Tato showed us kids how to make whistles like they made in Europe. We'd take a... I forgot the name of the tree though, willow, I think, you cut a little branch off and then you tapped the bark, you cut it in pieces about four or five inches and then you tapped the bark till the bark could come off then you cut slits in it and replaced the bark and then you would have a whistle. You had to make whistles like that in the spring 'cause that's the time when the bark will slide off. They made whistles like that in Europe. My father showed us that. But it wasn't very successful because the bark split. It worked, but it wasn't too good, it didn't last very long. I guess it has to dry. Steve, he'd know more about those whistles.
The depression didn't have much of an effect on us. We had lots of chickens and my father was never really totally out of work. Every once in a while they'd go on strike and my father was out work a while. Then he'd work for Kresge or somebody else for a while. He cut ice and he worked on the road and I don't know what else. He'd get those jobs through Howard Kresge. Mr Kresge was Bear Creek supervisor - Ira Kresge. Mr Kresge was township supervisor and his son Howard helped him out. The Kresges were kind of important in the township then. I think I remember two, two strikes. They lasted a couple weeks or so, each of them. Strikes, they were something that started with John Luce - when he took over, I mean, he improved things for the workers. My father got along pretty well with his foreman down at the mine, Mike Boyler, but he never worked during a strike. If someone went to work during a strike they called them "scabs."
Down in Irishtown people had it a little tougher, I guess, during the depression. There were a lot of people down there that moved to Detroit. Five dollars a day offered by Ford - that's what made a lot of people leave Wyoming valley to go to Detroit. Wasyl Szczur (Walter Stchur), yeah, my mother's cousin, he went to Detroit to work in the Ford plant at a five dollars a day job. There are Stchurs in Detroit today and that's where they came from (1944 photo).
We had our Chevy until about '36. Then we got another car, a Pontiac or something. That was black, too. All our cars were black. At that time there was only one color for a car and that was black! We had an awful lot of trouble with it. The darn thing wouldn't start. It wasn't a new car and it was old age, I guess, that was the problem. We had it only a short time, a few months, maybe only a few weeks, then we traded it in on a Chevy.
They had a museum in Wilkes-Barre that had a lot of arrowheads and stuff that were found around the area. My brother Steve went to the museum and saw it. When he came back a told us about it and we went out to look for arrowheads, too. But there were no arrowheads. I never found any. They only thing I ever found is when I was cracking coal. I thought there was some kind of imprint in it, I can't remember exactly. I do know that anthracite has some beautiful colors in it. But I had no one to ask, and I guess I cracked it up, or whatever. A fossil or something. But I didn't have anybody around to tell me about it.
Later on my father and Steve worked part time for Kresge down the mountain, helping out with the farm work. I think that Steve did find an arrowhead, then, when he was hoeing potatoes in Kresge's field. I'm almost sure he gave it to the museum. He brought it down there and showed it to the people at the museum and they said it was an arrowhead and Steve let them keep it.
I knew the different races, you know, the red, the yellow, you know... the black, whatever it was now, but that's all. People never talked about stuff like that. I never heard of anybody talk about racial things. I knew nothing at all about it. As long as I lived in Pennsylvania, I only saw two blacks, that's all. Once my brother Steve and I had gone shopping with my mother and we were on Public Square and a black man came up near us, and Steve asked him, "Do you speak English?" The man answered, "Of course, I speak English." And he was black. Then I saw another one... my mother had taken me someplace and she told me to stand there and wait until she came back. And there was a colored woman on a porch nearby playing with a small child, her grandchild I guess. That's the only blacks I had seen while... until I was 21.
And we never had a phone when I was on the mountain. The phones came in sometime early 1950's. It wasn't until the early 1950's that they got good running water too. I wasn't there on the mountain then, but that's when they did it. My father had tried to get water on the mountain before that, but it was solid rock. There was no water. But in the 50's they had this well-driller come in and they drilled down and found some. There wasn't any electricity on the mountain when I left, either, so it must have come sometime after that, maybe 1939, 1940 - I wasn't there when it was put in. I guess you could say that it wasn't until the 1940's, early 1950's that there were any real changes on the mountain at all.
When I was young, people didn't have much contact with hospitals, just in life-and-death situations. My mother was visiting when my father's ... my uncle was in the hospital and died, he died here you know, Andrej, in America. He died in Wilkes-Barre General. That was in 1917. And my mother was there visiting and it had made a big impression on her. She saw a nurse that she thought was so very beautiful, and was doing such special things. So my mother wanted to have a nurse in the family. My mother asked me to be a nurse. So when I finished high school I went to nursing school. I left the Mountain when I was eighteen, in September 1937, and entered nursing school at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. My brother Michael died the first year I was in training. I wasn't home at the time, so I don't know much about his death. He died just a few days after birth.
My mother was real happy about me going to nursing school. Oh, she was just... both my parents were real happy. I never talked to my grandmother about it, but I think she was, too. Once when I came home, Baba gave me two pounds of her homemade butter as a present.
I had my fortune told by a parrot once while I was going to nursing school. That's something that I remember. I was walking home from the hospital to Fox Hill and there was a hurdy-gurdy man there with a parrot. The hurdy-gurdy man had a box with cards lined up along the edge of the box and while he was playing his music, he held his parrot out on his finger and the parrot picked on a card that told you your future. I don't remember what my future was.
I really liked nursing school. I enjoyed it very, very much. I lived in a nurses' home right by the hospital. We had a tunnel, in case the weather was bad, we could go from the hospital through the tunnel to the nurses' home. It was 3 years, nursing school. I loved nursing school, I shed tears when I left, after three years.
When I finished nursing school in October 1940, I wrote to Mount Sinai, in New York, for a job. And I wrote an oncology hospital on Statten Island, too. Then one of the girls told me that many of the other girls were going to Nassau Hospital in Mineola. In Mineola, on the Island, near Hempstead. And so I wrote there and they sent me a nice letter and - I still have a copy of that letter - I got the job and I started there in the latter part of 1940. I worked in other parts of the hospital there, too, but I worked in the Emergency Room there for about a year. I liked Emergency Room. I lived in the nurses' home. It was a beautiful nurses' home. It was real close by, so I had no trouble getting to the hospital. I was right next to it.
That's when I first started to wear make-up. I never wore make-up in high school and we were not allowed to use it in nursing school so it wasn't until I was twenty-one, after twenty-one, that I started to wear make-up. Lipstick, that's all.
We had had a fox terrier, a dog, at home and he was a real nice dog. We had him around the house before I went to New York and once when I came back to visit, he had forgotten who I was. And when I came home and I touched the doorknob, he sank his teeth in my hand. He didn't bite me. He just didn't want me to go in that house. That's the truth. I was working in New York, and I guess a cab brought me home and I put my hand on the door to go in, because we never locked the doors on the mountain, and he grabbed me by the hand and sank his teeth right into my hand when I touched the door. That's what he did, my fox terrier. Rex, his name was Rex. He was a beautiful dog.
It was while I was living there in New York that I bought my first radio. I liked to hear music in the background. I liked to listen to WNEW, the music station - it was almost an all-music station. I liked to learn the names of people. I liked to find out who the singers of the day were, like Tony Bennett, the Mills Brothers and... oh, well... lots of others. We got a radio at home, too, at about the same time.
Most of the music programs were sponsored by cigarette companies. There were a lot of people that didn't smoke and the tobacco companies wanted to sell more cigarettes. Lucky Strike, Camel, Old Gold, Raleigh, Philip Morris, Chesterfield, Spud, Viceroy and Kool - they were the big brands. Johnnie the Bellboy was the one that did most of the commercials for Philip Morris. Johnnie was real short and wore a red bellboy suit. He'd act like he was in the lobby of a hotel, shouting, "Call for Phil-lip Mor-rees." He'd shout it real loud and that was the Philip Morris commercial.
When did I start to smoke? Oh, my goodness, when I was twenty... It was 1941 or 42... I was twenty-one, twenty-two years old. Sometimes I would have nothing to do. I'd go up to the little store in the nurses' home there at Nassau and bring some Coca-Cola home and have a cigarette. I liked to have a Coca-Cola and a cigarette in my room. Old Gold or Lucky Strike. Smoking was something different. Quite a lot of nurses were taking it up. Once when I was on duty everybody went in to the bathroom to have a cigarette and somebody came and chased us all out and that was the end of smoking in the hospital. But I was soon up to about 15 cigarettes a day. I kept that up for a long time.
I think those were the days of the Bobby-Socksers. The Bobby-Socksers were ones that liked to wear those black-and-white shoes. They were the ones that made Frank Sanatra famous 'cause they liked to listen to his songs. I didn't pay much attention to the Bobby-Socksers and I don't remember any of the songs they liked.
Guy Lombardo was another one on the radio. He was on at New Year's Eve, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians. They broadcast "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight over the radio from the Skylight Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The Waldorf-Astoria was the hotel where President Hoover lived during the years before he died. Guy Lombardo was pretty famous and he played at other times, too, but he was most famous for playing "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight on New Year's Eve from the Skylight Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria. I heard him many times, yes, oh sure, oh sure.
West Hempstead, that's Mineola - the shopping area in Mineola, you know, where the stores are. Once when I was walking around there in West Hempstead, I saw a sign for a fortuneteller in a window and I went in and had my fortune told. The woman read the palm of my hand. Then she gave me a dream book. After she took my fifty cents she gently pushed me out the door. Ha-ha! Took my fifty cents, then pushed me out the door! I remember that! If you dreamed about something you'd look to see if it was written in there. There was a long list of things in the book and next to each thing was what it meant. I don't remember much about what different things were supposed to mean. I remember one thing - if you dreamed of Jesus that was supposed to mean Big Doings ahead, that's what that dream book said. I had that dream book a long time, fifteen, twenty years. I used it every once in a while.
We went into Manhatten a few times while I was living in Mineloa. Somebody would take some of the girls and they would ask me to go with them. Once we went to Radio City Hall and we saw an orchestra called the Pennsylvanians, we saw Dina Shore and her piano player and whoever else did I see? I saw Johnnie the Bellboy there, too. He made a short appearence on stage and he shouted out his cigarette commercial, "Call for Phil-lip Mor-rees." He had quite a sound, that Johnnie. He did that and then went off the stage. That's where I saw Johnnie the Bellboy.
I was there at Nassau Hospital when WWII started. I heard President Roosevelt say, "Now we are at war" on the radio, you know, the speech he gave where he said, "Now we are at war." I heard it on my radio in my room. I don't remember there was any particular excitement about it when it happened, none at all.
Right when Roosvelt was holding his speech, my brothers John and Peter, my cousin Larry and somebody else were ice-skating on the Big Dam. That was about two o'clock in the afternoon. When they came home they found my mother crying. She had been off somewhere, to listen to radio. As soon as they came in the door she told them, "Steve's going to have to go to war!" John said she had gone over to Russian like she did when she got excited. When they asked her why Steve had to go to war, she told them that the Japanese had attacked the United States. "Thank God you're so young," she told them, "you won't have to go." Steve was the only one that was old enough. He had finished high school and had started to work at the Continental Can Company. But within a year all three of them had gone to war.
When I was working there at Nassau my mother called me pretty often. She would walk five miles to the nearest pay telephone to call me, one or twice a week. There was a pay phone on route 115 on Pittston Boulevard. That was the only pay telephone around there. It would take her an hour to get to the telephone and an hour back.
One day the telephone rang in the nurses' home and I answered it. It was an officer from Mitchell Field, a captain. He said he and two other officers wanted to go dancing and they were looking for some girls that wanted to go with them. I told him that a lot of girls liked to dance, maybe there were some here that wanted to go. So he and two others came over and then me and two other girls said OK. We went out dancing someplace - it wasn't an expensive place. I suppose we ate, but I don't remember. But I do remember dancing. One of the other two that came with the captain was Andy. That's how I met him. I didn't think he was too good a dancer. I was glad that he wasn't jitterbugging or something like that, you know, because I knew even less about dancing than he did. He called me afterwards. That's how I met him, Andy (photo). That must have been late 1942.