February 21 is a significant date for me. My father passed away on this date in 1970. My mother passed away on this date forty years later in 2010. I wanted to share something about my mother and father other than the Facebook post on how much I miss my parents. I miss them as does every child who lost a parent or both parents. This is the story of my mother and father in their younger years.
I found myself in my spare bedroom earlier this week taking down the tattered box from the closet’s top-shelf. My mother collected photos, many many photos throughout her life. They ended up in this box in her bedroom. The box found a home on my spare bedroom closet shelf sometime in her later years.
There were no Facebook and mobile phones during her time. It was common to take photos, have them printed, and share them with friends and families. The deeper I dug through the box, the more I uncovered my parent’s life before they met and the early years of their marriage. These stories and photos tell the story of two young people growing up in the early to mid-twentieth century.
My father’s story
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw Alliance industries growing. It was when the great Eastern European immigration to America was taking place. Hungarian families found work in Alliance’s factories and assisted other Hungarians to immigrate to Alliance. A Hungarian neighborhood took shape at the factory gates of Morgan engineering.
My father was a first-generation American of a Hungarian-American family that was planted in the center of this neighborhood. My grandfather worked at American Steel and my grandmother ran a neighborhood grocery. The grocery became a café during prohibition, named after my father Jokie. Jokie’s Café became a popular Alliance fixture sponsoring bowling and hot stove baseball teams.
My father’s time in the US Army during World War II defined his life during his post-war years. He took great pride in his service. He organized many reunions of his army buddies. Jokie’s Café was one of the neighborhood’s favorite gathering places for factory workers and residents. My father was a bachelor until age 40 when he married my mother and started a family. He loved being a father which was his pride and joy.
My mother’s story
My mother’s family arrived in America in 1922. My grandparents and their six children found a home in Ansted, West Virginia. My grandfather left Switzerland looking for a better life in America. He was a factory worker, possibly a watchmaker, in Switzerland. He became a coal miner in West Virginia. The family was pretty much the only German-speaking Swiss in town. My mother did not have a strong connection to her European heritage that my father did.
My mother found her way north to Alliance as did many southerners during the late years of the Great Depression. The industrial north was growing and provided a more stable economy. My mother followed her younger sister to Alliance. My mother worked at Alliance Manufacturing before and during the war as did many women.
My mother did find a Swiss community in Stark County. She became best friends with a Swiss-American couple that frequented my father’s café where they introduced her to my father. They were soon married and began to raise a family. My mother assumed the post-war bride role as the homemaker. My mother became an excellent Hungarian cook. She was very content with her life.