2020: S -April A to Z… Family Stories
I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…
Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!
From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat had resembled Coney Island… but was even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories… remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!
My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:
- 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
- 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
- 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
- 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
Come sit a spell and enjoy!
Shopping in New Haven… and more
Shopping in New Haven in the late 50’s to early ‘60’s was so very different than today. Even riding the bus was an event in comparison to today; They usually only ran on the main streets, so if you lived far from the center of town… you often walked long distances just to board the bus.
In talking about shopping in New Haven, Steve remembered… “The first time I ever went to New Haven was when I was about six years old. Aunt Catherine took me to Woolworths at Christmas time. She was married then, but didn’t drive so we took the bus. I remember walking with her to the bottom of York St. to catch the bus, as at that time the bus didn’t run all around West Haven like today. The closest stop near our house, to catch the bus, was at the end of York St. on Campbell Ave. Going into New Haven at that time was looked at as a real trip – it was as if it was a far distance.. you didn’t go often. I still remember the fountain counter in Woolworths… their counter was more like semi-circles weaving in and out like a “s” shape – it was a long fountain counter. Aunt Catherine bought me a sandwich there – it was the first triple-decker sandwich I’d ever eaten, or even seen. We usually only went to town in West Haven about once a week – we were poor. West Haven wasn’t even considered a city then – not enough people, and was only known as the town of West Haven.”
The three major 5 & 10’s of downtown New Haven were… W. T. GRANT Co… S. S. KRESGE Co… and the F. W. WOOLWORTH Co. Grant’s had entrance/exits on Chapel, Orange & Center. Kresge’s had entrance/exits on Chapel, Church & Center. Woolworth’s was L shaped with entrance/exits on Chapel & Church. The five and dime department stores carried all you needed… every nook and cranny was filled!
While sitting at the beach one night, and listening to Ain’t That a Shame by Fats Domino, Steve said… “That song reminds me of the time Johnny, and Ronny (Kessler), and myself took the bus to Kresges in New Haven – bus probably cost 15 cents. Kresge’s was on lower Chapel St, right around where the old unemployment offices were. I bought a stack of 45 records that day for $1.00… probably 7 or 8 were in the package… that Fats Domino record was inside; I forget now which record was on top that made me buy the stack… they used to sell a stack of records cheap to get rid of them.”
The “Arena” in New Haven was where Steve watched the New Haven Blades play hockey and as West Haven High School had no ice skating rink… the West Haven hockey team also played there. Wrestling was very big at the Arena… and what boy didn’t want to go! Steve remembers going with a boy in his neighborhood a few times… seeing Haystack Calhoun and Bruno Samartino. A few weeks before leaving for the Air Force (1968), Steve saw the musical group The Young Rascals. (It first opened in 1927 with a Yale Hockey Game and Elton John played its last concert there in 1972; it was demolished in 1975… making way for the newly built… New Haven Coliseum)
“When I was older, and had outgrown those shopping trips with Aunt Catherine, I now went with friends, but not necessarily to shop… now going as a teenager to the famous “Arena” for hockey games… watching the New Haven Blades. The New Haven Arena was the place to see music events as well as the hockey games. It later was replaced with the Colosseum… which was also later torn down… now there is nothing in New Haven for large events like hockey games and music.”
The New Haven Coliseum was built directly behind the famous Knights of Columbus on Church St. I remember that circular garage at the Coliseum… and hated going round and round! Steve and I went there for a dog show once… wanting to check out the breed of Samoyed in person. At that time we had a Samoyed named Samson. What we saw was many snooty people… very disappointing! The only other times we went, was when Stephen was in Cub Scouts… we took him to see The Harlem Globetrotters and Steve took him with the scouts to a hockey game.
At night time you could see the huge neon figures on the Coliseum from I-95. They were bought and saved before it was demolished.
My one regret was that I didn’t go see Elvis when he came in 1975… I really had no one to go with at that time; that was the only chance I ever had to see him, and I let it slip through my fingers. I wish I had memories of actually seeing him in person… but!
The New Haven Coliseum was a sports and entertainment arena located in downtown New Haven, Connecticut… just behind the Knights of Columbus building on Church St. Construction began in 1968 and was completed in 1972. The Coliseum was officially closed on September 1, 2002 by Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., and demolished by implosion on January 20, 2007. Steve and I watched it live on television… it was so erie watching it coming down.
Steve often talked to me about how going into New Haven was looked at as a “trip”… not like today. His parents never shopped downtown… West Haven was as far as they went… and even considered a drive to Hamden as a trip. When we lived in West Haven, Steve and I would sometimes go to Crown Supermarket on Sundays just for lunch meat and rolls… and I remember feeling like it seemed to take us some time to get there. Today, we travel that route like it’s nothing… funny how times change!
“My friends and I walked or rode our bikes everywhere… my parents never carted me anywhere like parents do today. It just wasn’t done – kids were not catered to. Wherever I went, or wanted to go… I got myself there one way or another. Even when I went to hockey games in New Haven, it was nothing for me to walk home from the bus stop on Campbell Avenue at 11 o’clock at night. No one was afraid to let their kids be out at night, like today.”
As I read about the famous “Cutler’s Records” closing in June (2012) Steve told me… “I went there a lot after I got my license and a car. Every week after getting paid, I went to buy new records… mostly 45’s because I had a 45 record player in my car; it was bolted underneath the dash.”
“Cutler’s was really the only store where you could buy older music at that time… it had first opened in 1948 and was still going strong. For the most part today, people download their music… so very different from the age I grew up in. I still have most of my vinyl albums with the great artwork on the covers; vinyl is making a big comeback today.”
When I came to Connecticut in 1971, Cutlers was still there and still popular as our generation was buying 45’s and LP’s. The biggest draw in New Haven was Macy’s, Malley’s and the then famous Chapel Square Mall… where all the popular stores were found, and advertised as one of the first fully enclosed air-conditioned mall.
The building of the Chapel Square Mall came about as part of the Church Street Redevelopment Project of 1957… and ten years later in 1967… after many plan changes, it finally opened. It was a two level mall, anchored by two popular department stores… the Edward Malley Co, (1962-1982) and Macy’s )1964-1993). There was a second floor glass walkway which connected from Macy’s over to the mall… the attraction being…you could shop it all without ever leaving the buildings!
I bought my first Minolta 35mm.camera in Macy’s… one of many which I’ve owned through the years. Going to the mall was where you went every Christmas… everything was there… all under one roof. Later, Milford’s new “open mall” opened with Alexanders… where I shopped often. Years later they covered all the stores under one roof… even later adding a second level… with more changes through the years… and now no one even cares to shop at the mall… you order online and have it delivered to your door… which is where most of my shopping is done!
Today, with all the large shopping stores gone in New Haven… only what’s left of a small area of the mall has been turned into apartments; Gateway College, originally located on Long Wharf, has also relocated into the area, with a new building (2012)… where the once Malley’s and Macy’s stood.
Aunt Nancy (Cambino-Cavallaro): “When I worked at 2nd National Bank at Church & Chapel in New Haven, I remember eating my lunch before even punching out for my lunch break… then I’d rush to Malley’s and all around downtown before going back to work. I don’t know if I had an hour or half lunch break, but I managed to do a lot of shopping during that time. I remember shopping at Shartenberg’s on the corner of Chapel and State; it was a big department store at the time. Leggetts Pharmacy was on the corner, and there was a hosiery store next to Shartenberg’s. It was a pretty big store inside, just like Malley’s. I have memories of going there at Christmas also… either with my mother or my sister Catherine. They had a wishing well in the middle of the store, and for a quarter, you could fish and win a prize. I’m told now, that there was a large train there at Christmas which kids could ride on. I somewhat remember it, but not sure, but I do remember that there was a luncheonette inside, on the side entrance from State Street… and I always bought a cup of rice pudding… it was served warm with whipped cream… and it was so good.“
Aunt Mary (DeTulio-Pompone): “When I was old enough to work, I spent most of my money on clothes… “I loved clothes!” I shopped at the nice stores downtown in New Haven for most of my clothes. My sister’s, JoJo and Lucy, often ‘borrowed’ my clothes… and usually without my knowledge! I had a red dress that Lucy loved to wear, and being a little ‘larger’ than I was… it always came back split under the arms. It made me so mad… and one day I just ripped it up so she couldn’t wear it anymore! I had a lot of nice clothes… and usually I bought a new coat every year. One outfit I really loved was my yellow plaid suit and Panama hat… they were in style at the time.”
“My sister, Lucy, and friend, Corky, danced at one of the amateur talent shows held at the Poli Theater in New Haven one time… even winning 1st place. I also remember people in the audience throwing tomatoes sometimes at people on the stage when they didn’t like their talent. My brother’s, Nickie and Mikie, owned a restaurant called “The Highlight” on Wooster Street. They only operated it for a short time, but I remember going there often.”
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