FROM THE PATERSON STATION
The Way We Were
This memoir is set in the period 1926-1947, two critical decades for America and the world, spanning as they did the Great Depression and the Second World War. They were also the formative ones for the author´s generation—old enough to experience firsthand the effects of the Depression and young enough to carry America´s combat burden in the War.
The Author´s objective was to write a true memoir, that is, to focus less on the author and more on the time´s events and personalities—in effect to portray the way we were. However, all memoirs must be partly autobiographical, reflecting the times with a real personality, who selects the events and people on which to comment and what to leave out. In this case the story line begins with the author being abandoned at the age of four and his subsequent experiences as part of an extended Irish-Catholic family in industrial Paterson, N.J. Winning an appointment to West Point he graduates with the D-Day Class of 1944, and experiences combat in Europe as lieutenant of Field Artillery. The final part of the story takes place in the early period of the occupation of Germany and ends as the Cold War gets underway.
I. PATERSON (1926-1940)"...remember only for a fleeting moment...the song of the
fox sparrow reawakening the world of Paterson."
William Carlos Williams
Paterson Book Five
1. The Taxi
2. The Convert
3. St. Joe´s
4. The Green Years
5. The Ghosts of Eastside High
Paterson in 1926 was not an exit from the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike, nor Interstate 80, because none of them existed then. It was a mill town straddling the Passaic River, the seat of the county named for its principal body of water, and the main natural resource in its development, and the scene of the great silk strike of 1913 with memories still of Big Bill Haywood and John Reed.
The Paterson years began with a Dickensian quality for the author, the grandson of an artist, abandoned and placed in the Paterson Orphan Asylum. The next stop was a boarding house where eventually he gained membership in an extended family of Irish Catholics. It was only a matter of time before baptism and enrollment in the first grade of St. Joseph Grammar School.
St. Joe´s was a place of law and order, where faith was taken at face value and where the Sisters of Charity ruled. The classrooms were safe harbors where the pupils enjoyed more individual attention (often more than they wanted) than they ever had again.
By 1935 it was Eastside High—on the same city block at St. Joe´s, but a world away. Eastside was big and brand new, and in those years one of the great high school in the country. It was, like Paterson, an ethnic mix. About 65% of the population had a foreign background: Italians, Poles, Germans, Dutch, English, Irish, and a very large Jewish component.
By the spring of 1938 there were stirrings. Sixteen and no longer satisfied with the prospect of an office career, with the confidence of an Eagle Scout, Senior Patrol Leader and Camp Counselor behind, thoughts turned to college. But where? For one without means in those days, there was little chance to go to a first-rate school. The best possibility—though in northern New Jersey a discouragingly competitive one—was a government academy. From 1938 to 1940, all energies were directed to that goal.
These were the "borrowed years." The country was easing out of the Depression but the headlines and newsreels also brought ominous though still distant events: Munich September 1938; Hitler and Nuremberg rallies; the invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II—at first the "phoney war." Then