Little Down Neckers Part 8 (circa 1909)

by Charles McGrath


I'm sure many on this site have read Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt? Those who have know it's a very moving story. My father's family lived Down Neck and was very poor. They had around 10 children plus they took in 3 orphans( social safety net ). My grandparents had very big hearts and were willing to share the "nothing" that they owned. Granny had to deal with poverty, prejudice, sickness and alcoholism. Those were in the days before postpartum blues. Many family's were like that back in the early 1900's. They weren't all like the "Brady Bunch" and the McCourt Family was not unique.

My grandfather was illiterate for he could neither read nor write. Most of the time he worked as a laborer. Like many of us from his genetic code there was a weakness for the "little creature". Granny would have to go to the gin mill on payday and carry him home over her shoulder. She did this to preserve what was left of his the pay. My father told me Grandpa almost got arrested on the beach in Ocean Grove ,N.J. I'm sure most people with the exception of Grandpa knew that Ocean Grove was a dry town. Grandpa snuck a bottle of whiskey onto the beach and was caught nipping it. I'm not sure if he was a heavy drinker or an alcoholic. I would like to think at worse it would have been the former.

When my parents got married in 1927 they lived in a 2nd floor flat, on South 12th Street. Right next to West Side High School. As I'm sure we all remember that in the first year or two of housekeeping none of us had much furniture. Or anything else that the years allowed us to acquire. I'm certain that my parents were not an exception. I always remember my father telling what Grandpa said when he visited his home for the first time. He said "Charley this is a palace". You can see where he was coming from.

That always impressed me .

Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: