Vow of Poverty?


My mother was born in St. Louis, Missouri. For some reason, my grandfather suddenly took the whole family back to the Ukraine, where my mother toiled on their small farm in Uzgorod until she was sixteen. It was then that she got the great news. That she was actually a US citizen. The hoe handle hadn’t reach the ground before she was on the boat heading for New York City.

And it was on the lower East Side of New York that she met my father, who had just fled from the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Small wonder he got a job as an elevator operator.

Ma & Pa Wedding 1

Which brings me to the meaning of this post. Where in hell did they get the money to put on that kind of wedding. Rent a hall. Pro photographer, the church, the formal cloths, the brides maids, the flowers, and, my god, the bridal gown. With a train that could cover the station. Although I didn’t push it, I never did get an answer to my occasional probing. I think it had a lot to do with new world showing off.

Ma & Pa Wedding 2

I don’t think they ever did get over it. My father stayed as an elevator operator for twenty-five years and never got much higher. I still remember seeing my mother after school. At a small factory in the Bronx, she sat among dozens of other women at her sewing machine. Piece goods it was called.

They eventually clawed out of the tenements and settled into a large apartment house janitorial job in Brooklyn. Free rent was the key and, since my mother could squeeze blood from a turnip, a savings account. And ultimately, the New York dream, a home in Florida.

By the way, my mother did tell me that my grandfather was run out of town. He worked for a bridge building company and was active in the labor movement. I suspect he was a little too active.

2 thoughts on “Vow of Poverty?

  1. I love history. Especially the history of people I know. Wonderful photo’s and wonderful that you posted this. I hope there is more.

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