For My Mother – Part 2: Marriage and Raising Children

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

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

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5 Responses to For My Mother – Part 2: Marriage and Raising Children

  1. Janice Brown says:

    Steve,

    What a great photograph!

    Regarding measles, mumps, etc. Parents of America (for the most part) have no idea what it used to be like to have your children come down with various illnesses that now they are vaccinated against. To me, vaccination is one of the truly amazing miracles of modern life.

    Janice

  2. Jasia says:

    I’m sure your mother would be touched by your tribute to her, Steve. What a nice way to honor her on her birthday.

    I know the neighborhoods you’ve described. They sound just like the Polish neighborhoods here in Detroit, complete with the neighborhood grocery store with the owner’s family living upstairs. The immigrant experience.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Janice, Out of curiosity I checked out the inubation periods for measles and chicken pox. The time between the day the first child in our family was diagnosed and the time the others contracted the diseases matches the incubation period.

    As for the photo, my sisters and I all love this picture. Notice the big gap between my father’s front teeth. He lost his front teeth in World War II and in this picture he’s wearing a set of military-issue dentures! He later replaced those dentures with a set that look a bit more natural.

    Jasia, My parents didn’t grow up in THE Polish neighborhood in Worcester (the “Island” around St. Mary’s Church), but they were certainly surrounded by other immigrant families. My grandparents’ grocery store was one of two groceries in the neighborhood, but the other grocery was also owned by immigrants. Things haven’t changed all that much today. Most of the convenience stores in my neighborhood are owned by immigrants.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Such a special tribute to your mother! This story has brought tears to my eyes. It makes me feel as if I have known you forever! :-) I enjoyed reading your story and am hoping there is a part three? It is such a nightmare to think of three children having each of these diseases, especially if it happens to them all at the same time! The picture is great, it gives me incentive to work on a story!

  5. James Curley says:

    Hi Steve, What a wonderful photograph, and a great story. Keep up the fantastic work on your blog, it’s a great pleasure to read. I’m still managing to get some posts out on my blog, though I’ve just moved to New York so the last month has been slow. Hopefully more to come soon including some American and Canadian stuff! Always a thrill to read your blog, all the best, James.

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