On my last visit to my sister Johanna in California before she died she said to me one day, "Werent we four Larson girls lucky, we all married such good men?" At the time she spoke all four Larson girls were widowed. Johanna had lost Leo Gallagher, Matilda her Ray Jones, Mary her Leonard Wirtz and I my Frank Rooney. It was true! They were all good, decent, loving family men and we girls had enjoyed our married life with them. It is in this spirit that I now honor their memories by dedicating to them this personal memoir of one of them, my Frank.
The cover design is by Alberta Maydock Rooney. The color green was chosen to suggest the color of life and to emphasize Franks loving, out-going nature, always enjoying life and living it to the hilt. The picture shows Frank as he looked shortly before our marriage on June 29, 1926. The phrase, "Frank, of tender memory," is one borrowed from a letter from my sister Johanna to me after his premature death.
This reminisce focuses upon my husband Francis Joseph Rooney, called Frank by all who knew him. It is the story of Frank and his family as I knew them. His stepfather said, "Frank lived his life as if he knew it would be short." He died young and I write about him and his family so that his children, grandchildren and children to come will know him as he was during his short life. There are also friends and members in both the Rooney and the Larson branches in the family whom I know will also be interested.
On a beautiful spring evening in May 1923, my friend, Mary Connors, and I, went to a dance in our parish church hall, St. Ignatius, in Kingston, Pennsylvania. We lived in Larksville, two miles from Kingston, and I was to sleep at Marys house that night. She was "going steady" with Mike Shields, a veteran of World War I, who had been seriously injured by mustard gas while fighting in France.
In those days, the girls got themselves to the dance and met the fellows there, but the young men saw that all the girls got home safely by walking home with them. Cars were very scarce and very few of the young dancers owned one.
I told this story to some affluent teenagers recently, and they hooted and laughed about the fellows "walking" the girls home. They asked, "Couldnt they get a car, or couldnt the girls get a car?" They didnt understand the scarcity of cars and that we had fun walking home, sometimes three or four couples going in the same direction and the fellows had company home with each other after the girls were left at their homes.
That night at the dance Mike Shields introduced me to Frank Rooney and Frank and I had a dance together. Frank was about five foot eight to my five foot one. He had a fair complexion with ruddy cheeks, very blue sharp eyes, topped by light blond very curly hair. He was thin and as I was to learn later, characteristically neat and well dressed. Besides his handsome, pleasant appearance I was most struck by his very extroverted, outgoing nature which contrasted greatly with my own more reserved and shy manner. He seemed to know the entire Kingston crowd at the dance and took the responsibility for their having a good time. While we danced around the floor he took time to encourage anyone not dancing to get a partner and join us on the floor.
We had danced but one dance that night and I hadnt expected to see this energetic, handsome blond man again but at the end of the dance he and Mike Shields were there waiting to accompany Mary Connors and me to Larksville.
They came into the Connors house for a short treat and cold drink before starting back. Mary had embroidered a lovely pillow top to make a pillow for the living room. She didnt realize that an inner pillow was needed, so she had put the feather stuffing directly into the new pillow cover. It became a game between her and Mike to throw that pillow around at each other and see the feathers fly. That night all four of us joined the pillow bombardment game.
When Frank and Mike got back to Kingston, Mike went directly home but Frank went to the diner for a snack before going home. The waiter at the diner said, "How come you were out with Mike Shields girl tonight?" Frank replied, "What makes you think that?" The observant waiter rejoined, "Mike comes in here with those same feathers on him all the time."
On the way home, Frank had told me that he worked as a brakeman and flagman on the Lackawanna Railroad operating out of Kingston. He lived with his mother and younger brother Bill in Kingston. He expected to be called out to work before morning, but said he would call me when he returned from his trip. I didnt take him seriously, thought Id probably not hear from him again.
I wasnt familiar with the way train crews worked on the railroad and didnt understand that they could be called to work at all hours and then work unpredictably long periods of time till they were done and once again "on call." At the time I thought his story contrived and that he made what I thought was a show of earnestness by leaving the dim parlor to use the stronger light in the dining room to write my phone number in a little black book. But after his trip, he did call and made a date for another time.
Frank and I didnt go together regularly at first but I thought his interest in me was aroused because he often turned up where I was. For instance, he met me at Fernbrook Park one day when the Larksville Schools were having their annual picnic there. I taught grades six and seven and was there supervising my class members.
It was the custom for the borough of Larksville to designate a "Picnic Day" toward the end of the school year and all of the schools participated; Parents, baby brothers and sisters or any family members were allowed to join and it became a town festival. All rode the open summer streetcars to Fernbrook Park for the day, a distance of about ten or twelve miles. Each one brought a bag lunch and ice cream and soda pop were furnished free.
The streetcars were the open, summer ones, long seats that extended from side to side, an added thrill to ride. It was quite a sight to see so many cars in line, filled with laughing, shouting children, besides themselves with the joy of it all.
At the end of the day, a large bell was rung as a signal for the different classes to report back to the cars for the return trip home. My whole class reported there, with the exception of one boy; when Frank and Ray McGrellis came to the park, I left my class in the care of another teacher and joined Frank and Ray in the search for the missing pupil. We found him further down in the park, sauntering along slowly toward the meeting place, loath to leave the pleasant park.
The three of us hurried him along and soon we rejoined my class. Frank and Ray had the McGrellis family car as usual, Frank was driving it. He loved to drive and his good friend Ray indulged him in this pleasure.
Since our first meeting at the dance that night, Frank and I had learned a lot about each other. He learned that I had been a teacher in Larksville since 1921, after graduation from the East Stroudsburg State Normal School and that I lived at home with my mother and two sisters, Matilda and Mary and my mothers aunt Annie Coursey and a boarder, John Burke, from Ireland. My sister, Johanna was married and lived next door in what we called the "old house."
Larksville, Pennsylvania where I lived, was a small coal mining town, subject to frequent cave-ins due to the coal beneath the surface being taken out. Around the time that I first met Frank, the coal company planned a massive removal of coal from underneath a certain section of the town. Unfortunately, the Larson home was in the part of town owned by the coal company so we had to move to a house up on a high hill above town for two years until the caving was done and it was safe to return to our home.
The house we moved to overlooked the town and wasnt that far away really, but the location was called the Larksville Mountain and this had an ominous and distant sound though the house could easily be walked to from town. There was a short cut to it from the school where I taught, up through a cemetery, and I sometimes went home for lunch and was able to return to school within the hour.
I learned that Franks father had died in the terrible flu epidemic of 1918 when Frank was fifteen years old. He had a brother William, four years younger. Frank had to leave school and go to work to help support his mother so his Uncle Frank Law had gotten him a job on the railroad saying that he was eighteen years old, a common practice in those days. Children aged more quickly then when a job was needed.
When we met in May 1923, Frank was nineteen years old and would be twenty that July fourteenth. I had turned twenty-one in the previous November. This slight difference in our ages didnt bother us. Frank had the responsibility of supporting his mother since he was fifteen and was a grown man, not typical of his age group.
We continued to attend the dances at the parish hall, go to picnics, and enjoy the usual social events of that day. I remember the first "hayride" trip we took with a group of friends to Croops Glen, an amusement park about ten or twelve miles below Larksville to the west. Frank brought a victrola from home and he had a time in the truck, seeing that no one sat on it. We were in a large truck into which seats had been put temporarily. It was Sunday so there was no dancing, a state blue law of the time, but we had our picnic lunch with us and music to eat by from Franks hand cranked victrola. The fellows did a lot of swimming and diving but most of the girls were content to sit and watch and hope that no one got killed diving from the high rocks above the water.
Frank and I went to a lot of pinochle games at the church when we were dating, before our marriage. We usually won a prize. I still have an ashtray that we won at that time.
We also walked a lot, often on Sunday afternoons with Johanna and Leo Gallagher and Elizabeth. When we lived on the mountain those walks usually were in the direction of the Larson homestead, now boarded up, waiting for the expected cave-in. On other Sundays wed walk up the back way to the St. Ignatius Cemetery on Pringle Hill and visit the graves there. The Larson and Rooney graves were very close and wed say a prayer at each one. This was not a morbid trip. Wed meet many friends and neighbors there and a pleasant afternoon would be spent.
I discovered that Frank was a very "straight laced" where I was concerned. He was careful of my "good name," as my mother would say. For instance, we used to go to dances at Fernbrook and during intermission many left the pavilion to wander around in the dark park. But not us. Frank would find a seat for me on the pavilion, then hed go out and bring back some refreshment for us.
Another time, we were in Dushore visiting Kathleen Saxe, my friend who was dating John Smith at the time. John and Frank came up to Dushore on the train from Kingston to go to the church picnic with us. They stayed at the hotel in town. They came up to the Saxe house to escort us to the picnic in the evening and I suggested that we take a short cut through an alley to the dance floor, but Frank said wed go around the long way; it wouldnt look good to be seen coming out of that alley in the dark.
We met casually at first, no set pattern of dates each week, but gradually we drifted into seeing each other regularly and each of us stopped dating others. Frank had been seeing a girl named Anna Sloan from time to time and she lived in Edwardsville, just over the border from Kingston. It certainly would be easier to see her home there than going up the Larksville Mountain with me but he stopped seeing her.
I had been very often seeing Tom Walsh, a Kingston boy who had a habit that irritated me. He would never make a date in advance when he was with me. Hed call up the next day to make it. For instance, each year, he and I went to the circus together, and this particular year it was coming on a Wednesday. He was at our house on the Sunday night before the circus date and I expected him to mention it, but he didnt. Next day he called me to ask if I wanted to go to the circus and I perversely said "No," and made no more dates with him. Frank and I began to "keep steady company," as the saying goes.
Our romance contained none of the clichés later so popularized by Hollywood. It was not love at first sight but rather a love that grew and deepened as we began to know each other better. My first impression of Frank was that of a handsome, gregarious man but on our later dates I came to appreciate his thoughtfulness for me, his deep religious convictions and his perceptive, wide-ranging intelligence. I found him intellectually curious and knowledgeable on a great many subjects and therefore a person I found it always easy and interesting with whom to talk
Frank and I contrasted sharply in our styles and temperaments but perhaps it was these differences that made all the difference. What was on Franks mind, he spoke. I was a typical Larson girl, quiet, reserved and tending to keep my thoughts to myself. If Frank harbored an opinion, on no matter how delicate or controversial a topic, he would immediately voice it. One time at a meeting of the railroad union, Frank was do singularly outspoken and argumentative that one of the officials asked a friend of Franks, "Is that man drunk?" The friend retorted, "Frank Rooney doesnt need to be drunk to speak his mind."
He was that way in his relationship to me. He often chided me for being a "dirty fighter" for withholding any disagreements or grievances until they erupted in a torrent wherein I berated him with a litany of past complaints. He urged me to air any differences immediately, clear the air and wipe the slate clean. And so we learned from each other and developed a mutual respect that provided a solid foundation for our love.
It was fortunate that our love developed such deep roots for they were needed if it was survive its first test.
|Frank as an "Admiral of the Ocean Fleet," is the earliest picture of him in our possession.||The Rooney brothers, Frank and Bill, who was four years younger.||Frank with his aunts Alice and Ann Mahon.|
In the spring of 1925, two years after we first met, Frank and I were young and happy and planning to get married.
Up until that time Frank had been the main support of his mother, Minnie, since his fathers death. In those days there was no governmental support given to widows with dependent children as there is today. The family survived by Minnie getting sewing jobs and taking in boarders while the two boys worked on the railroad at an early age. Frank was a brakeman and flagman and Bill was a "call boy," phoning or going to the homes of train crews calling them to work for the different jobs as they materialized.
By about 1923, Bill left his mothers home to marry his sweetheart, Ruth Schreiber. Ruth was from Wilkes-Barre, across the Susquehanna River from Kingston and it was in that town that Bill and Ruth set up their first apartment and it was there that their first and only child, William Jr. or Billy was born in 1924. Bill left the employ of the railroad and worked in the mines to support his new family. I remember Bill and Ruth as a young and handsome couple, very pleasant and doing their best to get along.
In 1925 Franks mother, Minnie and Floyd Landers were planning to get married. Although Minnie never said it, I always had the feeling that a primary factor in her motivation to remarry was to give Frank a chance to get married without worrying about her. Floyd was a boarder in her home and they had gradually grown closer to each other. Floyd was a native of Georgia and his obvious deep southern origins and speech made him stand out among the northern, Irish people of Minnies family and acquaintanceship. He was by trade a cutter and worker in art glass used to decorate homes and churches. He worked for the Paddock Glass Company which had recently merged with a company in Paterson, New Jersey and he was shortly to move to Paterson. She thought she could turn over her apartment and its furnishings to Frank and me and thus help our contemplated marriage get off to a good start. Further, Bill had been injured in the mines and she persuaded Floyd to get him a job as an apprentice art glass cutter with his new firm and invited Ruth and Bill to live with them in Paterson thus hopefully aiding them to a brighter future.
It was a masterful plan, well thought out and with benefits widely distributed but the parts envisioned in it for Frank and me were not to be for another year. Sarah Jane Larson would now have her say. She marshaled her arguments against the marriage carefully and massively.
Her opening shot was easily deflected. She believed in the old fashioned rule of thumb that the groom should be at least two years older than the bride. Men matured more slowly and women aged faster she explained. She herself had been twelve years younger than her husband and they had always been happy. She warned that Frank was a year and half younger than I and would in later years be dissatisfied with an "older wife." I told her I found Frank more mature than many boys two or more years older than I and our respective ages were of no concern to us then nor were they ever likely to be.
Her next argument though unconvincing was ingenious. "Wasnt Frank handsome, interesting and fun loving?" There it was; he was too good looking and his looks and character led her to prophesy a marriage wherein I would be stuck at home with a dozen kids while he pursued his pleasures elsewhere. I pointed out that we had been going steady for over a year and in that time if he had a "roving eye" it had stayed remarkably steady in its socket. Interestingly, when I decided fourteen years later to take my three small children to Oregon to visit my sister Johanna Gallagher and her family and my brother Thomas and leave Frank at home to work she said, "You have a nerve to be taking that mans children across the country while he stays to work."
No daunted she pointed out that it wasnt "my turn." My next oldest sister, Mary wasnt married yet and I shouldnt marry ahead of her. I reminded her that Mary was still having a high old time enjoying her single status and that she didnt lack for suitors to end this status whenever she chose. It was a good thing Mas argument didnt carry the day for Mary married four years after I did and I would have had a long wait.
Ma had always prized education and bred respect for it in all her children. "Was I now going to throw away the fruits of my education?" Getting married was the same as resigning my teaching position because no married teachers were allowed in the schools at that time. I said that this end to my teaching career was inevitable unless I chose spinsterhood to marriage.
With the tide of battle going against her she rolled up her biggest gun. Ma observed that when the Great Anthracite Coal Strike began in 1902 my father and brothers were out of their mining jobs. To keep the family of eight children alive, Thomas and Lawrence, two of the older boys had been found jobs mining copper in Butte, Montana by her brother Tom Curtis and has sent home most of their wages for eight years. When my father died in a mine accident in 1912 the three oldest girls Johanna, Matilda, and Mary had for years helped support the home by working in textile mills and at summer resorts. Ma admitted that I had been contributing to the home in my four years of teaching. Wily as always, she offered a compromise. If I would teach one more year she would consider my contributions to the family coffers fairly met. Besides it would enable her to save so that she could throw a big wedding. I considered this last thought a small sop since I was uninterested in the size of the wedding.
Frank and I agreed to save money for our honeymoon, first apartment and marriage while waiting one more year and he put his mothers furniture in storage when she, Floyd, Bill and Ruth moved to New Jersey. He went to board with his Aunt Jennie and Uncle Frank Law in Kingston.
Years later my mother confessed that she had insisted on my waiting a year because she had hoped that by the end of a year the engagement would be broken. She always liked Frank personally but was sure in her heart that he would be a "womanizer" and bring me much later grief. Her fears were not allayed until after we were married and I was in the hospital having our first baby, Frances. Frank stayed at my mothers. There were two young girls staying there also. Their uncle, who had brought them over from Ireland, was John Burke, Mas long time boarder. These girls paid a lot of attention to Frank, wanted to cook his eggs or wait on him in some way, but Ma said that he paid no attention to them. His mind was on his wife and baby in the hospital and not on a flirtation. Ma liked that in Frank, and from then on she had a high opinion of him. He slept on the couch in her dining room and she often told of coming downstairs early in the morning and seeing Frank there asleep with the rosary in his hands. He had been praying for the life of his first born which was in hazard at the time.
This was in the future. When Ma and I settled our differences, both thought we had won. I was sure our love could survive a one year wait and perhaps be buttressed by this period of waiting by accumulating funds to launch our marriage on a more secure basis. She was sure the hidden Lothario would stand revealed. She lost.
A spring approached in 1926, Frank and I started to talk about a honeymoon trip. Frank said that he could get passes for us to go anywhere reached by rail that we liked and I said, "How about Prince Edward Island in Canada?"
I had read all of the L.M. Montgomery books of "Anne of the Island," "Anne of Green Gables" and every other book about Prince Edward island that I could find and had a wish to someday visit the island if ever I had the opportunity.
Now, Frank began to look up the names of the railroads up there so he could send for passes. It was a difficult job and several fellow workers in the Kingston office of the Lackawanna were helping him. One of them asked, "Where in hell did you ever hear of that place?"
But finally, the quest was over and the passes came. We were to be married on June 29, 1926 with a mass in St. Ignatius Church in Kingston and a wedding reception in my home in Larksville. Much to my joy, our family had been able to return to live in our own home in town in time for the wedding.
Frank had helped with the move from the Larksville Mountain house where we had been living for the past two years. The expected cave-in in town hadnt done much damage to our homestead, so all was in readiness for the wedding.
The house was a large one; parlor, living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs and the three front rooms were connected by double sliding doors. This enabled the bridal table to be set lengthwise in the parlor, with another long table leading from it, through the wide door, into the dining room, in the shape of a "T".
When I see those tables in memory, I see young Billy Rooney and Mary Jones, my sister Matildas oldest daughter, both about two years at the time, going from place to place after the dinner was over, looking for any coffee that might have been left in the cups and draining these dregs. Their heads came barely up to the table but they were enjoying themselves.
There was dancing in the living room, music furnished by an Irish fiddler and a piano player.
Frank and I left on the train for New York that afternoon. There we got the train to Boston and were to continue on to Prince Edward Island where we had reservations at a hotel in a town called Summerside.
Between trains in Boston, we went to a ball game and saw Dizzy Dean pitch. We continued on to Maine and stopped again in Portland, Maine, where we visited Longfellows home and bought a book of his poetry.
We also inadvertently visited the fortifications at Casco Bay while in Maine, spent a pleasant day there, overlooking the beautiful, wide, bay. No one challenged us. We seemed free to roam all over, probably had "honey mooners" written all over us. I can still recall the shock and surprise we felt, when suddenly large cannons emerged from many innocent looking grassy knolls. They were trained on the bay and ships there, and then, as suddenly and as quietly as they had appeared, they disappeared. The cannons were part of our coastal defenses and were so well camouflaged we didnt know they were there and had wondered why we passed so many signs saying "restricted area." Perhaps not to honeymooners.
I remember Franks surprise, when we went for the train to leave there to go to Prince Edward Island, to hear the conductor calling, "All aboard for train going east." Frank had thought we were about as far east as we could be without going into the ocean.
We finally arrived at Summerside, a good sized town, chosen by us as a place with a pretty name, a lucky choice.
We had been married on Wednesday and by the time we had arrived and were settled in the hotel in Summerside, it was Saturday. So after breakfast, Frank said, "Lets take a walk and find out where the church is so we wont be looking for it on Sunday." We could also discover what time the masses were to be held.
We found the church nearby with no difficulty. It was a small church and the pastor was out mowing the lawn in front of the rectory. When we stopped and introduced ourselves and told him that we were on our honeymoon from Pennsylvania, U.S.A., he was so pleased and impressed by our searching out the church that he insisted that we come into the rectory and meet his curate. The three men had a drink together and I was served a glass of soda.
They wanted to know why we had come there and had a good laugh when I told them about the "Anne of Green Gables" books. I also told then that I was surprised to find the island was much bigger than I had imagined. The curate said that they had horse races there and so far, no horse had run off the island into the ocean.
The pastor said that since we had come so far to see the island, he wanted to insure that we saw all of it. He told us to be at the High Mass next day and to wait after mass and his car and a driver would be outside to take us for a ride. We demurred, but he insisted that was what he wanted, so we went along with his plan.
Next day, we arrived at the church in time for mass, walking up the aisle, wondering where to sit as each pew had a closed gate and probably was privately leased or owned by someone. We hadnt gone far when a gentleman got up from his seat, opened the gate with a flourish and bowed us in to the seat. We learned later that he was the town druggist.
After mass, waiting outside, was Douglas McNeill with the pastors car and he was the one who was to take us for a ride. We recognized him as being in charge of all the alter boys during the mass, seventeen of them, we counted. They really were well trained and put on a devout act. We learned that Douglas McNeill was home on vacation from Toronto, Canada, where he was studying for the priesthood.
We became great friends with him during our stay in Summerside. Every day, on order from the pastor, he was at our hotel with the car to take us in a different direction each time, so that we would go home feeling that we had seen the place from its nine mile width to its one hundred sixty-three mile length.
We always remembered the idyllic days we spent on Prince Edward Island and the part played in that stay by Douglas McNeill. Our friendship with him was to continue long after the honeymoon.
Courtship and Marriage
|Frank's favorite picture of me which he cajoled from Johanna's possession.||
Frank and I before our marriage. We were at Rocky Glen, an amusement park nearby and accompanied by Madelaine Rush, standing next to me, my sister Mary and Madelaine's brother Clarence, a sometime beau of Mary's
My marriage to Frank was not the first contact between his fathers family, the Rooneys and my mothers family, the Gerritys. Those two Irish families had emigrated from Ireland to Leeds, England some time prior to 1860, perhaps in the wake of the terrible potato famines of the mid-eighteen forties.
In the early eighteen forties there were about eight million people living in Ireland. The major portion of these were small farmers whose food staple was potatoes. Beginning in 1845 a deadly blight struck this crop destroying half of it that year and all of it in the two succeeding years. It is estimated that 750,000 people starved or died of fever in the epidemic that swept the country. Those that could manage it left, an estimated one million refugees. By June, 1847 alone, an estimated 300,000 Irish had landed in Liverpool, England, the largest single destination for these destitute victims, probably because of its proximity on the western shore of England across the Irish sea almost in a direct line from Dublin, Irelands greatest port.
Leeds is quite near Liverpool. It was one of the new centers of population spawned by the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution in England where coal fields provided the source of cheap power that fueled the growth of manufacturing.
It is interesting but speculative that the Rooneys and Gerritys were part of this famine induced exodus and traveled from Dublin to Liverpool in the eighteen forties and found employment in the Leeds coal fields.
When Frank first came to our house and I introduced him to the family my great aunt, Annie Gerrity Coursey, said that she had known the Rooney family in Leeds, England, before both families had emigrated to the United States. Her comment was "There was nothing between us and the Rooneys but the road. They could dance and they could fight." Their family paths crossed and recrossed in the years that followed when both groups decided to transfer their mining skills to the anthracite coal fields in northeastern Pennsylvania centered on the towns of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
I do not know the details of the Rooney family emigration from Leeds to this country but I sketched the Gerrity odyssey in a book I wrote several years ago called, "Family History as Told in Letters, 1887-1946," Commonly called by family members the blue book because of its cover. I will reprint excerpts from that book here.
Thomas Gerrity and his wife the former Mary Munley migrated from Ireland they established their home in the city of Leeds, England, where Thomas, later followed by his sons, worked in the coal mines. They raised three sons and three daughters: John, Thomas, Peter, Winnie, Annie and Mary. All of these children married and migrated to the United States with the exception of Mary. She married James Curtis and they lived near her parents. ..and Mary and James Curtis had three children William, Mary and Thomas, and were expecting a fourth when a double tragedy struck. James Curtis was killed in the mines near Leeds, foreshadowing the manner of death of the husband of his unborn daughter. Two weeks later, on September 16, 1863, Mary Curtis died while giving birth to Sarah Jane.
. . . . . Sarah Jane Curtis was later to become my mother.
The grandparents, Thomas and Mary Gerrity assumed custody of the four Curtis' children and planned to take them with them to the United States to join their five children who had migrated there. . . . Before this plan could be followed the two oldest Curtis children, William and Mary contracted what was probably dipthria and died.
In 1866, shortly after the American Civil War, when their grandson Thomas was five years old and his sister Sarah Jane was three, the Gerritys set sail for the United States andjoined their sons and daughter there.
The Rooneys had preceded the Gerritys to the Pennsylvania coal regions and had settled in Edwardsville. When my mothers grandmother Gerrity came a few years later, she wanted to see her good friend Katie Rooney as soon as she could and prevailed upon her son John to get her a horse and wagon to take her to Edwardsville to see Katie Rooney for a good visit. So to put it in the perspective of the newly married members of both families, the two old friends who chatted that day in 1866 were Katie Rooney, Franks grandmother and Mary Gerrity, my great grandmother.
I do not know the maiden name of Katie Rooney nor the first name of her husband. I do know that they had four sons and three daughters: William, Franks father, Thomas, Martin, and Joseph, Margaret, Anna and Mary. Three of the children never married, Thomas, Anna and Martin and so have left no known descendants. Margaret married Tom Rally and had two children, Mat and Mary. When I first knew Margaret she was a long time widow and lived on Short Street in Edwardsville with her brother Tom and sister Annie. Maggie and Annie were friends of my mother and often came to our house. That was how Mag discovered in 1910 that my mother and I were planning to go to Butte, Montana to visit Mas brother Thomas Curtis and his wife Ella and my two brothers, Thomas and Lawrence who worked in the copper mines there and were shortly to leave to homestead ranches in Oregon. Margaret or Mag Rally as we called her came to our house with a jar of dirt from their flower bed. She wanted Ma to take it to Butte with her and put it on her brother Martins grave. He had worked in the copper mines there and had been burned to death in a boarding house fire. Ma took the jar of dirt and emptied it on Martins grave. I remember being there with Ma and kneeling while Ma sprinkled the dirt from home on the grave and then refilled the jar with dirt from the grave to bring home to Mag for her flower bed. The Rooneys didnt have the money to visit the grave nor to have the body returned home for burial so Mag chose this way to express their ties to a loved one.
Mags brother Tom Rooney, Franks uncle, who lived with her after she was widowed was a widely known Irish dancer of jigs and reels and known to members of my family before I ever met Frank. They, with their sister Annie Rooney and Mags son, Matt Rally, lived on Short Street in Edwardsville in what had been Grandma Rooneys home. The family story was that he was a naturally fine dancer from early childhood and when quite young held up use of the family privy while those waiting could hear his feet tapping.
As a party trick he would dance with a lighted lamp on his head without holding it, his head and body stiff while his legs did a jig step at a mile a minute. He was disgusted with people who moved their whole body while doing traditional Irish folk dances. Tom was to later teach this style of dancing to Mary and Aletha Jones, my sister Matildas daughters and to my two oldest children. Katie Rooneys other daughter Mary married Thomas Ryan and produced four children: Mathew, Thomas, Agnes and Helen. I went with Tom Ryan, Mary Rooneys son once in awhile or he would come to our house when Id have a party.
My Aunt Annie Coursey was living with us at the time and shed say, "Laura, dont get too serious with Tom Ryan, hes your cousin." She could trace back the family for many generations and tell us just how we were related to whom. Unfortunately, I never wrote it down and it is lost. Aunt Annie Coursey was the last of her generation and so I missed a rare chance to get the family tree straight.
Later on when I got serious with Frank who was first cousin to Tom Ryan, Aunt Annie said no more about us being cousins and if there was a distant relationship between Frank and me it is lost in the mists of history.
Frank later told me that when he was small he often visited at his grandmother Katie Rooneys home in Edwardsville and played there with his cousins, the Ryans. He specifically recalled that he and his cousin Tom Ryan would be taken down the main street by their grandmother and admonished to, "Mind the horses now, keep away from the curb." She was worried about her grandchildren being kicked or more likely being victims of random emissions from the horses.
As Frank often told the story, he was just a little fellow when he happened to be there the day his grandmother Rooney took the spell before she died. She had been sitting in a low rocking chair with no arms when the attack struck. Frank held her to keep her from falling over while he called for help. In later years Aunt Annie Rooney gave the chair to Frank as a keepsake and "to rock the babies." We valued it and I am sorry that it disappeared when I stored my furniture and moved west in 1943.
In the last example of the many ways our family paths had crossed before Frank and I even knew of each others existence concerns his father, Will Rooney. Will had been well known in Wyoming Valley as an Irish tenor for years. Franks mother always said that Joe Feeney on the Lawrence Welk Show most nearly resembled Will Rooney in voice. A St. Patricks Day show wouldnt be complete unless Will Rooney sang "The Rose of Tralee." He belonged to a singing group in Kingston, the Emmett Glee Club; my brother, Joseph, also belonged to this group.
I remember hearing Will Rooney sing when the Emmett Glee Club gave a minstrel show in McGowans movie house in Larksville one night. They were all in black face, but at the end, Will had to step "out of character," and sing "The Rose of Tralee" before the audience would leave. I was quite young at the time perhaps twelve years old and Will would die in 1918, five years before I met Frank but it is interesting in retrospect to think I had a sense known the father before having met the son, whom I would marry.
When we returned from our honeymoon on Prince Edward Island we, like most newlyweds, set about the task of establishing our first home, adjusting to work routines and drawing about us a mutual set of friends, family and neighbors with whom we would share our new life.
Our first apartment was on the second floor of a nice house on Chestnut Street in Kingston owned by a widow named Connors who lived on the first floor with her three daughters. We had four light, airy rooms with bath and heat furnished, all for forty dollars a month.
One of my first adjustments to Franks working life was to get used to the railroad system of calling train crews to work. Since we lived so near the railroad office it wasnt obligatory for us to have a phone. A "call boy" would come to our house, run noisily up the steps to our apartment door and knock vigorously at the door, sometimes in the middle of the night. At first, I would awaken with fright, thinking such a late night summons must be a messenger with bad news.
By the nature of the work, the crew was "on call," often called to work after they had been "first out" all day and were then tired and ready for bed or in bed when the call came. They had to go. Frank told me that one time this happened to him and he got going in the fine style. He was over his sleepiness and tiredness and all was well. He was the flagman that night and after they were started, for some unexplained reason, the train stopped. Frank hopped off the rear end, put his stop signal, everything in order, then sat down by the stoplight ready to take it in when he got the go ahead from the front. He fell fast asleep. They signaled and signaled from the engine, that they were ready to start but there was no response from the rear. The conductor had to walk all the way back swearing "just as I thought" when he saw Frank asleep. He took the stoplight in, gave the engineer the go ahead and hustled Frank up the caboose steps but he never turned Frank in to the higher authorities. Frank loved the work of the railroad and took good care of his job. So this never happened again. The conductor probably knew that and that Franks dedication would make him a valuable crew member at other times.
Ray McGrellis, introduces previously as the close friend who indulged Franks passion for driving, not repairing cars, also worked for the railroad in its Kingston office. He got married that summer and brought his bride Flo Jenkins over to meet us. We liked her immediately and all of us became fast friends. Ray had been Best Man at our wedding and later was to be godfather to our oldest girl while Frank and I were godparents to his oldest child, Mary. We shared the ups and downs of family raising and their friendship extended beyond Franks life to this day.
Another Kingston couple that was a part of our growing fraternity of railroaders was Kathleen Saxe and her husband, John Smith, who lived nearby and we often met for an evening together. John was a fireman on the railroad and he and Frank sometimes worked on the same job. Both of them were young and full of high spirits when they started work on the railroad and I can imagine that sometimes the conductor of the job felt like "kicking them off the train," as one conductor once said when he told of the youthful Frank and John wrestling on the platform of the caboose as the train was going over the Susquehanna River. The conductor swore to himself that if they fell off into the river he wouldnt stop the train to rescue them.
Interestingly, Frank was partial to Irish conductors. He often said that an Irish conductor would and could kick and knock the young railroaders around if they got out line, but that would be the end of it. Other conductors wouldnt say anything when they were displeased but would turn them in at the office at the end of the trip, a way of operating that Frank despised.
Frank and I always loved to travel and his work gave him access to passes on his own Delaware and Lackawanna trains and those of other lines which joined them. Such inexpensive transportation had made our long honeymoon trip possible and now provided us the opportunity to often visit his family members living in Paterson, New Jersey. Further we catered to our love of the great Yankee teams of that era by taking day trips to New York to see them play. These were the days of Murderers Row when Babe Ruth, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel batted in the Yankee lineup and they won the pennant in 1926 but lost the series. In 1927 and 1928 they would sweep the World Series in four straight games of a possible seven.
Franks Aunt Jennie Law lived several streets up from us and often sent her youngest daughter, Ruth, down to us with some tasty dish and I would do the same for her. Frank had boarded with the Laws for the year before we were married and he thought highly of all of them. Frank Law, Jr. was Franks age and he and his wife Ann (Nelligan) joined our circle of friends and of course, the Larson family were frequent callers, especially Johanna and their daughter Elizabeth Gallagher.
The first year we were married work was good on the railroad but after that it slowed down. We had to economize and so moved from our forty dollar a month apartment in Kingston to a house renting for seventeen dollars a month in Edwardsville, a town adjoining Kingston on one side and Larksville on the other and so Frank could still walk to work and I was nearer my family. The house was in a section dubbed "Bladgetown" after a very talkative man who used to live there, called "Billy the Bladge." Bladge is an Irish word for blabbermouth. Later we moved to a larger house on the same lot, which was much lighter and airier. A very nice family named Jones moved into the house we had vacated. They were a young couple of about our age with three young children and we got along quite well with them.
One day, I happened to be upstairs and looked out the window toward the Jones house. Mrs. Jones was on the porch looking so seriously at a man talking to her. I noticed that he was in mining clothes and this was a bad omen, something had happened at the mines and he was a boss, there to tell her that her husband had been killed. As he left, a lot of older neighbor women were on their way to be with Mrs. Jones and tell her. The boss had gone to different women whom he knew, told them the sad news and asked them to go to Mrs. Jones after he had told her. Frank was at work and I was never to forget that awful day. I had so often seen miners family happiness cut short by sudden death in the mines. The same fate had struck the Larsons when in 1912 my father Olaf had been killed in the mines.
Our neighbors on the other side were another mining family by the name of Moslowski. We got along very well but Frank and Stanley Moslowski seemed to have different and irreconcilable views of many things. They would discuss and argue over the finer points of right and wrong on many issues but neither was able to convince the other of the rightness of his views. For instance, Frank was putting our Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve and he took it to a shopping block that we had there, to slope the sides of the trunk down so that it would fit into the holder. He brought the tree in and proceeded to trim it, leaving his ax out on the chopping block and thinking no more of it.
The day after Christmas he remembered it and was out in the yard looking all over for his ax, nosily and talking to himself about it, probably because he was that way. Quietly, Stanley brought the hatchet over and handed it to Frank saying, "You left it outside so it belongs to anyone who found it."
Frank exploded at this, "Damn it all, I left it in my own yard," and the battle was on, each convinced that his point of view was the right one. I think that Stanley was protesting "with tongue in cheek," just to get Frank going. I was busy with the children and took no part in these arguments.
In 1928, the Bladgetown section or ward of Edwardsville, was inhabited mainly by Protestant, Republican people who were especially stirred because Alfred E. Smith was running for president of the United States and he was a Catholic. Bitter feeling was aroused.
There were very few Democrats in that ward, but it seemed to be the law that Republicans and Democrats would be represented equally at the voting place. The Democrats were hard put to find suitable persons to fill these jobs, but the Protestants, or Republicans had an overflow of willing workers. The most vociferous of these was a woman called "Janie," a fighter from Wales, originally.
Frank wasnt interested in politics except in a casual way, but this situation appealed to his fighting Irish spirit and he agreed to work on the election board on Election Day. This distressed me as work on the railroad was becoming slack again and I knew that many of the older railroaders "took off" on Election Day, making it certain that the young men would be called to work.
Anyhow, the day came, and much to Janies chagrin, her daughter, who was expecting a baby, went into labor at 4 A.M. of that day and was taken to the hospital. There was a vote gone! Janie didnt give up. She stormed the voting place, wanting to cast a vote for her missing daughter. She might have gotten away with it with some election boards, but with Frank Rooney and his fellow Irish railroader friend, John Kelly, she didnt have a chance. Frank always enjoyed a good fight.
Meanwhile, I was having a rough day back at the house. The phone kept ringing calling Frank to work and at first I said that he was out, but that I would have him call the office as soon as he returned. As the hours went by I finally admitted that he was working on the election board. The "call boy" had evidently had a hard day also, finding crews for the different jobs. He asked me, "Does Frank work for the election board, or the Lackawanna Railroad?"
This scared me and I was in no mood to greet Frank pleasantly when he came in that night, all keyed up by the excitement of the day. He gave me ten dollars, which calmed me down a little and then he took a call to work.
Next morning, a man came to the door and asked for Frank. I told him that Frank wasnt home. The man said, "This is his pay for working at the polls yesterday, please give it to him when he comes home."
"Oh, he got his pay last night," I said. The man laughed, and said, "Well, anyhow, give this to him."
When I told Frank about it, he said, "Thats what I get for marrying an honest Swede."
All of us talked of other things to mask the real worry that assailed all of us, the falling of the economy and no sign of anything being done about it.
A symbol of the deteriorating economy and its corrosive effects on the daily life of millions occurred when in 1930 we left Edwardsville to find more work in Scranton.
There was a pile of ashes in our backyard that I wanted removed before we moved, so that wed leave everything "shipshape." Ashes were usually taken to the dump, or otherwise disposed. I asked a thirteen-year-old boy if hed cart the ashes away for one dollar. He came back immediately, his mother with him, and together they got rid of that heap quickly. They needed that dollar very badly and jumped at the chance of earning it. The economy was winding down.
During the years 1926 to 1931, Frank and I had the children that would form our family. I have described the birth of our first child in a book called, Johanna, As I Remember Her, a long reminisce of my oldest sister. I shall cite from it here.
In April of 1927, Frank and I became the parents of our first born, named Frances after her father. My sister, Johanna came to the hospital with Frank and me and stayed the long hours before Frances was born. The long labor was too much for Dr. Edwards, our family doctor, an older man. He collapsed and Dr. Agnes Flack, an intern in the hospital, was called to substitute for him in what was turning out to be a very difficult birth. Frances was finally born at 12:40 A.M. on April 16, 1927. Dr. Flack stood by her until 5 A.M. as a heart machine kept Frances alive. If she had been born at home, which was customary at the time, she would have died. When Johanna realized that Frances' frail life hung in a wavering balance she came into the delivery room and gave her niece a conditional baptism. Johanna, though distressed at the possible consequences of this crisis, faced the problem squarely and did what she thought had to be done if her niece was to see heaven according to Roman Catholic doctrine, interpreted literally at that time. This belief held that an unbaptized child was destined for an afterlife in limbo, and would never enter heaven. A lay person could administer "conditional baptism" which would prevent this and if the child lived the baptism could be made regular by a priest at a church later. Johanna was ever a true believer in Roman Catholicism and she took the steps necessary in her belief to gain the benefits for her niece of that religious heritage.
Next day, Frank went to the rectory in Kingston to ask a priest to come to the hospital to baptize the baby as she was in danger of death. A curate answered the door and when Frank told him the story and that the babys Aunt Johanna had given her a conditional baptism, the curate said that it wasnt necessary for a priest to go to the hospital but for us to bring the baby to the church for baptism if she lived. Father Lynott, our parish priest who had married us, had come to see what they were talking about at the door. He was an old fashioned Irish pastor who could be dour and stern but he knew when his parishioners needed spiritual comforting beyond the minutiae of theological necessity. Franks strained voice and taut features prompted Father Lynotts instant command to the curate, "Go with that boy." The curate sullenly obeyed and Frances was baptized a second time.
This multi-baptized daughter of mine went through a third ceremony when she was a month old in St. Ignatius Church and Ray McGrellis and Margaret Honor were godparents. Margaret Honor was a life long friend of mine who had spawned the idea of both of us working our way through normal school together and we taught together in Larksville before my marriage and where she still taught before later entering the convent.
I think the trauma of Frances birth could be traced to an accident I had three weeks prior to the event. I had gone shopping afoot and slipped on an icy patch disguised with fresh snow and had both my legs go out from under me. Dr Flack said that the use of instruments necessary to align the baby properly for birth had caused her breathing difficulties and prompted the temporary paralysis of the left hand side of her body which she assured me would abate in two or three weeks.
Needless to say, Frank would never allow me to go shopping again in the latter part of a pregnancy and took this chore onto himself. Frank and I despaired of keeping her alive at first. He used to rock her and sign hymns to her, apparently the only songs in his limited repertoire. The Connors family, our downstairs landlords, told me later that they could hear his singing and they enjoyed it. They should have heard his father.
Aside from Frances final baptism, another thing of moment happened when she was a month old. Charles Lindbergh crossed the ocean in a small plane and landed safely in France. He had taken off on the morning of May 20, 1927 from Long Island, New York in his monoplane, "The Spirit of St. Louis." This was not the first transatlantic flight but it was the first solo one. He landed the next day after a lonely flight of thirty-three and one-half hours at Le Bourget Airport near Paris where he was greeted by one-hundred-thousand wildly, tumultuous Frenchmen. His deed caused a worldwide sensation and made him an instant national hero. That evening, at the news of his safe arrival, all the people in Kingston were out on the streets rejoicing and Frank and I and Johanna and her daughter, Elizabeth, who happened to be with us, joined them. We wrapped baby Frances in a shawl and she was part of the celebration.
Frank and I were happy for Lindy but we also celebrated the recovery of Frances. Later, her brother Leo would take great pride in quizzing his friends with, "My sister was baptized three times, can you guess how that happened?" He would then happily recount the story. He is probably the only one who gained any pleasure from the grim tale.
We were expecting our second baby in July of 1928. Frances was walking by now, and Ma would call to bring her to the back fence where she would get her and take her for a walk. Ma and Johanna liked to have Frances at their houses but Frank never let her stay down there overnight. If she werent home when he got in from work hed go down an get her. He didnt want her to get weaned away from her home.
It was at this time that Aunt Annie Coursey, who lived with my mother, didnt feel well and we knew that she wasnt going to live much longer. She was filled with cancer and must have been very uncomfortable but she never complained. When Ma Larson would be going to the doctor with her, Aunt Annie, who had so many illnesses to choose among and so little money to support them, would say, "Sarah, well tell him two dollars worth." She didnt want Ma to ask for more doctoring than her resources allowed.
One night at that time, Frank was "first out" and expected a call before morning. Johanna and Leo came up to spend the night with us, to be there in case I had to go to the hospital. A call came from Ma that Annie was dying and for Leo and Johanna to come home. This was at midnight and we had all gone to bed. Johanna, Leo and Frank dressed hurriedly and went down to Mas, leaving Baby Frances and me to call Frank at Mas if there was any change in my condition or if Frank was called to work. Neither event occurred but Aunt Annie died that night.
Frank was greatly impressed with her faith and willingness to follow Gods will. She knew that she was dying, and answered all the prayers for the dying that they were saying up until the last. Frank said that it was just like she was leaving and going out a door while saying good-bye to them. She had her senses to the last and was conscious of all that was going on.
I thought much later that this experience of seeing Aunt Annie die so gracefully and courageously contributed to Franks own demeanor when it came his turn to face death.
Work was very slack on the railroad and to hold a job at all Frank had to work out of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He and his fellow worker, Bill Lance, had a room up there and came home when they could.
I was staying at my mothers with Frances so that I could leave her there when Id go to the hospital. Frank was uneasy about the imminent birth and often came home when he should have been resting in East Stroudsburg. But this was no time to miss a call to work and we all understood that and the importance of his pay check to the care of his family. He had his car with him so that he could return home regardless of train schedules.
Early in the evening of the 13th I called my doctor, Agnes Flack, and she said that she'd come and get me and take me to the hospital, the Homeopathic, in Wilkes Barre.
Johanna came with us. I didn't call Frank, as all was normal, no complications expected and I wanted to surprise Frank. He had been so upset at the time of Frances' birth that this time I thought to spare him all that and announce the birth as a "fait accompli."
The baby was born at 9:00 P.M. on July 13, 1928 and all was well. It was a fine, healthy boy, about nine pounds, and Dr. Flack said that she'd take Johanna home and for me to get a good night's rest. No thought or mention was given of a name that night.
Frank arrived at Ma's at 5 o'clock next morning. Ma heard the car and went out to meet him. She said to him, "You have a son," and she laughed. Frank thought she was joking, as she knew that he wanted a son; so he didn't believe her until he came into the house and saw that I wasn't there.
On July 13, 1981, Elizabeth Gallagher, only child of Johanna and Leo Gallagher, called my son Leo to wish him a happy birthday. Leo was at work so his wife Alberta took the call. Elizabeth recounted to Alberta that early in the morning fifty-three years previously, Frank crept into the front bedroom with the bay window at Ma Larsons home in Larksville, next to her own, and announced to Frances who was all of fifteen months old, by whispering in her ear, that she had a baby brother. Elizabeth, about eight years old at this time, was sleeping in the bed with Frances and remembered the event vividly.
Later in the morning, Frank came to the hospital and Leo Gallagher was with him. Leo was a great kidder, pretending to Frank that he had been with Johanna and me when the baby was born and that I had said the baby's name was going to be Leo after him. Frank was surprised that I would make such a decision without consulting him because we differed about what we would name the baby if it was a boy. I preferred Lars but Frank said it was a Swedish name and didn't go with the surname Rooney.
While visiting me, Frank left the room to go downstairs to the business office to arrange the financing of my stay. Leo Gallagher told me that Frank had made him very happy by telling him that our new son was to be named Leo, after him. Of course, later that day I told Frank that Leo hadn't come with Johanna the night before and Frank explained that he hadn't talked about a name for the baby to Leo. But we decided to name the Baby Leo after Leo Gallagher. He and Johanna had always stood by us "through thick and thin," and we loved them. Leo even scrubbed my kitchen for me so I wouldn't be doing it so near the expectation of the baby.
Frances was only a baby, really, fifteen months old and the Gallaghers took over a great deal of her care. So Frank and I were happy to name our baby Leo as a token of our gratitude and love for both of them. Johanna always said that if she had a boy, she'd name him Leo, so here was our boy and the name came with him. Later when Leo married Alberta Maydock they named their first son, Lars, and so that name reentered the family genealogy.
We planned a big christening to take place in two weeks but with Frank working out of East Stroudsburg and my taking care of two infants the work in preparation for it fell on the Gallaghers.
A farcical family story developed when Leo and my godfather, Joe Gibbons, had tried making beer for the christening while I was still in the hospital and Frank was at work. The house and cupboard being strange to them, they put a teaspoonful of salt in each bottle instead of sugar. Of course it all had to be thrown out. Lucy, Joes wife raised such a fuss with him for making that mistake, that no one else blamed anyone.
Douglas McNeill, the young man who had driven us around Prince Edward Island on our honeymoon was in New York that summer studying the music of the High Mass at Pope Pius X School. He was within a year of being ordained a priest and would soon be unable to be a godparent. We asked him to come up and be the babys godfather and he said he would. We then asked Aunt Annie Rooney to be the godmother. She was so happy about it and came that Sunday all dresses up and glad to meet the godfather who so soon was to be a priest.
We had not lost contact with Douglas since the summer of our honeymoon in 1926. He had entered the seminary and before St. Michaels College in Toronto opened for the fall term that September of 1926, then sent Douglas to New York to Benzigers on a book buying trip. He was unfamiliar with New York and he knew that Frank often ran into New York on his railroad job, so he asked that Frank meet him there and then hed come to our home for a few days until time to report to school. Frank did and while he was visiting us we had a big party for him and many of the guests gave him envelopes with money in them to help him continue his studies. Before she died Aunt Annie Coursey, who lived with my mother, was especially generous to him. Shed say, "Pray for me and my boys, and hed assure her that he would."
It grew to be an annual custom for Douglas McNeill to come each summer and we always looked forward to it and threw a fund raising party for him.
It was a nice Sunday, the day of the christening and the group played cards out under the grapevine. Father McNeill smoked cigarettes, but before hed light one, hed offer everyone a cigarette from his pack. Luckily, no one took any, pipe smoking seemed to be the rule of the day.
Before Leo was a year and a half old and Frances nearly three, they had a new sister, Sarah Jane. She was born at home as I didn't want to leave the other two babies and go to the hospital. We were lucky to be able to get a girl named Kathryn to come to work for us days. She lived nearby with some relatives and had been looking for a job for a long time and this was a big help to me.
The day that Sarah Jane was born, Frank was home and Dr. Flack called him in to see the birth. She thought it was a miracle that everyone should witness, if possible. It was the first birth that Frank had seen and it made a big impression on him.
It was December 18, 1929 and the snow was beating against the windows as the baby entered life. The doctor discovered that her heart was very far to the right and was beating irregularly. We couldn't face losing her and asked God to let us keep her if only to summer so that she wouldn't have to be buried in all that snow. Our prayers were answered and she lived until the following August. Indeed she thrived and was a beautiful baby. Grandma Landers always said that Sarah Jane looked like her mother, had the dark, golden glint hair of the Vamperts.
Added to our concern for Sarah Jane, now came the dread of no work at all on the railroad. Frank worked out of Scranton, as the Kingston office was closed. Sometimes, when he was "first out," he'd go up to Scranton so he'd be sure to be there for the call and many times he had to wait twenty-four hours or more at the Railroad YMCA having very little money for food or bed. He always had a large lunch pail with him, well filled, but he tried to save this for the actual trip on the road.
My mother knew all this and one day offered her house in Scranton to us. It was in a neighborhood called the High Works. It was called that, not because it was high, but because it was low, in a small valley between two hills. When the Lackawanna Railroad was being built years before, a huge trestle had been erected between the hills to support the rails which spanned the distance. People came from miles around to view the "high works," and so that section got its name.
So, Frank and Leo Gallagher were then delegated to go to Scranton and give the tenants notice to vacate. They found the man of the house chopping wood in the kitchen and everything was a mess. They hadnt been paying their rent of ten dollars a month and they didnt fit in very well in that Irish settlement.
These tenants were not Irish and had a different style of living than most of their neighbors. They had coal stoves, as did every one else, but they stored the ashes from the stoves on their back porch, saving them for "Ash Wednesday," they said. This didnt enhance their popularity very much.
Aunt Annie Coursey had lived there and we had often visited her. I was no stranger to the neighborhood but was spoken of as "one of Sarah Jane's girls," in reference to my mother whom they knew well. Frank and I liked children, and at times some of them would hang around our place, even though the Rooney children were too young to play with them. Mrs. Mary Ann McCrone who lived across the road from us, would say to me, "Chase those kids. I'll tell your mother on you."
Meanwhile, like all our neighbors in 1930, we were living very carefully, making every penny count. We rode the bus from the High Works to the central city, sometimes had a car and at other times didn't. I took baby Sarah Jane to the free baby clinic regularly and received many different diagnoses of what was wrong with her. I was warned that I might find her dead, a so called "crib death" that doctors didn't know too much about. I took her for x-ray treatments for an enlarged thymus gland, gave her medicine for helping to keep open the pylorus valve, leading from the stomach, and we were worried constantly, although she appeared to thrive and at nearly eight months was a beautiful big baby when she died on August 10, 1930.
Frank and I were grief-stricken, as was the whole family, but we differed in how we dealt with that grief. I kept it all to myself, which was bad for me, and I didn't want to talk about it with anyone. Frank wanted to tell everyone all about it, even a stranger who would be waiting the bus with him. He said it was hard on him that he couldn't talk about it with me, so he'd talk about it with his fellow workmen who were most sympathetic and anyone else who would listen. It took me several years before I could even discuss it.
Just recently, in March 1981, I had a surprise visit from a cousin whom I hadnt seen in years, Peter Haggery, Junior. He had gray hair and was over sixty years old, but he mentioned the trauma of being a pall bearer for our baby back in 1930 when he was a boy and described how badly he felt about it. I was never aware of how this affected others, that we were never alone in our grief.
In September 1931, we were blessed by the birth of a baby girl whom we named Mary in honor of the Blessed Virgin. She was born in the Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston with Dr. Flack in attendance. She was a healthy, happy baby and gave us much joy during these hard years. The neighbors rejoiced with us; older women who had not been in the habit of coming to our house, came to see her and to tell us how happy they were to know that we had another girl to fill our hearts and minds, but not to replace the one we had lost. Ruth and Bill Rooney came up from New Jersey to be her godparents.
Women, who themselves had lost a baby, were especially sensitive to what it all meant to us. I remember Ruth Larson, my brother Willies daughter, coming to see me and bringing a present for the baby. She had lost a baby also, and she made a special effort to come to me and join in a sort of celebration of better things to come.
|Grandma Landers with her four grandchildren. From left to right: Frances, Billy, Mary and Leo||A series of two pictures documenting child abuse. The twenty-one month old Frances sits nonchalantly on the tricycle and then gives her six month old brother Leo a haircut before the photographer compounds the abuse by posing him on the same tricycle to which he clings with all fingers and toes.|
The great stockmarket crash of October 29, 1929 is often thought of by many to have signaled the start of the Great Depression which was to color every aspect of American life all through the nineteen thirties until finally solved by the massive upsurge in economic activity engendered by World War II. But it was not that simple. The farmers of this nation had been in the grip of economic stagnation through most of the nineteen twenties; their plight only worsened later by the collapse of the stock market. Most wage earners shared little of the dividends from the great industries represented on the rising stock market. In 1929, seventy-eight percent of these dividends went to three percent of the population or 363,000 people out of a population of 122,000,000. However most people did have jobs; but not even this blessing was spread evenly throughout the country. The anthracite coal region where we lived began to decline economically, as far as I could see, in 1927 and with other faltering parts of the economy would begin the traumatic slide of the entire nation to the nadir of 1932. By then conservative estimates say that half of the nation was close to starvation, many with their savings lost in the failure of thousands of banks, a quarter of the total. Their jobs were gone in a business shrinkage of fifty-percent between 1929 and1932. There were 15,000,000 unemployed by that time and countless others underemployed. To have lived through this Great Depression was to share an experience with millions for whom it would sear their hopes and scar their lives for ever after.
During our first year of marriage from 1926 to 1927 things went well with us while Frank was steadily employed on the railroad. Work began to get slack after that and Frank was worried.
Sometimes, his pay for two weeks was for only six or seven days and there were layovers at the other end of the line, waiting for a call for a return trip home. Before the year 1927 had ended, the Kingston office of the railroad was closed, and the calls came from Scranton. One time, Frank went up to Scranton about eighteen miles away to wait, because he was "first out," and he had to wait there for three days before getting out.
You will recall that by 1927 Frank had to range far beyond Scranton to East Stroudsburg to find work on the railroad. Frank understood railroading, why freight moved in certain directions, what was going on at their point of origin, what freight was being generated and why it moved in the direction it did. Locally we always listened to the mine schedules on the radio even when later we had to do it on a neighbor's radio when we could no longer afford to replace our own. He knew that the spasmodic schedules of mines working each day foretold the railroad traffic. His interpretation of the nation freight patterns he observed at this time was uncharacteristically pessimistic.
The homes we could afford to live in provided one index of the retrenchment forced on our family by the economic deterioration of the Great Depression. We had begun married life in 1926 living in an apartment for which we paid forty dollars monthly. In 1928 we were forced to move to cheaper lodgings for seventeen dollars a month. Lastly, we moved into a home owned by my mother for which we paid fifteen dollars monthly. The gracious landlord forgave us in those months when even this rent couldn't be met. Finally, like many other hard pressed families, we had to "double up" with other members of the family. Minnie and Floyd Landers came to live with us in our High Works home during the early thirties and by necessity, lived with us for two years.
This degeneration of living standards could be seen in many other manifestations of family life during the depths of The Depression. In the early nineteen thirties, after our baby Sarah Jane died, Frank got laid off from work on the railroad. He had accumulated about thirteen years of seniority rights to his job but the knife cut that deeply and more. He was not to get back to work on the railroad for two years. I remember vividly the sense of fear felt by us and many others throughout the nation. It was as if we were descending into a deep pit with no bottom and no exit and therefore no hope.
Frank and I spent many restless nights. We would try to sleep but would toss and turn worrying how we were going to find food for our babies and discover ourselves meeting each other downstairs too disturbed to rest.
Frank was always a proud man and no matter how low our money got he refused to go on relief. He thought the acceptance of charity to be demeaning and I suppose the need of such help struck at his manhood. He felt strongly that it was his responsibility to provide for his family and was, I guess, bewildered by why he couldn't when he was so willing and able to work. We came to the point where we and the children had nothing to eat for three days but oatmeal and prunes. When the prunes gave out on the fourth day, Frank sacrificed his pride and went downtown to Scranton where a federal office had opened to feed the needy without the red tape of applying for relief status. They gave him a check for eleven dollars and seventy-five cents to purchase food and our worse experience was over; but there would be other times that Frank and I had to curb our appetites so that the children could have enough to eat.
A few years ago, I was visiting with my son Leo's family and was treated to a scene common in households today. One of his two sons stood staring into the open door of a refrigerator bulging with food and said, "Mom, there's nothing to eat." I laughed and told the boys that during The Depression our refrigerator frequently contained nothing to eat. I meant it was empty not that it contained no food that struck the fancy. They nodded politely and after I had left asked their parents if I were kidding; could I have meant that there was literally no food in the refrigerator. Yes, Leo explained.
During The Depression years millions relearned the respect for food characteristic of simpler societies. Nothing was wasted. We gathered foods in season at their cheapest and when we couldn't eat all of them we canned them as hostages to leaner times. I even recall canning grapes when they ripened when we couldn't afford sugar and then opening them to make jelly when we could. In summer we picked the blueberries plentiful in the Pennsylvania hills and even Lamb's Quarter, a green similar to spinach and very edible, growing wild. It still grows in abundance but our affluent society would rather buy spinach at the supermarket.
Frank always loved children and young people. He had gathered around him a group of younger men in the High Works, unmarried, no jobs, no money and just managing to survive by living home and feeling guilty about eating food that others in the family needed. They used to gather at our house occasionally to play cards in the evening. One evening, they sat with the cards unnoticed, while they talked of what to my mind was revolution. They planned an attack on the Acme warehouse where supplies for the many Acme stores were stored. They didn't plan to do it immediately but had the plan in case they or their families had no food at all. Luckily, this didn't actually come to pass but it was close.
Three of the young men who sat at the table that night were later killed in World War II fighting for the life of a country whom in the depths of the depression sometimes looked like their enemy.
Strangely, The Depression which highlighted the darker side of our national life, also brought forth the strengths of our people.
Few periods of time in ones life are locked in unrelieved darkness like the far side of the moon. The hardships of even the worst years of The Depression were compensated for by many of its brighter aspects. With Frank out of work we had the phone disconnected and no longer had to find money to keep that lifeline to his job open and there were no more calls to work in the middle of the night. We didnt have to worry about any bills that didnt have to do with survival. We began to take it all in stride and the leisure to assess our impoverished circumstances and plan how to cope with them.
Help came from unexpected sources. Johanna and Leo working for the wealthy Mrs. Ursula Reynolds in Kingston at that time and I could wear Ma Reynolds cast-off clothes. They were nice and a perfect fit. Also my Leo came into possession of all of young John B. Reynolds clothes for years. The nametag was still in the camp clothes, and sometimes Leo thought of John B. as his "alter ego." Mrs. Reynolds also ordered two quarts of milk delivered to us daily for over a year and this was so necessary for little Frances and Leo, and so welcome a gift.
Hard times brought out the kindness in so many people. An impoverished neighbor of ours, John Kerrigan, was old and lived alone across the street from us. He had been receiving a fifty-pound bag of flour and did so periodically from the Poor Board in Scranton all through the years of the depression. He didnt know what to do with all this flour so hed bring it over to me and Id bake bread for all of us with it. I kept him supplied and often baked pancakes and biscuits for him. He usually came over in the evening and sat down and smoked his pipe while he visited with us. The flour was a godsend for us and I dont know how we would have managed without it.
The flour had one drawback, but we didnt mind that; we were so glad to have it. The bread would rise beautifully in the pans but then, when I put it in the oven, it fell a little.
We called it Hoover flour. The presidents last name was used as an adjective for everything that was bad or not up to standard. There were Hoover peaches, canned presumable without sugar, castor oil that wouldnt physic the kids, any number of things dubbed "Hoover," but not officially. I suppose it made us feel better to work off our frustrations on that poor man who knew nothing of it.
The hard times caused many families to live together to help each other, much as Grandma Landers, Franks mother and her second husband Floyd Landers came to live with us and helped in many ways. Grandma was a gifted seamstress and sewed for the whole family. In addition to sewing repairs to all our clothing she adapted clothing given us by others to fit us. For instance she adapted many worn out dresses of Jenny Law that still contained sufficient areas of good cloth for use for the smaller dresses needed for my two girls.
Bill Rooneys wife Ruth had a brother-in-law that ran a dry cleaning shop in New Jersey. When clothes were left beyond the ninety-day claim period he would give them to Bill and Ruth who then brought them to Grandma for refitting for us.
Frank and Floyd went around to the different churches and got repair jobs for the art glass windows. Floyd was the master worker in glass, and Frank drove the car, found the ladders or anything else necessary to the work.
During the two years that Frank was laid off from work in the early nineteen thirties he developed a sort of business of his own. He took advantage of the fact that he had an outgoing personality and still had a pass on the Lackawanna Railroad. He could go to the wholesale section of New York to buy razor blades and different gadgets to sell at places where men were still working. Hes go to the place on payday as the men were coming out and try to sell them some of his wares. Even a few dollars were welcome and helped keep us going. He became a "pitchman" as they were called and worked hard at it. He would load a suitcase on "X" shaped supports, called a keyster, and full of products bought cheaply in New York. Im sure that there were times of discouragement and even dislike of what he was doing, but he never complained. Sometimes, the company would have men or police to keep the pitchmen away from the gates as the workers came out. Men would say, "you better not hang around here, theyll chase you away." Frank used to say, "You are never being chased until someone is running after you."
He used to buy tongue depressors and use them for some sort of trick with a penny. Leo liked to do the trick and say, "Presto Gaygo."
During these hard years we had more time to talk and share with each other including the sharing of grief. When there was a death in the neighborhood, everyone helped get the house and yard ready for the wake and funeral. These were the days before funeral parlors and the keeping of moderate hours for mourning. First, the neighbor women would descend on the house of the deceased and give it a thorough cleaning. Then the finest of furnishings would be culled from the entire neighborhood and put in place. I recall the umbrage taken when a rug was brought from a house two blocks away. The immediate neighbors said, "What makes them think that a good rug has to be brought from so far away?"
People would gather for each of the two or three nights of the wake. Food and coffee were served with a special lunch at midnight after which most of the mourners left. Close friends and neighbors then would sit up all night with the deceased since it was bad luck to leave the body alone at any time. Considering the time people spent at wakes it is no wonder that temporary solemnity was vanquished by lighter social intercourse.
There were many railroad men in Scranton, only a few with enough seniority to be still working at this time. Nevertheless at a wake, theyd all get together in the kitchen. All the talk there was about railroad and work. The women in another room would say, "Now, the cars will move," when they saw the assembled men. These men loved their work and were interested in every phase of it.
One night when Frank was in the kitchen with the men, he was sitting near the door that led to the other room where the women were. Frank eavesdropped on their conversation, which was all about their children and how wonderful he said to the man sitting next to him, "Listen to those mothers and their boasting about their sons. The only one in the High Works who ever amounted to anything was Carl Sheriden and he was an orphan."
Lizzie ONeill, our neighbor, was sitting close to the door, as Frank knew she was, and when Mary Murphy, mother of many sons, called out and asked what in the world Carl Sheridan had ever done, Lizzie calmed her down, saying, "Its only Frank Rooney trying to get a rise out of us."
Neither Frank nor I considered ourselves political persons but we considered it a bright spot when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. Most of the residents in the High Works were Democrats, but the Republicans were in power in Scranton and few jobs were given to residents in our section, menial jobs such as those on the ash and trash trucks. On Election Day, each section was given ten dollars to hire a car to get the vote out by the Republicans. This was easily done in the High Works section because there so few Republicans to get out; but Jimmy Foy had been given a job on an ash truck so he had to work for the Republicans on Election Day. He had no car and didnt drive so he asked Frank to drive his car that day and help. There was ten dollars in it for Frank. So, he and Jimmy, who at heart was also a Democrat, worked all day getting people to the polls. Jimmy was careful at first to get out all the Republican votes, but that was soon done. Then they got all out who wanted a ride, regardless of how theyd vote when they got in the booth. There was a lot of merriment at the polls when people saw those two Irish Democrats with a big Republican sign on the car, busily getting everyone there to vote.
We didnt have a radio, couldnt afford one, in March 1933 when Roosevelt was inaugurated. Steve Ruddy had a radio on which he turned up the volume so that everyone could hear the bands in the inaugural parade.
While I stayed at home with our three small children and listened to Ruddys radio next door and the inaugural bands, Frank had gathered with others at a neighbors house, that of Leo McCormack. That was the pattern that day in the High Works. People that could afford a radio served as hosts to larger groups that couldnt.
The author John Dos Passos had described Roosevelts voice as he gave his inaugural address as one which, ". . . . after a moments hoarseness was confident and full, carefully tuned to the microphones; the patron voice, the headmasters admonishing voice, the bedside doctors voice that spoke to each man and to all of us." The new presidents words were being carefully listened to by millions. His most memorable words were, "First of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning terror which paralyzes needed effort to convert retreat into advance." He, as our new leader, was not overwhelmed by the economic blight, but what would he do? He said, "I shall ask the congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis - broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency as great as the power that would be given me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe."
Frank told me about the speech and the feelings he had about it. Roosevelt offered hope and that was more than enough. The feeling the speech engendered had nothing to do with politics. Something was going to be done about the economic disease that was laying us waste. This is what appealed to so many.
I think that was why Roosevelts First Inaugural Address is remembered by so many. It was one of those events in the national life that those old enough to recall can describe where they were when they heard it; much as they can vividly describe the circumstances of their hearing that Pearl Harbor was bombed or that John F. Kennedy was shot.
Things werent going to be allowed to continually worsen. Positive action would be taken to solve our problems and the future once again promised hope.
During the two years that Franks mother lived with us in Scranton she told me many stories of her and of course Franks family life before he and I met. Like most people, I didnt think to make notes and so now have to rely upon my memory of those tales to further chronicle Franks family history.
The Mahon family of Franks heritage, Minnie Mahon Rooney traced only to her parents as I recall it now. Her father was John Mahon, a mason in the Kingston area who had married Clara Vampert, a girl of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) descent. They became the parents of three boys, John, Leo and Frank and five daughters, Jennie, Mary (Minnie), Clara, Alice and Anna. Clara Vampert Mahon took in sewing to do in her home to augment the family budget and help support the usual large family of those times. She was very proficient at sewing and did a brisk trade in making bridal outfits, dresses and suits. The girls all helped with the sewing and Minnie, Franks mother, became quite expert in this skill and used it throughout her lifetime. Clara Vampert Mahon died prematurely of pneumonia and left John with three of his children not raised yet, Leo, Anna and Alice. Minnie served as their surrogate mother.
When Minnie and Will Rooney were planning to get married she was still helping to raise the three youngest Mahons. Instead of leaving the motherless children to make their way as best they could while she sought her own happiness elsewhere, Will Rooney moved into the Mahon home when he married Minnie and together they helped raise the children.
This spirit of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others typified her behavior then and later. A sweeter, more loving person couldnt be found. In my mind, she destroyed for all time the silly caricatures of mothers-in-law so frequently drawn. She never criticized me nor my housekeeping nor anything else, though there were times that she would have been justified in doing so. She always did what she could do to help those she loved and that help was considerable.
When Clara died, John bought a lot in St. Ignatius Cemetery on Pringle Hill almost next to my mothers lot and directly across from the lot that Frank and I purchased later. He made a stone for the lot with the name "Mahon" on it in large block letters. It is still there today and there Will Rooney, Franks father, is buried with the Mahon family.
At the time of Claras death two of her children were already married and living in the area. John owned an oil delivery company with another man in Parsons, a town near Wilkes-Barre; Jennie, the oldest daughter, married Frank Law, yardmaster at the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company in Kingston. Two other children had less fortunate fates. Clara suffered an early childhood fall and by the time she entered her early teens she had become beyond the ability of her family to control and had been placed in a retreat in Shickshinny, remaining there till her death at age fifty. Frank, whom Minnie dearly loved and for whom she would name her first born, suffered a fate of special poignancy. Frank Mahon, at the age of seventeen, started to work on the railroad. One night at work, the temperature dropped to below zero and young Frank came home next morning very ill. He told his mother that he needed all wool underwear as the others on the crew wore and his mother said that she would get them for him. But he had contracted pneumonia and died within a few days. The new wool underwear was put on him in the casket.
Minnie made sure that her son Frank had warm underwear for work in winter and he himself always made sure that he was dressed properly in case he was out for hours when he worked as flagman.
Her younger brother Leo Mahon was to serve in France in World War I and came home suffering from being gassed as so many survivors of that conflict did. My Frank often told of Leo being up at night gasping for breath. He and Frank slept together and Frank had great sympathy for Leos distress. When Leo Gallagher was to later maneuver to have my son named after him, I think Frank acquiesced partly from his fond memories of Leo Mahon. Unlike so many men gassed during World War I, Leo survived to live a long life and he ran an art glass business in Wilkes-Barre until he died in recent years.
Anna and Alice were to eventually marry James Farrel and Charles Wright respectively, and as both fellows were from Larksville, I knew them well. A favorite Larksville story involved Charles Wrights grandmother who kept boarders for a living. One day, one of the boarders said to her, "Why dont you get some squash from the huckster when he comes around? It would be good for a change. Im tired of steak and potatoes every night for supper."
Mrs. Wright didnt know what squash was, but she wouldnt admit it. She went out to the huckster when he came around that day with his wagonload of fresh fruits and vegetables. She selected a large watermelon, thinking that it was squash. That evening, she got her biggest pot and boiled the watermelon, as she did potatoes, with their jackets on. The watermelon shriveled down to the size of an underinflated football. When Mrs. Wright saw it, she said to it in disgust, "I knew you were a big no good."
Minnie often talked about her deceased first husband, Will Rooney, Franks father. She was proud of his local fame as an Irish tenor and like others who knew him, she looked for this talent to be reborn in one of his grandchildren. But an outstanding singing voice never surfaced in that quarter. Her fond memories of their married life were marred by two outstanding events; a streetcar strike and a flu epidemic.
Will Rooney worked as a motorman on the local streetcars and in time, he and Minnie bought a house on Wright Street and moved there with their two sons. Streetcars were an important means of public transportation at that time. About 1915 or 1916 Will joined the other streetcar workers in a strike for higher wages. The strike dragged on for months and there never was a settlement. Workers were not strongly organized then and management felt no compunction about bringing in strikebreakers.
The union men lost their jobs never to regain them. Will, like many others, lost his home since he couldnt keep up the payments. They moved to a rented home in Pittstown.
Frank bitterly recalled this strike and its consequences. I think it helped nurture his later deeply felt pro-union loyalties.
World War I brought in its wake the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919, which took the lives of a half million people in the United States and twenty million people worldwide. At first funerals were held as they had always been held, a wake, pallbearers and all accustomed rituals. But as the spread of the epidemic accelerated and funerals became so frequent they became of necessity more routine and so no one attended but the immediate family. Schools closed and people were not allowed to congregate neither for entertainment at movie houses nor for religious services at churches.
It seemed to me that young men and women in their prime seemed especially susceptible. One headstone in St. Ignatius cemetery can be still seen today listing the ages of the five Noylis sons who died that year of the flu as 18, 20, 22, 24, and 26.
So, the fear of the flu was not an imagined one. At the beginning, a man as popular as Will Rooney was asked to be pallbearer for many of his friends. He confessed to his wife Minnie that he was scared but didnt like to refuse to attend and help at these sad events. Eventually, as he feared, he contracted the flu and from the beginning there was no hope for him.
Taking care of him was his wife and her two sisters, whose husbands were still at camp serving in World War I. As Will was dying, many members of the Rooney family, Annie, Maggie, Joe and many others, gathered in the kitchen and said the rosary and prayers for the dying. They didnt go into the sick room, as they had families at home to whom they didnt want to bring the deadly flu germ.
Minnie thought the Rooneys should have gone in if only to bid Will goodbye and so the loss the family suffered by Wills death was compounded by the rift in the family it created.
Minnie and the Rooneys were no longer friends after the funeral. This was the case in many families at the time. There were two schools of thought in the matter. One group thought that in time of sickness and trouble all members of the clan should come together no matter what the consequences. The other group believed in keeping away from contagion unless it was necessary to help the victims and there was no one else. They worried about spreading the fatal illness at home.
Minnie no longer welcomed the Rooneys into her home though her sons maintained warm if infrequent contact with them. When Frank and I were going together he frequently met Mag and Annie Rooney at our home and they grew close again.
When Will died in 1918, he left his widow, Minnie and his two sons, Frank aged fifteen and William four years younger. Frank was a sophomore in high school, playing football and basketball in season and doing well but he had to quit to help support his mother. During his lifetime, he had a great love and respect for education and many times I heard him say, "My children will go to college because theyll have me to help them do it." He never dreamed that he wouldnt be there, nor could I have dreamed it either.
Frank always had a profound sense of family. He respected the maxims and values he had heard his father express in his short thirty nine years of existence and was willing to sacrifice his education, which he loved by leaving high school to help support his mother when his father died. He had placed his trust in the American work ethic that proclaimed that a man who was willing to work hard and faithfully could provide for his loved ones. Then he was catapulted into an era where personal commitment to those values would not prevent personal failure and his fate would be decided not by innate character but by the flow of unpredictable, uncontrollable external events.
His ebullient and self-reliant nature survived the rigors of the Depression and his long unemployment. His days as a pitchman, using huckster tactics foreign to his taste, to keep his family afloat, came to an end. He was called back to work on the railroad. He, like most unemployed in the Depression era, asked nothing more of life than the chance to work to support his family. Now again he had that opportunity and he relished it.
Work on the railroad at his recall was sparse but began to gradually improve, and, of course, this made life easier to have more money coming in. I once suggested that maybe I should look for some kind of part-time job and Frank said, "You'll never work a day while I live." That ended that. He had the old belief against women working outside the home, prevalent at that time.
Another thing that I remember vividly about this time was that our many wedding presents of blankets, towels, dishes and so many other things were wearing out or had been broken and had to be replaced but during the lean years of the early thirties this had not been possible. Now as work on the railroad was picking up and things looked brighter economically, we began to refurbish our house and clothes. When Frank would bring home a good pay he'd often say, "Thank you Hitler." He read a lot and knew that Germany under Hitler was buying a lot of scrap metal from us and that the car loads of it going on down to New York for shipment overseas made work for the Lackawanna Railroad. He knew that the preparations for war both by the fascists and the democratic powers had the side effect of lifting our national economy and that he was benefiting from it.
Frank and I enjoyed our daily existence at home. We had many interests and joined into the life around us whenever we could. Scranton, Pennsylvania was made up of many different sections, each one distinct and separate. We lived in the High Works Section, but less than a mile from us, was the "Notch" another section. There were many railroaders in each section. It amused my mother to hear Frank say of one of his fellow-workers, "Hes a Notcher," if he came from the Notch. She had grown up in the High Works house and even then there was a running feud between the two sections. High Works girls were not allowed to date fellows from the Notch or socialize with them in any way except at church. All belonged to the same parish church.
One day when Ma was visiting us, Leo came home from school complaining about a Notcher who had "pulled his coat sleeve" and started a general fight between the two groups who attended the Holy Rosary Parochial School. Ma said, "Is it possible that that fight between High Workers and Notchers is still going on?" It was.
The Lackawanna Railroad ran almost past the house on its high, built up tracks, and the Ohio and Western Railroad ran just one house away from us down the hill. We had grown accustomed to the train whistles and noise of the trains, but when we had an overnight visitor, the complaints were loud. Theyd come downstairs in the morning and say, "How do you ever sleep around here? I was listening to the trains all night and didnt sleep a wink."
Frank heard the trains but it didnt bother him. He knew all the signals and Id hear him muttering to himself, "Why are they blowing the flag out now?" and other comments that displayed his interest in the inner workings of the traffic rather than any annoyance by it.
Two incidents of frequent visitors to our home at this time stand out in memory. Johanna, my oldest sister and her husband Leo Gallagher and their daughter Elizabeth were staying with us. It was winter and at bedtime as room assignments were being made, my son Leo heard the room designated for the Gallaghers, and blurted out, "Oh no, the cold room!" meaning that they had been consigned the room noted for its lack of heat. Leo Gallagher mockingly wondered aloud why his family was being bansihed to "the cold room."
Ruth and Bill Rooney and their son Billy were also frequent and treasured visitors to our home in the High Works. My son Leo in particular wondered why they referred to such jaunts as journeys to the land of the "ye bucks." The population of the High Works was predominantly Irish immigrants and their descendants. They used ye for the pronoun you and buck as a synonym for man as in "How are ye bucks today?" Leo was unaware of his local Irish brogue.
Frank loved his home and this normally conservative man defied the conventions of the time to take his part in it as he saw fit. His work schedule had him home at unpredictable times and he'd always tell me to wash clothes on a day that he was home so he could fill and empty the tubs for me. We didn't have stationary tubs that could be filled or emptied in place in those days. Further, Frank would even hang clothes on the line when I didn't feel well. The fact that I didn't wash our clothes on Monday bothered the women and the fact that Frank helped with this task, designated as woman's work, bothered the men, but what other people thought or said on the matter had no meaning to him.
He loved to be at home on Sundays when the whole family could be there. He'd help me prepare the Sunday dinner, the most elaborate of the week. He'd cut the cabbage for coleslaw, peel the potatoes or do whatever I found helpful. He felt such occasions drew the family closer and insisted that the children help too as they grew more able.
Frank never kept the family finances secret to himself as so many men do but always shared with me our exact standing. One payday he was called to work. Hurriedly he dressed for work and I packed his lunch pail, and he went down to the city, got his paycheck, cashed it and then reported on the job on time. He had told me to be down at my godmother's when the train came up out of Scranton, and he'd throw the pay down to me. My godmother was Mary Ann McNulty and her back yard ran by the railroad bank. She was so pleased that Frank would take all that trouble to make sure that I had money for the weekend. "You have a good husband, Laura," she said.
Frank loved animals and our household always had room for cats and dogs. As early as 1929 he brought a white bulldog home from work with him. She had been running around the railroad yard, narrowly missing getting hit by the engines and rattling cars. All of the railroaders knew her and called her "Susie." Frank brought her home to save her from a precarious life and she soon became our family pet. She was replaced later by a little brown terrier named "Peanuts." This dog is enshrined in the hearts of my children as the family dog for we had her from the time of their infancy through most of their childhood until we left Scranton.
Peanuts was joined temporarily by Dusky. This dog was a large chow and had evidently been trained by someone to stand up on its hind legs and shake hands with a person with its right, front paw. This friendly trick was offset by two other habits he had acquired. He enjoyed sneaking behind someone and then throwing his large weight across the backs of their knees, toppling them over. The children of course loved this but it did not endear him to our older people, Grandma Landers in particular. He also liked to maul the other dogs. A neighbor, Kate Corliss, had a little Pekinese whom our chow almost destroyed. She insisted that Frank get rid of it. He told the children that such a bright dog was needed by the "Seeing Eye" and persuaded them to donate the dog to the needy blind while in reality he took the dog to Alice Laws in Wilkes-Barre.
How the blind could protect themselves from a dog with a morbid propensity for knocking them down the children never questioned and were quite proud of their gift. Not till years later did they realize that Frank had quite cleverly satisfied their love of the dog and the need for the protection of older people, not to mention that of their dogs.
Young fellows of the neighborhood came to our house a lot to see Frank and talk with him. They were much older than our children, but they had a "rapport" with him and seemed to like to be around him. I remember on in particular, Tom McCrone. When Tom was leaving, instead of walking down the porch steps, hed vault over the raining, scarcely touching it. When World War II came in 1941, Tom joined the U.S. Rangers and was killed in southern France in enemy territory, sixty miles in advance of our infantry. My nephew, Jim McDonough, was also in that same group and met his death when Tom did. Both of them received many posthumous decorations.
Perhaps these young men especially felt the anxieties of the events in Europe that in the nineteen thirties led inexorably to the Second World War in which many of them would serve in our armed services.
An especially anxious moment occurred in September of 1938. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French President Edouard Daladier persuaded Czechoslovakia to cede to the Sudetenland to placate Hitler. Chamberlain, returning to England from Munich, Germany where they had met with Hitler assured his countrymen that he had brought them "peace with honor." Winston Churchill believed otherwise and said prophetically, "Britain and France had to chose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war."
No one in the High Works was as far seeing as Churchill but perhaps what occurred in October of 1938 was a result of the underlying anxieties of the times. Orson Wells and the Mercury Theatre broadcast a radio program on October 30th that was an adaptation of H.G. Wells story "War of the Worlds." It was a fictional narrative of an imaginary assault in New Jersey by Martians armed with death rays. It created widespread hysteria. Thousands phoned the police to ask what to do and thousands more piled into their cars and created massive traffic jams.
The excitement was shared in the little Irish community of the High Works. I didnt hear the program, but some friends of mine told of their enjoying a quiet game of cards in their home when an aunt of theirs who lived nearby, rushed into the room, shouting, "Down on your knees, all of you. Say a good Act of Contrition. The world is coming to an end." Instead, they turned on the radio to hear what was going on, and by that time it became clear it was just a program, not real.
Frank had older friends, also. Kate Corliss used to come over to see us at times, and she and Frank would have a drink together. She was very old and lived alone next to Gilboys in a house left to her by her family. She was quite a character, could give the "Irish Cry" when a friend died and was full of fun, a typical Irish lady who could tell many stories. She had a radio and I used to go up to her house to listen to "Major Bowes" with her when I could. In those days when there was a funeral, the men would file through just before the casket was closed. They would go in the back door and on out the front door. Kate always said that Frank was the best looking man in the group and she said shed always watch for him.
Frank was lively and vigorous and made friends across a wide range of people. Our next door neighbors were the Conways. The wife, Lizzie, was as brash and outspoken as Frank and so they argued on occasion but remained good friends. Lizzie was married to Tom Conway and Tom and Frank were friends, also. On paydays, Frank would buy a bottle of whisky and call Tom up to the house to have a drink with him. Tom knew when payday was and was always within calling distance. The Conways were our good friends and neighbors and had babies the same age as ours, Romayne and Betty, also another boy, older, named Thomas.
Tom senior worked in the mines and was idle much of those Depression years. Thomas junior was one of the many boys from our neighborhood who joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. The C.C.C. as it was commonly called was one of the New Deal programs with which the Roosevelt administration combated the poverty and unemployment of the times. In its nine years of existence it enrolled two and a half million young men in its ranks. They were issued uniforms and other necessities and put in camps in a quasi-military setting and put to work on forestry conservation projects mainly. They were paid thirty dollars a month most of which was sent home to aid their families.
Naturally, Frank was attracted to fellow railroaders. Jim Gilboy was a conductor on the railroad and he and his wife Bertha lived diagonally across the street from us.
Bertha and Jim came over to play cards with Frank and me once in awhile. We played in the kitchen and in winter Bertha would come dressed warmly and wearing fur lined boots. She said that our kitchen was cold, and it was. There was no cellar under it. I believe that it had been added on to the original house that Tom Battle had built.
A special memory of the Gilboys occurred in 1939, the year of our thirteenth wedding anniversary in June.
The day of the anniversary, Frank went over to talk to Jim and Bertha. He happened to remark that this was our wedding anniversary and Bertha said, "Well dont just stand there, pick a bouquet of roses from the bushes for your wife." I was surprised and happy when Frank came back with them.
Frank loved to play cards. The railroaders spent so much time at the railroad YMCA at the end of a trip, waiting for a job home, that they became very proficient with cards. After the first hand was played, Frank knew the location of most of the cards. He had no patience with the way we played cards at home, chatting, not paying attention, or asking what trump was and our games usually ended in an argument. Floyd Landers, when he and Minnie were staying with us, would say to Frank, "It's a pity you can't enjoy a simple game of cards with your wife and mother, without losing your temper over it." But the game would end and each of us would find something else to do. This was before we had radio and television so we read a lot or did odd jobs in the evening.
Nevertheless, we went to many card games together, usually at a church or school party. Pinochle was the popular game then and we usually came home with a prize.
We went to see a movie when a good one was in. Frank wanted to see all the movies that Barbara Stanwick was in and we usually did, as she was his favorite star.
Both of us were interested and active in the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and its Women's Auxiliary. We'd never miss the annual banquet where invariably we were called on to sing "Little Annie Rooney" for the group. Frank was pleased when I was elected to represent the Ladies Auxiliary of the Trainmen at their convention in Allentown, Pennsylvania one year. I brought home a blue pipe for him from there and he liked it and took such good care of it. It was one of the school colors from a college there, the name of which escapes me now, might have been Mulenburg.
At the annual ball his high spirits made him the life of the party. I remember one banquet that the Brotherhood had in the Sterling Hotel in Wilkes-Barre and we had such a good time. As we were leaving and waiting in the lobby for our cars to be brought up, Frank organized a dance there in the lobby without any music. I heard someone say, "He's a heller but his wife is quiet."
In the previous chapter, I focused on the partnership that Frank and I forged during our married years. In this chapter I would like to describe his relationship to our primary interest, which of course was our children. Frank loved his children dearly and was interested always in every facet of their development. When we had our long talks upon his return home from extended stays at work I had to bring him up on their doings. How were they doing in school? What were their interests? Had they said or done anything of note while he was away?
When home, he was always willing to stay with the children and he enjoyed them. I was active in the P.T.A. and later on, in the Convent Guild, and Frank was pleased to have me do so. He'd tell the children that Mommy had gone to a "pot and pan" party, no matter where I had gone. I had gone to a pan demonstration party once and that settled it; from that time on, no matter where I went, it was to a "pot and pan" party to the children, probably sounded like fun to them. This eager babysitter was the same man whom my mother had warned me before our marriage would leave me at home while he enjoyed the flesh pots outside the home.
Frank seemed to be greatly influenced by things he remembered his father saying and the advice his father gave him. Primary in this heritage was his deeply felt religious belief, which he in turn wished to hand down untarnished to his children.
One day when Leo was a five-month-old baby, I was feeding him beef broth. Frank saw me doing this and asked if I didn't know that it was Friday. I knew it was Friday but said it made no difference to a baby, but Frank felt that it did, a baptized Catholic baby shouldn't have beef broth on Friday. I continued with the feeding, didn't take it at all seriously.
We always went to Mass together on Sundays when he wasn't working and he was strict about the children going also. He had a Mass said for his father every November except during the depths of the Depression when we didn't have the money for the offering.
Though it added to our expenses Frank wanted the children transferred from the neighborhood public school when they completed the second grade so that eventually all three attended the parochial school of the Holy Rosary parish about a mile away.
There was always something going on at school which Frances, Leo and Mary attended and Frank was always glad when he was free to attend one of their plays, processions, meetings, or whatever. A white dress for Frances or Mary or both, had to be washed, ironed and ready for a procession at any time. Leo was serving on the altar and his white surplice also had to be ready at a moment's notice.
The white dresses I kept ready for the girls had originally belonged to Frances as she was the older and Mary wore them as she grew into them. One time, Mary wanted a new dress of her own, but there was a white dotted Swiss dress in perfect condition which fitted her so I said no new dress was needed.
Frank was away on a trip but expected back late that night, so before she went to bed, Mary wrote a note to him explaining that she needed a new dress and she left the note on the kitchen table for him. He was all for getting her the dress when he read her note, but hed never go against me when I had made a decision about the children. I didnt think she needed a dress at all, but agreed to get her one, if he paid for it and he did. He had money for tobacco and he cut down and did without so that she could have the dress.
It was the policy of the school that report cards be signed by the father. He was recognized as the head of the family and responsible for the childrens welfare and progress. Frank was glad to take this responsibility and if he happened to be away on a long trip at work when report cards came home, the cards waited for his return and signature.
Frank always tried to have some kind of car that would run and he was most generous with it in seeing that the young people got around, others as well as his own. If he were home, he always went down to the Holy Rosary school to bring them home. In summer he took as many as would fit in the car, swimming at Lake Scranton or Nay Aug Park. Other fathers in the neighborhood didn't do these things and one of them once said, "You are spoiling it for all the men in the High Works. They'll come to expect rides." But that didn't bother Frank.
Frank's whole interest was in his children and family. He called Frances, "Miss America," and Mary, "Miss High Works." We had hopes that Leo would become a Jesuit priest. The Jesuits used to come regularly every three years to our parish church and Frank admired their learning and dedication and I did, also.
When Frank died Frances had just turned fourteen years old, Leo was twelve, and Mary was nine. I thought that this chapter would be a logical place for his children to record some of their memories of their father and so I requested that each describe their thoughts here.
Memories of my Dad bring to mind a number of scenes and I see that he had a great influence in my life. My love of crowds, white shirts, the circus, cars, driving, swimming, suitcases, depots, cigar smoke and family trips. He was quite a character, happy, lively and in love with life. He was a good family man and loved his wife and family. He was also a practicing Catholic.
He always took us to the circus when it came to Scranton, Ringling Brothers and Barnum, Baily. We would walk around the animal cages, kick up the sawdust and stand in awe of the huge tent. I can still see the thick rope and huge stakes pulling the ropes anchored into the ground. He especially loved the trapeze artists, as they swung freely through the air.
He loved to drive, as I do, and he always had a car, most of the time put together with bailing wire and string; he wasnt much of a mechanic as I remember. I do recall being stuck on the road between Wilkes Barre and Scranton, a matter of only twenty miles, but it could be an all day trip. One trip that is vivid to me seemed hours and we were near a dairy and we would take trips up the road for milk for Mary the baby. We once made a hurried exit after selecting a new choice of a car, while the angry salesman tried to start the old car.
He loved kids and always had the car full of them. It was an unwritten law that whenever he wasnt working he would come to Holy Rosary and any kid from the High Works would pile until there was no more room. The kids called the car The High Works Bus. Once we were going down a hill and another car was coming up, neither driver would back up. The two drivers got ready for battle and finally some guys on the corner came over and lifted each car out of the way, saving face for the drivers. At a very early age he would let us steer the car up Fulton Street and over Ruane Avenue and park in front of the house.
He used to say he would like to build a pool in the back yard; he would have loved Southern California. We would go up to Lake Winola or down to Harveys Lake and swim in the cool water or we would go over to Nay Aug, a large municipal pool in Scranton I can still see the crowded pool and the sun going down over the trees.
When he and Tom Conway would sit and drink beer, they would ask Betty Conway and me to sing our special song. Mine went, "Little old lady. . . " I cant remember what Bettys was.
I remember Marty McCrone, Henry McNulty and my Dad sitting on the back steps and drilling or burning little holes into paddles. The paddles had two holes on one side and three on the other. A toothpick was inserted in one hole and the object was to turn the paddle and have anyone guess which hole it was in, first, second or third. He sold these paddles at fairs or anywhere else there was a crowd of people. He did this when he was laid off the railroad. He also sold green wave sets, shoe laces, razor blades. He called himself THE FAKER.
A clean white shirt was an important part of his trainman uniform. We would run down the hill to meet him when he came from work and we would carry his lunch pail and his overnight bag.
Suitcases have always been an important accessory to my life. I love them, large and small. We were always packing them in anticipation of a trip to Grandmas or a trip to Uncle Bill and Aunt Ruths and New York. The wait for the departure day seemed forever and it seemed we would get up in the dark for the trip to the railroad station. Railroad depots are very familiar to me, like dear old friends. The DL and W passed the High Works on a high track that skirted the community. When Dad would go by he would swing a lighted lantern from the back end and Mom would put our lights on and off.
I remember when he met us in Chicago on our way home from a summer spent in Oregon. We stayed in a hotel near the El. We toured the stockyards and rode the El.
When we had the store, I remember going down to the wholesale houses and picking our canned goods. Boxes of candy would be tied high with string and sit on the loading dock to be put in the car. We mustnt have been any help in unloading the car because I dont remember that.
My Mom set the house afire a couple times by trying to thaw out the frozen water pipes. In my mind, the fire was never much damage and the fire truck coming up the hill wasnt that unusual. If the beds were unmade, Dad would say, why make them. Only the firemen would see them.
He loved a good verbal fight, after all he was Irish wasnt he? Lizzie Conway was his match. The Conways lived in front of us, an empty lot between the two houses. The argument was always the same, what Leo had done to Betty. Liz would stand on their porch and Dad on ours and the whole High Works could hear the differences. But if Dad needed a white shirt ironed and Mom wasnt around, Liz was the one who would iron it for him.
I still collect celebrity autographs. I started at an early age when Dad would take us to New York. I always had to wait at the stage door after a performance. He would wait patiently across the street.
He loved to play dominoes and we always had a game going. He would also play rummy with us. He was also somewhat of a tease. He would say "Squeeze it" when you were trying to get catsup from a bottle. It took me years before I stopped trying to squeeze the glass bottle. Barbara Stanwyck was one of his favorite movie stars. Another thing he used to say, if you walk down the street with your rear end sticking out (this was long before mooning), that people would laugh, but they wouldnt care. What he was saying was, do your own thing, never mind about what people think.
When my Dad was in the hospital we went to see him. He was delirious I remember. I walked into the room with some flowers. "Theyre just in time for the funeral," were his words. I went from the room crying and running. He had a tube in his nose and IV tubing in his arm and seemed very strange. That was the last I saw him alive. Somehow I never remember him as he was, so sick in a hospital bed. I remember him as lively, fun and dependable.
My memories of my twelve years with my father are overlaid by my forty years of life beyond his death to the point where I remember mental photographs of our life together coupled with feelings or values transmitted by him to me though I was unaware of it at the time. He taught me to love my family by loving his. I can see him leaving for work from our High Works home and kissing each family member seated at our kitchen table before he left. We children always raced to meet him upon his return and vied for the privilege of carrying his bag or lunch bucket back to the house where we announced his triumphal re-entry to our home.
Like most boys, I was fascinated with making model airplanes. I started with ten-cent model kits and rapidly reached the point where a twenty-five cent kit was needed to satisfy my addiction. Dad promised to get me one but on payday he returned without it. I called attention to his crime at the supper table and in a righteous huff left the table and dramatically retired to my bedroom. He came there to comfort me and remained to fall asleep with me on my bed with his arm around me. I shortly lost interest in model airplanes but always remembered that my father loved me.
My father introduced me to the world of work at an early age by occasionally taking me to work with him and finding small tasks for me to do to help him. As usual he made me feel important and a valuable contributor to the task at hand and this drew us closer. I must have been a pre-schooler or in the early grades when I joined him on summer days as he traveled to factory gates or fairs or other places where a crowd could be gathered and a product sold to them by a clever spiel and an attractive product. He used to sell razor blades, styptic pencils and any other product, which he could purchase cheaply in the wholesale markets of New York City and resell profitably. To attract a crowd he would first sell a packet of three tongue depressors modified to produce various tricks.
I would stand in the crowd as he demonstrated these wonders and while he announced that even a child could quickly learn to perform them. He would then ask for youngsters in the crowd to volunteer. A flock of hands would go up and he, after much deliberation, would choose me. Of course I performed the tricks quickly and expertly having helped make them and practiced with them for hours. Dad rewarded me with a penny for each performance as his shill.
I vividly recall the scene at one fair where sales efforts were interrupted each time the horses went to the post for a race. I would sit in the dry dust beneath the encircling racecourse fence, ignoring the horse race and lay out my pennies for counting. I knew their value in the times gripping the land and counted myself lucky for being so prosperous.
Later when he returned to railroading he would occasionally take me with him when he or an understanding friend was working in the baggage car where small tasks could be assigned to me. I remember the run through New Jersey to the terminal at Hoboken where we could see from our railroaders hotel window the Leviathan at her berth. The Leviathan was a very large passenger ship, confiscated from the Germans in World War One, I believe. I particularly remember that we would pass through a series of towns that had the peculiar word Orange in their names; West Orange, South Orange, East Orange and Orange. I never dreamed that I would spend most of my adult life working as a teacher and school administrator in a building along side those same tracks and only a few miles from those Oranges.
He seemed to like to be with my sisters and me and encouraged us to do things. We attended Holy Rosary School in the Providence section of Scranton at what seemed a long mile from our home. We were quite proud that in inclement weather when he was home he would come to pick us up in whatever vintage car he was managing to keep rolling at the time. The neighborhood kids called it the High Works bus and he would crowd them in like a circus car full of midgets. The cars capacity was always stretched to include the number of children needing a ride and we three Rooneys had prestigious reserved seats up front with the driver. He used the same technique to take the neighborhood kids swimming in summer. He treaded water off a dock one day while he encouraged me, a non-swimmer at the time, to jump into the deep water. With unerring accuracy, I jumped and landed squarely on his nose. My swimming instruction was turned over to a camp instructor.
I have gone through life largely unencumbered with athletic skills but what few I developed he encouraged. He bought me two pairs of "Jack Dempsey" boxing gloves and patiently honed my fighting skills in the back yard in the shade of a horse chestnut tree. He supported my love of football, yet it was my sneaked view of him from the stairway leading upstairs, placing a football under our Christmas tree and later telling me it came from Santa Claus, that ended that pleasant legend for me.
He used to tell me that doing well in school would help me get into college and my ability to swim, box or play football could only help me there. He and my mother indelibly impressed on me that college was my goal, not by convincing me of the merits of such a goal, but by taking it for granted that it was what I would do. In retrospect, it was this assumption, imbued by my parents, that prompted me to announce in each of the four high schools I attended, that I wanted the college preparatory course of study, though I had no visible prospects of being able to afford such an education. I didnt know that the government would pay for it under the G.I. Bill of Rights but ignorance gave me the strength and confidence I needed to pursue the goal.
My father taught all of us children to tell time before we went to school and I still have his railroad watch on an end table in our living room. He used to love to read plays to us, dramatizing all the roles. Our fascination with his acting was enhanced by the fact that on Friday nights we were allowed to stay up beyond our usual be time to serve as his appreciative audience.
My father was a firm disciplinarian. We knew the rules by which he wanted us to live and that he would take the steps necessary to enforce them. I never remember him hitting my sisters, perhaps they were more tractable or circumspect than I but he would occasionally give me a whack. One of the more memorable occasions when he found it necessary to get my attention with a clout occurred when my mother was baking cookies. The kitchen window was about one foot above the ground and it was here that I and a playmate came to beg a cookie or two. She gave one to my playmate but told me I would have to wait until after our lunch. Outraged by the inequity of it all, I reached down, seized a rock and threw it at her, breaking the window in the process. My father was dispatched as the posse to get me and I was making good speed up through a neighbors yard to the woods beyond where I was sure I could elude him, when I tripped on a peach pit and he caught me. My hurt at the punishment was not allayed until years later when my mother reaffirmed my trust in his basic justice. Privately, he told her that he would have done the same thing I had done.
My respect for my father can perhaps be best illustrated by this memory. Before I became a full-fledged altar boy at age eleven I used to serve as one of the ten candle-bearing acolytes used to decorate a High Mass. We cherubs and the older altar boys used to dress for mass in a room right below the sacristy where the priests dressed. It was a Sunday morning when my parents had invited my grandparents, the Landers, to attend High Mass and see Leo be a part of the services.
Special, shiny patent leather shoes were stored in our dressing area for use by us on the altar. We boys started throwing them at one another. Father Ward, a particularly tough and choleric parish priest with a passionate belief in proper decorum in church, came down the steps to break up the melee and threaten both temporal and eternal punishment to anyone who made a sound that could be detected by a keen eared watchdog. When he left, I still had a shoe or two in my grasp and one or two scores to settle so let them fly. Father Ward returned and caught me. He told me clearly in tones of unsuppressed rage to change my clothes and leave.
Imagine his surprise when the ten angels holding candles entered the alter area in the midst of the mass and were being led by me. As soon as the mass ended and we were back in the sacristy, Father Ward grabbed me and demanded an explanation as to why I had failed to follow his dismissal order. I told him that I knew he would be mad but that my father would also be mad if I didnt take part in the services. Given the choice as to whom to make mad, I chose him. He accepted that.
On the last night of the wake for my father held at our home, the overflow crowd was provided seating all over our front and back yard. I was out there when a man asked me if I missed my father. Mr. Murphy, a neighbor, interrupted to say that it was too early for me to miss him but that my sense of loss would grow with time. The first man asked foolish questions but Mr. Murphy had the long view. He was right.
My favorite memory of my father is of a Christmas Eve. I was sound asleep in the room I shared with Frances, when he opened the door of the bedroom to call us. "Santas been here!" I can still see him framed in the doorway, the light shining behind him. He was as excited as we were that Santa had come. He had just come in from work about 3:30 A.M. and was going to bed when he noticed all the presents. Of course my mother was the real Santa who had worked until 2:00 A.M. preparing everything, and then got to stay up with us the rest of the night, after he went to sleep.
Most of my memories of my father are happy ones. I remember shouting, "Hi, Pop!" as I passed him on my way home from church one Sunday. He was on his way to a later mass, and was walking with several other men. His face lit up and he looked as happy to see me, as I was to see him. I usually called him "Daddy" but this one time I was testing his reaction to "Pop."
My father was a very good looking man. I used to hope that on Parents Night at school he wouldnt be working so that he could attend. I felt proud that people would know he was my father.
One time I had a fight with my brother Leo and was still very mad when my father asked about my day. I told him about the argument, but he didnt make any judgment on who was right or wrong. Instead, he told me that Leo and I might fight and be so mad at each other that wed take different routes to school just so we wouldnt have to walk together. But then if we got to school and someone started to pick on me, Leo would help me out, and I could count on that. I had a hard time believing him, but I can appreciate now that he was putting our relationship in perspective for me. Family love is a true value, and its there even when youre mad at each other.
I was nine years old when my father died, and so my memories of him are not very vivid now. However, I can judge by the closeness Ive known in my family that his influence has been lasting.
Since Frank worked on the railroad we had access to free passes which was an incentive to travel of which we took great advantage. In the spring of 1932, Douglas McNeill, now a priest serving a parish on Prince Edward Island, was to serve his first High Mass and he invited Frank and me to attend. Notwithstanding the facts that this was at the lowest point of the nation's economic prostration and we had three small children, the youngest Mary, aged only seven months, we decided to go. Blithely, we counted our assets. Because of the railroad passes our transportation to the island would be free as it had been on our honeymoon. Frank was free to go since he was out of work. Besides, Grandma and Grandpa Landers were living with us and therefore instant baby sitters. For double safety for the children, we asked Johanna and Leo Gallagher who were free to come to stay with the children also and they agreed, gladly.
At the time of the trip, May of 1932, there was a wide search on for the baby of Charles and Ann Morrow Lindbergh. The baby's name was Charles, Junior and he was the first child and had been born to this famous aviator and his wife in 1930. He had been kidnapped in 1932 and there was some evidence to believe that he might be found on a boat near Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.
As the train carried us north up the coast, planes flew overhead, dipping low over the water and the boats there. People on the train were saying that Lindbergh himself was piloting one of the planes, searching for a signal that would tell him where his son was.
It began to rain toward dark when we reached Boston. As we got off the train to change to another train going to Canada, newsboys were calling, "Lindbergh baby found dead."
This put a chill through me, as the horrible details emerged about the baby being found in the woods near the Lindbergh home in Hopewell, New Jersey, not anywhere near the water and the boats that we had been watching all afternoon. I felt like turning around and going back to my baby Mary and the youngsters, Leo and Frances at home.
Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a carpenter, was later tried and convicted for this crime and electrocuted in 1936.
Anyhow, we continued on our way. All the talk on the train was about the Lindbergh baby. When we were on the Canadian National Railroad all Canadians agreed that if the Canadian Mounties had been on the case, it would have been solved quickly and the baby saved.
We reached Prince Edward Island on schedule and got a room at the hotel in Summerside as we had done in 1926. We had dinner with the McNeill family and met all of them, the youngest being ten years of age. All of them spoke French when we weren't there and that seemed to be the language of the house.
That night Frank sent his suit out to be pressed and we prepared for the first High Mass of Father McNeill next morning. It was a formal and touching occasion and the church was filled. The celebration went on all that day and we met many of the relatives and friends of the family.
Next day, Mr. McNeill and his wife and Father McNeill and Frank and I went to Charlottesville for a ride, calling at several small parishes where they had special friends. We had lunch at one of these places, manned only by a young curate. Mrs. McNeill prepared a large lobster, much enjoyed by the men. We also visited a mink farm nearby.
The next day Frank and I started home. Frank was always interested in what boxcars were there and why. I remember his excitement when he saw a Lackawanna freight car a way up there in Canada, like seeing a friend from home. It had probably taken anthracite coal up there.
We enjoyed the boat trip to the mainland. Frank, by this time knew some of the crewmen well enough to receive a gift of potatoes from the galley to plant when he got home. Prince Edward Island is famous throughout Canada and the United States for the fine quality potatoes produced there. I knew that Leo Gallagher was the one who'd really get to plant them and he did. He saved some for seed and we called them our own "Prince Edward Island" potatoes.
We were glad to get home and see that all was well as we knew it would be. Later, when Frank was called back to work and life resumed its normal tenor we began to travel more. We had been staying close to home, watching every penny so we'd have enough food for the children who were now growing out of babyhood and had more needs. Now, we felt that we could splurge a little, get Helen Viavada, a neighbor, to baby-sit, and Frank and I would go up to Binghamton on the train, about sixty miles away, get an oyster stew at a place there famous for them and come home again all in a couple of hours.
Our passes on the Lackawanna Railroad were also well used to maintain family contacts especially as there was a train from Scranton to Kingston, and Johanna or Lawrence could meet me and the children there.
I remember one trip when Sarah Jane was alive. I was taking her, Leo and Frances down to my mother's on the train. Leo was only about two years old. With the baby in my arms I couldn't hold on to him, but he didn't mind that. He said he was going with the "Daddies," a group of men who were deadheading to Kingston. They took Leo with them when they sat and one of them swung off with him when we reached Kingston. They were well used to children, probably had them at home.
On the train, a woman came to our seat to see the baby and the other two, and she said, "This is the happiest time of your life, but you may not think it so now." Many times afterward I had cause to remember her words, when Sarah Jane was no longer with us.
In July 1937, Frank and I decided to go to Miami, Florida to see my sister Mary and her husband, Leonard (Fritz) Wirtz. We left the children in Larksville with my mother.
As our train neared the south, the civility of whites to blacks seemed to decline with the latitude. Frank was upset by the way that some southerners treated the blacks who worked on the train as waiters and porters. We hadn't seen such open hostility and contempt in the north, though probably some of it was there. For instance, while we sat in the dining car a man sat at the next table and with a deep Southern accent and a nasty, imperious tone demanded that butter be placed on his table immediately by the black waiter. Frank said to me in a loud voice, "He probably doesn't have butter at home." Frank was prepared to do battle but the man pretended not to hear him. Frank hated any display of bigotry against any people and was ahead of his time in demonstrating his disapproval of discrimination of any sort. He was not a militant in such causes but characteristically could not and would not hide his feelings.
We had a lovely visit with Mary and Fritz. They took us deep sea fishing and Frank caught a "grouper," I believe they called it. I made a big pot of chowder with it after we got back to the Wirtz's and it was so good.
Fritz was captain of a yacht there and couldn't be with us every day but Mary, Frank and I went some place each day sightseeing. At a park where native Indians were, Frank wanted some children to pose with us for a picture so we could take it home to show our children. The Indian children put their hands out, "Nickel, nickel," before they'd get in the picture. We had a good laugh over that, small as they were, they had an eye for business.
Frank always loved to swim so he enjoyed the ocean. One day while he was swimming and Mary and I sat on the beach talking, we saw a shark coming in close to the beach. We screamed at Frank to come out quickly and that was one time he uncharacteristically obeyed fast without any questions.
The children had been fine at my mother's, going to a church picnic with her and probably going to the Joneses to play with their cousins, or just going to the store for ice cream and eating it on the front porch a treat in itself, much loved by their Grandmother Larson.
Frank and I got back to Scranton on a Saturday and decided to wait until next day to go for the children. A block party had been going on in the High Works all week while we had been away, and that Saturday night was the last night. It was being run for the benefit of a former High Works girl who was now Sister Imelda serving with the Maryknoll Order of nuns in China.
As soon as we arrived at the party we were hailed as big spenders who had been away all week on a trip to Florida. Frank had to go to each booth and take chances on whatever they were chancing off, didn't miss a booth. We won one prize and that was a Maryknoll nun doll, authentically dressed by someone in the order. We prized this greatly and had her for years until finally I donated her to the museum in Morristown where they had a collection of nun dolls from all over the world, but lacked one from the Maryknoll Order.
The next trip that I will recount here was prompted by sister Johanna and her husband Leo Gallagher and daughter Elizabeth who had moved to Oregon in 1938. Johanna and Leo had decided to leave the chronically depressed coal regions and try to make a fresh start in the west. My brother Tom lived alone on a ranch in Oregon and he encouraged the Gallaghers to come seek a new life there. The nuns at Elizabeth's high school in Towanda upon her graduation helped her to get into a nurse's training program in Astoria, Oregon and so the move was made.
Johanna and Leo had always been close to Frank and me and the children and we missed them very much and kept up a voluminous exchange of mail between us.
By the time the next summer was approaching, a glimmer of a thought to go and see them in Oregon was beginning to grow in my mind. I talked it over with Frank and he was all for it. He could get passes for us and the trip would be educational for the children, Frances 12, Leo 11 and Mary, 8 years old. Frank stayed at the Railroad YMCA while we were gone but would check on the house occasionally. He also got a new hot water boiler put in while I was away.
When I told my mother about the proposed trip, she was aghast. I had a nerve to take "that man's children" so far away from him. Was he going to allow it? I told her that he was sending for the passes for us to go but she still wasn't reconciled to it. I'm sure that she thought she'd never see any of us again.
We had a wonderful trip to the ranch in Oregon and stayed about six weeks there. Frank accompanied us to Binghamton, New York to get us started on our way. We traveled by coach, couldn't afford sleepers. When we reached Butte, Montana where my Uncle Thomas Curtis and his wife, Ella, lived we stopped two nights and had a visit with them. Frank had arranged for this stopover when he got the passes for us.
Next day we continued on to Oregon on the train. We had a lay over in Marshfield, Oregon, and Mary and Frances started to play jacks on the steps outside the station. Soon a small crowd gathered to watch them; they hadn't seen jacks played in years one said. We were very tired by this time and Leo said that if his Daddy didn't figure out a shorter way back to Pennsylvania, he was going to stay out there in Oregon.
When we got to Myrtle Point, Oregon, we went to the Davenports, friends of Tom's, and they took us the sixteen miles up to the ranch.
We had kept in touch with Frank all this time so that he knew where we were and how we were. When we got to the ranch there was mail waiting for us from Frank, assuring us that all was well with him at home. He was eating most of his meals out, and he said that it was costing him as much as if we were all at home. He couldn't figure out how that could be, but it was true. A family living at home could manage the food budget much better.
Frank liked to get his groceries from a store owned by a man named Mr. Kaditus and he traded there. When the children and I were away in Oregon, he needed canned dog food for our mongrel dog, Peanuts, but the store didn't stock the kind Frank wanted, "Red Heart Dog Food." Frank made such a spiel about how good it was and Peanuts wouldn't eat any other kind, that Mr. Kaditus got some in and put it on the shelves and it became a big seller. Mr. Kaditus told everyone that Mr. Rooney had a very valuable dog and he wouldn't feed it anything but "Red Heart Dog Food" so others bought it. Frank had not lost his salesman's touch.
After a glorious stay on the ranch with Tom and the Gallaghers, we started for home and Frank met us in Chicago. We stayed there overnight in a hotel near the railroad station. Frank wanted to see the stockyards next day, and of course, all the children wanted to go with him after being away from him all summer. Johanna had sent two jars of canned deer meat with me to take to the Vane Dares in Chicago on my way back. The Dares were good friends from Larksville.
So, after breakfast next day, Frank and the children left for the stockyards and I got a bus up to where the Dares lived and delivered the deer meat and had lunch with them.
Finally, I reached the hotel and Frank and the children. He said he was relieved to see me, the traffic was so fast, streets to cross so wide, that he was glad to get them all safely back to the hotel. I think his respect for my feat of taking the three all across the country was heightened by that experience confined to only one city.
Leo remembers hearing newsboys shouting excitedly on the streets below our hotel rooms and Frank sending him down to get a newspaper. It was Sunday, September 3, 1939 and the headline covered the front page with only two words, "War Declared." The Germans had marched into Poland and Great Britain had declared war. World War II had started.
That spring of 1939, the New York World's Fair had opened in Flushing Meadow with its symbol of the Trylon and perisphere. We joined the twenty-five million visitors that first year of the fair, after we returned from Oregon and before school started. Frank too, the whole family to see it. The theme of the fair was the "World of Tomorrow" and two popular exhibits gave a somewhat correct view of it. General Motors seated viewers on moving chairs while speakers in the seats described the serpentine highways and interchanges of the future they were seeing and General Electric had one of the first television studios that were later to become so important in our national life.
All our trips were so enjoyable and I'm glad we took them. Frank's life was to be so short that it was good we had taken advantage of every pleasure we could when opportunity allowed.
|Butte, Montana on our 1939 trip west. I am holding the arm of my uncle Thomas Curtis who stands next to his wife Ella. On my other side is Margaret Reap a former neighbor in the High Works. In te front row Mary clutches her doll, Leo casually calls attention to his new watch and Frances looks pensive.||
Frank flanked by me and my sister Mary Wirtz display our catch in Miami in 1937.
|Frank helps a fellow serving beer at a Trainman's clambake during the summer of 1939 while the children and I were out west. At least he said he was helping to serve it.|
The month of May in 1941 was a beautiful one as usual. By this spring our family fortunes were rising but they were to take a cataclysmic setback.
The economic upsurge caused by World War II and the nation's accelerating war preparedness program prior to our entry into that conflict created increasingly prosperous times for the railroads. Frank was working steadily now and took the examination necessary to become a conductor. This was a long held dream of his and he often volunteered to perform the duties of the conductor on the train crews on which he served to prepare him for that role.
One day Frank was at work and I wasn't expecting him in for another day or two. He had been called for a 10:00 P.M. trip to Elmira that night before and had left for work in good health and spirits. We had had pork chops and sauerkraut for supper, a meal that we all liked and which had always agreed with our digestions. He never complained of poor health and was always glad to get all the work he could. I never remembered him being sick or saying that certain foods didnt agree with him.
Our children had been talking of May processions that they were preparing for in the school they attended and I was expecting them for lunch.
I was setting the table for the children's lunch when the kitchen door opened and Leo came in carrying his father's bag and lunch pail and Frank was with him, followed by the girls. They had been walking home from school when Frank came driving along and picked them up.
While the children were eating their lunch, Frank told me that he had collapsed on the job the night before and had been taken off the train in Binghamton where an ambulance met the train and took him to the hospital. He had been treated there, his pain diagnosed as a gall bladder attack. The doctor there advised him as to diet and warned him to reduce, as he was overweight and an operation before reducing was inadvisable. This advice was the best that Frank was to receive. Too bad that the situation got out of his hands and the good sense and knowledge of the good doctor in Binghamton was not followed.
Frank got an early morning train from Binghamton and "dead-headed" home. After a bath and change of clothes, Frank reported to the Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton as was required when a worker collapsed on the job. This was the hospital the Lackawanna Railroad used for the benefit of their employees and their families. Frank said that he felt all right and well enough to go back to work but he couldn't go until he had been cleared by the company doctors.
From the hospital, he called his friend, Joe Moyles, to come over and take his car home, as he had to stay here and be admitted. This was a shock to him as I could tell by his voice when he called me to tell me. I went over to see him that evening on the bus and brought his watch and personal belongings home. It was all very sudden and upsetting but as yet, we had no premonition of worse to come. We had weathered other troubles and we would get through this somehow.
I went every afternoon to the hospital to see him after the children had gone back to school. Some days I'd hardly have a visit with him at all as he was downstairs going through tests. He was on a strict fat free diet and said that he didn't mind it at all and could live the rest of his life on it. We planned how all of us at home would follow whatever the doctor's instructions were to him.
This went on for nearly a week and then one day when I came, Frank told me that the doctors thought that he should have a gall bladder operation. He acted so well and was interested in everything around him that I thought that if he came home and we adhered to a fat-free diet, he might never take another attack. But, next day, when I came to see him, he had signed the permission slip and the operation was to be performed the next day. I got in touch with his mother and she came up from Wilkes-Barre to be with me. The operation seemed to last an unusually long time, or so I imagined.
Before the operation, Frank and I had talked about it. He wanted to get it over with while he was there in the hospital and not have to come back for it. An intern there, Dr. Thomas, in whom Frank had great faith, said that everything looked favorable for an operation at this time, heart, kidneys and all other vital organs were all good. We didn't know the doctor who was going to do the operation but assumed that he knew his business.
Frank knew of some job that he thought he could get later on. It was an easy job and he thought he could hold it until he was fully recovered. I said that I'd find a job also and he again objected firmly.
What happened after the operation is all confusion to me. I knew that Frank was very sick but in my inexperience with operations, knowing of them only from hearsay, I thought that it was normal to be very sick after an operation. I think that Dr. Thomas realized that Frank was in danger of death and that I had no inkling of it. He asked me to come into another room with him and then he told me. He had tears in his eyes. I asked him about calling a priest to give Frank the last rites of the church and he said he'd attend to it.
When I went back to Frank, I told him not what Dr. Thomas had said but that I wanted a priest to see him and had sent for one. Very shortly, Dr. Thomas came to say that a priest was on his way there. I had worn a hat on the trip over to the hospital but had put it aside when I got there. Frank told me to put my hat on, as most likely the priest would be bringing Holy Communion. In those days it was the custom for women to cover their heads in church or in the presence of the sacred host with a hat or a scarf.
He was always concerned about the children at home and asked what they were doing. They were painting our kitchen set red, mainly to keep them busy so they wouldn't be out on the street while I was away. He wanted to know if I had been talking to the doctors and if everything possible was being done for him. He said, "Don't take a back seat, I'm your breadwinner." I assured him that I was in constant communication with the doctors, that the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen had sent their members to refill the hospital blood bank, which had been emptied for him, and that I had arranged for a private nurse for him. The only thing that I didn't do, that I've wished since that I had, was to send for his brother, Bill. We needed someone desperately to take charge and help us, but we didn't seem to realize it. I think that his mother and I were in shock. My sister, Matilda, said, "Why didn't you call us?" and I didn't know, just kept running from the house to the hospital, catching buses, hardly knowing even what the children were doing, but what ever it was, they were as concerned as I was, and gave no one any trouble.
When Frank had first entered the hospital, I had sent a graduation card to my niece, Elizabeth Gallagher, graduating in nurses' training in Astoria, Oregon and I had told her about Frank being in the hospital. She didn't know the hospital address, so she sent flowers to the house for him. They arrived the day before he died, and Frances brought them over to the hospital. When she saw her Daddy hooked up to so many machines, and heard him saying in his delirium, "Here's my beautiful daughter with flowers just in time for the funeral," she threw the flowers and ran out of the hospital. It was a terrible experience for her.
Grandma Landers, the nurse we had engaged, and I were with him that night when he died. It was twenty minutes to one, in the morning. He was thirty-seven years old.
Frank knew he was dying and even in "extremis" tried to advise me as to what to do to raise the family. Finally, he said, "I'm too sick to think straight, just take care of the kids." Those were his last words.
Neighbors told me later that our dog, Peanuts, ran around and around outside our house that night. I believe in spirits and think that Frank made one last call on his children that night and that Peanuts sensed his presence. I have always felt that Frank has been with us in spirit no matter where we have lived or have gone.
Frank was buried from his home in the High Works section of Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 29, 1941. This was before the days of funerals from funeral homes, as we have today. My sister, Mary Wirtz, who had come up for the funeral from Florida, said that it was the biggest funeral she had ever seen. I had called our family undertaker from Kingston, John J. Maher, as burial was to be in Kingston Cemetery on Pringle Hill where our daughter, Sarah Jane, was buried. At the time she was buried, we had intended to put her in my mother's lot as this was the depression year of 1930 and we had no money to buy a lot.
Frank and my brother Lawrence had gone to the rectory to make the arrangements. Father Michael Lynott, who had married us, was there and he knew Frank well, as his former altar boy. He said, "You have other children, Frank, don't you? And how about you and Laura?" He opened a drawer, pulled out a paper, and proceeded to write up a deed for a cemetery lot for Frank, no money down, just pay when we could. The lot was in a good section, also, near all of our people.
I'll never forget the kindness of all our friends and neighbors in the High Works at that time. They moved furniture, put up fresh curtains, covered the floors with beautiful rugs and along with this, brought in food of all kinds and stayed up all night serving it. That was the custom in those days as previously described. My friend, Evaline Steele, who had not been to my house before but had come up to the wake, said, "You have a regular doll house."
I was beyond knowing or caring what I had, only what I had lost. Frank's brother, Bill, came, and I asked him to take charge and he did. I don't know what I would have done without him. He took good care of everything and everything was done as it should be. He told me that on the last night of the wake, before burial, the whole yard was filled with chairs and people who had come after the house was filled. Bill was so glad that it didn't rain; he didn't know what he'd do if it had.
Flo McGrellis had come up on the train when she heard the news and said that everyone was talking of the death; just couldn't believe it. Frank's conductor came, would leave for awhile and then come again. He felt truly grief-stricken.
Frank had often mentioned that he thought that Brotherhood men should be pallbearers at a railroader's funeral, so that's who we had with the addition of Frank's long time friend, Ray McGrellis. The funeral mass was said in the Scranton church to which we belonged and the parochial school of which our three children attended. On the day of the funeral three classes marched in from the school for the mass - Frances' 8th grade, Leo's 7th grade and Mary's 4th grade and the nuns who taught them were with them. Clifford Timlin, a grade eight High Works boy and a friend of ours had asked to serve on the altar for that mass. He is now the Bishop of the Scranton Diocese.
After the mass, the cortege then wound its way to the Pringle Hill cemetery for burial. The Scranton friends who had driven down for the burial remained for the committal prayers by a priest from the Kingston St. Ignatius Church and left us to return to Scranton.
We went to my mother's where we planned to stay over night. Leo Gallagher's brother, Stanley, and his wife, Annie and daughter, Marie Nice, had dinner ready for us but when we came in only Marie was in attendance at the table. When her parents saw the cars coming in the lane where Ma lived, they started to cry and ran over to Marie's house next door. Marie and Tommy Nice lived in the smaller house where Ma and Dad had started housekeeping. Stanley and Annie said later, that they just couldn't face us in our sorrow but they did come back later and talked to us.
In the meantime, back in the High Works our friends were busy rearranging the house and making it look as it had before Frank's death. The refrigerator was stocked with all kinds of foods and delicacies.
Mr. Kaditus, who kept a store nearby, in a place called "over the field" by native High Workers because years ago his store site had been a field, came to the house to tell me that the children or I should never be hungry; we should come to him if the need arose. Of course, we wouldn't take advantage of it, but it was good hearted of Mr. Kaditus to make the offer and I appreciated it and thanked him.
So ended the life of a good man, long before his time. He loved life and his family and his work also. There was something about railroading that appealed to him and I never heard him complain about any facet of it. When the children and I would be talking about new clothes for Easter, he'd say, "Get my passenger uniform cleaned, the older fellows will be laying off for the holiday, and I'll get some passenger runs in."
He never dreamed that he wouldn't be there to provide for us always and we never dreamed it either, but I know that he has been with us in spirit always - no matter where we are.
After Franks' death many friends and relatives came forward to offer help; some going so far as to offer to raise the children to maturity. Franks' brother Bill and his wife Ruth offered to raise their godchild Mary. Father McNeill offered to take his godson Leo to raise in his rectory on Prince Edward Island and later send him to college without in any way influencing his career choice. Leo looks back on this offer with gratitude but with a sure knowledge that no church deserved to be so sorely tested.
But I was determined to keep the family together. I remembered his last words, "Take care of the kids." I didn't think Frank would have rested peacefully if I had allowed the breakup of his family.
Frank's aspiration for his children for their further education beyond high school was achieved. Frances became a nurse, Leo a public school administrator and Mary a mathematician.
Each has raised families of their own. Frances married Earnest Gouveia and had four children, Judy, Frank, Anita and Lynn. Leo married Alberta Maydock and their two sons are Lars and Curtis. Mary married Charles Byrne and they have three children, Thomas, Laura and Daniel Joseph.
Bill Rooney, Frank's brother, and his wife Ruth now live in retirement in Virginia, Their son, Bill, Junior and his wife Betty brought them to visit me and the Leo Rooneys last Christmas week. Bill, Junior is a retired F.B.I. agent and he and his wife have invited me and the Leo Rooneys to join them next month for a barbecue with their children, Diane, Janet and Billy.
The sense of family so highly prized by Frank can perhaps be further illustrated in the lives of his progeny by listing family visits during the three months prior to the writing of the conclusion of this memoir. Mary and her son Thomas visited me from Ohio on Mother's Day weekend. He son D.J. came for a twelve-day visit and his father Charlie visited briefly twice. Frances called frequently from California and Judy came for a weeklong visit. Leo and his family live four miles away and have seen me most frequently both in their role as co-hosts to family visitors and collaborators in producing this book. Frank would have been proud.
I'm sure Frank is proud.