Tag Archives: staten island

RANDOM VIGNETTES FROM MY LIFE STORY 15

MILK AND COOKIES WITH THE MAFIA DON.

This vignette was triggered by a programme I listened to on BBC Radio 4 this past week about the movie The GodFather – a lot of which was filmed on Staten Island. I also thought it would bring a much needed lighter note to our day…..

It’s now 1969. I am a single working mother living with Jarrod in our little cottage on Harbor View Place, Staten Island commuting back and forth on the Staten Island ferry to Manhattan where I am working at White, Weld & Co. (vignette 3)

Upon arriving on Staten Island, I was introduced to Marie and her family. Marie was to become Jarrod’s babysitter. What a blessing it was to meet her. I never missed a day’s work because of Marie, and up until her death a few years ago we kept in touch. She was so kind and in every way a wonderful human being. Part of a large Sicilian family, Marie loved to cook. Whenever I entered her home…the first thing she said…was “you have to eat” and sure enough there was always a large pot of sauce cooking in the kitchen ready for pasta dishes.

Coming from the UK at that time this was completely new to me but I learned to like it a lot:)

The above photograph shows Marie along with three of her children plus Jarrod and me in the garden of the cottage celebrating Jarrod’s third birthday.

I rented the cottage from Mimi Kolff who also became a good friend until her death in the eighties. Mimi’s house was next door to the cottage. Mimi’s father helped to develop Staten Island and one of the Ferries was named after him The Cornelious Kolff.

Mimi in her garden on Harbor View Place.

In hindsight I could never have imagined on February 3rd 1966 when I sailed on the United States Liner under the newly built Verrazano Bridge that I would be living virtually next door to the bridge and Fort Wadsworth a year later. Nor could I have imagined at that time that I was carrying the seed of Jarrod in my belly!

Another indication of what a different world it was then….The Verrazano Bridge was nicknamed The Guinea Gangplank…because after it was built, many Italians who lived in Brooklyn crossed the bridge to live in what was at that time the leafier and more desirable Staten Island.

As I settled in and got to know my neighbours, sometimes I would push Jarrod in his stroller from house to house collecting for the Heart Foundation.

At the end of Harbor View Place there was a big house overlooking the Harbor directly towards the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Island. I was aware that there were always suited men and stretch limousines on the driveway to the house but it didn’t stop me from going to the front door and asking if I could receive a donation. Ignorance is bliss….

Consequently Jarrod and I were invited in to have milk and cookies with the owner who turned out to be a Mafia Don. Every time I went there he would give me twenty dollars for my collection – a fortune back then…and he was lovely..rather like visiting a grandfather. ……who knew? It was Marie who told me who he actually was….

5 photos – 5 day challenge – Arriving on another planet in 1966

I have been selected by Tish Farrell Writer On The Edge to participate in the 5 photos – 5 days challenge.    Challenge rules:    Post a photograph each day for 5 consecutive days and tell a story about each photo.    The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.    Each day I must nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge……and so here we go…….

This is a true story.    

This photograph was taken in June 1966 in Key West, Florida.       At the time I was six months pregnant with my first child, Jarrod, who was born on September 10 1966 at the brand new Holy Cross Hospital in  Ft. Lauderdale.       

I was  just a few months shy of my 21st birthday.

til August 10 191

So how did I arrive in this place.

On January 28th 1966, after completing art college and marrying in the UK, I set sail from Southampton, England to New York on the SS United States Liner.     

I was with my first husband who had relatives in the United States.     The plan was to stay for a two year visit and then return to the UK.      I remember very clearly when going to the American Embassy in Berkley Square for three days of medicals, interviews, etc. that the man interviewing me kept insisting that I take a Green Card.    I kept insisting that I didn’t want one, because I only planned to stay for two years.    In the end he won. – Point being that if you were English and passed all requirements green cards were given freely in those days. 

The five day Atlantic crossing was one of the roughest on record, and so I spent most of my time with many others on a sun deck with buckets!      Even though there were thee life boat practises I decided that death would be easier…and so stayed strapped in my birth…….

I will always remember going up on deck as we sailed under the newly constructed Verrazano Narrows Bridge which connects Staten Island with Brooklyn – into New York Harbour.    It was February 3rd 1966 and a frigidly cold morning.      Having left a post war, still rather muted in colour England, looking over at Manhattan Island, my first impression was one of chaotic colour….bill boards, yellow taxies, etc. 

As planned, we  took a Greyhound Bus all the way to Miami, where we were to be picked up by my husband’s Uncle, who was then to drive us to Key West.       It was one big adventure…..and although I had travelled quite extensively around Europe by that time…this felt like landing on a different planet….totally alien to anything I had ever experienced before.   

There are so many stories within this story, but for now, I will continue to give an overview.     

Upon arriving at Miami Bus Station….(what a culture shock that was)…..we found the Uncle had not yet arrived, and so a State Trooper, (complete with gun and jack boots), quickly seeing that we didn’t fit in….sat us in a Dobbs Cafe in the Bus Station…and told us not to move until we were picked up.   

The drive from Miami to Key West was fascinating – from stopping at my first ever Howard Johnson’s and being told to pick from 30 flavours of ice cream and then going over the Seven Mile Bridge (single bridge at that time)  – which connects Knight’s Key to Duck Key….all the way to Key West, the most southern point in the United States and only 90 miles from Cuba…..

We were staying with my husband’s cousin, who was a captain in the then active Marine Base on Key West.    His wife was in charge of a group of volunteers helping Cuban Refugees coming in on small boats….

Whilst there, we helped out with the volunteer programme,

Along with many Cubans still fleeing to Miami, one incident that stays very clearly in my mind, was the plight of an English couple who arrived on a small boat with a few things sewn to the inside of their shirts.   They were two of many ex pats who had lived very well in Cuba until the revolution.      

This couple had owned a small sugar plantation, along with other assets.     Shortly before they fled – Castro had landed on their property in a helicopter assuring them that they had nothing to worry about.       Two days after that visit, all their bank accounts were frozen and the land was confiscated.

Me and Jarrod shortly after he was born – November 1966  

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We stayed in Florida until January of 1967, when my husband and I drove to New York with jarrod who was then four months old….and that was the beginning of a whole new adventure…..

This was the time when the magical hummingbirds were beginning to hover. P1160411

A Bientôt