Norma and her mother, Wylma
One of the things that I love about this blog is that I get to find new cousins, make new friends, hear family stories I had never known. One such ‘new cousin’ is Norma Stephens Bruscani. She and I are third cousins, but who’s keeping track? Her great grandfather was Edwin Youngs, brother to our Kate Youngs Baker. Here is a story she wrote for a local newspaper:
One half century ago, my mom and I moved to the Rochester area. My sister and brother-in-law, and their young family had moved here, a short time earlier. So, when things got too tough living with my father, my mother made an emergency decision to leave him. Who would know that so many lessons would be learned from such an experience?
Mom had only worked part-time at a small delicatessen for a few years, and as a light duty janitor for a few months. She brought twenty-one silver dollars with her; we had nothing. We stayed with my sister's family for a month, or so. Mom took a sales position at Edwards Department Store and earned $37 per week take home pay. We found a furnished studio apartment in the old refurbished school on Elmgrove Road; our rent was $28 per week. We had no car, so Mom paid Aggie (a neighbor and fellow Edwards employee) $2 per week for rides to and from work. With the $7 remaining, we made life work. My uncle gave us an old TV, but what a blessing, especially to me. My mom was a proud woman and didn't accept help easily. Only recently, I was given a letter that she had sent to one of her cousins who had sent her $20 to help us. Her letter stated that she was returning the $20 and that she loved him and knew that he was there for her, if she needed him, but that we were doing fine. (Editorial note: The readers of this family blog will not be surprised to hear that the letter was from Uncle Adin, once again trying to help whoever needed help).
Norma's home, 1961
One day while working at Edwards, Mom found a change purse with about $30 in it. She turned it in to the "lost and found" and never thought about it again, until she was called to the office thirty days later and was told that no one had claimed it, and it was now HERS. This happened just before Thanksgiving; we had another blessing, just in time.
During apple season, we would walk to the Elmgrove Fruit Farm on Ridgeway Avenue to buy a quarter's worth of apples, each week. After several weeks, the owner (Mrs. Irwin, I believe) asked where we came from that we would, always, walk there. She told us that their orchard backed right up to our apartment building and that "this is our livelihood, so please don't pick apples off the trees, but good apples fall off the trees every day, and you can have as many as you want, off the ground." We NEVER disrespected that privilege. We had apple pan dowdy, apple sauce, apple pie, and apple everything. Their business lost a quarter each week, but she gave us such a blessing.
About one year later, in 1962 at 10 o'clock in the evening, a neighbor from the back apartment, knocked on our door. He asked my mother if she would be insulted to be given a 1953 Ford, as his friend had just bought a new Cadillac. Another blessing! It had no floorboard on the passenger side, which my brother remedied with some tin sheets and 2X4's, when he came home on leave from the Marines. It wouldn't have passed any safety inspection of today, but, at least, I couldn't see the road under my feet, anymore. YES, WE HAD WHEELS! Mom had been "saving" and she, actually, had enough money for car insurance. We loved that car and all the freedom it gave us, and it was so dependable.
March of 1964, I was personally blessed, and was hired by Eastman Kodak, starting pay was $77 per week. Mom and I were "on the gain". One year later, Mom, too, was hired by Kodak. LIFE WAS GOING TO BE O.K.!
The importance of my story is that we never needed Welfare, we didn't rely on others to take care of us, and there were many, many people whose kindness gave us a boost, without diminishing our strength. Appreciate your blessings; some may seem small, but, they can be huge influences in your life.