Recollections of my youth are running rampant in my mind!
Seeing my cousins at the hospital for the first time in years and being “home” in Utica this past week have kindled such thoughts. And good one’s they are!
I was born of Italian parents. My mother was born in Italy. My father here of parents that had immigrated from Italy to the United States.
The first six years of my life were spent at 923 Jay Street in Utica. The heart of the Italian ghetto!
In fact, for the first six years of my life I thought all people were Italian and Catholic! I knew no other ethnic nor racial nor religious type. For real!
Home was a three story six family structure. My grandfather Louis, after whom I am proudly named, purchased the building as he was starting his family. Eventually the whole family lived in the building.
The building again was 3 stories. Three apartments in front and 3 in the rear. My grandparents lived in the first floor front apartment. My Aunnt Fannie and Uncle Frank in the second floor front. My parents and I third floor front. In the rear, my Aunt Ange and Uncle Frank lived. Above them my Uncle Maurice and Aunt Mary. And in the third floor rear, my Uncle Gee Gee (aka Louis) and Aunt Rocatella. And, of course, each Aunt and Uncle’s brood lived with them!
The building was a ghetto unto itself!
It was a fun family place! As was the neighborhood!
And every building around us was similarly occupied. Whole families in one building.
The apartments were all the same. A large kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a living room.
At first there was no bathroom in the apartment itself. When I was about 2, my grandfather had private bathrooms placed in each apartment. Toilet and sink only. No tub or shower.
The apartments were heated with/by the kerosene stove in the kitchen. In the winter my parents would keep feeding kerosene into that stove or we would freeze. The heat from the stove had to stretch to the bedrooms and living room. I can assure you it was never a bit toasty!
Bathing was an interesting routine! Remember there was no shower or tub.
We bathe once a week. Saturday nights. My parents bought a large rubber folding tub. When opened it stood about a foot high. The tub was opened on the kitchen floor. My parents heated pots of water on the kitchen stove. The water when hot was dumped into the rubber tub. When sufficiently full, the baths began!
First my father. The man of the house! Unquestionably the head honcho in an Italian home! He got the clean water!
When he was done, it was my mother’s turn. She got to use the slightly soiled water my father left behind. Then when she was done, it was my turn! I was low man on the totem pole. I truly got everyone’s wash water!
Even then I knew something was wrong. I did not enjoy being the last one in!
I still laugh when I think about it! One bath a week and third man in!
When I was six we moved to James Street. A big deal in every way! We even had a bath tub. But still I was only required to bathe once a week on Saturday! It must have been a cultural thing in my family!
Now I am old and have two homes. Each has four bathrooms and more tubs and showers than can be counted. And I shower 2-3 times a day! Not only out of a sense of cleanliness, but probably also to make up for the times in my youth when I went dirty!