Interviewed May, 1994
Well, the world was preparing for the Second World War when I was born (April 6, 1941), although we didn’t really know about it, but Germany was building up and was conquering other countries in Europe. And there was a lot of concern as far as whether or not the world was gonna get into another war and there was already a war going on between England and Germany and the United States didn’t want to get pulled in to the war. America didn’t get involved until Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. So, I was less than a year old when that happened; of course I don, t recall any of the events but I read a lot about them. I grew up in a working class neighborhood of an industrial city, Pittsburgh. And there were a lot of people in housing that today would be considered substandard, but that’s what everybody lived in back then. I’m not even sure that my parents lived in the house that I first remember when I was born because I know they lived a couple of places before they moved into that house. I don’t know when they moved into it, but the only house I remember is on Sheffield Street in Pittsburgh which was a concrete street with brick sidewalks and they went right up to the houses. And people parked their cars on both sides of the streets and there was enough room for cars to move back and forth in between the parked cars and it was not really any place to play except in the streets themselves. So, but there were streets and there were paved alleys and we would generally play in the alleys because for the most part people didn’t park in the alleys since they were so narrow. The alleys kind of went behind the houses, but in the case of the alley right across the street from my house, people actually lived on the alley. I think it was called Stedman Street and it went for about eight or ten blocks and it had houses on it but it was very narrow and difficult–if somebody parked in the street it was difficult for another car to drive past it. It was so narrow. It was only about fifteen feet wide. So it was relatively crowded as far as people go. If you can imagine it, not only were there houses on the main streets, but there were houses on the alleys and they were all packed side by side and everybody had just a little bit of concrete paving in front of their house and practically nothing in their back yard. I would say that within a couple blocks–a square block area–there were probably 25-50 preschool and elementary school age children. My parents really didn’t want us playing with any of them so we weren’t allowed to– they chose who we were allowed to play with and when we were out and we were relatively strictly monitored. So, since the streets had cars driving down them and if you darted out into the street between the cars you could get hit very easily and my parents were very protective about where we–I think my parents were quite a bit more protective than most other parents in our neighborhood. So we were rather strictly controlled as to what we could do and some times they would have us go out and if they couldn’t be out with us they, d tell us that we had to sit on the steps and we weren’t allowed to move. I can remember that they’d get upset with us if they discovered that we had moved a little bit from where we were allowed to be. One of my earliest memories is being taken care of by my great-grandmother. Now, my great-grandmother had come over from Italy and she never learned how to speak English. She had this big house which was less than two blocks from our house and it was above the store. And, they lived on the second and third floors above the stores. And my grandmother and my great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister, both worked in the stores. Their husbands worked for the electric light company, the power company. What happened was they lived on top of this storefront and sometimes my grandmother rented out and sometimes it wasn’t rented out and they ran a restaurant there and they ran a restaurant there during the Second World War And the area was predominantly German, but their name was Patete, which was Italian, and it was difficult for most of these Germans who worked in the machine shops to pronounce Patete. But there was a German name that was very close to it called Patton, so they just called the restaurant Patton’s Restaurant. They really hadn’t changed the name; they just ran the restaurant as Patton’s Restaurant because it was easier for most of the people who worked to say Patton’s Restaurant and they could identify with a name like Patton, so they would come in for lunch. And they would have time off and they would come to Patton’s Restaurant and pretty soon they started calling my grandmother and my aunt, who lived together upstairs in the same house with their families, “Mrs. Patton.” So, everybody started calling them Mrs. Patton when they would come in and order food. Pretty soon people would see them on the street and say, “Hi, Mrs. Patton, how are you?” And things like this and they just kind of adopted that name and then their kids grew up as Patton and they just accepted that and now they go by the name Patton even though their birth certificates say Patete. I don’t believe they ever [legally changed it].
And so, when I was less than a year old, my mother had another child. Aunt Joan was born. And the women decided that it was too much for my mother to take care of two children so I went to the day care when I was one year old, although they didn’t call it that at the time. But my day care consisted of playing on a porch with my great-grandmother, who spoke no English, taking care of me and all I can remember her saying is, “No-no. No-no. Don’t do that. No-no.” Because she didn’t really know any English. Well, a one-year-old doesn’t determine when they’re hungry, for the most part, when you’re one and two years old. They feed you, they put you in for a nap, whatever. She spoke Italian to me all the time, but I had no concept at all of what she was saying because my father wouldn’t allow us to learn Italian, even though both my parents had a one hundred percent Italian background. Since English was the chosen language to speak at home, they could understand it better than they spoke it. But they chose not to. My mother and my father were from two different areas of Italy and they spoke different dialects, so, some of the words had different meanings and some of the words were pronounced differently in the different regions that they came from. And I’ve heard people tell me today that that’s very true, that if you travel through Italy today people can tell what portion of Italy they’re in or what portion of Italy someone else is from just by listening to people talk. Both my parents were born in America. But my father’s parents had just recently come over from Italy and they both only spoke Italian. They didn’t speak any English. So when my father went to grade school, he couldn’t speak English, even though he was born in the United States. And this was at the time of the first World war when my father was going to elementary school. And it was a very bad time to be Italian in the United States because most of the immigrants at that time were Italian. Between 1890 and 1911 was when most of the Italians came into this country because there was a lot of political upheaval and famine and no place to work in Italy. So, a lot of the Italians came over here expecting to become millionaires and life was a lot better here in America so they stayed. But, they had problems being accepted. At that time, people who had lived here for 50 or 100 years who had been in America for a long time didn’t accept the Italians. It’s been that way with every socioeconomic group who has come into the United States. So, my father had a very rough time; and everybody made fun of him and threw stones at him because he couldn’t speak English whenever he went to elementary school and because nobody in his family spoke English and he was Italian and Italians were looked down upon at that time. So, because he was afraid people would make fun of us, even though that time had literally passed by the 1940’s. But I regret to this day that I don’t know how to speak Italian because I wish I could. Y’know, I could never really communicate well with my great-grandmother or with my father’s mother because she only spoke Italian. And she knew a little bit of English; she knew a little bit more English than my great- grandmother or my mother’s side did. But, I really couldn’t communicate with them.
Well, I would say more than anything else, my parents’ fears of the things that they lived with constantly showed. There were a lot of things that they were afraid of. And that came out. That’s one of the things that I can remember as a child. Y’know, they were afraid of us getting sick. They were afraid of us getting hurt on the street. They were afraid of other people; and there was a mistrust, a general mistrust that I could feel. We were isolated because my mother didn’t like my father’s people and my father didn’t like my mother’s people, so, nobody wanted to associate with the other relatives. But, my mother was so afraid of being away from her mother that they located near my maternal grandparents’ place, and I did get to know the relatives on my mother’s side a lot more than my relatives on my father’s side. But as a family, we kind of did keep to ourselves because my father didn’t like to go over to my mother’s family’s place; he didn’t like to spend a lot of time there. Even though we went over there with my mother a good deal before my father came home at night. And, my mother never wanted to go visit my father’s relatives so we rarely saw any of them, maybe just at holidays and weddings and parties and things like this. The only time we ever saw these people, we really never got time to play together and get to know each other, so it was kind of an isolated feeling. It’s funny, I mean, you live there in the middle of 600,000 people and you feel more isolated than if you lived in a small town. Well, from my parents I inherited the color of my skin, and my eyes and my hair, the shape of my face and things like that; natural. But I don’t know. Having raised a family of my own I couldn’t really tell you what they inherited from me so it’s hard for me to say what I inherited from them. However, probably some of my tendencies to do things or not to do certain things may be inherited, but by the same token, my brother and I essentially have the same genes and he’s completely different. His approach to life, his philosophy on life is completely different than mine, so I can’t say. I think there are a lot of cultural differences that you run up against, and since I believe that everybody has a free will and you can choose to do some things, even if you have a proclivity to doing a certain thing you don’t necessarily have to be that way; y’know, if everybody in your family has a bad temper you don’t necessarily have to have a bad temper. You can choose not to. You can choose what direction you intend to go. But, I probably did inherit the way I think and my ability to work with numbers is probably something that is in my genes. For work, my mother did relatively nothing for work; she was essentially a housewife, but she did help in the restaurant. My mother really didn’t work outside the home. Except for a little while when she helped out at her parents’ restaurant, and for a while after my little brother went to school she worked in a day-old bread shop. So, my father told everybody he was an engineer. But, in actuality he really had never completed college but he had gotten his engineering through experience–on-the-job training. He had gone to school for two years and he had to drop out; during the time he was trying to go to school was what turned into the Great Depression. He really wasn’t able to continue and he went to school at Carnegie Tech, which is the school that I eventually went to. But Carnegie Tech is in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, which is about six miles away from where my father’s family resided. But in the 1920’s and 1930’s, six miles was a tremendous distance. Because you had to either take a train or a trolley to get somewhere; it was- -it was rather hard to get around. So, my father worked for the city of Pittsburgh as an engineer, and he got his professional engineering license because he had worked for a dozen or so years as an engineer for the city. And at first I didn’t even realize that he wasn’t a graduate in engineering, but he kind of worked his way up from a technical person, essentially doing survey work, into the engineering position, and by the time he retired he was the principle engineer for the water department for the city of Pittsburgh which was a pretty good position. My father had, I guess, a relatively low engineering position because of his technical background, so he used to supplement his income by surveying in the evenings. So, every night from, during daylight savings time, from about April to September, he would be out doing surveys after work. He’d get home around 4:30 in the afternoon and he’d immediately go out and start surveying. And he would do surveys for people; house surveys and things like this. So that the net result was that he really wasn’t around very much. He would be out working during the daylight hours and then he would have to draw up the plans and finish off whatever it was he was doing; specifications or whatever. So, he was busy all day Saturday and most evenings a week doing this extra work that he was doing. So, I really didn’t get to see too much of him unless I went out on a job with him. And then when I got to be around 9 or 10 years old, he started to take me along with him, so I could be a helper, or pretty much of a gopher. The thing of it is, I guess because of his background, he was a very demanding person, and he really never let me do things that– Y’know, he would never make excuses for the fact that I was just a kid doing something. if he told me to go get something, if I didn’t understand it, he would yell and scream to go get it, and I had no idea what he was talking about. So, he would get upset if I didn’t understand what he was telling me to do. or sometimes weld have to take measurements and the measurements had to be very exact and I had to hold the tape in one place and then he would then pull on the other end to make the tape as straight as possible so there was no sag. well, you can imagine a little 9 or 10 year old boy can’t hold a tape against a 40-year-old man, y’know? And this is what we were trying do. So, most of the interface I had with my father was more like an employer-employee relationship than a father-son relationship. I can probably count on my hands the times we went to see a professional baseball game. We had the Pittsburgh Pirates there, but we might go once or twice a season to see them play. I think only once in my life did I go to see the Steelers play, although they weren’t the best team in the world at that time. My father was always busy, and it wasn’t the thing in the 1940’s and early 50’s for a man to show somebody else that he loved them. Whether it was his wife or his son or whatever. So, most of the things I can remember about my father is how much he used to yell and scream about the things that I did. And as I look back now, I would say that I really didn’t get an opportunity to kind of make my own mistakes and realize that if you make a mistake it’s not fatal because it seemed like everything I did, if I didn’t do it perfectly, it was the end of the world. By his standards.
The traditions that my parents, family had? Obviously we celebrated the Christian holidays and a lot of things were centered around our Catholic faith, so Christmas was a big time, but we would celebrate feasts like Thanksgiving and actually Thanksgiving wasn’t decided on being the fourth Thursday in November; it had been the last Thursday in November and I can remember when it was changed to the fourth Thursday in November because sometimes it would end up being too close to Christmas. The early years, when we lived where the concrete streets are, we usually celebrated most holiday meals with my maternal grandparents. I can remember going over there a lot for big dinners and sometimes Sunday dinners, and then we’d take a ride out to see my other grandmother who lived about two miles away, which was quite a chore in those days because the trolleys, which were our major means of transportation, that didn’t run directly between the two places, there was one bus that you could take which wound its way eventually up from one neighborhood to the other. But, it didn’t run very regularly and if you wanted to get from our section of town to my paternal grandparents section of town, generally you, d have to hop on a trolley, go in towards downtown, and make a transfer and go back out towards the area that my grandmother lived in–actually, my grandfather was dead before I was born. I never got to know him. So, and then when we moved out to where we live now I think my mother started preparing more of the meals herself. Some of those same traits that I explained about as she was growing up, she never got much confidence building, and she always thought she was a lousy cook and probably because she felt that way she never cooked very well. But, she was always af raid to make her own holiday meals. But once we moved out to where we were a couple of miles away from my grandmother’s place she did start to make her own meals. And, when we moved out there it was 1952, so I was 11 years old. And, it was quite a difference. Now all of a sudden we lived in a place that didn’t have a common wall; before, we’d always lived in this place that had two common walls, and sometimes you could hear people yelling and you could always hear people going up and down the steps next door. So, now all of a sudden we had a place that was essentially isolated on all four sides and we actually had air and trees and grass between our house and the next. So, that was a new experience. But at the same time, I was going from sixth to seventh grade which wasn’t the best time to be changing from one school to another. For the first 6 years I went to the Italian Catholic schools we spoke English; everybody in there spoke English, but almost everybody there was Italian. Now, there were, I think, two Jewish people went to school with us, but I couldn’t even
remember their names. But for the most part everybody in the school was Italian Catholic. Not only Catholic, but Italian Catholic. We actually lived closer to another Catholic church in our neighborhood. One was St. Andrew’s and that was more or less Eastern European; Polish, Czechoslovakian people went to St. Andrew’s. And they were at St. Andrew’s school. Then there was St. Joseph’s. And St. Joseph’s was mostly German people and people who were German went to school there. And we went to Regina Coeli, which is Italian for “queen of heaven.” So, when my older sister, who’s about four-and-a-half years older than I am, when she started in first grade, my father wanted her to go to St. Joseph’s because St. Joseph’s was closer. it was like about five blocks away and Regina Coeli was seven blocks away. But, actually, that’s why I’m not sure that we always lived where I lived because I think we actually lived within a block or two of St. Joseph’s school at the time, so I would have been less than a year old when she started in first grade, or about a year old. And the priest at St. Joseph’s wouldn’t allow Rosemary to go to that school. He told my father, “She’s Italian. You people have your own school. Send her there.” So, it wasn’t just that the people wanted to do it. It was kind of the rules of society at that time. Y’know, if you’re Italian, you go to the Italian church. if you’re Polish you go to the Polish church. If you’re German, you go to the German church. And it was kind of that way and so even though the neighborhoods were a mixture of European cultures, there really was quite a bit of friction between them. And where we lived was kind of in an area where there were German people and Italian people. And if you went down Beaver Avenue to the west, to the northwest, it was where most of the Italians lived. And to the east or northeast of us was where most of the Germans lived and then to the north of this section was where the Polish or the Eastern Europeans lived.
The stores on Beaver Avenue were all Italian stores. So that most of the stores themselves were, the storekeepers, were Italian. so it was kind of an Italian “Little Italy” type of place, where all the stores were Italian, and there was Peccararols grocery store and I think the bakery may have been German. Except the kids whose father ran the bakery went to our school. I remember that. But, there were a lot of Italian stores and I can remember on Saturday morning shopping with my mother and my grandmother and we’d walk down Beaver Avenue and stop in all the stores with the fresh fruit out front and the hams and the salamis hanging around and just the busyness of everybody conducting business on a Saturday morning. So, this was in the first place where we lived. When we moved, we moved up to the more affluent section, where Grandma lives now.
Well, “missing” is a funny word because we don’t appreciate when we have it. I mean, when we were experiencing the more seamy side of life. Not only was there all this camaraderie and stuff like this. We didn’t really notice that- -we just took that as knowing your friends and things like this. we didn’t see that it was a community or anything like this. What we could see was that the living conditions weren’t as nice as they could be; we lived in a crowded area and it was hard to get fresh food and hard to get good things to eat and stuff like this. if you don’t see it as a good thing, it’s hard to say I miss it. But I find it enjoyable to go back to areas in other cities that are like that and that still have an Italian marketplace and things like this. You see the familiar things and it’s enjoyable to do things like that. And whenever I go into places like that, like Little Italy in the Bronx, we used to go to when Joanne went to Fordham, I wish I spoke Italian because half the people there spoke Italian and you can’t understand what they’re saying and things like that. I would say no, we didn’t miss it because my father’s direction, which I would say we accepted and adopted as our own, was to be more modern, to be an American, not to be an Italian so much. And now I miss the fact that I really don’t know that much about the Italian heritage and the Italian traditions because we modified all the traditions in order to kind of Americanize them. We did celebrate Columbus Day as a holiday a long time before anybody else ever thought of celebrating Columbus Day. My father worked for the city and one of the biggest perks that I can remember working for the city was that my father got 22 paid holidays a year. He got Flag Day off, he got Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, I can’t even remember all–election day, primary election day, Columbus Day, veteran’s day, Christmas, Thanksgiving. when I graduated from college and I went to work and I found out they only had eight paid holidays a year, I said, “Oh my god. Eight paid holidays a year? is that all? Boy, these people are cheap!” They I came to find out that that’s what most people would get. We would get all of these holidays off because the labor unions were pretty strong in the city and they would get Labor Day off and then we had other days. One of the things I can remember doing was- -I believe it was August 14 or somewhere in the second week of August, maybe the second Tuesday in August was Italian Day. And they always celebrated Italian Day at Kennywood Park, which was a big amusement park in Pittsburgh; it still exists. And we would always go to Italian Day. That was one thing that we always, always did. When I stop and think about it it was kind of unusual because one thing my father was trying to stop us from doing was becoming more Italian, but yet when it came to Italian Day he wanted to be there with everyone else and he wanted us to be there. So that was kind of funny. Going to Kennywood Park, we would also have school picnics and everybody had a school picnic and all the Catholic schools had school picnics at the same time. Or maybe it was a group from here and a group from there. I remember there were three Italian Catholic elementary schools on the North side and they were all run by the same Sisters of Charity or whatever it was; I can’t even remember now. But there was Perpetual Help, which was in the Woods Run area, Holy Ghost, which is in Westview, and Regina Coeli. And we’d always do things together; we were like sister schools. And we would always have our school picnics together. And we’d all either go out to Kennywood Park or Westview Park and going to Kennywood Park was quite a ride, and somehow we’d all get on the same trolley or we’d go on three trolleys that were kind of together and each school would be on its own trolley. And we did get to know some of those children from the other Italian Catholic schools at the same time. And we would go out to Kennywood Park and it would take, from the North side to Kennywood Park might be fifteen or twenty miles. And it would take a couple hours to get there by trolley and generally we wouldn’t go home by trolley. Generally our parents would come out and get us and take us home.
There were times when my parents didn’t have a car. Especially when were lived down in the area of Pittsburgh–the Manchester area, which was where the Beaver Avenue area was. My father used to go back and forth to work on the trolley every morning; we were only two miles from downtown so it would only take fifteen to twenty minutes to get into town. But then once my father got off the trolley, the trolley only went into the edge of downtown Pittsburgh because it had to cross over a bridge and then it would turn around and come back. From where the trolley left my father off he had a good eight blocks or so–a mile- -to walk to get to his office or he could have transferred to another trolley. But in those days, it cost people a nickel to ride the transfer and people wouldn’t spend the money; they’d just walk. But I remember doing that a couple times so I know I went with him. I also remember that, until 1950, when he worked for the city, he had to go in to work on Saturday mornings. So, he worked five days a week, 9-4:30 or something like that, then he worked on Saturday till noon. It was quite a different world back then. Almost everybody worked Saturday morning. But then, leisure time wasn’t really considered until all those soldiers started coming back from the war and they decided they didn’t want to work Saturday mornings.
Everything was based on religion. My mother’s mother, my grandmother, was very religious, and she would always go to all these novenas and things like this that they were always having. A novena is a nine day prayer session where you do things nine times in a row. Supposedly if you complete this nine times thing it assures you that you’re going to get into heaven because you went to church nine days in a row or mass on Fridays nine weeks in a row or you went to mass and Holy Communion on the first Friday nine months in a row. There was all this stuff which I look at now as folklore, but back then it was “Oh, yeah. You have to do this.” We went to school and we were taught by nuns. And it was a different world then: the nuns were strict and they would hit kids and yell and scream. For the first six years when I went to Regina Coeli we had two classes in one room. So you’ve got a first grade and a second grade in the same classroom. But when you were in the first grade we sat on the left hand side of the room and when you were in the second grade you sat on the right hand side of the room. I can remember the first grade classroom with the letters in script, a b c d e f g, etc. all around the room and then phrases like “cleanliness in next to godliness” and “silence is golden” and things like this in big signs that went around the room. And in those days, I guess our parents had taught us a lot about cleanliness, keeping clean and things like this, but a lot of my schoolmates, as I look back, I didn’t realize it at the time, a lot of them were first generation Americans as compared to me being second generation since my parents were born in America. A lot of them, their parents, weren’t born in America and they didn’t grow up with a lot of the things–I mean, washing their hands, like washing your hands after you run to the bathroom or bathing frequently, even weekly, was not one of the habits that they grew up with. And I suppose there were a lot of people that never took a bath and when I was growing up we only had to take a bath on Saturday night, that was it. So, as I look back now, I think as we got older we did bathe more frequently.
Going to St. Cyril’s school was like going to a middle school because we, d moved, and I had to adjust to a whole new bunch of friends. So I got in to a group of friends but since they weren’t the friends that I’d had from the very beginning I really never had a feeling that I fit in with them as much, although there were a couple other families that did exactly what we had done. And that is move into this neighborhood. Matter of fact, there was one family that about a year after we moved up there they moved up there, so he and I became friends because we had both come from the other neighborhood even though we weren’t friends even though he had gone to St. Joseph’s school and I had gone to Regina Coeli and we weren’t really friends; we were acquaintances and we lived about a block apart so we knew each other. But we really hadn’t said more than ten words to each other before he moved across the street.
There’s a game of tag where you’d essentially have two teams and one team would go and hide and the other team would go and try to find them. And when the team that was looking for them found someone, all you’d have to do is spot someone and then they’d have to bring them to this base area and you’d have to stay there like you were in a mini-jail and you couldn’t leave unless somebody snuck up without anybody else from the other team seeing them. Someone from your team snuck up, and then they could step on the jail area–was probably just a little corner or something- -and yell “Release!” and everybody could run and hide again and the object was to catch everybody from the other team and put them all in there at one time, see, then the sides would switch and the team that had caught everybody would go out and hide and try to sneak in. So you’d have to hide far enough away so that the other team would have to go out far enough away looking for you and so that somebody could sneak in and release the others. So it was kind of a game of tag that we would play. And we found out that when we moved in to this upper middle class neighborhood that the neighbors weren’t as accepting of the kids running around at nine and ten o’clock at night, screaming “release” and things like this because it was more of a quiet urban neighborhood as compared to an inner city neighborhood. In the inner city, everybody sat out until ten and eleven o’clock at night and talked and the kids ran around screaming and that was accepted. When we moved into this semi-suburban area where everybody had their own house and they weren’t crowded together, people sat around on their own porches but you really couldn’t talk to somebody on the next porch because it was too far away. They objected to the kids being out screaming and yelling and chasing around after dark. So, we found that already there was a cultural difference coming from one neighborhood to another. They had different expectations on children and what you could do. On the other hand, you had a lot more freedom. You could do whatever you wanted as long as you didn’t yell and scream and annoy people which was kind of a false sense of security because then people would let their kids do anything without watching them. Before, the kids were doing things and the adults were there, watching them, but they really weren’t interfering with what the kids were doing. Now, the kids were doing whatever they wanted to do and the parents had no idea what they were doing because they were off on their own and you could sneak around or sit in an unlit backyard or what have you, and smoke or do other nasty things that you really couldn’t get away with before because there were too many people. I would say they let their guard down more because we moved into this more genteel area so they (my parents) decided they didn’t have to watch us as closely. They still seemed like they wanted to know where we were and all that, but they weren’t as strict about it. Of course, we were older then and you’ll find that as you mature, even as you mature as parents, you pay less attention to all the little idiosyncrasies that your children are doing. That happened to us, too, as we had children. When we first had Fran, she occupied all of our time; we were busy seeing everything that she did and watching and praising everything that she did right and scolding her for everything that she did wrong. As we grew up and got into more things and got busy with other things, and had more children, we found that we didn’t have time to watch over all the kids with as much enthusiasm and ardor as we had when we only had one. Two, we found that it really wasn’t as important as we thought it was; you begin to realize that there are some things you can’t prevent happening–falls and scrapes and things like this, and there are other things that they have to learn on their own so it’s better if you’re not there watching them all the time. So, I think a little bit of that entered into the fact that my parents weren’t as strict when I was twelve as they were when I was five years old. There was a lot of sibling rivalry; Joan and I being so close, there was a certain closeness there but there was a lot of rivalry. They said whenever I was very small that I used to hit Joan on the head with a hammer. I can remember Joan and I playing a lot together because we were only ten or eleven months apart. It was like Rosemary was the boss; she had been there for so long. Joe is four years younger than Joan, five years younger than me, so it was like he didn’t know anything; he couldn’t do anything right. Having a brother and I suppose the same thing as having a sister five years apart, they’re not really in the same genre. Even four or five years are far enough apart there were different interests. Joan and I, being one year apart, we liked the same kind of songs on the radio and things like this, but songs that Rosemary would listen to were different because her friends were an older crowd and the songs that Joe got interested in, he got interested in music that was wild and unbelievable to us. Of course, Joe is actually a baby boomer so he was in the leading edge of the baby boom; he was born in 1946. That’s when a lot of the baby boomers were born, as soon as all these servicemen came home and those that were married started having kids right away and those that weren’t, got married and started having kids right away. So, from late 1945 to 1947, all of a sudden they started seeing all of these kids coming along, so he was in what they call the baby boom generation. Actually, Fran is supposedly at the end of the baby boom generation. From 1946 to 1964 was supposed to be the baby boom generation and he was involved in that. It was a completely different world from us. Joe went to school five years after I did; the world had changed by the time he got to the same place I did. He went to the same high school I went to; he went to a different high school, even though it was still North Catholic High School. The high school he went to and all his friends were different from the high school I went to and then he went to Carnegie Tech for a semester, just like I did for four years, but he only lasted one semester. He really wasn’t the engineering type and I don’t know why my father even wanted him to go there or why he ever went there. it wasn’t like we had that much in common; we didn’t have any friends in common because we were far enough apart that the people that I hung around with weren’t the same people he that hung around with. He may have hung around with some of their younger brothers. It was a completely different group of people. It wasn’t like there were a lot of families that we had mutual friends in and things like this so we didn’t have a lot of things in common, Joe and I. Whereas, Joan and I had a lot of friends and if she met a boy there were things that I could talk to him about because he was close to my age. And I could talk to kids who were in her grade and she could talk to kids that were in my grade. There were a lot of things that we did socially and sometimes we’d have little mini parties at our house and Joan would invite a bunch of friends and I’d invite a bunch of friends and so we could get together and have a little party because we knew enough people that we could invite our mutual friends. Whereas, I’d never think of having a party with Joe and his friends and Rosemary would never think of having a party inviting us. It was different. Since we only had three bedrooms and my parents obviously had one of them, the girls had their bedroom and the boys had ours. So Joe and I shared a bedroom and Joan and Rosemary shared a bedroom and we essentially shared very little else because we really didn’t have a lot in common because being five years apart we may as well be a world apart. That reminds me of something, skipping back. The place we lived for the first eleven years of my life, on Sheffield Street, only had two bedrooms. And there was a bedroom in the front of the house, which was my parents bedroom; there was a bedroom in the back of the house, which was the children’ s bedroom, until my older sister got to be about ten or eleven years old and then they said, “Well, we can’t do this.” At the same time, Joe was born when Rosemary was about 9 1/2 or ten years old, so they decided that my mother and my two sisters would sleep in the bedroom at the front of the house and my father and Joe and I would sleep in the bedroom at the back of the house, which to a 6, 7, 8 year old that doesn’t sound that unusual, but now I look back and realize how weird it was. So obviously, one of the impetuses my parents had was to get out of that house and get into some place that had three bedrooms, so they built that house that Grandma lives in now, which has a master bedroom on the first floor and two bedrooms upstairs; a cape, or what we call a story and a half. So, it was like having these separate bedrooms, so that was very nice. My father really wanted to do something, to build houses and to build housing developments, and actually, when I was in fifth grade, he bought a little plot of ground and as a surveyor he subdivided it into three lots and he was going to build three houses there so I told the teacher that we were going to move and we probably wouldn’t come back when I was in sixth grade. Lo and behold, I came back because the ground he had purchased, there was a problem with selling it. It was owned by a family and the parents had died and they left the property to the children and my father bought the property from the children, he thought, but what it turned out was that one of the children was in a mental home and wasn’t capable of signing for himself, so somehow the guardian of this person who was in a mental home put a legal block on my father buying the property, so my father had this all set up and it couldn’t go through. Eventually, the next year he bought the property where we built. His plan was to build three houses, sell two of them and live in the other one and essentially the money he made on the two houses he would pay for the other house. But it didn’t work out for him. Actually, his brother’s sons ended up buying those and building the three houses and I actually helped do the surveying. And one of the incidents that I remember is I was a city boy and I really didn’t know beans about country life, and we were out there and my father was taking surveying shots and he gave me this pole and told me to stand right there. Well, all of a sudden I saw all these bugs and I started batting these bugs away. And my father always said, “Stand real still.” Here I was, about ten years old, and all of a sudden they start stinging and I’m going like this, and I had no idea what–well, here, what had happened was where he told me to stand was on a bee’s nest, and I was getting stung all over. And he was mad at me- -“Why are you moving?” And I’m trying to stay as still as possible and these bugs are–finally, someone told him that the bees were stinging me, and he ran over and saved me. I had like seven bee stings; mostly me face and arms were what was exposed. I didn’t realize it at the time but that could have been a harrowing experience. A good thing I wasn’t allergic to bee stings.
I didn’t get to have that many close friends because a lot of the time my evenings were spent doing survey work. I’d rather have spent some time with friends hanging out and playing, but the only time I could spend playing outside with friends was whenever my father was drawing up the plans. Because whenever he was out doing surveys I had to be with him, helping hold the chain or the rod or something. I think that my social skills didn’t advance very well.
in 1954, I entered high school, and I went from some place going to school where I could walk close enough–I had gone to parochial school at St. Cyril of Alexandria–to this big Catholic high school where all of a sudden, instead of being sixty kids in a class, boys and girls, there were three hundred kids in a class, only boys. This was quite an adjustment. These three hundred boys were divided up into eight classes and it was given the nickname “A through H,” 9A, 9B, 9C, etc. And the ones that were in the A, B, C, D were tracked for college and the ones who were in E, F, G, and H were tracked for not going on to college, for no post secondary education. Some of them went on to become plumbers or carpenters and things like this by going to a technical school for a year or two. So, I was assigned to 9A. If you were in A class you were supposedly in the brightest group of all. And through high school I maintained to be in the A class all the way through; I was in 9A, IOA, 11A, 12A. There were only five or six of us that made it through all the way. I was a good student but not an excellent student; I would say similar to your sister, Terry–I was in the top fifth of my class. But I did enough to get by. In my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I actually got involved with a minstrel play they used to put on. That was back in the days when they still did blackface. And one year, since we were all boys going to this high school, some of us had to play the girls, and of course, the small ones like myself usually got pushed into the girl roles. While I didn’t want to do it, it was still fun participating in those plays. Now I’m sure it’s quite a bit different today; and today in the high schools, they do Broadway shows and stuff like this, but back then they did more or less of a minstrel show type of thing where there was singing and dancing and some sort of a theme through the whole thing. But after my sophomore year they stopped doing that because they figured it was disrespectful to black people, although we never figured ourselves as racist. We didn’t see that there was anything wrong with doing things like that, dressing up in blackface and singing songs about Mammy and things like this. So, I did that a couple years and I was active in a few things in high school: mathematics, honors society, which I know will surprise you since I went on to become an engineer anyway. There was a religious group called Sodality and I was involved in that. One year, I think my sophomore or my junior year, I actually went on a trip to Cleveland where they had a group of Sodality from all over and we stayed at somebody’s house, and then we went and had meetings during the day and I think it was like a three day weekend that we went, and that was kind of interesting. But being not physically very strong, I never got involved in any sports; there wasn’t a pool there, so I didn’t know how to swim and I never did know how to swim. There would be some intramural sports during gym class and stuff like that, but I was always one of the last ones picked. So, it was kind of the type of thing that reinforced not being very good so they never picked you until you were the last one to be picked. But I did fairly well in school; I graduated 45th out of 295, so that put me in the top twenty percent.
During that period, I was also experiencing the growing up from childhood to young manhood; at least, I like to think that’s what happened. When I was in eighth grade, because we went to a parochial grade school, we’d always have these processions, and we were having the may Crown, so I was just about out of school. I saw this young girl, so this was in May of 1954, plus or minus, and it was a little red-haired girl. And I said, “Boy, she’s cute.” Turned out she was in my sister’s grade, but I had gone to school there for two years and had never met this girl. I sound like Charlie Brown–the little red-haired girl. So I asked my sister about her but I really never got to meet her because right after that I went off to high school. But then, when my sister went to high school, my sister, Joan, went to Mount Mercy Academy (our Lady of Mercy Academy), eventually your mother also went there, but I didn’t know your mother at that time. But, if you went to a private high school like Our Lady of Mercy Academy, you weren’t permitted to buy a school pass; however, if you went to North Catholic, you were allowed to buy a school pass and what a school pass allowed you to do was to ride the street cars at a reduced cost. Well, the time I was in high school, it went from like $1.95 to $2.95 a week, and you had to buy a pass every week, week in and week out. So I think it cost 35 cents for a streetcar ride, and if you wanted to get a transfer it would cost 10 cents more, so it would cost me 45 cents each way would be 90 cents a day. That must have been when I started; so you could save a dollar a week by buying a school pass. And I think that’s what it was; and of course, it helped you out at other times. You didn’t have to just ride to and from school; you could ride to other places using public transportation which pretty much took you any place you wanted to go. Well, when my sister went to high school, she wasn’t allowed to buy these passes, so I would buy them for her. And then I would buy them for her friends, like this little red-haired girl, and so I got to meet the little red-haired girl and her name was Patricia and I dated her a couple times but I really never drove that much when T was in high school because I didn’t get my license until after I graduated. But I dated her a few times. But, eventually, after I went to college, she started dating someone else. She got married and she was pregnant by the time Joan graduated from college. I do think that something that happened was that I told some of my friends that I was dating this young lady and I think they arranged for this other fellow to meet up and have some dates with her because–I don’t know why. I kinda feel, or I felt then, that they didn’t like me and they didn’t feel that I would be a suitable life partner for this young lady, so they kind of set her up with somebody else so that she wouldn’t be stuck with somebody like me. So I was kind of dismayed that somebody who I thought was my friend would do something like this to me, but that’s all water over the dam. Eventually, during my sophomore year, I was still working at the library at Duquesne University while I was going to Carnegie Mellon University or Carnegie Institute of Technology, at the time. And your mother was also working there, and I got to know her, and asked her out on a date. We dated off and on and I dated a couple other girls and then I dated her again during my senior year and I decided that she was really the one that I felt most comfortable with. So in February of my senior year in college I gave your mother my fraternity pin and we started, as the terminology was in those days, “going steady”. And eventually ended up in our union. Of course, the first year I was out of college I had thought about getting your mother an engagement ring for Christmas that first year because I was out and I was making money, but she told me that she didn’t have enough credits to graduate, so I didn’t want to destroy her ability to get out of college, so I figured I’d wait for another year before I gave her an engagement ring. But even at that, there were still some problems that she didn’t get her bachelor’s degree. A year later, of course, after I was out of school a year-and-a half, I was in the army at the time, when I came home one weekend, Aunt Joan was dating this fellow named Pete Bellisario. And he had an uncle that ran a jewelry store and both Pete and I went down there and I picked out a ring for your mother, I put it in this bag, and I went to Duquesne University to see her, and I said, “You left this bag in my car last night.” She said, “Oh, there’s nothing in it.” I said, “Why don’t you look inside.” She looked inside and there was a box with the engagement ring. So we brought the engagement ring home to–so she immediately took off my pin which she had worn faithfully for the previous year and three quarters–and put the engagement ring on. And after she was done with classes for the day I took her back to see her parents and showed it to her mother and her mother didn’t believe that it was an engagement ring. But after a little bit of convincing she finally came around to–she actually had to come out of the kitchen to ask me if that really was a diamond engagement ring. So, we set a date- -actually, we wanted to get married on July 11th, but the church wasn’t available that day, so we set the date for July 18th. That’s how that came to be.
I got into a relatively good college: Carnegie Institute of Technology, which is one of the most respected engineering schools in the nation. I kind of knew right off the bat that I was in a little bit over my head because the classes were extremely difficult, much more difficult than I had expected. When I went to Carnegie Tech, I never had to set my schedule, I never had to pick a class. Well, that’s not exactly true; I got to pick six electives in my four years. My freshman year, we had what was called a box schedule. You went there and they told you what group you were in and you went to a certain class all day with the same group of people and everybody in this group had classes together. And the group with me there was one other civil engineer; his name was Les Cohen, Leslie J. Cohen. And Les and I became good friends throughout our four years at school. Another fellow who was a mechanical engineer was in my class, his name was Joe Del Sole. He and I became involved in a fraternity. My first semester, I had pledged a fraternity, and in order to make it in you had to have a 1.75 out of a 4.0 quality point average, and my quality point average was 1.79, but I decided that if I was that close, I didn’t want to stay in that fraternity; I wanted to spend more of my time trying to study. So I dropped out of the fraternity and I tried to concentrate a little bit more on my classes. The second semester, I had one more class than I had the first semester. First semester we had classes like math, chemistry, English, and the second semester we also had physics. The physics lectures were really great, but I ended up not passing the course, so I had to take summer school the first summer. I was working at Duquesne University with my sister, Rosemary, and since the librarian knew me she would allow me to go out to Carnegie Tech in the mornings and take a remedial physics class and I concentrated on it and was able to do quite well; I got a B in the course. I wasn’t able to maintain that B-average as I went along in physics. My classes kind of went up and down and I probably was able to maintain a C-average in math, and that’s partly because I got an A one semester which cancelled out the C’s and D’s I’d gotten earlier. I did fairly well in my civil engineering classes and I got a couple of A’s and B’s; it was just in the general classes and the extra classes that I had to take that I really could’ve done well, but didn’t do too well, especially courses like philosophy and psychology that I took as electives. But I managed to graduate pretty well; you needed a 2.0 to graduate and I had a 2.13 or something like that. So, I was not in any danger of not graduating; I certainly wasn’t one of the more stellar graduates. Of course, I came to realize that my school was really a prep school for graduate school because over half of my class went on to graduate school and got masters degree and at least six of my classmates got PhD’s. So, there’s quite a bit of upper level learning that went on. Looking back, I would say it was a good school to go to if you were going to go on to graduate school. But if you’re looking at somebody like myself who never even thought about graduate school, or any of that type of thing, I probably would’ve been better off to pick a less challenging school. Actually, I had been accepted at Dayton, Pitt, and Rensselaer Polytech, in addition to Carnegie Tech. I chose to go to Carnegie Tech I think because my father had gone there for a couple years and then he had to drop out and before I ever had any thought of going to college, I was somewhat indoctrinated into going to Carnegie Tech. My father went there and he loved it; he used to sing songs like “Dear old Tech, Carnegie Tech, you’re the best of all the schools I ever knew. Dear old Tech, Carnegie Tech, where every single fellow is true blue. When I go walking down through Schenley, Tech’s the only place that takes my eye and when I’m far away from Pittsburgh, I’ll remember you, Tech, ‘til I die.” And my father used to sing that song and a couple others, because I guess around 1930 when he went to school there, people used to sit around and sing those songs, but by the time I went there, nobody knew those songs but me and a few others, so when we played those songs hardly anybody remembered them or knew what the words were or anything like that. And when my father used to take me out surveying, back when I wasn’t even in high school yet, we would always drive down the road singing those songs about Carnegie Tech and things like this. I guess I picked up all the hints, and they weren’t very subliminal, they certainly had an effect on me, and I figured that I if I went to any college I should go there, because my father thought it was such a good school. So, to this day, I’m not even sure that being an engineer was the best thing for me, but I never thought of being anything else. I did go on and I did become an engineer and I worked for quite a few years as an engineer. Another thing that happened when I was in college is that I took ROTC, which is probably an uncanny choice of something to do because I was never a Boy Scout and as a matter of fact, I really didn’t join organizations as much; I never got into any of the scouting organizations or anything like this. I had no real knowledge of regimentation outside the fact that our home life was somewhat regimented because our father was relatively strict, and so we knew how to obey and knew things like that. I really didn’t have much of a background for military type of things. Then my little brother, he did go on to the military school and was there for a couple years before he finally dropped out of school. So, maybe in some respects it’s not so unusual, but it was a patriotic thing to do and I thought about doing it. And in those days, when you went into ROTC, you became what was called a six month soldier. You signed up, you went to school for four years, for the last two years they paid you some enormous fee like $27 a month for being in ROTC during your junior and senior years. You got to go into the Army as a second lieutenant, and you’re in the Army as a second lieutenant for six months, and then you got out and joined the reserves and then you were in the reserves for eight years afterwards. And that was the way it was supposed to be. Except out of every class, two people were selected to go RA, Regular Army, and they’d go in for two years. But everybody else went in for six months. Well, between my junior and senior year, they had summer camp, and I went to summer camp, which was like a six-week boot camp, and it was interesting and I think I did fairly well, or okay, there. Everybody was pretty much in the same boat. Met a lot of people from different schools, and things like that. The last week of summer camp, and you have to remember this is in 1961, they had what was called the Berlin Airlift, or the Berlin Crisis. If you remember what the world was like at that time, or maybe I’11 give you a little bit of a historical background, at the end of the second World War, in 1945, the Allies split up control over Germany and the United States, France, England, and Russia were the Allies that won the second world war, and they split up Germany into four factions. Of course, the Russian faction was East Germany, and that held by the Americans, the French, and the English was West Germany. And Berlin was a divided city; half was controlled by Russia, half was controlled by the other three Allies. And Berlin was inside what was then Fast Germany. Well, that happened in 1945, and for fifteen years, as the cold war deepened, the Russians kept making it tremendously difficult for people to go from west Berlin to west Germany and back and forth. And I imagine there was quite a bit of espionage going on at the same time. They used to go in by train from west Germany to west Berlin, but they closed down the train tracks, so there was no way to get back into what was called the Berlin Airway [?] where they brought food and clothing and water and what else these people needed in by plane. Eventually what happened is the East Germans broke the Berlin Wall to prevent people from escaping from East Germany into West Germany. This was a national crisis and the Americans did the airlift, and President Kennedy ordered all kinds of reserves activated, and everybody who was a six month soldier was extended for one year, so now instead of being six month soldier, these guys who were in for six months suddenly found themselves in for a year-and-a-half. When I got back to school the next year, they decided that there wouldn’t be any more two year soldiers; that all those of us who had joined ROTC had joined up for two years, and we could drop out of ROTC, but since we were already in the fourth year, and when we went into our junior year we signed a military commitment, so if we dropped out of ROTC, we could be drafted directly; we wouldn’t be able to finish our fourth year in college. So, we stayed in and when I got out of college, I had a two-year military commitment. Well, I was the first class that had this two-year military commitment. When I went out looking for a job, I couldn’t find myself a job because all these companies that I was interviewing with, they were accustomed to people having six months of duty, and I was in the area where I had to give two years of duty. And I also was in the situation where my reporting date was March 9th of 1963 and my graduating date from college was June 12th. So here I was, I had just about nine months and I wanted to find myself a job. A friend of mine told me about the Corp of Engineers, and I went down and I applied for a job at the Corp of Engineers and I got it. But basically, I got it because the Corp of Engineers had no qualms about hiring people that had a two year military commitment. Whereas, most companies, and I had wanted to work for a construction company, most construction companies wanted somebody to get out of school and start working right away; they didn’t want to be disrupted by two years of military service.
When I got out of college, I went to work for the Corp of Engineers and they had what was considered a rotating training program where you would work for one department for anywhere from a week to a month to another department, and you would go back and forth between these departments and one of the assignments was a six month stay in construction. So, I started out in some sort of engineering or design for the month of June and then in July I was assigned to the construction that was going on in Warren, Pennsylvania. This was an interesting assignment because at the time I didn’t own a car; of course I was going to work for a month, but I was taking a streetcar, so it really wasn’t a big problem to get to work, but now that I was working in Warren, Pennsylvania, which was 150 miles away, so I had to get a car. So, I actually rode back and forth each weekend for some work with people and I developed friendship with some engineering students who were working for the summer. This one fellow went to Pitt and he would ride me back and forth all summer. Each week, I would get a ride up and back. I was out there on construction and I really enjoyed it, being out there. We’d rent a house, or rent a room from somebody, and I think the first week I was there, somebody got me a room, to rent me one in a boarding house, and then eventually I stayed in a house and I was there for about eight months, and in that period I think I stayed at about four or five different places. Eventually I bought my father’s old 1960 Chevy from him, and he bought himself a new 1963 Chevy. And I got an apartment with another engineer and a couple of surveyors and eventually then we moved into a house, where there were about six or seven of us that lived in this house. On our way home from work we would stop at the store and pick up a steak and some potatoes and cook up the steak and potatoes and a salad. It was a pretty good life. We had change in our pockets; it was a good feeling. one Sunday night when I was driving back up there I had a little bit of an accident; spun around in the snow and got stuck in the snowbank. Had to call a tow truck to get me out. Dented the door a little bit, but really didn’t damage the car at all. When I graduated from college, there was a paper that this other fellow and I had worked on; we were supposed to finish the paper, and I’d gotten an A in the course, and this other fellow was going to graduate school at Carnegie Tech, and he and I had gotten together in June and had decided on all the things about the paper but he had never finished the paper. I wanted to get it finished before I went into the army. So, in February I got myself transferred back to the Pittsburgh office and I was able to complete that paper before I went into the army. And I can still remember the night before I had to report for the army I went down to Washington D.C., and I had to be there at like nine o’clock in the morning and I went down and I stayed in a motel in Winchester, Virginia, which was maybe an hour or so out of Washington D.C. So then I could be there on time and I had to report to Fort [?] for three months of engineer officer basic course. So, from March 9th to the beginning of June, I was in officer’s training. That was pretty interesting, life, living at Fort Delaware [?], Virginia, which is a very nice camp right there on the edge of Washington D.C. Had a lot of good times when I was down there. And the last week we had a field maneuver and I was out there doing a field maneuver and I got myself violently ill and they took me in and they put me in the hospital for a couple days. And I was afraid I wasn’t going to graduate from the basics course but they said that I’d completed enough of it that I’d done well enough that there was no problem with that. I was surprised that Mum and Dad, my mother and father, brought Cathy down. So that was very nice to see them all there for my graduation even though I’d just gotten out of the hospital at the time. They didn’t know what was the matter with me, but they kept me on i.v. for a couple days just under observation. After that I got assigned to the 588th Engineer Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I got there, and I was assigned to Company C. The rest of the whole battalion was at a place called Camp Drum, New York, now Fort Drum, where the reserves did their summer training. It was now the summer of 1963. So I was at Fort Dix, and every once in awhile I’d come home on the weekend to visit with mom, and I’d leave Friday after work. But you had to sign out; you had to sign back in before midnight on Sunday, so I’d leave Friday after five and I’d get to Pittsburgh–how long would it take me? It’d take me five hours to get back there–around ten o’clock at night and I’d pick your mother up from work; she worked at a little clothing store called Steve and Richard’s, kind of a little bit like Ben Franklin’s. We’d usually go out for a date on Saturday night, go to a movie or something like that, and I’d drive back on Sunday. There were a couple of times when I had your mother come down to visit with me; this was before we were married. I don’t recall too many serious events during my stay in the army, at least that first year. And then the second year, I went up to Camp Drum, and a different company stayed back at Fort Dix during the summer. It was interesting while we were up there, clearing trails and other things, and during that period I took off and got married. I actually flew down once in June for a weekend, and then I flew back. Also, I bought myself a little car when I first went in to the army. It was a Pontiac Tempest with bucket seats. Interesting little car, it was one of the first four cylinder automobiles that they had come out with. That was back before the days of seatbelts because I remember a week or two before we got married I went to the Base Exchange and bought seatbelts and installed the seatbelts myself in the Pontiac because I was concerned about car safety back at that time. When you were in the army back in those days they would show you these horrendous films of people getting killed in car accidents; I guess they had a lot of trouble with the guys and their poor driving habits in the army. so they were always showing us these films where they would make up a scene about what happened before the accident and then they would show you the actual accident with the blood and guts everywhere. That made quite an impression on me. In 1964, before seatbelts were even thought of as being a standard item, I went and bought seatbelts and I installed them in my little, gold Pontiac Tempest. Also, whenever I was in the army, cigarettes were extremely cheap. They probably cost about $3.50 a carton on the economy, but they cost something like $1.90 a carton at the Base Exchange. So it was quite easy to smoke, but at that time, in 1964, was the first time the surgeon general came out with a recommendation that cigarette smoking could be harmful. So, two weeks before the wedding, I quit smoking. Little did I know that your mother had started smoking. I had no idea that she had started smoking. We got married, and there she was smoking and I wasn’t, so that was kind of unusual. Well, about that same time period, one of the most significant events in history was the assassination of John Kennedy. This was in October of 1963, and I was assigned as a guard for military transport. We had no idea where we going; all we knew was that something was going on a train and we were going to ride in a car adjacent to this. And we would go wherever the train went. Well, this started around November 20th, and I was supposed to go to one of my friend’s wedding, about a week after that, so it was myself, a sergeant, and about five unlisted men, and we were the guard for this boxcar, which supposedly had some munitions in it. And we had to make two stops, and we got on this boxcar somewhere in North Central New Jersey, and there was a coach with it and they gave us C-rations to eat. Of course, as soon as the train stopped, the sergeant would run out and buy some food because the car that we were in was equipped with a kitchen, so we would go out and buy food. I was on this train on the night of October 20th, and I think that first night that train went about a hundred yards; they just picked us up and he took us to a siding somewhere and we waited for a train to come and pick us up, and we waited until the next morning. And then the train took us to some place like Cortland, New York, and there we sat on the siding for a long time. We had gone out and we had bought some food and somebody came up and said, “Didn’t you hear the President was killed?” It was quite a shock to me, and we had no contact with the outside world so we didn’t know what we were supposed to do, but eventually we really didn’t do anything and I was quite upset and the train went from there to Buffalo, New York, and then it took a couple more days to get down to Pittsburgh. By that time, I had already missed my friend’s wedding because my friend’s wedding was on Saturday and this was Sunday morning. I walked into the railroad station where all these railworkers were, and I looked over at the television set, and there they were leading Oswald out of the jail and I saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald. That’s really the only connection that I have with the whole thing; I missed the whole–of course, we didn’t have access to a television set or anything or had hardly any news of the outside world as to what was going on, so I had no idea as to what was going on in the world as far all the trackings of the funeral and all that stuff, which I guess was one of the biggest events in history. It eventually took us ten days to get all the way out to Iowa; we had one stop in very southern Indiana where I met someone and we opened up this boxcar that we were guarding and I had a code and a key and there was a special seal on the boxcar; opened up the boxcar and looked inside, and there was one thing at one end, and one thing at the other end, and nothing in between. You could’ve fit it all in the back of a pickup truck, and here we were taking it by train from one end of the country to the next. Then we got to Iowa and I gave the rest of the ordinance to whoever was supposed to have it in Iowa. Then we flew back to Newark, New Jersey. It was kind of a funny flight because, unlike most people in the military at that time, we had paid for our tickets; most military in those days flew stand-by, and I think that they can still do it today. Someone in a military uniform can fly stand-by. We got on the plane and the plane was overbooked and they started taking some of my soldiers and taking them off the plane and I stopped them and I said, first of all, I wanted us all to sit together, and they said oh, you can’t do that, and then we were all so tired as soon as we got on the plane we fell asleep and I think this was in Chicago; we flew from Davenport to Chicago and then we had to get on another plane and fly from Chicago to Newark. And we were on the plane in Chicago and they started to take some of my men off the plane and I had to correct them and get our guys back on, but what happened eventually was when we got to Newark, when the sergeant got there his luggage wasn’t there. Which I thought was a big thing in those days, but now I realize it happens all the time to everybody. So that’s what happened. And then I got on a train trip guarding a couple of top secret bombs, I suppose, and I missed the assassination of President Kennedy and the funeral and T missed my friend’s wedding, which I guess was kind of a somber affair since everybody was standing around saying, Kennedy was just killed a couple days ago.
Eventually I got out of the army; I knew I wasn’t military material. During the last six months I was in we got a new commander and he tried to convince me to stay on in the army; he said held make me company commander of the equipment company that was attached to the battalion. But I thought that was not something that really I wanted to do, especially since they were having alerts and there were problems that were beginning to come to light in Vietnam at that time. Anyhow, I got out on March 9th, 1965; on May 10th, 1965 my equipment company had landed in Da Nang and started building an airport. So, I would’ve been shipped out when Fran was less than two weeks old, and be gone for a year. That would’ve made our life completely different. At any rate, I never went to Vietnam, but because the Vietnam conflict officially started in August of 1964, I’m known as a Vietnam Air Veteran. But I chose to get out and go back to work for the civilian arm of the Corp of Engineers, where I had had so much fun before. Except now I was married.
We rented an apartment in southern area of Pittsburgh called Bellevue. And we still had that 1963 Pontiac Tempest. I would take the streetcar back and forth. We rented this house, this apartment, and it only had three rooms. You walked into the vestibule, and then there was a living room, and you walked through the living room and you walked into a bedroom, and the bathroom was off the bedroom, and from the bedroom you walked into the kitchen. It was like three rooms in a line. But the kitchen area was big enough to have a kitchen table and we went out and we bought a couch and a chair for the living room, and a bed for our bedroom.
So when I got out of the Army your mother was eight months pregnant, so we went out looking for furniture and we saw this ad for some used furniture and we went and there was this beautiful bedroom set; there was a big dresser, all of which we still have is the white dresser, and a vanity, part of which we still have is the two little end tables, which were the side tables of the vanity, and this big bed. And here we were, out looking for this furniture and your mother was obviously eight months pregnant with Fran, and so I don’t know if we couldn’t afford it or what; I think they wanted fifty dollars for this set, and we were looking at it and I didn’t want to say “Yeah, we’ll take it” without talking to your mother, so I went over and huddled with her and we decided we’d take it and I came back, and the man says “Look, I’ll give it to you for $35; one of the legs is broken off the bed.” Well, it’s true, one of the legs was broken off the bed, but there were actually four legs on the footpost of the bed, and if one of the legs was broken off it still had three legs to stand on. But the guy must have thought that one, we really didn’t have the money and here they are, starting a family; obviously they must have had to get married! So we got this nice set with this big bed and all this stuff, which eventually we weren’t able to hold on to.
We also got our first child in December of 1964. We came home for Christmas and after Christmas a friend of my father, his daughter had a dog that had had some puppies and we went down to see them. There was this one little puppy, a little female that curled up in my arms and went to sleep. I said I liked the color and your mother liked the sex, and that’s how we chose all our children: I got to choose the color and she got to choose the sex. Of course I’m talking about Teddy Bear, and Teddy Bear was our first experience with training and discipline, and we had some good times. Luckily, when we got Teddy Bear we were in the army and we had a half of a house that had all linoleum floors, so when she peed all we had to do was wipe it up. We were able to train her at the army’s expense. There was one time, when we first moved into this army housing in September, I would go to work and Mom would be home with Teddy Bear and she would let Teddy Bear out, and Teddy Bear would come back. And one day, she let Teddy Bear out, and she didn’t come back. She was out looking for her, just about ready to cry, and she walked a couple houses down the street and she saw Teddy Bear lying on a porch of a house two houses down; all the houses looked the same and she couldn’t tell which house she was in and which house she was supposed to be in!
So, during the time that I was there, I got stomach pains again like I’d had whenever I was in training, and they put me in the hospital and they found that I had peritonitis; they operated on me to take out my appendix, and they did take out my appendix, but there was nothing wrong with my appendix. What happened was a portion of my stomach lining had gotten twisted and cut off the circulation and become gangrenous [sic] and they had to remove it. Your mother likes to say that it was my sympathetic pregnancy, that I wouldn’t allow her to just have all the problems and complications of pregnancy that I had to get sick and go to the hospital. This was about a month before I got out, so I really didn’t do too much else in the Army after I’d gotten sick because I was on recovery leave for thirty days and that was up about a day or two before I was supposed to get out of the army. During my exit physical, the guy who was testing me said I was going to need glasses. And by gum, he was right!
So, I went back to work for the Corp of Engineers and in September of 1965 there was a hurricane that hit New Orleans, Louisiana and they asked for volunteers to go down and myself and three other guys that I was going through training with volunteered to go. I talked it over with Mom and we went down there for five weeks, and it was pretty good because we got overtime pay; we got paid for 13 hours a day, seven days a week while we were down there. And it wasn’t hard work; all we were doing was watching people cut up trees and clear things out of people’s yards and stuff like this. But it was an interesting time to be down there. I was down in a place called [?] Louisiana, which is about fifty miles west of New Orleans. So I really didn’t spend much time in New Orleans, but I was out there, and I saw some of the problems that people had after the hurricane, got to know a few people down there. And the Cajuns from southern Louisiana; was down there in Cajun country. Eventually we decided that that apartment was too small because Mom was having another baby, so we decided to look for another place, and we found this place in Westview, where somebody was moving out of in December. I guess it must’ve been December of ‘65 when we moved in there. And next door was this couple called David and Mary First who we got to know and got to become very good friends with. That was an interesting place; it was a side by side house, and we had two bedrooms upstairs and a living room and a kitchen downstairs. It had a partial basement, a basement under part of the house, but there was also a garage that was under part of the house, and a little back porch, and Dave and Mary’s back porch was our back porch, also. We would sit out there with Teddy Bear and the railings on the back porch I thought were too far apart for Fran or Teddy Bear, so I took some wire mesh and I put it around the railings so that nobody could fall off the porch. That was an interesting place; we lived there for a couple of years.
Eventually, in 1967, I decided to build a house and we built a four-bedroom, two-story brick house, with a two car garage and a porch over one of the two car garages. That was an interesting time and we built the house, but my father interfered so much that I never really felt that the house was mine. I had wanted to build the house and I wanted to do it my way, and your mother and I had a lot of arguments because we ended up doing it his way. I never felt strong enough to assert myself, to get my way. Eventually, I think that made us move away from Pittsburgh because we decided that as long as we lived there we were always going to be under his thumb. So, in about 1969 we decided to move away. I did it more because I wanted to get away and be on my own than because I wanted to change jobs or anything like that. I had a pretty good job and I think I actually went from a good job to one that was not as good even though at first I made a little bit more money.
Eventually, I worked in Reading, PA for four years and when we first moved out there we hadn’t sold our house, so we actually had to rent a house and still pay the mortgage on the other one; eventually we had the house rented for a year, but we really were in serious trouble financially until we sold the house. And I eventually had to buy a house. Well, what happened was we moved to Reading and I made a down payment on a second house with the agreement that I would buy it in six months if my house didn’t sell and the guy actually sold the house out from under us, and we had to seek a lawyer to get some of our money back. So, we had to move out of that house and then we eventually bought a brand new house and the guy held the mortgage until we could sell our house, which was maybe a year. Our house in Pittsburgh.
Eventually we sold our house in Pittsburgh, and we were living in Reading, until 1973, and then my father passed away; Grandpa Jack died in 1973, and I guess when I look back now I think that upset me quite a bit. In 1973 I had taken the Professional Engineers Examination and I knew I was going to be awarded my P.E. but I hadn’t gotten the notification in the mail and I wanted to show my father that I had attained the Professional Engineer status, but he died before I ever got to tell him that I got it. And I think that affected me more than I realized at the time because I guess I decided to change jobs again and I eventually ended up in Chicago which really wasn’t a good career move and I moved back to Pittsburgh.
Eventually got myself into a situation where I was out of a job for awhile and I had to go into work for the state of Pennsylvania and I didn’t like that, so I applied for another job and got the job in Vermont. And that takes us up to 1977. I guess one of the hard times in my life was in 1976 when I lost my job and I really didn’t have anything to do and I had a hard time finding a job. I was doing some part time work f or different people but I wasn’t able to get another job and eventually in March I got a job working for the state of Pennsylvania, but the pay was so poor I had to look for another job soon after that. I had actually been offered a job in Indiana, and I went out to visit this place in South Bend, Indiana and I wanted to go look for a job, but your mother didn’t want to move again. So I decided not to take that job and the guy really pleaded with me to go out there, and eventually by the time a year was up and I was going to move and I called the guy up and he wasn’t interested in having me come back. That was the first time I had to go for unemployment and I guess we just lived on unemployment and food stamps until the food stamps ran out and I would do some odd jobs for some engineering firms, but I never did too much or not enough to sustain me, or to sustain our family.
So, I did get that job with the state of Pennsylvania but that only lasted about six months. While I was out there, there was another catastrophe; there was a flood in Johnstown, and I went to Johnstown for a month and worked on the clean up for that but at that time I was working for the state of Pennsylvania and there wasn’t any overtime involved with that, so they really didn’t pay me to go out there, while it was interesting work, it wasn’t a good paying job. So, I decided to move and I got out some resumes and I got two job offers: one was in New York City and the other was in Vermont. The one in New York City paid a bit more money, but I decided that I didn’t want to raise my kids there. I took the job in Vermont in September and came to Vermont and started working for DuBois and King. Eventually, in November we sold our house in Cranberry Township and we hadn’t expected that to happen so quickly; we’d been looking for a house in Barre, Vermont–we thought we’d move into the Barre area. But whenever our house sold very quickly and the people who wanted to buy it had cash and so they were going to buy it for cash so we didn’t have to go through the bank or have to wait for a loan to be approved so we were expecting it to take about 90 days but we had to get out of there in less than 30 days. We had to get out of there in about three weeks after the house sold. So, we had Thanksgiving dinner and we took off for Vermont. The movers came the day after Thanksgiving. We moved to Vermont and we moved in on the day, the fifth of December, and it snowed like hell, and it snowed all winter. We got 96 inches of snow, so we really got a good introduction to Vermont.
We had our little Volkswagen van by then; it was really not accustomed to the severe winters that we were having up here, so we had a little bit of trouble with that keeping it going through the winter. Eventually I learned to put some coals in a Hibachi underneath the oil tank to preheat the oil before I started the car. Living in Vermont these past sixteen years has been very interesting. Of course, we built this house in 1979, and we acquired a couple cats, had Teddy Bear put to sleep, Buffy was killed by a car before she was a year old, then we acquired Fluffernutter and she was afraid of anything that walked except your mother. And then we have these two dogs who just turned twelve years old. We have three or four cats, depending on whether or not you want to call Oscar ours; he certainly has moved in and tried to take over.
So, when I decided to go to work for DuBois and King, it was good work, but I guess I didn’t get along with the powers that be as well as I should have, and that job lasted for three years. But I was able to get a job right away, in Nashua, New Hampshire, and I commuted there for a year and a half, and I tried to do some work on my own with a company up in Burlington but that didn’t work out. It got to the point where I didn’t have a job and I was ineligible for unemployment benefits, so I was really in rough shape. So, we went for several months there without making an income; we had a very tough time. It was right before Fran was going to college, which Fran got a good deal to get in to college, but we had a tough time making it through. But eventually by July I’d gotten another job but making a lot less money than I was making before. I was able to work there for a year and a half and I started doing other things, and I tried to do some things on my own, and after that I got a job in Maine, which lasted about ten months. They decided to let me go, and I got on doing some work for a friend of ours and that helped us out and eventually I had to move back to Vermont where a job held me over for a hotel in Burlington for a little over a year and I was out of a job for a while and DuBois and King called me back and they needed me for three months, so I worked there for three months till I got this job. It’s the best job I ever had. I’m really enjoying it.
I guess I’ve talked so much about my job you’d think my job is the most important thing in my life, but I guess there’s a lot to talk about the family. The most significant thing in my life is my family, and all the things we did together and how much we’ve done and I remember when each of you were born and how we raised you and how we worried about things that you did and how we fretted about this and that, what was the best thing for you…