Sunday, July 13, 2008

Memories of My Father - III

  • This would have been shortly before or shortly after I was born - somewhere, then, in the period 1940 to 1942.

    Dad had applied for a civil service job at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, and was working as a cook at the Saugus Diner, on the rotary (traffic circle for you non-New Englanders) on Route 1 in Saugus, Massachusetts. (Is that still there?)

    The diner was sold and the new owner closed it for a week, but brought in all employees to clean the diner from top to bottom. They scrubbed floors, walls, and ceiling, the stove, tables, counter top, everything, cleaned the windows and the entry stairs, did some touch-up painting, etc. for the whole week.

    The owner wasn't there at week's end, so Monday morning the employees asked him about their pay for the preceding week. "Oh, no, you did that to keep your jobs."

    Dad kept an eye on the amount of business, and at mid-morning he took off his apron, walked over to the cash register, opened it, and took an amount equal to his week's pay. He then told one of the waitresses, "Tell him I quit and I took my pay for last week out of the register."

    When he got home the mail had arrived, and he had a letter saying that he had been accepted for the Navy Yard job.

  • I once asked my father what it was like to grow up during the depression. He told me that he was mostly unaware of it because the family had circled the wagons and he lived with six adults on one floor of a house in Brockton, Massachusetts - his parents, two uncles, and two aunts, all sharing the rent, utility, and food bills.

    He said that he occasionally saw newspaper stories about people jumping out of windows and so forth, but nothing like that happened to any family he knew. For him, the biggest change was going to sleep at night in a bed and waking up in the morning on a couch.

  • A few weeks after my twelfth birthday, Dad woke me up at perhaps 9:30 or 10:00 PM, and said, "Come on, let's go downstairs. I want you to see something." The television was on and he plopped me down in front of it, saying "Someday you'll be glad you saw this. Does the name 'Josef Stalin' mean anything to you?"

    It did. As I have mentioned, I began reading newspapers when I was in grammar school, and although I probably didn't know that his power stemmed from his position as Chairman of the Communist Party, I knew that he was a dictator, number one in Russia and the Soviet Union.

    The program was covering the announcement of his death, and showing the most recent film footage available, which was very recent indeed. There was footage of him walking around and standing still, clearly in a daze, surrounded by obviously obsequious people. I do not know who was pictured in attendance, but the most likely candidates were Beria, Khrushchev, Malenkov, and Bulganin. The only name I would have recognized at the time was Beria. Although Stalin appeared clueless regarding his surroundings, his retinue looked skittish. Who knows what someone like Stalin will do when in such a state?

    I have since read and watched a very great deal about Russia, the Soviet Union, Communism, and Stalin. I *am* glad I saw it. Thanks, Dad.

1 comment:

Devonia said...

Loved this, Devonia