Betty Van Houten Marchitti

Betty Marchitti
Betty Van Houten Marchitti

Photo courtesy of NPS Intern Barbara Krasner

Betty was born at General Hospital in Paterson in 1931, and lived here until 1966 when she and her husband, John, moved to nearby Totowa. Her parents, Krine "Ben" Van Houten and Anna Johnson Van Houten, both worked at Warner Woven, which manufactured woven silk labels as well as gift items like silk portraits and calendars, on 34th Street. Krine was a weaver and then a loom fixer. Anna kept track of the quills (spools) and sorted colors. They met at work and married. Betty was their first child.

Krine Van Houten, born in 1906, had lived in Prospect Park in his youth. His mother, Nellie, died of influenza in the 1918 pandemic, leaving Krine and his younger brother to be cared for by their grandparents. Krine began working at Warner Woven at the age of 14. His father was in the locomotive business.

Anna Johnson's family lived in Paterson. Her father, Harry, was Armenian. His original surname was Donabedian. He married Mary Boyd, a cook for a wealthy family in Paterson, and they lived in an apartment building on Main Street. Anna was born in 1905. Harry worked as a weaver in broadsilk.

 
Bettys house
Betty's childhood house.

Harry Johnson bought a house at 228 E. 21st Street. Betty's family lived on the third floor. Betty attended School #24, where Paterson State College occupied the top floor at the same time. She says, "...the snow was up to my knees, but we put our boots on and our snow pants and we struggled through the snow to school. Maybe only four kids came to school that day, but I only lived a couple of blocks away." After graduating fifth grade, she attended School #15 up Sandy Hill.

Betty recalls her classmates, like Charles Abate, whose father was a conductor in the Paterson Symphony Orchestra. In Home Economics, she and her female classmates made their graduation dresses. "We had to be careful," she says. "They were white and we weren't allowed to wash them." She attended East Side High School, class of 1948, and took Spanish classes in the Annex (the old School #11). It took about ten minutes to walk between the two locations. She says, "Some of my classmates had a whole slew of classes in the annex and they hated it. But I only had some afternoon classes there, so it was easy." Betty took the commercial course in high school, gaining skills in shorthand and typing.

After graduation, she worked for the Ontell Agency, a small insurance brokerage, at 132 Market Street. She soon met John Marchitti, a sailor, and they married in 1951.

Betty remembers visits to the Great Falls and picnicking with friends. Her father took her to softball games on Sunday afternoons in Eastside Park. While he watched the game, she ran up and down the bleachers and sat on the cannons. Her father also took her and her sister to swim at Barbour's Pond for 20 cents per person.

Shopping was done at Jacob's 29, Quackenbush's, The Mart, and Meyer Brothers. There were small elegant stores near where the Hamilton Club is today. Twice a year Meyer Brothers ran large sales, fall and spring, and Betty used those occasions to buy new clothing for the family. As a child, her mother instructed her to go to shops on Market Street and especially the one where bread was two cents cheaper.

 
 
Interview Transcript

Interviewer:

Today is Wednesday, October 24, 2014

Marchitti:

29th

Interviewer:

29th, yes it is and that’s written on my paper. And it is about 10:10 am. This is Barbara Krasner, oral history intern at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. And on behalf of the National Park Service, I am interviewing Mrs. Elizabeth van Houten Marchitti. Hi, Elizabeth, how are you?

Marchitti:

I’m fine.

Interviewer:

Good.

Marchitti:

You say it “Marketti.”

Interviewer:

Marketti.

Marchitti:

Marketti with a k.

Interviewer:

And just to confirm, you live at 165 Dewey Avenue in Totowa…

Marchitti:

Yes, I do.

Interviewer:

Your telephone number is…

Marchitti:

973-341-7743

Interviewer:

And your email is bettypoet

Marchitti:

@verizon.net.

Interviewer:

@verizon.net. Since we’ve already gone over the forms, the deed of gift and the release, you’ve agreed to donate this memoir, such as it is, to the National Park Service and to let the agency use this for educational and scholarly purposes.

Marchitti:

Good.

Interviewer:

So you agree to that?

Marchitti:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

Great. So again, I was pleased to hear when you read your poem at our poetry class about your parents working at Warner Woven. Just tell me briefly about your connection to Paterson.

Marchitti:

Well, I was born [1931] at General Hospital which was around the corner from where we lived on E. 21st Street. And I don’t want to make this story too long, but someone asked my father how my mother was doing when she was pregnant with me and his answer was, “Oh, she’s in the hospital having the baby,” and the neighbor said, “Oh, but I saw her walking this morning.”
“Yeah, she walked around the corner to the hospital.” [laughs]
And then I was born. I was a tiny baby, believe it or not, five pounds six ounces.

Interviewer:

And where are you in the birth order of your family?

Marchitti:

First.

Interviewer:

First. So tell me about your parents.

Marchitti:

They met, like I said, they worked together…

Interviewer:

What was your father’s name?

Marchitti:

His name was Krine, which was a fine Dutch name, K-R-I-N-E. But when he was a little boy and in a play at Sunday school, his name was Ben. He was always called Ben, his whole life. And my mother, of course, was Anna. She was the second child in her family.

Interviewer:

And her maiden name was?

Marchitti:

Johnson, because her father was Armenian and when he came here, “What’s your name?”
“Donabedian.”
“How do you spell it?”
He couldn’t figure it out.
“Well, we’ll anglicize it. What does it mean?”
“It means Johnson.”
So he became Johnson, Harry Johnson. My grandpa, I knew him.

Interviewer:

And your father, was he born here?

Marchitti:

Yeah, he was born here. His parents were born here, his grandmother raised him, because his mother caught the flu in 1918.

Interviewer:

Ah.

Marchitti:

And his grandmother, and his grandfather raised him.

Interviewer:

Both of them, grandmother and grandfather?

Marchitti:

Yeah, they lived in Prospect Park.

Interviewer:

Now obviously the van Houten name is pretty prevalent in Paterson, so how does your van Houten fit in?

Marchitti:

I think it was originally van den Houten. They dropped the “den,” I think that meant from [Interviewer’s note: “Van” actually means “from,” “den” means “the” – the name means “from the forest.”] It must have been a place, I don’t know. I don’t know if he was related to the van Houten chocolate, the van Houten Street, I really don’t know if he was related to any of that. But as a matter of fact, there’s a woman in our church – we go to church around the corner, United Methodist – Carol van Houten, and I said, “Carol, we could be related” and she said, “Well, I grew up in Totowa, I lived in Totowa all my life,” and I said, “My father was from Prospect Park.” We’re not related. She’s a single lady, and you know, that was my maiden name.

Interviewer:

You might be, maybe just not first cousins or something.

Marchitti:

Yeah, because I have a lot of cousins that I’ve never met, you know, and cousins that I’ve met. But Carol wasn’t one of them.

Interviewer:

So, your parents were living in Paterson when you were born…

Marchitti:

21st Street, East 21st Street

Interviewer:

Were they working at Warner Woven by then?

Marchitti:

My mother, I guess she worked till, in those days, you worked till you started to show and I guess that’s when she, you know, she stayed home. She went back to work many years later, but many, many years later.

Interviewer:

And what did she do?

Marchitti:

She was a quill winder, and when she went back to work, she was also a quill winder, which meant she had to sort the quills, you know, keep track of the colors, and they all had numbers, like I said in my poem.

Interviewer:

Tell me what the quills were and what they meant.

Marchitti:

The quills were like spools of thread that went into the loom to weave the labels…

Interviewer:

Okay…

Marchitti:

So, you know, the labels were all silk and woven, and when we were kids, you didn’t buy anything unless it had a woven label in it. You didn’t buy it if it had a printed label in it, because that was not good for business. A woven label, they made some other pretty things, calendars – I couldn’t find any the last couple of days – like little portraits and calendars. The 23rd Psalm I had for a long time. [Are we recording?]

Interviewer:

And I think you said your father was a loom fixer?

Marchitti:

He was a weaver when they met, and later on, he became a loom fixer. You know, he repaired the looms.

Interviewer:

And was mill work in your family’s DNA? Did his parents work in the mills?

Marchitti:

My father was very smart and he read a lot. But he was the oldest. And his father, when he graduated grammar school, said, “No, you don’t need any more school. You need to help, you know, support the family.” So that was what was available. There was a lot of factory work in Paterson, you know.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Marchitti:

My grandfather was also a weaver. He was a weaver in the broadsilk, that’s my Armenian grandfather, not my Dutch grandfather. My Dutch grandfather had a large property he called his farm and they grew vegetables and stuff there and they kind of lived on that.

Interviewer:

Was that in Paterson?

Marchitti:

Prospect Park.

Interviewer:

And his name was?

Marchitti:

My father’s father? Leonard.

Interviewer:

Okay. And your Armenian grandfather you said was a mill weaver and what kind of…

Marchitti:

They called it the broadsilk [missing] fabrics. Apparently there was some problems with that, I don’t know, with strikes. I don’t remember that history, you know, but sometimes he was unemployed.

Interviewer:

And so he came through Ellis Island. Was your mother born here or did she come through Ellis Island? [Interviewer note: Census records indicate Harry Johnson immigrated in 1893.]

Marchitti:

My, my mother…my Irish grandmother came here and met my Armenian grandfather, but all their kids were born here. They lived in Paterson also, on Main Street in an apartment building. I told, I heard stories about that.

Interviewer:

What kind of stories?

Marchitti:

Oh, well, it was very, I guess the word nowadays would be multicultural. You know at that time she had Italian friends, and Jewish friends, and all the [?] were working people and, you know, and Main Street in Paterson was at that time, you know, must have been nice. You know a nice, big apartment building that they lived in, you know?

Interviewer:

Where most people were sort of in the same business…

Marchitti:

Yeah, yeah, you know, everybody was friendly. She told a story about going to visit her Italian friends and they poured her a big glass of wine. She wasn’t used to it, but that’s, “oh, we do that at every meal,” you know. She was like sixteen years old and they’re giving her this big glass of wine.

Interviewer:

So, your Irish grandmother, had she been in the weaving business when she came?

Marchitti:

She was a cook for a wealthy family in Paterson when she first came.

Interviewer:

Do you remember what family?

Marchitti:

No. No, because that was my grandmother and that was so long ago, and she didn’t work anymore when I knew her of course. She died when I was six.

Interviewer:

And do you remember her name?

Marchitti:

Oh, yes, Mary Boyd. Mary Boyd Johnson, actually.

Interviewer:

Okay. So you grew up on East 21st Street. Do you remember anything about the street and what life was like?

Marchitti:

Yes. My grandfather bought the house, because you know his job was always a little iffy. So he bought the house, it was a three-family house, and we lived on the third floor. And I went around the corner to School 24, which only went up to the fifth grade. Upstairs was Paterson, William Paterson, no, Paterson, they called it Paterson State, it was the college, the beginning of the college. We had practice teachers come down, but it only went up to fifth grade, so then I had to go to School 15, up the hill, Sandy Hill. [Interviewer’s note: the family lived at 228 E. 21st, between 19th Ave. and Market St.] That was a good school, I thought so. Great teachers.

Interviewer:

And, how long did you live in Paterson?

Marchitti:

When we got married, we moved to Union Avenue and another third floor, because John’s aunt was looking for rooms for us, she said, “I heard about this apartment, but it’s on the third floor.” I said, “Well, I don’t care, I’m used to running up and down stairs.” So we moved there and we lived there till we bought this house [on Dewey Ave. in Totowa] in 1966.

Interviewer:

And when did you get married?

Marchitti:

1951. September 8, 1951. We just celebrated out 63rd anniversary.

Interviewer:

Wow. That’s something. What do you remember about your school days?

Marchitti:

I remember winning the spelling bee in Miss Booth’s class. Awilda Booth, I’ll never forget her name. Awilda. Awilda Booth. I won the spelling bee and I got a little red patent leather purse.

Interviewer:

And how old were you or what grade were you in?

Marchitti:

Fifth grade, I think that was. Might have been fourth, but it was around there somewhere. It was a long time ago. But no, it was nice. I went to school around the corner. You know when we had bad snowstorms, I mean, I was little, you know, the snow was up to my knees, but we put our boots on and our snow pants and we struggled through the snow to school. You know maybe only four kids came to school that day, but I only lived a couple of blocks away, so I wasn’t going to stay home. I actually liked school.

Interviewer:

So, school buses were just not…

Marchitti:

No, you went to the neighborhood school, you know, then I went to School 15, you know, after I got out of there and that was a little bit more of a hike, but you know when you’re young, it’s nothing. These walks are nothing, climbing the hill, on Sandy Hill, nothing.

Interviewer:

Do you remember any other teachers or classmates?

Marchitti:

There was one boy I went all through school with, Charles Abate, his father was a conductor, they had a Paterson Symphony Orchestra at that time. And Mary Malatesta (sp), she went all through school with me. I think not too long ago I saw her on LinkedIn. I remember some of the people from School 15. I remember my teachers, Mrs. Atkins was the art teacher and I loved art, I loved to draw. But I don’t think I was terribly good at it. But I liked it. Our granddaughter Sarah Anne is an artist, she teaches art. So it came through somehow.

Interviewer:

Well, you’re creative.

Marchitti:

Yeah, well its’ funny, because my daughter-in-law’s creative too. She was a CPA, but she’ll sit down, I watched her one day, she’s sitting down making a crossword for a baby shower, with all these…she made it up, just sitting at the computer. So, you know, lots of people are creative. It’s nice if you can use it, you know?

Interviewer:

So, what grade did School 15 go up to?

Marchitti:

I graduated from there.

Interviewer:

Okay.

Marchitti:

We made our graduation dresses. We had to be careful. They were white and we weren’t allowed to wash them. We had to wash our hands, we worked on them. I think we wrapped them up in tissue, or something. I don’t remember, but we weren’t allowed to wash them, but we made them. It was, you know, it was a pretty dress. It was okay.

Interviewer:

About how many people were in your graduating class?

Marchitti:

Oh, gee, hmm, it’s hard to remember that.

Interviewer:

Well, that’s okay.

Marchitti:

It’s hard to remember that. I remember some of their names. They went to high school with me, too. In fact, I wondered what happened to some of them.

Interviewer:

So, School 15 you graduated from. And where did you go after that?

Marchitti:

Eastside. Eastside High.

Interviewer:

And what do you remember about Eastside.

Marchitti:

I remember at that time the English courses and the Spanish courses were the kinds of things they’re teaching in colleges nowadays. You know, I had such a background in literature, they gave us tests when I first went, so I was always in the Alpha English, so we had to write papers later on, and you know, and I loved that. I loved English and I liked Spanish. But I was so far ahead in Spanish that the old School 11, the annex, I would look out the window and sketch, all the while, while everyone else was studying Spanish. I still remember some of it but not much.

Interviewer:

Tell me about the annex.

Marchitti:

Well, Eastside High was between Market, and I forget the other street, and this was School No. 11 and it became School No. 11 afterwards, but at that time, it was the annex, so you had to hike. Usually your classes were after lunch, so you’d have time, maybe ten minutes, to get there. And I remember some of my classmates had a whole slew of classes in the annex and they hated it. But I only had some afternoon classes there, so it was easy.

Interviewer:

So, you had to go back and forth.

Marchitti:

Yeah, so I, you know, had some classes in the main building and some in the annex. My Spanish classes was in the annex. I drew the garage across the street. There were tires, I can’t remember the name of the place. I still have it somewhere, but I don’t know where.

Interviewer:

And where did you go after you graduated Eastside?

Marchitti:

Ah, I went to work. I worked for an insurance company and I was writing and I wanted to go to I guess it was still Paterson State at that time and I couldn’t get into the classes I wanted and they also wanted me to take Math, which I had never taken. I took, what they called at that time, the commercial course. So I did shorthand and typing. I was good at shorthand. But, so, I didn’t end up going to college at that time. I didn’t go to college until I was 51.

Interviewer:

Good for you! And where did you go?

Marchitti:

Montclair State. I didn’t graduate, but I finished two years. And I met some of my writers’ groups there. So it was good, it was good. I loved it. Because like I said, I loved school. And I always went to the library and read a lot. If you look around my house you’ll see that we’re being drowned by books.

Interviewer:

So when you went to the insurance company, was that a large company, a small company?

Marchitti:

It was an insurance broker – they took care of, they had a lot of companies and we would, people would come in, and we would put them with a company, like Lloyd’s of London was one of the…and my boss had a small company that he did himself, because a lot of poor people came from Passaic and couldn’t get insurance because it was notorious for fires. So he started his own little company and he actually made a profit on it, because, you know, everybody who doesn’t have an insurance policy doesn’t have a fire, but he helped these poor people out. And he was funny. Whenever we were backed up, had a lot of work, he would rent, not rent, he would borrow a typewriter from the lawyers in the building and they had a typewriter I guess for legal papers and the carriage like this and here’s [Mr. Ontell] helping with the typing

Interviewer:

For the sake of the recording, the carriage was very wide and he hunt and pecked with his index fingers on the keyboard.

Marchitti:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

And do you remember the name of the company?

Marchitti:

That was Ontell Agency

Interviewer:

Ontell? How do you spell that?

Marchitti:

O-N-T-E-L-L. That was a small office. It was three of us. Three women.

Interviewer:

And where was that located?

Marchitti:

132 Market Street, Paterson, downtown.

Interviewer:

Okay, and when you were growing up, what did your parents want for you?

Marchitti:

Well, my father wanted me to go to college. He really wanted me to go to college. At that time, you could go to Cooper Union in New York and it was free. And he really wanted me to do that. Of course, I had this shorthand and typing background and I wanted to get a job. And then I met my husband, you know, so…I graduated in ’48 and I met him in ’49. So, you know, one thing led to another. But my mother taught me to knit, crochet, and sew. She was a good seamstress, and so was I. I made a lot of clothes, my own clothes.

Interviewer:

I did, too.

Marchitti:

It’s so hard to do it nowadays. They have this crazy patterns that go from size 10 to 24. And you have to play with it. I made a dress two years ago, it drove me crazy. I didn’t know what size to do. I haven’t sewed since.

Interviewer:

You said you’re the eldest.

Marchitti:

Yeah, I have a sister [Ruthie], three years younger than me.

Interviewer:

Did you always live on E. 21st?

Marchitti:

I lived there till I got married. My family moved to Totowa after I got married. It’s before my sister got married.

Interviewer:

They moved to Totowa…

Marchitti:

Because they bought a house. Because they never could have, you know, scraped the money together to get a house in Paterson. My mother went back to work, I guess, when my sister was in high school, but she had a lot of responsibilities at home. She had her sister, her father, you know, she had other things that she had to do.

Interviewer:

And all this time your father was a loom fixer?

Marchitti:

Yeah, I don’t know exactly when he became a loom fixer. I don’t know exactly when, but it was, you know…

Interviewer:

He was at Warner this whole time?

Marchitti:

Oh, he never worked at another company. He went there when he was, I guess, fourteen and he always worked there. He had a big retirement party when he retired.

Interviewer:

When was he born?

Marchitti:

1906, June 4, 1906.

Interviewer:

So about 1920, he started working there.

Marchitti:

Yeah, when he was fourteen.

Interviewer:

And when was your mother born?

Marchitti:

October 25, 1905. We always used to tease her. She married a younger man, he was only eight months younger.

Interviewer:

Do you know how they met?

Marchitti:

They met at work and kind of noticed each other.

Interviewer:

And how did you meet your husband?

Marchitti:

My cousin was going out with his cousin and Gene showed me the picture and I said, “Who’s the cute sailor?” and he said, “Oh, that’s my cousin John. Would you like to write to him?” So I wrote to him. The joke is that he wrote the form letter. He was writing two girls from the neighborhood, not girlfriends, but friends who were girls. They were only eighteen, nineteen. He addressed the letter, “Dear Marge, Dear Jenny,” and then all the news and then maybe a little something in there that had to do with the letter that they and I sent him last, so that’s the joke, the form letter. Then we met when he came home. He was only in for – they had a thing – he was only in the service for a year. So then he was in the reserves. He was a sailor [singing].

Interviewer:

Do you have any memories of the Passaic River, of the Great Falls?

Marchitti:

Oh, yes, many, many. My girlfriend and I, when we lived on 21st Street, we would pack a lunch, and we called it a hike, and we’d walk up to West Side Park and eat our lunch in the park. We did this, you know, did various heights. One time we went to what was at East Paterson at that time…

Interviewer:

Uh-huh.

Marchitti:

The same thing. I have a poem about that, because, an old one, about this warm February day, and Emmy waded in the river and I didn’t have the nerve to do it, so guess who caught the cold and wasn’t wading in the river? Me.

Interviewer:

Well, no one would wade in that river now.

Marchitti:

No, that’s why, a long time ago I was in a workshop, I wrote a poem about the boys diving into the river and saying how, you know, my girlfriend had waded in, and I said, it wasn’t polluted then, it was beautiful. And the Falls of course, always went to see the Falls. We always went to see the Falls. When I lived on Union Avenue, pushing the stroller, I guess, with the youngest child, whoever that was, and we’d go and look at the Falls.

Interviewer:

Mmm.

Marchitti:

I mean, especially after a storm, it’s gorgeous. My husband has some great pictures on the computer of the Falls. He took our neighbor, Wilson, down to see the Falls one day, because he didn’t know anything about it…

Interviewer:

Mmm…

Marchitti:

Went down to see. My son took Pam, my daughter-in-law down to see the Falls when they were visiting one time, because she had no idea. She’s from Texas. She had no idea about, I always call it the Passaic Falls, but then they call it the Great Falls, and I get confused. [laughs]

Interviewer:

I grew up on the other side of the Passaic and I never knew about it.

Marchitti:

Yeah. Years ago, when we were at a poetry reading, and Maria [Mazziotti Gillian] said something about, during the break, you know, between the workshop and the reading, that we should go look at the Falls, because we met at the Paterson Museum, which was…

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Marchitti:

Down the street from the Falls, so [name-Vita?] was all excited about that, because she didn’t know about it. She lived in Essex Fells at the time. She didn’t have any idea, so, you know, there were all these people taking pictures…

Interviewer:

Uh-huh.

Marchitti:

Taking pictures, they make a special trip to take pictures of the Falls, because, you know, they were gorgeous when they’re…I don’t know what they look like now, because it’s been so dry, the river was…

Interviewer:

It’s not at full force by any means.

Marchitti:

The river was so low…

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Marchitti:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

Did you ever attend any special events at the Great Falls?

Marchitti:

No, well, when they rebuilt the bridge and opened it up, my girls were, I don’t even think they were teenagers yet, so that’s years ago, we went on a Sunday afternoon and we crossed the bridge and we got drenched, because of the mist…

Interviewer:

Uh-huh.

Marchitti:

You know? But then they closed it later, they’ve been working on opening it again, so I don’t know what the status is now. But that’s about the only event, you know, we’d go to look at the Falls a lot, but we didn’t go to any events.

Interviewer:

What did it feel like walking across the bridge?

Marchitti:

Exciting, I mean, a lot of people will go all the way up to Niagara Falls and we did that too, but you know, this was, this is right in our backyard, you know, and if you know any of the history, you know, about the S.U.M…

Interviewer:

Uh-mmm.

Marchitti:

How important water power was, you know? Yeah, it was exciting. I always loved the Falls. Always loved the Falls.

Interviewer:

When you were growing up in Paterson, were you aware of the history of the city?

Marchitti:

Yeah, I guess some of it. You couldn’t help but know some of it, you know, it was called the Silk City, because of all the manufacturing that was done and the Falls, the power that was used and I loved the parks, you know.

Interviewer:

So, you went to both East Side and West Side?

Marchitti:

Yeah. My family, they had a soft, softball games on Sunday afternoons at East Side Park, and we used to go every Sunday afternoon, because I guess my father wanted to watch the game. My sister and I were climbing up and down the bleachers and running around and sitting on a cannon, you know, enjoying the park. [laughs]

Interviewer:

So, who was playing?

Marchitti:

Ah, they had softball teams. At one time, gee, at one time they had a team, it was a Jewish team, they were noted for their beards. I forget what their name was. But they came and played. I think it was, I’m pretty sure it was softball, but that’s so long ago. But you know, I never was a big ball fan myself, but I loved the park, you know. And they had all those stairs that went down to terraces, you know. I could run down stairs good in those days. Now I’m very slow, very slow.

Interviewer:

Where did you shop?

Marchitti:

Well, mostly in Paterson before, you know, before Willowbrook was built. Jacob’s 29 was down on lower Main Street, that’s where I bought a lot of clothes for my kids. And Quackenbush’s was there. A long time ago, there was the Mart, and then around the neighborhood, where the Hamilton Club is now, there were a lot of little expensive shops…

Interviewer:

Mmm…

Marchitti:

Jane Brick, I remember. I didn’t shop there, see, I would just go there and look, but I shopped in Quackenbush’s and Jacob’s 29. And Meyer Brothers. Meyer Brothers was there. I used to hit Meyer Brothers twice a year, because they had this big sale, spring and fall, I’d outfit my kids, because I had three girls. I’d, you know, buy their whole seasonal wardrobe.

Interviewer:

Where did you go for groceries?

Marchitti:

Let’s see. Well, when I lived on Union Avenue, there was an A&P across the street, so that was very convenient. Need a loaf of bread? Run out and get it. [laughs]

Interviewer:

And when you were on E. 21st?

Marchitti:

There were two little stores on Market Street. It was a delicatessen and I forget what the other one was called. But they were like in competition. I remember going to one, and now I can’t remember which one it was, because a loaf of bread, it was two cents cheaper there than, you know, my mother would send me to the store when I was a kid, my mother would send me to the store, well, don’t go there, go there, because the bread is two cents cheaper. [laughs]

Interviewer:

Every cent counted.

Marchitti:

It certainly did. [laughs]

Interviewer:

Did your family own a car?

Marchitti:

My father bought his first car, gee, when was that, I might have been in high school, I can’t remember, but it was a 1929, I don’t think it was a Chevy or a Ford, I don’t remember, but he paid $50 for it. And when he sold it, a few days, a few years later, he sold it for $50.

Interviewer:

Mmm.

Marchitti:

So, after that, he had nicer cars, but that was his first, because we could get a bus on the corner to go anywhere, and sometimes we’d visit my aunt and uncle on Amity Street, which was way the other end of Paterson, and if the bus was late, we would walk home. Yeah. My father would carry me on his shoulders or he’d be carrying my little sister.

Interviewer:

How far was E. 21st from Warner Woven?

Marchitti:

Well, it was on 34th Street, and 34th, 34th went this way, I don’t know, one of the number avenues, I don’t remember, 15th, 14th. I used to walk through that neighborhood later. It was nice then. I wouldn’t do it now.

Interviewer:

Yeah, I’m not sure that’s on my map here. It’s really hard to read. And it’s not the whole city.

Marchitti:

It’s small, yeah. West Side Park and Hamilton, Godwin. [inaudible]

Interviewer:

Do you remember any of your neighbors on E. 21st?

Marchitti:

Yeah, I used to play with the little girl across the street, I think her name was Arlene, she had a strep throat and died…

Interviewer:

Oh.

Marchitti:

When we were in one of the early grades and my sister’s girlfriends, Madeline and Judy, she’s still in touch with them. Judy lived on the corner of 19th and 21st, and Madeline’s mother was a dressmaker. She lived up on the corner of Market Street and her mother had a French accent and was a dressmaker. Yeah, my sister met with them not too long ago. Go for lunch. So, you know, they were four years younger than me. So they were really her friends, but I knew them. And then there was the little brother, Tommy, he had a crush on me. He wanted to marry me. Wait for me till I grow up, because I want to marry you. I understand he became an architect. Of course, you know, I don’t know what happened after that, because his birthday was the same as my sister’s birthday, so they would celebrate it together in the backyard, you know, and he was younger than my sister, but, you know, it was, you know, the families were friendly so, and so we did, and the people that lived downstairs from me were French, and they used to make their own outfits at Easter, including the hats. The sisters, they were something else. They lived on the second floor for a while, yeah. Let’s see. Who else were my neighbors? Oh, there were three sisters, old ladies who lived next door to me: Aunt Minnie, they always called them aunt, Aunt Minnie, and I can’t remember what the other two were. But there were three, I don’t know if any of them had been married, or they were just three maiden ladies, you know, but they were very nice. They lived next door. They tolerated the fact that we had a lot of children in the neighborhood, who were noisy and throwing balls in their garden and so forth. They tolerated us.

Interviewer:

Did they work in the mills?

Marchitti:

No, they were…

Interviewer:

Older?

Marchitti:

Yeah, I guess they were retired, yeah.

Interviewer:

And what kind of games did you play?

Marchitti:

Well, my cousin Johnny and my sister and I in the summertime played Monopoly till the wee hours, but he was always wheeling and dealing, though he always won. We played and played and played so till we finished the game. I guess we played other games, but Monopoly was our favorite.

Interviewer:

You mentioned you were playing outside, so what, what…

Marchitti:

Oh, well, we used to play, the neighborhood, when I was growing up was mostly boys. So we played baseball, you know, sometimes I actually hit the ball. We played in the street. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, so we played in the street. Yeah, and then, you know, I went hiking with my girlfriend. Later on I had a bicycle, then we, then we’d, you know, bike hike.

Interviewer:

Uh-huh.

Marchitti:

Oh, yeah. Those were the good old days. My father used to say, my father used to always say about his good old days, he used to say, these are the good, these are the good old days. Those were not so good. Things were tougher when he was growing up. And…

Interviewer:

Did he ever talk about what was tough?

Marchitti:

Yeah, well, I think he really would have liked to go to school more, because he loved to read and his younger brother, for some reason, was sent to school. He became an engineer. He was his father’s namesake, Leonard. But, I think he really would have liked to go to school. But, he liked his job, you know, it wasn’t that he disliked it, but yeah, and of course, losing his mother to the flu epidemic, that was, that was sad and it was sad for my Uncle Len, too, because he was only little, you know? Yeah, that’s, that’s what was tough in those days. Because they didn’t have, you know, penicillin, they didn’t have cures for things, you know. Then my mother always said, she never had, she never had an umbrella, her mittens in the winter, you just didn’t do that, you know. You just, you toughed it out. And I said that’s why that generation lived so long, my father was only, my father was only 82, he had cancer, but my mother was 97.

Interviewer:

Wow.

Marchitti:

So, she, I said that, because they were the tough ones, you know, she was the second child. Her brother lived to be 92, he was the baby. Yeah.

Interviewer:

Do you remember since you were growing up, your early years during the Depression?

Marchitti:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

Did you know you, that the country was in a depression?

Marchitti:

I don’t think that being kids we were conscious of it. But, you know, I guess my father never really lost his job. I remember him working four days a week and then he would get part-time jobs later on. I don’t know how he did it. He worked for a man who was, used a moving van, and he would move, you know, heavy pieces of furniture and he did that, you know, in addition to his other job. So, you know, you never think that you’re poor, you know? Like my mother used to say, we don’t have much money, but we have a lot of fun. She always said that, you know? But, you know, it just went in one ear and out the other. I find myself saying things that my mother used to say.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Marchitti:

You know, but, you know, later on I thought about it and said, yeah, I’m a Depression baby, that’s why I don’t waste things, because you know, you didn’t do that.

Interviewer:

You went to a store because the bread was two cents cheaper.

Marchitti:

Right, right, right.

Interviewer:

Did your father work long hours?

Marchitti:

No, he worked, he went early in the morning and he got home by 3:30, quarter of, I think he worked till 3:30, got home four o’clock, I don’t know what time he started, seven something, so I guess by that time there was, you know, you didn’t work every day of the week, like you didn’t work on Saturday and we always did things on Saturday. But he would come home in the summer and take my sister and I swimming. We’d go to Barbour’s Pond, which you know, I think it actually cost twenty cents a person or something like that. And we’d go after work, which is a perfectly good time to go swimming, you know, and come home in time for dinner.

Interviewer:

So, how many days a week did he work, six?

Marchitti:

Normally, normally I think five. But then, you know, during the Depression, he worked less. Yeah, I don’t remember him working on Saturday, because I remember him coming home on Saturday after the night shift, he did work the night shift sometimes, and he’d come home with buns for breakfast.

Interviewer:

Mmm.

Marchitti:

Stop at the bakery on the way home.

Interviewer:

What did he do for lunch?

Marchitti:

Oh, I guess he always brown-bagged it. Yeah, yeah. I did, too, when I worked, because not that that was ever enough, then my friends and I would go out and have something else to eat. Those were the good old days when you could eat, you know, and you didn’t gain any weight…[laughs]

Interviewer:

Yeah. Do you remember any other industries or companies in Paterson?

Marchitti:

With my job, we dealt with a lot of insurance, and of course, there were a lot of banks. I opened a bank account, we opened a bank account, as soon as we got married, we didn’t put a lot of money in it, but, you know, we started saving right away, because we wanted to get a house eventually. Took us a while, but we did. [laughs] And of course, the stores, the stores in Paterson, I mean, downtown Paterson was great, you know? There were several five-and-tens. I used to go down with my daughter, she was three years old and we, I forget now whether we walked down, I think we walked down and took the bus home. And we’d stop and you had a great lunch in Kresge’s or Grant’s or Woolworth’s, you know, they all had lunch counters.

Interviewer:

Yeah, those are gone.

Marchitti:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

What were your specific responsibilities at the insurance broker?

Marchitti:

Mostly I typed up renewals, I answered the phone, I took new orders, I gave prospective customers the, you know, how much it would cost them for their fire insurance or their car insurance…

Interviewer:

Uh-huh.

Marchitti:

And, you know, and there were rules, you know. Women, women under 25 were supposedly better drivers at that time than men under 25, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. [laughs]

Interviewer:

How long did you work there?

Marchitti:

Oh, let’s see. Four years. Still keep in touch with, well, one of the girls that I worked with, because, one of the women that I worked with, because one died. We used to go in, the three of us used to get together a couple times a year, but Jean had Parkinson’s, she died. Henrietta is still fine as far as I know, I haven’t talked to her lately.

Interviewer:

What brought your family to Paterson in the first place?

Marchitti:

Oh, I guess that’s because the jobs, that’s where the jobs were. You know, maybe my grandfather knew people, I don’t know. You know, or my grandmother. I don’t know. Because a lot of people at that time would have come to New York, a big city…

Interviewer:

Or Newark…

Marchitti:

Yeah, but I don’t know exactly what it was. Let me see. But I know there was a lot of industries, so there were a lot of jobs.

Interviewer:

Did you ever go to Hinchcliffe? [sic]

Marchitti:

Oh, yes. When I was in high school, football games, regular football games, and then later John and I went to the car races. Very noisy, very noisy. [laughs]

Interviewer:

And when did you do that? Did you already have kids when you did that, or…

Marchitti:

No, that was before, I guess, before we had kids. No, after we had kids, we did a lot of other things. We took them swimming, but not in Paterson.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Marchitti:

Did you ever see any of the tightrope walkers, across the…

Interviewer:

No, no. Just read about them. [laughs]

Marchitti:

Is there anything else you want to share about your growing up, living in Paterson?

Interviewer:

I don’t know. Schools were great at that time, that’s all I can say. I got a darn good education at East Side High. I’m telling you, when somebody says to me, like there’s this woman in my group, she writes beautiful rhymed poems, she cannot for the life of her understand free verse, as many times as I’ve tried to explain, you use that device and you use that device, you know, recommend poets that she can read, but, she’s younger than me and I don’t know where she went to school, I said we learned all about that stuff, I mean, Whitman and e.e. cummings and, you know, T.S. Eliot, we learned all that in high school. Schools were great, I don’t know, what they’re teaching at East Side High nowadays, but, you know, it was really good. And of course, in grammar school we learned to sew [laughs] and make hot cocoa.

Marchitti:

Was that in a home ec [home economics] class?

Interviewer:

In home ec. We never made anything substantial. We’d make cookies and hot cocoa. I said, we really should be learning how to cook real food. We didn’t. But my mother taught me to cook.

Marchitti:

What grade was that?

Interviewer:

I guess seventh and eighth, you know…

Marchitti:

That’s when I had it.

Interviewer:

Yeah, it’s funny…

Marchitti:

I don’t think they do it anymore.

Interviewer:

Oh, I don’t know what they do. When my son was in school, now he’s, he’s going to be 51, November 22nd, when he was in school, he was better at home ec than he was in shop, because, he was okay in shop, he made a bird house or something, but he, he had a knack for home ec. And then when he, you know, went away to college, and cooked his own meals sometimes, taught me how to cook broccoli, he said, Ma, you cook it too long, this is the way you cook broccoli. But I guess they don’t do that anymore, I don’t know. But you know, everything is computers, computers, you have to learn your way around a computer, you know? I don’t know, but I did hear, this has absolutely nothing to do with…

Marchitti:

So hold that for a minute…

Interviewer:

I’ll tell you that later.

Marchitti:

I’ll close out the interview. So, Betty, thank you so much for your time…

Interviewer:

Oh, it was fun. I hope I didn’t talk too much.

Marchitti:

No, as I mentioned, I would like to send you the transcript so you can take a look at it…

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Marchitti:

And I will make copies of the release and the deed of gift, so we are now ending at about eleven o’clock.

Interviewer:

Oh, well, that’s good.

Marchitti:

And I would like to reserve the right to come back to you with any clarifying questions.

Interviewer:

Yeah, okay.

Marchitti:

Great, thank you so much.

Interviewer:

Okay, thank you.

END

Last updated: June 16, 2019

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