as commission). We made a profit on the sale, but of course we did not net the entire amount, as the bank still held a balance on our first mortgage. Meanwhile Dad found some employment with Freddie from time to time. New resorts were beginning to be built, and the tile business was slowly improving.
We began to seriously think about building a new home for ourselves, but needed land on which to build. When we told Freddie of our desire to buy land, he offered to sell us a 16-acre tract of his property, a small part of the large parcel he had originally purchased. We agreed on a price of $1,000, which was reasonable. However, a good deal of the land, which was located across the road from Freddie and Mary, was mountainous. We were able to select a sizeable portion that was fairly level, on which to situate our home.
In the early part of 1951 we began construction of the house, according to specifications drawn by Dad. It was a 51-foot ranch home with three bedrooms, a large living room with fireplace, two tiled bathrooms, and a very large tiled kitchen. (I was always in love with large kitchens, mainly because I grew up in them.) Off the kitchen was a beautiful outside porch that was later screened and enclosed.
The house was constructed entirely of cement blocks on the outer walls, and cinder blocks on the inside partitions. The hip roof, red in color, gave the house beautiful lines. The sides were covered in gray wood shingles, and the front of the house was faced with stone taken from the side of the mountain and painstakingly installed, one by one, by Grandpa. He was our expert, and a truly gifted one at that. In a short while he constructed many beautiful stone creations on our property: a lighthouse, two outdoor fireplaces, several stone-and-tile tables, birdbaths, and a fountain. Everyone who saw his work was impressed.
In later years we would attach a two-car garage next to the kitchen. The grounds were surrounded with lots of white dogwood, oak and cedar trees. But our pride and joy was a very old apple tree that faced our front porch, bearing small green fruit. The apples were great for applesauce, but the rustic country scene it provided was priceless to us. You can imagine our sadness when, years later, it died. We had to have it cut down and removed. It almost seemed like we had lost a member of the family. It was sorely missed.
We found it necessary to apply for a mortgage in order to complete our house. Getting a mortgage from the local banks was no easy task, as they catered mostly to the resort owners. After being turned down by two banks, we obtained a mortgage from the Equitable Life Assurance Society to finish the construction.
By August 1951 we had moved into our new home, using the furniture that had been stored in the basement of our former home in Malverne. What a great feeling it was to enjoy home ownership in the country! Of course there were still lots of things we needed, including carpet for the living room and the installation of built-in furniture that Dad had designed for all three bedrooms and the hall. But we managed to postpone doing all of this until such time when we were financially able.
Some years later, my brother Frank was experiencing serious marital problems with his wife Helen. He asked Dad and me if he could come and live with us. As I have said, Frank and Dad always had a close relationship. I think part of it had to do with the very large role Frank had played in engineering the romance between Dad and me!
Without hesitation we responded in the affirmative, and Frank moved in. He was warmly welcomed and was now a member of our family. He was the same lovable Frank we always knew – full of good humor and so easy to get along with. The children loved him, and there was a special rapport between him and Paul. All of this helped Frank to forget his problems.
Frank was desperately in need of a job, and Dad was able to find him one with Tucker Chevrolet in Stroudsburg, as a mechanic Henry Tucker, the owner, whom Dad knew very well, was looking for a qualified mechanic. He gladly hired Frank and learned right away that he had a wide knowledge of automobile mechanics. Frank was required to supply his own tools, which he did not have, so we provided them for him. In addition he had no car or other means of transportation, so I drove him to and from work each day, a 16-mile round trip. We were happy to help him in any way we could. Dinners were prepared and served on time, and Frank enjoyed the relaxation afterward, sitting in the living room with the family. He truly felt very much at home, and we were happy to have made it possible.
The employment that Freddie was able to offer Dad was minimal, and seemed to diminish even more as time passed. This caused Dad a great deal of worry, as the expenses of maintaining our home, car and family were quite high. Dad’s other brothers, who worked independently, had a great deal of tile installations that were contracted for and yet to be done. Each of them offered Dad a job and agreed to pay him well, if he would consider going to Long Island where the work was located.
Dad and I discussed the matter at great length. After much thought, we agreed that Dad should accept their offer, stay at my brother Johnny’s house (he and Marie were only too happy to help), and from there go to the various tile jobs wherever they might be located. He began his new mission of employment and commuted back and forth to Long Island faithfully for two years.
It was a big sacrifice for both of us. He would leave early each Monday at 4 AM and return on Friday or Saturday evening, depending on how busy the work assignments were. Of course he missed being home with all of us, but he realized his responsibilities for our support came first. As for the children and me, we too missed having him at home. Nevertheless, I did not shirk from taking on the role of a Mom as well as a Dad, just as I had done before when Dad was in the service.
I encouraged the children to continue with their various activities at school and with friends, as they had been doing. Accordingly, as the need arose, I chauffeured them to their designated destinations, day or night, regardless of the distance involved. Fortunately God was watching over me, as I never experienced a flat tire along the various routes, which sometimes included lonely stretches in the middle of nowhere.
Shortly after we moved to Pennsylvania, Josie and Grandpa sold their home on Chestnut Street in Malverne and built another beautiful home on Willow Street in West Hempstead. After a short stay there, we were not the least bit surprised to learn that they wanted to sell that house as well. It was sold more quickly than they expected. Listening to them, it was obvious that they were missing the closeness we had enjoyed living next to each other as we once did, but most of all, I think they missed our children – their grandchildren.
They strongly indicated that they would like to locate near us, whereupon Dad and I offered to give them a parcel of our land next to our house. They gladly accepted. We proceeded to arrange with our lawyer to prepare the necessary deed of conveyance. Very soon, Josie and Grandpa’s house was built, with help from Dad and his brothers. It was a very nice floor plan, consisting of five rooms, a bath and a porch on the upper level, and a garage and laundry room, with full size windows and plenty of light, on the ground level. It was lovely, modest in size, and fairly easy to maintain. But what Josie and Grandpa liked best about the whole arrangement was that they were next door to us once again, and close to their grandchildren. We too were as happy as they were.
When I informed Dad, on one of his weekend visits from Long Island, that I was pregnant, his response reflected much happiness as always, but he was worried. We both questioned whether the commute to Long Island should continue with a new baby on the way. After much discussion we agreed that he would continue to work in Long Island for just a few months longer, and would be back home permanently several months before the baby was due in January. This pleased all of us a great deal. In the meantime, the fact that Josie and Grandpa were near us once again gave Dad much relief from worry, knowing that I was not alone should any emergency arise while he was away.
But our big concern was how Dad would find employment in the Stroudsburg area after he returned. After much prodding from his brothers and with much thought and consideration, Dad made the decision to go into the tile business independently, and to operate from our home. Of course Freddie was not too happy with this idea, but his other brothers encouraged him to ignore Freddie’s objections. Their anonymous advice was, “You have a wife and four children and another one on the way to support. What better way is there to do so than by operating your own business as we’ve been doing? So, just do it. No apologies are necessary.” Josie and Grandpa agreed.
With all this support and encouragement, as well as a used truck that Dad’s brother Frank bought for him to carry tile and materials, Dad officially began his own tile business. We were all excited. In a short time, by word of mouth, tile jobs began to come through. Customers were very satisfied and highly recommended Dad to others who wanted tile installed.
This was most encouraging to both of us. To help in some way, I took on the clerical and bookkeeping work, to eliminate the cost of paying somebody to do it. I phoned in tile orders, took messages, typed letters, estimates and contracts, and filed all records to keep things in order. All in all, Dad and I were truly partners in more ways than one. We could see we were making progress, our business was growing, and we were feeling good!
On January 21, 1954 Peter was born in the middle of a very cold winter. The day before he arrived, we had a very heavy snowfall, but were fortunate to have our neighbor, Herb Theune, plow our long driveway. He realized we were very anxious about having a clear driveway at all times in order to quickly get to the hospital in time for the baby’s arrival. He refused payment from us, and told us that his services were a gift to the new baby. Good neighbors are priceless, and we always appreciated the good neighbors we were fortunate to have in Shawnee.
The children enjoyed their new baby brother, as did we all. Of course Josie and Grandpa doted on our new addition, as grandparents usually do. Meanwhile, our house was always filled with a wide variety of friends and family who were eager to visit us at our home “in the country” and to see our new baby. The Pappalardos and the Vecchios always enjoyed their visits with us, sometimes for weeks at a time, including our wonderful get-togethers for the Thanksgiving holiday. They were impressed with the privacy, the quiet and the green beauty of our valley. It was the perfect place for them to get away from the noise and congestion of the city. They were always welcomed when they came to see us; we were always happy to have them.
Dad began to get more and more work now, doing the big resorts such as Mount Airy Lodge, Paradise Stream Resort Hotel, Penn Hills Lodge, and many others. He often took our son Sal with him on the job on Saturdays or during vacation time. He wanted to interest him in learning the art of setting tile, as Dad had learned it from his father. Sal was very receptive, and learned the tricks of the trade over the years. It was a wonderful father-son experience for both of them. Fortunately, Sal learned the trade well enough to use it as a second income over the years to supplement his teaching salary.
Dad was invited, and joined the Monroe County Master Builders, an association of well-known builders and subcontractors. This was a wonderful opportunity to expand his business contacts, and led to many lucrative tile jobs. Many times Dad would get extra help from his nephews and brothers from Long Island, in order to have all jobs completed on time. He compensated them well, just as they had done for him years before when he worked for them.
Of course I made sure that there was good food waiting for them upon their return from the job to our house, for as long as they stayed. They thoroughly enjoyed the job location “in the country”, and Dad likewise was pleased that the work was completed with the Pappalardo touch of quality, and on time as well. It is no wonder that Dad’s reputation among his business associates and customers was well known, and that he earned a high degree of respect. Hearing the many complements about his work was always wonderful, and made us feel especially proud.
By 1956 Rosemary was ready to graduate from high school. She applied and was accepted to Douglas College in New Jersey. It was around this time that Grandpa began to show signs of failing health – weight loss, poor appetite, etc. We had him see a doctor who prescribed medication, a change of diet, and plenty of rest. Despite the doctor’s orders, he refused to slow down and continued to work outdoors, doing all the things he enjoyed. Meanwhile, we helplessly watched him going down hill as each day passed.
The year 1957 seemed a combination of tragedy and joy. To begin with, Rosemary quit Douglas after her first semester. She was already dating Frank Piazza, and they were seriously planning marriage. For us, it was a blow to see her giving up school and the wonderful opportunities that a college degree would have afforded her. But we began to adjust ourselves to the reality that our firstborn would be leaving us in the foreseeable future to start a life of her own.
In May, Grandpa had to undergo emergency surgery for cancer, which was diagnosed as terminal. He was discharged and sent home to convalesce. After seeing his wan, tired face we knew it was just a matter of time.
Despite Grandpa’s grave illness, Rosemary and Frank’s wedding took place in July. Because of the gravity of Grandpa’s condition, we had arranged a small reception for the immediate families only. It was held at the Rhodes’ Inn on Route 611 in Stroudsburg. Under the circumstances it was the best we could offer to do. Before leaving for their honeymoon, Rosemary and Frank went to visit Grandpa and Josie at home, as they had been unable to attend the wedding. Josie and Grandpa had provided Rosemary with her wedding dress, and she wanted them to see her in it. She looked beautiful.
On Labor Day, Grandpa died peacefully at home. He was almost 80 years old, but his energy and interest in so many things defied his age. It was a blow to all of us, especially Josie. But fortunately, she would never be left alone, as we were next door and ready to answer her every need. She knew she could count on us.
On October 22, 1957 we were blessed with another son, Frank. His birth helped to bring joy to all of us, after the loss of Grandpa. It helped to cheer Josie in so many ways; her interest in the new baby helped remove her loneliness. Dad’s brother Frank and Josie were both honored when we asked them to be Frank’s godparents. Of course Josie was especially pleased, as now she had a godson to think about. She felt that she was needed, which was wonderful for everyone concerned. Frank was blessed with wonderful godparents who showered him with TLC all the way.
To finish 1957 on a high note, Denis Ann Piazza was born in November, making Dad and I grandparents for the first time, and making aunt and uncles of our children, including Baby Frank! God called Grandpa to his heavenly home, but sent us two precious lives in replacement. How lucky we were. We were indeed grateful for our blessings.
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.
As time passed, it was evident that Dad’s health was slowly failing. His work was far too strenuous for his damaged heart, but with the needs of his family in mind, he felt he could not stop working. Dr. Shafer often suggested to Dad that he give up tile work entirely. His quote was, “If you don’t stop working now, you’ll drop dead holding a box of tile in your hands.” But these words of advice fell on deaf ears. Work went on as usual.
Meanwhile, Paul was getting ready to graduate from high school, and was not quite sure yet what he wanted to do. In school he had enjoyed wrestling, and excelled in drawing and painting. With the encouragement of Dad and me and his close friends, he entered an oil painting in the local art competition. He won second prize! This was the beginning of what we considered a whole new and exciting field for him. He definitely had the talent to pursue it further.
After graduation, he enlisted in the navy during the Vietnam conflict. While in the navy, Paul was never inclined to write, so we were informed on his activities and whereabouts only when he would come home on leave. We learned that his ship was stationed in the waters of South America. I’m sure that he gained a lot from his experiences on board ship, and from the men with whom he served.
He did not serve for very long, and on his discharge began to make plans to attend ESU. He did not start immediately, but eventually was admitted there. Before starting classes at the college, he participated in the paraprofessional program there, working with Head Start children. He loved working with the kids, and they loved him and his gentle manner. He eventually completed three years of college, and for some reason never returned to finish his senior year.
Jean and John Jr. were doing very nicely staying with us, and still communicating by letter with John Sr., who was still in Rochester with his mother. After some time, Jean and John agreed to get together once more. Jean found a small apartment for the three of them in Delaware Water Gap. They hoped that this new beginning would improve their marriage. Although Dad would have preferred for Jean and our grandson to continue stating with us, we realized that it was worth a try for them to start back on their own again. Things went fairly well, and we were fortunate to see them quite often, since Delaware Water Gap was very close to us.
Meanwhile Rosemary’s situation did not improve much. She continued to experience threats of eviction, with little money to pay bills or buy food. Dad and I continued to help both of our daughters in their times of crisis, doing whatever we could for them and our grandchildren as the need arose.
In spite of all these concerns and anxieties, I was finally successful in becoming a full-fledged senior at ESU, which meant I was now ready to begin my student teaching. Since I had already been enrolled in the paraprofessional program there, I was required to teach for an entire year, not just the usual semester. My assignment was fourth grade in the lab school on campus. It was an exciting experience for me to be working with the children in the classroom, and I gained so much by doing so.
I had just barely begun my assignment when suddenly, on my birthday, September 19,1970, Dad suffered a heart attack which was further aggravated by emphysema. I immediately telephoned Dr. Shafer, who directed me to get Dad to the hospital emergency room right away. I phoned Sal and Joanne and asked them to come and take Dad to the hospital. Ironically, they were just getting ready to come to our house with a special birthday cake for me! God must have sent them a message. They must have flown, as it seemed they were with us in half the time it would ordinarily take to travel the ten miles. The birthday celebration had to be postponed, of course.
Sal and I brought Dad to the emergency room in our car, and Joanne returned home with the children in their car. This marked the first of nine heart attacks that Dad would eventually suffer over the next five years.
We were all in shock, though not surprised, at what had just happened. There was no doubt that Dad had aggravated his poor health over the years with his hard work and his excessive smoking. The lime dust that he inhaled daily on tile jobs did not contribute to healthy lungs, either. We anxiously waited while the doctor and staff of the coronary care unit worked him on. After a while we were told that he would remain in intensive care for a time, then to the recovery room where he would continue to be monitored, and finally to a private room. While in intensive care, he could have visits only by family, three times a day, with a ten-minute time limit.
We had requested a private room for Dad. He was always opposed to sharing a room with another sick person, as he could not tolerate hearing moans and groans next to his bedside. Our health insurance policy covered semi-private accommodations only, but we wanted him to enjoy the comfort and privacy he justly deserved, and we were more than willing to pay the difference in price. The private quarters worked out well for us, since we were not restricted as to visiting hours. The children and I could go in and out of his room whenever and as often as we wished. Our visits were a big boost to Dad, and he looked forward to our coming each day and night.
With the wonderful cooperation and understanding of my co-op teacher, Dave Cliff, I was allowed to spend my entire lunch hour, plus extra time if necessary, with Dad at the hospital. Each day, I would order lunch for myself from the cafeteria downstairs. We dined together privately, not by candlelight in a secluded romantic spot, but together nonetheless. The pleasure of our being together was written all over his face. It was heartwarming and encouraging to me. Needless to say, the path to his bed was well marked by all our children, from Rosemary down to our youngest.
The situation concerning the condemnation of our house and land for the Tocks Island Dam was devastating. Early on, the government had hired the Doral Construction Company to blast and test part of the land to be used for the dam. The objective was to determine the geological makeup of the land, and its ability to withstand the water pressure that its natural perimeters would have to sustain. Unfortunately the shock waves from the charges detonated from time to time hit our home with much force, not once but many times. Each time a blast went off, our windows shook and rattled.
Dad and I contacted the Army Corps of Engineers to report the damage that had been done, and was still happening. Soon we began to notice wide cracks in our basement wall through which we could see daylight. Our floors sank away from the baseboard molding, cracks appeared in the plaster walls of each room, and the tile floor in the main bathroom contained many cracks. We were very upset to see our home falling apart in front of our very eyes.
The Army Engineers replied that they would refer the matter to Doral for further review. After a long two-week wait, two Doral representatives finally arrived to inspect the house. We observed that both men were astonished to see the extent of the damages, but were cautiously mum about making any statements concerning liability. They offered no promise or hope of compensation. After waiting two more weeks with no response from the Engineers or Doral, Dad hired a lawyer to sue for the damages.
Prior to this, Dad had been advised to have our house appraised, so that we would be better informed when the time arrived to negotiate a sale. The appraisal value in 1971 was $51,000.
Our case finally came up in the courthouse in Stroudsburg. We were ecstatic to hear that we had won the case, but our joy was soon shattered when we learned that Doral had filed for bankruptcy and was unable to pay. We were devastated; not only were we denied compensation to which we were entitled, but we had to pay the lawyer fees as well.
Meanwhile, while negotiations continued with many of the property owners in the valley, the area was being inundated with squatters. They took over and lived in the many condemned houses, as soon as they became vacated. The squatters were a breed to themselves, with an identity all their own. They were unkempt in their attire and sustained themselves on welfare checks, food stamps and drugs. Some were known to carry guns, and all of them were antisocial and definitely anti-establishment. The grounds of the houses they occupied were littered with broken-down cars and piles of junk. The injustice was that they were living in these houses rent-free. They blatantly defaced the beautiful land that they illegally occupied, and showed no remorse for any of their actions.
Months after our court case was over, the appraiser for the government came to negotiate a price. We hoped that the price would be high enough so that we would be able to build another house for ourselves. I remember that day vividly. Dad and I greeted the appraiser warmly. He came well equipped with the usual paraphernalia briefcase, papers, printed requisites, etc. We exchanged friendly talk in preparation for the negotiations. When we were offered $23,500 I thought Dad would collapse on the spot. His face stiffened in anger, and yet he was in complete control. He told the appraiser in no uncertain terms that this was absolutely unacceptable, that we were being treated shabbily and unfairly, and that we would accept this price only under protest.
The appraiser felt very uneasy, yet he agreed that we had every right to contest the price. He hurriedly said goodbye and was gone.
The irony of all this is that the government appraised our home as damaged property. Yet, we were never compensated for those damages, which had been caused by work ordered by them in the first place. It was a Catch 22 situation. This whole affair understandably caused Dad a great deal of anguish and heartache. After all, he had put so much of himself into the construction of our home. Not only did we have to leave, we were being given a shabby amount of money for it. Of course no price, no matter how high, could ever justly compensate us for the labor of love that made it the home it was to all of us.
With little choice, we settled with the U.S. Government on their offered price of $23,000, under the condition of protest and further arbitration. Sadly, by the time our first mortgage was satisfied, there was a meager sum of $11,000 remaining to us hardly enough to purchase another home, at least right away.
By this time, Dad was forced to retire from tile work because of his health. Even though he was only 61 years old, he became eligible for total disability benefits under the Social Security program. Fortunately Aunt Martha encouraged Dad to develop and supervise the trailer park on Route 447. She had always relied on Dads good business judgement and experience. This would give Dad something to do that would not be too strenuous. Also he would have little time to worry about his health.
Martha also invited Dad and me and Josie to become partners with her in this venture. We gladly accepted, and accordingly contributed our share of money to help pay for the many things that had to be completed for approval by the Environmental department and the East Stroudsburg Zoning Board. The requisites included a septic system, a safe water system, electric service, paved or graveled roadways, etc.
Josie planned and eventually did move her house to a lovely spot of ground that she had selected. As for us, we made plans to buy a new furnished mobile home and after doing so, placed it on a designated lot as shown in the developed park plan, alongside the others.
But before dealing with the plans to move, Dad’s thoughts were focused on my graduation from college which was scheduled to take place in early May. Prior to my graduation, I had an interview and was accepted for a fourth grade teaching position in Hope, New Jersey. However, I refused the position, as Dad had suffered the same problems of heart and emphysema requiring another emergency admission, this time in late March. In my mind, I could not comfortably entertain the thought of being in a classroom, miles away from him, and always worrying that he would be alone should he suffer another attack. Of course, Dad was deeply disappointed learning of my decision, as he realized how long and hard I had worked for such on opportunity. However, I appeased him and assured him that whenever possible, I would substitute, which made him feel a bit better. As it turned out I did substitute for two and a half years before finally getting my permanent position a few years later.
Graduation day for me had finally arrived! Our entire family was on hand to witness the big event. How proud they all were to see Mom getting a diploma after a 37 year interval since high school graduation. It became necessary for Dad to beg for more invitations as the number of Pappalardos in attendance exceeded the amount of tickets each graduate was allotted. It was a beautiful and memorable occasion, and as my name was called and I was handed my diploma, I could not believe that this was actually happening to me.
Due to Dad’s poor health, we were not able to vacate our premises in Shawnee in May as we were required to do. The Army Corps of Engineers gives property owners a time limit of one year to move and strictly enforces it. With a doctor’s certificate for a valid postponement to move, we extended our stay another two months, but we were required to pay rent for those two months of our extended stay!!!. How ironic–our having now to pay rent for a house that was once ours for over 21 years, in contrast to the squatters who were living in homes they did not own, rent free, for two years and more, with no demands made on them to pay a dime.
By July, our move had been completed. Josie seemed to be quite satisfied with her move, as she was still in her same house, except in a different location. But poor Dad looked drained and dejected with the change that was forced upon us. I can vividly remember his comments as we walked into our trailer for the first time after our move. He looked around taking note of the abbreviated floor plan, and no doubt was mentally comparing it with our 51 foot ranch home we had just vacated. Still standing and still looking, he quietly said, “So now we’ve been reduced to a shoe box.” I shall never forget those words. They were coming from a man who had labored long and hard and now, somehow all that he had labored for was taken from him. His words said it all.
But thanks to God and our six children, in a very short time a beautiful, large attached and enclosed porch with heat was built and added to the side of our trailer. This new addition was a big improvement both cosmetically and spaciously and as weak as Dad was feeling at the time, he proudly supervised the entire project, and with much pleasure and gratitude, watched our six children carrying out his orders as they were busy building this new addition for us, but for Dad mostly.
After its completion, the porch was well used by all of us. Part of it became our son Frank’s bedroom, and for the most part we sat and ate there, including our annual Thanksgiving dinners with Johnny and Marie. Dad, too, seemed to be on the porch most of the time, sitting in his birthday rocking chair, and watching the beautiful birds that were always nesting in the many trees near the trailer. He always had the bird book on hand to identify the rare birds that appeared from time to time.
Despite the positive adjustments that we all made while living in the trailer, Dad with his tendencies toward dry humor, identified our new home with glued lettering pasted on the front of our trailer with the words “Half a House”. It was definitely an expression of his inner emotions and feelings subtly masked with his touch of humor.
While living in our trailer, Peter was attending Juniata College, having graduated from high school in 1971. Paul was at ESU, and Frank was attending Notre Dame High School. When they were all home at the same time, together with their friends, it seemed like the walls were bulging at the seams, but it was good having them all together regardless.
Josie continued to have suppers with us as she had done in Shawnee. She continued to feel content being near us and enjoying the liveliness and activities of our children. I did a good amount of substituting in the East Stroudsburg School District and sometimes in the nearby Blairstown School District in New Jersey, which gratified Dad very much. It made him feel that the diploma I had earned was beginning to pay me back.
We continued to have a good share of company, although not too many at one time, due to lack of space to sleep. We did have a pull out sofa bed in our living room.
Dad kept fairly busy supervising the needs of the tenants in the trailer park which he seemed to enjoy. This worked out well as his responsibilities did not require any physical demands on his part; it was strictly supervisory. He felt good about being active, for as long as his health would allow.
As time went on, Dad continued to suffer the same heart problems requiring the usual emergency care and hospital confinement. During our stay in the trailer, he had four such sessions, all of which weakened him more and more as time went on. It increased the need for all of us to be with him at all times.
Somewhere during this time frame, we had learned from Jean that she and John had separated for good. Apparently, tensions and differences had escalated. She telephoned us from the west coast where she and our grandson John had joined the Krishna group there. She also assured us that they were both okay and we should not worry.
It is my strong belief that Jean no longer wanted us to be around the turmoil that she and John had been experiencing, and that making this move would eliminate our being exposed to these problems. She realized, too, that Dad’s health was very fragile, and he was not physically able to cope with these upsetting situations. Of course, Dad and I were apprehensive about the new setting Jean had just become involved with, but we were relieved to know that she and our grandson were safe and warm. We reassured her, as always, that our home was always open to both her and our grandson should things not work out for them.
With Dad’s heath deteriorating steadily, we followed Freddie’s suggestion to try Florida in the hopes that such a move would improve his health. We rented a very nice 2 bedroom apartment, furnished, in Dunedin. It was located close to Clearwater where Freddie and Mary lived. My sister Rose lived in Holiday, about 15 miles from us. Josie and Frank accompanied us, and we arranged to have Frank attend high school in Dunedin while there. We adjusted to Florida fairly well, except for the high heat and humidity at certain times. Freddie and Mary visited us quite often, and we likewise would visit there as well. My sister Rose and husband Tony, did not come as often, as the distance and heavy traffic discouraged them from driving.
While still in Dunedin, Dad was admitted to Mease Hospital twice more for emergency care and the usual ten day hospital confinement. By this time, we were beginning to feel the need to go back home and to be near Dad’s doctors, and most of all, to be near our family. We returned home by mid-June.
Upon our arrival home, we were swamped with lots of visits from both the Vecchios and the Pappalardos. In a sense, I think everybody realized that Dad was living on borrowed time and all of them wanted the opportunity to see him as much and as often as possible before the end came.
The last five years of Dad’s life were spent in and out of the hospital, with a total of nine emergency heart spells. Each time he was discharged, he always bounced back and was strengthened by the expert medical care he received from his qualified doctors, but most of all by the attention and encouragement and care he always received from all of us.
The ninth and final emergency heart spell happened in early November. On November 12, 1974, around 2 AM, Dad left us. Sal John was with him to the end. The doctor had sent Paul and me home around 12:30, as he could see we were very tired and in need of rest.
Dad’s death left us all in shock, even though we were well aware of the seriousness of his condition and had prepared ourselves in a way for the inevitable for some time now. Concerning his funeral, I felt I was not emotionally able to deal with the large number of friends Dad and I both had who would be appearing at the viewing to pay their last respects. I felt that it would be more than I could handle. The tensions of Dad’s illness right up to the end left me exhausted. After discussions with the family, I decided there would be no viewing except for family members. It worked out well for everybody concerned. After the mass and burial, we all met at Sal and Joanne’s where refreshments were served to everybody in attendance. Death is always tragic, but having your family at your side provides the comfort we all need at such a time.
I knew that as a widow, and a mother and a grandmother, I had to be strong, with the hopes that I could give strength and support to all of my loved ones. I did not want to worry them or burden them in any way. We were all trying our best to deal with the grief we were experiencing.
I was particularly concerned about Frank, who had just turned 17 and who was now a senior in high school. He had already been awarded a four year scholarship to Temple University, beginning with the 1975 school term. With such a wonderful opportunity ahead of him, I did not want him to postpone or cancel his plans. With the same thoughts in mind, I did not want Peter to interrupt his education either. He was still attending Juniata and had plans to obtain his master’s degree at Duke University. Paul at this particular time was working at the Pocono Hospital as an aide.
With much thought and deliberation concerning this situation, I decided I would arrange to have a dinner at the restaurant which Dad and I were fond of – the Beaver House in Stroudsburg. Whenever Dad and I were able to get an evening alone together, this is where we would go, to enjoy succulent lobster dinners. This dinner would be for our six children, their spouses and/or escorts, since our three youngest were still unmarried. My objective was to give reassurance and comfort to all our family.
There were ten of us (Jean was in California), plus Josie and myself. We were seated in a private room all to ourselves, which I had arranged with the Michaels, the owners of the restaurant. Wanting to assume and to reflect confidence and responsibility at this important time in our lives, I sat at the head of the table.
After greeting and toasting one another with our drinks in hand, I announced that I had two special comments to make. “First,” I said to each of them,”I just want you all to know that I do not want you to feel sorry for me. As long as I know, in the event I do need you, that you will be as close and as available to me as you are right now, then there is no need to worry about me or to offer me sympathy”. I emphasized the message with sweeping gestures of my hands and arms, projecting friendly and warm authority over my flock!
“Secondly,” I continued, while particularly looking at Frank, and softly banging my hand on the table as though I were calling a meeting to order, “I also want you to understand that I am still at the helm, and more than able to be in charge”. To see Frank smile at that very moment gave me much pleasure, and much relief as well. I felt very reassured that my timely statements at this very important occasion made them feel that I truly was strong and very much in control, and they really had no need to worry about their mother. This very first special family dinner became a precedent and continued once a year, usually near Mother’s Day, for 14 consecutive years. It was interrupted when I went to Florida in 1988 to assist my sister and live in her house during her confinement with Alzheimer’s disease. This involved a five year period during which time she died.
After we all left to go home following our special dinner that particular evening, I knew and felt that as family, we would survive through this time of loss and grief, and that Dad would have been as proud as I was, to witness the unity and the love that we all shared that night, and still continues to the present day.
After Dad’s death, I continued to substitute and managed to handle the responsibilities of the trailer park as well as keeping a watchful eye on Josie. She was a young 85 years old, but we were always concerned as she was all alone a good part of the day as well as at night. She kept herself active managing the upkeep of her little home, and particularly enjoyed doing laundry for herself. I would pick her up to go to the stores to food shop at least once a week. She did not require very much in the line of food, as she only had to plan on breakfast and lunch. She continued to come to our house for supper as per our orders ever since Grandpa died. She looked forward to being with all of us, and yet, it was always convenient for her to have a house to run back to, if ever the noise level at our house became overbearing. We always kidded her those few times that she made an early exit, telling her that she was anti-social and she didn’t love us anymore. Of course, this always brought a smile on her face. Each night, she was always escorted to her home by one of our boys, which made her feel secure, especially during the short days of winter with its early nights of darkness. In addition, Josie continued to spend her winters in Florida, as she had been doing for years with Grandpa. Dad’s brother, Frank, always arranged to take her to Kennedy Airport for her departure, and was on hand to meet her there on her return. Frank was always very accommodating and was ready to assist Josie in any way he could. Frank and Phyllis, whom he later married, came to the Poconos very often to visit with us. They always enjoyed visiting with us and all our kids and grandchildren, and we always looked forward to their visits whenever they came.
Upon the recommendation of Rosemary McMahon (whom I knew ever since my days at the lab school while I was student teaching) I went to check on my files at the college placement office. As Rosemary explained to me, it was very important to check and make sure that papers pertaining to the student teaching were complete and in order. It is from these files that interested school administrators obtain the necessary information concerning the applicants in question. It was a great suggestion, because in looking over my file, I discovered that Ann Scrak, who was my co-op teacher the second half of the school year, had neglected to complete her report on my achievements, and recommendations, if any. When I contacted Ann, she apologized deeply for the oversight, and promised it would be completed by the next day, and it was. Both co-op teachers had given me glowing reports, and I had received an A grade from both of them. In addition, Rosemary volunteered to write up a wonderful letter of recommendation on my behalf. She had observed various things I had worked on with my students while I did my student teaching. She was particularly impressed with one unit I had prepared for my fourth graders concerning the Four Seasons. I prepared and wrote a suitable program including the music, and Rosemary’s kindergarten class were among our guests, watching the whole thing. It went over big, which made our students feel proud that their performance was successful. I knew, from my very first day of teaching, that learning can be fun, that teachers need to discipline and inspire their students with creativity and knowledge, and that students in turn will participate and respond with curiosity and interest of discussion, as they learn.
By good fortune, a vacancy for a 5th grade teacher in the Pleasant Valley school district became available. I applied, was interviewed, and was hired! (If only Dad were around to see it all happen.) I learned later on that interviews had gone on for two weeks, with interested applicants in the 20+ age group applying for the position. I was amazed that I was hired, after learning that I was the last applicant to be interviewed, and that I would be starting my teaching career at the age of 58!! As the saying goes, “It’s never too late”.
This position was a big boost for me, as our finances had been far from adequate ever since Dad was put on total disability. In addition, Dad’s hospital confinements with the added expense of private rooms plus medication each time he was admitted to the hospital added to our financial burdens.
As a widow after Dad’s death, I did not qualify to receive a widow’s pension as I was too young (57 years old). I did manage, however, to apply to the Veterans Administration for assistance for Peter and Frank. After the proper papers were filed, they were eligible to receive and did receive a monthly stipend for as long as they attended college. Regardless of the amount, it was good to count on receiving a check in the mail each month.
I began my permanent teaching career at the end of November. It was a challenge, as it is for all beginning teachers. But little by little, as time passed, the necessary adjustments were made, and soon the day’s schedule went smoothly and the children were responding very well.
I had a daily commute back and forth from the trailer park to the school in Brodheadsville which took about 25 to 30 minutes depending upon road conditions and weather. I began to feel the pinch, as I wanted to give Josie as much time as I could. In addition, there were the responsibilities of running the park, as well as managing the house, my job, our family, etc.
While all of this was going on, Martha felt that this was all too much for me, and she felt, too, that perhaps it would be wise for a real estate person to manage it for us, or else, to sell it. As per her suggestion, I arranged with Ted Kirk, Dad’s friend in real estate, to take over the management of the park (for a fee, of course). In the meantime, after discussing it with Josie, I decided to move and locate nearer to the school where I taught. We were fortunate in finding and renting a lovely split level home in Gilbert, PA, which was large enough to accommodate our three boys, as well as Josie and myself. After living in the trailer the past five years, it was wonderful to have lots of space once again. The house was only four miles away from the school were I taught. We proceeded to move in August, which was in plenty of time before the new school year was about to begin.
Events continued to happen. Ted Kirk informed us he was able to find a buyer for the trailer park, which meant that now there would be no need to have a management agent to run the park. Martha, Josie and I discussed the matter very carefully in great detail. In a week, we finally made the decision to finalize the contract of sale. The terms consisted of a very small down payment, and the balance would be held by the three of us as a first mortgage. This would provide each of us with a comfortable monthly income. Martha, being the partner with the most money invested, received the largest share, and Josie and I received equal shares but a smaller amount. All three of us were pleased with the outcome. Martha thanked me for taking care of the responsibilities of the park which had become necessary after Dad passed away. I was glad that I was able to do it, and enjoyed the experience of the challenges which came up from time to time.
With the move behind us, all of us were ready to adjust to our new home, our new surroundings, and our new neighbors as well. We were also ready and waiting for visits from all our family–the Vecchios and the Pappalardos–to spend some time with us in the beautiful surroundings of the West End as it is often referred to. They did come and took notice of our new surroundings. They commented that it resembled the Shawnee valley where we once lived but there was something missing–the Delaware River.
The years that we lived in Gilbert were very enjoyable. My teaching position afforded me the opportunity of making many new friends, and the chance to casually meet many parents of the children whom I taught. We often met at the supermarket, or perhaps in church, or at the West End Fair. Regardless of where it was, it always was refreshing to hear compliments coming from them concerning the progress they noted that their son or daughter was making in class, and also their child’s interest in wanting to come to school. A teacher is gratified to hear such comments.
While in Gilbert, Frank and Peter were away from home during their school terms. However with Frank going to Temple University in Philadelphia, this allowed him to come home on weekends once in a while. He and Michele Frey, also a student at Temple often visited us. We were happy to meet Michele and to learn later on that she and Frank would eventually marry, which pleased us very much. Paul had a new job working at Tom McAnn’s shoe store in the Stroud Mall. With his work hours and socializing on the side, we did not see too much of him. He often brought his friends (male and female) to our house before or after an evening on the town. With summer vacation and holidays, our college sons had little more time to spend at home, if and when they weren’t getting together with their friends who lived in town.
My teaching took up a great deal of my time, as I was always interested in writing and developing units of teaching, coupled with a suitable program that the students themselves took part in . When these programs were presented, sometimes the parents of the children were invited to attend, or sometimes individually selected 5th grade sections were invited. Of course, after the program was over, I provided and served refreshments to the students and invited guests. The whole venture was time-consuming, but it was very rewarding to see the successful results.
On Saturdays, I always made it a point to do things with Josie as she was basically alone during the day while we were all away. We would go for a ride, or go to Stroudsburg to do the rounds of the various department stores, most of the time just looking, not buying.
On Sundays, we attended mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Brodheadsville. It was at church that we had the pleasure of meeting Julia Varkony and Helen and Andy Chizmadia. A friendship soon developed, and since that very first meeting, we have become very close. They winter in Punta Gorda, Florida every year, and come back to Brodheadsville to spend the summer here.
Josie also made trips to Florida every year as she could never tolerate cold weather very well. After her return from Florida in early April, 1978, she complained of stomach problems, and appeared pale and a little thinner. Upon diagnosis at the doctor’s office, it was determined that she had colon cancer, which required immediate surgery. She came through quite well considering her age of 89.
From that time on, Josie seemed to go down hill health-wise. I was very concerned about her being alone while I was teaching. She was still under doctor’s care for routine observations. It was on a scheduled visit at the doctor’s office that another cancerous tumor was discovered, and so it required surgery for the second time. She had lost weight over the past year and a half, and her appetite was poor also.
As I would leave the house each morning to go to school, I would see Josie at the door, waving goodbye to me. I couldn’t help but notice the expression of loneliness on her face, but I think more than that, she was worried about the ravages of cancer which had already hit her twice. She often spoke of her mother’s death due to cancer, and she worried too that someday she would suffer the same fate.
When I would return home from school, there was Josie standing at the door, anxiously waiting for my return. Seeing her in this lonely and worried state as I saw her each day worried me. I also felt sorry for her as many things were racing through her mind. It was all of this worry and concern for Josie that led me to make the decision that I would retire at 62. It was a sad decision to have to make, inasmuch as I had been making much progress with my teaching position, and besides, I was enjoying it very much. But seeing her in her state, almost made me feel guilty , knowing that she was being tormented with her worries, and bearing it all alone.
When I told her of my intention, she immediately commented, “But you just started the job”. My reply to her was carefully phrased in order to absolve her from feeling responsible for my early retirement. I said, “Josie, you know how I’ve always had the desire to travel, as you and Pop had done together over the years. Now, with my retirement, you and I can both travel together and enjoy ourselves”. She accepted this response with a smile, and from all indications, she looked like she would be ready to go right now.
My resignation was accepted in June, 1979. There was no need to live near the school, now that I was not teaching anymore. Josie and I both discussed moving closer to town as all her doctors were in East Stroudsburg. Because of her condition, it was necessary to see her doctor on a regular basis. After having enjoyed the comforts of the house we had rented in Gilbert, we began looking around for something that would be equally as suitable as we had. We were fortunate to find exactly what we were looking for–a two-bedroom, one and a half bath townhouse in Parktowne in East Stroudsburg. We both liked the layout very much. We moved there in September, 1979.
I had promised Josie that we would travel together. We decided to go to Port Charlotte, Florida for the winter. While there, we went on several tours, namely St. Augustine, Lake Okeechobee, Key West, and also to a dinner theater at Burt Reynolds theater in Jupiter. All in all, it was a very enjoyable winter, and Josie seemed to enjoy seeing things together with me.
The next winter, we decided to rent a little bungalow that was located next door to Helen, Andy, and Julia, in Punta Gorda, which was available. Helen, Andy and Julia were happy to hear of our impending arrival. Josie and I decided we would make the trip to Florida by auto bus. This would make my car available to us while in Florida.
Josie seemed to be feeling fairly well up until the Christmas holidays. We had been invited to spend Christmas and New Year with Freddie and Mary. It was during this time that Josie developed a severe case of flu and bronchitis. She developed a deep cough as well. As soon as we returned to Punta Gorda after the holidays were over, I took her to the emergency room of the Punta Gorda hospital the next day. While the doctor was checking her lungs for possible pneumonia, they discovered a very large lump on her breast. The doctor tried to give the news to both of us as gently as he could, but it was evident that judging from his serious manner, the situation was very serious. He explained that the tumor was much too large and beyond surgery. The only alternative he could offer was radiation treatments. Needless to say, Josie and I were both shocked to hear the prognosis. She wanted a little more time before making a decision, and I could understand her feeling that way.
After we returned home, I fixed a cup of soup for her, and after that she immediately went to bed, trying to get some much-needed rest. The combination of her bronchial condition and the shock of her learning of the cancer was overpowering for her, I could tell. I knew that she would be better able to discuss her problem with me the next morning, which is what we did. I tried to reassure her that the radiation would take care of the problem, without the need to go through surgery (she had already had one breast removed many years ago) and that things would turn out OK.
We returned the next day to see her doctor. She informed the doctor that she was ready to undergo the treatments he had prescribed. The treatments were started immediately and continued each day for a total of 15 days. They were not administered on weekends, which would require a total of three weeks to fulfill the necessary amounts. She did not seem to feel any adverse effects the first three or four days, but after that her breast reddened considerably and became very tender to the touch. It was sad to witness. As each treatment continued, her discomfort escalated.
After three weeks of this torture, she was discharged from further treatment. Her doctor advised her to see the oncologist as soon as she arrived in Stroudsburg for further evaluation. My concern was how she would be able to survive her ride home on the bus after her recent ordeal. I suggested that for her comfort, it might be better for her to fly home. I would put her on the plane, and Frank would meet her at Kennedy Airport on her arrival. But she informed me that she would rather be with me. And that is what we did. We took the auto bus as we had when we left for Florida. We were both relieved to finally return home. Josie slept soundly that first night. She needed that rest, especially after what she had recently been through.
For Josie this would be the beginning of a long ordeal still ahead of her. The next step would be seeing her doctor, as well as an oncologist, for further diagnosis, as was recommended to her by her doctor in Florida.
The doctor and oncologist I had taken Josie to see concerning her serious cancer problems did not really give us much encouragement. There were no other alternatives available. The only hope remaining was to make her as comfortable as possible, while spending her remaining days of life with me and all her grandchildren.
Having acquired much experience with the details of home care while taking care of my mother during her long illness, I had no problem administering to Josie’s needs as they arose. I took every opportunity to get her out of the house with me as often as her now frail body would allow, and I made the time to arrange as many get-togethers at our house as I could. Dad’s brothers Joe, Teddy and Frank often came to see her as did my brother Johnny, together with their families. She seemed to enjoy all of it, and it kept her mind off herself, which was most helpful.
Prior to our move to Parktowne, our three boys were pretty much on their own now. Since his graduation from Temple, Frank and Michele were seriously considering marriage. Peter, likewise, had already completed his master’s degree at Duke, and was interested in finding a position while still entertaining the idea of marriage someday.
But Paul, now in his early thirties, had no inclination or desire to consider matrimony whatsoever. He seemed to enjoy the carefree life of bachelorhood and the socialization that was all a part of it. He continued to pursue almost everything that held his interest. But the shock which all of us found hard to overcome was that Paul was now suffering from diabetes, which, unfortunately, went undetected for a rather long time. It was while he was still working at the shoe store in the mall that it all surfaced. From that time on, Paul’s health deteriorated slowly but noticeably, as now his heart became seriously affected by the effects of his diabetes. Over the years he had suffered two heart attacks, which later on in time would necessitate by-pass surgery.
In the meantime, however, he was determined to enjoy anything and everything that caught his interest. He took up skiing, drove a motorcycle, at one time as far as Yellowstone National Park, backpacked through Europe with his friend Ben Tonti, flew to Munich to take in the Olympics there, attended the Olympics in Montreal as well, and followed baseball and the Mets feverishly and furiously. While engaged in all of this, he became more and more interested and involved with painting (mostly oils) and pottery as well. The painting had its beginning while Paul was still in high school, and his interest in pottery was developed while in college. It was almost unbelievable to see a very sick young man such as Paul was, to completely ignore his serious health problems, and substitute all its pain and heartache with the beauty and creativity of his art. It was inspiring to all of us, and a blessing and gift from God.
Early in 1981, the love bug succeeded in catching Paul, after all! Soon we were delighted to meet Lisa Jo Matthews who he had chosen to be his wife. Although there was a considerable span of years between them, they were extremely compatible in every way, a good beginning for someone who had been a bachelor for many years. The date was set and they were married in November of that year. By the time Paul and Lisa’s wedding was ready to take place, Josie was seriously ill and confined to a hospital bed at home with me. Because she could not navigate the stairs to get to her bedroom upstairs, I arranged to have her bed in our living room.
The wedding went on as planned, as this was Josie’s wish. I made arrangements with my neighbors, the Scibettis, to stay with Josie so that I would have the opportunity to see our son getting married. The wedding ceremony took place in the little Presbyterian church in Shawnee (on the hill) and Lisa and Paul were married by Lisa’s dad who was a minister. What a beautiful tribute of love and emotion! It was a beautiful wedding, and the reception which followed was held at the Shawnee Country Club.
After the wedding ceremony, Lisa and Paul returned to my house so that Josie could see both of them in their wedding attire. Lisa looked radiant and beautiful, and Josie seemed to be beaming with happiness, as she saw before her very eyes her grandson and his new bride.
A few days before Christmas arrived, we were delighted and happy to welcome Darice Joy into the Pappalardo family. When Lisa was discharged from the hospital with our newest grandchild, the three of them, Paul, Lisa and baby, came to our house to show Josie her latest great-grandchild. Darice can always proudly tell her friends for years to come, that she was carefully placed in all her baby finery in a guitar case when she was only a few days old. This event took place in our living room, and, of course, we have pictures to prove it, all of which proves a point, that cribs for babies are not always required or necessary. With this latest addition, our number of grandchildren had increased to thirteen, with the promise of more to come.
The month of September, 1982 will be a month, that, for us, will be long remembered as a period of time which captivated both joy and sorrow, and together with it, unparalleled anxiety and worry.
1.) Months before their actual wedding, Michele and Frank had announced their plans to get married on September 4, 1982, which happened to be our anniversary as well (September 4, 1937). We were all excited and looking forward to this happy event. Unfortunately, as the time for the wedding approached, Josie’s health worsened to the point where it was just a matter of time. Once again, as with Paul, she did not want plans for the wedding changed on her account. After all this was her godson, as well as her grandson, and she was determined that nothing should interfere with this marriage.
It is hard to describe how one copes with joy looming ahead, as well as with the devastations of death flirting with all of us at the very same moment in time. Ten days before the wedding was to take place, Josie was rushed to the hospital again. This time, it appeared certain that the end was near. I proceeded to be at her side at the hospital each day, as did our children, giving her hope and encouragement that she would be coming home in time for the wedding. Down deep we knew that physically, she would never be able to attend. But she needed hope and an incentive to live.
As the day of the wedding neared, I provided the medical staff at the hospital with an itinerary and schedule giving them the necessary information as to where we were, and how we could be reached, if necessary. Just picture, if you can the wedding ceremony ready to begin in ten minutes, as we quietly sat in the front pews designated for family, waiting for the bride to come down the aisle. Suddenly the telephone rang loud enough for all of us to hear. We swallowed hard, worriedly looked at each other, and already began to assume that the inevitable had already happened–that Josie had died. Thank God, the phone call pertained to another unrelated matter, and the wedding proceeded as planned. During those very crucial moments, we had been completely drained of all our senses, but very fortunately we recovered quickly. Now we were ready to enjoy a day of joy and merriment.
2.) On September 11, 1982, Josie quietly passed away while still in the Pocono Hospital. It was a sad time for all of us, but considering the length of her illness, and the suffering endured while we all watched, her death was really a blessing for her as well as for us. The funeral mass took place at St. Matthew’s Church here in East Stroudsburg, and she was buried next to Grandpa with whom she shared her life for 52 years. Their burial plot is in a cemetery located on the outskirts of New York City. Grandpa often bragged to Josie after he had purchased the cemetery plot, that the cemetery was conveniently located near the New York City subway lines– not that the subway would be of any use to the dead, Josie and Grandpa included.
When I look back in review, I feel much pleasure and gratitude in knowing that our relationship with both of them was filled with love, peace, and happiness. In the years that followed Grandpa’s death, Josie became even closer, living side by side. The last eight years, we lived together in complete harmony under the same roof, and enjoyed each other’s company to the fullest. Everybody we knew or met was astonished to see the compatibility that always existed between us. She would often refer to me, when speaking to others, as “my Mary”. Friends sometimes without thinking, would assume that I was her daughter. She would quickly correct them in their erroneous assumption and then say, “No, she’s my daughter-in-law, but not even a daughter would do what she does for me!!” I would suggest to her privately not to say this, to which she would quickly respond and say, “But it’s the truth. I can’t lie!” So, who was I to argue? I was always taught to respect elders and never to contradict them, and I was still practicing what I learned as a child, I guess!
3.) I had planned months in advance to have a party, which I named a “Medicare Party” in celebration of my approaching 65th birthday. It was scheduled for September 18th, a day before my actual birthday. As usual, it was another good excuse to have all the Vecchios and Pappalardos all together again, as well as our many close friends. I had made detailed plans, laced with humor, for this very special occasion. It was held at the VFW in Stroudsburg, and there were a little over 100 in attendance–a nice cozy group!! I wore a special jersey which I had made especially for me. On the front of it were the words noticeably displayed: MARY — PRESIDENT — MEDICARE CLUB. In the back was written just one word: W – H – E – E – E. The party was in itself a statement to everybody in attendance that reaching the age of 65 is not the end of the world, but really the beginning of a new and exciting chapter of life.
Too many people, as they approach the autumn years of their lives, fill themselves with needless worry and anxieties with little hope or optimism in the years still ahead of them. They can only see the doom and gloom in life. This has never been, or will it ever be my philosophy. There are just too many beautiful things around us for each of us to enjoy, and equally as important are the people with whom we interact every day of the year. Life, indeed, can be beautiful, and we, as players in it, can help to keep it that way.
As for the birthday celebration, it was a huge success. There was lots of food for everybody, with music to go with it. Peter and his buddies, The Lost Ramblers, played the whole day and evening. It was a great day, packed with lots of fun and camaraderie, but most important of all, it was another wonderful opportunity for another family get-together.
4.) On September 25th, we attended the wedding of Eddie and Barbara, Johnny and Carol’s son. It took place near Lake Ronkonkoma and was most enjoyable for all of us who attended. It gave us an opportunity to begin the healing process since Josie’s recent passing.
As you can see, September of 1982 was not exactly a quiet month of relaxation or meditation but somehow, we all managed to get through all of its 30 days.
With everybody in our house already married, Peter was the last one left to decide if and when he would take the plunge. Fortunately, Peter met Lynn Waddington, an RN, who had graduated from Duke University but was never aware that Peter was a student at the time she was attending there. Lynn worked in the emergency room at the Pocono Hospital and continues to do so today. They dated for some time, and soon it was announced that they were planning to marry in October of 1983.
Soon I met Lynn’s parents, Betty and Bud, and it was gratifying to know that Peter would soon become a part of the Waddington family, just as Lynn would be a part of ours.
On this note, I must state how fortunate our four sons have been in finding and marrying such perfect mates to be their wives. All four girls, Joanne, Lisa, Michele, and Lynn have helped to make ideal marriages for themselves, for my sons as husbands, and for all their children as well. I have found much love and compassion coming from each of them, and from all their families as well – the Murphys, the Freys, the Matthews, and the Waddingtons.
Peter and Lynn’s wedding was beautiful as was the reception that followed. With the last of our six now married, this left me much time and space to make plans for my life.
The first thing I decided to do was to leave Parktowne, as the electric bills for heat was getting to be prohibitive, since there was little or no insulation in the houses there. Fortunately, I was able to move to the Green Valley Apartments adjacent to the townhouses, and which were operated by the same owners. The cost was considerably cheaper, inasmuch as the rent included heat, hot water, cooking and washer and dryer included. The heat, hot water and cooking was all supplied by gas. I was pleased with the savings that I would realize in the move. The apartment was lovely and spacious. It consisted of 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and plenty of closet space. I finally made the move by November, and my new address was now 333 Greentree Dr., Apt. C-5, East Stroudsburg, PA. I was relieved and happy.
Now that I was completely by myself and living alone with no responsibilities whatsoever to worry about, I made plans to continue with my usual activities with all my friends, as well as to sing in the church choir.
But now, I gave serious thoughts to do some traveling as I had always dreamed of doing. With our large family, Dad’s health problems and little money, travel up until now had been out of the question. However since Josie’s death and the probate of the will had been completed, I was named as beneficiary. The inheritance consisted of a rather modest amount which would provide me with the many extras I ordinarily would not have bought.
I can still vividly remember Josie’s words of wisdom which she very often said to both Dad and I as she witnessed our constant ties of responsibility with our home and our young growing children: “Don’t worry, your day to travel will come sometime soon, and remember, that when the opportunity comes, make sure you take it and GO. (She emphasized the word go.) Never put it off for tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come.”
And so with these words of advice, I decided to travel and make as many trips as I could, before money or health, or both, ran out. And that is exactly what I did, and I was thrilled and happy to have done so. The experiences of seeing so many beautiful things, scenes, and people from distant places are hard to describe or properly equate in words. Traveling is an education in itself, and with it one gets much relaxation and pleasure. And so, thanks to the wise words of advice from Josie as well as her monetary remembrances, I made many worthwhile trips within a seven year period of time. God, indeed, had showered me with His blessings. Below are listed some of my trips.
- The National Parks in the West
- An extended visit of Europe, covering seven countries
- Montreal to see Pope John Paul
- Nova Scotia and the Thousand Islands
- Four trips to Los Angeles, California to visit with Jean.
On one of these trips, Rosemary and I went together. After meeting up with Jean, the three of us spent about ten days together covering lots of miles and many things. It was a wonderful feeling being together, just the three of us!
- Four trips to Hawaii to visit with Jean.
One trip to Honolulu, Hawaii to meet with grandson, John. This trip was combined with one of my visits with Jean and Prem, who were still living in Los Angeles. The three of us took off for San Francisco where we stayed for several days. Jean and Prem returned to L.A. and I, in turn, proceeded to fly to Honolulu from San Francisco where I was met by my grandson John. We had a wonderful week together, including taking a dinner cruise. John became very interested in the pretty Hawaiian girls who entertained us with singing and dancing in the boat.
In addition, I have made numerous trips to Florida, staying at various times with family and friends there. Florida is definitely the place to visit in the cold and snowy days of winter. I am fortunate to have so many of them living there year round in places such as Gainesville, Lake Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Holiday, Fort Myers and Islamarada as well as Punta Gorda.
On one of her trips to India sponsored by the Temple, Jean met a young man there, George Prem. Although she was much older than Prem, as we all called him, there seemed to be a special attraction between them. Prem’s family are all well educated, and he too has had schooling in treating those in need of special education. I don’t know how much time they (Jean and Prem) actually spent together while in India, but apparently both became interested in getting married. They wanted to marry here in the U.S. so that all of us in the family could be present, but the immigration authorities did not allow this. Accordingly, they married in India and them Prem was able to emigrate here as Jean’s husband.
They came directly to my house by bus from New York City. My first impression of Prem, when I met him at the bus station, was of a young man who was all smiles, white teeth and an infectious laugh, yet showing much apprehension as to his new surroundings, and worry as to the Pappalardo family he had yet to meet. We proceeded to my house where he and Jean were made comfortable occupying the master bedroom and I was in the little guest room. They were happy to be here, and Prem was looking forward to meeting all of the family. Jean already had an apartment in Los Angeles which is where they planned to live. They stayed with us for about six weeks, and then left for their home in L.A. They were now Mr. and Mrs. George Prem.
But unfortunately, like her first marriage, this, too, ended in divorce some years later. It is interesting to know, however, that despite their divorce, they seem to get along better now than they did before. Human nature becomes a bit difficult to analyze sometimes. As far as my relationship with Prem is concerned, it has always been warm and cordial. He, likewise, has always treated me with much respect, and generosity as well, and particularly enjoys my humor, which inevitably ends up with his contagious laugh in response. He calls me Mataji which translates to “Mother dearest”. Since hearing it for the first time, I have become very attached to the word and its meaning.
The beginning of 1988 developed into what could be aptly described as “the beginning of the end”. It concerned my sister Rose (11 years my senior). She had just lost her husband the year before and never had any children during their marriage. This left her completely alone in her little house in Holiday. She had no car and gave up her license years before. I managed to visit with her for a few days whenever I was in Florida. The last few visits I had with her, I noticed that she was forgetful at times, had lapses of memory, and her conversation drifted into other subject areas, without making much sense.
In early January, she phoned me, seeming to be quite upset and wanting to know the name and telephone number of the hospital our mother was in. I explained to her that Mom had died and had ben gone over 40 years. She insisted that I was wrong. I tactfully was able to get her off the subject, but before she hung up, and without any reason, she said, “OK, I’ll be waiting for you to come down tomorrow.” After that conversation and closing remark, I was very concerned and worried about her being alone and in such a confused mental state. Without hesitation, I made plans to fly down immediately so that I could stay with her for at least a few weeks. I noticed that when I arrived she appeared pale and thinner, and seemed to be unsteady on her feet. I walked to the store each day to shop and buy food, and cooked as well. She seemed to enjoy my being there, and I managed to get her to laugh with some light conversation and a few jokes. The big treat for her was our card games each evening. We played 500 Rummy. But the time soon came for me to leave, which upset her very much. Rose had a very kind neighbor, Jeanne Peters, who promised to look in on Rose whenever she could. She had a very ill husband who lived on oxygen, so her free time was limited.
After that first trip down, I flew down 3 more times because of the various trouble alerts I received from her by phone, such as her calling the cops to look for my father who was lost, or being threatened to have her electric shut off because of non-payment of bill, etc. In nine months, I had already made four round trips to Holiday. Time and money were both going out the window and Rose was not getting any better.
I had always tentatively thought of perhaps buying a little inexpensive place in Florida some day, but had no definite plans as to when. With the latest turn of events, I made a definite decision to move to Florida so that I could be with my sister. I could no longer go on with these troublesome telephone calls, nor bear the expense to fly down each time that I was alerted on the phone.
Accordingly, I moved out of my apartment and had my furniture stored here in the Scranton warehouse. I went down to Holiday in July of 1988 by car, via autotrain. I had planned to arrive at Rose’s on a Friday, but the last minute I changed the time of arrival to Thursday instead, which was the day before. The change in plans proved to be a miracle for both Rose and myself. Leaving the train terminal at Sanford (near Orlando) I arrived at Rose’s house around 2:00 pm. When I walked in, she was extremely happy to see me, but still looked pale and thin. I did not unpack my car which was loaded with luggage, boxes, etc. Instead I sat and chatted with Rose over several cups of coffee, filling her in on all the news of our family and the trip down as well.
After an hour or so, I prepared the supper for the two of us, after which we played our usual game of cards. We both went to bed at 11:30. The bed in the guest room where I slept felt very good, after riding autotrain the night before. Suddenly at 2:00 am I heard moaning, and my name being called. I was in a deep sleep and still feeling groggy, but managed to find the room where Rose was sleeping. I found her on the floor, unable to talk. She had just suffered a stroke!! The miracle was that I was there. Had I arrived on Friday as I had originally planned, she would have been on the floor unattended for 12 long hours. This was the beginning of my life in Holiday. Somehow, I knew that I would handle the difficulties that had already appeared, but I couldn’t help but wish I were a little closer to my family, whom I know, would have already been at my side, ready to give a helping hand.
According to the doctors at the hospital, and after the necessary tests were made, it was official that Rose definitely had Alzheimer’s and from here on in, her mental state would deteriorate. She would be in need of special care, and accordingly, they strongly recommended a special type of rest home where such care is given.
My life in Holiday from that very moment would be filled with hard knocks, hard work, challenges, responsibilities, decisions, as well as constant anxiety and worry concerning my sister’s depressing illness. I followed through with having Rose admitted in the rest home as was recommended. I managed to visit with her every day except Sunday. On good days I would take her for a ride, and sometimes take her out to lunch nearby. But soon this had to stop as she found it difficult to walk sometimes, and also became incontinent and uncoordinated in her eating.
While living in Rose’s house, it seemed like an avalanche had hit it. Everything began to happen at once. The roof had to be repaired not once, but twice, the septic system backed up and had to be repaired, the refrigerator and the stove both went dead about a week apart of each other in time. The interior of the house needed painting after years of neglect. My brother-in-law Tony was unable to do anything around the house after having suffered a stroke years ago. The result was that Rose complained about the condition the house was in, but Tony seemed to disagree with her completely and so it remained until I ordered it done, about 6 months after I arrived. What a difference it made. It was so bright and cheerful in comparison to the drab colors (and soil) that were on the walls.
As for finances, Roses’ money that was used toward her care at the rest home at first soon ran out. Since I had signed all papers concerning her various admissions, I personally became responsible for all her bills, which included the monthly costs of the rest home, then later the hospital, and then even later a more expensive nursing home as the rest home she was first in was no longer equipped to take care of her needs. At the very end, I took care of her funeral expenses as she only had a $500 policy, hardly enough in this day and age.
In addition to these escalating expenses which seemed endless, there were also the expenses of commuting twice a year (summers and the Christmas holidays) so that I could visit with all our family. Coming home was like getting a shot in the arm. It was a wonderful feeling being able to see all our children and grandchildren. Considering the stress and pressures I had to contend with while caring for my sister, these trips home were very therapeutic for me, but nevertheless costly. Added to all of this, I had a modest rent to pay to my friend Ann Stack, from whom I rented a small apartment which was in her home. It was my “little home away from home” but it was handy and convenient for me — only 1 mile from Peter and 2 miles from Sal. Ann and I had a great time together, and we both enjoyed each other’s company.
In short summary, my long stay in Florida allowed me to minister to my dear and loving sister, who was desperately in need of someone to care for her – and that someone was me. Her lengthy and expensive confinement, however, did create a financial monster over me, as it not only wiped me out completely, but it burdened me with high credit card balances still unpaid. It is here that my loving family, children and grandchildren, have all stepped in with a well-executed plan to assist me in this crisis. They are contributing monthly to a “relief fund” which in essence is paying for extra expenses as well as payments towards the credit card balances. This truly has been a blessing and a relief to me as well. It is no wonder that I continually brag about all of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are everything I’ve said they are – wonderful, kind, generous, intelligent, loving – and yes, even good looking!
On May 1, 1994, with the hard work, coordination, and abilities of my family to move furniture, I was fortunate to be settled once again permanently in the Poconos – and back at 333 Greentree Drive as well. This time the apartment is E-12, and a one-bedroom in contrast to the 2-bedroom one I formerly had in C-5. The one bedroom is more reasonable in cost and better suited for my budget. The conveniences are identical to the larger apartments. This development is well taken care of and very convenient as to its location — close to the bank, post office, church and stores. I couldn’t ask for anything better, and thanks to my family, I am enjoying a serene life here in my very comfortable home.
My closing statement in this journal touches the hearts of all of us — the untimely death of our Paul on August 28, 1994. We were all shocked when we learned of the news, since he seemed to have been making progress while waiting for his heart transplant. But we must all agree, that as short as his life was, he seemed to have lived it fully and well. He shared the beauty of his heart and his mind through his art and his paintings, which captured in every detail, so much of the landscape in which we, as a family, lived with and loved — our home and the Shawnee Valley.
He was fortunate, for as short a term as it was, to have had Lisa as the loving and caring wife that she always was to him, and Darice Joy, whom he dearly loved and whom he always kidded with, with a style of dry humor that was strictly his own.
It was very gratifying to hear the many heartwarming tributes that were given and said in Paul’s memory by the many friends whom he knew. The long line of people who came to the viewing to pay their last respects was impressive to witness.
Last but not least, the hard work and generosity which the Arts Council contributed towards the art exhibition in Paul’s honor, was definitely a labor of love which can never be forgotten.
We can all be proud and grateful to know that Paul, in his own quiet and gentle way, touched the lives of many people, many of whom we will probably never know.
– – Great-grandchildren
Frank Piazza, 1937
– Denis Ann, 1957 (married to Barry Stewart)
– Jean, 1958
– Mary, 1960 (married to George Tedder)
– – George W. Tedder IV, 1993
– – Salvatore F. Tedder, 1995
– Salvatore, 1964
– Danielle, 1966
– Gina Mary, 1963 (married to Nick Mistishen)
– – Emily Maria Mistishen, 1995
– Salvatore, 1964
– Susan, 1965
– Daniel, 1968
– Kathleen, 1971
– Eileen, 1973
– John, 1966
– Darice Joy, 1981
– Christopher, 1984
– Alexander, 1986
– Peter, 1988
– Aaron, 1993
– Matthew, 1986
– Mary Catherine, 1991
As the chart indicates, our family has been blessed and increased with 19 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, all of whom have added much joy to all of us. Dad and I always enjoyed each and every one of them from the time they were little, and took delight in watching them grow. We were always happy to see them at play outside whenever they visited with us. The grounds around our house were spacious, and there was always enough room to do almost anything.
It has been almost 21 years since Dad passed away, but I know if he were here with us now, he would be proud (as I am) seeing the fantastic progress and achievement his “little grandchildren” have made in their lives and careers, now that they have grown and live independently.
Our younger group of grandchildren who are presently in school seem to be following the same pattern of excellence in their grade achievements, just as their older cousins did before them. All of this makes me very proud. Positive results will be their rewards, I am sure.
And now, other thrills have been added to my life — the thrill of being a great-grandmother to 3 beautiful great-grandchildren. George W. Tedder IV, Salvatore Frank Tedder, and the very latest addition, Emily Maria Mistishen. I have had the good fortune of being with George and Baby Salvatore for several months this past winter, and I must say I enjoyed every minute. I have always been attracted to babies and young children from the time I was a youngster, and nothing in that regard has changed. While staying at Mary and George’s house, I felt very much at home, and Mary and George both treated me royally. In addition, I was spoiled some more on my visits to Denis and Barry’s as well as Jean’s with large doses of TLC.
All my grandchildren have shown me much respect, love and generosity, and I will always be deeply grateful to them for all they have done and are continuing to do.
As for my third great-grandchild, I have not seen her yet (she was born on June 20, 1995) but we will all see her July 15th as there will be a Pappalardo family reunion at our son Sal’s house and Gina and Nick plan to be there. The big thrill is Jean in coming from Hawaii and she and all of us are looking forward to this get-together. This is what families are all about.
My prayer is that all of our family will always continue with love and unity as they have always done and practiced among themselves. It has been rewarding to watch them as they interact with each other, and best of all, to listen to the humor that always seems to be a part of it. That is what makes life beautiful!
March 30, 2000
It was not my idea to add any more to the text of this book, but grandson George (Mary) strongly suggested that I make current the events that have occurred since the completion of this text. Since this is the beginning of the New Millenium, I have adhered to his wishes.
With the early marriages of Rosemary, Sal and Jean, it is easy to understand how quickly our first 12 grandchildren grew up, pursued their college careers, and successfully obtained lucrative positions. Some of them have already accepted the responsibilities of marriage and raising a family. Those of them who have not married yet are either too young, or are just not ready to make this serious commitment. I commend them for their cautious deliberations during this “waiting” process.
As was alluded to at the conclusion of “my story”, one of 1995’s big events was the birth of our third great-grandchild, Emily, on June 20, 1995. It was exciting for both Gina and Nick, as this was their first baby, and for Joanne and Sal, as well, since this was their first grandchild. Of course, I savored my very special role as Great-grandma for the third time.
We were all fortunate to be on hand to witness Emily’s debut at a family reunion at Sal and Joanne’s house which I had arranged on July 15, to coincide with Jean’s vacation time that she was allotted by her employer, Royal Insurance Co.
One of the reasons for this reunion was to continue a tradition I had started some years back since 1983. I wanted to stage a very special 45th birthday celebration of Jean, Peter and Frank, just as I had done for Rosemary, Sal and Paul. Up until now, I was not able to arrange to get Jean here in Pennsylvania as she was always so far away — California, Hawaii — and I myself, was unavailable, since I was on duty taking care of my sister, Rose, in Holiday, Florida during her terminal illness of Alzheimer’s. So, technically, Jean had already passed the age of 45, and as for Peter and Frank, they had not yet reached the age of 45. However, these factors did not present themselves as barriers to me. I decided to have a party regardless and a very special birthday cake for the three of them as well. Accordingly, and with a bit of humor (the baker had a very puzzled look on his face when I verbalized my request), I ordered the following message as a part of the cake decoration:
TO JEAN – 52 – 7 = 45
TO PETER – 41 + 4 = 45
TO FRANK – 37 + 8 = 45
All of this nonsense was a complete surprise to our three offspring and we all enjoyed watching their impressions of the whole thing. It was light-hearted fun.
It was on this special occasion that the original hand-written text of my story (consisting of four journals) was presented to Jean. I am giving this to her because she was the one who instigated the whole idea (quite innocently, I might add.) It seems that on Mother’s Day, 1995, she presented me with a beautiful journal. She said at that time, “Mom, I know you like to write. Whenever you get thoughts and ideas, just jot them down in this journal.” At that very moment, the idea was born that perhaps the reflections and recollections of my life might be interesting reading for our family. Of course, one journal would hardly be big enough to cover my life story, and so I purchased three more to complete the narration of events and information.
Thanks to granddaughter, Gina and son, Frank, the text has now been duly processed on the Internet. It is now available to all our family, so that they can duplicate and safely keep for themselves and their family members the loving memories I have expressed within these pages.
And so there it happened – on July 15, 1995 – a three-in-one celebration: 1) A brand new great-grandchild, Emily; 2) A triple birthday celebration and 3) the presentation of a book of memories of the Vecchio and Pappalardo families, to be enjoyed and shared by all our family.
After my sister’s terminal illness of Alzheimer’s and eventual death, I had to begin to make plans once again to get my belongings out of storage, and to establish my own home, so that I could enjoy once again the independence I had experienced before this whole Crisis began. Financially, I was not able to afford the luxury of Greentree Drive, since I had already expended my own personal reserve funds toward the high cost of necessary nursing care for my sister. However, with patience and time, I would eventually succeed in obtaining an apartment within my price range.
Meantime, through the generosity of paid air tickets by my “Florida Gang” – Mary and George, Jean and Rick, Denis Ann and Alan – as well as daughter Jean in Hawaii, I have traveled and continue to travel to the warm spots of Florida and Hawaii for comfortable warm periods of hibernation and rest. Up until 1996, I maintained a little furnished “studio” apartment at Ann Stack’s in E. Stroudsburg, to accommodate “my own private space” in between my visits to Florida and Hawaii. Ann’s residence was conveniently located close to Sal, Peter and Lisa, allowing me to enjoy many family events and get-togethers.
The latter part of 1995, daughter Jean informed me that grandson John fathered a little girl, Subhadra, our 4th great-grandchild, while living in California. She was born on August 22, 1995. Her mother Jennifer Novotny was not in agreement to marry John, but chose, instead to live at home with her mother and a male friend whom she has known for quite some time. Since Subhadra’s birth, Jennifer and male friend have borne one or two children. I had the opportunity of visiting Subhadra with grandson John several months shortly after her birth. It was a cordial visit, and the baby was beautiful. I have not seen her since.
Between the time of Mary and George’s wedding in August of 1987, and Gina and Nick’s wedding in October 1990, our family was informed that Denis Ann (Rosemary) was to be married to Barry Stewart in a very private ceremony. The marriage lasted for some years, but apparently there were some problems that arose, which necessitated an amicable agreement of divorce. Fortunately, there were no children involved to complicate the situation.
Since 1990, our lives have been enriched with more weddings of grandchildren and the births of great-grandchildren. Our fourth grandchild to marry was Jean (Rosemary) to Rick Horvitz in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on July __, 1996. It was a beautiful wedding performed in the tradition of the Jewish faith. The reception, which followed, was very festive and friendly with many interactions. Jean and Rick presently live in Boca Raton, and own and operate an exotic bird store. Jean is attending law school and expects to graduate on May 21, 2000. As an aside, George (Mary) also obtained his civil engineering degree while already married with two children, as well as working full-time in a local engineering office. These are examples of ideals and responsibilities, which can be achieved with perseverance. I must mention here that all our kids and grandkids have pursued very lucrative careers and have become successful in their chosen fields. We are very proud of their accomplishments.
Since Jean and Rick’s marriage, their first baby, Samantha (our seventh great-grandchild) was born on October 29, 1998. They have enjoyed parenthood, watching Sammy doing the interesting things babies do, and now, with experience behind them, they are awaiting addition number two sometime in August of this year.
On September 1, 1996, our fifth grandchild to marry was Danny (Joanne and Sal). He and Yatta (Weber) were united in marriage in Maryland, and like Jean and Rick, were married in the tradition of the Jewish faith. It was a beautiful ceremony, as well as the reception, which followed. Danny and Yatta had the good fortune of knowing each other all during their years together at Penn State. Some years later, both were in agreement to “tie the knot”. While we were enjoying the wedding, we were also very mindful of the advent of our fifth great-grandson Tony (Gina and Nick) who was scheduled to make his debut at any moment. He was conveniently born on September 8, 1996. How wonderful to have shared both of these beautiful events. But now to add more good news. We have just been informed that Danny and Yatta, who live near Columbus, Ohio, have become the proud parents of a little girl, Renna, born on February 25, 2000. Needless to say, we are overjoyed to welcome our eighth great-grandchild to our ever-growing family. Now, we are awaiting great-grandchild #9 (Jean and Rick) in August of this historic New Millenium.
On October 13, 1997, we heard the good news that Mary and George were blessed with a baby girl, Anastasia, our sixth great-grandchild. They were more than ready to welcome the new life style and demands of a little girl after having handled two active, growing boys. George and Sal are already attending parochial school, and are adjusting to it very well. Stasia is sweet, a well-adjusted 2 year old and loves to sing, which makes me happy, a music lover.
In 1997, still without a residence of my own (yet enjoying my travels and visits with my family) I was fortunate, finally, to have had the opportunity of securing a lovely 1 bedroom apartment in Bethlehem, the Christmas City. It is conveniently located near Michele, Frank and family (8/10 mile) and SS Simon-Jude R.C. Church (1/2 mile). I must express my deepest thanks to Michele and Frank for being the ones responsible in the procurement of this beautiful little “nest” on my behalf. The location is ideal – one block from the local bus, which connects to the nearby malls and stores. But the crown jewel for me is that our building is in view of the beautiful, scenic South Mountain on, which is perched, the Star of Bethlehem. It is illuminated each night until midnight, so that all can enjoy the beauty and the glow it radiates silently. In addition, the Lehigh River can be seen when the trees are bare of leaves. It seems to me that God has given me the very scenes we all enjoyed while we were living in the valley in Shawnee. To top off all of this is the minimal rent, which I pay. This is a premium opportunity given to those who are on fixed incomes, like myself. Moving day took place in late November of 1997, with a full family of helpers, as well as Frank and Michele’s good neighbor, Jimmy Villani, to assist me in the cumbersome task of moving. I am grateful to God for all He has done for me. I am truly a happy camper. Of course, I miss the proximity of being close enough to be with Sal, Peter, Lisa and families as well as friends I have known in that area for many years; however, I manage to spend time there for extended visits from time to time. By car, it is only 40 minutes away. I have been happily settled in my own little place these past 2 ½ years, and enjoy living in it in between my visits to Florida and Hawaii. It is a great feeling to find it there waiting for me whenever I return from my travels.
The sixth wedding of the “grandchildren series” was Sal (Sal and Joanne) and Tram Nguyen. Sal had been living in Hauvre de Grace, Maryland, while holding his position with the GAP. Tram, who lived nearby was taking courses to complete her degree in Business Administration as well as working at a local bank. Tram is from a Vietnamese family, and is the youngest of eight children (7 girls, 1 boy). She was the last daughter to be married. The wedding took place on November 6, 1999 in Bel Air, Maryland at St. Margaret R.C. Church. The wedding was beautiful and Tram’s family members were most cordial and hospitable to all of us in attendance. Prior to the wedding, Sal was transferred to California by his employer. This necessitated the need to locate close to his area of business (Ventura). Accordingly, Sal and Tram were successful in purchasing a home in Oxnard, California, as well as being able to find a buyer for the town house, which Sal had purchased while living in Maryland. All of these details, plus getting married, was no easy task, but in the end, all went well.
The seventh wedding of our grandchildren was a repeat performance for Denis Ann. Her marriage to Alan Partis took place on December 4, 1999 in Boynton Beach, Florida in a beautiful outdoor setting called the Brazilian Court. The day was a perfect one for such a beautiful event. Rick (Jean) officiated at the Ceremony as a certified Notary Public to seal the vows of marriage, which was then followed by dinner, soft music, and much camaraderie and interaction.
Alan and Denis Ann had the good fortune of meeting on the Internet. Following this introduction, both took enough time to meet and really learn about each other’s personality, characteristics, etc. After a reasonable length of time, both were assured that they were ready to spend the rest of their lives together as man and wife, and we, as family, concur with their commitment of love and marriage. Alan is employed in computer technology and Denis Ann is Manager of a very busy seafood restaurant. They are living in Boynton Beach, not too far away from Jean and Rick. Fortunately, both married sisters and spouses are able to visit one another quite often. Alan and Denis are planning a delayed honeymoon to Italy sometime in May of 2000. Enjoy the beauty of Italy.
Now we are awaiting the more weddings to take place this year of the New Millenium. Granddaughter, Kathleen (Sal and Joanne) who is also our godchild, is planning to marry P.J. McIntosh in June. Kathleen just completed her master’s degree in library science and is presently employed in a public school district near Reading, Pennsylvania. We are looking forward to this beautiful event which I believe will be taking place in an outdoor setting in the Stroudsburg area. Outdoor weddings are still very popular, transcending its own natural beauty to the beautiful event of matrimony.
In addition to Kathleen, granddaughter Danielle (Rosemary) is planning to marry Randy Ehlers in September of this year in Manayunk, Pennsylvania. Randy and Danielle have known each other for many years, and are more than ready for marriage. Both operate a small grocery store and delicatessen in Manayunk, and have been watching the business grow with much satisfaction and hard work. Rosemary (our # 1 kid) likewise operates a delicatessen in Manayunk. We are proud of the three of them, and their abilities to build up a good rapport with a very demanding public while negotiating the many tasks involved to feed hungry customers with their culinary demands. Needless to say, we are all looking forward to these beautiful events that are yet to happen. We all join together in wishing them life’s very best.
Below is a chart of the marriages of our grandchildren and the detailed information of the great grandchildren involved:
- Mary (Rosemary) married to George Walter Tedder III in August of 1987
– George IV – March 26, 1993
– Salvatore – January 11, 1995 (Sal)
– Anastasia – October 13, 1997 (Stasia)
- Denis Ann (Rosemary) married to Barry Stewart
- Gina (Sal and Joanne) married to Nick Mistishen in October of 1990
– Emily – June 20, 1995
– Anthony – September 8, 1996 (Tony)
- Jean (Rosemary) married to Rick Horvitz in July of 1996
– Samantha – October 29, 1998 (Sammi)
- Danny (Sal and Joanne) married to Yatta Weber in September of 1996
– Renna – February 25, 2000
- Sal (Sal and Joanne) married to Tram Nguyen in November 1999
- Denis Ann (Rosemary) married to Alan Partis in December of 1999
- John Giuffre (Jean) (No marriage) Jennifer Novotny
– Subhadra – August 22, 1995
I must say at this time how efficiently today’s parents can manage their professional jobs while taking care of the many responsibilities of bringing up a family. In our own family, Mary and George, Gina and Nick, Lynn and Peter, Michele and Frank, Lisa and Paul (while he was living), Jean and Rick, and now Danny and Yatta — all seem to know how to budget the time necessary to accommodate the many tasks involved in raising children. They are to be commended and deserve praise.
Joanne, Rosemary and Jean have not been overlooked as to their achievements. Their role as mother took place at a time when mothers, most of the time, remained at home as full-time homemakers, chauffeurs, and care givers. They handled plenty of pressures and endless tasks, with sometimes little time on hand to resolve what had to be done, but somehow of other, things progressed anyway. As for Jean, she basically was attached to the Krishna temple in Los Angeles for many years. Grandson John was raised and educated within the confines of the temple, starting at a young age. Now both of them are living their lives independently. At present, John is living with his mother in Hilo, and is pursuing a license in the field of massage and is enjoying his choice of career. Jean has earned her license as an outstanding life insurance agent and is employed by the Royal Insurance Company and doing very well. So, to all of my family, hats off to all of you for doing such a great job, raising our beautiful grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
As an added thought, I must commend and honor families whose daughters our sons were most fortunate to have married. Jean and Jim Murphy, Carol and her late husband Ken Matthews, Ronnie and her late husband, Ray Frey, and Betty and Bud Waddington. They have extended themselves in so many generous and unselfish ways to love, encourage and support the families of their children. I like to feel that Dad and I were also a part of this unique support system. Each of our sons has found his perfect mate as wife and mother, and we have inherited four very special daughters-in-law, who will always have a special place in our hearts.
Thank you, Lord, for all the many blessings You have given to each and everyone of us, and may we follow in your footsteps as we interact with one another in our journey of life.
Postscript: Since this is my final phase of the original book I have already written, I would suggest that each of you keep a number of blank pages at the end of this text, so that you can record future events which you feel are noteworthy.
Good Luck! When I turn 100, I will be looking forward to all that you have recorded and will enjoy every word!
Love and Peace.
* * *
I confess to having asked Grandma, or GGMA, to write a brief epilog. Kind of: to catch us all up to date since the last writing. After all, it had been five years since the last chapter was written and many exciting things had happened in the life and times of Mary Pappalardo. And my gift to all of you is to have committed it to the computer era before Grandma leaves for her next journey. We really like being part of the travels of Gulliver, I mean GGMA. I can tell you first hand that she under exaggerates a lot of what she sees. Grandma is a person that always has a nice thing to say about everyone. On occasion, I have seen her somewhat frustrated at trying to find the right words to say to not offend or degrade another person.
I just wanted to tell all of you how fortunate I am to have GGMA in my life. The lives of Mary, myself, and each of our children are inexorably blessed to have had her with us all of these past seven years. Mary Pappalardo is a blessed woman and is to be praised for all that she has done in her life. Each of us, whether we are direct descendants of her or not, we are now part of her life.
Often Grandma reflects on how good the Lord has been to her. And you know what, I believe her. I enjoy watching her walk with my daughter, as they go off to share a cup of juice or coffee and watch Barney, in GGMA’s room. Or how integrated she is in the lives and formation of my two rebel boys. It seems that they both know that to defy GGMA is something that they really don’t want to do. Or before supper, how she will go into the family room and play the piano. Or how she walks in the rain to the grocery store, because she wants to. We are all so fortunate to have her in our lives.
Mary and I have been doubly blessed for the past seven years to share our lives and home with GGMA. She has helped us to grow in so many ways; they are innumerable. Even when GGMA is not here, her room is. Plus the fact that our children will have vivid and fond memories of GGMA for the rest of their lives. I often reflect back to the time that I spent with my Grandmother and Great-grandmother. Those were very good times. I am here to tell you that I really enjoy having her in Gainesville.
I’m not going to ruminate for very long, or belabor my love for Grandma. I just want her to keep coming to Gainesville for as many of those next twelve years as possible. And the rest of you “Johnny-come–lately”‘s; get your own GGMA!!! I’m not trying to be selfish; I just like having her around.
George Tedder III
April 3, 2000
Going through some old back-up discs I found this gem. It’s a story that has been shared hundreds of times + never fails to provoke hearty laughter. This time, Mom / Grandma / Mommom / GGMa / Aunt Mary was retelling it at her 90th birthday celebration in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (2007).
As typical for our family, you’ll hear comments from the peanut gallery, and all the while Grandma tries to remain in control.
Just as the envelope says, this is “A Hilarious Story and TRUE.”