Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stephen A. Gabuzda 1885-1966 Part 6

Family Memories

The Gabuzda family poses for a family picture taken in their living room at 899 Centre Street. Sons, George, Stephen Jr., and Edward lean behind the couch. Daughter, Martha with father Stephen Sr., mother Mary and daughter Bernice (Beezie) sit on couch. Youngest daughter, Marion, sits on the floor in front. Oldest daughter, Irene, had left home as wife to Donald O'Donnell.  Photo taken around 1940.
Stephen Gabuzda was a son of Slovak peasants who probably couldn’t read. As a young boy in Austria-Hungary, he had been given the equivalent of a fourth-grade education, only because he served as caretaker/companion of the son of a local dignitary and attended school with him--otherwise, he could not have gone to school. Whenever the dignitary’s son was naughty, Steve got the punishment--with the school master’s switch. He was truly a “whipping boy.”

Stephen Gabuzda, with daughter-in-law,
Mimi (married Edward in 1944).
Steve was a self-taught man. Every morning after opening the store in Freeland, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, he would return to the kitchen to await customers. Sitting at the kitchen table, where he could watch the store through the glass in the upper part of the door between the store and kitchen, he read the morning paper, The Hazleton Standard-Sentinal. Martha has vivid memories of her father using his index finger to follow the line of the print. He also read the Hazleton Plain-Speaker, and the Slovak-American journal, Jednota. Martha says he always seemed aware of the issues of the day, and discussed them with his customers, and had beautiful European-style handwriting, written with a flair. She says he probably learned English by “total immersion,” without classes, and none of his children remember  him attending classes here. Martha thinks he learned so quickly because he was a gregarious man, so friendly and outgoing. While he had a good command of the language, he spoke it with an accent, pronouncing “veal” as it it were “weal.”  His oldest daughter, Irene, remembers her father having a very pronounced, heavy accent, but his later daughters remember a more moderate accent, and the youngest, Marion, remembers no accent at all.

Stephen never spoke of returning to Slovakia, and had no desire to go back. He often expressed his pride in being an American. The only time the girls heard him speak Slovak at home was when he and their mother didn’t want the children to know what they were talking about, or when “Granny” Sarna, who didn’t speak English, visited Saturday mornings. When Martha once asked him why he didn’t teach his children Slovak, he said, “Because we are Americans, and in America we speak English.”

A few years back, my mother, Martha, and her sisters, recorded their “Front Porch Memories” of growing up at 899 Centre St. in Freeland. Some of these stories of the 1930s to 1940s include:

The girls were often found playing “house” with their dolls on the porch, or Martha directing her sisters in stage productions of their own, but Martha says if her Pop was ever annoyed because he had to walk around the girls there to go down to the chicken house and the big truck garage, he never showed it, but always seem amused.

Marion remembers as a teen sitting on the porch with boyfriends who walked her home, her Mom saying, “Be careful, the priests are watching.” (The rectory of St. Ann’s Catholic Church was directly across the street from their front porch.) She remembers Pop coming home from the Elks Club about 10 P.M. saying, “Time to come in now,” and seeing Mr. Stuntz, the next-door neighbor occasionally peeking out his window. Marion remembers Mom “used to scrub the porch with buckets and buckets of water, carefully wiping down the bannister and keeping the porch clean, and then, after all her chores were done, her Mom sat on the glider on the porch in a nice clean dress.”

Beezie with Kitty and Trix
Martha was Bobby’s  Seitzinger’s date for the MMI Senior Class Day at Pocono Manor once, when they left the house to go to his car, her Pop came out of the side door from the store in his bloody butcher apron with a meat cleaver in his hand to say good-bye. He called to Bobby, while waving the cleaver in the air, “Now, you take good care of my daughter, Bobby.” Martha said she will never forget the look on Bobby’s face. Martha says that it’s funny now, but she was so embarrassed then: “He must have been cutting meat and forgot that he still had the cleaver in his hand.”

Martha also remembers that as a teenager, her brother Georgie and a friend would sneak into the garage, push the car out along the gravel driveway to the street, turn on the engine and drive off. “Mom, getting wise to this, surprised them one night by sitting in the back seat and waiting for them. Caught them red-handed!”

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