The Great Depression-Tales of Wildcat, PA


The sisters

My mother Jeannette in yard of home in Weston Place, PA.
My mother Jeannette in yard of home in Weston Place, PA.
My, my grandfather looks handsome in his suit with his brother -in -law
My, my grandfather looks handsome in his suit with his brother -in -law

During today’s celebration of my mother’s birthday, she talked about growing up during the Great Depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s.   Wildcat  was the name of a village in Girardsville, Pa.  They lived in coal-mining towns.  The first place they lived was Lost Creek # 2, a coal mining village.  That makes me a coal-miners granddaughter. You may recall the  movie with Sissy Spacek ,  Coal Miners  Daughter.

Wildcat,Girardsville, Weston Place and Lost Creek #2

They walked to school  It was far! She said,  they walked across a field and up a hill, possibly two miles or more.   No such thing as buses.   It snowed a lot.  The front door was level with the ground.  Once when my maternal grandfather opened the door,  he saw that the snow that had fallen overnight was  so high, that it was over my mother’s head, a child of 7 yrs old or so.

Growing up in the Great Depression, they didn’t have much.  They didn’t have boots to walk in the snow to school.  She said , they used tin cans.   The tin cans used for boots were the size to fit their feet;  they would stomp on th mash down to fit the foot shape.  I cannot imagine this.  Sounds like a snowshow of sorts. And by the way, sounds like school was not canceled for snow.

So by now, my dear readers , you must realize how much easier that we have it today.  If you need boots, you have an multitude of places in which to shop for boots.  My mother was not concerned with style such as the now Australian boots Uggs that many young women parade in during the winter months.

Her parents picked wild mushrooms in the forest and strung them on a string and  hung straight across in the kitchen to dry.  They also picked Huckleberries , blueberries and canned them.

When her parents were first married and she being the oldest recalls some of these details of the house.  In Lost Creek # 2, they lived in a “double” house with her maternal grandmother and grandfather from Lithuania.   My mom said that her grandmother  worked hard all of the time at home.   She made sauerkraut in large wooden barrel, it was kept in the basement.  My mouth waters for a taste of that sauerkraut.  She  baked bread, in the coal stove as well as” Coshi”, A potato mixture that was baked in a large oblong pan.  She remembers the nice crust on top of the “Coshi” (pronounce- co-she-). A dish called Kapoosta was cooked, made of pork and cabbage. ( recipe is in this blog: the link http://luvsclassics.wordpress.com/tag/lithuanian/   ).

My mother’s father, my grandfather emigrated from Italy as a child of six years old by ship with his mother  to Ellis Island in New York.   Being that he had a taste for Italian foods, “an Italian stomach”, my grandmother learned to cook that traditional Italian dish of Polenta.  It was served with tomato sauce.      She also cooked pasta for lunch on Sundays.  Once living in Weston Place in their own house, they would visit the gradmother each  Sunday  and have pasta again for supper.  Her Uncle Tommy also lived in the house before he was married.  His preference for the pasta was fresh made, so when  she recalls looking out the window and upon seeing his car, the pasta was put on to boil.

My great grandmother, called grammy also raised chickens, and 1 rooster.   Mom  can remember hearing the rooster make his call “cock -a-doodle-do” in the early morning hours.  Great grammy  had a back yard shed where her she   made her own whiskey.  She remembers  peeking in there and her grandmother saying to her to shoo away from there.   She served it to people.  This may have been during Prohibition or just lack of shops to buy liquor.

There were no grocery stores.  There was a train tracks that ran in the front of the house;  they would hop on ( it moved slow, she recalls ) and head to the town of Shenandoah.  There was limited groceries there.

At the  front of the house , her grandmother planted flowers. Her mother in later years did not like the hobby of planting  flowers.  But my mother did carry on that knack for growing plants.  My grandfather loved the year she planted zinnia flowers outside our back door, the multi-colored hues of lavender, pink and yellow.  And in succeeding  years ,Zinnias were planted there for grandpa.  I degress.

In the back yard was her vegetable garden and the chicken coop, rooster, shed for  whiskey making, and a coal hole.   There was a hole to dig for coal right in the backyard.  She remembered watching a man from Philadelphia come with a truck to buy the coal.  The kids would sit and watch.      Since there was no indoor plumbing at this house,  they went outside to the  out house, one for kids and one for adults.  There was also a  “Bathhouse”  for the adults.  The kids had their baths in the kitchen in a wooden tub.

My mother has an old kerosene lamp.  I asked her what it was used for.  She said it was to light the way in the coal mines.  My great grandfather and grandfather both mined the coal and also wore miner’s caps with a light on.

Here is a link to Lithuanian Heritage food:

These are recipes that both my mom and grandmother and even my great-grandmother from Lithuainia prepared in a coal -stove while growing up.   Mom said that the potatoes-Koshie tasted best from the coal stove!

http://luvsclassics.wordpress.com/category/recipes/lithuanian-recipes/

http://luvsclassics.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/lithuanian-heritage-recipe/

Addendum:

Many of these tidbits of family life were told to me while speaking to  my mom on the telephone and I jotted down the notes.

February 21, 2012

Mom remembered a section in Pennsylvania where they raised goats, ” The Italians”, she said, the folk called it ” Nanny Goat Hill”.

Grace asked ,  ” Was it a farm?’

Mom, ” As a baby I was allergic to milk, and had goat milk in my bottle”.

February 28, 2012

Mom said that growing up , they always had a ” radio” shaped like a clock”.  ” Grandma Pusavage had a Beautiful clock, wooden. 

In Lost creek #2 , the Rooster would wake them up.

Then she talked about the family. Uncle Tommy and Uncle Kayo were “young”, I ask  ” In their teens?”when mom lived there in the house.

Grandma Prosper was the oldest and married living in her mother’s house with Jeanette (my mom).

Mom than tells me that “they ran way to Detroit to get married with an old car. There was work there (in Detroit).

Grace, I asked , ” When did she come back ?”

Mom, ” then they lived with Grandma Prosper ( Our great Grandma Prosper ?).

” When we were  little kids, they got married by a priest.  Mom said that She and her younger sibling stayed home while their parents went to the church for the ceremony. Mom mentions Rita Sebastian (Her Godmother ) and Tony Tirone ( her godfather) accompanied our Grandma and Grandpa Prosper to get married. ( perhaps the witnesses).

She says Rita had 6 children, Nancy and five boys.

Family History: The Lithuanian side

Great grandma Pusavage emigrated to the United States with her brothers. Mom tells the story that , “The brothers came to the United States to avoid being sent to the Russian army”.  The brothers were older than “great Granny”, and they settled in Staten Island.  One of the brothers name was John.  mom stated , ” they were so tall.”

Great grammy’s father died in Lithuania and her mother remarried.

Mom remembers that great grammy’s brothers came to visit (in Pennsylvania). ” they visited Eva Simenivoch ‘s house first.  Eva was a step sister that came to America.  There are then references to who lived in Frackville, and who lived in Shenandoah, “the Valley”.  Eva had a daughter , Josephine, who was the same age as Our Grandma (Anna )Prosper. Josephine was a beautician at a beauty parlor. She had a granddaughter, her age would be about 70 yrs old now.

Great grandma Pusavage also had a sister who was a teacher.   She was sent to Russia ( Siberia) and they never heard from her again. At that time Russia domineered Lithuania, and Poland, the early 1920’s. ( a guess).

Mom said she was born at home. The Dr’s name was Dr. Cook.  When Dr. Cook came to visit, ( Dr’s made House calls ),” he could bring anything in the house, they had dogs, but when Dr. Cook was leaving with his Dr’s bag, the dog bit the Dr. !!!!”.

Grandma Proper like Buckwheat. ” She cooked everything from memory, no cookbooks” !  Grandpa A. Prosper made pancakes with apples in them on the weekends grandpa was off.

At this time,  mom also  tells me  ” A lady had a small store that sold fudge.” Fudge was 2 cents a piece.

Once I found  out about Grandma and her Buckwheat pancakes,  I myself set out to look for Buckwheat pancakes in the grocery store.  I found a blend of Buck- Wheat and another flour in the Whole Foods supermarket. We made the pancake on our iron skillet several times.

On another telephone conversation,  Mom said, ” As kids, there was a lady in Pa had a little candy store. You could buy pieces of fudge for 2 cents.   ” When we got two pennies, we bought fudge.” mom ” I used to like the white one.” I ask, ” vamilla”. Mom said , ” yes”.  They lived in a town called Weston Place when she was age 10,11 12, and 13. When she was a Sophomore in High school they moved to Chester , Pa.

When my mom was in her Sophomore year of High School, 1942, they left the rural area of Lost Creek #2 and Weston Place, so that her father could work in the Chester shipyards during World War II.

Mom said that she like the rural area versus McCaffery Village section of Chester, Pa.  She was too shy to hang with the kids.  The teens were ” noisy kids” and Irish, There was an Irish church nearby to McCaffery Village.   While mom was waiting for the school bus, she would walk to a different block on a corner to catch the” town bus”for school.    In MacCaffery Village, Mom would ask uncle Al, ” where are you going?, He would say, I’m going to visit friends”.  They were girls.

Mom’s first job was working at Woolworth’s.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._W._Woolworth_Company

Mr. O’Toole was the manager.  Mom worked there after school everyday.  She walked up from Chester High school into the town of  Chester, Pa on Main street.

She worked behind the counter in cosmetics.  When she was promoted , she worked in the cellar , kept inventory ( on paper).   Mom stated that she took care of all the stock that came in.  Make-up, candy, lipstick, stationary.  I asked if it was like the “Dollar Stores ” of today. She said , “yes”.

After mom graduated High school in 1945 , she got a different job in a company and that is were she met her lifelong friend Dorothy Falkosky Sacharok.  She stayed working there until  mom’s  family moved out of Pennsylvania to Bound Brook , New Jersey in the late 1940’s.  Another relative was already living in Bound Brook, working in American Cyanamid. Grandpa Prosper went to John’s Manville to check out a job there, but he did not stay.  He saw in the air all the white particles floating around so much that it looked like snow and he decided it was not a healthy or safe place to work.

There is a short  story about a  cousin to my mom.    Elizabeth was a sister to Grandpa  ( Anthony) Prosper, and married to Benjamin Antonelli.   One of Elizabeth’s  children was crippled with Polio.  One day when Grandpa P. went to the house to visit, he said” Where’s Nicky?” . The mother stated that she put him in a ” Home”. Grandpa then went to the “Home” and took him out . He said, ” Nicky’s your son, you take care of him!!!”

Another son of Elizabeth’s ” Alfred” became a teacher, and Frances and Eugene.

Well, Stay tuned, to more little stories, or call me/ e-mail to add yours!!!

Comments

If there is anyone reading this that lives in Pennsylvania in these towns, I’d appreciate a comment.   I’d like to know if the coal mines are still operable.   When I did a map search of the streets,  I can  see the vast area occupied by the mines..  My mother recalls a kind of dust in the air living near the coal mines.

Again,  Comments are welcomed.   Many people stop by from other countries and if you’d like to share your story or your great grandparents story of those years,  please  drop me a line under comments.

Addendum:  May 18,2009

 This writer sees that many come to this blog with an  interest in the photo of 1920’s suit, 1930’s suit,  grandfather suit.         Your  Comments are welcomed.

Please sign my guestbook  at my other new blog .

www.pencilsandbooks.wordpress.com

My parents wedding

My parents wedding

Look at the coal transport system overhead!

Look at the coal transport system overhead!

My mom's school photo, age 6

My mom’s school photo, age 6

My mothere's brother , Undo, (Anthony)

My mothere’s brother , Undo, (Anthony)

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gallerykuma
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 17:37:37

    very interesting. do post more pictures if you have them. your parents make a handsome couple in that picture

    Reply

  2. Awang-Malaysia
    Jan 24, 2009 @ 16:27:35

    Hi,
    Very interesting,the old photos is very valuable collection.
    I would like to Thank You for the Greeting(Chinese New Year).
    And Greeting also to you from Malaysia & I do hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    Reply

  3. Karen Prosper
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 03:03:44

    Hi Grace, Love your blog, can’t wait to make koshi. Also hope this goes through,I’ve never responded to a blog! Love the pictures of your mom & dad, Grandma & Great Grandma & Anthony. I have a picture of Dad from 1937, same school picture setting, Dad & Anthony look a lot a like. You make me want to start a blog. Also, I love Garden for Sculptures, who would think it’s in Jersey. Keep me posted, Cousin Karen

    Reply

  4. Donna Medvetz Meusz
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 23:52:24

    My family also lived & worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. I was born in Kelayres Pa., a little town not even on a map it’s next to McAdoo Pa. My grandfather was a coal miner for 40 years, he started at the age of 11 on the slate bank, then when he turned 13 he was put in the mines. No child labor laws back then, now kids think they have it tough at what jobs they have. He was a saint my grandmother never worked & yet they had everything they could have possibly wanted. Back then they didn’t have credit cards but they did get credit from the stores, for there meats, cupcakes, tobacco,etc. They also wore the best shoes & my mom and her sister had 30 dresses each to wear, don’t ask me how they did it but they survived. There was none of these snow days my mom told me they would put rags over there boots to walk a mile or better to school. I was born in 1960 at home & I was sad the day we had to move because there was no jobs for my dad. So we moved to Manville in 1966 I missed the banks right next to our house, helping my papper pick the mushrooms also to be strung up for Christmas Eve dinner for sauerkraut soup & picking the huckleberries in a tin can my Baba would give me. We just went back to bury my dad in McAdoo it isn’t the same though, they knocked down all the banks by pushing the dirt into the strippens. Some of the kids were getting a little to daring & a few of them fell in & died so I guess it was a good idea but it does not look the same. My dad was also from Pennsylvania, also a little town Oneida, however he didn’t have it as good as my mom because he had 12 brothers & sisters. There dad wasn’t all that nice either I was told by my dad he would beat them nothing uncommon back then also, no dyfess around then. Even my son loved going up there when he was young now he is 24 but he loved to play in my grandmother’s coal bin down the cellar his socks would be black but dad would say put a new pair on him, & throw the dirty ones away he was having fun. I wish I could go back when I was little & just have the fun we did in Kelayres .

    Reply

  5. Donna Medvetz Meusz
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 02:15:15

    Yes Grace my grandmother did have a coal stove in the house. She still used it when it got cold in the winters, my Uncle removed it in 1990 after she died. It was so nice & warm in her kitchen & to listen to the crackle of the coal. She also canned stuff like tomatoes for spaghetti, chow chow, pickled green tomatoes & bell peppers they were my favorite. My dads mom would have the barrel of pickles in her basement, that’s why they nicknamed my dad pickles because he was always eating the pickles, he said they were delicious. They also had the outhouses that must of been tough in the winter.

    Reply

    • luvsclassics
      Jan 24, 2011 @ 03:56:13

      Chow Chow! Both Nina and loved the taste of it. In Frackville, Pa, my grandmother still had a remaining brother alive util about 4 yrs, ago,(up into 9o yrs old ), he and his younger wife ( about my mother’s age) used to prepare the chow chow , to can it together, and give us a jar when we came to visit.

      About two miles from where I live, there is an indoor Pennsvlvania Dutch Market, that sells Chow Chow and other fresh foods, a dairy section, butcher, deli, bakery, candy store; it’s all indoor in the space of an old Drug Fair store location in Kingston, N.J.

      Well, keep those thought coming!

      Grace La Vita e Bella

      Reply

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