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CHILDHOOD VIGNETTES (1 Viewer)

Beatrice Boyle

Senior Member
My father always said my birth In January of 1928, heralded the Great Depression, which started its slide later that year and became full blown in 1929. Who Knew! (To this day, I'm not sure whether he was stating a fact, or placing the blame!)

For the next few years, times were hard in this Country and elsewhere. Families tried desperately to survive! We were one of the lucky ones...we had a home to call our own. My dad had a big black car...we even had a one party phone! He was a Police Captain, and in those days, their jobs were secure. He was so handsome, tall and strong. I was so proud of him! He received many citaions because of his bravery. In the 1920's, Jersey City, (where we lived) was plagued by the "Tong Wars" between the various Chinese immigrants who settled there because of its proximity to New York City, just across the river. (I still have the scrapbook my mother kept detailing his exploits!)

My mother was a Funeral Director, one of the first women in New Jersey to hold that title back then! (Years later, when I became a soloist, the joke about town was that "My Father shot them, my mother buried them, and I sang at the funeral!") She was such a jolly, friendly person, that we thought of entering her as a guest on "What's My Line", (a popular TV show in the 1950's, where a panel had to guess the mystery guest's occupation.) Because of her personality, we felt they would never be able to guess it! However, my mother declined the invitation, feeling it would not be professionally correct.

Many a morning, when in High School, I used to hitch a ride to school in the hearse, wearing a flower in my hair, plucked from the latest wake! Death to me at that time, was not being allowed to play the radio, for fear it would disturb the grieving relatives.

Some of the streets still had cobblestones and in my grandmother's neighorhood, twice a week, horse drawn wagons, the clip clop of their hooves sounding on the pavement, would draw housewives into the street to shop for fresh vegetables and fruit. I can still hear the cackling, sometimes strident voices of the elderly Italian women, bandannas covering their graying hair, haggling with the produce man to give them a better price! Hpwever, it was the sight and sounds of the women, each claiming they had seen it first, struggling to snatch the last choice tomatoes or peaches, that is indelibly stamped in my brain. In the relatively more affluent area that my family lived, produce was sold outside of the store, in the open air, similar to the farmers markets we see today.

I vividly remember, as a small child, gong to the corner store to buy a quart of milk. I carried a small aluminum, quart sized bucket, with a lid, and handed it to the Proprietor. He in turn, dipped a large ladle into a huge milk can, holding untold gallons of the pristine white liquid, and transferred it to my smaller one, admonishing me, sternly, not to spill it on the way home! if I wanted a pound of butter or cheese, he would turn to an array of large open barrels behind him and proceed to carve chunks of the stuff and weigh it on his big, cumbersome scales, gradually whittling down, or adding to it, until he arrived at the correct weight.

While waiting for my order to be filled, I wandered over to the candy counter to pick out my reward for running the errand. An enormous glass case, held an infinite variety of penny candy in all its splendor. Too much for a small chld to consider lightly. This required serious concentration. With a whole nickel at my disposal, I required a large bang for my buck. Should I choose the brightly colored Jaw Breakers that I had to hide from my parents, or would it be the rich, chocolate covered peanuts and raisins, I so dearly loved, that would last me as far as the front door? No, this decision called for the utmost strategy. Finally, in desperation,the proprietors wife, who stood guard over her domain like a wolf guarding its young, slipped a variety of each into a tiny white bag, (adding an extra piece for good measure) and collected my nickel from my sweaty little hands!) I skipped deliriously out the front door, only to be called back by the proprietor...I had forgotten my milk!

My brother, sister and I (I was the baby of the family) attended Catholic School, run by the Dominican Nuns. To a small child, they were very intimidating, with their black and white starched habits, covering everything but their faces. Because it was the best school in the city at the time, and the fact that my mother was called away at odd hours, we were sent, one by one, to live with my grandmother during the week and went home on weekends. Now, my Italian grandmother didn't speak a word of English, so we all learned to speak italian at a very early age. My Aunt Grace (and two of my uncles who also lived with us before the war) kept a wary eye on us, to keep us out of trouble! My poor grandmother didn't stand a chance! When she saw my brother reading comic books instead of homework, he blithely informed her he was working on a school project!

My brother John, was always currying favor with Sr. Mildred (who only liked the boys!) until one day, after his bringing flowers to her from time to time, (supposedly out of his allowance) she looked out of her window, which faced the cemetery behind the church next door and spotted my brother, nonchalantly picking flowers from the graves, freshly placed there, by grieving relatives! Not only did he receive a paddling from Sr. Mildred, but an extra measure from my grandmother!

Sister was especially hard on me, for besides my being a girl, the Principal of the school, was a dear friend of my mother and she went out of her way not to show favoritism. One particular memory I have of her, was when she punished me for chewing gum in class. She placed it on my nose, and had me sit that way for the rest of the day! (Ah yes, the good ole days!)

As for my sister Lucille, we barely tolerated each other! She and my brother were born eighteen months apart and routinely ignored me. (Looking back on it, it's a wonder she spoke to me at all!) Not only was I "Daddy's Sweetheart," I was also teacher's pet (with the exception of the aforementioned Sr. Mildred!) because it was discovered, at an early age, that "the Lord had gifted me with a beautiful voice." (Their words, not mine!) Sr. Annette, the music teacher, made it her mission in life, to develop it to its fullest potential and guide me to a career in music. My poor older sister therefore, had to contend with people constantly asking her 1.) "Are you the girl that sings" or 2) "aren't you proud of your little sister!" (75 years later, people are still asking her the same questions) So with complete affection, I gave her a bookmark inscribed:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
But if I die before I wake
And stand before the pearly gate
I hope the Lord, the King of Kings
Won't ask me if I'm the girl who sings!

It's funny, the little pieces of minutia that pop into your consciousness when you least expect it! These were the early grammar school days. Carefree days before World War Two changed all of our lives forever. But that's another story, for another time! :wink:
 

Penelope

Senior Member
Thank you for this Beatrice. Without writing about such times those precious memories are lost. Your childhood sounds blessed like mine was. My 'interesting' times didn't begin until I left home at the age of sixteen. I have many happy recollections of growing up but few are worth writing about. You differ and it's a pleasure to read about it.
 

Beatrice Boyle

Senior Member
Thanks Penelope. This was originaly conceived as a project for my 10 yr old grandson, to preserve the history of his ancestors. While it doesn't mean much to him now, I suspect that years from now, he will be grateful that he has it! It was also a "trip" for me to put it down and remember! :D
 

Kimberly Bird

Senior Member
Hi Aunt Bea. Ah, I loved the story, especially when you forgot the milk. I'm glad you are sharing these great memories with us. I hope you are keeping all this in a journal for your grandchildren and great ones. These are precious memories that are told by a fantastic writer.

By the way, I love your nun avator. I wonder if I will ever be able to fit into one of those. :wink:

Kimberly
 

Beatrice Boyle

Senior Member
Hi Kimberly, Thanks for plowing thru my story!
This is my first attempt at anything other than poetry, since high school. They keep telling writers to write about what they know, so I Did! It just came pouring out in one sitting the other night.

I'm going to try to amplify it by continuing on to the high school years, which included WW2. I'll bet it will take me months to write, now that it's a committment! WHAT WAS I THINKING!!! :shock: :roll:
 
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