Today is my mother’s birthday. She was born on 06 October 1922 at home at 194 Prescott Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. She died on 16 April 1980 in St. Peter’s Hospital, Albany, New York at age 57. She would have been 85 years old today.
Jane Niedzialkowski at Sky Farm
Back row on the far left: Henry Niedzialkowski; Back row on the far right: Jane Niedzialkowski (my mother) and Fred Niedzialkowski; Front row on the far left: Ray Niedzialkowski; Front row on the far right: Helen Chmielewski Niedzialkowski. SOURCE: Jane Niedzialkowski at Sky Farm. Photographer and date unknown.
My mother was born Jennie Niedzialkowski, the third of five children born to Polish immigrant parents Kostanty Niedzialkowski and Helen Chmielewski. She grew up on the corner of Prescott Street and North Street in Worcester, Massachusetts in a house parents had purchased in 1920 or 1921. In 1930, the house was worth $8000. The railroad tracks ran behind the house to the east and she could hear the trains as they passed. Across the street to the west lay the Worcester Rural Cemetery.
Close by to the northeast was the North Works of American Steel and Wire, one of the largest employers in Worcester at the time. Many of the workers filed past the house on Prescott Street when they left work for the day. To the southeast lay Institute Park and Salisbury Pond.
The first floor of the house was occupied by a grocery store operated by my mother’s parents. The family lived in a flat upstairs from the store and, when the store was busy, my grandfather would bang on the pipes to let my grandmother know that she was needed in the store. In 1930, a widow with two daughters lived in the uppermost flat and paid $19 per month in rent.
The neighborhood was populated by working-class families, many of them immigrants. Around the corner on Byron Street lived a French-Canadian family and an Irish family. On Prescott Street and the several side streets off Prescott (Brown Court, Moran Court, Redding Court, and others) lived Polish, Lithuanian, Irish, Finnish, and Swedish families. About half of the families in the neighborhood were formed from immigrant parents.
As a young girl, my mother spent time on Sky Farm Dairy, so named because it was located on top of a hill on Tuttle Road in Sterling, Massachusetts. The views from the farm were breathtaking, with views of Mount Wachusett, and on a clear day, views of the mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont. The farm was owned by my mother’s great uncle, Frank Niedzialkoski. My mother and her siblings sometimes spent their summers on the farm.
With the advent of the Great Depression in 1929, my mother’s family faced an unexpected crisis in the grocery store. Neighbors were out of work and couldn’t afford to pay for their groceries. My grandparents continued to sell groceries on credit, but many families couldn’t afford to pay their debts. Eventually, faced with growing debt themselves, the family was forced to close the grocery.
As a teenager, my mother changed her name to Jayne Nigel. She disliked the name Jennie, although her parents called her Jen all her life. She found a job and worked to help support her family during the hard times of the depression, using her earnings to buy food and soap.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko