Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day

As I approached my computer today to blog about the Publics abysmal (not quite) lack of memory of Pearl Horbor Day, December 7, 1941, I thought of my son Floyd whose birth at that time was imminent. Floyd, as you know, lives in San Diego and is the one who started me on the BLOG road. I was thinking: Gosh, Floyd has been blogging and not once have I read any of his postings....and then I said to myself: As soon as I complete this posting, I will look for my son on the Internet. Now, I'll go back to Pearl Harbor.

Each morning, usually, I is such-and such-a-day. The day before yesterday was Monday, December 7, 2009......and I immediately remembered it was Pearl Harbor Day. I searched for the small stick-on flag someone had sent to me in the mail...found it...and stuck it on the front window. It was not visible to the pedestrians on the sidewalk, but I knew it was there...and it was in memory of all those Heroes who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor in 1941. Memories of that day quickly came to mind. I was expecting another child; I had already washed nearly everything in sight, walls included; placed everything in its proper place; and even darned some of my husbands socks....just in case! (I was living, once more, in the old house on Atlantic Avenue where coal was used for heating. My parents lived on St. Johns a white-stone three-story six-family apartment building, which they purchased in 1923, but we did not move into one of the large apartments until 1933 when I was still unwed. At the time of purchase, the apartments had beautiful marble fireplaces in which were installed small half-rounded black stoves with little isin-glass windows. They probably took the place of wood-burning fireplaces. When? I do not know. However, sometime between 1928 and 1929, another change took place which saddened me enormously....these beautiful isin-glass stoves were replaced with radiators, set up against walls under windows, and emitted steam heat.)

There I go again! How did I get from Pearl Harbor Day to rambling about houses? Let's get back to Pearl Harbor.....go up to "just in case!"..................

Mom had come from St Johns Place on the trolley car to spend some time with me before my time to go to the hospital. She was in the kitchen watching Tommy play with his toys...and I was in the next room (the bedroom) placing the 'darned' socks in the drawer of the bureau, when a voice from the radio on a shelf above the kitchen table blasted Pearl Harbor has been attacked by the Japanese. I dropped the socks, hurried into the kitchen, to explain to Mother what that meant. Shortly afterwards, we all heard President Roosevelt's speech..."The Day of Infamy".

That was my memory of Sunday, Decemer 7, 1941 as I was waiting several days ago for Angela to take me shopping. Off we went: to the supermarket, to the post office, and to Comcast to see if my building was wired up for Fios installation (whatever that is?). On the way home, I said to Angela: I can't believe that no one knew what today was. Reading the newspaper later that evening, the story of Pearl Harbor was covered sparingly.

However, the next day (Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009), I read a rather lengthy article by a columnist for the same newspaper, Phil Reisman, entitled " 'In Infamy' but fading with time". It was a lovely article, but sad. I don't know if you can reach him on the Internet. I did! Just Google
search: Its The Journal article of December 8, 2009.

My metabolism is still strong; I think I'll do some searching for Floyd's postings. If I find any,
look for me in a day or two.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brooklyn Public Library


Now where did those words come from? I don't recall my parents saying them. Sometimes these words haunt me, especially at times when my spirit is low. It seems like these words splash across an invisible screen....and suddenly, I'm revived. I know songs have been written using these exact words, but they have been lodged in my memory since I was a young child. So, let me go back to my early childhood to search for the answer:

When I began school at the age of seven in first grade (and spoke only the Italian language), my teacher was fascinated by the speed I learned English, and it compelled her to devote more time to me than was advocated. She was not aware that my parents, now that I was also a student, insisted that my brothers speak only English when addressing me. By the time I was nine years old, I could read as well as my brother Alfred, who was two years older.

It was near the end of my two and one-half year stint in grade school in June 1919, with Summer vacation fast approaching, when Miss Frazier (our 3-A grade teacher) advised us to continue to read as much as possible, and she went on to extol the magnificence of an institution referred to as The Library. "Many, many different categories of books lined the shelves, and you could gather a tremendous amount of information....and best of all, it was all free". And my eyes must have bulged completely out of my head. I wanted to get home quickly to tell my Mother about The Library and was agonizing about how to convince her about the importance of belonging to one. On that day, I found my brothers playful mood with their friends (on the way home after school) rather frustating. See....up to that particular day and during school-hours, I was not allowed to walk home alone. You will have to understand....that I was not quite nine-years old....and just a little GIRL. As we approached Atlantic Avenue and St. James Place, my brothers' reflexes switched from their buddies to me. Each groped one of my hands as we crossed Atlantic Avenue...just in case Mom was watching from the store window.

After entering the Store, I quickly engaged my Mother in conversation about The Library...speaking in spurts of Italian and English, trying to make her understand what I was talking about. She finally quieted me down, and said: "Of course, of course you can start to-morrow". There was absolutely no challenge....and if there was any dissent from Papa, she would take care of that , too . At that moment, no one could ever tell me , that there was a greater Mother than mine; she was the smartest person on Earth. I marvel to this day, how (although illiterate) she could add a column of ten or fifteen figures and arrive at a correct total. Even she could not explain it; sometimes she would say "buono senso" (common sense) or say "cervello buono" (good brain).

I was very fortunate at the age of nine to have a Mother who trusted me to venture through five blocks of paved streets to the Brooklyn Public Library on Franklin Avenue. Other Italian mothers (usually store customers) began questioning my Mom's approval of this flagrant pursuit of Elvira (El-vee-rra); but my Mother would silence them by saying: "If she is old enough to assist me here in the Store, she certainly is old enough to get books from the library".

I began to assist Mother in her Grocery Store when I was about eight years old. It occupied the ground-floor of a town-house type building and had living quarters on the upper two floors. My Father made a stool, especially for me, so that I could reach the countertop. This same stool also became a sitting stool, placed behind the counter, where I could study and read. It was placed close to the store window so that the daylight could reach the face of my open book. I managed to read many, many books here in my sanctuary. During my pre-teen years, I am sure every Grimm and every Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales were read more than once. I loved the children's poems by Robert Louis Stevenson and I can still recite some of them to this day.

It was probably during these early days of my life that I first read of the words: Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall. To me, these particular words signify, that in our Lifetime we must experience 'despair' and 'happiness' to understand the difference between 'right and wrong' and 'good and evil'.

LIBRARIES.........Yes, I still continue to believe that they are magnificent institutions!

...............Elvira Oliver

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Alfred's Torn Shirt

One of my Memories:

My brother Alfred was just two years older than I. He was truly a kind, compassionate and loving. These attributes, he carried with him throughout his lifetime.

One day in 1920, when he was twelve and I was ten, I heard Alfred dashing through the hall vestibule door (instead of coming in through the store-door), hurriedly up to the bedroom floor where I was performing my after school chores (making up beds), before I proceeded to the store area to relieve my Mother. "Oh, El, El....look at my new shirt....Mom will kill me". What happened? "I was playing with Johnny and he grabbed me....and look El, my shirt is torn". I helped him to remove the shirt, and after examining it, quieted Alfred by informing him to stop crying....that I thought I could mend it. It was the custom in our household to change into play-clothes immediately after school. I scolded him: "If you did what you were supposed to, this would not have happened". The shirt was not torn, but ripped out of a shoulder seam. I instructed him to tip-toe downstairs to the kitchen, collect some matches, and thread and needles from the sewing machine. "Sh! Sh! Let's go down to the cellar and I'll try to mend it for you. " (Luckily for us, Mom was busy in the store; it was the busy time of the day.) I sat on a box placed against the wall of the coal-bin and Alfred sat on one of the stone steps that led up to the side-walk. With Alfred holding the candle, and sobbing softly, and I desperately trying to sew by the dim light, the mission was accomplished. Several wash and ironing days went by and never a harsh word from Mom. Al and I were convinced we put one over on Mom.

Many years later, during one of Mother's visits to see the grandchildren, I decided to do some ironing of my own children's clothing. My baby Angela was playing with the buttons on my Mother's beautifully embroidered, pleated white blouse , when suddenly Mom giggled and then laughed. I thought she was amused with the baby's antics until she said: "You know, as I am watching you ironing, I just remembered somethng that happened one day, many years ago. When you were a little girl, I was ironing one of the new shirts I had made for Alfred, when I noticed hand-sewn stitches in the shoulder seam...almost like embroidery. I knew then that Alfred, when in trouble, had gone to 'his little mother' for help." I laughed and laughed...and then asked Mom why she never said anything. I can still see my Mother, with Angela in her lap, seriously saying: "Why? I was so proud of the good job you had done, and I was so proud of myself...that you learned from me to sew so well, I had no intention of spoiling a deed well-done.

Can you beat that! What a wonderful Mother I had!