Mare worked at the Springfield Armory, making weapons, while Joe served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. They were married and had 2 sons before he shipped out. He would send her his checks and she would save the money.
Stationed on ships, he learned about power generation. When he returned home after the war ended, he and my mother, along with her brother, Benny, bought a confectioner’s shop located in West Springfield. It had a counter and they sold sodas and ice cream. Mare said they had a ‘one-armed bandit machine’ in the shop which was apparently illegal. She said when the policemen came in, they would hang their jackets over it. I am not sure how long they had the shop or how it ended.
My mother told me Joe wanted a good job with a steady good paying wage. As he had learned about power generation on the ships he sailed on, he decided to study to become a fireman [stationary engineer], 3rd class and work at the power plant in West Springfield. He passed the exams, written and oral, and was hired at the plant. He continued to work and study and eventually became 1st class stationary engineer.
Although he was formally uneducated [he made it through the 8th grade, I think], he was a highly skilled and paid blue collar worker. They eventually moved out of their ‘tenement’ apartment in the North End of Springfield with my 2 brothers, Jimmy and Danny. Mare said the apartment was very small and Jimmy and Danny shared the same bed, sleeping at opposite ends.
They bought land from Mare’s father on Bonair Avenue in West Springfield right next door and right across the street from where Mare and Joe, respectively, lived and grew up. I cannot remember where Mare said they got the blueprints for the home they were to build with her Uncle Rocco Germano as the lead contractor/builder. They built their home and eventually moved out of their cramped apartment.
One year later, Mare became pregnant with me. They had to finish the upstairs bedroom for my brothers and I went into the first floor bedroom. Mare said Joe had burned the crib she had for Jimmy and Danny, thinking they weren’t going to have any more children. A friend of hers, Helen Potter, gave her a ratty old crib in which some of the slats were missing for me, as she didn’t want to invest in a new one. Mare told me I would wiggle myself out of the crib when I was old enough.
In our family album, there is a black and white photo of Mare and my brothers standing in front of the new house. She is dressed up in a suit and wearing a hat; my brother have suits on, too. I must have been Easter Sunday, April 18, 1954. She would have been about one month pregnant for me as I was born in January 1955.
Lesson Learned~Work hard, save your money, and you can have the home of your dreams.
Second Lesson Learned~Don’t get rid of the crib too soon.