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 mom said, ” My mouth waters for a taste of that sauerkraut! ” She baked bread, in the coal stove as well as” Koshi”, 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 https://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 one 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. In contrast, my mother did carry on that knack for growing plants. I recall that my maternal 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 ,the Zinnias flowers were planted there for grandpa. Continuing on with my mother’s biography of her Pennslvania life during the Great Depression.
In the back yard was great grammy’s vegetable garden and the chicken coopwith chickens and rooster, a 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 the Lithuanian recipes:
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!
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 Jeannette (my mom)as a baby.
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.( I will have to look up their names in her address book).
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. Note: I don’t know where she is living and if any of my mom’s sisters have ever had contact with her.
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. Note: in another blog post, I posted a buckwheat pancake recipe with a remembrance of my grandmother P.
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!!!
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.
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