Monday, July 16, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Sundays at the Matthews House

This week's post is the fifth installment of my paternal grandfather's personal story and family history.  Here he wrote about a typical Sunday in the Matthews house.   He gives us a wonderful peek into a world that no longer exists; Buster Brown collars, button shoes and taxis entered between the rear wheels.

Sundays were busy days at 13 Nafus Street.  After breakfast my father sat in a large rocking-chair in our kitchen, with one of my mother's aprons tied around his neck, and was shaved by whatever son was around (not me).  Week days he was shaved at the barber shop on his way uptown where he kept his own shaving mug, lettered in gold "Arthur Matthews".  My job was to shine his shoes, for which he paid me 25 cents.  Usually there would be a visitor, a hobo [sic], being fed breakfast by "the girl" as our cook-maid was known.  Usually the girl was a recent arrival from Wales or England who frequently vented her homesickness for her native land by indulging in weeping spells.  The visitor was there by virtue of my father's rule that no person be turned away from the Matthews house hungry.  John Tobin, the only [African-American] in Pittston, who made a living carting rubbish to the city dump, was a regular visitor.

After the shave and the shoe-shine came preparation for Church, wiggling into that Buster Brown collar and getting into button shoes, and helping my mother get her's buttoned.  Then to Church uptown where I sat with my Mother as my Father would be leading the choir.  After church there was Sunday School.  And there was no chance of avoiding these two services unless you were sick in bed.

A one o'clock dinner was followed by visiting, either family or Welsh friends at our house or trips via street car up or down the valley to homes of Welsh families.  Except for the trolley ride these trips were a bore to me as usually our hosts were older people with no youngsters and under the Sunday rule I was supposed to be seen but not heard.  Visits to Fred's and Lillian's homes in West Pittston were more enjoyable because they had children of my age and the trips were made by taxi--one of the earliest models which was entered via a door between the rear wheels!

Sunday night supper always meant cold meats and potatoe [sic] cakes followed by a three-layer cake and home-canned fruits.  Saturday night supper in the winter months always included oysters in some form: stewed, fried or scalloped, made from freshly shucked oysters which my father purchased at the local fish market and brought home in a pail.

Seldom was there a night without the sound of music.  Welsh friends brought their fiddles and always their voices, and Bess and Charles sang duets.  And on choir practice night my father was apt frequently to bring the entire choir home with him and expect my mother to feed them.

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I love his description of family time.  Growing up as an only child on Long Island with my cousins in New England and Canada, I am green with envy when I read Grandpa's descriptions of family time.


In next week's installment my Boppa (a childhood mispronunciation of mine that stuck) tells us about his household chores and how he earned money as a child.

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