Friday, April 22, 2011

Memoirs of Catherine Myers

Mom asked her siblings to write down memories of their childhood for her volume on the Moran Family. Aunt Catherine organized her memories chronologically:

1927 ( August)
We lived at 19 Pike Street. Joe was born. I went to the hospital to see Mom and the new baby. The baby was in a crib in Mom’s room. Joe came home. Mom had him in a carriage. He was crying and I tried to push the carriage, leaned on the handle and dumped him on the floor.

I had a toothache. Mom told me to eat my potatoes and gravy and it would get better. It did!!

We lived (six??) months with Grandma and Grandpa Moran while Dad went to Schenectady to find work. He got a job in Locomotive Works. I watched Grandma trim the wicks and put kerosene in the lamps every day.

Summer 1929
Before leaving for Schenectady, Mom took us to spend a day with Romaine Myers and Dad’s Aunt Sara. Betty got stung on the neck with a bee. She also took us to Kingston to stay overnight with her Aunt Margaret and her boys. One outstanding memory of that trip was getting a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with canned milk on it (I didn’t like it). Kate took me to my first movies at the Irving before we moved to Schenectady. It was Al Jolson. He sang “Sonny Boy’’ but I don’t remember the name of the film. Dad started calling Joe Sonny Boy.

We went to Schenectady on the train. It was Mom, Aunt Kate, Betty, Joe and I. Dad was supposed to meet us but we didn’t get off the train at the right stop. Dad looked all over for us. We got off at the next stop and took a bus to Schenectady. Dad finally found us huddled in the hallway of the apartment at 19 Park Place in the wee hours of the morning. Dad had the key and let us in.

September 1930
I started to school in a public school just across the street from us. I was all dressed up: New shoes, new dress. When I told Mom I had to sit on the floor because there were no seats, she immediately took me to St. John the Evangelist School. We said our prayers and sang little songs in French. Mom started me taking piano lessons. We were only in that apartment a short time and we moved to 24 Park Place where we had a piano and our own furniture. We had a boarder in our apartment. His name was Mr. Hill. He played the xylophone and was a student at the Union Seminary Theological School in Schenectady. One night we had a fire. Dad said Mr. Hill turned his gas heater up too high and the curtains caught fire. Dad doused it with a pail of water and the fire was out before the fire trucks arrived. The thing that stands out in my mind is the fireman running up the steps with a big hose and an axe.

Thibodeux family lived in the apartment below us. There were a lot of boys in the family. Several of them played instruments in a band. They practiced in our house while mother accompanied them on the piano. Kate stayed with us for a while and worked in the Mohican Market. Then she married Jack Williams and lived for a while in Schenectady. Dad and Jack roomed with Jack’s sister, Mrs. Davis. Then Mary came to stay with us, met Carl Stock and married him. While Mary was with us Mom had a miscarriage and I remember that she was very sick. She thought Betty and I were standing someplace in her room and I could hear Dad trying to convince her that we were in bed. Later, when we moved back to Grandma Moran’s house, I heard Mom tell Grandma about hearing the little person all in white tell her she would be alright. She was convinced that it was her little sister Annie. (Near death experience??)

During one of the band practices, Joe was rushed to the Ellis Hospital where he had tracheal intubation. He had what Mom thought was croup but it turned out to be diphtheria. He was rocking in the chair saying, “Mommy I can’t breathe”. Aunt Mary nursed him back to health in a steam filled isolation unit. During my first year in school 1929-1930, Betty, Joe and I had chicken pox, German measles and flu. Betty started to school in September 1930. She wouldn’t be six until May but they took her anyway. She was a puny little thing and used to fall on the way home from school. Grandpa Moran came to visit us and took Better and her 21 dolls back to Finch Hill with him. When Dad was working he bought us a toy every payday. My favorite gift was roller skates. Mom told me I wore them to bed and she took them off when I went to sleep. Betty must have come home the Christmas of 1930. Mom took me Christmas shopping with her and I began my tree-trimming career (What! No Santa?). We bought two beautiful dolls at $5 each. Mine had brown hair and was dressed in pink. Betty’s had long hair and was dressed in blue. When Joe recovered and left the hospital, he had to stay in bed for two weeks so he wouldn’t get myocarditis. He was at the “terrible two “ stage and wouldn’t eat anything but puffed rice three times a day.

Jan-Feb 1931
The Moran’s big house on Finch Hill burned down and with it Betty’s 21 dolls. Also destroyed were Dad’s war souvenirs, table and chairs, ironing board and iron that dad bought Mom for Christmas when I was 2 months old, my beautiful teddy bear and many more valuable items, wedding gifts, etc that Mom and Dad had stored on the 3rd floor because there was no room for them on the truck when they moved to Schenectady.

April 28, 1931
Clare Ann was born. Dad had taken Betty and I to the movies. Mom was supposed to go to the hospital to have the baby. Aunt Gert was with her and she didn’t even have time to call Dr. Reynolds. We arrived just in time to hear a baby cry and Dad sent Betty and I to tell Aunt Kate and he called the doctor. Gert delivered the baby. It was the first time she delivered a baby. When we got back with Aunt Kate, Mom and baby were all fixed up and the Dr. was on his way out. My most vivid memory of that day was seeing the foot of Mom’s bed elevated on two kitchen chairs.

Summer 1931
We moved back to Carbondale. Dad was laid off, but before he left he had a piece of steel embedded in his cornea. He used to tell me the doctor had to take his eye out to remove the steel. When you see eye surgery it looks like that. We returned to Carbondale on the train. We had a lunch in shoeboxes. Clare Ann was six weeks old. She cried all the way home. We went to live with Grandma and Grandpa Moran on River Street in an apartment above Kaufman’s warehouse and store. We finally moved to Farview Street and Dad got a part-time job in the mines. I think it was in the Jermyn Colliery. We lived over the landlord. The No. 7 school started. I brought the measles rubella home to Betty, Joe and Clare Ann. Clare was six months old and she got pneumonia. She was very sick and Grandpa’s doctor Dr. Dixon wanted to give her the “new” sulfa drug. The nurses in the family, Gert, Mildred and Mary, were against it. So, Dr. Fineran doctored us through the measles. Sometime in November they started to give out diphtheria toxoid. I brought my slip home to get signed but the day before it was given out I got diphtheria. Aunt Mary took care of me and the house was quarantined. We didn’t get much school in that year. The doctor gave us all a dose of Diphtheria antitoxin and nobody else got it and it shortened my illness. For Christmas in 1931 dad made us a doll house out of orange crates and Mom made curtains for the dollhouse windows. It was all furnished, with four rooms of furniture. He also made us a little table and two chairs. Our big dolls got all new clothes. When we lived on Farview Street, Aunt Kate took me, Betty and Joe to sing on the Carbondale radio. I sang Ramona, Betty Springtime in the Rockies and Joe sang Pop Goes the Weasel.

January 1932
Right after Christmas we moved to 4 Spencer Street. Mom and Dad said the landlord couldn’t stand our noise – Roller skating, running around, jumping off furniture, etc. We went to the No. 8 school on Belmont Street. Dad was then working only 1 day a week in the mines. Mom used to send us to Dad’s Aunt Mary Ann Cook (Dad’s Aunt) to borrow bread and anything else she could spare; food was very scarce. We enjoyed our summer. Our playmates were Julia Ross (sic)(big family next door to us). Mrs. Ross baked bread and put olive oil on it. We got invited in every day to sit on her kitchen floor and have a slice. Alice and Gerald Robinson played with us. We lived in half a double house. The landlords Zimmermans lived next door. They were very kind to us. This was our first berry-picking summer. I was 9, Betty was 7. Dad was laid off that summer.

September 1932
Mom took me and Betty to register us at St. Rose School. She didn’t like the language we were bringing home from the public school. Mother explained to Mother Borja that she couldn’t pay our $2.00 a month tuition, and $0.50 for stationary. The principle told Mom not to worry. She would get books etc., for us. It was a long walk for two little girls; the winter was hard on us. We had no gloves, no boots. I remember having constant frozen hands and wet feet. We had the flu very bad that winter. A milk program was started in the school and we all got a half pint of milk in the morning and afternoon. We went sleigh riding on Reynolds Avenue that winter. Mom had all her teeth out that winter and I remember that she hemorrhaged sometime during the night. Dad started working at the St. Rose Convent and school on Saturdays after I told my teacher my Dad could fix her blackboards and do anything else they wanted done. He had a steady job on Saturdays and during summers there for several years. The Zimmermans gave us a huge box of crayons, paints and coloring books for Christmas. Apologetically, they told us we would have to move because we didn’t pay the rent.

Feb 1933-1935
We moved to 17 ½ Belmont Street. Betty got Scarlet Fever in April of 1933 or 1934 and we were all quarantined for 30 days. Dad started working on the W.P.A. for $15 a week. Our playmates were Marjorie and Ralph Pierce. We spent most of our free time roller skating, jumping rope and playing marbles. Art was born August 8, 1933. I went to Camp Coffey for a week, paid for by the parish. Mom got a washer. We started this year to have our annual May 30th outing at Grandma and Grandpa Moran’s. Mary was on vacation and stayed with us for Art’s delivery. Art was 2 weeks late. Mary stayed only for the delivery and had to go back to Schenectady. At this time Aunt Mildred lived nearby on Belmont Street and Aunt Katie lived on Cherry Avenue. The day after Art was born Mary left and Dad took Betty to Grandma Moran, and Clare and Joe to Grandma Hildebrand. When Art was 24 hours old, Mom asked me to hand him to her from the crib. He slid out of the blanket and I dropped him. After that Mother kept the crib by her bed. Dad continued to work at the Jermyn Colliery one or two days a week. John L. Lewis came to the Anthracite region to form the Mine Workers Union. All the miners went on strike. For two reasons that I can figure out, Dad broke the picket lines and worked as a scab. There was a lot of violence and I heard Mom begging him not to go because she was afraid he would get shot. We had no other income and I think he felt he had to feed us and I know from talking to him later that he did not believe in unions. He felt workers had less freedom and he said union leaders were out to make money on the miners. Needless to say when mine unions were organized, Dad never worked in the mines again. During this time I remember him cleaning his carbide lamp, which he wore on his hat while down in the dark mines. The miners had what they called “shifting clothes” which they put on when they got to work. Eventually the clothes got so stiff with coal dust and dampness, they were hard to work in. Then Mother got them to try and make them wearable for a while longer.

During the 1930’s the country was in bad shape. The veterans were demonstrating on the lawn of the White House for the bonus and back pay. Roosevelt came into office with the country in a terrible mess. There was drought in the west and Midwest. An outspoken advocate of political and social reform was Father Coughlin, whose hour-long radio broadcast every Sunday afternoon from the Shrine of the Little Flower drew national attention. This was the only radio program Grandpa Moran would listen to. He was deaf so the volume was turned up all the way and he sat with his ear glued to it so he wouldn’t miss a word. If we were visiting Grandma Moran we went to the cemetery for a walk with her so we wouldn’t hear it. It was unbearable and hard on the ears. Dad thought he was radical and would never listen to him.

Fall 1935- Spring 1936
Clare Ann and Art went to WPA Nursery School at YMCA. Clare was not talking and she learned quickly at the nursery school. We used to take them on our way to school and pick them up after. Dad said we had to move from Belmont Street because we broke the landlords bushes sleigh riding. Dad went looking for a house.

We moved to Willow Avenue. Mom was 5 or 6 months pregnant. There was no inside plumbing, only a kitchen sink, and no heat, but we had the biggest and best garden ever that summer. Mother stuffed us full of vegetables. We had cooked vegetables twice a day; Spinach, beets, beet-tops, carrots, peas, sweet corn, tomatoes and lettuce twice a day. Our playmates on Willow Avenue were Kathy Brain, Ann and Jimmy Swanick, and Dorothy Burnett (one of my classmates). There was a small grove (clearing with trees) very close to our house…part of our yard. We used to pretend we were on a picnic and liked to eat our meals there. We picked black berries every day. To get to school we had to cross two railroad tracks, the O&W and the D&H. We took short cuts where there were no gates and one day when I was trying to beat the train I fell on the track, got a big cut on my thigh and almost got killed. The cut was a long time healing. Sometime in June Aunt Loretta took me for a swim at Newton Lake. I also went in July to Camp Coffey for a week. We went berry picking every day in July and August, and I would get scratched. Every place I had a scratch running sores developed on my legs. Mom and Dad said it was from swimming in the lake with the open cut on my thigh. Sometime in July Mom fell and broke her ankle and until Leo was born she hobbled around with one leg on a chair. I went to the General Hospital every day to get my legs washed and dressed. Leo was born on August 20. They kept Mother in the hospital only 5 days instead of 10 because they needed the bed. Leo was the first one to be bottle-fed. I started back to school in September with my bandaged legs, but only went 2 weeks when I got very sick. The sores were spreading on my arms and I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach. One night I had a fever and chills. About 11 PM Dad and Uncle Bill took me to Dr. Finneran’s office. They pounded on the door of his house until he got out of bed. Dad had me in his arms. By this time, there was no skin on my legs and they were covered with sores. Dr Finneran found one identifiable spot and diagnosed ringworms. We finally got the right medicine and Uncle Bill bought it on the way home. Again we got a druggist out of bed to fill the prescriptions. Dad had to scrub my legs 3 times a day and I cried so much Mother had to go down to Aunt Gert’s, two houses down the hill on Willow Avenue so she wouldn’t hear me. Bobby McDonnell was born on Willow Avenue that summer also. My legs quickly healed. I missed 2 months of school that year. In early October we moved again, this time to 46 Brook Street next to Stephens Brothers’ Dairy. Our playmates were Patty and Georgie Webb and Elva and Harry McCullough.

In November of 1935 after Thanksgiving, Mom had what I now think was a post-partum psychosis. She would jump and start to scream and Dad used to hold her to stop her from screaming. Then one night he couldn’t stop her. The doctor came and gave her an injection to put her to sleep. The next day, Uncle Bill and Dad took her to Scranton where she stayed with Kate for almost 6 weeks. Kate lived on North Bromley Avenue in Scranton. Those 6 weeks were the most traumatic of my whole life. Leo was 3 months old and was supposed to go to Schenectady with Aunt Mary, but Mary left him with Betty and Grandma and Grandpa Moran. Art was supposed to go with Aunt Mildred, but she brought him back the next day. Clare stayed with Grandma Hildebrand. Joe and I were supposed to go to school, but I ended up staying home with Art.