What’s a life without a MOM! Updated on 11/26/2015

THIS ONE IS ABOUT MY MEMORIES OF MY “SAINTED MOTHER”, but there is one on my father. Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to turn this picture upright.

 

Mom n pop wed ding picture
Antoinette and Sal

As I was pondering on how to begin this history of my wonderful mother, I began to realize that in order to tell about her, I was actually going to tell about my life growing up with her. All my formative years were controlled by my “DOING” things for her, no, not really for her personally, but to make things better for our family and home. I loved every second of it, but better still it made who I am todayMy first memory is me sitting under a metal kitchen table, looking at the table legs and my Moms as well. I could walk, but was hiding because my mother was trying to give me medicine which I later learned was Castor Oil. I knew what that tasted like and certainly wasn’t going to take it again. I had a very, very, bad ear ache, Just one of the many I would have for the rest of my life. There was someone else in the room, but I could not see him, as he was in a very high chair, which really was mine. I was crying because he was in my chair and eating from a spoon my mom was feeding him with. How did I know? Cause I would sneak out a little and watch. I didn’t like him because he used to bite my toes when my mom would carry me around in a little sack tied in front of her. Oh, by the way, at the time, I had double pneumonia and no one was allowed to touch me. That’s all I remember of that occasion, but my mom was there making me get better, and no fooling around!

Because of that sickness, I was kinda spoiled and my Aunt Angie, who at the time was very beautiful, thin, and had a husband, Uncle Frank Pici, that I later found out, was a bum, and left her in the lurch. She would come up to the fifth floor daily, where we lived, to play with me. She had no children and treated me like her own. She would take me down to her apartment on the third floor which was on the opposite side of the floor from my Grandparents, and near the bathroom for that floor as it was on all 5 floor of the building. She would let me crawl around on her floor, and it was fun because the house had a different smell than our house, which always smelled of food, while hers smelled like candy. She would keep me for hours so that my mom could cope with all the other 3 kids, besides, making the meals, cleaning the house, then to go downstairs on the third floor to my grandmothers to cook for all her in-laws. She would come get me across the hall when she was done, wipe my running nose and carry me up to have our meal. No, nothing special for me, cause after she ran out of mothers milk feeding 2 young boys, I had to be a big boy and eat what everybody else ate. Who was everybody else you ask? Well, there was my father, who never talked, then my big sister Elizabeth, who was 4 and a half years older then me, then my sister Jeanie, who was three years older than me, and finally my spoiled brat brother, who was one and a half years older than me. At this phase I was about three years old, and actually very bright, at least I thought I was. All us kids slept in one bed, in a very tiny room that just fit the bed. You had to crawl out over the back to go into the kitchen, which was after we passed through my parent’s room which was not much bigger than ours.

The kitchen was the center of all that went on in our house. It was where we did everything. Wash, bathed, ate, homework, played games, cried but no one listened, and most importantly kept warm. Why you might ask? Well, we had no heat or hot water in our little home, and get this; you had to walk to the other side of the building to be able to go to the bath room. You wouldn’t go unless all the kids would. Why? Cause it was scary. We had fun there only because we wanted to forget the boogeyman that was just around the pitch black corner; so we used to listen to each person who went to into the little stall that we all had to use, one at a time. It had no lights and had a big box high up with a long chain that I couldn’t reach and a bowl that was also too high for me. If anyone made any sound we would all scream and laugh, saying “We heard you toot”. Actually, we were scared because it was dark, cold, and we always heard noises, they turned out to be the pigeons on the roof in a coop, which was just above our heads. When we were all finished and made everyone pay the price for making even little squeak, by laughing and “you made a noise… Ha Ha Ha“., we would head back to go to bed. Our mom was ready with hot bricks. each wrapped in a towel and we each got one to put at our feet, and off to bed we’d go. Giggling and saying who would sleep where. The kitchen was heated by a kerosene stove that smelled awful, and on top of it, she heated everything from water for our baths, all our meals, fresh bread, and those red bricks. The bigger girls had the top of the bed and Al and my self would be on the bottom. When our cousins would come for the week-end and stay overnight with us, we’d have to make room for two more, Maryann and Elizabeth Abbot. It was always so much fun, cause we knew the next day we would all go downstairs to Grandma and Grandpa’s to have a big feast. Best of all, Grandpa would line us up and ask us each, to do something to get the nickel that he held out to us. Starting with the oldest first, he would ask our name. Here you must remember, he only spoke Italian and we all knew what he said, but we were never allowed repeat it! No Italian for this new generation! So starting with my sister Elizabeth, she being at the front on the line, would announce who she was and do something to please my grandfather. She was bold and brazen and didn’t let anyone including him to scare her. This certainly was not true for the rest of us. Next was my sister Jeanie, who would be crying cause she didn’t want to do it, but she knew she had to, so she would begin crying and singing at the same time. “Billy Boy, Billy Boy, where are you going”. “Billy Boy, Billy boy, can I come too?” All this as she cried. Then everyone would clap and laugh. Please remember that everyone would be there. All 9 children of my Grandparents, with all their kids, or about 29 people all together… Oh, I forgot, we always had Uncle Tom and Uncle Mike there as well, as they were my Grandfathers close friends from Italy, who he sponsored and brought to America. Uncle Tom was a little man with a big black mustache, and had a crazy giggle, while Uncle Mike was a tall thin man who wore arm garters and was the family bootlegger and he looked the part.

So, next was Cousin Maryann, and when she came to the front of the line and it was her turn, she went up to him. He would ask her name, and she would say Maryann Abbott. He would stop her! Say “You are not a Bianco?“ Then tell her to go to the back of the line. He did the same with the next person, who was Cousin Elisabeth, her sister. Then came my brother Al, well, he was the inheritor of all that was Bianco, had my grandfathers nose, so he was allowed to do nothing, just smile, and get his nickel. Please remember here, that a nickel was a lot of money in those days, as people only earned $25.00 for 48 hour a week. Now it was my turn, I was next and came in front of Grandpa, and he would say, “You take this money and go to the coffee store and buy me De Noble cigars, and with the change buy candy.” Next came my sister Marie, who was just a baby, but the most beautiful little girl you ever saw, my Mom was considering putting her in a beauty contest, which was the rage at that time. He would give her a nickel and a kiss, which smelled of wine and cigars. Most of the other kids, Cousin Al, Betty, Neil , little Neil, were either not born yet, or too little to participate, but later they too would be in the line.  But up came Marianne and Elizabeth’s turn again, but this time he gave a big smile and said now you turn! They then did what they did so beautifully and that was to dance… Tap dance! They got there nickle each and a kiss.  That would end the session and all the men would sit down and play cards. Please realize that this was done every Sunday, no matter were his children lived. Sunday was the family all together day.

However, it was my mother who did all the cooking and baking. Wanna know what we had for Sunday meals? Well, first course was always soup. My mom would start very early in the morning by sending us all off the church for the 8 am mass. Then she would go down to the third floor and begin cooking. The soup, which was usually strachiatella soup, which was raw eggs dropped into a boiling hot spinach broth. Next she would prepare her tomato sauce, which would take a few hours; her meatballs were made with all kinds of spices and fried separately, then put into the sauce until it was ready. She would also prepare brachial, by taking flank steaks and split them, by laying them flat on the board and cutting them in half so they were thin and flat to be able to put inside all her special ingredients. They were chunks of garlic finely cut cilantro or parsley, and grated fresh imported parmesan cheese. She would then roll up each of the halved flank steak, tie it with a white string which was a roll that hung over the stove, then cut that in half crossways. These were then added to the sauce to blend in their flavors to make the sauce thick and flavorful. Besides the brachial, she always added pork chops and veal. The next course was always some kind of roast beef that became the main course after the pasta and sauce meat. if everybody in the family was there for the meal, there was always a large roasted chicken as a “filler”. Please remember that meat was always in abundance, cause our family was in the trucking business, Bianco Bros., delivering meat to wholesalers and butchers. For some crazy reason, as my Uncles delivered the meat, there was always some pieces that would fall off the truck by accident, and not to waste, it they’d give it to my Dad to share. Along with the meat, there was always some cooked vegetables. I must point out here, my mother who was a great cook and pastry maker, usually cooked the veggies too long, but hey, so what! Directly after the meat course, came a salad to allow everyone to digest their meal. Nuts and fruit were then served along with tons of laughter, as well as everybody teasing of each other. At this point the Chestnuts would be in the oven, forgotten. Yes, every time! The men would sit back down and begin to play cards, while the women would clear up, with my Mom running the show, and basically doing it all herself.

On weekdays, she would get us up at five am, make us dress for school, then sent us off to mass without breakfast, so we could all receive communion, return home, eat, and then off to school. We all went to St Patrick’s school which was around the corner from our building. The church, St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, was directly across from us and it was just steps away. It was all done within a half hour. We did have two barriers to cross every morning, and it was our going down four flights of stairs to the last level which had “Bums”, that slept on the stairs going down to the ground level. Amazingly, we had no problem navigating between them, in fact we got to know most, and found out about how they wound up there. One guy was really very intelligent and liked to talk to us. It seems they all were sober that early in the morning, and didn’t start drinking until they left. The reason they used our building as a place to sleep, was that they were chased by the Police where all the bars were, on Third Ave, which was three long blocks west of us. Some went to a little park on Delancey Street, some went to “Jersey Alley”, and some found buildings like ours to sleep in. At times, when we walked on Third Ave in the afternoon, we would see drunks sleeping inside the columns of the “ell”, the elevated train track going North and South on Manhattan Island, that traveled up and down Third Ave. Many were killed by cars when drivers hit them when they fell asleep or lost their grip on the ell pillar and just flopped into the street, where cars were zooming by. Every so often a “paddy wagon” would cruise by and pick up all the drunks, take them to a deserted place and dump them there.

You would think we were frightened all by this, but we knew we were safe on Mulberry St, cause every adult became our parent and kept watch over us and thought nothing of it to yell at us or threaten us by making an attempt at a swing, mainly to frighten us to listen and be good. My mother knew it was safe on our street and never worried for our safety, as long as we stayed on our street. When we were home from school and would play downstairs in front of building, she would look out our window and check on us. We also had someone watching full time over us and it was my Grandmother, who looked out her third floor window most of the day. She and her neighbors would whistle to each other and then talk in Italian and laugh and laugh. She loved to laugh and every time we’d visit her, which was at least three times a day, she never stopped laughing. She was big, I mean big… six feet tall and at least 300 pounds, all of it shaking as she laughed. Because my Mom was an “In-law” she treated her as most mother-in-laws treated their sons wives. She always made my mother subservient to all of her family, but my Mother took it. If they ever did it front of my oldest sister Elizabeth, she would yell at them and how wonderful my mother was and how she did everything for them. After a while, none of my Aunts, or my grandmother would dare to say anything in front of my sister.

My mother never bought “readymade” anything, as she did it all herself. Every few days she would make bread that was better than any store bought stuff. She would finish the bread and then make macaroni… Gnocchi, linguini, shells, which we called “Bobbies noses”, manicotti, ravioli, and with the little dough that was left over , she fried E’ Zeppallela, which was bread dough dropped into very hot vegetable oil. She’d take it out after it was crispy brown, then shake powered sugar over them. Many times she would stick mozzarella bits into the fresh dough, or her homemade jam, or little fish, into the middle before she dropped it into the oil. It was fun to help her, as she would sing as she worked. She loved to sing and did so all of her life. I have audios of her when she was 95. Somewhere in this story, I’ll have her sing as I have many tapes of her singing away. While she sang she would take a large round board about three foot in diameter and place it on our metal table with a towel in between. Her rolling pin was just a three foot solid wood bar of about two inches thick and be able to do wonders with it. When making macaroni, she would roll out the dough till it was paper thin and nearly the size to the board, then put the rolling pin down in the center, and lay one half over it. She would then pick up the dough and be able to place it over a cord tied across two places. this allowed the dough to dry. When it was dry, she would again pick it up, put it back on the board, and cut it the different shapes of macaroni she had planned to make. All our meals were fresh like the pasta she made every few days. All our vegetables were from jars that she canned, everything from eggplants, to string beans, all our fruit was from jars that she canned, which included peaches, pears, apple sauce, but mainly tomatoes. Tomatoes were the most important, and she would have us all help to cut, clean, crush, squeeze them, then wash the jars and caps, and new rubber washers that sealed the jars. Then help her when she poured the cooked boiling hot tomatoes into the waiting jars. It was wonderful to help but more to watch her being so happy with all of us around her. She would sing the same songs over and over. She lived for us, but she lived for my father even more, and used our fear of him to frighten us to be good. I was usually the guy who got into trouble, as I wanted to try everything and wound up being more in the way than anything else.

Snapshot_20151123_2

Here she is at 95 and as usual singing and smiling!

This ends my first attempt at this writing, and I’m amazed at how much comes back as I write. It’s 11:00 Pm on January 3rd, 2012 A lot more to come, as I’m about 8 years old and my mom now began to teach me to be me.

It’s now May 4, 2012, and I’ve just edited it again with only a few changes that my memory recalled as I reread this. Now it’s 12/30/2014, after a terrible year of Cancer, a Triple by-pass from heart failure, an Ileostomy(wearing a bag outside my stomach while my intestines healed from the cancer surgery). Rereading the above make me realize how wonderful our lives were growing up with a mother who lived only for her Children, what God was supposed to have created women for. But life has changed, as now women want to be independent, free, making their children second to their own desires.

Maryann’s story of her young life, so compare

These are the original typewritten pages by Maryann Abbatte Bianco LaMura, on how she remembers her young life. and after reading them, I now realize that  her life growing up was  so similar to mine. So compare her version to mine on how we both saw life at an early age as we talk about the same places, but such different versions.

Because it’s not too clear, as it is only a camera  picture of the original pages. I’m rewriting it for clarity, but the originals are  best for you see.

Here’s to you Mare, your gone but not forgotten!   Here starts page 1

                                                “Way Before Her Time”

I decided to start my story with the introduction of my mother, for if not for her I wouldn’t be.

Mom was born on February 21, 1903, named Louisa Marie Bianco. She was the second born, the first girl, after the first boy, who was named Salvatore. My grangparents, Aniello and Elisabeth Belloise Bianco, were Italian Imagrants who came over from Naples, Italy. They were from a small town in the mountains in the province of Avellino, where everyone knew everyone else. They traveled over the Atlantic Ocean on a large tanker ship, into Elis Island, to live out the American dream.

Grandpa had previously visited America, and started a horse and wagon meat delivery service. He then returned to Italy toElizabeth, who was fifteen years his junior, bringing her back to America along with his youngest brother,Dominic, who was entrusted to his care. This voyage, you could say was considered their honeymoon voyage, however, Grandma was already pregnant to her first child, a three week ordeal, with terrible conditions, but a bright future lay before them.

They lived in a tenement building, a cold water flat, five flights up, in little Italy, on Mulberry Street, right right across from St, Patrick’s Old Cathedral. Later, that is where Mom went to school and graduated with the best penmanship certificate.

My best recollection of this apartment, after walking  five flights up to get there, with all slate steps, and iron railings, you entered the kitchen, at one end stood a large grey stove that needed either wood or coal to burn, in order to cook and heat the place, a ice box, that was later replaced by a welcomed refrigerator, and three tiny bedrooms, called railroad rooms, and a living room. There were fire escapes, off the windows, where milk and butter were kept, in the winter to stay cold.  We also used them to cool ourselves in the summer. The bathroom facilities were at the end of the corridor, in the hall, next to another apartment. It was for everyone’s use on on that particular floor. It was dark and had slate floors that seemed unbearably cold in the winter. it was lighted with only a small bulb, a pull chain, a small window, a large tank that sat over your head in order for you to flush the toilet. There was no sink, just a nail protruding out of the wall that held cut up telephone pages and Sears catalogs, to be used as necessary yo used in place of the toilet paper we use today. Incidentally it made for good reading material.

The only place to bath was a large tub in the kitchen with a board on top of it, as a counter top. You had to heat the water on the stove in order to get a warm bath. the other means of washing was the sink. To wash cloths there was a washboard, or a ringer type washer that you worked by hand. To dry the cloths you, you hung them through the window unto a line that strung from one apartment to the other, in the middle of the building which never to get any sun. Many times the cloths would freeze up and were stiff when you took them in. When we visited Grandma’s house, we all slept together in one room, and because of my fear of going down the hall in the dark bathroom, there were many times I used the commode under the bed.

(The end of page 1) The original is below, good luck trying to read it, as I spent hours translating it, but it was worth it, as all in it was what I also experienced, but only with a boys view, as girls pee more and certainly don’t slide down those iron railings. read further down to the end.

mare4

Page 2

bathroom, there were many times I used the commode under the bed, to relieve myself during the night. (note: We all were frightened to death to go by ourselves in the night)

In the dark corridor in the hall, there was a door that opened into a pantry where my grandparents kept all their staples, jams, jars of cooked peaches, tomatoes, pickles, olives, cheeses that hung from the ceiling, salamis and hams and everything you can imagine an Italian household would store; even the home-made wine that was made in the basement of the apartment by my grandfather and his six sons. Think of how it was to get those clothes clean.

When I was asked to retrieve some food from this pantry, I cringed, since it was so dark, and you could hardly see, except for a really small bulb that you had to reach up and pull the chain, in order to see. I never knew what was in there! I imagined all sorts of  mice, cobwebs and crawly things. However, as I grew up, I realized it was to be kept cold and dark for keeping the food from spoiling.

This was the home my mother was born into, where the door was never closed, and all were welcomed. As time went on, it became the home of six brothers and two more sisters. Nine in all that survived, and one who died in infancy.

There was no such thing as privacy. The girls were only looked upon only to help there mother with the chores of taking care of the others, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, diapering, etc. The boys worked along with their father with the horses, stables, and wagons as soon as they were able, delivering the meat in the meat wagons.

After completing her school days, at the age of 13, Mom was pushed into a sweat-shop to become a seamstress. In the 1920’s sewing machines were run by a foot pedal. She worked 12 hours a day with no such thing as break-times; then went home to continue her chores, mainly taking care of the little ones. My grandmother always seemed pregnant, even when Mom was 23, after 10 pregnancies, another girl was born Amelia, and all Mom thought of was: why her father continuing to get her mother pregnant?  Was there any way out of this? All she knew was diapers, diapers and more diapers. Remember these were the ones you washed and hung out to dry to be used again.

At the age of 17, my grandparents felt it was about time to have men start to court my mom, of course when they had chosen. This consisted of Grandma sitting on the right, Grandpa on the left, the suitor sitting with his gifts on his lap, talking and partaking in the food and wine, as was the custom. The first suitor asked for her hand in marriage, but after two years of courting, Mom broke it off. The second suitor did the same, and again Mom broke it off. My grandparents were so frustrated, by this time my Mom was 23 years old, and their oldest daughter.

During this time Mom was offered a position with the head designer in her shop. Her talent was not unnoticed. She was able to cut, sew, and design negligees  better, faster than anyone in the shop. This was time my father-to-be came into her life. He was a shop foreman in the same building, and also worked part-time as a cab driver in N. Y. C.  He was handsome, debonair, and definitely a casanova! He was attractive to my mothers beauty, how she carried herself, and her strong temperament and her feistiness.

On their first date, Mom got out of the house, telling her parents that she and her sister were going to church. She got permission to go, and met my father at a silent movie theater and watched Rudolph Valentino. As the movie progressed he reached over and kissed my Mom. How dare he! That was when my Mom knew he was the man for her. He was bold, knew what he wants and went after it. She was ready to bring him home, however, he was Sicilian. Ih those days, anyone born out of your province was taboo in the family. A sicilian was considered an african, since sicily was not the mainland. She did not know how he would be received, However, since they were both determined, he was accepted by her parents, but my Grandfather gave them an ultimatum that they were to be married in six months. I guess they were afraid that my Mom would change her, or this Sicilian would be gone. But this was not to happen. Dad showed himself to be upright,steady,dependable, and they married two years later, on december 21st, 1928. Mom was now 25 years old.    The details of her wedding day were all sad ones.  She started to have second thoughts and was deathly afraid of getting married and having children. It means more babies, and sex, was a dirty word. But this time with all the pre-marriage arrangements, she could not renege. Their honeymoon took place on a train going to Niagara Falls N. Y., a place where all couples went to. A frightened Virgin, with no-one to explain to her what was to happen, and especially afraid of getting pregnant. She cried for two days and two nights. However, after much patience, love and understanding and perseverance, I was born May 9th 1930, I was one month premature,healthy, and a girl!

They took an apartment in Flatbush  in Brooklyn, near dad’s family, and Mom continued to work. they put me into a nursery which I vaguely remember, a high metal crib in a large room that seemed bare. It’s what we call a day-care center today. Two years later my sister Elizabeth was born on April 13th, 1932. She joined me in the nursery and hated it. our parents would pick us up after work. I remember the only sun we would see. is when the caretakers would take us up onto the roof to play. It costs my parents fifty cents a week for both of us and food. Mom continued to work for it was during the pot-depression years. Dad decided to apply for a position at the post office. with addresses, streets cities and states that were to be memorized. With his eyes blind folded, he would try to place the envelope in the correct box it was amazing to watch him. I was told never to bother him while he was studying, so my sister and I kept very quite around him. It was a happy when he passed the test with flying colors. He eventually was given the highest position in the state, other than the postmaster. Yes, Mom had been right, she could see his potential. He knew what he wanted and went after it! 

bathroom, there were many times I used the commode under the bed, to relieve myself during the night. (note: We all were frightened to death to go by ourselves in the night)

In the dark corridor, in the hall, there was a door that opened into a pantry where my grandparents kept all their staples, jams, jars of cooked peaches, tomatoes, pickles, olives, cheeses that hung from the ceiling, salamis and hams and everything you can imagine an Italian household would store; even the home-made wine that was made in the basement of the apartment by my grandfather and his six sons. Think of how it was to get those clothes clean.When I was asked to retrieve some food from this pantry, I cringed, since it was so dark, and you could hardly see, except for a really small bulb that you had to reach up and pull the chain, in order to see. I never knew what was in there! I imagined all sorts of  mice, cobwebs and crawly things. However, as I grew up, I realized it was to be kept cold and dark for keeping the food from spoiling.This was the home my mother was born into, where the door was never closed, and all were welcomed. As time went on, it became the home of six brothers and two more sisters. Nine in all that survived, and one who died in infancy.There was no such thing as privacy. The girls were only looked upon only to help there mother with the chores of taking care of the others, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, diapering, etc. The boys worked along with their father with the horses, stables, and wagons as soon as they were able, delivering the meat in the meat wagons.

After completing her school days, at the age of 13, Mom was pushed into a sweat-shop to become a seamstress. In the 1920’s sewing machines were run by a foot pedal. She worked 12 hours a day with no such thing as break-times; then went home to continue her chores, mainly taking care of the little ones. My grandmother always seemed pregnant, even when Mom was 23, after 10 pregnancies, another girl was born Amelia, and all Mom thought of was: why her father continuing to get her mother pregnant?  Was there any way out of this? All she knew was diapers, diapers and more diapers. Remember these were the ones you washed and hung out to dry to be used again.

At the age of 17, my grandparents felt it was about time to have men start to court my mom, of course when they had chosen. This consisted of Grandma sitting on the right, Grandpa on the left, the suitor sitting with his gifts on his lap, talking and partaking in the food and wine, as was the custom. The first suitor asked for her hand in marriage, but after two years of courting, Mom broke it off. The second suitor did the same, and again Mom broke it off. My grandparents were so frustrated, by this time my Mom was 23 years old, and their oldest daughter.

During this time Mom was offered a position with the head designer in her shop. Her talent was not unnoticed. She was able to cut, sew, and design negligees  better, faster than anyone in the shop. This was time my father-to-be came into her life. He was a shop foreman in the same building, and also worked part-time as a cab driver in N. Y. C.  He was handsome, debonair, and definitely a casanova! He was attractive to my mothers beauty, how she carried herself, and her strong temperament and her feistiness.

On their first date, Mom got out of the house, telling her parents that she and her sister were going to church. She got permission to go, and met my father at a silent movie theater and watched Rudolph Valentino. As the movie progressed he reached over and kissed my Mom. How dare he! That was when my Mom knew he was the man for her. He was bold, knew what he wants and went after it. She was ready to bring him home, however, he was Sicilian. Ih those days, anyone born out of your province was taboo in the family. A Sicilian was considered an African, since Sicily was not the mainland. She did not know how he would be received, However, since they were both determined, he was accepted by her parents, but my Grandfather gave them an ultimatum that they were to be married in six months. I guess they were afraid that my Mom would change her, or this Sicilian would be gone. But this was not to happen. Dad showed himself to be upright,steady,dependable, and they married two years later, on december 21st, 1928. Mom was now 25 years old.    The details of her wedding day were all sad ones.  She started to have second thoughts and was deathly afraid of getting married and having children. It means more babies, and sex, was a dirty word. But this time with all the pre-marriage arrangements, she could not renege. Their honeymoon took place on a train going to Niagara Falls N. Y., a place where all couples went to. A frightened Virgin, with no-one to explain to her what was to happen, and especially afraid of getting pregnant. She cried for two days and two nights. However, after much patience, love and understanding and perseverance, I was born May 9th 1930, I was one month premature,healthy, and a girl!

They took an apartment in Flatbush  in Brooklyn, near dad’s family, and Mom continued to work. they put me into a nursery which I vaguely remember, a high metal crib in a large room that seemed bare. It’s what we call a day-care center today. Two years later my sister Elizabeth was born on April 13th, 1932. She joined me in the nursery and hated it. our parents would pick us up after work. I remember the only sun we would see. is when the caretakers would take us up onto the roof to play. It costs my parents fifty cents a week for both of us and food. Mom continued to work for it was during the pot-depression years. Dad decided to apply for a position at the post office. with addresses, streets cities and states that were to be memorized. With his eyes blind folded, he would try to place the envelope in the correct box Iy was amazing to watch him. I wa told never to bother him while he was studying, so my sister and I kept very quite around him. It was a happy when he passed the test with flying colors. He eventually was given the highest position in the state, other than the postmaster. Yes, Mom had been right, she could see his potential. He knew what he wanted and went after it! mare5.png

WOW! My cousin Maryann Abbatte Bianco LaMura could write! Page 1

These are the original typewritten pages by Maryann Abbatte Bianco LaMura, on how she remembers her young life. and after reading them, I now realize that  her life growing up was  so similar to mine. So compare her version to mine on how we both saw life at an early age as we talk about the same places, but such different versions.

Because it’s not too clear, as it is only a camera  picture of the original pages. I’m rewriting it for clarity, but the originals are  best for you see.

Here’s to you Mare, your gone but not forgotten!   Here starts page 1

                                                “Way Before Her Time”

I decided to start my story with the introduction of my mother, for if not for her I wouldn’t be.

Mom was born on February 21, 1903, named Louisa Marie Bianco. She was the second born, the first girl, after the first boy, who was named Salvatore. My grangparents, Aniello and Elisabeth Belloise Bianco, were Italian Imagrants who came over from Naples, Italy. They were from a small town in the mountains in the province of Avellino, where everyone knew everyone else. They traveled over the Atlantic Ocean on a large tanker ship, into Elis Island, to live out the American dream.

Grandpa had previously visited America, and started a horse and wagon meat delivery service. He then returned to Italy toElizabeth, who was fifteen years his junior, bringing her back to America along with his youngest brother,Dominic, who was entrusted to his care. This voyage, you could say was considered their honeymoon voyage, however, Grandma was already pregnant to her first child, a three week ordeal, with terrible conditions, but a bright future lay before them.

They lived in a tenement building, a cold water flat, five flights up, in little Italy, on Mulberry Street, right right across from St, Patrick’s Old Cathedral. Later, that is where Mom went to school and graduated with the best penmanship certificate.

My best recollection of this apartment, after walking  five flights up to get there, with all slate steps, and iron railings, you entered the kitchen, at one end stood a large grey stove that needed either wood or coal to burn, in order to cook and heat the place, a ice box, that was later replaced by a welcomed refrigerator, and three tiny bedrooms, called railroad rooms, and a living room. There were fire escapes, off the windows, where milk and butter were kept, in the winter to stay cold.  We also used them to cool ourselves in the summer. The bathroom facilities were at the end of the corridor, in the hall, next to another apartment. It was for everyone’s use on on that particular floor. It was dark and had slate floors that seemed unbearably cold in the winter. it was lighted with only a small bulb, a pull chain, a small window, a large tank that sat over your head in order for you to flush the toilet. There was no sink, just a nail protruding out of the wall that held cut up telephone pages and Sears catalogs, to be used as necessary yo used in place of the toilet paper we use today. Incidentally it made for good reading material.

The only place to bath was a large tub in the kitchen with a board on top of it, as a counter top. You had to heat the water on the stove in order to get a warm bath. the other means of washing was the sink. To wash cloths there was a washboard, or a ringer type washer that you worked by hand. To dry the cloths you, you hung them through the window unto a line that strung from one apartment to the other, in the middle of the building which never to get any sun. Many times the cloths would freeze up and were stiff when you took them in. When we visited Grandma’s house, we all slept together in one room, and because of my fear of going down the hall in the dark bathroom, there were many times I used the commode under the bed.

(The end of page 1) The original is below, good luck trying to read it, as I spent hours translating it, but it was worth it, as all in it was what I also experienced, but only with a boys view, as girls pee more and certainly don’t slide down those iron railings. read further down to the end.

mare4

Page 2

bathroom, there were many times I used the commode under the bed, to relieve myself during the night. (note: We all were frightened to death to go by ourselves in the night)

In the dark corridor, in the hall, there was a door that opened into a pantry where my grandparents kept all their staples, jams, jars of cooked peaches, tomatoes, pickles, olives, cheeses that hung from the ceiling, salamis and hams and everything you can imagine an Italian household would store; even the home-made wine that was made in the basement of the apartment by my grandfather and his six sons. Think of how it was to get those clothes clean.

When I was asked to retrieve some food from this pantry, I cringed, since it was so dark, and you could hardly see, except for a really small bulb that you had to reach up and pull the chain, in order to see. I never knew what was in there! I imagined all sorts of  mice, cobwebs and crawly things. However, as I grew up, I realized it was to be kept cold and dark for keeping the food from spoiling.

This was the home my mother was born into, where the door was never closed, and all were welcomed. As time went on, it became the home of six brothers and two more sisters. Nine in all that survived, and one who died in infancy.

There was no such thing as privacy. The girls were only looked upon only to help there mother with the chores of taking care of the others, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, diapering, etc. The boys worked along with their father with the horses, stables, and wagons as soon as they were able, delivering the meat in the meat wagons.

After completing her school days, at the age of 13, Mom was pushed into a sweat-shop to become a seamstress. In the 1920’s sewing machines were run by a foot pedal. She worked 12 hours a day with no such thing as break-times; then went home to continue her chores, mainly taking care of the little ones. My grandmother always seemed pregnant, even when Mom was 23, after 10 pregnancies, another girl was born Amelia, and all Mom thought of was: why her father continuing to get her mother pregnant?  Was there any way out of this? All she knew was diapers, diapers and more diapers. Remember these were the ones you washed and hung out to dry to be used again.

At the age of 17, my grandparents felt it was about time to have men start to court my mom, of course when they had chosen. This consisted of Grandma sitting on the right, Grandpa on the left, the suitor sitting with his gifts on his lap, talking and partaking in the food and wine, as was the custom. The first suitor asked for her hand in marriage, but after two years of courting, Mom broke it off. The second suitor did the same, and again Mom broke it off. My grandparents were so frustrated, by this time my Mom was 23 years old, and their oldest daughter.

During this time Mom was offered a position with the head designer in her shop. Her talent was not unnoticed. She was able to cut, sew, and design negligees  better, faster than anyone in the shop. This was time my father-to-be came into her life. He was a shop foreman in the same building, and also worked part-time as a cab driver in N. Y. C.  He was handsome, debonair, and definitely a casanova! He was attractive to my mothers beauty, how she carried herself, and her strong temperament and her feistiness.

On their first date, Mom got out of the house, telling her parents that she and her sister were going to church. She got permission to go, and met my father at a silent movie theater and watched Rudolph Valentino. As the movie progressed he reached over and kissed my Mom. How dare he! That was when my Mom knew he was the man for her. He was bold, knew what he wants and went after it. She was ready to bring him home, however, he was Sicilian. Ih those days, anyone born out of your province was taboo in the family. A sicilian was considered an african, since sicily was not the mainland. She did not know how he would be received, However, since they were both determined, he was accepted by her parents, but my Grandfather gave them an ultimatum that they were to be married in six months. I guess they were afraid that my Mom would change her, or this Sicilian would be gone. But this was not to happen. Dad showed himself to be upright,steady,dependable, and they married two years later, on december 21st, 1928. Mom was now 25 years old.    The details of her wedding day were all sad ones.  She started to have second thoughts and was deathly afraid of getting married and having children. It means more babies, and sex, was a dirty word. But this time with all the pre-marriage arrangements, she could not renege. Their honeymoon took place on a train going to Niagara Falls N. Y., a place where all couples went to. A frightened Virgin, with no-one to explain to her what was to happen, and especially afraid of getting pregnant. She cried for two days and two nights. However, after much patience, love and understanding and perseverance, I was born May 9th 1930, I was one month premature,healthy, and a girl!

They took an apartment in Flatbush  in Brooklyn, near dad’s family, and Mom continued to work. they put me into a nursery which I vaguely remember, a high metal crib in a large room that seemed bare. It’s what we call a day-care center today. Two years later my sister Elizabeth was born on April 13th, 1932. She joined me in the nursery and hated it. our parents would pick us up after work. I remember the only sun we would see. is when the caretakers would take us up onto the roof to play. It costs my parents fifty cents a week for both of us and food. Mom continued to work for it was during the pot-depression years. Dad decided to apply for a position at the post office. with addresses, streets cities and states that were to be memorized. With his eyes blind folded, he would try to place the envelope in the correct box it was amazing to watch him. I was told never to bother him while he was studying, so my sister and I kept very quite around him. It was a happy when he passed the test with flying colors. He eventually was given the highest position in the state, other than the postmaster. Yes, Mom had been right, she could see his potential. He knew what he wanted and went after it! 

This is the story of the young life of Claire Bubendey Cuni Bianco

 claire for story

TO: My Children. PERRY, ROBERT, AND ANGELA 

and also to My Grandsons: Jake and Aidan

Also to  My FAMILY and Friends Here in America and Germany

SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHO I AM AND HOW I GOT HERE

WITH ALL MY LOVE -MOM

This writing is about what I remember of my adventurous life. My life has had many fazes, each one has moved my life in a new and different direction to bring me finally to what I am!

Faze-1: My family before I was born

Faze-2: Being born and living in Brooklyn till age 4

Faze-3: Going to Germany to meet my mother’s family

Faze-4: Growing up through WWII and beyond

Faze-5: Returning to America and making a new life at age 16

Faze- 6: Meeting my husband and getting married at age 21

Faze-7: Living with my in-laws at age 21 till 24

Faze-8: Finally in my own home with my children and a better life.

 

FAZE-I

I’m writing this trying to recall all the things my mother told me about her youth. It was the time near the end of the First World war. I’ve tried to match pictures my mom and I collected over the years and put them roughly where they belong in my story. My mother, Erna Wulf, was born in 1905 in a city, called Dusseldorf, Germany, but after a while her family moved to Hagenburg, Germany where  life  was a lot simpler, where they had a little farm that fed the family. At that time there were no stores as there are today as you ate what you grew., and from  the animals on the farm you collected your  milk, eggs, and meat. Since there were no refrigerators then, all food was either eaten at once, or stored into a root cellar just for that purpose. The root cellar was dark and cool. As for my Mom, I wasn’t told too much about how she grew up, but when she was age(12) she had to work. All children had to, because of the raging war.

My Mom, at age 17

Clairesmom

 

At that time, while living in Hagenburg, Germany with her parents, she was forced to work in a dangerous ammunition factory, that was far away, in another town called Wunstorf, which was about an hours walk. It  was 1917, and the war was raging with all German men, young or old, being forced into the army and sent to France to fight. Everyone else made weapons and ammunition because the war was not going well for Germany, so women of all ages were forced to work in these dangerous factories. Below is a picture of my Mom doing just that, making bombs. She lived at home with her Mother, Clara, and her sisters, Henny, Clara, and brother August, while her father was in the German army. Living next door to them was her father’s sister, Sophie, and husband Henry Hattop. 

My Mother at 12 years old working in a Bomb factory during WW1

 claires grandfather

My mother’s father, who was in the war at that time, eventually came home near the end. Here is a picture of him in 1919.

Photo of him, center, smoking the cigar, and playing the accordion with his fellow musicians, on their way home from France.

clairesgrandfatherinwar

By the way, who does the man on the extreme top left look like…could it be?  and he is even a Corporal, the right age? He played the piano but none were available. Wanna guess? His initials are A H???     

Faze 2

I’m not sure of the timing, but I think my Mom, who was 20 years old, came to America in 1925 with her younger sister Henny, and younger Brother August, . While experiencing new and exciting things in her new country, my mother met a very handsome young man named Günter. When I was older, she told me, that they where very much in love, but she never did tell me what happened to there relationship, as this could have been the man to  change her life and thereafter, ours as well.
  clairesfather

My Father, Herman Bubendey

It was a short while later, she met the man who became her husband, and my Father, Herman Bubendey. They were married in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. I don’t know if their life afterwards was ever really happy, as my mother never told me too much about my father. He worked as a bar tender in the day time, and then continued on into working nights. He had roaming eyes for other women, which made life for my mother very difficult. They lived in Brooklyn N Y on 412 Grove Street, and at that time, things were very hard for everyone as it was the start of the depression, so both had to work.

My father who was a ladies man,  also liked his whisky and always drank too much. Thank God, my mom had her sister and brother who were always there for her, stood by her, and kept her company when he wasn’t home, which was often. My mother didn’t know at that time, that he was married to another women in Germany and had a daughter and a shoe repair shop. He told me and my mother about it much later, after he was married to another woman, Elsie, who he married while still married to my mother.

 clairesfathersstore

My father’s shoe repair shop in Germany with his wife and daughter, many years before he married my mother.

Tante Henny’s boyfriend, Karl, followed her to America and after a short while, they were married. She was a pretty girl and had a  beautiful singing voice and they really loved each other. They eventually had 2 children, who are my cousin “Fritzy”, born in 1936 or 1937, and cousin Hellene, born in 1943 or 1944.  My Uncle August went back to Germany after he experienced a sad relationship to forget his heartache. 

claireand her doggie

Me and my Little Doggie

 

My parents had to work hard and long hours through the depression and four years later they had their first child. My brother, Herman Rudolf August (Sonny) was born 11/28/1931 in Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. and three years later I was born on 12/14/1934, as Klara Maria Henny Emma, in that same hospital                                              

 Faze 3

In 1938, when I was 4, and my brother 7, my mother received a very sad letter from Germany, saying that her father was very ill and dying. You can imagine how upset she was, not being near him, or her other immediate family members to help, all being so very far away. First of all, she did not have any extra money of her own to make the trip to Germany and my father wouldn’t even consider helping her, even knowing how she wished to see her father before he died. So her Tante (Aunt) Sophie, who was my Opa’s sister said she would be very happy to send money for her, my brother, and myself to sail to Germany, flying at that time was only for the very, very rich . My mother still did not know what to do, to leave her husband and travel into danger. She was torn between going into the thick of danger with her children cause rumors were flying all over, saying that World War II was starting; or deciding to go there even though, to be with her family to help in the care of her father. She finally decided to make the trip, and with this decision, she changed both mine and my brother lives forever.

claire and brother at three

              Me and my brother outside our home in Brooklyn before we left for Germany in the background Unkel Carl Tante Henny and Tante Emma.

 It was in May 1939, that we began the start of our journey to Germany, and WOW, did it change all four of our lives. My father was now free to do whatever he wanted, with no responsibility or concern for his wife, or more importantly, his children. At the time, my memory of Brooklyn was very limited, being only four, with only little bits and pieces of information that I could remember. Like when my Father took me into a Bar, then sneaking a bottle of booze into my stroller, or of Momma taking us to the corner of Myrtle and Palmetto streets to “Collettie’s” soda shop, to get delicious chocolate. At that time. it was already an old fashioned soda shop, with a big long counter. high stools that spun while to sat at the counter, and booths that held 4 to 6 people.

When I returned from Germany in 1951, Collette’s was still there and you could still get a Malted, ice cream soda, Ice cream Sunday, hamburgers, or cheeseburgers and sit there for hours. We would go out to a movie or dancing and stop at Collette’s afterwards, or, to a Diner where we would all meet and talk and laugh, it was so much fun.           

The boat trip over, was exciting, with parties for the adults and games for the children.  For whatever reason and I know it is strange, but I did not like the vanilla pudding they served. Being so little, this, of all the things was what I remember. Funny isn’t it? We had a great trip over, and this picture is of a group of us kids. I’m the child on the bottom left. While on the boat, all these strangers were looking at me and talking this strange language, and being just four years old, I couldn’t understand what all these people were talking about to me, as everyone was speaking German.  Knowing only English, I kept looking at they’re faces and wondering what are they talking about? After a while, I got over it and learned German. Germany, till one day, I now only knew German. Many years later I was again in the same situation, only this time going the other way heading for America. I was confused in exactly the same way, but this time only knowing German, and going to a place that only spoke English. Both times, I was definitely scared and excited as well.

claireon boat to germany

This picture is on the boat with my mom and us two kids, see me all the way on the bottom left. Sonny all the way on the top right

My mom, in the picture below, is holding a glass of dark beer and as you can see,  very sad because she was thinking about her father who was dying In Germany and in extreme pain.

sonny and me

  On the boat just leaving for Germany, yes, that’s me on the bottom and Sonny behind me.

                                              FAZE-4

We arrived in Germany in the nearby the port of Bremerhaven, and visited my  Aunt  on my father’s side, and her mother, who was my grandmother. When we were ready to leave, we somehow found some of our stuff missing, or stolen. The people living in Europe at that time thought all Americans had tons of money, with gold in the streets, so they felt they should try to get what they could, by hook or crook. We did not like them very much, they where not nice to us. We then continued on by bus and then by train to my mother parents hometown, called Hagenburg.

My Opa, (Grandfather), had stomach cancer and actually was in a very advanced stage, so he was constantly suffering. Please realize that at that time there were no drugs to help cure him, or even to relieve his pain. He lived in the main house, so when we arrived, we were put in a little cottage next door. we would spend all the daylight hours in the main house with my Grandfather. At the time, being just four years old, I could not believe that this grown man was crying. I remember very clearly that he was always screaming and in severe pain.  It took over a year of this pain for him to finally die, but by this time, I had grown to love him very much. What I do remember is being very upset, and not understanding why it was happening to him. My mother told me much later, that I wanted to jump into his open grave while we were looking at the coffin being lowered, crying and screaming the whole time. In order for the ceremony to continue they finally had to take me away from the grave and leave the cemetery.

clairesgrandommandgf

 

My Grandfather and  Grandmother Clara in their yard, notice her cat and her arthritic hands. My Oma (Grandmother) could not come to the cemetery because she, too, was very ill and paralyzed with Arthritis as well.  She had rheumatoid arthritis for many years, and as time passed, it kept getting worse.  She was not able to walk, or move her arms without tremendous pain. Even then, at my young age, I can clearly remember her, half sitting, and half laying on her chaise lounge, with her skin always so shiny. Even with all this, she was a very pretty women, with beautiful long grey hair combed into a long braid, and I’d like to think that I inherited her looks. She had a large grey cat that just loved to lie in her lap. I can still see in my minds eye, the cat lovingly rubbing my Oma’s face with her body, while purring softly.  It has become one of my fondest memories of my Oma!

 In her living room (Stube), she had all of our pictures on the wall, so she could see them and think of her family. She also had this beautiful old wall clock that chimed ever so softly the hour and half hour. I always loved to listen to the chime’s counting the bell strokes. It’s now finally come to my home after so many years of it being stored away waiting for me to come get it. Tante Clara gave it to my Friend Hildegard to save it for me until I came back for it. Which I did in 2002. As events settled down, there became a time for my Mom to consider returning to the United States. She tried to book passage for the return voyage, but when she did, she was told that there was a possibility that she would be stopped at some point before the actual voyage. You see, she was a German Citizen and we were Americans, being born in New York.  The German authorities then in control, didn’t want any of it’s citizens leaving on the chance they would supply information to the enemy. As it had happened, many who did try, were never heard from again.

clock

The Clock we carried from Germany that was held for me by old family friends

So, here again, she was forced to make another big decision that would affect all our lives.  What was the safest thing to do?  Would we children be safe by ourselves, and to arrive back in America to live with our father and be without her to care for us? At that time, however, she had no idea that our father had no interest in us, and was already seeing another woman, and actually would not have been there for us even if she were to send us to him. She was very, very, worried that she could be taken off the boat before it left Germany and into a very uncertain future, possibly into the arms of people who she knew would not consider her plight. So, she finally decided to remain in Germany with us, as she realized that she could not bear to be without us. Now plans have to be made to find a permanent place for us to live. It was Tante Klara who took us in to stay with her, in her little cottage, where there was not very much room, but we all made do. 

In the picture below, Uncle Carl, Tante Clara’s husband is at the front door, which when opened you went into a hall.  On the right was a small bedroom, just enough for a bed and a stand.  On the stand was a beautiful wash basin and pitcher for washing. There was no plumbing, and we had to use a hand pump that was outside to get all our water. Back in the house, a little further down, on the right, were steps going down to a root cellar, which had apples, pears, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables being stored for the winter. Straight down the small hall and to the back was the Stube(Living room). It had a tile stove(SEE picture below) that heated the whole house by burning coal, when we had it, or wood, or peat moss ( the dried up grass, or dried turds from cows or sheep). To the right of that was the kitchen, and that too was very small, but it did have a great big bright copper basin which was used for everything, and I mean everything!  We all took our baths in it, then used it to wash our clothes in it afterwards. . We also used it for making delicious sugar beets syrup, and believe it or not, some kind of whisky made of wheat, that had a very unpleasant aroma That my unkel Carl made, I did not like the smell.

  Not our stove but one like ittante clarashouse                  

Tante Clara’s house with Uncle in front

 

stove

Not our stove but one like it

Tante Klaras’ husband, Karl, loved making his own whisky, so he  designed a “still” with many copper pipes that twisted and turned like a distillery that allowed him to make his own whisky. It was against the law to do so, but in those days everybody did it, anyway.

Upstairs was another bedroom that had two big beds. It had a large vent hole into the floor that allowed the heat to rise from the living room and our wonderful big stove, into the upper floors and throughout the whole house. I remember one time when Tante Klara moved a big wooden trunk for some reason, behind it was a nest with tiny mice.  They were so cute, all pink, they looked like tiny little pigs. Of course I wanted to keep them, but alas, I could not. At night time, Tante Klara would heat bricks and wrap them in towels and put them on the foot of the bed to keep our feet warm. It was so cold we where fully dressed in night cloths and sometimes even a hat. So here we where in this tiny place, but my wonderful Aunt being so kind to let us stay with her, that we happily settled in.  A girl named Hildegard and her family lived next door to us in a big Farmhouse. Her family was large as she had four Sisters and one Brother. Her Grandmother and Aunt also lived with them.  I became very close to Hildegard and we did everything together.

sonny and me

Sonny at the arrow, me in second row 2nd from right Hildegard on the right corner

When My brother and I started school, he was put in the first grade and I in Kindergarten. At first, I cried a lot, as I did not speak German, and did not understand anyone, and on top of this, I was frightened. Little by little, I got acclimated to School life, as I learned games and words.

I graduated from Kindergarten as you can see in the picture above which was really cute. We all wore paper dresses and hats, some of us as butterflies, some as ladybugs, and some were bees or birds and we were  really excited being all together. We won prizes, where we each got a Tute, which was a  paper sack shaped like a cone with fruits, nuts, and little candies poured into it. If you look hard, you can  to see them in picture above.  

5thgirl on the right

                    I’m the 5th girl on the right with the pig tails

My mother then proceeded to look and finally found a job, now that we had settled in as best we could. It must have been very difficult for her, as the house was a crowded little place, with Oma, Tante Klara, Momma, Sonny, and Me, all in a very small place, however, we managed.Tante Klara was an excellent seamstress, so, she made all my dresses and aprons, coats and such. She never had children and felt like I was her daughter. I loved her very much and besides, She was my God Mother. Every day the girls would wear a different apron over the same dress that we wore for at least one week. My uncle August would come every weekend as he lived in the city called Celle.

cls granny 

                  My Smiling, wonderful Tante Klara in her late 70’s

He would bring all kinds of goodies, and take us on adventures into the forest. One time he came to visit while I was still very little, with a radio turned it on, and I asked how the people talked and sang, how the voices came out. He said that there were little people in this box, and that they lived in there. I kept looking at the radio in the back, front and underneath thinking that I would be able to see them. He thought that he was very funny! More about him later.

We started to make friends, and my first and best friend was Hildegard Rabe and we were the same age. She was one of six children, and lived on a very large farm, in a house next door to us. We always played together and had the same classes when we started school. Sonny also made friends but he was always in trouble.        

 The holidays where still a lot of fun at this time, even though the war had just begun. There was this great bakery in town that had a big stone oven where everyone would go to bake all the holiday cookies. No one had big ovens to bake in, so they would make the dough at home and then bring it to the oven at the town bakery where everyone had a set time when they could bring their baked goods to be baked.     mmm… hum, hum good.

 Things went along smoothly for a while. We did not anticipate what was to come! The house we lived in had a yard and beyond that was a field where my family grew crops of vegetables and such, and beyond that where orchids of fruit trees, apples, pears, plums, peaches and even grapes. I can still taste the scrumptious fruit and vegetables.  Nothing has ever tasted the same!  Even further on, a field of grass for harvesting hay, and straw for all the livestock our family had, such as ,horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, also cats and dogs.  I loved riding the big Clydesdale horse(SEE picture). When ever I did, I felt as though I was climbing mountain. As you can see, it was a farm life with harvesting and slaughtering for our meals.  We had everything we needed, life was hard but oh so good. Everyone had a job to do, such as milking the cows and goats, gathering the eggs or picking the vegetables. When slaughtering, we also had a big meal for everyone that helped us. There was Sausage, Steak Tatar, potatoes, vegetables, Fruit and all kind of cakes, which ended shortly as the war got closer and closer to us. There was an area at the back of the house where my brother and I used to play.  It had a woodshed and another a little shed for the pigs.  

onahorse

 Not a clear picture but I’m on top of our Clysdale

meandmybro

         Me and My Brother at the shed

As we had no indoor plumbing, we of course had to use an outhouse, which was not so pleasant at night in the dark?  I can remember one night I had to use the facilities, always being afraid to go out by myself. On my way back to our safe house I thought I heard something.  It sounded like a hissing, and every time I stopped, it stopped, every time I moved, it moved.  I started to run into the house to my mother; she laughed and said it’s only a piece of straw that was stuck onto my shoe. But it sure sounded like I was being followed; I guess that’s what Imagination can do to a young girl!!!

Every now and then we would hear stories about the WAR getting more intense.  So far it has not affected us except for the young men all being called to serve.  It was very scary and we kept praying that it would be over soon. By this time, my mother had found an apartment in an old farm house.  There was another family living there.The owners lived in the city in the south. We had a living room kitchen combination and a bedroom, the outhouse was by the main entrance down a hall where the livestock was. The main hall was very big, above was the hay and straw loft, as were most houses. The more affluent farmers had private houses separate from their barns. We lived in a town named Hagenburg, Schaumburg Lippe, Deutschland.  By now we had to keep the house in the dark at night. Because of the air raids by the Allied armies every night, we had to cover every crack and hole to make certain that it was pitch black all over. The worse part was when you went out at night and there was no moon or stars you could not see were you were going, if you turned around, well you can forget about it, as you would totally lose your sense of direction. So you always made sure that you did not turn around. We had no idea why this was happening to our town and all around us. However, life went on, so my brother and I were settled into a school, Mamma had her job in a ammunition factory again, three towns away, and rides her bike there every day. I have made lots of friends, Sonny too! We would play in their yard, or ours, or by Tante Klara. As faith would have it, as we where playing by Tante Klara, I fell into the cesspool.  Luckily I did not fall head first, I only fell up to my waist. Pew, bad enough, maybe that’s why I grew nice and tall! Ha! Ha! My brother thought it was very funny, as he was always playing tricks on me. For instance, when he was trying to teach me how to ride a bike, (Someone should have warned me that disaster was about to happen) with a grin on his face, he says: “I won’t let go, trust me!” As I proceeded to ride in my uncertain and trusting way, HE LET GO!!!!*”:*”:*****I CRASHED into the woodshed! *******Aurgh. I did learn how to ride a bike eventually, and also, never to trust my brother again.

We are hearing more and more about the WAR, but it’s still too far away for us to be affected. So we went about our daily lives, learning German which made life a little less complicated. I did not like school very much, especially in Kindergarten.  I was terrified of the teacher when ever he would come near me I would scream and run. I guess I got over it. After that it really became fun. At the end of the school year we put on a play, we where all dressed like flowers.  The costumes where  made of crepe paper, we all looked so cute.  We had songs to sing and lin.  It was a graduation from Kindergarten to first grade. By now the WAR was getting closer.  Needles to say Some German Troops where starting to fall back from the front lines trying to stay away from the Russian forwarding army.  By 1944, the fighting was really in Berlin, and we where in the northern part of Germany. So now, some of the German soldiers retreated to our small towns. My mother was very lonely, and met one of the officers, who was very charming, and so, she had an affair which later produced Aunt Renate. After a while, he moved in with us, but I did not like him, and he did not like me, and was very critical of me.  His name was Willy. Tante Klara, my God Mother, was my true guardian Angel, and always took my side and therefore protected me from him.  She was a Seamstress and always made beautiful Dresses and Coats for me.  Plus, whatever she sewed for me, she sewed for my dolls, Shirley Temple, and Ericka, a German made doll. Everyone was envious of me, as I had the best looking dolls! Believe it or not I still have them. My wonderful Onkel August Wulf would come and visit us on the weekend, and would take my brother and me on field trips into the Forest, and taught us about all the different species of birds, mushrooms, berries and trees.  We would walk for hours, as we walked he would whittle with his special pocket knife.  He would create Whistles shaped like birds and wooden plates with a hole in the middle so he could put a string and then put a bird, or squirrel that he had whittled in the middle, pull the string and they would peck. Looking back today, those are the greatest memories of my childhood. We always looked forward to his visits.  He got married to a beautiful lady, her name was Margo. Well, as life went on, in the spring we would seed and plant vegetables and flowers.  In the fall we would harvest the fruit of our labor.  It was also the time to slaughter pigs. I don’t understand how I could have even watched it.  That was part of life, and that’s why we raised them. We always had a big celebration in the fall, I guess you could call it a harvest fest. What we here call Thanksgiving.  Everyone would bring the best of there harvest to church, and lay it in front of the altar for blessing. It was a thank you to God for a beautiful bounty.  I remember it being a very touching ceremony. When the celebration in church ended everyone went home and we all feasted on Gods generous bounty. 

uncleaugust

                    Onkel August and Tante Margo

 Getting back to the pigs, what a job that was.  It was very hard work, to section, separate and sorts all the parts.  We made sausages and ate tartar, which very tasty with a lot of spices. I know today you would not think of eating raw pork.  But believe me it was scrumptious! To make sausage we took the intestine and sterilized it extremely well, and then we would put the flavored sausage meat inside.  At the time, we used every part of the pig. My favorite part was pig’s ears; I like the cartilage (knorpel) inside and still do today, and my children make fun of me. Thinking back, it was quite an experience. Chickens and ducks where also slaughtered, we also had sheep and goats. The goats where used mainly for they’re milk, and butter that was made from it.  I liked the butter but not the milk.  I learned to churn the butter from the goat’s and cow’s milk. The season was fall and all the fruit was ripe and ready to be picked. I can remember clearly how absolutely delicious the fruit tasted.  Have you ever had it right off the tree or the vines, there is nothing like it. A lot of the fruit and vegetables where kept in the cellar, where they were stored through the winter, for use later in the year.  It was a cool and dark place, and would keep all the fruit and potatoes and so on, good for the winter. By the end of the winter some of it would get kind of wrinkled, but it would still be good to eat. My great aunt would bake wonderful apple cakes (apfelkuchen) and dried fruit. THOSE ARE GREAT MEMORieS TO ME EVEN TODAY.

mygreataunt

My Great Aunt Sophie in 1949 in the middle

 I forgot about the nights that we had to make sure that there was absolutely no light showing any where, cause then the enemy planes could find our towns and bomb them. So we put heavy blankets over the windows and only used candles. When you walked outside at night you had to really focus, because you could loose your direction very easily. However, the first few minutes you came out, it was so shockingly beautiful, with all the stars so clear and bright. When I walked from my girlfriend Hildegard’s house back to mine, I would whistle, or sing, as it made me feel safe. We used to sit and play on the un-detonated bombs. Some of the children would swim in the bomb craters, but my mother did not allow us to do that and thank God. as who knows what could have happened. At that time, we would see our soldiers coming home, very ,very tired, with bandages on there heads, or arms, legs, or chest, looking really beat. Some even had lost legs or arms, it was so sad to see and scary.

I remember hearing that the war was getting closer and we where all getting scared. The stories that where being told where horrible. The Russian soldiers where raping all the woman and girls, and stabbing and killing everyone in their path. The sad part was, it was all true. Thank god they did not get to us. The British soldiers got to our area first. I was eleven years old, so it was a very frightening experience.  In the mean time, before the British soldiers arrived there was a lot of bombing and shooting from airplanes going on. But before all this happened we had to live through a lot of trauma. I remember, first all the young men    left, then, the older men were being recruited, and then finally the very, very young boys had to go. Many of their women got kind of like ghosts. Boy, was it scary! But, life had to go on, and we went to school and all grown-ups were sent to the munitions factories, far away from their homes.  The worst part was the air raids with bombs hitting our town, when we were either in school, or home, alone. Several times when there were bombings we did not know where momma was, as she worked in a village farther away. One time, momma went right from work in the bomb factory to her friend’s house because she saw smoke coming from the area her friend lived. A bomb did hit their house. Luckily her friend was fine but their home was destroyed. In the mean time, my brother and I thought our mother had been killed, as she did not come home when she was expected. Most of those time, we were by ourselves, either hiding, or running into shelters. Imagine just walking and a house close to you gets hit by a Bomb, and someone you know was in it, but did not make it out. We where always running and hiding.

As it turned out, in the town of Wunstorf, very near us,  was a German Air Force airport, where the Luftwaffe had hidden in a mountain close by, a gigantic cannon called “Big Bertha“. to shoot it, they had to roll it out from under the mountain. So whenever they shot the cannon off , we would have to throw ourselves to the ground as it made a high whistling sound, and if you did not, your lungs could burst from the shock waves, as it did to a few people who didn’t know to drop down. The bomb was so big and powerful that the missile would travel all the way to London, England.

bigbertha

This is Big Bertha

It was because of this cannon, that the British were constantly bombing in our area, which basically was just a farm area. There is actually a movie about this cannon and how the Allies finally figured out how to destroy it. The cannon being hidden inside a mountain, couldn’t be hit by any of the bombs that were being dropped every night, until one pilot figured out a way to hit it. Using his torpedo plane that was normally used to sink Submarines, He flew it very low, just above the lake that was in front of the mountain, and dropped  two torpedoes that skimmed and hopped over the surface of the water and finally went into the mountain opening, destroying all within.

Meanwhile, we spent more time on the ground than anywhere else. As the war got closer you could see in the distance, the city of Hannover burning, the whole sky would glow orange and red. If it was not so tragic, it would have been beautiful. As it turned out at the end of the war there were only two buildings left standing in the whole city of Hannover. So as the actual fighting was getting closer, and closer, my grandmother was very frightened, because she was an invalid, and not able to move her arms or her legs because of her rheumatoid arthritis. She had heard about the Russian killing and raping. So, as the war got even closer, she got all her children together and told them to promise, when the enemy soldiers came to our town, they would give her a lethal injection to put her to sleep. It must have been a very difficult decision to make for my mother, aunts and uncle. My grandmother had heard all those stories about the Russian soldiers. So they put her to sleep before the war got too close. As it turned out, the British were the army who invaded our area, and thank God, as you would not be reading this story of my life.

The Russians were giving payback to all Germans for what our army did to their country and people. A lot of our people from the South where trying desperately to get away from the War zone and the on coming Russians, so they kept fleeing north ahead of the Russians and the immediate war zone. Our locals were talking about these newly arrived families from the south and how different they were, with their different dialect and the different foods they ate. There was a lot of nasty gossip, as you would think during such a sad and scary time, people would come together making these others feel more comfortable and welcome. As for me, I was very interested and excited as it was all new to me. When I heard that the little girls and boys where having holy communion. I had no idea what that was and that they where getting dressed like brides and grooms, so I had to go see. They all looked so beautiful, I wanted to be just like them. Eventually I became friends with a few of the little catholic girls. During this whole time we were just trying to survive. Food was very difficult to get. Many days we had very little or nothing to eat. It had to be very difficult for my mother not to have enough food for her children. She even sent me to go to the local farmers to beg for bread or vegetables. Oh how I hated it, I was so ashamed, as I went to the same school and classes with these farmers children.  However, my mother would make these interesting meals of whatever she could find. Like in a one pot meal, she would put potatoes and fruit together to make it like a stew, or another was noodles with milk and sugar. After the farmers had harvested, we were allowed then to go into their potato fields and find what was missed, then dig for those few pieces of potatoes still there. It was a great time for us, as we would build a fire with all the dried fall leaves, put the potatoes in the fire to roast our wonderful potatoes. Hmm! Hmm! Good. When you’re hungry everything tasted like a gourmet meal.  

mygrangmother

.                                         My Grandmother

 I remember our first “care” package that came from America, we were all drooling. When the war was ending and American families could get through to their families in Europe, they would send packages of things we needed , things we didn’t have and these packages were called “care” packages, saying “We Care” from America. Ours came from Aunt Helen and Uncle Carl and had coffee for my mother, she really loved coffee, because before she received it, she would use regular wheat from the fields, roast it in a frying pan on top of the stove, and then brew it like coffee afterwards. So she was really happy to get real coffee. Also  in the package was a can of Crisco. My mom decided to make Crisco sandwiches. You toasted the bread, then added the Crisco on it and sprinkled it with salt It really wasn’t bad when you were hungry. Getting back to the war! One day I was sitting outside on a little rocking chair playing with my dolls in front of the house, when I heard an airplane overhead, I was just looking at it as it flew by. Next thing I know, my mother comes running out of the house and pulls me off the chair. She no sooner gets me off and the pilot shoots, and the chair is in a million pieces. Boy that was close and one more time that GOD was with me. Another day, my mother was on the side of the house in the garden getting vegetables when they where dropping phosphorus bombs.  Phosphorus bombs where the kind of bombs that if they hit you anywhere, on your body or clothes, it kept burning and you could not put it out, no matter what you used, water, sand, nothing worked. Think that was very scary? Luckily they did not hit either one of us, cause, I RAN OUT TO WARN MY MOTHER. Then there was the time I was looking for my mother so I ran through the barn part of the house because bombs where being dropped and as I ran through the barn, it collapses after me.  I still remember, it seemed like slow motion. I turned around and it was collapsing. Luckily the animals where out in the field.  Again GOD was watching over me.  I would also see a few men who had gone out in the field to harvest, would be shot while they were coming home in their wagons, as their horses would eventually bring them home. They knew the routine.  The bombs left great big craters in the ground, so when the weather was warm the craters became a swimming holes, but Momma would not allow us to go into them. So basically, every day was a new experience, and adventure. Witnessing all this and being able to live with it, shows just how children will adapt to all kinds of situations. Even though we were scared, life went on, and it was better than the alternative, which many of our friends suffered.  So we went to school and Momma went to work. By now, the WAR was coming to an end and the enemy forces (Allies who were:, The Americans, The British, and the Russians) were getting closer, and a lot of things were happening. It was at this time,  that the Nazi Germans, the “SS”, were fleeing, trying to find places of safety out of Germany and into Argentina, and any other places that they had set up when they realized that the war was being lost, and they would have to pay for their crimes. The ordinary German Officers and their men were leaving the war front and moving back into the country side. So now they are moving into all farm areas to hide. One day some of them decided to stay in our farm house with all their guns and stuff, even though we did not like it, or want it, but there was nothing we could do about it, as they had the guns. Most of them still had their uniforms on, since they left all their other possessions behind. It was at this point, when one of the officers was idly walking around to the front of our house not realizing that  enemy tanks were approaching. When he finally saw them, they too saw him. Realizing his danger, he ran back into the house and closed the door. It turned out that they were British Soldiers who thought he went in the house to get his gun and other soldiers to fight. They were coming with tanks and many more soldiers. So as they surrounded our house which was on a corner; they then started shooting. We were all in the house at the time and on the left side of the house there was a walled in vegetable garden, so we were slightly protected. My mother, seeing this, brought all of us up into our bedroom which was on the left side of the house on the second floor and in the back. The British soldiers were only able to surround us on three sides, not the left. The shooting started with bullets flying everywhere. We were all very scared and thought we were all going to die. Me, My mother, brother, the people from the other apartments nearby, Willy, my mothers’ boyfriend, in his German uniform, were all crowded upstairs in that back bedroom. While all the shooting was going on, Willy changed into civilian cloths and proceeded to hide his uniform under the bed linens. I was so scared, that I had to go to the bathroom. My mother had a potty under the bed for when it was late and we had to GO, so she pulled it out and said “ OK! you got to, then Go!”. It was embarrassing for me, with everybody in the same room, but I had no choice and sat . The bullets were still flying making the whole room white with dusty smoke. One bullet hit the potty I was sitting on and went right through it. Luckily it did not hit me.

thisishouse

This is the house where I lived during the war,  in the barn in the back side of the house.Sal and I traveled to germany with Cousin Al and Fran in 2005

They must have been shooting at us for at least a half an hour, with bullets flying everywhere and how they did not hit any of us is a miracle. Finally it got quiet when they stopped shooting. The whole house was white with smoke from the Tanks shooting at it. Thank God, the one side of the house had a Garden with vegetables growing, as it would have been just as easy for the tank to knock the fence down and shoot from that side, but the soldiers saw the crops and didn‘t want to destroy food that they would be able to eat later. That saved us all from getting killed.

meand sonny

Sunny At 12 and me at 9

 The back of house…note garden and Rooster

We all went down to the living room and waited. Suddenly there was a lot of yelling, doors crashing down, and then they were in the room with us.  Guns pointing at us and shouting at us to put our hands up, boy it was very scary. My mother, knowing English, tried to talk to them in English and they told her to shut up. The British Soldiers were as scared as we were, with sweat  dripping off their faces. They looked so young. The British Soldiers searched all over, even under the bed, somehow, never found Willy’s uniform. 

They wanted to know where the German soldiers were. We told them we did not know. They said if we did not tell the truth they would kill us all. We knew the German Soldiers went up in the attic where all the hay and straw is kept and it was level to the field in the back. We were pretty scared and thought that they would be found and shot, but thank God, they never were. The British soldiers then got hunting dogs and searched everywhere. Later on, as we looked out the window, we saw some farmers go out into the field. Then we realized that it was the same German Soldiers that were up in the attic, they had found some farmers clothes and straw hats. We could not believe it! They were never caught, at least at that time. Many German soldiers, when they realized that others were being fed by the British, gave up gladly.

Well by now the British Soldier’s physically moved in and controlled everything and everybody. The first bunch was along and went into a ditch and tipped over. Well you should have seen us kids run. The truck was full of CANDY. The British Soldiers let us pick up as much as we could carry. We were all in heaven. One day I was walking and a soldier stopped me and asked me if I would like some chocolate and an orange, I said yes I would. I did not have anything like that to eat  since the war started. Oh my God it was wonderful, it was a HERSHEY CHOCOLATE BAR it lasted a whole week, as I nibbled a little at a time. very mean, because they were pretty scared themselves. They did not know what we would do, so we kind of stayed away from them. Eventually, as the next group that came and settled in, things changed nicely. They came with Trucks full of food and candy. We were all so hungry because we had not had real food for so long. We were all waiting to see if they would give us some, but at that time, I guess they could not spare it. One day a truck was driving

We still did not have food except for potatoes that the farmers would let us pick up in the fields after they had harvested. My Mother would send me to the farm houses to beg for milk and bread. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. But my Mother thought that they would give food to a child before an adult. It was awful, sometimes they would chase me away, other times they would send the dogs after me, or, they would slam the door closed, or not open it at all. It was not fun, but sometimes others would be generous and give me both milk and bread. That was our everyday life trying to get something to eat and trying to stay alive. I just remembered something! My mother sent me to a farm house to get tutored in English, as there was an American that lived there. My mother thought that it a good idea at the time, as she knew one day we would be going back to America. It turns out that he was a child molester. I was very lucky that I did not like him touching me, so, as soon as he came close to me, I ran home. My mother then reported him to the American Consulate but he disappeared. So I never got my English lessons. Well it could have been a lot worse, as there were a lot of creeps around even then. In 1949 on Palm Sunday, I made my Confirmation, along with 46 other kids. We all had to wear black stockings, shoes, dresses, and hair ribbons, the boys wore black ties and suites. We were all 14 years old. The girls wore crowns made of leaves from a special bush.

It was at this time a man in the British Army became our family friend. His name was Jock and his home was in Scotland where he had a wife and two children.

jockandm

Jock and my Mom and Jock in his sailboat

aletter

A letter from Jock. He sent many letters telling us news and asking how we were handling life now that the war was over. My Mother was very lonely, and finally met an German soldier , and she fell in love. Eventually, they had a baby girl, who I named Renate. Here, I remember a really funny story about before she was born; when my Mother was pregnant, and the Midwife would call, I would ask her what the baby was going to be. She would say kidding around “I only have a girl left and she has red hair“. Now, in Germany, for some reason people did not like red hair, but don’t ask me why. So when she was born on November 5th, 1945 she had red hair. By the way, while mamma was pregnant, some people in town called her names, and one woman actually kicked her in the stomach. Thank God nothing happened and she was alright. The war was just over, and the new officials in charge gave orders for everyone to go to the doctor to be checked on. We had to be inspected for TB, pneumonia, and malnutrition because of all the years we did not have the right food, or any food for that matter, to eat. So our bodies were pretty messed up. Also, always having to throw ourselves on the ground  and lay there until the bombing was over, did not do much for our health. So the doctor used these blue lights on us, I think it was for our lungs to clear them, but we really didn’t know.

Now we had a little Baby in the house. Mamma worked, so I had to take care of her. Our friends mother, who lived in our house as well, took care of Renate in the morning, while I went to School. So after School, I was the baby sitter. I was only 11 years old, but I loved every minute of it. She was like a doll to me and I dressed her up all the time, and braided her hair, when it finally grew in. I was so proud of her. So the years went by, with things getting a little easier. I had a paper route and delivered them with my bike, all over town. That was my first job. As I got older, I went to a school to learn how to cook, sew, and clean.  I never did go to High School because it was just too much money which we could not afford, and besides, the money I was earning was needed as well. When I was finished with school, I immediately went to work in a Restaurant.  At that time, guests would like to read the daily newspaper as they sat and ate, and all restaurants supplied them. These news Papers were kept on a rod that held them so people could easily read, and also to stop people from folding them and taking then away. Every morning I would have to change the Paper for the day by taking off the pieces of wood and replacing the new paper for that day. After that, I would go help in the kitchen. Sometimes I was allowed to bring out food for the guests, or had to make Ice cream from scratch, so all certainly was a learning process for me. My next job was in a small grocery store, actually, not in the store, but in the back in the owner’s private house. They were very nice people who had money and were very nice to me. They would go to the Opera or plays in Hanover. They also owned a car, wow, which nobody else in Town had, well maybe the Doctor, or the Mayor, but no-one else. It was my job to clean the house for them, and watch their Baby.  This left time for me to do fun things. Me and my friends went dancing together at these different halls and we also traveled to different towns that had all kind of events. We would meet boys, some of whom were cousins of some of the girls.  We would also ride our bikes all over. There is a beautiful lake 2 towns away called Steinhuder Meer.  It is a vacation place to go picnicking, sailing, swimming, and fishing.  Also there was a Kiosk all kinds of food.  OOOHHH fish on a roll, sausage, cold cuts. Then nearby was a Conditory that had ice-cream and pastries yummy!!!!! At this time after the war ended, we were able to have some sort of normalcy in our lives and a little bit of fun.  In 2004, Sal and I and his Cousin Al and his wife went to the lake, where nothing had changed and the food was great.

Faze-5

By now, I am 15 years old and Mama is talking about sending me to America. She had sent my Brother when he turned 16. My father, living in America, who did not want to come with us to Germany when my Mother really had to go, never wrote us, even though my Mother was writing to him whenever she was able. So, he just remarried while we were in Germany, claiming that he had not heard from us and declared us dead. What a creep. So now my Brother is there with him and his new wife, but they did not like it. I don’t know what he did but they did not want him around.

hildagard

 Hildegart and me and a friend

My mother, while she was planning for us to go to America, found that she could not go until she got a Visa, being she a German Citizen and not American like I was. I did not want to go without Her, and pleaded with her not to send me alone, and that I could wait for her. But she felt that I would have a better life in America.

It was when I turned 16, in 1950, that she prepared everything ready for me to leave for America. Tante Clara, who was my God Mother, took me to Hannover to buy me new clothes, because I did not have anything nice to wear. She bought me a dress, shoes, a skirt, nylons, and a winter coat. She was very generous and treated me as though I was her daughter. She wanted me to look nice for my trip to my new home. The day of my departure was very sad, as I was leaving the only home I knew, and even sadder yet, all the people I knew and loved, my family and friends. I was scared, but excited at the same time.  This was in 1951 in the month of may . You have to understand I had not been anywhere except Hannover, and my little home Town of Hagenburg. Here I was going all by myself to the biggest City in the world, New York.  

ontheship

On the ship ready to leave for America

My Mother, my sister and I, left Hagenburg May 1951, I was 16 going on17. We took a train to Bremerhaven, the port where the ship would be leaving from. From the train station, we then took a bus,which took us to the Pier, where we got off. They where both able to come aboard to see where I was going to sleep and to meet all the people that where sailing with me. This was not a Luxury Liner it was a Freighter. When they were boarding the bus to return home, my little Sister, who was only 5 years old, started to cry a little at first, then started to scream and bang her fist on the bus window. My mother and the bus driver had to hold her back, as she tried to get off, but they closed the door and drove off. That  was a most heartbreaking thing to see. God, every time I think about it, even now, I start to cry. My mother told me later that the bus driver went out and bought my little sister a doll and a small stroller. How nice of him, as he felt so bad for my mother and my sister. Needless to say, I was devastated. Here I was all alone for the very first time in my life, scared to death, not knowing what was in store for me in the coming days, let alone the future. When I boarded the Ship, I found it was not a Luxury Liner, but a freighter. There where about 10 passengers, all the rest where crew members. My mother had spoken to a young German couple who were traveling on the same ship, and asked them to keep an eye on me. There was one younger man on the ship, and he and I kind of spent time together. All 10 of us ate together so we where never alone. We ate with the Captain and the crew, cause the ship was not that big. As for the overall trip, it was not bad at all, but some people got sea sick. I was Ok until on the last night, everybody was having a drink to  toast our arrival, so I had one too. It was called Goldwasser, and had little gold specks in it. I had no idea that it was powerful, so I got sick on the drink, which brought on being seasick later as well.  The trip itself, was uneventful except for the 2 days we had a heavy storm. It became rougher, and then very, very, rough, and again, everyone got sick, but not me. I was not scared, and enjoyed going up and down, until the sailors started putting oil into the Ocean to try to calm the sea. That’s when I started to worry a little. We made one stop in Antwerp and we were allowed to get off to see the sight’s. We were there for just one Day, but I was able to see for the first time beautiful buildings and large Churches. Then we left there to finish our voyage. While traveling again, we all began to look over the side of the ship and saw all kind’s of fish following us. They were all sizes; big ones, small ones, and even flying fish. After two weeks our ship arrived in New York harbor. We arrived at night, so the port was closed, and we had to wait until morning out in the bay near the Statue of Liberty.  I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited. Just to think “ I am here in America“, oh my God, “The Statue of Liberty“, “Home of the free”, “no shooting, no bombing, Yea! Yea!“. I was so happy but also sad, as my Mother and little Sister were not with me to see all this. We docked in the morning and everyone started leaving the ship and saying goodbye to everyone else before they left the Ship. Each of my fellow passengers had someone meeting them. I thought I did too. Everyone finally left, and there I was all alone. I did not know were to go. Should I get off the boat? Stay and wait!  What was I supposed to do next? Who to get in touch with and how to do it! My mother had told me that my Aunt Henny and Uncle Karl were supposed to pick me up. Actually, a tragedy had occurred  while I was traveling across and I had no way to know it. My Uncle Karl had a Heart attack, and died, so my Aunt was preoccupied and asked my father to pick me up . So here I am, waiting, and waiting, and no one is coming to get me. I have no idea what to do, after all, I am only 16 years old; coming from the smallest Town in Germany, to the biggest City in the world. Finally the Captain of the Ship realized that I was not being met and was really very nice. He said “Don’t worry, Clara, you will not have to get off until someone comes to pick you up“. Thank God for him. Well, after 4 hours, my Father finely showed up with his new wife, Elsie, . By then I was really panicking and as I didn’t actually know my father, the last time we were together I was four years old, now I was 16.They acted as if nothing was wrong, and decided to take me to a restaurant for steak dinner. I had no idea what steak was, as I never ever had anything like it before. Guess what? I did not like it, Yuck!    

tantehel

Tante Helen Uncle Carl, Fritzy and cousin Helen

Afterwards, they took me to my Aunt Henny’s home, where I met her for the first time, along with her son Cousin Fritzy, who was 15, and his sister, Helene, who was only 7 years old.  They both still were so sad, as it was their father who had just died. Tante Henny’s house was really very small, with only two very small bedrooms upstairs and a kind of  back porch that she fixed up for me to sleep in. It was generous of her. She had a beautiful Garden in the very small back yard, Lilacs and the most beautiful roses. Here I have letters that I wrote to my Mother from the ship as we were docked in (Antwerp) Belgium. I’ve just translated them for this story.

My dearest Mutti and little Renatchen. 28/5/1951

Aboard the ship Adolf Finnen

How are you? Did you get home OK?  We departed Bremerhaven at 1:10 AM. It was a very strange feeling to be on the SHIP WITHOUT BOTH OF YOU . It was scary, but also very exciting at the same time. Imagine being from a very small town in Germany to the biggest City in the World. I went straight to my Cabin which I shared with a very nice lady, her name was Frau Gotz, and it turned out that we were very compatible together.  She treated me like a Daughter, and was protective of me.  She gave me chocolate and made sure I ate it before we saw other members of the ship, such as the sailors, and the two young men that were our traveling companions. After all, I was 16 years old and one young man was really very handsome! She also let me borrow her bathrobe, as I did not have one and the bathroom was down the hall. Actually, the bathroom was not ready for us when we boarded, but then the Captain eventually told us that it was now ready for us to use. Well dearest Mutti that is all for today we are going to eat dinner now, we sit at the Captains table for every meal. I will continue tomorrow.

 So here I am and I will continue. Frau Gotz and I arose at 8;30 AM.  We washed ourselves got dressed and went to the mess hall to eat breakfast. It consisted of an Apple, cornflakes with cold milk( I had not eaten this before) so I called it cold soup, and Sunnyside up eggs, potatoes, rolls, bread with cold cuts, cheese, and marmalade. M- M- M good. It is now 11;00 o clock AM, and now we can read, or visit with the rest of the passengers. We arrived in Antwerbten Belgien last night at 9:15 PM. It is a very big Pier (Harbor), and we had a young man aboard that  was blind who was getting off in Antwerbten, poor guy.

Today’s date is  30/5/ 1951

I forgot to tell you, yesterday in the afternoon we went into the City to go sightseeing. I went with a gentleman called, Herr Hollweg, and we went to the post office so we could send our mail. In the morning of the next day, we went to a little town close to the pier. We saw a movie house and decided to see a movie. It was a western, and in English!  Ha Ha. But at least, I was able to understand the overall story. The people here in Belgien are very social. This afternoon we all decided to go back into Antwerbten. The weather has been beautiful and I am getting a little sunburn. Today I sent all my cards, one to Tante Clara, one to Hildegard, and one to Siegfried so they should receive them soon. OH OH OH! The chocolate man is here I want to buy some. Oh I can hardly wait.

We received 2.00 dollars in exchange for a 100 franks . I also rented a nice big lounge chair so I could enjoy the comfort and the sun with the rest of the passengers. Today is nice and warm I am happy to have the lounge chair.

I just found out that the people who are supposed to meet us in New York, at the dock, were not notified of our arrival time. Now we all have to send a letter by airmail, so I will send one to Tante Henny and Unkel Carl. Dearest Mutti I would like to close for now as we will be eating soon. Aufwiedershen, if God will it. I will help you as soon as I can and I hope and pray you and Renatchen will be here with me soon as I miss you all so much. As soon as I have a job, I will send you money. I will write again as soon as I arrive in New York, and I am by Tante Henny.

Please send my regards to Rabens, Krauses, Edelers, Siegfried, Hildegard, Rubovs, and Ziemers.

Auf Wiedersehn soon, hugs and kisses for you dearest Mutti, and my sweet little Renatchen and Tante Clara too!. 

Tuesday June 5th/ 1951

Dearest Mutti!

We are going to start to sail again today. We decided to go into Antwerbten one last time to take another look around, and again it was pretty interesting. I bought some postcards to remember the City. We all received 100 hundred franks. Everything here is very expensive. A simple coat costs 1530 franks, with shoes also the same price.

We decided to have afternoon tea and 2 pieces of cake that cost 25 franks and we left a tip 2 franks. By the way, the cake was delicious. As I look around at all the people, they are dressed very stylish and sporty, even the little children. I was invited by the sailors to go dancing, and Frau Gotz said it was OK, but she said she had to come along. We went to a Bar to dance and it was great,  it was almost like a dream, we had a very good time.

So off we sailed. The weather was beautiful, but as soon as we sailed it started to rain. The trip was very exciting at this point as we entered the north sea it became very calm. So, for a few days we were able to relax and eat in peace. After a few days of traveling, the sea became very rough and the winds very strong with the waves as high as houses. It was beautiful to look at, all foamy and like mountains and valley’s, and as the waves sprayed all over the deck, it looked more like snow. I HAD TO HOLD ON REAL TIGHT, or go over the side, it was scary, but also very exciting. Some days we saw different Luxury Liners pass by us going the opposed direction. Believe or not, one was the Queen Mary! All were a lot larger then our little Freighter. They were mostly Luxury Liners, but we did see some smaller Freighters too. At the end of our voyage, before we arrived in New York, we passed the “Europa” witch now belongs to France. A very beautiful ship. What we were disappointed about was we did not see a lot of fish but we did see some seagulls, sea swallows, flying fish and pigfish. As we passed by the English coast, and the White Cliff of Dover, they looked like mountains, very nice.

 The whole trip was  interesting now so I know what mother nature can do. The ocean was wild like a stallion, as it was being tossed, twisted, and ripped apart, boy was it scary. The ship was rocking back and forth like a toy, and there were times we could not go on deck. That’s when I got just a little sea sick.

We arrived in New York on Saturday before 9:00 PM. We were not able to dock because it was too late in the evening. I could not sleep, cause we could see the Statue of Liberty from our ship. I was to excited, can you imagine how I felt. I am here in  AMERICA! Wow!!! 

The next morning we had to rise at 6:00AM. I took a shower, got dressed, and waited for the doctor to examine us. When that was done, we were ready to depart. As I said my good bye’s, it was a little sad,cause I had spent 2 weeks with all these people, and all were very nice. All met there families as they arrived, then left the ship thereafter. I was standing on the deck but no one was here to meet me. Tante Henny and Uncle Carl were supposed to pick me up, but no one was here. By this time I was getting a little nervous. I am all by myself! I don’t know were to go. I don’t know what to do. Now I am starting to panic.  Our Captain sees me standing, and waiting, he knows something is wrong, so he comes over to me and says “What is wrong” ? I tell him that my family is not here to pick me up.  He says that I should not worry as they will be here, and you can stay on board until they arrive.  He was very kind to me. Well, finally my father and his wife Elsie came, almost 4 hours later. Needless to say, I was a wreck by then.  Sonny, could not, as he had to work cause he lost some time for Uncle Carl’s funeral. Cousins’,  Fritzy and Helene, were still at school.  Tante Henny did not want to tell me by the ship she wanted  to tell me at her home.  My father decided to tell me right away that uncle Carl died of a heart attack. What a shock,  I was on the ship for 2 weeks when he died and could not believe it. I was looking so forward to meeting him, as I had heard what a fun and wonderful man he was. My father took me directly to Tante Hennys house where we stayed until noon, then we all went to the cemetery to see the grave and bring some flowers. After that, we went to Elsie’s brothers Restaurant to have lunch, they invited everyone.  Then we all went back to Tante Henny’s house.  It is very small  but she made room for me. She is very generous and very good to me.

As we drove through  Manhattan my Papa took me to the neighborhood were we had lived. He showed me the park where  I  and Sonny played. Remember Mama?

Now I am staying by Tante Henny until I start my job. She found a job for me, and also for you, for when you arrive, and hopefully it will be soon. Tante Henny has really some nice friends. Dear Mama you don’t have to worry! You will be in America real soon. Everything will be all right. You just have to get your fingerprints done as fast as you can and everything will be in order.  Tante Henny will loan us the money, she knows she will get it back. So it will just be all the politics and regulations that will take time. Sonny put a package together with food and cloths. The cloths you should sell.  Tante Henny and I are also getting a package together to send to you as well. Papa want’s to take me cloths shopping and he should be arriving soon.  Oh, by the way, Sonny is being a real gentleman, he want’s to take me all over, to show me off to his friends. He is so handsome, tall and neat, and has changed a lot. He is also saving his money. Cousin Helene looks like uncle Carl and so does Fritzy. Sonny is working, so he will be here later in the afternoon.  Tante Henny is washing cloths in a machine, then all she has to do is hang it outside on the cloth line. Imagine that. It is now 10;00 AM in the morning Helene and Fritzy are in school So dear Mutti I will close now but will write again in a day or two. Send my best regards especially, my love to Tante Clara, Uncle Carl, Hildegard, Siegfried Reinhards, Stalhuts, Wulfs and all others. Sonny  sends his love to both of you.  With all my love to you and my little sweet Mausey Renate. Best regards from Tante Henny, Fritzy, and Helene. Also may Uncle Carl he rest in peace.                                                                          

 This ends the letters to my mom after I left her in Germany

I’m recalling this after I became independent. Now, here I am finally settled in at Tante Henny‘s, when after just a couple of days, I started my new job as a Nanny in a Jewish home. I am a live-in nanny, and sleep in the same room as the baby. The baby cries a lot at night as she is 2 years old and should not be crying that much.  It’s in Forest Hills, New York, in a large apartment building, and in a beautiful apartment. The husband has a garment business, while the wife stays at home taking care of their two children, a Boy who is ten, and a girl that just turned two. The parents are not very nice to me, as I  not only have to take care of the children, but  wash their cloths, do their dishes, and clean all their rooms. It was also my job to take the kids out to play at the playground. I have a half a day off on Thursdays. Many  times, she has even take that away from me. In the mean time, I started to make friends with other girls in the park who were also my age and Nannies. While we were talking, they told me that I wasn’t getting paid enough. They also  told me that I should get two full days off, not a half day on Thursday. I stayed until Christmas, then I quit. An you imagine I quit now I had no job.  They of course did not like that I quit. The wife had given me some things for Christmas, one was a beautiful suit, she took it all back and put my suitcase in the hallway. Needless to say she was not happy that I quit. So Tante  Henny said, you have to go to work, so she found me a job cleaning houses. It was what she did, but I do not like doing that because it’s boring and I want to find something that is new and interesting. So I am looking while working with  Aunty and now I finally have found a fun job. I start working in a Dinette, and always sent almost all my paycheck to my mother.

 metaking

Me taking a break while working at the Diner on Queens blvd in 1953.
I stayed with my Aunt Henny until my Mother came over, which was about a year and a half after I arrived. My aunt was kind.

When my mother and sister finally arrived, my Brother and I had to take a bus to pick them up at a Pier in the port of  Baltimore, Maryland. I was so happy to see them and we cried like crazy as I did not think that I would ever see them again. My mother looked tired but very happy to be back in the United States. Freedom and peace, no shooting, no bombing, and you could get a job! HEAVEN!!!!  My little sister was a little bigger and cute as a button. She would not let go of me, she was afraid that I would leave her again.  I was like her other Mother at that time.

We now all stayed together at Tante Henny’s house for a couple of weeks. It was very generous of her as she had a very small house, it was very difficult for her, but she happily  shared it with all of us. Then Momma went looking for a place for us to move to. You will not believe this, but she found the exact Apartment that we had lived in before we left for Germany, in May of 1939. Naturally I didn’t remember it, so Momma said for me come and look at it. I did, and I hated it, as it had cockroaches! Ugg! Ugg!! She said before we moved in, they are going to be gone because we would clean it all up. So, after we painted, and cleaned, it really wasn‘t that bad. When you paint all the Roaches decide to move out to the other not so clean apartments. Then we used bug spray constantly that took care to keep them out. Every once in a while we would see one, and God bless Momma, she took care of it. Don’t ask me how? Now we decided we needed furniture cause we had absolutely nothing. Different friends of Tante Henny gave us things, a kitchen set, or a bed, or a couch, I saved a chair from the kitchen set, Angela still has it and she has refinished it and looks great.

So little by little, we where able to move in. We had a grocery store around the corner, who would let us buy food and pay when we got paid. At that time, people trusted  one another, so it made life a lot easier for us. I was looking for a better job and I found one at a really big Diner on “Queens Boulevard”. I worked from 7am to 4 pm and got a Paycheck of $29.00 a week, but made great tips of about one hundred dollars, or more, a week, and best of all, it was all mine. I did not have to share it with the boss, or the other waitresses. I was meeting nice people, and all the guys liked me because I did not speak much English.(Editor note: Not to mention she was gorgeous, so put a picture of what you looked like at this time) We wore uniforms a white button down dress and an apron and sneakers. I also learned how to balance four or five dinner plates on my left arm. So I just smiled a lot and basically just had to learn just what each item was on the Menu. I never knew what they where saying to me, so, I just smiled. The other girls did not like me because I was getting all the attention. One day while trying to talk to a nice young man eating at my section in the Diner, he eventually told me that his sister worked in Manhattan, at the J C Penney Offices on 36th St and Eight Ave. I always wanted to work in an Office, but could not, because I could not read, and now just barely speaking English properly. I did not think that I could get a Job in an Office, but He said to go for an interview, as it couldn’t hurt, and just maybe, I might get a job. So I did, with the aid of his sister, and  believe it, or not, I got a job as a File Clerk. Thank God, I knew my English Alphabet and that was mainly what was needed. Besides filing, they would also send me for Airline Tickets and many other errands.  I became the “go-fer“.  I really got to know the streets of Manhattan, at least around 34th Street. I learned how to ride the Elevated Train, and the subway. Once when I was going to work on the train, I missed my stop completely, because they  had torn down the building that was my landmark, so I had to kind of backtrack and finely found my way. You see! I used buildings for my guide, instead Street names, not being able to read, buildings as landmarks were easier to remember. At that time, we where living at 412 Grove Street in Brooklyn, NY. After a little while, Momma found a job in a knitting mill, so things where getting a little better, one step at a time. Renate, my little sister, was now in Kindergarten. My Brother was doing his own thing and was not helping us in any way.  We had to do everything on our own. He was being a spoiled brat, he thought he was a big shot. He was working at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel as a Banquet manager, a pretty impressive job  at the time. He lost that job I don’t know why, but soon afterward he wound up in the Army.  He was sent to Iceland! Brrr! cold. He was always writing to my mother asking for cigarettes  or money. So he was never any help to us, just more of a burden. One of the Soldiers he was with, wanted to write to me. So we did write a few letters back and forth, but nothing ever came of it. I would get pretty angry whenever my brother came home. He would always take my bedroom, so I always had to move into the front room.  The reason I got angry was, because he never helped us financially or physically.  If we needed help painting the rooms, or anything else, he was never available, or, he would promise and not show up. So my mom and I would do everything ourselves. He would come over, eat our food, and leave, but never contribute in any way. You must remember we were struggling to make ends meet at that time. We where very close with Tante Henny, and with my cousins we would do a lot of things together.  One glorious day, my cousin Fritzy took me to the movies to see “SINGING IN THE RAIN”. I loved it! That was when I first arrived. It was a dream to see them dancing and singing Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. There was a beautiful park near my Aunt’s house called Forest Park, and it was only about a 100 feet away. We took walks through the park and there was a Carousel, a Horse riding academy,(A note here about this riding academy: the man who owned it was to become the husband of cousin Fritzy daughter Kathleen) food stands, ice-cream stand , tennis courts. It was really a beautiful place, and it was where I played tennis.  I loved the game.

Tante Henny was the singer in the family, with a beautiful voice, who also could sing opera. She belonged to a “German” singing club, called “Platdeusche“. She wanted us to join, so we did, and joined in for several concerts and had to wear white gowns.  I am not much of a singer, but I could sing easily in a group, it was so much fun, and afterwards we always had a great dinner. I made some new friends at the meetings and through them I found my next new job. I heard them talking about how much money they where making and my ears perked up. I definitely needed more money. My Mother and I where trying to make ends meet and it was very difficult for us. Paying rent, buying food, buying clothes and books for my little sister for school, it all added up.

meandfritzy

Me and a friend, Cousin Fritzy, Tante Henny, Uncle Carl, me again

So I went for an interview and got the job at a knitting mill. I quit my job with JC Penny’s and started at the knitting mill which was around our neighborhood. It was all “piece work“, which was great because the more pieces you sewed together, the more money you earned. We where making sweaters, and had to work on a machine that was round, and about waist high. When you sat at it, it came to about your bust line. There had to be about a 1000 little needles on it and you had to put all the loops from different peaces of the sweaters on the needles to make a finished sweater. First you started with the body and then attached the arms and then the collar. It was very tedious work, but I loved it, and best of all, I was making a lot of money. I would work right through my lunch hour. The other girls that worked there did not like what I was doing as it made them look bad.  Well, too bad! We needed the money.  My mother used to get upset with me, because I never got up on time. My friends and I would stay out late and dance and come home at 3:00 in the am, so I was tired. I was able to take a bus to work if I got up on time, but I would miss it most of the time. I would have to walk about 4 long city blocks. You think that I would wise up,  nooooo!!!

Momma would always make a lunch for me, sometimes scrambled egg on toasted rye bread,  or liverwurst, or whatever we had at the time. I still love scrambled eggs on rye. It’s still my favorite thing to have in the morning.

I, and three friends that I made, were watching The Arthur Murray Dance Show. It had a contest, which we joined, and won some free dance lessons. The four of us went on and took the lessons. After they finished, I loved it so much, that I signed up for more. I went some nights and Saturdays, as I was working at the Knitting mill at that time, and could only go some of the time when I was able to break free. I don’t remember now how much it cost, but it could not have been very much. I really enjoyed it, cause it was a lot of fun, but more importantly, I learned to dance the Tango, Mambo, Cha-Cha, Foxtrot, Marrange‘, which were all of the coming rage. The Waltz, I already knew. It was like a dream to dance with these handsome Guys. “Woo”! “Woo“! I went whenever I had time, and eventually, I too, became a teacher. 

dancing

My Dancing Teacher stage and the friends from the knitting Mill

funfun

At this time my life was just FUN… FUN … FUN !!!!
At that time, 1953, there where a lot of Clubs that had different big Band name’s featured. Some where in Jackson Heights Queens, NY., and it was great to see greats like “Pupy Campo“, “Xavier Cougat with his wife, “Coochi-coochi Sharra“. One place was called the “Orchid Room”, another, “The Blue Angel“.  We also went to the “Roseland” in Manhattan, where we had to go up very steep steps to get to this very large dance hall. It was fantastic, you could go as couples, or single, and you would always meet someone to dance with. We got to know most everybody there. It was very safe and you did not have to worry, cause at that time, anywhere you went was safe, cause everybody looked out for each other. Different Teachers would be in contest, and we all would perform on stage. The best dancers would win a Trophy and guess what? I won Ten of them. “Yeaa! Yeaa!” .  When we had big money, we would go to the “Copacabana”, and we’d see stars like Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Al Martino, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughn, Harry Belafonte, and others who were just starting out. I had a great time dancing all the time and would meet with my good friends who were going together, Rita Aprahamian, and Tony Genovese,  at the “Blue Angel Night Club“. One time, they introduced me to a good looking guy called Tony Cuni. He was charming  he told funny joke’s and he would sing to me. We all went to the Copa Cabana to see Tony Bennett, since Tony went to school with him in Astoria Queens, we got to meet him that Night, it was very exciting. We would always meet with Rita and Tony at the different Clubs and dance away the night. We stay out late because the dancing did not start until 10:00 pm . We would leave at 2:00or 2:30 am, then we would all go to a diner and have a malted, burgers or eggs. After that we always “hung out” together.  It was a wonderful time.

In the mean time, someone suggested that I should make an appointment to interview at the Modeling School in the City, called “Barbizon Models“, who at that time were the best and largest modeling agency . So I went! They measured me, and looked me over, criticized, and said I needed to loose weight. I was 5 foot 7 inches tall and weighed 125 lbs. But I guess they wanted skinnier girls. In the mean time, they where going to work with me. I had to pay more money to continue, so that was that. It was fun for a while, and I went back just once, and never went back after that.

Faze 6

Things where getting serious with Rita Aprahamian, and Tony Genovese. They were engaged early in 1956, and were planning to get married on September 20th, with a beautiful reception afterwards. At about the same time, Tony Cuni asked me to marry him as well. We were engaged in April, and were married on the 21st of October, 1956. When planning our wedding we did not follow the way of all Italian wedding were held. At the time, if an Italian couple got married, and they had a reception, it was usually held in a big Dance hall. There was music, and for food served, they would have on each table, a tray of sandwiches filled with different assorted cold cuts. Along with the sandwiches, there was always a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white. Sometime it was homemade and sometimes store bought. There always was a lot of noise, music, children playing or yelling, and everybody having a great time with a few of the men, sometimes women getting drunk. Usually a few fist fights were a part of the noise and many people afterwards would never talk to each other. So, we decide to have a new reception, that was just beginning to be offered. Our wedding was held in an Italian restaurant, called the “Casa Seville” in Franklin Square. It was a beautiful wedding and we had invited 200 hundred Guests.

We where among one of the first couples to have a COCKTAIL HOUR, with a champagne fountain, and Hor D’Oeuvres, and afterwards they served a complete dinner with two choices for the main course. Finally, a beautiful cake was served, which we cut in a ceremony called “Cut the Cake”. Coffee was offered to all. The band was fantastic, so everyone danced the whole time.  I was not asked to dance because we where such good dancers, as traditionally every man would ask the bride to dance. However, I did get to dance with my father, as it was customary.

My father and his wife Elsie wanted us to have the Wedding at a German restaurant  and Tony did not  want that he wanted a big fancy Wedding like Rita and Tony Genovese he always wanted to show off. So my father would not pay anything toward it. For our honeymoon, we went first to Puerto Rico, then Jamaica and finally Haiti. We were having a great time, but we had to eventually wire for money, as everything cost a lot more than we expected.  Jamaica was great, as it was the  country where all married couples went and were treated royally, years later it became a very bad place to go, as there where many bandits and robberies.  The country was going through a revolution and the people who took over were not interested in people from the US coming there. They didn’t’t realize that their whole economy was based on married couples spending their honeymoon in Jamaica. While we were there, everything was still ok, and we saw Tony Martin, who was an up and coming star and a very good singer. At another night club we saw Sid Cherice, a great dancer, who had her own show and eventually became a dancing partner with Gene Kelly. The hotel itself was beautiful, warm, and on the Ocean, so we had a great time. There was an old Castle on a mountain at the waters edge, that you could visit with little villages close by that had  very touristy shops to visit and spend. Since it was all new to me, I enjoyed it very much.  On our next stop, we went to Haiti and  it was terrible. Everything and everywhere we went was filthy, except in the Hotel area, which had armed guards with  machine guns . The local people had very little and were very poor and lived in huts made of mud and grass. We had 10 days left, so we immediately left and from there we flew back to Jamaica, to then fly on to Montego Bay, where  here again the Hotel was beautiful, but look out the window and the rest of the country was as bad as Haiti. On the flight back to Jamaica we made a stop in Dominican Republic, and were told to get off the plane, for what reason I did’t know and would never find out. Soldiers with guns, everywhere and wherever you looked there were more and more soldiers. This is where memories of my life in Germany came flooding back to me. You would think that I’d be used to seeing this, but it was scary even for me and my experiences. I did not want to be there and the faster we left the better, no fun here, so home we went as fast as possible.

designed

I designed my wedding gown

Faze 7

It was when we returned that our real life began. We where suppose to have our own home in West Islip, at 495  Kime Ave. but as it always turns out, it was not ready. We had the land which cost $2,500 and the set of plans, and everything needed to begin, but we could not get the concrete poured, as the laborers were on strike. So, we had to move in with his parents who really did not like me. I was not Italian, not Catholic, and came from a broken family. As you can imagine not a good start.  It turned out that I could not do anything right. My new father in law, Frank, did not allow my family in his house because my mother had a baby out of wedlock. He was terrible in every way to me, and made my life miserable. While we were living with them I became pregnant, and had my first born while living in there Home. My son, Perry Anthony,  was born on September 8th 1957, nine months after we were married, at  10 minutes after midnight. He was a beautiful baby, 8 lbs 4 ounces, with a nice head of dark brown to almost black, hair.  However, I had a very hard time the two weeks before he was born. I had accumulated a poison, called Albumen,  in my system, causing my legs to be twice their normal size, and besides this, my whole body became even more swollen and sore. Our doctor was really worried, so he put me in the Hospital two weeks before Perry was born, rather than the normal day or two before. The hospital staff were trying to draw the fluid out of my body, so I was given some kind of drug that I think was actually a water pill. My doctor was talking about inducing labor to get the baby out early and relieve my suffering, but luckily, my baby decided to come out all by himself. At the time of delivery, I was put to sleep, which they did to all women during childbirth at that time. It being my first child and not having any experience, when I woke up,  I thought that I still had my baby inside of me.  It was only after  the nurse came into my room and told me that I had a little boy. I then felt my stomach, which was no longer big and clumsy. I had to stay in the hospital for a total 5 days, as it was a standard practice at that time for all women who had a successful childbirth to remain to make certain that all was well.

perry

My first Child who we named him Perry Anthony
My father in law, the boss,  said he wanted us to name our little boy, Frank. There already was a Frank in the family and I didn’t want to name him Frank. I had wanted the name to be Perry, so I was very surprised when Tony went along with my wishes, and we named him Perry. One for our side, but we paid for it.  Because we went against his wishes, my father in law, your grandfather, was extremely mad at what we did, and he made us pay by insults and nastiness, for a long time.

Faze 8

We finely moved into our new beautiful home on November 1959, two years later just before Thanks Giving.  At this time I was pregnant with Robert. It was absolutely wonderful to be in my own HOUSE, it was like a dream. I never had my own house before. The rooms where average, except for the master bedroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The living room and dining room were one big room with a beautiful hardwood floor and a big, floor to ceiling, bay window. The house was a ranch style, which were very popular at the  end of  1950 and the beginning of 1960. It was so wonderful to finely be all by ourselves, except my In-laws came almost every day, but did eventually go  home at the end of the day. It was a lot of fun buying new furniture, drapes, bedspreads, dishes and many other things. We finally celebrated the next Thanksgiving, my Birthday, and Christmas in our new home. We also gave our first New Years party and it was fun having everyone over. Some of my friends from Arthur Murray came, as well as our new neighbors, who were already living on Kime Ave before we arrived. There were also two new neighbors who had moved in at the same time, who also came. They turned out to be Phyllis and Vinny Procita, with their two little daughters Terryanne, who was Perry’s age, and Karen. Another family that came was Dianne and Raymond Cardinalle who also had two daughters, Judy, and Carol, who were a little bit older than ours two boys. We soon became good friends and till this day, still are. We lived there for 34 years, mostly happy, until Tony and I got divorced. I am still close with the Procitas’ and we see each other often, but the Cardinalles moved away much earlier than we did, so we eventually lost touch.  In 1960, Robert Frank was born at 10:00am on the 7th of April 7 pounds 6 ounces. Another beautiful boy and now I was so happy to have two wonderful boys. Perry was very excited to have a little brother.  I had a little problem in the hospital as they forgot and they left the after birth in me. I suddenly was in severe pain and did not know why. This big nurse comes in and puts all her weight on my stomach I thought I would die. She had to push that hard to get the after birth out, but thank God, on the first try she did it, and it came out, and I was sick for the rest of the day, but later, I began to feel much better. My Mother came from Brooklyn to baby sit Perry. She loved it, but as soon as we came home from the Hospital, Tony and his Parents wanted her to go home. She stayed for a few more days as I wanted her to.  Life went on with my little family. Perry was 2 ½ years old, when Robert was born,  and he loved to sing all of Frank Sinatra’s, Perry Como’s, and Nat King Cole’s songs, because we played their records all the time.  My in laws still came to our house every day, telling me what to do, and after a while it became very tiresome as they always wanted things their way. Time went by as it will do, and I accepted them, even though they didn’t accept me, or my family.

In 1965, on the 27th of December, Angela was born. She was a beautiful little girl and we were all so exited.She had beautiful blue eyes and black hair, a lot of hair. At the same time, the sad part was that my mother in law had just died in March of that year, . So, I thought, in memory of her, I would name my baby girl Angela, after her. Her name was actually, Angelina, but I named her Angela Maria, instead. In the Hospital I was so happy, but in the room with me was another girl who also had a baby, but something was wrong as she was talking crazy. The next day the nuns came to me when she was not in the room and said that they were moving me into another room. They put me in a room with a girl that had just lost her baby, can you believe it. I was so happy and I could not show it. The girl went home the next day, but here comes another girl into the room. I thought “Oh my God what could be wrong with her?” Thank God she had healthy Twins, Hurray! I could now show all the happiness I had inside me.

   perryandbaby

Perry holding baby Robert
meandrenate

 

My Sister, Renate, my new beautiful baby, Angela, and proud ME

backyard

In the back yard of my in law’s home

My father in law came to live with us after my mother in law died, as he did not want to stay in his house alone. Before hand, when he asked his children he wanted to live with them, not one of his 4 children wanted him, as they knew he was a bossy, miserable man. When he asked one of my sister in laws, who lived in Italy, and who had bragged how she owned a big, beautiful villa, with a balcony all around it, that he wanted to move in with them, all of a sudden, they had no room for him . . . Too small! So, being who I am, I gave in, cause, after all, he was still a human being and my husband’s father, and even though, both he and my husband wouldn’t allow “my mother” to even visit our home. I put my foot down and had them come as often as they wanted to come. My problem was that my Father-in -law thought who he was, and expected everyone to do what he said, took over my house like it was his. He wanted us to wear black after my mother in law died, and sit in the living room and talk about her all the time. We put a stop to that. He would tell my sister in law, Josie, that I was trying to kill him. He said I was putting poison in his food, and that I was stealing his money, which I could not touch. He always had his nose up in the air, as though he talked to God and all the saints. But guess what? The day he died, he was found on a dirty floor at his “Girlfriend’s” (Gooma) house. Him, the big shot, who wouldn’t accept my mother, got his pay back, and for me, I said “Thank you God”. Not that I wished him dead,  as it just happened out of the blue, but it does show that there is always a time when things equal out. You must realize that it was he who was living in my house at that time, and I had accepted him into my home even though he still treated me like an outsider, a non- Italian. The reason I felt the way I did, was because while I was living in his home, after just being married,  he would not let my family come to his house just to visit. He called my mother names in Italian, because she had an affair, and had a baby out of wedlock,( Aunt Renate). He didn’t know what true torment she lived with throughout her life. She was a women alone, who made some wrong decisions, with the wrong men, at a time when she was part of two raging World Wars. Then having to accept charity from wherever she could find it, even though she had a husband, the father of her children, who should have provided for his family. Instead he declared her and her children dead, then went on to marry another women, without another thought for us. Guess where he is today? He is paying back forever in a place where you get back what you gave, and even more in an  lot of heat?

So my life went on

It was a very nice happy life, where I loved having my children and my home. I learned a lot about Italian cooking from my Mother in law when she was alive. I learned how to make Pizza , Raviolis, pasta, sausage, cookies and cannolies all from scratch. But as far as my Father in law was concerned, I could not do anything right, and there was no pleasing him. So, after a while, I did not even try. I had all the Holidays at our house. I loved to bake cookies and cakes. Tony’s sisters and brother always came to us. I did all the cooking, and baking which I enjoyed doing to prove a German could do it too!  The only complaint I had, was that no-one ever attempted to help to clean up, they just sat and visited with each other, while I made everything presentable again. Tony never complimented me, but rather, would always make remark like “Oh, it’s not hot enough, or, did you change the formula, cause it don‘t taste the same“? It was always me against his family, but I still loved my life, cause I had my Children. Well you all know the rest. I won’t go into any more. Hopefully, now you understand me and where I’ve been, just a little better.

 With all my love, Hugs and Kisses,

Your ever loving Mom and Oma!

PS:  Below are the reasons why It all paid off for me Look what we all have turned into at Angela‘s engagement party…

claireandkids

 

 

angela

Angela’s and Chris’s wedding day and look what they produced

jakeaidan

Where all my happiness lies…with Jake and Aidan
 

claireandsal

To spend the rest of my life with Sal, in a completely new direction

How the Bianco family started in America and where it’s gone

This is not Fairy Tale,

But it is about how one family, my family, on how it began in America just when it was becoming a world power it became!

It’s about what I knew of my family, the Bianco family.                                        What I later learned about past generations Biancos.Facts that were unknown about the Bianco’s in Italy,Its new beginnings in America, starting with my grandfather. It’s about my father, a quiet man of many talents And finally of my memories of life and how really wonderful it has been, and still to be, for the rest of the days of my life

Where to begin? Why simply from where Aniello Bianco started, and it was when he began living in lower Manhattan, yes, on Mulberry Street, where most Italians landed when leaving their homeland. However my Grandfather, Aniello Bianco, was a man different from most Italians that were arriving here in America, as most had nothing but their physical strength, and so, were forced into manual labor. This was not what my grandfather wanted, as he knew that America offered more, much, much more, so he looked for a way to be independent by hoping to start his own business. He came to America in 1894 and immediately found work at the Fulton Fish market, unloading boats and loading wagons with fresh fish. At the time, The Fulton Fish Market created a family of workers where employees and employers worked closely together. The work was considered unskilled, because it did not require any training, just doing what you were told and protecting your employer from his competitors. The Fulton Fish Market became a place where male Italian immigrants and even some criminals, could find jobs. The working conditions were harsh and physically hard in all weather conditions. The owners and workers dressed the same way wearing in high rubber boots, flannel shirts, wool hats, and aprons. At that time all the workers on the docks of New York and New Jersey had to belong to an organization that actually was controlled to the Mafia. Fish was unloaded starting at midnight and the selling began at 3a.m. Monday through Friday. The trust relationship between buyer and seller was very important, and customers, mostly male, wandered around the stalls looking for the best price. When the sale was made, the customer got a number to take to the cashier. Then workers, including my Grandfather, loaded the fish into a large wagon in order to transport the fish. By 9 a.m., the all sales was over, the floors and sidewalks were hosed down, and the market was empty until midnight when the process started again.. It was close to the Fulton Ferry, which carried people to and from Brooklyn and Manhattan. The proximity to the East River provided an opportunity to sell fresh fish.

 

A picture belong here
Before the 1930’s, fishmongers waited at the docks to unload fish from the fishing boats that docked at the piers, and Aniello was one of them. The market has been plagued with extortion and racketeering since the 1900’s. Personal loyalties and comradely within firms and the market as a whole, insured fishmongers’ protection from within for each other. Organized crime in the Fulton Fish Market is traced to Joseph “Socks” Lanza, a close friend Aniello made while they worked together loading and unloading fresh fish. It was when Lanza was still young and inexperienced and worked alongside of Aniello in the market. Eventually with the help of his family, Lanza organized the United Seafood Workers Union in 1909. Lanza kept the market running smoothly, but ran outrageous rackets, but Aniello wanted no part of it, and went his separate way. Wagons that were shipping fish from out of state could be charged up to $2000/year, just for the right to deliver its cargo; most of Lanza’s revenue came from this. Aniello, being an old friend and compatriot, never paid a cent, and when he went into his own business, he just wanted to be left alone to find his own way. An investigation was started in 1926, and by 1933 enough evidence had been collected from less than reluctant witnesses to charge Lanza with racketeering and extortion.
Aniello, because of his inherited abilities and even stronger dreams and desires, soon found a way of starting his own business. With the knowledge he obtained from his working at the Fulton Fish market, he saw that most Italians on Mulberry Street, the street where he lived, had to travel many blocks away to the Fulton market to buy their fish. They had to go to Delancey Street, which was a many blocks away, and there were individual markets, each selling a different kind of food, filled the streets with carts and storefronts where they sold everything but fish, as it was sold far away in the Fulton fish market. Aniello realized that he could bring fish to his Mulberry Street and thereby sell that fish at prices with a convenience to his neighbors. His old bosses liked the idea because he saved them from throwing away fish that was left over, that would otherwise go bad in the wait for the next day’s sale, giving them added profits, not to mention their knowing of his close friendship to Lanza. So he bought a used cart that was easily available, as there was many small manufacturers making them and were plentiful. Other men had similar ideas but selling different products. His cart had two large 4 foot high wheels with steel rims and back legs to keep it stable while he went around it to sell his fish to a customer. Also on the cart he added 2 cow bells that hung high on a wire that stretched across two upright boards that he attached on each side in the middle of the cart. He pushed it from behind using two handles that allowed him to control and steer it by raising it slightly in the back as he walked. With his newly painted cart, he began to bring his idea into a reality.
An Important point to mention here was, as he was doing all this, and in his spare time, he studied for what was necessary to become a Citizen. Sure enough he became one within two years after he arrived in America. He continued working for his bosses in the fish market, who knew he was a go-getter and therefore trusted him. He would rise very early after working all night and go back to the Fulton Fish market, buy his fish and was given the ice necessary to keep the fish fresh. He would then push his cart to Mulberry Street taking an hour to do so, as he wanted to start from it’s beginning at Canal Street and work his way slowly all the way up to its end at Houston Street, which was about a two miles stretch, and which was much later called “SOHO”. He was young and powerful and had a dream which gave him the strength to do it. So, he would begin “His Route”(which we later pronounced to sound like shout) at about 8:00am, ringing his bell, and yelling “OH PESHE”, “OH PESHE”, which when translated simply meant “Fish, fish, I have Fish”. Slowly but surely, more and more people became his customers as his business and reputation grew. He started extending “credit” to those people who had to wait for their salaries. After being in America for about five years, and as his business was steadily growing, he decided to go back to Italy and marry. He knew who he wanted as his wife, so it was just a matter of traveling back, asking her, marrying her, and then returning to start his family. In the meantime having a personality that allowed him to have many friends from the neighborhood, he chose one, Vincente, who was bright like himself, to run his business while he was away. He knew the best way to keep his friend honest was to tell him to keep all that was earned from the business. He spent the time necessary for his friend to learn all that was needed, from starting his day at the market buying fish, to ending it by cleaning up in the horse barn on Grand and Mulberry Streets. So, off to Italy he traveled via a Tramp Steamer that allowed some of its passengers to work their way across, since he was experienced from his trip to America, he actually received a salary as well. He was now a seaman as well.

After arriving home in Mugnano, Italy, he was ready to ask his vivacious girlfriend of the past, Elizabetha, to marry him, and after little while, return to America with him. Who was this women he loved and wanted to spend his life with, as in those days marriage was sacred and truly, truly final. Well, she had to be really special because physically they just didn’t fit, as she was near six foot tall and big all around, no not fat, but just big, while in comparison, my grandfather, Aniello, was just a little over five foot tall, but square and solid like a rock. When arriving back in Avellino to marry her, he naturally had to go to her parents for permission. His own family were so happy to see him again, and learn that he had been very successful in America, that they proudly told the whole town of his experiences, and maybe bragging a little of his wealth. In the meantime, her family, who were called The Belloises, after hearing about his adventures, said they were very much in favor of Elizabetha marrying him. Also, they knew my grandfather was now an American citizen, and rich in comparison to most of the people of his village, but more importantly for another very strong reason as I’ll now describe.

The Bianco family has a wondrous history, as five generations back, my grandfather’s great grandfather, was considered a hero by all the people in the southeastern part of Italy/ However, all the people of the North thought him a terrible villain. He was the man, with his army of volunteers, who defended his area against the armies of the northern cities who were trying to unify Italy under one King. He was a very powerful individual who thought nothing of killing if it was to protect his area. One time he actually killed all the people in one family, it’s men, women, and all their children, because they were secretly supporting and supplying information to the Northern spies. He did this by asking all the townspeople out to the square to witness their execution. Everyone feared him, but they also respected him for his bravery. In an Italian history book written about the events of 1800’s and those events that changed Italian politics, describes him as a man that was feared everywhere, and one who thought nothing of killing to protect his homeland. He was know locally by a nickname, “Il Tremilyre”, or :The one to be feared”. All his townspeople and soldiers, no, not really soldiers, but militia, were completely behind him. As long as he was alive, the North was stymied and so after a time, the Northern Generals conspired and hired two of his closest comrades to shoot him in the back, when they were alone with him. This they did easily as he trusted them, they truly were his closest comrades. After learning of his death the townspeople went wild and the two were captured and were killed, not by simply shooting, but  brought to the middle of the town square and stoned to death where everyone could see.

However, once “Il Tremilyre” was eliminated from the scene, the North was easily able to  move south to take control over all its towns, as all of his followers were now  leaderless. Finally the northern armies was able to unite the rest of the country. The book describes in detail his life and death and the repercussions that followed.

So, getting back to my grandfather, with the genes of Il Tremilyre inside him, he too was both feared and respected. He was born and grew up in Mugnano Del Cardinale, which was a section inside the town of Avellino, but at that time it was not a true city, but rather a village. Mugnano was situated on the southeastern side of the only true mountain in the south of Italy, called Vesuvius. So now with the permission and blessings of the Belloise family, he married Elizabeth, in a large Italian wedding that went on through the night and then some. The Belloises were noted for their charm, happiness, and spunk, and even today that family makes everyone around them, happy with their antics and laughter. My grandmother, being a Belloise, had all their attributes and then some, as her laughter filled the room wherever she was, and her pranks made her laugh even more. A few months after the wedding, she became pregnant and as the time passed, with Aniello meeting with his family and friends as well as preparing to go back to America, he realized that she was nearly ready to deliver her child. Aniello could never allow her to have this baby in Italy, as he wanted his children to be Americans, as at that time, as it is today, when a baby was born on American soil, he or she automatically became an American citizen. Knowing this, they said their good-byes to their families and friends, promising them that he would slowly try to bring each of them to America that wanted to come, one at a time. Eventually, He did, and went so far as to bring his friends as well, two of which I’ll speak of later in this adventure. So, off to America they went, again with him working his way across. In a very short while after their arrival on Mulberry Street, on September 23, 1901, she bore a boy that they named Salvatore Anthony, as was the tradition, after Aniello’s father. That boy eventually, when grown up, become my father. Aniello was so proud of his son that he gave him everything he wished for as he was growing up.
When settling back on Mulberry Street, Aniello immediately rented one half of a floor (2 cold water apartments) in a building on the corner of Mulberry Street and Prince Street, a street named after a famous Prince, from Ireland, who died here and was buried at that spot. Later on in this story, you’ll learn why, but now was the time for Aniello to get back to his business, and his friend was ready for him to take over. He did so, but made some major changes due to what he had learned in Italy. He knew his little company had to grow, and that a push cart alone would never allow him to do that, so he purchased a team of horses, and a wagon that they could pull. He still continued to sell on Mulberry St, as now it took no time to cover his Street, he also found other work by knowing Lanza, now the local Mafia boss. Young friendships are hard to break, so Lanza allowed him to deliver bananas from the arriving boats to warehouses in the city. He did this, and went after any other work he could find using his new horse and wagon team, now with using his friend, Vincente, helping as he felt indebted to him for taking over while he was in Italy. One thing he made sure of was to impregnate his wife, Elizabeth, as fast as possible after she had her first child Salvatore. It always took about eighteen months from the birth of her last child to the next, except for the one time when a little girl died in childbirth. So, eighteen months later sure enough, a daughter, Louisa, was born. Aniello was little disappointed because he wanted sons to help build his business, but as it turned out, Louisa became very independent and did not immediately follow the ways of women of that time. You’ll hear more about her later in this story.
At that same time, more competitors came onto the scene and were now vying for his customers, as these truckers were either part of the Mafia, or paid the Mafia to allow them work around the docks. This made him realize that his business would never grow in that direction and maybe he might even lose some of it, as now the Fulton Fish Market became a strictly wholesale business that sold a minimum of ten pounds per order to fish retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. Realizing this, he was able to concentrate more on the business carting Bananas, and looked for any opportunity to try to get into the other parts of the market, mainly with the meat wholesalers. At the time the vendors of the meat markets there, were forcing the fish wholesalers out of their market locations, due to the rapid growth of the meat industry. As this was happening, Aniello saw that he must find a customer in the meat market. Again with the influence of his friend, Lanza, he was able to get a small amount of the meat business. Eventually, because of his quality service to the meat wholesalers by doing extra things for them, his reputation grew. He could be depended upon to perform these extra services, like getting his fish customers on Mulberry Street to buy from the little meat retailers opening up around the city. The butcher shops, as the retailers were being called, liked the idea that he would do extra work for them, like pick up saw dust from the docks where barges were delivering saw dust to warehouses. It was a standard practice that butchers and all other retailers laid saw dust over all their showroom floors, which soaked up any blood or other wet materials that would come into the shop. Actually from my memories while still very young, and walking through these shops, they had a fresh woody smell, and you could drag your feet through it to make a word or a picture. At the time, people thought nothing of it to spit on the floor wherever they were standing. This was one big reason for the sawdust, as everyone thought that it was sanitary and was used in this manner up until my days working in my father’s trucking business, which at the time was called “The Five B Trucking Co”. It was at this time, the city of New York prohibited spitting by putting up big signs that were placed everywhere, but nothing changed. It was only after big fines was given to people when they were caught spitting, that it worked and stopped the spitting. Today no-one would ever think of spitting, in fact they would probably yell at the person as being a slob.

So Aniello would bag the saw dust at the docks and then was able to sell the sacks to his customers. He now was in the sawdust business, which allowed him to also supply the neighbors of his butcher customers alone streets who had a retail business. With the advent of getting more and more butchers to deliver to, he proceeded to buy more horses and their matching wagons. He also realized that at holiday time, he could deliver turkeys and Hams to his Mulberry Street customers by buying them from these same retailer butchers. When my father was old enough, he too would drive a team and with it learn the business from the bottom up that he would eventually take over. The meat wholesalers would pay my grandfather, Aniello, and he would in turn pay his friend and now two other drivers due to the added business. However, the time came when the meat wholesalers and fish wholesaler were at odds with each other and most of the fish people moved across the street away from the market and so created their own market. Eventually, the fish business was growing faster than the meat business and the meat wholesalers realized they needed the fish people back to keep the market open. Eventually, the market did close and the meat industry was forced to move over to 14th St and Ninth Ave, an area that was mainly railroad yards. A company that was growing very fast built a 10 story factory that produced it’s crackers and cookies, and it was called NABISCO. Now it was closer for Aniello to work from his home and his horse stables, which were one block south on Mulberry St. As time passed more sons came of age and they too were given a team to drive. The business grew with four teams and hopefully more to come, as more sons were born and then eventually came of age. Aniello was getting old and he relied more and more on my father, Salvatore, to run the everyday affairs, however, he still held the purse strings. With all his business done in cash, he eventually was forced to consider a bank to keep it in for security reasons. His friend Lanza was now too big a racketeer, and his interest and protection to Aniello was gone, as he and Lanza grew apart, but not forgotten. So a small bank was just starting four blocks south on Mulberry Street. It was called “Bank of Italy”, a natural name for a Bank on all Italian Mulberry Street. This bank would eventually branch out and grow to become “Bank of America”, one of the largest banks in today’s world. Into that bank he kept his money and he watched it grow as the years past. I think the bank is still there today, dark and empty, but there, with it’s sign “Bank of Italy”.

Getting back to my father, from the start, he was spoiled and got whatever he wished. Another very different thing about my Grandfather was that he told everyone to speak only “American” English to his children and grandchildren. Yes, his children were to understand Italian, but only English was to be spoken in and around them, and this was very surprising as he and my Grandmother could only speak Italian. He wanted this because he felt that his siblings and eventually theirs, were Americans and not Italians. So, what little Italian I learned was from him and my giant of a grandmother asking me, my brother or sisters to do something for them, it was in Italian, cause, that’s all they knew. They did try a little English…like “Backouse”(bathroom, or back house).He never used Italian curse words, but she was excellent at it. One word she used all the time when yelling at my uncles was “SKI_VUSE”, I don’t know what it means but it got her point across, and they listened, or else.
Thereafter, every 18 months or so, another child was born to them. Next to come along was a daughter, named Louisa (Louise), then another boy called Aniello (Al), then another girl the named, Angelina (Angie), and then another boy they named Antonio(Tony), and another, Mich’elle(Michael), then another, Juseppie(Joey), and another boy, Rafael(Ralf), and lastly a girl named Amelia(Millie), and that was it, just enough! It took eighteen years to accomplish this and all the boys learned fast that they were always beholding to Salvatore.
Below is a picture of my Grandparents 40th Wedding Anniversary (in 1939) with all their Children. My father, Aunt Louise, and Aunty Pici, were already married and had already started their families, except Aunty, as she never would have Children. By the time I came along she had given up and was slightly estranged from her husband Frank Pici, so when I was born she took me on, helping my Mom who was overtaxed with having three other very young children to care for. I had double pneumonia at age one or two, was the spoiled one, at least at that time. My Uncle Raffie also thought me special, as everyone said I looked just like him, and so wanted to show me off. He hadn’t married yet and was going out with a girl who was slightly connected to the Lanza family. I didn’t inherit his tight curly hair which he had all his life, but I did inherit his poor teeth, and yes; he was the handsomest of all, so I guess I did really take after him. One time, many years later in the mid-forties, when I was 12, while working for fun with my Uncles, my uncle Mickey told me that my father got everything and all the other sons could do was watch and envy him.

Young Bianco Family '40's

         The Complete Bianco Family taken in the 40’s

Marianne's wedding

I’ve included this picture just to show the changes in the family. it shows Marianne’s wedding in 1952-3?. I found 7 out of 9 of my father’s siblings. My father and His youngest sister, Millie are not in it. 

 

 

Salvatore, pronounced, Sal Va Do’de, my father, was sent to Kindergarten at age 5, as my grandfather knew that an education was the only way to really get ahead. Little Salvatore’s Kindergarten teacher’s name was Miss Speirer, who was a wonderful young lady who loved working with Children, as I can attest to, as I too, was taught by her, when she was much older and I was five, 31 years later. The school entrance was around the corner on Prince Street, between Mulberry and Mott Streets, and facing the red cemetery brick wall of the church. The school was called St Patrick’s and was set up by its church, Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, that was located around the corner on Mulberry St, between Prince and Houston Streets.

 

picture of wall on mulberry st
you can just see the Red Brick wall
It was called St Patrick’s “Old” Cathedral that had been built in the mid- 1800’s, because a Newer, Bigger, and more famous Cathedral, was also called St Patrick’s, that was built in Mid-town on Fifth Ave and 39th St. very much later, and where Cardinals were in residence. One, was called Cardinal Spellman, who had a very large High School named after him after his death, which was built in his honor and called Cardinal Spellman High School. This High School has become one on the most prestigious in New York State. At any rate, and no matter what, our church was even more wonderful and beautiful and had real catacombs beneath it. Us four of Salvatore’s children, would go there to mass and communion every morning at 7 o’clock mass and we would be in wonder, for no matter where we looked around the church, there was another old splendor to see, as the ceiling went to the sky and everything was carved in granite and marble. Completely surrounding this great Cathedral was a red brick wall, with a very old Cemetery within it, and it dated back to the days of when Manhattan was just beginning to become a great city. In that same cemetery there was buried an actual Prince, I believe, from Ireland, who was buried there just after the church was founded. His headstone was a tall 4 sided tapered column that went ten foot above the height of the 12 foot red brick wall. Looking from Our Grandparents window, you could see down into the cemetery and the obelisk elegantly standing with a head shaped dome wearing a marble royal crown slanted askance on it, with a stone shaped scarf wrapped around its neck, having a carved crest showing his royal heritage. This grave was why the street directly alongside it was named Prince Street.

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this is the front of St Patrick’s and the cemetery wall. When I was 7 or 8 we played curve ball by slamming the ball at the bottom of the wall at the curb, then running into the street where bases were marked with chalk. We also played “Johnny on the pony”, where 4 or 5 players on a team, one set across the street ready to run to the wall where the other set was against the wall with the first boy bending over leaning against the wall, the second one would lean over and hold around the first ones back and so forth with the next and the next. The other team would one at a time run across the street and jump onto the back of the boys leaning down like they were going to ride a pony. It was important that they jump far enough to allow all their team member to jump on. If they couldn’t then they lost and they had to go against the wall and do the leaning. Fat guys were a terror, cause they would land hard and the team leaning would crumble and fall giving the running players a point, and so on. Lots of fun and laughs… nobody had toys, so this made up for that. There was many strategies that teams used, but the most favorate was to make the little skinny guys go first and fly to the wall.(I was one of the fliers, and many time I would fly to far and hit the wall solid. My brother was one of the fat ones and he was saved for the last, so he could land on the last with all his weight and all would come tumbling down. OOPS!!! Sorry for the digression!
The church had a school that was run by The Sisters of Charity Nuns, who lived in a small house built for them along side of the school. They had habits that were all black with long robes that touched the ground, with a cape surrounding their shoulders down to their waist. Their skull shaped hats covered their heads completely, with no hair showing as it was probably cut very short. The hat was actually a bonnet with a serrated brim that encircled their face from one side of the chin to the other, in a fan affect that had a big black bow that hung down under their chin and over their robe in front. At their waist, was a heavy twisted rope of the same color knotted in front with long tasseled tails, and hanging from it was their rosary beads. As I recall the wonderful memories of my childhood, they were gentle, loving and were called Sisters. I still remember my 4th grade teacher who was both funny and kind who constantly pushed her finger under her bonnet scratching an eternal itch. Her name was Sister Sicilia, an Italian name, but a woman of Irish descent who we all loved, who had charming ways to make us children react, who by the way, called me “Sal Va Tor Ray”. Hey wait, this is about my father and not me, but this only shows that we experienced the same things while growing up. By the way, any kids who laughed when she called me in that way, was in for a big beating afterwards, so nobody laughed. Being left-handed, I always did the opposite of how others fought, so I always had an advantage no one knew about, besides I was very skinny, but wiry, and had no fear, and just loved to fight. I later learned that my genes had some of my Grandmother’s  Belloise traits, as two of them of my father’s generation became “World Champions” in Boxing, one, Mike, The Feather Weight Champion, and Steve the Middle Weight Champion.

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The Nun on the Right, a Sister of Charity, was how my teachers dressed and who taught both me and my father at St Patrick’s. The Nun on the Left is an Ursline Nun that I was later taught by, at St. Philip Neri School in the Bronx, from 5th to 8th grades. We moved there on our Grandfather’s suggestion, as he wanted all his family to move there to be by the Belloise’s. Back to my father!
I really don’t know too much about how my father grew up, but it must have been wonderful for him as he received anything he could wish for. When he finished St Patrick’s, he went to a high school called La Salle Academy, at 215 E 6th Street NY, run by French Christian brothers. Coincidently, I went to a High School called De La Salle on 74th Street in Manhattan, having “Brothers” from the same order, French Christian Brothers. I don’t know how his marks were, but I do know he was a wiz at math. I can remember him running his finger down a column of numbers on a piece of paper as fast as a ball dropping to the floor, and then simply call out, or write down the correct addition. Wow!
He never finished High school as he was needed in his father’s business, as it was growing very fast, and he knew his future and his brothers as well, was staying with the business. Now Grandpa had 3 strings of horses to pull his wagons and as each son was old enough, he was brought into the business, after learning how to handle team
of horses, My Grandfather would buy another string and wagon for that son after his training was finished. All the horses were kept in a stable which was a few streets south, just down on Mulberry St., near Grand Street. It had four floors and a ramp going from floor to floor, as there were no elevators in those days. The garage is still there today, but is now a true garage with an elevator. Coincidently, after my father left Bianco Bros to retire, the business failed for lack of direction, his brothers rented this same garage and operated it for many years until each retired. Going back again to the time when all were young and the business was growing, all the boys had to stable the horses after their days work, and clean the stalls to be ready for the next day’s work, however, when they returned home, they found their mother ready with a meal fit for kings.

This is a good place to stop and describe my Grandmother, Elizabetha, as I knew her. To start with, I remember her as being a giant in my young eyes as I was very short (5′) till I was 17 and then grew to 6’2”. She was then nearly six foot tall and weighed about three hundred pounds plus, (check her out in the picture above) with her hair in a bun in back, however, when she let it down, it went past her waist, and most of all, she was loaded with laughter, always with a gigantic smile on her face and bellowing laughter. A trait that all Belloise’s have, yes, she was a true Belloise and more will follow about that family. She would lean out their third floor window all day long, above Mulberry Street, to watch the world go by, but also to then gossip with her neighbors who were also above and around her, as well as across the street, all were doing the same thing, leaning out and getting the latest gossip, all in Italian. Now my grandfather was by comparison, just about five foot tall, rounded but not fat, who ran his home like his business, with a stern hand. That is, except for my father, who could do no wrong, and after he left high school he began working with his father full time, learning ways to improve it. One thing was to move slowly into more hauling of meat. When he was about 20, he began going to Broadway Shows nightly, dressed in a fine tuxedo, custom made to fit him perfectly that is still in our family. That same Tux, I gave to my son Michael, as he was the only one thin enough among us to now be able to fit into it. At one time I too wore it, that is, when I was in my 20’s to my forties. My father would buy tickets for a particular show playing that night, and would attend, but I don’t know if he brought a woman along. It was at this time he began smoking those same cigars his father smoked, Stogies, soaked in red wine. He saved all his playbills from the shows he attended, and when we were young, we would look at them in awe. My God! He saw Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and “The George White Follies” to mention only a few that I can now recall. We kept these play bills, but somewhere over time they were lost. (Note here: My sister Nanette says she has them.) My dad had life made, but his brothers didn’t appreciate the fact that he got to do everything, and all they could do is dream. One day his father told him he wanted to go to the place that sold cars. So, my father took him to a dealer that sold Duisenberg cars.
While in the showroom, my grandfather showed my father the car he wanted, my father then went to the salesman, told him that they wanted that particular car and how much was it. The salesman laughed and said to forget it as they couldn’t afford to buy that car as it was just too expensive, thinking to himself as he looked at them… “Greeseballs, just low class Italians”. My father said to him again, “How much?” The salesman, laughing, then told him with a sneer the huge price. My father turned, told his father the price, who then gave him cash for the total amount, and my father turned to the salesman with it in his hand. The salesman couldn’t believe it and said that the car was a show room sample, and not for sale. My father said “Do you want to sell that car or not?” Well, they drove away with that car.

A picture of a 1920 Duisenberg


As it turned out that car became the turning point in my father’s life. I don’t know exactly when, but one day my father, along with some of his friends, took a long ride to upstate New York. They brought along with them, bootleg whiskey made by our famous “Uncle Mike” (One of my grandfather’s close friends), that turned out to be either too powerful, or just very bad. All aboard passed it around as they traveled north, but it was so strong and powerful that it affected everyone, and most importantly, my father, who was driving. I’m assuming that he was knocked senseless by the drink, so much so, that he crashed the car into a bridge wall along the side of the highway. Again, I’m not exactly sure, but I believe at least one of his friends aboard was seriously maimed, or killed. This event changed my father’s outlook on life… no more the gay blade… no more being spoiled…and definitely no more bootleg whiskey! This was the story that was told to me by my Uncle Al. After a while, when he was about 24, his father told him to go out again with cash, and buy another string of horses and a new wagon as well, business was getting even bigger, with more sons coming of age. My father took the cash and came back with a 1919 Cabover Mack truck, which had wooden wheels, hard rubber tires, and a Cab body that had two open sides, no doors or signals, with just a bench seat, a steering wheel and with a curved roof. On top of the cab was a metal catch-all to hold a canvas cover (not in this picture). However, it did have a new thing just invented, a horn that went ROOGAH, ROOGAH, when you pushed down hard on the horns top. When he arrived home with the truck, his father went ballistic; he couldn’t believe his son and favorite would disobey him. He yelled at him for buying something that had to maintained, that nobody knew how to drive, that needed this stuff called gasoline to make it move, and where to buy it. He yelled “The horses only ate their oats and hay, which they had plenty of, not this new expensive gasoline.” He was so mad at my father, that he actually threw him out of his home, and told him never to come back. Now my father was in a fix, spoiled as he was, never needing anything, had to leave, as the “law” had spoken. Where to go? Where to get the money to live on, as his only trade was his family business. He too, was thick headed and said to his father that he’d go and wouldn’t come back, and that his father had to change with the times if he wanted their business stay on top, and not lose it to men who would use these new trucks.
So, he finally decided to visit his Uncle in a little town called Yatesville, in Pennsylvania, who was his father’s brother, and who came to America with the money and help from his brother, Aniello. I believe his name was Angelo and he too now had a large family, who owned a three story brick home that he built himself. When my father arrived, he explained his situation to his Uncle who gladly accepted him into his home. Angelo had a lot of children with one already married and very successful in a Real Estate business in a larger City, very nearby, called Pittston. Another son, who was also named Salvatore, and about his same age, that became a close friend to my father and they would go hang-out together. One day as they were walking the four miles to Pittston to a see a silent movie, they spotted this pretty young girl up on a hill in front of her home alongside of the road, singing while she was hanging laundry. Cousin Salvatore knew her from the (truly) one and only little red school house in Yatesville, which also acted as the Little Catholic Church for Sunday mass. So he yelled to her “Hello Antoinette”! She smiled back at him and said “Hello” back in such a melodious way that it was more like a song. (she always spoke words like they were in a song, except, that is, when she was yelling at me hiding under a bed because I did something really bad.) My father seeing and hearing her, stopped in his tracks, turned to his cousin, and asked to be introduced. Well, he met her and that’s exactly when and where, my father fell in love, big time. The all-knowing City slicker just went bonkers over this young country girl. From then on, they saw each other every day thereafter, with cousin Sal acting as a chaperone. After about a month of courtship, they both agreed that they wanted to get married as soon as possible. When they told his Uncle, he explained to my father that he must go back to Mulberry St and tell his parents his good news. So, back to Mulberry Street he went and when he did, his father and mother were so happy just to see their son again, as they were broken-hearted with him gone. After all his family seeing him, came around him with happiness and laughter, he told them about this beautiful woman he had met and how he wanted to marry her. His parents couldn’t say enough of on how they felt, and especially to know he was going to give them grandchildren. They both welcomed him back and said they wanted to meet this wonderful girl who he kept talking lovingly about. He went back to Yatesville and brought my mother-to-be to New York City to meet his family. Being a country girl, she couldn’t believe all that she experienced.(Her words to me 25 years later, also in a song)
At that time it was the tradition that couples were married in the church of the Bride, so the whole New York family, their friends and neighbors, began planning to go to Yatesville for the wedding ceremony and reception afterwards. As it turned out, my mother’s sister, Alice, was also planning to get married at the same time. Her fiancé, James Zarra, was a returning solder that spent a year after World War One in an army hospital because he had driven his motorcycle through an area that the Germans had poison- gassed. This was while he was in the army acting as a special motorcycle courier (Pre-CIA), the gas had affected his breathing and lungs terribly, and since he later worked in the local coal mines belonging to my mothers oldest brother, Uncle Louis, he would eventually die from it. He was a very handsome, adventurous, and daring man, who rode his old motorcycle with a flare and all the local people knew him to be wild. So, after much discussion over who would marry first, the two sisters finally decided to have one big wedding, a double wedding.
In New York, my grandfather being now so happy to have his favorite home again, asked his oldest daughter, Louise, to rent an apartment in a brand new building on Lafayette Street, just one block west of Mulberry Street, where only the rich and eventually, the famous could afford to live. The best part about the apartment she rented was that it could be clearly seen directly across from their third floor window. It was to be for the new couple to move into directly after their marriage, what, no honeymoon? He also had her furnish it as well. He now put his plans into the works for another very special reception, after all returned from Pennsylvania, and it also included how to travel to and from the wedding! He solved this by asking my father to go and rent an entire railroad car that would be put onto the train that daily passed through Pittston, as it continued heading west to Pittsburg, then turning around and stopping again at Pittston the next day, to then again head back to New York for this other Reception. When the time came, all the Bianco family, including each of my grandfathers brothers and sister, some who came from Corning, NY, and from Waterbury, CT, as well as those locally from Mott Street, plus all their friends from New York, to begin traveling to Pittston, Pa. in that railroad car, all reveling as they went, drinking the home made wine that the family made each year. (There will be more about our wine, further along in this writing.) When they arrived, my Grandfather was absolutely thrilled at meeting this vivacious, beautiful young woman. (Oh by the way, how do you think I learned so much about this meeting, and all the events that followed? Well, I know this all has to be true, since it was described to me in detail by that same vivacious, beautiful, only a little older, woman, with absolutely no show of embarrassment, or humility, just her flowery way of speaking… my Mom).
However, that same reaction to my mom cannot be said for my Grandmother, as is the case for most mother in laws, she thought this woman was not good enough for her son, who was a hillbilly, and couldn’t possibly be perfect for her son, or for her to make beautiful grandchildren. As it turned out, she continued with this belligerent attitude until she died, even though my mom did most of the cooking for the whole family (30+ attending) on every weekend and all holidays.
When it was time for the marriage ceremony to begin, all attended the double Ceremony, but because of the crowd, they had to have it in a larger Church in Pittston. Pa. The reception that came immediately afterwards was held back in Yatesville at a local Italian family restaurant. There were no major disasters, as was usually the case for weddings of that time. Fist fights always broke out, with things flying everywhere, and also considering there was this large bunch of City slickers, meeting truly, a pack of country bumpkins. It was most likely that my grandfather set the rules on behavior. The reception went on till late hours, with actually both sides enjoying each other’s different ways. At the end of the bash, and because they had to meet a schedule that the train followed going back to New York, all the New Yorkers had to happily wait till the next day, so they continued to revel even more in the coach car all night, and eventually falling asleep wherever they dropped. In the morning, the car was attached to the train, clanking and waking everybody up, as my mom’s family and some friends boarded for the trip to New York. Also boarding was mom’s sister, Alice and her new husband, Jimmy, who planned to go on further to follow their honeymoon plans in Atlantic City. Once again back on the train was all happiness, with singing, playing cards and general laughter. Upon their arrival to New York, yet another reception was planned and was ready for the two new couples, their families and friends. The train dropped off the car on a siding, where there were Bianco wagons and one truck (all a little smelly, but clean with fresh sawdust spread all over) ready and waiting for all to be brought to that next reception. It too was a great success, because the New Yorker’s who now knew all, were thrilled to have been able to go to Pennsylvania, and in a private railroad car, no less, with all expenses paid. As for the people from Yatesville, well this had to be the biggest event of their lives, and probably never to be beat! However, later, there was a big event that happened my mother’s brother, Louis Fabrizio, who had found coal by digging in their back yard, and later to become a multi-millionaire, owning the largest coal mine company in Pennsylvania, called Knox Coal Company. Eventually there was a scandal over what happened to the mine in the Mid-fifties, when it collapsed and killed 15 men and caved the length of Main Street of Pittston, Pa. into the coal mine below. Many of the local people from Yatesville worked in that mine and some were critically hurt, and some dying.
Back to life after the second wedding affair was over, and life went back to normalcy. The excitement continued for my mom, as she never, ever, thought she would be living in the biggest city in the world. After a while as it wore off and things settled down, my mother who was not used to living in this big city needed time to get adjusted.
The man who started it all for our family.


Here he is, above, older, but happy, as it was his intension to get his whole family, those getting married and those still at home, to move to the Bronx to be with his family friends and In-Laws, “The Belloise’s” but as it always has been in life, the Husband moves to where his new wife lives, and as they were married, each son moved to Brooklyn as they got married.

My father, now back in favor, began to take over the daily operation of the business, as my grandfather was getting old and was ready to settle down for the first time in his life, and he did so gladly, but still controlling the money. Because of my father’s pleasant personality, he was able to make their business grow more and more. One new opportunity that came along, was first delivering bananas stalks from the docks to fruit wholesalers and then from them, after the bananas were repackaged, to the little chains that were popping up around the city…

Getting back to my Dad and how his reputation brought customers who realized they could rely on his honesty and loyalty, to use our services, so we grew even more. He made his brother Al, who, although he was a grouch and naturally very, very pushy, run the drivers and the everyday trucking affairs, and he did an excellent job of it. My father stood by in the background, taking care of the customers, billing and finances. Eventually he decided that he wanted to try something new, while still running his family business that was now handling both meat and bananas.
The new adventure he started was the grape and homemade wine business. He, along with his first cousin, Anthony A. Bianco, decided to work together to create a business from nothing. This cousin, Toniucch, (meaning Anthony in Italian, in an endearing way), moved to Fresno California when my grandfather, after bringing him over from Italy, gave him $3000.00 dollars in cash and told him to go to California, and find a business to buy. That’s exactly what he did, and after a while, Antoniucche created a business that grew to be very large, in doing so, he needed to sell a lot of grapes, faster, and in railroad car quantities, so he made an agreement with my father to handle the east coast end by selling grapes by the carload. Antoniucche bought grapes directly on the vines from local California farmers, had them picked by migrant Mexican workers, then packed in 35 lb wooden boxes in a warehouse he rented, then finally were placed in railroad cars to be shipped to New Jersey. The railroad cars were sent to a staging area that was in a train yard near the waterfront in Jersey City, NJ, a sizable city where my father was very close friends with the Mayor.


 

A later view of the Jersey City Railroad yards and its ferry connection to Manhattan,
Note “The World Trade Center”

My father would then arrange through an Auction House in Manhattan to sell these same cars of grapes in carload quantities, with him taking over the sale from the highest bidder. He had the buyers pick up their purchases in this same yard, and after being paid, would send the total amount to Antoniucche, who would later settle all accounts. Besides the customers who bought from the auction, he would sell from his own grape cars that he purchased, to use for his own local customers and distributors, who all came to buy at that same railroad yard, but bought in much smaller quantities. To these customers, he gave credit and they paid him usually after they sold their grapes. My father would always wind up with a half car for himself. All this began each year on or about October 15th, and ran daily until all the cars of grapes were sold. His smaller customers, who made wine for themselves with only 20 to 40 boxes of grapes would stop buying after Thanksgiving Day, as they knew that many boxes of grapes lying in the railroad car were getting older and riper and began to get wet from some grapes bursting and bleeding juice through the wooden grape box, creating a mold. They felt that the wine produced from these boxes would not be perfect, and may even spoil and turn the wine into vinegar, which happened to my dad quite a few times when he wound up with the boxes not sold. If there were full cars unsold, or even half, my father would have to keep them for himself, like it or not, to then make his own wine afterwards, which would not always be as good as it could have been, had it been made earlier. Or there was the alternative, to lose the cost of the grapes, plus all the accumulated charges to get them to New Jersey, so he always decided to use them and take his chances with the wine made, as he was always compensated by Toniucch for those loses when they settled up. The two cousins worked well together, but Toniucch had bigger plans and was free to do whatever he wanted, so he grew even further by purchasing land with vineyards already producing from local farmers, who were retiring. He then set up a giant company called Anthony A. Bianco Fruit Co. and became so big that he was able to buy the Minute Maid Orange Co.’s ranch of 20,000 acres, with a partner, called Dell Web.

A note here about Del Web, He went on to establish an empire by developing real estate and then gated communities throughout the United States and Canada.
Please realize that Antoniucche accomplished all this while never really speaking good English. Initially when he and my father had the process going very successfully, he asked my father to join him, but being loyal to his brothers, he said not now, as he knew his first priority was to stay and oversee his family business. He promised Antoniucche that at a later time he would, join him, by moving to California, and buying a ranch of his own… That someday would never come!
So what happened when he had a half of railroad car of grapes left after Thanksgiving? Well, first off he would start by preparing our cellar. He had wine barrels from when my Grandfather made wine, a time I remember clearly, and insist that I digress to tell you about how they made wine and then later, to continue on with my father’s life, and thereafter mine with its twists and turns.
When I was about six or maybe seven, I remember watching my father and Uncles bring boxes of grapes from a truck down into dark cellar where my grandfather had rented two very small rooms from the building owners. In that damp, dark cellar was the equipment ready to make their wine, as they had done each and every year. There was a crusher, a squeezer, and two kinds of barrels. One type was placed upright and next to each other, onto a two foot high wooden frame that lined the walls of the first room. Each barrel had its top off to allow the crushed grapes to fall into the barrel. Allowing just barely enough room for one person to stand beside each of the barrels. The other type barrel, usually from a used whiskey barrel of white oak that originally held Bourbon, and because of the bourbon fermenting in the barrel, there would actually be a charcoal lining inside. The barrels were laid on their side on a wooden frame built two feet off the floor, and would eventually hold the newly made wine. They were set up in the other small room which was alongside of the first, but separated by a door which was locked at all times. When it was time, all the brothers chipped in, weather they liked it or not, or feel the fury on their father, as wives don’t count alongside of him who ruled the roost. Each son having his special job, even I had a job, which I loved, even though it didn’t do right by me, as after a while I would get very dizzy doing it. I’d best explain each of the different processes, till it was my turn to help, and by the way, mine was a very important job for an eight year old.
To give you a better picture of where that basement was, I’d like to draw for you, the picture that will be in my mind’s eye, forever. All the buildings on Mulberry Street were five to seven stories high and all had cellars that had stairs that were below the sidewalk level, with entrances directly in front of each building and had two flat metal door that opened up and closed down. There were fancy wrought iron railings on both sides of the stair doors that were bolted perpendicular to the brick walls of the front of the building, then bolted to the cement sidewalk. The workmanship on each railing was of bent and twisted black wrought iron, beautifully hand crafted, as the buildings on this street were originally constructed in the mid1800’s for the rich Gentry who would be living there, as it was going to be a very new and fashionable place to live, “uptown”, way up north of Canal St. In front between the two railings was a chain hanging across from rail to rail for safety, and to keep kids from playing around them. However, I found it was fun to put my belly on the chain and do a flip. One time, and only one time, I tried to walk across the chain and slipped, but luckily I had not developed anything there yet to break. However, in another part of this blog, I can tell you about really breaking one. Ok, Ok! Back to the story!***********
So, directly on top of the stairs, level with the sidewalk, were two metal hinged doors when closed covered the entrance, kept out the rain and nosey people, so they were padlocked to prevent uninvited entry, when they were opened they leaned back onto to rails, allowing full entry to the basement. The stairs going down were made of flat blue/grey slate, very steep, and were worn in the center from 75 years of use by the time I saw them. The basement had rooms partitioned to allow tenants to rent for further storage, and each had a padlocked door. As I watched from above, in one of the two little rooms my Grandfather rented, two of his sons took the lids off the grape boxes and stacked them near the crusher, while my grandfather sat and watched the procedure, smoking a stogie. (My father got his smoking habit from him and continued smoking them till his death, which was actually its cause.) Another son then dumped each box into the crusher. What’s a crusher? It was shaped like a square hardwood funnel, with two steel rollers attached horizontally on the bottom, so that while they turned against each other, they churned and swallowed the grapes thrown into the top, crushing them as they went through. This crusher had a wheel with a handle on its outside edge that was connected to the rollers that was turned by another brother. When each barrel was three quarters full after crushing about ten boxes, they would move to the next barrel, fill it, and so on, till all the boxes were empty and the barrels were full. Usually my grandfather bought 50 boxes, as 5 barrels was all that fit in the first room he had. He would sit and watch all that was going on with my father running the show, both having a cigar in his mouth, but usually not lit. My job was not part of this first operation, so my grandfather would give me or my

*****************************************************

brother if he was there, a nickel to buy candy at Fay’s, a coffee and candy store across the street on Prince Street. Fay was a spinster lady who actually roasted her own blends of coffee in two big roasters. Each was a very shiny red and chrome that gave off the greatest smell, the very reason I’m a coffee hound today. She had coffee for all tastes, black for Italians, Brown for the wimps, and blends for the rich and famous. Beside all this she was gorgeous with her hair in a bun, always happy with a warm smile, and so beautiful that we would want to go the just to see and talk to her. She was my first love, a shame cause I was too young. She would give us free candy when we were sent to buy a pound of coffee, or three cigarettes, for my uncles. Yes, in those days you could buy one cigarette at a time and you got a single wooden sulfur match to go along with it. I could remember walking back with the cigarette held in my hand and the match alongside, with my hand slightly closed not to crush the cigarette, crazy what is so clear in your mind 75 years later.
The next step was to put covers loosely placed onto the filled barrels, with a smell like grape juice permeating the room and out into the street. The day’s work was done and the soon to be wine, was left to ferment, with always someone going down to turn the mixture, it was usually my father, as we lived on the fifth floor in this same building while most of the other brother lived elsewhere. He would stop and let the mixture settle after about seven days, then allow more time for the mixture to ferment even further. The fermenting process was creating a sediment that began forming into a “cake” that eventually floated to the surface. He would watch each barrel till he saw all the sediment rise to the top and the smell was clearly of young wine, now called “Neuveau”. When satisfied, he would call his brothers to again help for the next step in the process, and this is where I came in. I’m not sure if my brother Al helped as well, but he must have been there as well, however because he was bigger and much fatter than me, he was unable to fit into the barrel to do the job that was needed. Please realize I had to physically be able to bend in half and reach down into the bottom of the barrel to get at the rhynes. I was very small and slight, more perfect to be put into the barrels, to be able to scrunch down, clean out the seeds, rein, stems and other things like leaves that all formed into a cake shape of about 12” thick. Naturally before I was put into each barrel, all the liquid had to be drained and put into pails. Everyone helped to drain the young wine out through the bottom of each barrel, where a wooden spigot that had an open/ close knob was hammered into the bottom, allowing the liquid to flow into awaiting pails. A chain gang style line of men then passed each pail on through to the next room, where it was poured into the awaiting barrels using a large funnel placed in a hole in the top side of the laying barrel, to ferment for months till the wine was ready to drink. Only after this was accomplished and the barrels were empty of fluid, did they put me in the first barrel with no shoes, socks, shirt, but with throw-away short pants. In the beginning, the smell was wonderful, but as I scrunched down into the barrel, it was much stronger, so much so, that I had to come up for air every so often, and be very dizzy in the process. Actually, I had to come up anyway, as each time I did, I had a small bucketful of the contents in the barrel. That bucket was passed to a brother who then dumped the contents into the squeezer; I did this continually till the barrel was empty, and then on to the next, and so on till all five barrels were empty. When this part was done, I would look at my feet and hands, wow, they were red, and my legs too, were dyed red. I’d like to know how you would feel going to school the next day and try to hide your hands. I might mention here that next to coffee, wine is my second most important drink, or visa-versa, depending the time of day.
OK, so what’s a squeezer you might ask? Well it is a free standing device that was made of cast iron, and very, heavy. It stood on three legs and on top of them was a flat iron surface with a channel at it’s circumference that would catch the juices from the squeezed grape rynes. Vertically standing on the top of this base and directly inside the channeling was series of 1”x2”hardwood slats a half inch apart held together by three steel rings, one in the middle an two on each end, top and bottom. In the center of the flat iron base was 2” solid steel threaded bar that was welded at the bottom to the base and stood vertically straight up past the height of the wooden slats by about one foot. See photo below!


 

This wine press we had for years; until Dad and Mom moved to California. Then I gave it and all his other wine making equipment to Mr. Brutto, his main wine distributor and very our close friend. There is another great story about this man and his family that needs telling… but when? The picture shown is a smaller version, as ours had three metal rings, and could hold more Ryne.
A giant bolt made to screw onto this pole had two places for pipes to be inserted, to give strength to the person, or persons turning it down. On top of the still wet and juicy Ryne there was placed two 2” thick flat semi-circular hardwood boards, each were a half that fit snugly between the center pole and the wooden slats, when together fit around this pole, pushing down the Ryne. As the bolt was turned down into the squeezer, it would press the boards that would then press fermented grapes. Another set of boards was placed over the first set to keep the mixture under tremendous pressure. As the grapes were being squeezed, a liquid, like dark red blood would run from it into the channel and then to a point that was flared to allow the liquid to fall into an awaiting pail. The crushed fermented grapes were taken from the fermenting barrels and put into the squeezer, one barrel at a time, till all barrels were empty. The liquid that went into the pails was passed along into the second room and poured into each barrel equally to add “The Blood” that gave strength and body to the soon to be wine.
This ended the first steps in making homemade wine. The now filled barrels in the second room would stay for months till after tasting a shot glass with his father every so often, and they both agreed that the wine was ready. My father would then add a few tea spoons of sulfur to each barrel, as this would stop the fermenting process and the wine would remain with that level of alcohol and maturity, and not ferment further into vinegar. Wine was now ready to drink! WAIT, wait… We’re not done yet!
What do you do with the Ryne that is now squeezed dry and looked like matted red saw dust that is again back into a cake form?? Throw it away? Are you crazy? This is why you make wine the in the first place. This dried stuff is gold…pure GOLD! You take one of the upright, now empty barrels, clean it, and throw these dried rynes into it after separating and loosening it. You then add two gallons of pure grain 100% Alcohol into the barrel as well, let it stand for another month or so… and now they would go the same process of squeezing this second batch and what do you have… “Grappa”. What’s Grappa used for? A thimbleful of Grappa sipped very very slowly will knock you out, but as you fall to the floor, you’ll first feel your throat burn so much that you will spew out flames and burn the kitchen curtains. You don’t get a lot from the batch, a little less than the two gallons of “alcky” you put in, but at the rate you can drink it, it will last a long time. It was usually served to guests on holidays, proudly mentioning how strong it was this year. So, now you know the process that my father had to use to make wine from all the boxes of grapes that didn’t get sold. He followed the same procedure later when making his own wine.
The wine business had its good points, but making an awful lot of wine between Thanksgiving and Christmas was not the way for a young stud to spend an adventurous time. Actually it was fun, but very hard work when it was first the three of us, then when Al went to College, just the two of us. Actually my mom was right there with us doing as much, or even more than us. What a woman… and she was my mom! By the way!! Her story is coming soon…to theaters in your neck of the woods!
So what did my dad do with all this wine, some great to drink and others not so hot, that he would wind up with each year? It was usually anywhere from 5 to 10 barrels, or 160 to 320 gallons of wine, and our family could barely drink a barrel in a year. Why it too was gold… GOLD! No not like the Grappa, but dad turned it into real money…Three to Five dollars a gallon depending on the quality! Distributing it is another story, with a lot of laughs and a lot of work. My Mother knew exactly what to do with the money collected and my father just smiled with his stogy in his mouth and let her do whatever she wanted, which was always to save it to use later for us 6 kids.
My father, who had his main business to run, stayed with it with his brothers, but after a while, because of the connection the trucking business had working mainly with wholesale meat dealers, he found he could buy and sell “Spring Lamb” that was a main course with Italians at Easter. So, he would travel to the South by car; buy spring lambs, have them delivered to a friend’s cooler, then just days before Easter use his same distributors from his wine business, to sell and deliver them to their same customers annually, usually Italian families. This business really took no time from the trucking company, so he then started looking for another market to bring to New York, and it was Christmas Trees.
He started going to Canada to buy Christmas trees in early November and would have two or three railroad cars of trees shipped to Jersey City, NJ, the same yard he used for grapes, they were to arrive about two weeks before Christmas. When they arrived, he would open the cars and begin selling bundles of trees to his wholesalers. Some bundles had three trees wrapped together, some four and some only had two. As it worked out, the bundles with the most trees were made up of smaller trees, and those with only two were very tall, full and round. His distributors would then sell these bundles to men in different sections of New York and New Jersey, who found places on street corners, to open and sell their trees to people who passed by, wanting to get their home ready for Christmas. His railroad cars were in a staging area where his customers could come to pick up their bundles. When I was about 10, he would take me along on weekends to help him. I loved every second, as we would start very early in the morning, first have a cup of his coffee brew, which was day old black Italian coffee laced with scotch and milk, enough to keep you warm inside for hours. I would watch him, with his cigar in his mouth, chewing on it, but never lighting it, and because it was always so cold in the yards, his nose would drip. Guess what, my nose now does the same thing and I think about my dad and how he looked, and to boot, later I too went into the Christmas business, but big time, like him a leader to first bring different Christmas ideas to people. Double guess what, my son Michael is also in the Christmas business.
At the cold railroad yard, I would watch him, knowing he was the boss and my father. His customers would arrive and yell to him “Sally”, another year, but I can’t pay you till after Christmas. He would smile to them, without having to say anything, and they knowing all was well, because he was “Sally”. I would help his customers load what they bought, as small as I was, and they would tell my father “Sally, you are training him good to take over the business.” He would then open his little book, ask them how many bundles of what count, and note the sale, some paid at once, and some would pay later, but not too many ever paid at once.
The begining of the Second World War, rationing began, making meat and meat products hard to get, and only available by using “Meat stamps“, which were given to each family according to the amount of family members it has. This forced most of the Wholesalers to stop their deliveries to local distributors, who in turn could not sell to local butchers. This forced The Bianco Bros trucking to temporary close down. My uncles, as well as all men under the age of 40, had to report for induction to enter the Armed services. Uncle Al went into the Army and became a cook stationed in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Uncle Joey joined the Navy and was on a Navy destroyer that was damaged in a few sea battles, so that when he came home, had a quiet and solemn attitude, possibly being a little shell shocked. They have a new term for it today, called “Post Traumatic Stress”.
Uncle Mickey when reporting for his physical into the army, acted crazy. He told me he actually sat on a steam radiator so his body heat was very high, He was classified as “4F”. Uncle Tony actually was “4F”. Uncle Raffie was helped by Uncle Pete, an uncle through marriage, who was then very connected, (Ring a bell? Lanza!), and got him “Deferred”. Uncle Pete was a wonderful man and everyone respected him, including me. Whenever we would meet, he, walking with two of his private soldiers close by, would call me over and ask about my mom, and tell me to kiss her for him inti my ear so no one could hear. He had gone to school with my father and always was there for him. Bianco Bros never had to join a Union, when all other truckers, and their drivers were forced to. My father being the oldest son was not inducted. He went to work at the Brooklyn Navy yard and was hired as carpenter building wooden ships. He had no idea how to use a hammer, but that is where the government made him work. Our meat supply dried up just a little, but my father could have made a fortune selling meat that was made available to him because of his friendships with the wholesalers to people in the black market. He told us that he could not take advantage and make money that way. Many people who had his same contacts made tons of money selling meat, bypassing food stamps and charging double.
When the Second World War was coming to an end, we moved to the Bronx, as that was the plan my Grandfather had to have all his children move there and remain together, and I said before, it didn’t happen, We lived on the first floor of a rented apartment in a 2 family home on 205th St. between the Grand Concourse and Mosholu Parkway, it was a paradise in comparison to the three rooms on the fifth floor cold water flat on Mulberry St. As was always the case when kids moved into a new neighborhood, I had to prove myself to the boys my age and had to fight anyone who thought they were going to control me, so fight I did and after a while, no one bothered me except when I fought the neighborhood bully. I had Belloise blood in me, and had no problem with any who thought they could fight and beat me. They first called me “Lefty” because I did everything backward, so they couldn’t understand how I fought. Eventually they all called me “The Saint”. Why? That’s a story for another time, but for now to say they all went to public school and I alone, went to Catholic school. I didn’t allow cursing in front of me. Eventually they respected me for it, called me The Saint and it stuck.
My father was a man for his family, no, not one to dote over us, but one that provided for all our needs, and was there when we needed him. Not to mention we got his cars after he would buy a new one, about every three years. Most men would go out at night to drink and whatever, but he would be there for us till later in the evening, when he would go one block south down to 204th Street. Living there was his Uncle Sal Belloise, my Grandmothers brother, He had a four story family brick home, and always sat on his stoop (the front stairs to his building) and just for the fun of it would actually panhandle, asking people who passed, by saying “You Gotta soma change? Here was a guy whose two sons were Champions of the World in Boxing, didn’t need the money, but loved just to con people. Well, mostly weekday nights my dad would go to Uncle Sal’s basement and play cards till late into the night with all the old cronies of the neighborhood. This was his only recreation… from attending major Broadway plays nightly when he was young, to playing simple card games with his friends. He was happy with his life, knowing he did what he wanted, whenever he wanted, and now was a time to relax. Many times, I would go with him, down narrow steps to the finished basement and smell the room with all the Italian men smoking and drinking wine, sitting at a big round table laughing and talking in Italian, usually with a few curse words when someone would lose too many times. His life from then on was… Work… home to eat, then TV, and then to Uncle Sal’s. It was for him a comfortable way to retire, with a wife that was there for him in every way. Eventually he bought a one family home in the country, still in the Bronx, but near the border of Mt Vernon. It had four floors with bedrooms for everyone and a few as spares, as two of my older sisters were married by then. There were farms still around that mainly grew vegetables for the Manhattan market. If you go there today you will see glass hothouses that protected the crops in the winter, but broken, abandoned and no longer used.
Being too far from Uncle Sal’s, his weekends were spent with us, him barbequing flank steaks like they were hamburgers, and my mom baking everything from bread to all kinds of macaroni. Us kids would have all our friends over; a home that had happiness, love, respect, and peace. So much so, that all my friends called my parents “Mom and Pop” and truly meaning it, as their homes didn’t have what we had. Best of all, each of us would bring our old cars to wash, wax and just be together. At the time I didn’t realize it, but most men were not like my father, they were only after what they could do for themselves, while he was there for us, all the time, soft and easy. His few friends, and two neighbors, would come to drink our sometime good wine, and always Dewars scotch, but mainly, to be there with us. It did help that there was always great food for all, my mother’s great homemade bread, steaks, fresh vegetables from our garden (don’t forget my mother was a farmer) and wine galore, sometimes great and sometimes just so, so!
A note here about my taking over his books when he retired; when he was 64 in 1965, neither he or my mother knew that he had terminal cancer of the throat and wouldn’t live much longer. Our doctor, Dr Carlino, also a family friend who joined in our family get-to-gethers, took me aside and told only me privately about my father’s condition, so I told no one. In those days, cancer was a disease that no one talked about, or even knew too much about, and was therefore kept secret. So, without telling them,or anyone else, I suggested to them that they retire sooner, rather than wait till he was 65, which was less than a year later. They agreed that it was a good idea so he bought a new Chrysler station wagon, the one with wooden side panels. Then we loaded it with their immediate needs, and they headed for California to spend their retirement days with their other five children and loads, and loads of grandchildren. I told them that I too would follow later. Before they left, my Dad gave me his small account book, (I still have it), as well as all his personal financial papers, and asked me to handle everything that needed taken of. I was to sell their house, and send them the funds. When I looked through this business book with him, I noticed that there were about 8 men who hadn’t fully paid him, and still owed him quite a bit of money. I said that he shouldn‘t worry and that I would collect the money for him. He said “No, no, forget about the monies due.” I said why, they owe you and I’ll get the money. He then said to me: “Don’t do anything about these debts, forget them, as these were his friends and the men who made him all the money he earned from the trees, grape, wine and lamb businesses. They did the all work and what money they owed him now, was small compared to what he had gotten back tenfold from them selling his stuff. So, he said listen and learn. People, who work for you, earn for you a lot more than you pay to them, so when the time comes, forget their debts“. This is a lesson I too followed the rest of my life. When the time came for me to retire, I gave my all businesses to my employees free and clear. It felt good… maybe not too “business” smart, but I followed my father’s advice and am proud of it.
He died six months later, and I cried!
Footnote:
Many years later my mother took me aside and told me how mad she was at me just after he died. She felt that he should have been near his family and friends when he died, as they were his life, but they couldn’t be there to be at his funeral as he died in California!

Today I caught a mouse

Today I caught a mouse
I never thought I could feel so sad as when I saw the mouse.
It was a he, or a she, who kept leaving little spots around the house.
So, today I caught that mouse, and I feel so sad that I could cry,
cause now, I have to watch it die.

Today I caught a mouse, but how can I ever forget its eyes,
as it struggled and fought to run from me with it’s screaming cries.
I thought I was clever, and set a trap that glued it to a pad,
I never thought that I would to see it caught, then make me so sad.

Today I caught a mouse, so now I must try it set free
from glue so strong, that it could capture even me.
I tried my best to free it’s tail, and then a leg, and paw,
but no matter what I did, it became stuck, even more.

Today I caught a mouse, and now I’m here, crying like a fool.
Its only a mouse… it only a mouse, so I should be cool,
but why do I feel so bad about myself, at being such a louse;
cause I’ve caught a mouse that had been living happily in my house.
It’s not dead as yet, but soon will be,
cause no matter what I do, I cannot set it free.
And now all I can do is sigh and cry,
as I have to watch this little mouse die.

Today I killed a mouse, and I too want to die,
But all I can do is sigh, then just cry.
Never again can I think of a mouse, without seeing those eyes of fear;
that I won’t stop and think, and wind up with a tear.

God! I killed a mouse, and cannot understand how people kill,
things that live, and not feel what I now feel, and always will.
What pain and heartbreak I have in me,
Oh God ! Help me to be free.

I watched a little mouse that only wanted food,
die, because of me, so now all can I do is brood.
God help me get good feelings back, and not be so sad,
it’s only a little mouse I caught glued to a pad.

I’m a man who has lived a long life, and think that I’m so smart,
but all I can feel now is to live with a broken heart.
What’s a little dirt and mess, against a life abound;
that could still be happy, running, round and round.

God, I can’t seem to stop the pain that is in my heart
just show me how, and make me smart,
to never be so foolish again, as to hurt another living being.
Yes, even a little mouse that eats, then leaves it’s little peeing.

So what’s a little cleaning after all that’s said and done,
to save a life, and know it’s having fun.
Leaving little messes after all, it’s only a little mouse
who has chosen to live with me, in my little house.
I want to tell the world about the mouse I caught today,
so that they too, can stop and think, and hope, and pray
for the mouse I caught today.

Never again, can I watch a thing alive, die because of me.
Never again, cause now all I’ll do is smile, and then set it free.

Every time I watch Emeril Live…I’m proud

Artificial Flowers have been a big part of my life as it allowed me to grow in many directions.  I would travel to different cities across America to be on TV while still in it’s infancy, on afternoon women’s talk shows, completely adlibing as I made flower arrangements.. I introduced for Christmas mini-light sett

Another Uncle, another story!

This is when I wrote it–10/13/2013. it was 2 months before I almost died!

When I was 16, I loved going to my father’s place of business, a trucking company that he ran with his 4 brothers. It was called “THE FIVE “B” TRUCKING CO. He had 6 brothers, but the sixth and youngest one had married a beautiful women whose family were kinda “connected”,( to find out more about there connection read my Grandfathers story) so, he was able to run his own trucking company, (one truck),that picked up paper rolls for newspaper companies, and his is a story for another time. For now, I’d like to talk about Uncle Joey, the fifth son. Oh, buy the way, when us boys went to work with their fathers, we called the trucking company “The Five “B” Trucking Co and their “sons of B”

 

Uncle Joey had a fuse that blew in a second. I saw him flatten a big truck driver because he had yelled at my father. When I say flatten, I mean one punch, and down for the count of fifty, but he really was a lovable guy, really, and handsome…WOW!!! Classic Italian American, somewhat like me, except he never lost his hair and bristling mustache.

Well, all the brothers would meet at 4:00am each morning at the railroad yards on 37th St and 11th Ave to pick up the sides of beef in railroad containers that came from Chicago’s stock yards, which they unloaded onto their trucks, then delivered them to the giant refrigerator coolers of wholesale butchers all in the 14th street meat market. thereafter, each brother had a particular job to do with his truck and each has their special way to take care of it. Uncle Mickey’s was perfection and no one was allowed to drive it period! The rest jumped from one truck to the next, didn’t even bother to clean the windshield. When there was a problem with a truck the brothers would call Uncle Joey to fix it. He was called “Kid Screw Driver”. He fixed everything with his trusty screw, even flats! A few times he sent sparks flying when a truck wouldn’t start. He used his trusty screw drive and somehow would create a short and a screeching of sparks would fly. Crazy thing, none of brothers would curse, whereas, cursing was the standard language among the workers throughout the meat market. Maybe it was because us boys were around and they watched what they said, buy I think it was my father who they loved and respected.

It was Uncle Joey’s job to operate “The Route”. What’s the route you ask? Well, it’s delivering to the local butchers in Manhattan that were our customers . Uncle Joey had about 25 customers. What was done daily by each of his customers was to arrive at the meat market at about 6 oclock in the morning and buy whatever they needed for that day, or week. They always bought from their same wholesalers, maybe three or four, as different butchers had different wholesalers that they favored. After each butcher finished his purchases, he would stop off at our office, which on 14th St, along side of our biggest customer, have a cup of coffee with buns, be kidded, or teased about one thing or another, but it was just fun for all, and my father would be there with a wet stogy in his mount with a little smile on his face. Everyone in the market always wanted to stop by our office, especially the mounted police, who tied their horses to the mirrors of our trucks. Each officer would be part of the fun and each made all of their co-officers throughout Manhattan know to leave Bianco Bros alone, no matter what. So, we could travel anywhere in the city and not worry. We had a lot that we could worry about without the “cops” being on our backs. Most of the trucks were maintained by Uncle Joey. We had maybe 10 trucks and they were all old and falling apart. Most didn’t have brakes and it was a challenge to be able to go anywhere and use only your head to get around without brakes. Another reason the Cops liked us was that they shared the stuff that fell off the truck. Cousin Al, who we all loved and was so special, wanted to become a cop because of the ones that hung around our office. There is another story here, but I’ll save it for when I specially write about him. I still miss him terribly.  

OOPS! Back to the story. Each of our butcher customers would leave their sales slips they received for their purchases at the Bianco office where my father would be collecting them for Uncle Joey to later take and pick up each order for that day. Uncle Joey would have to cruise the whole market, stopping at each wholesaler to pick up whatever each of his customer bought. The workers from each wholesaler would set aside the orders for each butcher knowing who were Uncle Joey’s customers, and would have those order ready for Uncle Joey to pick up. Again, please realize that almost all the workers in the market made their way to our office for the comradary that was always there. Uncle Joey’s customers didn’t buy every day, so his truck would be full but not overloaded. Before starting out he would plan his route accordingly for that day. Making the last stop on his deliveries to be first to be put on his truck near the front end. When it was my turn to go with him, He would have me use a hand truck and pick up all the boxes and things that would be nearby the truck. Some crates had chickens in them loaded with crushed ice to keep them fresh and leaking a lot of water. Some boxes had assorted deli-meats, such as baloney, or salami, and some had flank steaks. We would load the truck backwards so that when we were fully loaded, the orders on the back were for the first to be delivered. 

After he made his rounds of the wholesalers it would be about 8:00am, he would then begin to make his deliveries which would take him till about three o’clock. As each of the kids of the brothers were old enough, they would love to come to work with their dads, but always wanted to go with Uncle Joey. My older brother Al has his own stories, as does each of the sons who came to work. It usually worked out that only one nephew would have the chance to go with Uncle Joey, except when little Al came along, and when it was my turn, I reveled in just being close to him. He was a man’s man, a boys man, and especially woman’s man with a beautiful mustache, bushy black hair, and very handsome, but usually with a little scowl on his face. No, not because of anything in particular, but that was how he looked, serious! Nobody would ever think of approaching him to threaten him. When he smiled, it hit you in the gut…it was beautiful. Our dress for work was a light blue striped uniform that usually would last one day, as we were working with meat, blood and a lot of greasy fat, not to mention all the oil and guck we got from the trucks. We all had to wear a flat hat, called a “newsboys hat”. Because we had to carry the meat on your shoulder, a part of it would rest on the side of your head over your ear, for balance.

Sometime it was a hind quarter of meat that weighed two hundred pounds, or maybe a four quarter that could be over two fifty to three hundred pounds, and very, very, very greasy. The hat was a must, but he looked like a guy who knew who he was, who was not afraid of anything, anyone, except my father, who each brother adored. I’ll write about my father in another story, but for now it’s Uncle Joey.

 

At his first stop, the butcher’s name was “Joe De Mino”, a guy who loved to pull jokes on him, and later on, us. He spoke with a strong Italian accent and always looked like he was always laughing. In those days, each retail store would put down sawdust on their floor, fresh every day. It just was the way it was done, no matter what retailer you went to, a restaurant, grocery, bar, butcher, baker, or candle stick maker, all would have a floor of saw dust. Spill something and the sawdust absorbed it. Actually in those days, the main the real reason was that people usually would spit on the floor wherever they went. It was a bigger problem in the subway, cause people would spit on the shiny cement floor and others would slip on the spit, and wind up in the hospital. It got so bad that eventually, starting in the subways, they passed a law “NO SPITTING”. “NO SPITTING” signs were everywhere. Didn’t do much good till heavy fines were handed out. Then people got the idea, fast. But please remember, at that time, it was socially accepted, well, maybe not the “high fluting” people, but they never really went anywhere and had servants to do the daily stuff. Getting back to my story, “Joe De Mino” would ask us to be careful not to disturb the sawdust and he would make a pathway through it and lay down newspapers in our path till we left as naturally blood would spill down as we carried the meat, as his butcher shop had to be perfect when he opened for the day. His neighborhood was in the center of Greenwich Village, where at the time, a lot of the gay people lived. Not that there is anything wrong in that! So, he catered to mostly single customers, small portions, and he bought accordingly, small stuff, and maybe not the best.

 

Uncle Joey would then go to his next stop, go through the same procedures and continue on. Each butcher was a character, and each had his idiosyncrasies. Each had a different clientele, as is the case in each area in lower Manhattan, it had either a certain nationality, or class of people, but always with different tastes. After a while, he would wind up on Mulberry St, the street where our family began, with two customers who were unique.. (“Make sure you get to read Grandpa’s story, there are things in it no one in the family ever knew about”), The first was called “Stingone”, and as it turned out, his son was very interested in my oldest sister, Elizabeth. She didn’t like him and tried everything to avoid him. Guess what? She eventually married Dominick, whose mother was “Stingone’s” sister, and both Liz and Dom started their own little empire. (Here again is another story for another day). Stingone’s butcher shop was in the lower part of Mulberry St, whose neighborhood was very ethically Italian where a lot of “sweat” shops were going full force. So you ask “What is a sweat shop?” They were places where small manufacturers made either parts for sweaters or dresses. They paid very little to their workers who just arrived in America and would do anything to send money back home. They really weren’t as bad as they were made out to be, as the comradery was fun. My Grandmother and all her girls would be given work that they produced at home. I would love to watch them sewing dresses on putting sweater parts together. I loved it so much that I would help…not very good at it till later. A man would come to the third floor of 250 Mulberry St, where our family was based. We rented the whole third floor and everyone of the brothers and sisters grew up on that floor. Eventually my parents rented an apartment on the fifth floor, were the first four of their children were born and grew up.

 

Back to “Stingone’s! A change was beginning to take place on Mulberry St as Chinatown, which was south of Canal St on Mulberry, the people there were moving North and eventually, by 2010, moved their border right up to the end of the Street at Houston. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “SO HO”. Well, everything south of Houston street is “SOuth HOuston”, until Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese founded the area directly below called “Tribeca”. They both grew up one block behind Mulberry called Mott St. They are probable 5 years younger than me, so I didn’t know them, but they went to St Patrick’s Old Cathedral school and church.

OK, let’s get back to “Stingone”, he was cheap and never offered us anything, but he always asked about my father and mother. The meat he bought was always “Good” grade. And we always made sure stuff fell off the truck before we reached his stop. It’s amazing how those dead chickens got out of their box.

Our next stop was one that always amazed me. The butcher was a skinny guy with wild curly hair who thought we was an artist, acted like an artist and painted like Picasso. As we arrived at his stop, because the street was narrow, we held up all the local traffic. The place was more like a pig pen than a butcher shop, but he had such a great personality, his customers loved him. He mainly sold goats, very skinny goats a grade lower than good. Every day he would paint a gigantic picture, drawing on a roll of brown paper used to wrap packages. He would display it in his front window which was not too clean. He had other painting on all his walls. He too spoke very broken English, but it always was with a wonderful smile, you just had to love him. I’ve forgot to mention here that when we arrived on Mulberry street, I would do some crazy antics. In order to jump onto the back of the truck easily, there was a knotted rope about one inch thick with the knots about a foot apart, so that you could grab a lower knot with one hand and with the other hand grab the next knot up and so forth till you eventually got on board the back of the truck either with your butt or onto your feet. What I loved doing was to hold the bottom knot while on the road and swing out and bound along as the truck moved forward. Each bounce would take me about 8 feet till the next bounce. It was like flying. Some times I would swing out past the side of the truck where Uncle Joey would see me in his side mirror and he’d have a big smile on his face. I did things like that when I was young, and then continued on till now, but more cautiously.

Uncle Joey always planned to reach a particular butcher, whose shop was off of Delancy Street, at noon time. Why you ask? Well, to have lunch, not just a little lunch, but a spectacular lunch. I can’t remember his full name, but his first was Carmine and his wife, and Uncle Joey’s wife, were childhood friends. Boy was she beautiful, just like aunt Peewee. Both Carmine and Uncle Joey with their respective wives were terrific dancers. Being they grew up at the end of the 1920’s, they danced the popular dance at that time called “The Peabody”. I would watch them at some party and dreamed of being that good… The dream came through… didn’t it? At any rare, we would have a great fresh piece of meat fried before our eyes with a glass of wine, then black coffee to kill for, topped with anisette. The area where the shop was located had Burlesque theaters, with vaudeville shows on their marquee. I remember seeing names that would eventually become TV stars. Vaudeville was a Jewish event where up and coming comedians would start.

As we worked our way across the tip of Manhattan, well before the Twin towers were built, stopping for different customers along the way till we would eventually arrive at “95East 3rd”. Now here was a butcher, a Prime butcher. What’s a prime butcher? Meat is federally controlled and it has established 3 different grade of meat. Good, then a little better, Choice, then very much better PRIME. Most butchers bought a combination of Good and Choice, but never PRIME. It had 2 inches of fat around each piece, and you could tear a piece off and eat it just like that. Really, we did it all the time (when we could get away with it). So, when we went to “95 EAST 3RD ST”, it was an honor. The butcher was a German Giant and spoke with that German English accent and would laugh so loud that your ears hurt. His two gigantic sons also worked for him and they too spoke with the accent and laughed just like him. His shop was spotless, big, with shiny chrome hooks along the walls, and gigantic mirrors on all walls. His saw dust was twice as thick as anywhere else.

He never bought anything small, so his hinds of beef were 300lbs. Try swinging that on your shoulder, but his sons didn’t bother doing that, they just would grab the hind under their arm and carry it in to the shop, twist it and reach it to a hook on the wall. Uncle Joey, or myself, didn’t have to carry anything into the shop as the boys did it all. Usually there was always a couple of wooden crates of chickens cleaned and ready to sell, a pig, that weighed 250lbs(Got to have pork for sausages) and a two hundred pound prime calf. This stop was the only one that Uncle Joey was careful to make sure that nothing was falling off of the truck. WHAT… did things fall out the truck? Well, they must have or else our family would never have the best of everything that meat could offer. Each uncle was great at their one style of falling off the truck. Uncle Tony was the best. Every day when everyone was ready to go home, my father would have a package ready for each of his brothers. It was share and share alike. With always enough for the Patrolmen, garage workers who cared for our trucks, and even our neighbors in the Bronx, when we return home.

 

We had about 3 more stops, but it was all downhill from here. This didn’t mean we were through for the day, no, no way. Now Uncle Joey had to take another truck that had rails inside along the roof, so that hanging meat could be stacked from back to front. One driver could handle the load, as the rails allowed the driver to bring the meat, usually hinds or forequarters, and roll them to the back of the truck and stack each of the ten perpendicular rails, Another short rail could be attached later to the “A and P” warehouse loading dock rails. Then all the hanging beef would easily roll from the truck into the warehouse cooler. There were 5 “A and P” warehouses we had to deliver to. They were located as follows: In the Bronx, where Uncle Joey delivered to; Brooklyn where uncle Tony delivered to; Garden City, Long Island where Uncle Mickey delivered to; Newark, NJ where Joe Gag delivered to ( he was married to Aunt Millie), and finally “A and P Maspeth, NJ” delivered by Louis (married to cousin Maryann). Later, my new brother in law, Dominick, married to my oldest sister Elizabeth, would now take the load to A and P Bronx. By then Uncle Mickey got a job working for a provision house.

The reason we delivered to the A and P warehouses, was that my father, with his trusting way, was able to land this large account that used our trucks exclusively. It was called Berliner and Marks and they sold only calves and veal. It was owned by two Jewish men, Herb Berliner and William Marks, who were my father friends and who trusted him completely to make sure all their business was handled correctly, and it was. So, now three day a week we had to deliver all the veal to freezers to be sent to our armed forces overseas. Bianco Bros became their new name and all the trucks were painted white with Berliner and Marks logo on all sides. We got more trucks and hired more drivers, as we were growing.

As I finished High school, I wanted to go to College, but still found time to work at Bianco Bros. I never finished College as Bianco Bros was growing and my father wanted me to work with him thinking I would one day take over. In 1954, I bought a new car with $3500.00 cash with the savings my Mother held for me. I was 22 and saw that there was no future at Bianco Bros, as my Uncles weren’t that much older than me, and I realized that if I stayed I would never get to run the business. So, I left to start my own business… Here again is another story for another day, but this story affected my parents, my immediate family “to be”, my siblings, and my future. It’s coming soon. Wait for :

“Coming Attractions”

 

How our family started here in America

My Father’s Story

My Life and it’s Wonders

WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11?????

I write this now, with a feeling of total remorse, knowing there was no way for me to stop what was happening and continuing to happen, because I would have been stopping heroes who went by, to their chosen destiny!

I’m writing this to record an event that I experienced years ago. At that time I wanted to forget what happened, and just get on with life, but now I think it’s time to tell about that memory. Claire, not yet my wife, and I had traveled with my 1990 Peterbilt that I converted into a Motorhome to Long Island from Florida to visit her family. Being I had not yet visited with my sons in New Jersey, I decided to drive my car, which had been towed behind our Motorhome, to Smooth-on, my older son Trey’s Company, where my Son Michael also worked. Leaving Claire with her grandchildren, I left alone at a time of the day that forced me to take a different route than I normally took. Normally, I would take the George Washington Bridge and travel across New Jersey on I80, then south I287, then onto I78 and on to Smooth-on, but seeing the traffic, I detoured to the Long Island Expressway onto the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, although traffic on it too, was moving slowly, but at least it was moving. If you know anything about the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, you’d know it runs alongside of the East or Harlem River with a spectacular view of the West side of Downtown Manhattan. Creeping along, but enjoying the view that I knew and loved, I noticed smoke billowing from the tip of Manhattan, over the buildings facing me, but coming from further inside. I thought to myself, wow, some building must be burning with a terrific force to create such smoke. After a while the traffic began to stop and go, then eventually stop. My view was just of the smoke because of the many buildings in the way to allow me to see any further and the one that was actually burning. Eventually, we came to a complete stop and sirens were blaring away from all directions. The smoke became thicker and thicker as I watch. Many of us got out of our cars to see what the holdup was. Soon thereafter we watch cars with blue light on their roves, drive on the shoulder of our highway heading south. Across the river too were cars with blaring and flashing lights speeding south to the fire. More and more cars kept coming along the shoulder on our right, some with revolving red lights and sirens blaring and you could see the drivers frantically try to get somewhere, they were firemen. We sat for hours until the highway going north was empty. Then slowly all the cars going south were being rerouted over the center island and told not to stop and go just north. Naturally each driver said “Hey We want to Go South”, the policemen ignored everyone and made it clear that we had no choice “GO, go now!!. looking now for the last time at south Manhattan Island, the smoke really was expanding to cover the whole of tip of Manhattan. I didn’t get back to Long Island till dark, as everything was stopped dead. Not knowing what really was happening, as the radio had confusing stories of a major disaster in the downtown area. Had the highway traffic on my side not stopped until I was further south, I would have experienced firsthand what happened. So, all I can remember of the day are all those firemen who took to the shoulders to get to that fire, and what then eventually happened to them. This memory has been stuck in my mind and the main reason for trying to forget. God!! What happened to all those men who were driving to save others? They were driving to their own death, and the date was                                             9/11/2001.

Once was not enough! … and so, my 2 football stories.

This is a short story about an accident I had in my 40’s, and I’m writing to inform my surgeon who was going to operate in two weeks on my lower intestine, to remove 3″ from it, that has a phase #1 cancer growing on it, and it was to be done at Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan.

Dear Dr. Julio Garcia:

I’m writing this to inform you  of something that happened to me  that I had completely forgotten about for over 40 years. While in a meeting this past week with my general practitioner, Dr Magliullo , we discussed the up and coming procedure that you and your team of Memorial Sloan Kettering  doctors were going to perform on my cancer. In the discussion we talked about some of the happenings I’ve had over the years, and I recalled an event that happened to me in 1973/4. We were at my  wife’s parents home celebrating our annual Thanksgiving Day meal, and my one year old son, Christian, was just learning to walk. As he did so, he was ringing and playing with a 6″ handheld Indian brass bell that was a sample of what I was importing at the time for the F.W. Woolworth Co.  

chrissailing
This is Chris, I’m not sure if it was at the same time of: “the bell”

brass-bell

This bell is very similar to the one little Chris was holding, except the top of the handle came to a point.

After he was tired of playing with it, he left it upright on a chair that was not visible to any of us, as it was a corner chair under the dining room table that was also in a corner of the crowded room. Being so small Chris was able to walk under the table without hitting the top. Later, when the meal was to begin, I, being very agile, decided to sit at the table in that corner, allowing the rest of the family to easily be seated. So, without seeing the bell, I slipped around the side chairs, and raised my right foot over the back of the chair I was going to sit on and sat down with my butt landing directly on that bell. Needless to say, it went straight up into my body between my butt,my penis and my rectum. Shocked! I Jumped up flipping over the “already set” Thanksgiving table, and as I did so, I pulled out the bell which had gone completely inside me, and all the way up to the bell portion. Out came the bell and a lot of blood as well, panicking, I ran outside of the house bleeding through my pants and falling onto the grass, passed out. I was rushed to a local hospital, but by the time I got there my testicles had begun filling up with the blood that could no longer escape out the hole created by the bell, as it swelled, it closed. My testicle sack began filling to the bursting stage and eventually was the size of a football. The doctors at the hospital, could not decide how to proceed,  and they finally agreed it was best to let nature take it’s course. While I was still in the Emergency room, a bed was wheeled up beside mine, and as I turned to see who and what was happening, I saw my son Trey laying there, passed out cold. The person who wheeled him in said “He keeled over just outside in a faint, in the middle of the street,” 

Afterwards, they moved me into a private room in the maternity ward and I was immediately put into a “Sits bath” to relieve the pain, and also allow my new football to float freely. I was there for two weeks as the swelling slowly subsided. At the end of that time, I was released with no further damage to my body. I was 40 years old and strong, and later just forgot about it. However, Dr Magliullo after laughing at my experience, brought up the point that there may be scar tissue in that area of the accident that might effect my operation.
I tell you this with a laugh, but at the time it happened it was not so funny as they make it out to be in the movies, with the people watching become hilarious. Also just to make you aware of  another incident before you operate on me. I have had no repercussion from that accident nor the one earlier when  I was 18.  I was working the night shift in a manufacturing plant that made giant co-axle cables used under the Ocean . My job was to apply a tremendous amount of electricity to try to destroy them and find out their limits on how much electricity that it could withstand. I did this each night and testing different sizes and shapes of cable that became boring, especially when the cable I was testing that night blew very early, leaving me with nothing to do the rest of the evening. One night when a cable blew early, I decided to roam around the plant to see just what was there. I came to an outside wall with very large windows, but they were high and hard to look out of. I notices a place that was higher off the ground and figured it was a good way to look out. Jumping onto it, the cover I landed on gave way as my right foot hit it, but not the rest of my body. What happened next was my crotch hit an edge of what I later found out was a ventilator shaft. When I hit it’s edge, it cut my left testicle in half but not the sack around it, causing the same football affect winding me into the local hospital. Here again no physical affects had changed any of my abilities, especially having children…I’ve had 3 sons. Both incidents happened and disappeared. this is just for your knowledge, and maybe a little laugh.

Sal
The White Knight, Keeper of Dragons