Patricia Rissi

June 09, 2019 Share

Bible Class and Confraternity


The priest had a Bible class once a week. We’d go across to the church, I don’t know where it was but it was in the church some place and he’d have Bible class. We’d all have to listen to him for an hour and then he’d let us go dance there, he had put the records on and after that we were dancing. And that was his way of getting us to listen to his preaching, you know?


Les Filles de Cadiz, by Léo Delibes
Jane Powell sang the song in the film “Holiday in Mexico” – 1946


I remember the entire song, but you want to know something? I don’t know what it means. I taught it to her and I don’t even know what each word means in that song, just knew I had to pronounce all the French words. I don’t know why I just never found out. It was a famous song that one of, Jane Powell used to sing in movies. I don’t know if you know Jane Powell, she’s an opera star.


I was in a different part of that show, though, dancing with two other girls. We did some kind of a dance, I don’t remember what, I don’t even know how we did it. I just see my legs kicking out. Some kind of a dance in this show. It was like all different parts. There was no plot to it, no story to it, just entertainment, you know what I mean?

And I go ooh-ooh with my hands, and my eyes open wide, and they start in the back of the auditorium. They said to me, we’re showing to play an extra day because of your number! And you’ll have to see how cute I was dressed as a flower girl singing to a guy with a big raccoon coat on. In those days men wore raccoon coats. Fur raccoon coats. I wish I could find that picture, I’m gonna look in my album when I get a chance…

“Ooh-ooh! On third rails. Ooh-ooh! On third rails. You’ll get a pain and ruin your tum tum! Don’t go out with colleges boys. When you’re on a spree. Take good care of yourself, you belong to me!”
Ruth Etting – Button Up Your Overcoat (1929)

…The only thing that bothered me was when I went to a church thing that kids all met at, across the street from the church. I had to walk there, it was a long walk to go to this. It wasn’t to go to church, the priest was in there, but he had a group of kids going like every night. We could go if we wanted or something like that, and we all talk in this one room, the priest would be in with us sometimes. It was just for kids to hang out so they wouldn’t hang out in bad places or whatever, so the priest had this big room where we could all get together, listen to music, do different things, talk.

It was a long walk ’cause I was afraid coming home when it was dark. I was very afraid coming home. There was a man that lived around there that had a limp and he’d be behind me sometimes walking when I was going home in the dark and I remember getting so frightened and I ran. And I actually fell going up the few steps I had go to my house and then I had a dream about it and I could not get up those steps in my dream, you know? ‘Cause I was so scared. Just once that happened but he was behind me a few times, you know, and I used to get afraid so I started asking some of the fellas at the place where we had a group, I asked them to walk me home, they’d walk me home, one of the boys. Oh it was so scary I guess ’cause I was young. I was younger than about 14. I think we had to join that group when … my mother sent me there when I was 14.



Growing up in Brooklyn

My mother and father had no money, we never went any place. I couldn’t even go to the Statue of Liberty. People were going to the Statue of Liberty or the World Fair. And I couldn’t go ’cause nobody would take me, they didn’t have any money. I remember being jealous that other kids around the block were going. They came home with like a little figure of something.

We never ate out for dinner, never went to a restaurant. I didn’t care. But we were poor. And my father also lost his job and I remember we had to eat a lot of potatoes and eggs for dinner. He lost his job at the time. God, another one. I don’t know how long it lasted. He had to use all his bonds that he had saved I remember. My mother was so upset that he had money saved, you know, in bonds ’cause he worked for Bethlehem Steel Company, big shipping company, and they used to get bonds. Then they fired everybody, you know, let go, and he had to get another job.



October 5, 1949 – Bethlehem workers on strike wait in the pay line at Sparrows Point. (Baltimore Sun file)


World War II brought a massive expansion in shipbuilding, and The Bethlehem Steel Staten Island Shipyard was responsible for producing 44 ships, 39 of which were completed during the war years. There were also landing craft, cargo ships and tugs produced at the yard during this period.

We all had a split up, by the way, and lived with different parts of the family. That was very hard for my mother and father. We lived in a high rise and we had the front rooms. And if you had those downstairs front rooms, you had to take care of the building, you had to be a maintenance person. So my father became a maintenance man of the building too, besides working he had to do that. He had to do the shoveling of coal downstairs in the furnace, you know, to warm up the building? And because of it we didn’t have to pay rent. When they finally sold the building, the person that bought it wanted those front rooms, so we had to leave. The lawyer said if we were paying just $2 a month they couldn’t put us out, but because we weren’t paying anything they were able to put us out. So before we found a place to live, we all had to split up and live with different aunts and uncles. My father and mother was with my mother’s brother and his wife and three children.



My Father – Alexander DeLucia

He taught me honesty. He was born on Lincoln’s birthday, February 12th, and he was just like Honest Abe. We used to call my father Honest Abe, you know, Abe for Abraham Lincoln. And he taught us to be very honest. I wouldn’t take a penny from anybody. Never, never, never. That’s what he taught me. I think you just try to emulate your parents. Emulating them, not that they said in words. But we all knew how honest he was from different stories that he’d tell us from, where he worked and stuff like that and I knew he was so honest. We all did.

My father was a doll, very comical, very funny man. Everybody loved him. Oh I could tell you some stories about him, he’s so funny.


One day on the train, the three of us used to come home from work together, Aunt Gloria, me and my father. So he’d be sitting down and he said “Watch this Pat and Gloria.” He’d start yawning, put his hand on his mouth yawning. And he’d say “Watch watch watch.” And everybody started yawning on the train and he thought that was very funny.


Scene on the New York Subway, 1969


I wanted to become a nun once, I was a little upset about caring for somebody I remember, and I said “Daddy, I think I’m going to become a nun.” He said “No, Pat, you’re not the type. You like clothes too much.” My father said I like clothes too much! Oh, and I listened to him.


My father was going into the house, you know, upstairs and he turned around and he sees his brother in law, my uncle Tony, my mother’s brother that lived there, walking down the street. And he goes “Tony, hey Tony!” Tony didn’t turn around, he kept running after him, “Tony!” And the guy didn’t turn around and he keeps running for blocks. He went right next to him for a couple of blocks and he went “Tony, Tony!” Finally the guy turns around, looks at him and starts running. Guy got afraid, and that’s when my father realized it wasn’t Tony. He’s such a nut my father. Why does he keep on running after him? Oh, he made me laugh, he was so funny. Oh, God.


“I hate war. We all hate war. Eleanor hates war, I hate Eleanor.”That was his!


My Mother – Rose DeLucia (née Izzo)

My mom was a beautiful woman, and she was the sweetest thing in the world, so sweet.

She worked like a dog. My mother’s mother died when my mother was only 13 and there were three brothers and a sister. My mother had to take over the job of being a mother to her three brothers and sister and took care of her father. When she was 13. And so she worked so hard at 13. Her sister, Delia who I can’t stand, aunt Delia said “Oh, I’m not staying home.” She went out to work. She wanted to work, she didn’t want to do anything in the house, nothing. So my mother did everything, raised her brothers and sister and took care of her father.

And then she had four children of her own and worked like a dog taking care of us, being poor and everything. And she used to have her brothers come to visit and she’d go around the corner and get bags of food for them so they could bring it home ’cause they were either out of work or something, I was so young I didn’t understand why she was doing all this. She was so good to them all the time, you know? But owing money to the person around the corner, to the grocery store, just to give them bags of food, all of them.



Corner grocer
Bay Parkway & 86th Street – 1951

So I didn’t realize until I got older that these brothers and sisters, they were like her children because she raised them, you know? And that’s why she was the way she was, so good to them. And I’m thinking, you know, we’re your children. Take care of us. Well, she always did anyway. But I’m just saying, I didn’t understand why she was doing this until I got older. I realized that they were like her children and that’s why she took care of them the way she did.

She taught me everything I am, cooking especially. She was a fantastic cook and I became like her, always cooking like a fiend, always cooking. And she gave me her big cake pan. That was her famous cake pan, she gave it to me only ’cause she said I was like her, cooking and baking the way she used to. I lost it, it was in the garage when we moved and I don’t know what happened to it, I’m so upset I don’t have it.


I was about five years old and I was walking with my sister Gloria, she took me someplace, I don’t know where and I was coming home with her. So anyway we came into the house, my mother was bathing me. She gave me a bath and while she’s drying my hair I said, “Mommy, you know what I saw today? Two nuts walking down the street.” She said “Nuts, what are you talking about?..You mean …” I said, “You know the nuts!” She said, “You mean peanuts? You know, walnuts?” I said, “No, you know the nuts mom!” She said, “You mean two crazy people?” I said, “No, not two crazy people.” And she kept asking me and I kept saying “No, that’s not it mom. You know the nuts that walk down the street.” Finally I said “You know Mommy, the ladies that wear the veil over their head, black veil over their head?” My mother said “Oh, you mean the nuns?” I said “Yeah.” And I was so happy and I wrote that story in my English class in high school and my teacher loved it so much he made me read it in front of the class and they were all laughing! Oh, you know the nuts that walk down the street. No, you know the nuts! I was crying too you know it. You have to understand me, come on understand me mom!


Nuns Sister Mercy, Brooklyn 1950s


Young Love

I had a Jewish girlfriend, my favorite girlfriend, we were very close. And I was always with the Jewish kids, they had parties and different places like I was talking about with the Catholic people. I used to go with her to these places and I fell in love with a Jewish boy. But he was too old for me. And my mother didn’t like it after I reached 14, that’s when she sent me to the Catholic place, you know, the confraternity.

I think my first date was this boy, Dick. He was crazy about me but I couldn’t love him. I don’t know, my first date may have been my prom date. This other guy, Al, I asked to take me to my prom. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Dick. I don’t know why I didn’t ask him at the time. I was 17 when I graduated, went to my prom. Al was from the confraternity, he liked me too but maybe I was wrong to ask him to take me to the prom. He had to pay money, but I gave him a gift. But I wasn’t in love with him and he wanted me to be his girlfriend. He smoked at the time, I gave him a cigarette case with his initials on it. I don’t know if it was silver, I don’t think it was real silver.

I remember going to the prom, the nightclub at night, a bunch of kids, you know, boys and girls, certain amounts stayed together and I had my first drink- I thought I would die. It got me so sick, I got very very sick to my stomach. It was a drink, I forgot the name of it, and it had cream in it. I can’t have cream with … I still can’t have dairy ’til this day. Cream in the liquor. Yeah, and I couldn’t finish it but I got so nauseous, I don’t remember whether I threw up there, I don’t remember. I was just extremely nauseous. That ruined my prom for me, that ruined my lovely day out.


Bacardi advertisement – 1963

It was wrong to feel sorry for this boy that I went with for years on and off ’cause he used to cry. Remember I told you that boy, Dick? Yeah, and I would never do that again or suggest that for anybody because it means leading them on. I don’t think it’s right for you to feel sorry for somebody and go with that, because in the long run you’re hurting them even more. So I wouldn’t do that ever again. In the long run you’re hurting them more by going with them ’cause you feel sorry, and they care so much for you… And Dick used to cry sometimes so I wanted to break off with him and, oh it was so hard. So he protected me from meeting other people, you know? ‘Cause I had to be his girl. I couldn’t cheat on him. So that’s a thing I would never do again if I ever had a chance.



Working Days

My father got a wonderful job in the city from somebody that he knew on Fifth Avenue, that’s where I worked, he got me and Gloria a job there, an office job there, an office building, 303 Fifth Avenue.


Source: P.L. Sperr collection, 1945

That’s where I worked my first job when I graduated. My father got us a job and he knew everybody in the building ’cause he was chief engineer of the building. He used to repair things, you know electrical things. He was an electrician first of all by trade and he’d take care of everything, elevators, so what would you call him? Really a maintenance man right? But he liked the sound of- chief engineer of the building.



Source: Life Picture Collection

And he knew the office, he knew everybody, so he found out that they could use some girls to work in the office and he got my sister and I a job, we worked together in the same office. While I was working for Aunt Gloria, she was in the entertainment field, so it used to bother her that she was doing office work. You know, my father wanted her to bring home real money so he made her get a job in the office and she was bad. So she’d be across from me typing, always angry, and I was so embarrassed ’cause the boss’s wife was there doing the bookkeeping at another desk, right, there were three of us in that office.

And she used to yell at me all the time that Gloria, always yelling across to me and I would internalize and hold it in and I started developing migraine headaches. And the day she was fired because she was always late and always angry and blah blah blah, they fired her and the day she left I never got a migraine again. I know it was her. I would never tell her that.

And then my father was so embarrassed, so insulted that she was fired, he wanted me to quit so I told my manager, I said “I’m quitting. My father wants me to quit, I’m quitting the job.” I was a secretary and biller. And he said “Oh, Pat, I don’t want you to go.” He said “I’ll give you a raise, I’ll give you a $5 raise, I’ll put curtains in the room, you don’t even have to do the billing anymore, just make sure the other girls in the office do the billing.” And I said “I don’t know, I’ll ask my father.” And my father said “You tell him if you stay you want a $10 raise.” So I went up there and I told him I have to have a $10 raise and he said “Okay.” So he gave me a $10 raise. And I stayed ’cause they wanted me to stay ’cause I was a good worker and I didn’t carry on like Aunt Gloria. She was unbelievable. Unbelievable. She’s still like that, when you talk to her on the phone, she’s always mad, angry about something, upset about something. Unbelievable.



A secretary hard at work
Life Picture Collection, 1961

I got paid weekly. And when I left there I was making $74 and when I started it was $45 a week and that was a lot of money in those days, nobody was making $45 a week in an office job. So I already started high. And when I left to get another job, I finally left that place after four years, the big boss wanted me to be his secretary and I didn’t want to because I couldn’t hear him, could you believe it?

He was so tall, handsome, German and when he talked I could never hear him. I wasn’t hard of hearing then, but I was afraid to be. I said when he dictates to me I’ll be asking “Excuse me, what?” I didn’t want to be his secretary so I left.

My father made me take the first job that came, you know that? He needed the money. He couldn’t miss out on my check ’cause I gave him a lot of money when I earned $45. I came home with $39 after taxes and I had to give my mother and father $25 and I kept $14. That was to eat lunch, take the train to work, eat lunch, buy clothes, $14. But I figured they needed it and that’s why I didn’t complain about all that.

And I got another job, the first job I went in and I told them I wanted $74 and they said $64 or something like that. And I took it, I had to take a cut in salary because I had to take the first job. But of course I kept getting raises there too so I don’t even know when I left.

I went four years at this job where I took a drop in salary, ’til I became pregnant (I married when I was at that job).  I was at the front desk and greeting people and I started showing and wearing maternity clothes and they didn’t want that anymore. So I had to leave. That’s okay, I wanted to anyway so I quit.

They’re not allowed to let you go now. Grandpa told me “You have to collect because they let you go.” He wanted me to collect unemployment, you know? So I asked the manager, Simon Legree, you see his face – he looked like a real Simon Legree! And I said “You know, technically you fired me. Could you give me a letter so I can bring it to unemployment?” And you could see his face … he did it but I couldn’t stand his face.

So I collected for a while. You can only collect ’til your seventh month or something like that and then I couldn’t get any more money. And then I never worked again.



Raising a Family

I worked harder raising four children and taking care of a husband. That was my life. But I had a nice life with my children, I love them so much, four of them. They were so adorable. I was a little over-protective, but you know, I don’t know I didn’t know how else to be. I think I was told by the children as they grew up. Uncle Steve tells me I was. You can ask your mother, she thought I was.

I was so afraid with Mrs. Bowdee, who had a summer home on the bay at Shinnecock, Long Island. She used to go there once in a while on the weekend with Rosemary and she wanted to take Janet along and I was so afraid that she’d be in the water, the house was right on the water, the bay and I was just so afraid, I wouldn’t let it go and Janet was so upset, she wanted to go. I let her go once in a while and Vivian said “I’ll watch them Pat, don’t worry I have my eyes out on them.” She had her own daughter to watch. So then eventually I let her go and then she started going a lot. But she’ll tell you that I was probably overly protective in the beginning about that.


Shinnecock Bay Lighthouse, Hampton Bays, NY

I was always afraid to let my children go any place in cars with anybody. And because of it, I had two terrible car accidents. One was your mother had a car accident and uncle Steve had a terrible car accident, both of them. All my being worried, what good is it? What I went through at that time nobody knows.

I don’t remember my parents being like I was. Maybe they were, maybe they sheltered me, I don’t know. All I know is that my mother was tired …


I sucked at driving. Fourth try I finally got a license. I was too fast, too slow, too something else. The fourth try I did it. Oh, that was funny. Oh, gosh. And then when my children were little, they had to tell me where to go. Do you believe it? They told me how to get to places ’cause they would remember how grandpa would drive them around, how they got to these places. Me, I said “Steve, you’re always going a different way. I’ll never learn how to get any place.” He’s always trying a different way, like trying different ways, he said, just in case I get stuck and I can’t go one way I know another way to go home, go some place, you know what I’m saying? But me, I would get all confused. So my children had to guide me. “Take this street, mom.” You go this way and that way. Oh, they were cute. I love my children so much like I love my grandchildren.


1975 Subaru GL Coup

That’s what I’m most proud of – my children. ’cause I raised basically good kids, you know? I know a lot of troubles other people have had with their children. I had a little trouble. But all in all it was fine. Put a lot of work into it.



To Stevie

I used to make a big cake when you used to come over. Remember that big round cake I used to make when you’d come over with Alex and Vinnie and even your mother? You don’t remember, sometimes I’d make half and half, you liked chocolate … no, you didn’t like icing on the cake so I’d leave half the cake without icing and the other I’d put icing either chocolate or vanilla Alex liked. You don’t remember?

What about Halloween? I used to have a little Halloween party for you. I baked a special kind of cake, oh it took me so long, I don’t remember what kind of cake it was. A man or something with a hat on. Oh, it was just a big job. And I think your mother took a picture of it. And I used to give you little bags of Halloween candy and a little gift inside and once you made fun of what I gave you, you said “You gave me a nail clipper.” Remember, I gave you a nail clipper?…


“You and Al. To pieces. I love you to pieces. Nieces to Pieces? Nieces to Pieces..”

I taught you so many things when your were little, God. Remember? Puzzles? It was putting puzzles together.  I couldn’t believe how you knew how to put that puzzle, that gigantic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs together, my gosh. I pretended I was helping you, but I couldn’t really help you. You knew exactly where every part was, oh my. Then we put in on the pool table and you started sitting on the pool table down in the basement, remember?

And playing with all the toys that we used to go and buy, after we’d eat at the diner. We go to the, I forgot the name of that store, Modell’s or something, or one of those kinds of stores. Buy a toy down in the basement. We used to go down a big staircase. Don’t you remember down to the basement, and you’d walk around, and I’d say, “Only one toy Stevie.” And you knew exactly what you wanted, and then you said, “Can I have two grandma?” I said, “Okay,” so you got to pick out two.

Might’ve told you about one of the stories, I told everybody this story. They had a bunch of book on a table down in the basement there, and they had all the toys, I said, “You’re gonna buy some books now hunny.” So I sat down on something, I don’t remember what the heck, I was sitting waiting for you, and you sat on the floor and started looking through all the books. And I said, “Well, which one do you want Stevie? And you said, ” I don’t want any of them, I read them all.”

Oh gosh, Steven you are so funny, so funny, so determined. You want you wanted. You knew everything. Yeah, you looked through the pictures, you called that reading, but you were only a little boy. I think you were five. Four or five. No, you must’ve been three. ‘Cause I took care of you only for three years. The first three years, and then when your mother went to work she put you in a daycare. And then she took you out of that daycare, put you in another one. But you used to come and stay with me every weekend. You always were with me on the weekend. So you must have been three years old, gosh. Only three looking through all those books. Gosh. Three years old…

When I was taking care of you, grandpa came home and he was sitting in the kitchen waiting to eat, and you dragged this big thick dictionary, and you stood on it in the kitchen, and pretended you had a microphone in your hand, and you were going, “Blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Your mother came in and I told her, she took a picture of you doing it again, you did it again for her. I think she has a video.  Remember that? I never saw it, but she said took something of you, I don’t think it was a picture, I think it was a video. You must have seen some politician on the podium talking or something, and you did the same thing. That’s what you would talk, you were emulating. That was cute. I said, “He’s gonna be president someday.”

And then we used to play outside. I remember you saved me, the tree almost fell on me. You said, “Let’s not play ball anymore, let’s go in and watch t.v.,” and we walked away and this big tree fell down. It would’ve hit me on the… It would’ve hit you too your mother said. ‘Cause she said it extended that far down where you were standing, it would’ve hit you too. Crazy, wow, this big stupid tree.



“You think I’m wrinkly?”



There was one time, once, when I wanted to get a divorce. My mother and father were down staying with us for a while. They used to come and stay a few days. I remember coming down in the morning, and my mother and father were in the kitchen, I said, “I’m getting a divorce,” and they looked at each other. I got on the phone and I called somebody, I asked him if he knew a divorce lawyer, he said, “No I don’t know of any.” I said, “Oh, okay, goodbye.” And grandpa came down going to work and he comes over as if nothing happened and he kissed me goodbye, and kisses my mother and father goodbye. I said to my mother, “Look, look he’s acting like nothing happened.”

And we made up. I don’t know, when he came home we made up. That was the only time I remember. I was gonna get a divorce. I don’t even remember what the argument was about, that’s the funny thing. That was funny. He didn’t even know. He didn’t even know anything. I don’t know. He was unbelievable, grandpa he was unbelievable. I hold a little grudge for a while. I hold grudges. But not with Grandpa, I got over it like one, two, three also. We made up right away.

But there were others… If I didn’t like what somebody would say, then I don’t wanna know them. Like grandpa’s sister, Aunt Farnes, couldn’t stand her. She had a very big mouth. And used to say things just off the head, say anything that come into her mind! Anyway I didn’t like her, and on my wedding day…well, I was growing my hair to wear a ponytail with my head piece for my wedding, the thing that the vail is attached to, you know? I was growing my hair long, and she knew it right? So, the head piece I fell in love with did not go well with a ponytail, it wouldn’t require that kind of a hairdo, so I had to have my hair cut short for this.. So, she came to the same beauty salon while I was having my hair done that morning with Nana Ruthy, with her mother. She’s sitting far away, and she said, “You grew your hair out just for you wedding, and now you’re having it cut, now isn’t that silly?” Exactly the words. Shouting it out to make everybody hear.

So I couldn’t stand her after that. I was cordial to her and nice. Every time I ever had to meet her, but I never wanted to go out with her, with her husband. We never really went out to much together, the four of us. I really could never stand her. But anyway, I held a grudge with her for years. But you wanna know something? After we got, are old now, I really have forgiven her, I don’t care, I’ve spoken to her on the phone. I really don’t care anymore about it.

It took me many, many years, but that’s just one of the people that I held a grudge. There are other people too, I just don’t remember what they were. And then in school if there was somebody I didn’t like, if they said something I didn’t like, I wouldn’t look at them anymore. I wouldn’t fight with them, or wouldn’t talk to them, do anything, just ignore them. That was my thing. To ignore.




I went to a therapist, plus I had a friend of mine at that time, Katie, that lost her daughter a week before I lost my son. So we were able to talk to each other, and cry together, get it out.

Grandpa would never ever talk Alex. I wasn’t allowed to say a word about him ever. So he internalized and therefore he developed diabetes. And I read in his diabetes manual. I used to get them, and I used to read them. And it said if you are obese, which he was heavy, and are under stress, you can get diabetes even though it’s not in the family. Doesn’t run in the family. ‘Cause it didn’t run in Danny’s family. Grandpa’s family. It was on my side of the family, diabetes, but not his side. And he internalized. Never ever mentioned Alex, and if you did try to say anything, he wouldn’t answer, or am I talking bad now? So that’s a bad thing. Very bad thing.

And Alex was gone 31 years I think now. And I still cry, I still cry. Every so often, over grandpa and him, and my son. You never think you’re going to lose your son, your children, before you die. Never.

Grandpa, he used to tell me, he used to say, “Pat you better get used to it, being without me, ’cause I’m gonna go first.” And I said, “No, I could go first, you never know what may happen.” But he used to say that to me. He had diabetes, and then he developed pancreatic cancer, there were a lot of problems.So he knew he was going to go first, I just didn’t wanna believe it, you understand that even when he died I didn’t believe it, it didn’t sink in right away? I don’t know if there was a special moment it sunk in, but it happened sort of after. I couldn’t believe, I just couldn’t believe it.

What happened was I kept thinking he’s going to live, even though they put him in hospice. I heard people live in hospice for a while. So your mother and I left the day they put him in hospice hospital, in Florida this is. But we were so tired, we didn’t sleep the night before, and all that. But we went home to nap and uncle Johnny said, “I’ll stay here.” They had a sofa in that room, and he said, “I’ll stay here on the sofa with daddy.” And he died while we left, after we left. Johnny held his hand, uncle Johnny and said, “You can go now dad.” He said that he was holding on, just holding on. To get everything done, all the paperwork and stuff, the legal things that John had to do for him. He said, “Everything is done now dad, you can go now.” And he died right then and held his hand.

Then he called us at home, I couldn’t believe it. I still didn’t believe it. I don’t know. I didn’t believe it right away… I don’t know. I did later on. Delayed reaction. Cried constantly. I still cried, just got better. You learn to cope after a while. You learn to cope. But something might remind you of it, and so you cry, tears come into your eyes. You know what I mean.




Grandpa Steve

Laughter. I think laughter is the secret for a successful relationship. I think grandpa and I got along so well … I used to laugh a lot at him, he was very funny.

First of all you should love the person especially going into your marriage. Very important to really think that is the partner for life. You’ve got to think, really feel that. Because so much happens in your lifetime while you’re married that changes a lot of this. So you could get divorced, you could have arguments… But you have to at least go into marriage really thinking this is what you want for life. And then a lot of laughter like I say and I don’t know what else to tell you… Of course you have to make sure you listen to what the other person is saying. And don’t think you know it all. You can’t think you know it all.



He won it fair and square

I guess he told you about how he got his… somebody’s… he beat somebody in playing some kind of a game. I guess it was marbles. Marbles? He won his wheelchair, right? For the kid’s wheelchair? Yeah, and he threw him out ’cause he had an old broken one, he had an old junky one. And he wanted this kid’s new one. He won it fair and square.


Children playing marbles game in the street 1947


He gave Jimmy the Greek a black eye


– “Was it Jimmy the Greek that took his cone? He was eating a cone or some ice cream? Yeah, he asked him if he wanted a bite and he took the whole the thing from him and he punched him. And Jimmy the Greek liked that. The fact that he stood up to him. I started protecting him, stuff like that.
-“Well you skipped the part where Jimmy the Greek beat the hell of him.
-“Oh he did?”
-“Oh I don’t remember that.”
– “He gave him a black eye and then Jimmy the Greek beat the hell out of him.
– “He did?”
– “Yeah. And he went home crying.
– “I don’t remember that part. That’s funny, maybe I blocked it out. Maybe I blocked it I don’t know .
-“His dad said, “Go back and get him,” and he’s like, “What am I gonna do? Look what he did to me.”


Ice cream in Brooklyn, 1949


Want me to pull the fire alarm?

He told me later, I guess he was at NYU. He was talking about studying and Jimmy the Greek was like, “Oh you want me to go pull the fire alarm to get you out of the test?”

Like, is there anything I can do to help? Should I shoot that guy for you? No matter what it was right?


So he protected him

Jimmy the Greek was the one that protected grandpa when he started selling ice cream. Grandpa started selling ice cream to make some money to help his father put him through college. And somebody didn’t want him on the street ’cause it was his spot or something like that. I think he told, I think it was Jimmy the Greek said, “Well you’re gonna stay there, I’ll take care of it. If the guy wants to throw you out of that spot.” I think it was Jimmy the Greek, I’m not sure. Yeah. So he protected him.


Lower East Side, 1950’s


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