And some “Rose” religion for you!:
ICT editor Rosalie has this beauty in her kitchen, blessing all who enter her home. Her Polish immigrant grandmother bought this Jesus, Mary icon with holy water bowl from a traveling icon salesman in Green Island decades ago!
In the early part of the 20th century salesmen went door to door in Worcester’s Roman Catholic immigrant neighborhoods selling all kinds of religious items to the Poles, etc. The immigrants were deeply religious, some praying, like my Bapy, hourly! She went to her little Polish church on Ward Street daily for Mass, and she made all the Novenas (the Catholic church has a ton of them)! Bapy lived on Bigelow Street with her family; she bought this statue on a kind of layaway plan, giving a nickle a week to the traveling salesman, who would come right to her tenement door for payment, until the statue was her own. I think it cost her $3 or $4 or so. A pretty penny for Bapy!
Here she is, with part of her family, wearing her ubiquitous apron – the lard-stained, body-covering apron that never came off her body! She was always cooking and baking for everybody – her family, my grandpa’s friends from Dudley – all meals from scratch! She made rabbit stew in a big white porcelain pot – it contained the rabbits that my grandpa raised on their back porch (he used to take their furry feet before skinning them to eat and make lucky charm rabbits feet key chains for my mom!). Bapy made cabbage soup with cabbage, onions and all the peasant foods – filled with healthy goodness – she bought at the open air market on Water Street. She chopped up the mushrooms that my grandpa had dug up for her, along with the blueberries he picked!, in the wilds of Worcester!
Meals were religion to my Bapy, too!
Always begun with a prayer of thanksgiving!
Once my grandpa, who worked in the mills in Dudley, brought home a friend from work for lunch – a Black guy he used to go fishing with. They had gone fishing that day, had caught some fish that my grandfather wanted my Bapy to cook up for them. In Poland, their homeland, there were zero Blacks! My Bapy had seen few in America – and was afraid of them!
Grandpa would have none of her nonsense! This guy was his pal and she would welcome him at their kitchen table and make them a tasty meal! My grandpa, a sweet guy who never had sharp words for anyone, shouted in Polish to Bapy: WOMAN! SEE OUR FISH? COOK THEM UP! WE WANT TO EAT!! … GET US SOME BOTTLES OF BEER!!
My grandmother, who was adored by my grandfather who let her boss him around in the house and was content to sit at the kitchen table nursing his beer while watching his feisty little wife (Bapy was 4′ 11″ inches tall!) cook and fuss about, was SHOCKED at his command! She was never ordered about! She was indulged by grandpa!
Slack jawed, looking back at her frowning man, Bapy went to the icebox, got grandgather and his pal their two bottles of beer and put them on the kitchen table. Then she went to their pantry shelves and got two glasses and put them on the table. She took the fish they had caught, still covered with that film that live fish have as they swim in the water, and went to the pantry to prepare them.
She made the guys a most excellent lunch! She really did love to cook!
My grandpa’s Black fishin’ buddy visited often.
“He was a nice guy,” my mother once told me.
In the above pic the family is on the roof of their Bigelow Street building. It was called The Block cuz it was a huge BLOCK of tenements – specially built for poor immigrants. Large families were crammed into small drab rooms – made lively (and sometimes foreboding!) with their religious icons and the saints calendar pictures they cut out and framed like this one my grandpa made and gave to my mom who gave it to me …
The family portrait, above, was taken during World War II when Bapy’s son, my Uncle Joe, was home on leave from the U.S. Navy. My auntie is wearing his hat; my mom is next to her, to the left. Grandpa is in back, in neck-tie and cardigan, so proud of his American son – fighting for his country!
Text/pics: Rosalie Tirella