Monday, November 30, 2009


My older brother Tommy, when mom died, ran off and joined the Navy. He was just old enough and guess what? He was in the Navy! He ran away from nbeing a “cook”. The Lord does work in strange ways to teach us. Will we ever learn? Probably not.

By the time I saw my brother again a lot of time passed. I was enjoying life growing up. My sister Sophia had a friend who knew of the situation of mom and she felt she needed to educate Sophie and her sisters about babies. I was included and that is how I learned about the birds and bees. Even though we had a maternity home next door, that’s the first time I had heard this, and as “Paul Harvey would say, "Now for the rest of the story”. 

Sohpia had two husbands who worshiped the ground she walked on but never had children. She was a diabetic  who never took care of herself and it is sad because she died when she was 50 years old.

My father had a younger brother who was a diabetic that died because he drank too much.  He was a handsome young man, so when my dad was diagnosed with diabeties when he was 70 years old his life took a drastic change. He was good size around the waist because of all the good Italian bread and food he ate. When the doctors in the hospital told him what he could and couldn’t eat he came home and never ate the old way again especially the bread. He then would only eat wheat bread and no donuts or pies. He did love his fat El Producto cigars and chewing on those seem to help. His discpline gave me a good example because I became diabetic when I was 22 years old.  

Until next time, I am Immigrant Daughter.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Immigrant Daugther #5

In the 8th grade we had to make our graduation dresses in sewing class on a treadle sewing machine.  I was sort of handicapped, not having my mother around to help me.  What I am about to tell you made me cry at the time but now it seems kind of funny.

One of my sisters took me to buy the material and I picked white pique.  It seemed heavy enough to take a lot of tearing out of seams because I did not like doing this without help at home.

The first instruction from the teacher was to shink the material first.  I did this and hung it on the line and it hung pretty low to the ground.  The dog we had pulled it off the line and drug it all around!  Four yards made quite a banner for him to run with and drag it on the ground.  I was crushed because there wasn't any money to buy new, and I had to go to school with damp material because it did not have enough time to dry.  After a long year of struggle making this dress, the picture above is what I looked like.  A perm in my hair helped.

I finally made it to high school and was so glad.  I knew I did not want home economics after that dress I had to make, so I chose the college course because most of my friends were in that course.  In September of 1944 we had a hurricane that uprooted the tree in front of our house.

My brother Tommy joined the Navy so we took a picture of it to send him.

In high school I played field hockey and basketball.  I guess I was in good physical shape because I was on the varsity squad in the second year of high school.  My brother, Andrew, played football and basket ball and Dad used to come and watch him play both sports.  Andy was short but wiry and played really well.  He had all the girls chasing him.

When I graduated high school my dad who was a town councileman and on the Board of Education, had the privilege of handing the seniors their diplomas.  What an honor for me!  Here is a man who taught himself to read and write in the most beautiful script penmanship, and he was my father!  Now I was the one who was proud.

The senior class spent three days in Washington D.C. and for me to go I had to borrow some of my sisters' clothes.  Oh, I had some clothes because by that time Dad was giving me a salary of $15.00 per month; and needless to say, as a girl I spent most of it on clothes.  I can remember my first pair of high-heeled shoes.  They were brown suede platform ankle straps.  I remember learning to walk in them.  I must have given everyone a good laugh watching me walk to church.  I will tell more on myself next time.

I am Immigrant Daugther.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Immigrant Daughter #4

Back again with the saga of my family.  I ended on a sad point but, believe me, there are a lot more good and happy moments than sad.

When  dad and mom closed the store on Saturday night around midnight, his sister and husband would drive over from Vinland to play cards. They played  Pinochle, men against the women. Pinochle is a great card game and I love to play it and in later years I never could find anyone who knew how to play. I remember there were many words spoken out loud with lots of yelling over cards played. My father hated to lose especially on what he considered a dumb play. This game has bidding to find out who names trump. It is played with a pinochle deck.  In case you are not aware, there are no cards under 9 making 48 cards in the deck. It takes a lot of counting and remembering what suits were played. It is really good game using your brain.

We had a neighbor who was a nurse who ran a nursing home delivering babies. The doctors use to have their patients go there instead of the hospital. This nurse was very large and had a special car made just for her.  I would call it limousine today. It had to be roomy to carry her around.  When we got a ride in it we were impressed by all the gadgets especially the cooler, when she gave us a cold soda.                                                         

This nurse, whose name was Cotty, had a pet goose named Dilly who was mean and would attack anyone who dared to enter her territory.  I was afraid of Dilly who was no “Aflack” goose that’s for sure. Cotty watched our house like a hawk and would make sure mom and dad knew what was going on at our house.

My oldest sister never like housework of any kind and washing clothes only happened when everything she owned was dirty. It would take her all day because using a wringer washing machine had to have the water dumped out and new water added for clothes that were not colorfast. Well when she stood outside at the clothesline she would hang out about 25 panties and as many bras and slips. Cotty couldn’t stand; it she would yell from her screened porch “what’s matter Sophia run out of money to buy new ones”.  Plus she had many other items of clothing on the line. Ladies wore silk stockings then and they were easy to wash in the sink, but not Sophia she had umpteen hanging on the line.

Sophia played the piano and could sing. She had an operatic voice that was pleasant to hear. We had on old black ebony upright piano that we use to gather around to sing. Those were fond memories and I think the new generation lost the family closeness with all the new sound systems available to listen to. The Desert Song and Rosemarie and many other love songs are things of the past.  I can still hear my sister singing “I Promise You” at my wedding. Those are good memories.  Until next time, I am Immigrant Daughter’

Friday, November 20, 2009

Immigrant Daughter #3

 Continuing on with the story...  The whole family worked in the restaurant. I, being the youngest, had a job peeling a pot of potatoes every day. Needless to say I do not particularly like potatoes to this day. We all had different jobs at different ages. You can see I was the lowest rung on the ladder and got the least popular job.  One thing funny about peeling potatoes: in the back room I would sing crazy ding a ling songs and one day my father couldn't stand to hear such nonsense. He came yelling at me in Greek that if I can't sing anything but garbage to shut up.  At that moment I started to sing "Onward Christian Solders" and I thought, "Now I did it" and that I would get spanked. He got so mad that I heard things in Greek that I can not repeat.

Growing up in the restaurant allowed us to meet many different people making it easy to talk to strangers. My sister Electra and I worked more in the restaurant than any of the others. I will just tell you some of the stories that I can remember. It was so long ago from 4 year old to 79 that is a long span to remember things in order. But I am game to tell it,  if you are to hear it.

Dad and mom moved the restaurant across the main street to the corner across the street from the train station. The commuter trains from Atlantic City to Philadelphia stopped in Hammonton several times a day taking the people to and from work out of town. The restaurant was larger and we were busier. Mom and Dad did all the cooking, we were all older and our life changed.                

We were in the new place about 8 months when mom slipped in the kitchen on a piece of fat and broke her hip.  Now our back yard neighbor doctor was out of town and mom went to a doctor covering for him.  Well he did not agree with her about her hip and said she just bruised it. It kept hurting and when doctor Elliott returned he suggested she go the the hospital in Philadelphia. She had been there many times, I didn't know it then, but she had both breasts removed because of cancer. She rode the train or bus to go to the hospital. With a broken hip it must have been very painful. We did not have a car. I can relate to that as I am recovering from a broken right hip and I went to the emergency room in a very comfortable Honda Accord. The doctors and nurses couldn't imagine why I didn't call 911 for a more comfortable ambulance ride. 

I was 11 years old when this happened and as I said my life changed and not for the better. My mother was brought home with a body cast that started under her breast area to the end of her right foot. With the house being three stories mom's bed was moved down into the living room that had a square bay window so she could look outside. She enjoyed watching the kids passing by going to the Roman Catholic School that was just around the corner from our house. She laid in that bed for one whole year . Electra had the loving nurse instinct and had her bed brought down to the living where mom's bed was to take care of her needs. She had it doubly hard because my dad took that bed and called up to Electra to come down when mom needed anything. She had accepted the responsibility without a whimper.

I must interject here that my mother was so well loved that when the Roman Catholics had their  holiday  parades walking the religious statues from the church down to main street and back again, they made a special detour going back to the church passing our house and letting mom see them. We were not Roman Catholic but the priests knew mom was a believer and very devout and they would come in and pray for her.

The restaurant still required the same amount of time, but now we had mom at home who needed meals and going to the bathroom, which required the bed pan duty.  The three of us younger children still had to go to school and we had to adjust getting up time  and working at the restaurant but loved sitting by the bed listening to mom's stories. I can't remember anything but loving words from mom' I never heard "why me Lord".  She just accepted whatever happened as her lot. I had the job of running home with her lunch during lunch time from school and helping during rush hour and gulping down my lunch.

This hung on for one full year and then mom died. She was 45 years old. I was 12 years old. I will never forget the Greek custom of the family sitting up all night with the body and kissing it before they closed the coffin. Believe me that is a custom that is changed in my belief. Until next time I am Immigrant Daughter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Immigrent daughter 2

Continuation of immigrant daughter blog…..there are so many things to write about. Here is a picture of front of the cigsar store,  My one sister is taking the picture and I don’t know where my oldest brother was at the time.

 I want to say that my father was the boss.  There was no talking back, and when he spoke it was the last word period. Growing up you knew where you stood in the family.  When my two oldest sisters went to work they would bring their paychecks home and turn it over to dad and he would give them an allowance from it.

My second sister was a booker keeper in one of the factories.  Back then bookkeepers had lots of responsibility of payroll, keeping taxes paid and attendance hours of workers.  She knew each and every worker that worked in the factory. She was good and so honest that the owners wanted to have her baby sit their children.  When she was asked to sit for two families on the same night, she would recommend her younger sister.  Now this is my third sister who worked in the restaurant and was still in school so this is how she got to baby sit. 

This third sister was smart in school, all A’s. It was hard for me being the youngest following a sister who was so smart even with the years between us because teachers never forgot other family members especially being the only Greek family in town.  We walked to school all twelve grades at the same place, three separate buildings. I heard so many times, “Why can’t you do like your sisters?”  Like I said being the youngest of six was not the best at times.                                                                                                                                

I mentioned to you my father taught himself to read and write English.  He went on to be elected to the Board of Education whenI was in high school. More about that phase of my life later.
In the last post I had a picture of the first restaurant and a picture of me inside the restaurant behind the counter as a little girl.  I was able to run out the back door to play outside in the large yard behind the restaurant. The family played ball, and dad would come out and bat the ball over the barn and we would have to go find it.  One day, instead of the ball going straight over the barn, it went to the right and broke a window in the doctors house.  Dad ran in and left us kids out there to face the music. The doctor was kind but his wife was not.  She never gave the balls back but after she cooled, down the doctor would throw the balls back in the yard.  I think he knew who really broke the window.

Here is a picture of mom and kids out back in the yard.

My sisters are just a year apart then after two years my brother and another two and a half years my next brother and another two years I came in the picture. I really can’t imagine what she went through. I thought I worked hard but I can’t hold a candle to what she did.

See you later, until next time  I am immigrant daughter.                                                    

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Introducing My Story

Greetings from the south!  I must tell you I am not from here originally but consider this my home by choice.  My parents were both Greek immigrants and have quite a story they passed down to six children. I am the youngest and I can tell you I did not have the hardship on me that my sisters and brothers had.

This story is about my father who was hidden by his mother so that he would not be taken to fight in the Turkish army.  When he was a child it seems that the Turks were in control of Greece and they just would take the boys no matter what age to fight in the army.  After she hid him she made arrangements to ship him off to America where he would be free. 

He knew no English and I do not know the particulars of just how he got here but when he did he was 17 years old. I really don’t think he knew for sure just how old he was. But he ended up in the army in America. He loved his new country and was proud to be an American.  After the army he made his home in Pennsylvania in the coal country working in a candy making process.  He worked hard and long hours saving money to send for his brothers and sisters who wanted to come to America. He eventually opened his own candy store in Ashland, Pennsylvania, called Candyland.

His mother and one married sister chose to stay to Greece but two brothers and three sisters came plus many friends who are relatives . My father taught himself to read and write English.  Some of the ones he brought over chose not to learn and stayed in the Greek community. My father went back to Greece to marry my mother and brought her brother and two sisters back to America. My father was a worker and paid the expense for all of them. Of course until they could find work he let them help making candy until they went on their own.
He was not satisified to stay in Pennsylvania, because it was getting like the old country he left behind, so he moved bag and baggage planting his family in a small town in New Jersey that was all-Italian. We were the only Greek family and so they called us the “Greasy Greeks” because my father had a family restaurant. 

He needed to because he had six children to feed.  He and my mother made a name for themselves with their cooking and baking.  They had an ongoing waiting list for their pies.  It seemed like they were gone before they made it to the customers in the restaurant. I can still taste their coconut custard pie and to this day mine does not compare.
I need to tell you how my father opened up without any money. It wouldn’t happen in this day and age. He went first to scout out the town to make sure it was small, with  working class people. Factories that made men and women’s clothing, coats and suits.  In fact there is a famous men’s suit called Hammonton Park suits made there and shipped out to expensive men’s clothing outlets.  They did not sell any to the local people.  My oldest sister was a hand finisher in the factory.  They are the ones who hand sew the lining  and labels in the jackets. We lived two blocks from the factory. 

My father went in to the cigar store and asked the man who owned the building that had a double side that was empty.  My dad went in and asked the owner if he could sell hot dogs and sandwiches in his window.  They used to build buildings with big deep front windows that they would advertise what they sell like dress shops putting clothes they sell in the windows so people would be enticed to come in to buy items. Now dad did not have any money for rent because he spent what he had on the food to sell.  The man was kind and after hearing dads’ story he let him because dad said he would pay him from the sales.   Here is the first restaurant, next to the cigar store, around 1936:

That progressed into renting the store next door and opening a restaurant and hiring one waitress while he and mom did the cooking. This quiet life lasted for several years. In the meantime dads’ sister and husband moved into a town just 20 miles away and they too opened a restaurant only theirs wasn’t a small family restaurant. Theirs was a larger and fancier establishment. I wore many of their daughters’ hand me downs which were pretty fancy. My mother made our clothes so you can imagine how I loved getting those hand me downs. I now realize how hard my mother worked making clothes in her spare time after working long hours in the restaurant.

The next phase of my life was a sad time.  My dad moved the restaurant across the main street to a larger place that was on a corner right across the street from the train station. Our town was a place that the train had lots of commuters going to Philadelphia and Atlantic City.  Our town was located about 30 miles from each. Dad received the contract to sell bus tickets because buses came through town every hour going either way. That helped business because the bus company paid well. The restaurant opened at six am and closed at midnight. They were long hours, as I mentioned before my dad was a hard worker who had a hard working wife by his side. All of us six kids worked in the restaurant. We ate all of our meals  in the restaurant.  We were never closed except Christmas and Easter days.  The only thing we did at home was sleep.

The picture to the right is of me at the restaurant about four years of age...probably working alreadY!  I am hoping to share with you  this time in my life in future.