As children, our mother was always the heart and soul of our house. Mom was born Jane Vogini in a house about 500 feet from where they later built their house, and where she lived for the rest of of her life until she died in 1991. Her mother died shortly after Mom was born in 1903. Her father soon remarried and Mom had two step-sisters, Kathryn and Margaret. She was raised by her step-mother, who didn't really accept her and didn't treat her very well.
She completed her schooling at 8th grade and was an excellent reader and had beautiful handwriting. She married Dad when she was almost 17 when he returned home from World War I in 1919. They had three sons; Anthony born in 1920, Louis in 1922 and Maurice in 1924. In 1927, they built their house on Hill Street along Route 88 off the part of that road that was called Cemetery Hill.
My brother Lou related the following part of our life to me: Just as Mom was starting to settle into a happy life with Dad and her three young sons, her life took a turn for the worse. Dad's widowed father, Anthony, and Dad's brothers Andrew, Albert and Alfred were forced to leave their apartment due to some squabble with the landlord. My softhearted Dad offered to take them into his new house without asking Mom.
Now the problem was to fit nine people into 3 small bedrooms. Mom, Dad and us three boys all slept in the middle bedroom. My grandfather and my three uncles slept in the other two bedrooms. Mom started washing clothes with a washing board at 5:00 am, and also cooked all the meals for the large group.
This went on for a year or so until one day she couldn't keep up with taking care of two families without any help. She had reached her limit, raised a big ruckus and demanded that Dad move them out, which he did. Soon her life, and ours, was back to normal. Lou and I shared a bedroom and Tony, as the eldest, had the third bedroom.
In 1934, Dad was out of work due to the depression, and they were unable to continue the mortgage payments. They decided to sell the house and buy a farm on the outskirts of town where they would have room to have a garden and raise some animals. I was 10 years old at the time, and I can still remember the For Sale sign along the road at our house. I can still recall crying and Mom holding me and trying to explain why it was necessary.
Fortunately, Mom's brother Jack owned a properous grocery store business in the heart of town. He offered to pay off the mortgage and let my folks pay him back when they were able. The mortgage was only about $2,500, but it took almost ten years to pay off.
Mom was always happiest when she was working in her vegetable or flower garden. As long as I can remember, my mother always had a small vegetable garden along the side of our yard, below the chicken pen. Dad wasn't much interested in gardening. She also always found time to plant a flower border there and along the front of the house. In the fall, we would spread some of the dried out chicken manure to let it soak in over the winter.
In early spring, she would start hand spading it, planting lettuce and onions. She had a small hot house dug into the ground, with side boards, and several old windows for covering. In this, she would plant mostly tomato seeds and some flower seeds.
About Memorial Day when frosts were no longer a danger, she would start setting out the tomatoes from her hothouse. Usually she would buy additional ones in town, wrapped in a newspaper with almost bare roots. By the time she got home, they were wilted and sad looking plants. But miraculously to me, after planted deep and well watered, they perked up to healthy looking plants after a few days.
Next, she planted sweet pepper and cabbage plants, pole string beans, squash, carrots, swiss chard and pickles. Lou and I used to go into the nearby woods and cut poles for staking the tomatoes and tying teepees for the string beans.
We had one tall wooden cabinet in our cellar which was filled with jars of vegatables that had been canned, especially tomatoes and string beans to use throughout the winter.
As I grew older, I was often in the garden with Mom helping with the digging, planting, and hoeing weeds. I developed a love of working with the soil and planting that I have retained to this day. This is one of the many legacies I have received from her.