Rick and I spent today with Dominic Renzi at his apartment in Brick, New Jersey. He and his friend Diana picked us up at our hotel this morning at 9:30 and took us to breakfast. He brought us back to our hotel at about 9:00 pm tonight after dinner at a Chinese buffet. We spent the hours in between at his apartment learning more about life on Limestone Hill in Dunbar Township in the 1930s and 1940s while I scanned several of his photos using my newest “toy” – a portable scanner.
Dominic was ten when his mother Julia died after what should have been a simple surgical procedure to remove a goiter. When his father went to the hospital to bring her home the next morning, he learned that she had bled to death during the night after the surgery. Within four months, his father married Lena George and she moved out of Custode’s home in Dunbar to the Renzi farm on Limestone Hill. According to Dominic his father had visited at least two other women in his search for their next mother. Since his father worked on the B&O railroad and regularly traveled from Connellsville to Pittsburgh, he needed someone at home with the boys.
In many respects Lena fit the model of the evil stepmother. She was mean to the boys when they were young and once they started working she demanded part of their pay. Dominic does give her credit for teaching him and his brother table manners. Aunt Rosie lived on the farm with them and Dominic remembers his father and Aunt Rosie singing songs in Italian to records his father played on the Victrola. Aunt Rosie was loving and kind to the boys and shared in their misery, as Lena was also mean to her.
Dominic has nothing but praise for Uncle Gene (Lena’s older brother) who loved to spend time at the farm and was very close to both Dominic and his brother Eugene. Dominic often turned to Uncle Gene for advice after his father died.
I have lots of stories for future posts, but its been a long day and I need to rest up for our three-day adventure in the big city that starts tomorrow. Rick is going to brave the NYC traffic to get to our hotel in mid-town Manhattan and Sarah and Will arrive very early on Thursday. We’ll have two full days with the kids before we drive home on Saturday.
I’ll close with a few photos from today and one or two of my favorites from the ones that line the walls of Dominic’s apartment.