My father arrived in the United States at age seven with his parents and sister. They were escaping the dire post-World War I inflationary economic conditions in Germany. My mother says that my father's family did well during the depression in comparison to hers because my paternal grandfather brought master machinist skills with him and took on the job of superintendent in their Bronx apartment building to minimize the rent. Dad speaks of getting barrels of coal ash to the street each Saturday morning and washing the floors of long hallways. My mother has memories of food baskets left at the door, long lines waiting for shoes and caring for her little brother who never knew his mother.
How did these folks meet? My grandfather brought his seventeen-year old daughter to a party sponsored by the International Ladies Garments Workers Union and my father, newly minted member of the U.S. Air Corps, was there with a friend. At the end of the evening, he told his buddy, "I am going to marry that girl." They will celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary next month.
I grew up in a three generation culturally Italian household. This was the family to which my father returned as a veteran of World War II with service in the Pacific. He'd been a freshman in City College in 1939. He became a draftsman and finished his education at night graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
We lived across the street from St. Mary Mother of Jesus Church. None of the adults in our household went to church but my sister and I were sent. We remember Sunday morning children's masses, confession lines on Saturday afternoon, Novena on Tuesday night, the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught us in CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) and the Baltimore Catechism. We did not attend the Catholic School because our parents preferred the public school as a better reflection of multi-cultural society in which we lived and would, one day, work and raise families.