Memoir Monday: 99-Year-Old Millie, Memoir Partner with Her Niece, Laurie

(Excerpt written using 7 Memories: Partnering to Write a Memoir)

I was born on November 30, 1917, in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. When I was two, my parents took me and my siblings, Jimmy, age 8; Mary, age 4; and baby Jackie, to Ramacca, Sicily, to stay with my maternal grandmother. My father returned to Pennsylvania to work for the railroads to make money.

My grandmother and grandfather had a variety food store. My grandfather always walked with a cane and I only remember him sitting in a chair. So he was not much help in the store. My mother worked in the store.

When I was 6 years old, we moved back to America, traveling across the Atlantic to Ellis Island. I have an early memory of running around the deck for fun. I remember my mother spending three days removing lice from my hair to avoid any problems at Ellis Island. In the summer of 1924, we boarded a train back to Jeannette, Pennsylvania.

My aunt Grace managed an empty building that contained barrels of fermented moonshine. She took care of the barrels and then bottled the moonshine to make money. Then my mother started making moonshine for extra money. Since making moonshine was illegal, she had to keep all the windows closed. Well, the alcohol fumes were so strong that they rose to the second floor where we slept. Those fumes got Mary so sick that she was jumping up and down on the bed. Dad was mad at my mother and said, ”Do you want to kill our kids?” And that was the end of Mother’s moonshine days. 99-year-old Millie with her niece, Laurie.