On being young
It’s amazing how things look different when you are young. My house on Columbus Avenue in Ashtabula was really only a block from the church and Celetti’s butcher shop and grocery shop but when I was in 2nd grade, it seemed to take forever to walk that block to get a loaf of bread for mom. Every Sunday after church, dad would give me 35 cents and tell me to go into Frabutt’s store next to the church and get him two Dutch masters cigars. They were two for a quarter. The extra dime was for me to buy a comic book. I loved Donald Duck, his nephews, the Beagle boys and Uncle Scrooge. I used to dream of having a safe like Uncle Scrooge and swimming through all the money. Well, that never happened.
We lived in a huge Victorian house that had a coal fire furnace. I remember helping take the ashes out to the driveway and scattering them. The house had cold spots all over and I was always cold. I remember burning my self on the register because it was the only place to really get warm. The bad part was coming home from Grandma’s house in the winter and then having to wait a very long time for the house to get warm. Dad had to stoke the fire to get to get it roaring again and it seemed to take forever. I did enjoy the heavy quilt mom put on my bed.
Mom was a saint and a great Italian cook. She made the best raviolis by hand and her home made bread was really good. I used to take a bowl of ketchup and a hunk of that bread and sit in front of the TV watching Howdy Doody just dunking that bread in the ketchup.
My big sister (she was 10 years older) and my brother (8 years older) used to complain because they thought I was spoiled by mom and dad. Christmas was always fun because everyone went to Grandma Martello’s house. She lived about four blocks away and took care of three of my unmarried uncles, Nick, Sam and John. My other uncles and aunts and their families would join ours. Aunt Delores, Uncle Joe, Uncle George and their extended families would come for Christmas Eve dinner. It was always fun to watch my brother and uncle Joe have a Ravioli eating contest. You have to understand, Grandma’s raviolis where 4″X 4″ so this was quite a feat. The uncles would always give gag gifts to each other and some of these were very original. I have very fond memories of this time of my life.
We lived in that house for quite while but when I finished 4th grade, we had to move to the Harbor area because Grandma Bennett was coming to live with us and we needed a house with no stairs. Dad bought a house in a new housing development called Westshore Meadows. The house was literally only a block from the shores of Lake Erie. The development had an easement to the beach so we looked forward to going swimming. The house was a single floor ranch with a double car garage. This was circa 1953 so we were really moving up! The house was really modern as it actually had a dishwasher in the kitchen. The best part was the modern forced air whole house gas furnace heat. I was never cold again. The summers were still hot but we had some neat windows that would let the cool breezes in from Lake Erie.
I started 5th grade at Washington Elementary. I really missed all my old buds from Columbus street as it was really hard to make friends. It’s hard to imagine but clicques were forming up even in 5th grade. Always an A+ student, I started getting C’s for the first time in my life. It never got any better after that but I believe this is what defined who I am today. It toughened me up and made me work harder to win acceptance.