And So It Goes

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In Her Own Words – Kay Wheeler, pt.2


I was born in Cicero, New York, probably on a farm because Joe, grandpa Quigg, was still home with us at that time.  I don’t know if my mother and dad ever had an apartment before he went into the service.  I don’t recall them ever mentioning that, but when it was time for me to be born, my mother moved back in with nanny.  She was living in a house on the west side of Route 11.  The house is still there in a pseudo brick covering, a shingle that looked like brick.  It was a fairly good size house that still looks quite nice.

I had nanny, but I don’t remember about my grandfather.  When my dad came home from the war, my grandfather went to the state fair to get peppers for nanny to make chili sauce and he never came back.  No one ever heard of him again.  They used to watch the papers for obituaries.  He had just plain had it, apparently, with the family and he disappeared.

I think all of the family was home, and as far as I know, nanny delivered me.  I don’t know that there was a doctor there, but I’m not sure of that.

My dad was due to come home but I think I was ten months old before he made it back to the states.  When my dad came home, he moved us all to Minetto.


When we first moved to Minetto, our house was a big one and it was right on the Oswego River.  There was a big orchard in the back and a chicken coop.  It was quite modern because it had a furnace in it.  It was what they called a floor furnace with just one register to heat the whole house.

That was the first house we lived in when we moved from Cicero.  And I got lost.  Well not really lost.  I was playing outside and I fell asleep in the tall grass and the whole neighborhood was out looking for me.  I was not really lost, but I was sure sun burned.

Burt House

Then we moved into another house near the village.  At that time, I think they called it the Burt house.  It was two family and on the other side was a couple from England.  They had a little girl my age.  Her name was Stella Calloway and we had lots of fun because we were the same age.  Her mother, Beatrice, didn’t like it in the states and they went back to England.  She could never count the money or buy the groceries here.  Mom used to correspond with her for quite a while.  I don’t think they ever had any more children either.  I don’t ever remember seeing her father.  Fathers were not very visible in those days.  They went to work, they brought home the money and they went to bed.

I remember one time when we lived in that house and my dad was going to the clubhouse that the mill had and mom said I was to go with him.  But he told me that if I stayed home I could go barefoot.  So, I took my socks and shoes off and stayed home, throwing my socks and shoes down the cellar window.  Mom was most unhappy with my dad and with me too.  But oh, to go barefoot … that was wonderful!

I kinda think that house had an outside toilet.  I don’t remember any inside toilet, so it must have been.

River Road

The next house we moved into was up on River Road.  It was like a miniature farm almost.  The house was real big and it had a toilet.  That was a big thing.  When we lived there, it was the first time mom had a washing machine.  Before that you washed the clothes in a wash tub with a scrubbing board.  Wash day was not pleasant.  People wore their clothes a lot longer than they do nowadays and you didn’t have a bath everyday either.  Bath once a week was what you got.  I don’t remember a tub in either of those houses.  Must be we washed in a wash tub.

Nanny, even when she lived in Syracuse, didn’t have a washing machine.  She washed on a scrubbing board.  She always said that’s what made her knuckles so big … washing diapers and the rest of the clothes on a scrubbing board.  I remember her saying that when they lived on the farm, wash day was really a horror.  She had a big copper boiler that she had on a coal stove and that was what you kept the hot water in.  You had a special stick, a clothes stick, to stir the clothes around in that boiler.  You had to go outside and pump the water to fill the copper boiler and then you had a couple of other tubs that you rinsed in.  You fished the clothes out of the boiler with that stick and put them in the tubs of cold water to rinse them out.  Then you could handle them to wring them dry, or at least most of the water off, and hang them outdoors.  In the wintertime it was really a chore because they would freeze to the line but that was supposed to be a good thing.  They’d be so stiff, you’d bring ’em in and they’d stand right up.  It looked so funny, especially long underwear, as it was standing there, brought off the line frozen.  Then you hung them over bars until they dried.

I remember several times I tried to raise baby rabbits.  I don’t why or how I’d come by the baby rabbits, wild rabbits that this.  Anyway, I was never successful.  Always something happened to them.  I raised tamed rabbits and had no trouble raising them to adulthood but … I’m not sure what happened to the rabbits, but I would be devastated when they all died.  Either I feed them the wrong stuff or … no.  I guess you just can’t raise baby wild things I guess.  I had a turtle that fell off the porch and I never found that again.  I mourned the turtle for a while, like the baby rabbits.

Crown Avenue

Company Houses on Crown Avenue (Courtesy of Town of Minetto Archives)

Then we moved into a mill house. My dad was working at Columbia Mills as a foreman there and we were eligible to have one of the houses.  It was on, what they called, Crown Avenue, which is no longer.  There were four stucco houses, very nice houses, for the foreman there.  Ours was a two family one.  We first moved into the upstairs and then into the downstairs.

We had steam heat, which was piped in from the mill.  You had all the heat you wanted.  In fact, if you wanted less, you opened the doors and let the hot air out.  We also had cockroaches that came through on the steam pipes.  They were the bane of my mother’s existence.  She spent much of her time fighting cockroaches.

We had an oil stove that we first cooked on.  It was a funny looking thing.  It had, like chimneys, on it and the oven you set on top of the stove to bake with.  Sometimes, the oil would leak and it would run into a little pan under the burners.  And sometimes it caught fire!  You grabbed the stove and ran outdoors with it … we got an electric stove after that.

Kay, abt. 1933, Minetto

The kitchen was small.  It had cupboards with glass doors on one side.  We had a refrigerator early, when refrigerators first came out.  The refrigerator was next to the cupboards and pantry, which you could walk into.  That held the dishes, the pans, the broom and the hole in the floor.  When I had to sweep the kitchen, I would sweep it into the pantry and back and forth over that hole that went into the cellar.  This must have taken me much longer than if I had just picked it up with a dust pan.

The sink was a long low sink with a drain board on it.  There was also a chimney that went up through and the table was kind of under the chimney.  Daddy sat on one side, I sat on the other, and mom sat in the middle.  It was this drop leaf table that I have her in the living room.  Our dining room was huge.  It was a very large room.  It held the dining room set I have here.  There was also a desk with a drop top that opened up.  It was a nice desk.  It had an archway into the living room with columns on each side.  The living room was average size, probably 9-12 and left to the side of the living room was my mother and father’s bedroom and mine was off to the right.  Then we had the screened in porch that went across the front.

The cellar was quite a neat place.  All the laundry was down there.  We had laundry tubs and a washing machine but no detergent.  I think we washed with “Rinse All” and there was a”Le France” blue liquid that you put in the last water that made the clothes nice and white.  The cellar was large enough that in the winter time you hung all your clothes down there, there were lines to hang ‘m on.  The cellar was divided into three sections; one huge section was where we hung the clothes and where I roller skated.  The people upstairs hung their clothes there too.  Then there was a separate section for each us to store things that you could lock if you wanted to.  In the winter time, you put the summer furniture down there with your radio and your iron and ironing board.  Your clothes were all taken care of.  There was outside opening that allowed you to go outdoors in the summer time to hang up the clothes on the line.  There were also stairs that came from upstairs so you didn’t have to go outdoors.

The cellar was like a recreation room and a precursor to the way cellars are furnished now, but it was quite unique for those days.  I said we didn’t have detergents, but we also didn’t have scotch tape.  How on earth did we ever do up packages without scotch tape?  It’s an enigma now … I have no idea.

I took the kids back to see the house I lived in and there was nothing there.  They bulldozed all the houses down into the cellar.  That was a sad sight for me because the only place those things were are now in my head.  There were still some of my mother’s rose bushes left after being bulldozed.  She always grew beautiful roses out front.  I remember them being lined up in front of the porch and she’d take the dishwater out every night after dishes and water the roses with it.  That was before the days of dish detergents.  It was just soap suds, which didn’t hurt the roses and helped them to grow.

We had a garage and the garage was built about a foot away from the fence.  It fenced in the mill and was a perfect place to put all of the little wild animals that we’d catch.  We had two baby raccons at one time.  Something happened to their mother and … they were the cutest things.  We could bring them in the house.  All we had to do was fence the two ends between the garage and fence and we had a great place to keep them.  That was a good pet.

We usually had a pet or two.  I had two rabbits that we had for years.  The female’s name was Bonnie.  I don’t remember the name of the other one.  We raised baby rabbits and that was fun.  Must be the male died.  They lived wild, but wild in our yard.  We fed her and the dogs would track her.  They would come right up to her and she’d kick him in the face and they soon learned to leave Bonnie alone.  She was boss lady in our yard.

The train station in Minetto was on the far side of the town and it was in the woods.  I remember going up to the woods in the fall and gathering nuts.  There were walnuts and several different kinds of beach nuts.  That was quite a thing to go up there and get a basket full of nuts.

The fire department in Minetto was the mill.  It was a volunteer fire department and when the whistle blew, it meant everyone had to get out to go to the fire.  I don’t remember too many fires.  Then when the fire was out, they would then blow the whistle twice.  The whistles were to alert the workers in the mill, which almost everyone who lived there worked at the mill.

I remember staying with Marie Gardner, whose family was large, and mom would have a fit that I was staying there adding one more to their big family, but that was the fun of it.  One morning when we got up, there was a new baby.  We knew nothing about it in the night.  The parent’s bedroom was downstairs and we slept upstairs.  The mother had the baby in the night.  I don’t know if the doctor was there or not.  People didn’t go to the doctors in those days.  That was kinda rare.  But, it was quite a thrill to wake up in the morning and find a new baby there.

After the new church was built, we used to have, what was called Penny Suppers.  Everybody would bring a dish and it would be set on a buffet table line.  You paid a penny for every helping you had.  Of course it was for the church.  I have never heard of a Penny Supper any place else.

We had lots of parties.  There were probably eight or ten of us all together and we would have parties at each other’s houses.  Kids … and we didn’t pair off that much.  It was just that everybody was there.  It wasn’t until much later that we started to pair off.  It was fun.  Just good fun.  I don’t think we ever got into any trouble and with that many kids, you know, there was safety in numbers.  Their parents all knew one another so they didn’t worry about us.  They knew where we where and we were always home at a reasonable hour.  At that point nobody had a car.  It wasn’t until a couple of years later that they acquired cars.  But back then there wasn’t much traffic on the roads and the cars didn’t go that fast either.  I think they were worried more if I was driving their car, more so than if I was driving in someone else’s car.  One time I had a guy that was older than I was.  I don’t think my parents really approved, but they never disapproved either.  He had a motorcycle and that was fun.

We never locked the doors in those days.  I didn’t know what a locked door was.  Yes I do.  I used to lock the front door because I slept on the screened in front porch.  I remember sleeping out there when it would be winter time and when I woke up in the morning, I’d have to ring the doorbell, which was right up over my head, asking for somebody to let me back in the house.  It was great sleeping out there summer and winter.  Except during hunting season, then daddy would take the down sleeping roll that he bought in Canada for $60.  He would take that hunting with him up at Stillwater Reservoir.

Life was pretty good.  We didn’t have any money worries that I knew about.  The family was all so concerned about everything in my life and it was great.  It was like having a whole bunch of mothers.


At about 12 or 13, my family thought I was too old to play with dolls.  They said no more dolls.  For Christmas, Mrs. Patten, the lady who lived upstairs, bought me a little baby doll and dressed it in flannel clothes … a whole wardrobe … and she tied it in a diaper to our cellar door.  She lived upstairs and we lived downstairs and the cellar way went down between the two houses and that’s where she hung the doll.  I found it Christmas morning and I have never forgotten it.  I thought my doll days had come to and end and I had played with them a couple years more after that.

I have a doll, yet, that I had from my childhood and it supposedly was the last doll I’d ever get.  It was a big doll; probably the size of a two-year old child and it was called an F. & B., which was a great make of dolls.  It was in the attic for many years.  We moved it every time we moved.  I guess the girls must have played with it somewhat.  Mary and her three girls took it to a doll hospital and had it all restored and dressed in Mary’s first communion outfit.  And I still have that.  And I still have an autograph album from 8th grade with all the kids had signed it.  That’s in the desk yet.  I think that the only two things I have left from childhood.

Girl Scouts

When I was ten, I went to Girl Scout camp and the trauma of having to go to the doctors to be examined to go to camp was terrible.  As I have said, doctors just scared me.  You couldn’t go to camp unless you had an examination to prove you didn’t have something terrible.  I managed to get through that ordeal to get to camp.  Going to Girl Scout camp was big thing in my life. I would go one week each year because it was expensive, as it is today, for people who want to send their kids to scout camp.  I didn’t want to go home when the time was up. One year, I don’t know how they did it, they must have gone without something, but my parents paid for two weeks.

This was the same time that Mr. Rodgers, the fire chief that lived next door, was working on my playhouse and that had taken precedence over Girl Scout camp.  So I went to camp and stayed the one week and then sent word to my people that I wanted to come home.  So, of course, they came and got me and lost the money they paid.  There was no refund.  I came home and watched Mr. Rodgers finish building my playhouse.  I used to have my friends Kay Kennedy, Marie Gardner, and Dawn Kimplan come and we’d all play dolls.

The playhouse was a great experience.  He wired it with electricity and he put a little make believe fireplace in there and, of course, I was a doll person so I had all of my dolls in there.  I had some tables and chairs in there.  It was a wonderful thing.  I spent many happy hours out there.  I had a record player and all sorts of records.  My friends would come and we’d play house and we really had a house to play in.

As I grew up, it was converted into a mink house.  My dad bought a pair of mink, attempting to raise them.  Their outside run, he opened the backside of the playhouse for that and their cages were inside.  That was a whole new chapter. I think he paid $250 or $350 for a pair of breeding mink and he was going to make a fortune.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way.  My chore was to help grind up the horse meat for them.  We had to go to Martville to buy the horse meat.  That was a Sunday job.  You’d bring it home and mix it with a bran-like and make balls out of it.  Then the mink had to be in special cages where you would open the top of the cage and there was a wire inside.  When you opened the cage it was covered with wire and you put the food on the wire.  You never got your hands near the mink because they would eat your fingers off. Dad took them to the fair and I doubt he ever got his initial money back.  They are very disagreeable animals.  You’d never be able to make a pet out of them.  It looks a lot like a ferret.


St. Mary’s School – Oswego

When I was in first grade, my mother would put me on the trolley car in Minetto and my grandmother would take me off in Oswego and I would go to school, St. Mary’s School.  That lasted about a year, maybe.  I would stay with nanny during the week while I went to school.  I remember my Mom was taking me back on the trolley car.  I had a little straw hat on and I kept raising the hat and scratching under it.  She’d keep pushing the hat back down on my head and say “Stop that.  People will think you’re lousy.”  Well, I was lousy.  I had caught head lice.  She was furious.  That was the end of my career in the parochial schools.  She told the sisters she was taking me out of school because I caught head lice.  They sisters said, “Well, she certainly didn’t catch them here.” and mom said, “Well, she didn’t catch ’em at home.”  So, I went to public school from then on.

I remember that episode with head lice.  I would kneel in front of my mother with a newspaper in her lap.  She would comb and comb through my hair, getting the knits out, or whatever they are.  Then they put kerosene on my scalp to kill whatever it was.  That was worse than any other disease I ever had.

Memories of school are found.  I liked the kids.  I liked the teachers.  I liked our school.  At that time, it was a brand new school and we thought it had everything.  Of course, there were no school buses at that time.  I went to Minetto Union School.  There were no double classes, probably never over 25 pupils to a class.  You had lots of personal attention.

We went home on noon hour.  We had an hour for lunch.  We walked home and ate and walked back to school again.  My poor father.  I think of him because I would burst through the door full of all … school gossip I suppose, and he’d just raise his eyebrows and sit there and listen.  One day, I was sent home at noon hour to put on a slip under my dress.  Of course nobody wore jeans.  I don’t know, maybe the country kids had jeans, but it was not a standard of dress.  And girls, well they would have been horrified if we ever came to school in pants.

Mom finally gave up on my school clothes.  She ordered, from Saks New York, she ordered black pleated surged skirts and white midi blouses.  I wore that like a uniform.  It was impossible to dress me up I guess.

Being born in 1918, just a month before the Armistice was signed, I never knew any war and the teachers taught us that the war that had just been fought, World War I, would be the war to end all wars.  There would be no more war on this earth.  So I grew up in a peaceful world and the teachers all taught us, this is the way it would be.  Back then teachers and doctors were just a step below God so you believed what they told your or what they taught you.  No one ever dared approach a teacher about anything but school work.  It was a nice time to grow up.  It was a shocker to find that there was war in the world.  There was no television at that time so we never knew what was going on in the rest of the world.  Other countries were a place all to themselves.  We had the best of it.

Also, being born in 1918, my generation, between 18 and 25, were called the notch babies.  Social Security had been established and in order to keep it stable, they took the notch babies and lowered their social security so it was less than anybody else’s.  This would balance their budget.

School was … school was school.  You had no choice.  I liked it.  I think young ladies at that time liked the companionship of school.  Being an only child, it was kinda, well it was kinda nice in fact.  I had friends from a large family.  Marie Gardner’s house was on a hill and there was a valley between the house and the school.  So, we could look over from the school to their house and see her mother out all week hanging up clothes.

Minetto School went as far as second year high or tenth grade as they call it now I guess.  After graduating there, we went to Oswego High School for the last two years.  By that time, the Greyhound bus was running and there were no trolley cars any more.  We would get passes to take the Greyhound bus back and forth to Oswego High.  We were considered kind of dumb country cousins’ and not city bread.  The funny thing is that all those kids that came from Minetto were always in the top half of the class because we had wonderful schooling and only schooling.  There were not any extracurricular activities.

You went to school and you studied.  The teachers were very good, especially our math teachers.  We had a real sound basis for math and the foreign languages.  I took two years of French and four years of Latin and loved them both.  I especially loved the math classes.  I took algebra, geometry, trigonometry and one other year of math.  I also took history and English.  I was president of the reading circle in Oswego High.  Of course, I couldn’t have chosen a better thing.  How I love to read.  That is the hardest part of not being able to see … taking away my reading.

I remember in high school, our French and Latin teacher was Kerry, Ms. Kerry.  At that time, my mother had the beauty shop and she was one of her customers and I used to, quite often, shampoo her hair.  Anyway, she told me I could call her by her first name.  I could NEVER do it, EVER.  Even after I graduated from high school, she was Ms. Kerry.  Nowadays … I’m not gonna say that.  Nowadays is nowadays and them days where them days.

One day in her class, I ran a comb up through the front of my hair and twisted it around a couple of times.  What a fiasco.  She worked hard to try and get that comb out of my hair.  I think she finally cut it out and I had very short bangs for quite a while.

Oswego High School, abt. 1922, Oswego, NY

Once we got into Oswego they had footballs teams and Oswego vs. Fulton was a big rivalry.  What a big thing it was to get a nice white shirt and go to the football game.  Yes, I went to the dances.  We had prom dances in Minetto, held in the gym.  I went to the prom and senior ball at Oswego High.  They held their dances at the Pontiac Hotel, which was real posh in those days.

The last prom I went to.  I was between boyfriends and that was critical if you were coming up to your prom time.  I had no boyfriend and Uncle Paul, Marion’s husband, who was French and an excellent dancer, said “I’ll go the prom with you”.  The family all agreed that that was a fine thing to do, so he was my escort to the prom.  Of course, being French, older, and such a wonderful dancer, I was really queen of the ball [chuckling].  After the prom, we walked downtown and had an ice cream sundae.  I guess we weren’t as sophisticated as I thought we were.  But drinking was no problem when I was in high school.  That was something that didn’t interest us at all.  It was a great time to grow up.

The high school that I graduated from in Oswego is now a senior citizen housing.  That came as quite a shock to me.  Dad was a great radio operator, short wave, and he convinced me that I should take a course because he had trouble trying to teach it to me.  So the course was at Oswego High School and I signed up for it.  I went to it and it was a senior citizen place.  Of course I didn’t ask any directions for it, but I knew where the Oswego High School was … well it wasn’t there anymore.  I finally found it on the other side of the city and they ended up canceling the class because there weren’t enough people signed up for it.  Poor dad.  He never did get to teach any of his family how to be short wave radio operators.  This was a thing he enjoyed thoroughly, especially in the later years of his life when he was not so mobile.

Bill Wheeler, abt. 1968

Every morning was spent, from the time he got up until lunch time, on his radio.  He talked to foreign countries and he was in rescue operations.  He connected a family in South America with family here that had a death in the family.  That was really … anything that dad went into he went into all the way.  He started as a radio operator in his teens.  When he lived in Syracuse, he built himself a short wave radio and he had wires strung all over the room for antennas.  So, it was a life-long hobby for him.

He never had enough time to do all the things he wanted to do.  He always wanted to go fishing, hunting and build things.  But being in the troopers, it was a 24hr a day job.  Heaven help them if they were caught doing anything that was not trooper related.  It was hard to pin dad down on any of them.  He never progressed pass a trooper because he was always in one kind of trouble or another, but he put in twenty one years.

There were no swimming pools in the schools back in those days, but we used to go to the YMCA and swim.  I thought that was great because you could swim in the winter time.  Swimming was my hobby.


The best part I remember about growing up was the swimming.  I loved to swim.  My aim in the spring was to be the first one in the water before anyone else.  I always tried to be in by Mother’s Day.  I couldn’t go into the river then because it would be much too cold but there was a pond and an ice house somewhere in the vicinity and I would go the pond, not alone, there were several of us.  The water was black therefore I assumed the bottom was muck but it would be warm there before anywhere else.  Even if you didn’t know how to swim, you could crawl along the bottom of the pond as it was quite shallow.

Across from us was a huge park called Benson Park.  That was the name of the people that maybe first started the town, I don’t know.  But they had a beautiful big house and this park had a sunken garden in it.  I thought that was very fascinating. We weren’t supposed to play in the park, but we did.  Then there was a little stream that went through there and a little bridge that I used to get up into the stream.  It was a yucky thing.  There were blood suckers and all sorts of creepy crawly things in there.  But it was wet.  It was water.  I knew my mother wasn’t too happy with me and that creek, but I soon graduated to the river.

My girlfriend, Kay Kennedy, whose mother died young, left three daughters and Kay was the middle one.  Kay’s father would take us, Kay and I, to the river. He would tie a rope on us, she on one end and me on the other and we’d jump in the river and swim out as far as we could.  Then he would pull us back in and eventually we learned to swim pretty good.

In fact, I remember winning a medal on a one mile race down the river to the marina and it was from a place which is now a drive-in on the road between Oswego and Fulton.  We started there and raced down to the marina and I won a necklace for being first.  Anyway, on a dare, I dove off the bridge that crosses the Oswego there at Minetto and I won a box of candy for that.

I loved white bathing suits.  There was a local barber there, I can’t remember his name, and he would take a bunch of us kids to Fair Haven Park every Wednesday so we could swim.  They had a diving board there.  That’s where I learned to dive.  That was a big thrill in the summer time.  Of course, you could ride the bicycles and that was fun too, but swimming was top priority.

My mother was not a swimmer and she was most unhappy about all my swimming in the river and my father said, “Let her go.” Maybe he had more behind that “Let her go,” now that I think about that.  That’s just making fun.  Anyway, that was the main recreation, swimming in the river and lying in the sun on the grass beside the river.  Boy, I’d get black in the summertime which now I regret because I have to have all these precancerous spots removed from my body but I don’t think I’d do it any differently.  Anyway, it was fun.


As a child, I don’t remember playing too many games.  I played with dolls a great deal.  I used to dress the dolls and play momma.  We ice skated in the winter time.  We went sliding in the winter time and I had skis, which I never really mastered.  One season I didn’t put my skis up, I left them up out near the outside faucet where water dripped on them and the toes turned brown.  That was the end of my skiing.

We did have a lot of fun ice skating.  There were two ponds that we would skate on.  We’d build a big fire on the edge of the pond and we’d sit on a log to put on our skates.  There was a gang of us, probably 8 to 10, and we would meet at each other’s houses before skating or swimming.  The kids didn’t date too much individually.  We all went as a group.


In the evening, quite often, mommy and daddy and I would play three handed bridge.  That was fun.  That was my first taste for bridge and I’ve loved it ever since.  When I came to Pulaski, Mrs. Murtha kinda adopted me and taught me to play contract bridge.  That has become a life long past time.

I remember when two or three of you all had the mumps at the same time and I had you all in beds while I went to play bridge in the afternoon.  You were all really upset with me.  To leave your children alone while they were sick … But you all survived it.  I came back in a couple of hours, had my game of bridge, and there you were, still in the same spot I left you.


Easter, abt. 1938, Syracuse

I never had an Easter egg hunt.  I don’t think they were popular then, certainly not in our group.  Easter was usually spent at Nanny’s in Syracuse, out in the valley.  We have snapshots which reminded me of how my mother would get all dressed up.  Of course, she was all dressed up most of the time, but she especially liked hats.  The family would all get together and go out to one of the parks … Burnet Park or Onondaga Park, I don’t remember which … and take pictures and have a big dinner at nanny’s house.  Sometimes we would go to the movies in the afternoon.  That was a big treat in those days.  The Landmark Theater, I think it was called Loews, was new at that time and it was quite an elegant thing to do, to go to a movie there at Loews.

We went to Easter mass before we went off to nanny’s.  That was another reason to get all dressed up and show off our new hats.  I can remember having shinny straw hats and a pocketbook to match and gold gloves and new shoes … that was a big occasion.  I also had new clothes each fall when school started.  I had new dresses and new shoes but the shoes were a terrible disappointment.  They were brown leather medical shoes and cost a lot of money.  I didn’t like them.  I wanted Mary Janes like everybody else.  These were a corrective shoe because my ankles turned in.  My foot turned in and my ankles turned in.  They cost my dad a lot of money and he’d say “please don’t skip.  Walk like a lady.”  That was not easy for me to do.  I really wanted to wear them out as fast as possible, but it wouldn’t have done any good.  I would just get another pair exactly like them.

Fourth of July was a big celebration.  Kids could have sparklers and firecrackers.  I remember we had some snakes that you’d light and they’d crawl out on the sidewalk.  I can remember putting sparklers in the end of the sprinkler at the end of the hose and I was devastated when the water put all the sparklers out.  That never occurred to my scientific mind.  I just wanted them to go round and round.  They just didn’t do it.  And balloons, oh how I loved balloons.  The family would shutter when I got a balloon because, naturally, it didn’t last very long and I’d be heartbroken and cry and sob and really throw a fit because the balloon was gone.

Thanksgiving dinner was quite a thing.  I think I cooked for days getting ready for it.  I don’t remember anybody ever bringing anything.  I always made three pumpkin pies.  That was the dessert.  Of course, I decided that before anything else.  Dad did the turkey and the dressing.  Nobody could do dressing but dad.  His dressing was … unique.  No telling what went in it.  We grew our own squash and cabbages.  We always had mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, all the traditional things that everybody had.  Uncle Edward would rave about the pumpkin pie and say “she makes that just like nanny did.”  But I didn’t.  I made it right out of the cookbook.  But as long as he thought it was just like nanny’s, that was great.  It was straight out of the Betty Crooker cookbook.  At that time, we probably had real whip cream to put on it.  That was probably the start of my diabetes.


I was thinking about doctors, long ago.  As a child I had one doctor in Minetto, Dr. Fatta, I think his name was.  And you didn’t go to the doctor unless it was something real serious, you treated it at home.  I had all the childhood diseases, like scarlet fever, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and you just stayed inside.  Mostly you had home remedies, like stepping on a nail I remember doing that, and they bound salt pork on my foot.  For sties, which I had quite often, and my father would take a matchstick and bend the eyelid over the matchstick and pop it with a needle. That was the treatment for sties.

Any disease I ever had was very light.  I never was very sick with anything.  I remember when I got Scarlet Fever and nanny was up, visiting from Oswego.  She got out immediately before the doctor came.  She knew it was Scarlet Fever.  At that time, they quarantined everyone that was in the house.  We were quarantined for quite a long time.  To me it seemed like a month, but maybe not.  But she didn’t want to be quarantined in Minetto with her family, Marion and Bugsy home in Oswego.  No telling what kind of trouble they would get into.  I remember when I had measles. You had to stay in a dark room.  Must be they didn’t have any such thing as dark glasses because they kept you in a darkened room until you got over the measles for fear it would hurt your eyes.  I didn’t like being confined.  Sick or not, I wanted to be out and about.

They used kerosene a lot in those days.  I remember that if I had an ear ache, they would warm kerosene and pour it in my ear.  No wonder I can’t hear these days!  But kerosene was quite a thing then.  Before we had electricity, we had kerosene lamps, but only for a short time.  We had electricity when I was real young.  I remember having a cold and standing on a chair while mom was greasing me up.  I put my hand on the wall, and forever after there was a doughnut ring on that wall.  They tried to paper over it and scrub it off, but whatever they were greasing me with managed to come through.

Polio, when you kids were little, that was quite rampant, so many people had it and were permanently disabled from it.  We were terrified you kids would get it.  I wouldn’t take you anywhere there was a crowd of people.  Marcia was one of the kids that was experimented on … she was in an experimental program. We never knew whether she was getting the polio germs or whether she was getting a placebo but anyway she participated in that. Then they came up with the Sabine vaccine, the oral vaccine that kind of took care of the polio which was certainly a blessing.

Tina asked if I had had any broken bones.  I never had a broken bone and I don’t think I ever had any stitches that I can remember.  I do remember one time, when my mother went to New York City to take nanny down to White Plains, which is what someone in the family did every year.  This is where nanny came from, White Plains.  She liked to go back just to see the place.  So I was home with my father.  I was probably six, seven, eight maybe, and my girlfriends and I had been up to the little candy store.  It was on the road to Fulton, the Fulton-Oswego highway.  I stood by the side of the road and when a car got almost to us, I ran out in front of it.  Of course the car knocked me down. An elderly couple were most upset and were going to take me to the doctors.  Of course, I was terrified of doctors and I said no, no, I wouldn’t go to the doctors.  Then they said, well we’re going to take you home and I said no, no, I’m alright.  I didn’t want them to take me home because I didn’t want my father to know how stupid I was.  Anyway, that was probably my only injury growing up.  I did batter up my nose once in a while trying to do a jack-knife drive into the river.  That couldn’t have been more stupid.  Otherwise, I grew up without any injuries.


My parents had new cars quite frequently.  They had a Buick at one time and a Chrysler at one time.  The Chrysler was kind of a three seated affair.  The front seat tipped forward and you sat in the back.  There was like a well for the passenger in the back.  That was quite an elegant car.  Mom liked a nice car.  I remember one time … she would always drive the car.  My father would take the trolley down to Oswego.  He got so used to taking the trolley to Oswego that one occasion when he drove, he took the trolley home and forgot the car in Oswego. That was five miles from Minetto.  I remember mom was quite put on with him for misplacing the car.

The first car that we had was a Star. Few people had cars then, but those that did took them out Sunday afternoon for a ride.  And boy, how I hated to see Sunday come around.  I did not want to be a passenger riding around. I didn’t want to look at the scenery, and I didn’t want to ride in the car.  I was a horrible kid.  I would have done anything if they would just leave me home, but that wasn’t an option.

I remember there were side curtains that went on the car, you buckled those on if the weather got bad.  And you usually planned on changing at least one tire on the truck.  All the back roads, which our roads were, where in bad condition.  Even the good roads were not very good.

Before there were buses in Syracuse, there was the trolley line.  Now that I think of it, what a big enterprise that must have been to run the tracks all over the city.  You could go almost anywhere.  The barn where they kept the trolley cars was on the north side of the city and the trolley cars ran to all of the surrounding cities.  You could go to Auburn and Oneida and there was a big park on the side of the city called Longbranch and the trolley cars ran out there.  I was familiar with the one that went to Oswego because that’s how we got there.  If you didn’t have the car … which we did have.  Anyway, the tracks had to all be laid and then there was an overhead line that the trolley car’s antenna reached the line and that was the power for the trolley car.  What an enterprise that must have been.  After buses came to be, the trolley cars were abandoned.

The train station ran through Minetto and to Oswego.  Then it must have come up this way to Pulaski and there was a big station at Richland.  Richland was quite a thriving little town because of the train going through it and the train stop and a restaurant and a place to stay over.  These things all come and go don’t they. I only remember once going on the train from Minetto to Oswego, which was a big thrill.

I remember one time, mom was taking me to Oswego and she had me all dressed up, as she tried to do.  I think I had a little white coat on, but anyway, I would never walk beside her or hold her hand.  I always had to run ahead and skip as did.  Well I fell on the trolley tracks or the railroad tracks and got a bloody nose, all over the nice little outfit.  She had to turn around, take me back to the house and clean me up.  I think we probably missed the trolley car, but as I say, I was not a joy.

The first airplane ride I took was in a small plane, must have been a two-seater because the pilot sat in the front and I sat in the back.  It was at a family picnic down near New Hartford with daddy, mom and Uncle Edward. Dad, of course, he engineered it.  He got to know the guy that had the plane.

You ask about getting my license.  I didn’t have a driver’s license until after I met your dad and he had borrowed cars from troopers, for me to drive and I didn’t even have a license.  So, I finally said I guess I better go over to Oswego and have a test.  I should have a driver’s license.  I surprised him with a few things.  Anyway, I got my license with no problem.  There wasn’t much traffic on the road.  I remember the library in Oswego being on a very steep hill and that was where you had to stop and start.  That was not automatic shift that was standard shift.  So then my dad got the car that had the automatic shift on it but we didn’t have that very long because it had a way of quitting, right in the middle of traffic usually.  I can remember my mother getting out and getting this shift gear out of the truck and attaching it so she could get the car going.  It was a TeraPlane [sp?].  That was the name of the car.  We didn’t keep it too long and I learned to drive regardless.

The only lesson I had in driving was when my dad took me out for one ride around the village of Minetto.  Coming back, as I went to turn into our driveway, I slammed on the brakes and put him almost through the windshield.  He figured I’d had enough driving lessons.  I learned to park between the two clothes poles in the backyard.  I got so I could parallel between them and I guess I was ready for the road at least.  Since I was driving my parent’s car you’d think they’d have been more concerned about my learning to drive.  But then, there was no such thing as driver license training.  You bought a car and mastered the driving part of it.

I don’t think I ever had an accident … no … I didn’t.  I ran into the house a couple of times.  That was when I was married and we were living upstairs on North Street and I was looking … apparently in the other direction, and ran into the house.  I really shook up the lady upstairs.

Misc. Childhood Memories

I remember my sixteenth birthday.  My dad was up in the woods hunting and my mother cleaned the cellar, even more so than normal and then decorated it.  She took the rug up that was in the dining room and we had records that we danced to.  It was supposed to be a surprise birthday party and I can remember, she and I were doing the dishes and she said, now I don’t know if I should ask so-and-so to your birthday party.  I said what birthday party!  She said, oh it’s supposed to be a surprise.  You’ve got to act surprised, which I did.

There was a goodly crowd of us.  Of course, Marion and Paul also came, so had an ample amount of chaperons.  She also had a booth for a fortune teller and … she made a big splash for my 16th birthday.

My childhood friends were Kay Kennedy, as I mentioned, her dad taught us how to swim, Dawn Kimpland was another close friend and Marie Gardner.  We kind of all grew up together and did things together.  Dawn died of cancer, only a few years ago.  Kay died very young.  She was nurse in training.  She was a very very very bright person.  She was always tops in all the classes.

Tonight I made spaghetti for supper and it was a real simple job.  I cooked angel hair spaghetti two minutes and opened a can of spaghetti sauce and warmed it in the microwave and in five minutes I had spaghetti dinner but it reminded me of when I first had spaghetti, my mother took my friend and I to Syracuse and taught us to eat spaghetti.  That was the first time either of us had had it and that was my introduction to spaghetti and that has been one of my favorite foods ever since.

I don’t think I’d change a thing about my childhood.  It was really wonderful.  I had no complaints.  Tina wanted to know if I had any superstitions.  I guess I had the Irish superstitions that were passed down.  Like, don’t open an umbrella in the house, don’t rock a chair if there was no one in it, and if you drop your glove you’re going to be disappointed.  There’s loads of ’em.  Superstitions that Irish people passed down.  I never really paid too much attention to any of them I guess.

While my dad’s sister Delia lived with us, she worked in the mill and saved nickels, in a jar, on our dresser, and it was a great temptation … just one nickel.  I’d go down to the corner store and buy a candy bar, which I did quite often I guess.  They finally caught up to me and boy, oh boy.  I don’t think I took anything else in this lifetime that wasn’t mine since then.  I was punished.  I don’t remember how, but it was certainly impressed on me that I didn’t touch someone else’s money … and it cured me.

A childhood fear that I remember was … I saw the movie Dracula and I was scared to death.  I knew I was going to be bitten on the neck and to this day, I keep my neck covered up in bed.  But that was a terrifying thing.  I knew that Dracula was going to come and get me.  And my poor dad, he had to sleep with me for, I don’t know how long, because I would not go to bed alone.  I knew the vampires were gonna get me.  I guess I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies for quite a while after that … and I didn’t want to either!

I had chores as a child.  I, we all, kinda worked together.  Mom, daddy and I all took turns doing the work.  One of my chores was to dust the furniture and there were a million legs, more or less, under that dining room table and boy I hadn’t better miss one of them or mom would … be right there.  She never nagged at me to do my chores.  I had to do my own room and the dusting and help with the laundry and all the chores that there are around the house.  I knew what I had to do and if someone came to get me to do some fun thing, she’d say “I’m sorry she can’t go.  She hasn’t done her chores.”  And boy, did I learn early on.  You had better get the work done first if you wanted to play.

I didn’t have to iron.  I had to help with the washing and you dried the clothes outdoors or you dried them in the cellar.  When mom was teaching me to iron, she taught me on dad’s shirt and he said “I don’t want that kid to iron my shirts again.”  So, I got out of the ironing.  Mom was a perfectionist.  When she ironed a shirt, it looked like it came from the laundry.  Well, it didn’t if I ironed it.  I ironed then just like I do now.  My girls couldn’t wait to get big enough to do their own ironing.  If I ironed there things, you’d hear the crash/bang of the ironing board and they were ironing them again before they went to school.  I wasn’t very good at a lot of things, I guess, now that I look back on it.

Tina had asked me if I had ever remembered having any outside chores.  I don’t remember ever having any outside chores.  I would mow the lawn occasionally and water the roses with a hose, but that was playing with the water more than anything.  Our lawn was small and the mill took care of the driveway in the winter time.  They shoveled the snow.

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