When the United States entered World War II, all three of my maternal uncles joined the war effort: my mother’s older brother Ray entered the US Coast Guard, her younger brother Fred entered the US Naval Armed Guard, and her youngest brother Henry entered the US Army. All three survived the war.
My grandfather obtained a position as a mechanic with Worcester Pressed Steel and my grandmother obtained employment cleaning rooms at the Bancroft Hotel. On 24 July 1943, with the incomes from their new positions, they were able to buy a house on Barnes Avenue in Worcester, the house in which they would spend the rest of their lives.
Frank Danko and Jane Niedzialkowski – 15 Feb 1947
SOURCE: Frank Danko and Jane Niedzialkowski. Photographer unknown. Photographed 15 Feb 1947.
On 22 May 1947 (just a few months after the above photograph was taken) my mother married Frank Danko, himself a World War II veteran who served in the US Naval Armed Guard. My mother wore a white silk gown and carried a bouquet of calla lilies. All her life she treasured her engagement ring, a tiny diamond made to appear larger in an illusion setting.
A few years later, my parents moved to Albany, New York with the promises of better jobs and a better life.
Several of my father’s brothers and sisters had previously moved to Albany, and so my parents were not completely alone there. My father began to work for his brother John who owned a Mobil Service Station in Albany, and my mother obtained employment with The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) where she worked as a shopper. She would visit local A&P Grocery Stores, buy a specified list of items, and verify that the correct prices were charged at the register.
My parents lived in apartments on New Scotland Avenue and on Russell Road. Eventually they moved to 783 Park Avenue, a two family home owned by my father’s brother John. My older sister was born when our family lived on Russell Road, and my younger sister and I were born when the family lived on Park Avenue.
By the time I was born, my mother no longer worked outside the house. Money was tight, although it never seemed that we were lacking for any necessities of life.
My older sister came down with the measles on 29 May 1959. I, too, caught the measles on 10 June 1959, and finally my younger sister developed symptoms on 12 June 1959. I remember clearly the day my mother diagnosed me. It was a warm June day and I watched as my cousins and the neighborhood children splashed around in a wading pool in our backyard. My cousin Mary saw me through the window in my bedroom and called to me to come outside. I told Mary that my mother wouldn’t let me go outside because I had the measles. I’m not sure cousin Mary believed me.
On 09 May 1961, my sisters and I were admitted to the hospital to have our tonsils and adenoids removed. I imagine this was the first time since our births that my parents ever spent a night without us. A few months later, my parents bought a flat at 43 South Allen Street, a few blocks from the house in which we had lived on Park Avenue.
On 07 November 1961, just months after we moved into the new house, my younger sister contracted the mumps. Neither my older sister nor I developed symptoms despite our close contact with our younger sibling. A month later, on 12 December 1961, I came down with Chicken Pox. My two sisters followed suit two weeks later, on Christmas Day. The fact that my mother kept impeccable records of our health history is the only reason I know the dates on which my sisters and I developed the measles, mumps, and chicken pox.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko