WATERBURY TIME MACHINE III

Conclusion Of The Vintage Images Tour Of The Brass City

(If you arrived on this page directly from a link on a search engine or another website and want to take this online vintage images tour of Waterbury from the beginning or create your own customized tour, click here)

Send your memories of life in the Brass City in the '40s & '50s to anexwaterburian@yahoo.com for posting here, or you can post them yourself on the Waterbury Time Machine Blog.

From James G. Doyle: It’s not easy admitting in a crowd of people that you’re originally from Waterbury. People tend to give you that old, "My God, the poor guy" look without saying anything to your face, out of pity. Everybody knocks Waterbury. It has been called the armpit of Connecticut ... the noxiousness of the Naugatuck Valley ... the land where time stood still... the city where the crooked Irish politicians were eclipsed and replaced by the crooked Italian politicians. T. Frank "10 to 15" Hayes and Leary begot Joe Santopietro and Phil Giordano. The Waterbury Republican-American got a 1940 Pulitzer for graft stories which they still remind everybody of but did little else. The Brass City (Quid Aere Perennius) ran out of gas, brass and just about everything en masse. I feel like passing the hat with a sign, "Help a poor kid from Waterbury around the corner." 

I lived for 14 years in the intellectual part of Waterbury, Washington Hill -- an area where men were men and so were half the women. A hotbed of Irish influence. Almost all of us went to St. Francis Xavier Church on Baldwin Street. I was one of the heathens in the public school, however. I went to religious instructions on Thursday afternoons, Saturday mornings and Sunday, after Mass. This is principally why I’m such a sterling fellow today. There were and still are nicknames: Bibber, Mudder, Gizzo, Bobbo, Buster, Happy, Neddy, Cabbage Head, Dogface, Horse, Packy, Tocko, Joe-Joe the Louse and other colorful sobriquets. 

Out of towners once thought the only good things about Waterbury were the Jacques Theater during the hey day of "bump and grind" burlesque and Phil Becker’s on Bishop Street. A lot of folks still remember Nardelli’s on South Main Street, where you could get a 15 cent "grinder."  

It’s tough being part of one of the three biggest lies in the world: 1. Money isn’t everything; 2. This won’t hurt at all, and 3.It doesn’t matter if you’re from Waterbury, God still loves you. Waterbury’s latitude is 42 degrees 30 minutes North, in line with Avigliano, Italy. It is between 215 and 965 feet above sea level and they don’t spend a lot of money on good snow plowing... God put it there - God will take it away eventually, a la Bridgeport’s Jasper McLevy.

The first Mickey Mouse watch was made in Waterbury in 1932 under the Ingersoll name. It sold for $1.50. The town had a host of firsts: Girls Club in the U. S. (1864); can opener patent (1858); pewter buttons (1790); brass made by fusion of copper and zinc (1802); Unico Club (1922); regular monthly comic book "Famous Funnies" No. 1 (June 1934), worth $13,500 today. George "The Mad Bomber" Metesky, was a Waterbury guy, as was Fyodor Fedorenko, a Nazi war criminal, the first to be extradited to Russia for trial and execution. Rosalind Russell, Jimmy Piersall, Roger Connor, Bob Crane, Joe Cipriano, Bernie Dodge"Champagne" Eddie Kelly, and John G. Rowland (Yes, him!) were Waterburians.

I still have some pleasant memories of Waterbury and though I’ve lived in Bristol CT for 48 years or so, I’ll always be considered as not a native here. As it is, I have had three "homes", where I was born, in Wilkes-Barre Pa.; Waterbury, where I lived from second grade through three years of college and Bristol, where my wife and I personally chose to live out our lives. 

So hats off to Bristol and all its people. Robert Frost said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." This probably applies to one’s hometown also. I think it was O. Henry who said that you can’t appreciate "home" until you’ve left it. I still like to get away on vacation for a week or so, but then I get itchy and I want to go home. Bristol isn’t heaven but it’s not Waterbury either.  


From Ray Behr: Does anyone know what a true Waterburian is? In the early years of my favorite city, many individuals from around the world settled in this area to find a new life. Many moved on to other sections of America; however, the “true Waterburian” remained to establish the history of my city, the “Brass City of the World”.

St. Margaret’s School, McTernan School, St. Margaret's-McTernan School, and Chase Collegiate School, are true Waterburian schools, established by families who were instrumental in developing the industrial, cultural, religious, agriculture and academic aspects of the city. These families were pioneers; many were part of the history of these schools. Just go into any of our buildings and classrooms and you can feel the history of Waterbury as I do.

My family came from New York and Quebec and settled in this city around the turn of the century. They came to find work, to be close to their extended families, and to start a new life. First, my great grandfather Harry Behr brought his family from Brooklyn, New York. However, he moved back and years later in 1916, my grandfather Harry Behr Jr. and his new wife, my grandma, returned to Waterbury to raise their family. My grand dad Behr worked at Scovill’s for over thirty-five years. In 1920 my grandfather Louis LeClerc, raised in Anctonn Valle, Province, a small town in Quebec, and my grandma, raised in Windsor Ville, another small town in Quebec, settled in Waterbury to be close to their friends and family. They lived in the French section of the city, near the still-standing St. Anne’s Church. His first job in the city was at Oakville Pin, where he was employed by for over forty years.

My mom and dad were both born in Waterbury. My dad grew up in the East End on Hamilton Avenue and then moved to Union Street; my mom lived on the corner of River Street and Baldwin Street, next to Haddad’s grocery store. Mrs. Haddad’s grandsons attended and graduated from St. Margaret’s-McTernan School, Brian and DJ Haddad (what a small world!). My dad attended Maloney and then Leavenworth and my mom attended St. Anne’s School and then Catholic High, where Sacred Heart High School is now located.

In 1951 the ultimate Waterburian, Sugar Ray Behr, was born into this city at St. Mary’s Hospital, and that's when history around here started to change.

I lived on River Street for five years, attended St. Francis Xavier on Baldwin Street, and played in my yard near Pope’s Garage and the Mad River. Across the street Grandma Bonacassio lived; her house smelled like an Italian restaurant, sauce simmering on the pot belly stove, sausage, meatballs, mushrooms, pork sautéing, the aroma of garlic and spices made my eyes water. That was when I began to love Waterbury. Everyday Mama Bonacassio, who spoke only Italian, would let me eat homemade bread with sauce and cook me a bowl of homemade pasta that melted in my mouth. She would say, “Mangia, mangia! Eat, eat!” I would then go up the street and visit Mrs. Haddad, who would give me some Squirrels, Good & Plenty, Fire Balls, and Dots. She would talk to me in her native language, giving me a hug good-bye. Can you see why I love Waterbury?

In 1957 I moved to the Bucks Hill section of Waterbury, a project named Broadview Acres. What a place to live! I began to love Waterbury even more. In my court alone, there had to be fifty kids to hang with and just imagine… there had to be 100 of these courts: a lot of friends and a wonderland of adventures. These projects were located near farms with woods that went as far as the Waterville section of Waterbury. We climbed and caught snakes on Grey Stone Mountain. We rode in a raft on a nearby pond, imagining that we were Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. We built forts, traveled on sleds down the hills that seem to never end, and rode three on a bike down North Main Street or Boyden Street, with no fear or apprehension. We played football, baseball, and/or basketball everyday; there was never a shortage of kids who wanted to compete. To this day I’m still in touch with many of these friends. Nicole Gillis’ mom lived in the projects, and her brothers were my best friends. Cheryl Toffey, the mom of Katie and Kristen Bovat, 1999 and 2001 graduates, was my neighbor. The Toffeys had, I believe, five girls: a dream come true. What’s not to love?

I attended St. Anne’s School and I began to learn about the section of Waterbury that my family lived in when they first arrived. My grandpa, dad, and mom would show me their hang outs: the park where they first met and places they worked as kids. We hung out at Nardelli’s and Grenier’s. I hung out with some of my friends at the French Club on South Main Street, where my grand dad and dad were bartenders and taught me how to play cards.

At age fourteen, I left the projects and moved to our new home on South Elm Street. It was located a few yards from Catholic High and St. Anne’s School, where my sisters and brothers attended. I had to walk the farthest to Wilby High on Grove Street. It seemed my life always brought me back to the South End section of Waterbury. My neighbors were the Zappone family, whose grandchildren attended our school community.

I would walk downtown, go to Mid-town to shoot pool, walk a few feet and hang out at the Handy Kitchen, a real-life Fonzy hangout. I met my future wife right outside as she was walking from Notre Dame Academy to catch a bus. Can you now see why I love Waterbury?

I had my first job at Michael’s Jewelers and my mom worked right across the street at Howland Hughes at the restaurant on the bottom floor. My mom worked for Mr. Paine, the owner, whose two grandchildren now attend our school community.

Downtown Waterbury was always alive; we had numerous stores, record shops, movie theaters, the State and Loew’s Poli (now the Palace Theatre), soda shops, dance studios, markets, and pizza shops, some that are still there today. We played cards on the Green where, in 1961, I saw the person whom I admired the most across the street at the Elton Hotel—President Kennedy. What a day that was! I remember saying to my dad, “Waterbury must be an important city if the President came for a visit.”

The city went through many changes in the 70’s. The Naugatuck Valley Mall was built, along with other big shopping centers, and the city lost its attractiveness. The city I loved was beginning to loose its identity.

I took a job at Stop & Shop and then A&P, located where CVS now is on West Main Street. My first connection with St. Margaret’s was on Friday afternoons when the young women from this school community would walk down and buy some food to take back with them. One day I was asked to come and visit and, as I tried to enter, I was met by a staff member that shared, “No boys are allowed on this campus, so please leave.” Time went by, and I was married and began my coaching career at Notre Dame Academy. One of my first games was against Mr. Colligan and his girls’ varsity basketball team; I believe my team came out on top. I never knew at that time that someday I would be coaching at this outstanding institution. Years went by and my daughter Jen was born. I was working as a counselor at the Cheshire Reformatory and at the same time getting my certification in Physical Education at Southern CT State College. Upon graduating, I sent my resume to various schools and was interviewed by Hugh Slattery, Ms. Margaret Slattery, and Janet Welch for a math position at McTernan. They seemed to like me and I was hired to teach Upper School math. However, in late August, the Athletic Director resigned and I was offered the job. My love of the city paid off; I had my dream job.

I have lived in the Bunker Hill/Robinwood section of Waterbury since I was married in 1974, which has been ideal for me since I’m only a few minutes from school. My entire family lives in Waterbury with the exception of my brother and sister, who live in nearby towns. For a brief moment in my life, we moved to Woodbury; however I missed the noise and the close proximity of the city life and school. The city that I loved was calling me back, and I answered.

I have been part of this city for 55 years. I have witnessed many changes in this city that I love. These changes have inspired me to continue to be a part of the growth, the new revitalization, and, I hope, a prosperity that will enable it to live on for years and centuries to come.

My love for this city is endless; I have many good friends, close relatives, a family that continues to support me both personally and professionally, and a job that I have loved for the past twenty-three years. Why do I love this city? I want you to think about it. Look deep into what I have shared about my life and come up with the answers. May you love and appreciate your town or city as much as I do. As I have shared with my students for the past twenty-three years, I’m a Waterburian and I’m proud of it. One more thing… the next time you have a conversation with me, listen to my vocabulary and slang. It is pure Waterburian, and if you want to hang in Waterbury, just give me a call. I will give you a five star tour, and being with me you do not have to be afraid. Why? Because the name of Sugar Ray Behr will keep you safe; in a city that will always shine in my heart.

(Ray Behr rbehr@chasemail.org  is the Athletics Director at Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury) 


  

 John Wiehn (milkroute@yahoo.com) is a co-author of A Postcard History of Waterbury 1890 – 1930: I enjoyed the website. Love hearing about the neighborhood – Washington Hill / Hopeville. I've been living on Washington Hill / Hopeville all my life (43 years). Both my grandfather and mother were born in the lower Baldwin Street section. I am working on a book about the Waterbury Irish and would love to hear from anyone with memories.   


From Dan Lynch (dan@mattatuck.com): I just stumbled across your Waterbury Views & Memories website and must have spent a half-hour looking at all the neat things you’ve got up there. I am working on a re-launch of a site I created about 4 years ago focused on Waterbury Genealogy and History. I’ll have to get back to your web site to spend more time (especially the radio section), but wondered if perhaps I’d be able to use some of the material. I’ll give full credit to you as the source - I just think it’s an amazing collection of memories.

I grew up in Waterbury, but haven’t lived there since 1980. I first lived near Sylvan Ave. (on Merry St. right behind the parking lot across from St. Francis Xavier School), then we moved to Town Plot where I grew up. My folks still live there. My dad was a mail man in the city for many years and knows many streets, stories, buildings, etc.

Take a peek at my “old site” at http://www.greaterwaterbury.com, but it’s pathetic. The new one will be MUCH MORE feature and content rich, but it’s not set to launch for another month or so. It’s a labor of love so when I have free time, I work on it.


Dr. Louis D'Abramo reflected on his Waterbury roots in his speech when he was inducted into the Silas Bronson Library Hall of Fame in 2004:

Many years ago, I gave up the life of a Waterburian, hearing many calls, adventure, challenge, and excitement. However, much of what I experienced in Waterbury has had a profound effect upon my life. I grew up in Waterbury at a time of change and transition, those times of transition marked by the eventual closure of the smoke stack manufacturing plants that were part of the lives of so many Waterburians and that were the foundation of the vitality of Waterbury for so long, the opening of the intersection of routes 84 and 8, east-west meeting north-south, the race uprisings of the summer of 1968. It was a time of profound change, a time to question authority. The world was changing rapidly, the world that had seemed so large, and things that seem so unattainable were now becoming close and attainable. Commercial air travel became affordable to many. Higher education was no longer for the elite. I no longer felt that my destiny had to be in Waterbury. I left Waterbury open eyed; seeking change, looking for adventure, trying to experience what I thought was the unattainable just a few years previously.

Although I left Waterbury physically, my roots are sustained, having guided me each day throughout my life. The opportunities and the experiences during my first 20+ years living in Waterbury have had a marked affect upon my life. There are so many thoughts about who and what shaped my early years in Waterbury. I learned that hard work and perseverance would pay dividends. I learned that from an 89 year old coach of the Sacred Heart High School cross country and track teams who had faith in me and my athletic abilities, who found a special talent and nurtured the talents of all those who wanted to compete. I learned that there were many common threads of emotion and feelings among people as I worked in Somers Brass and the Waterbury Buckle Company during the summers as a college student. The people saw the future in me and embraced me, sometimes finding it difficult to accept the ideas of a new generation, the music that excited me, and my anti-Vietnam war sentiments. I saw in them a work ethic, a steadfast dedication to their job. I developed respect for people of different races and cultures as a member of the Boys Clubs of America at both its Cottage Place and East Main Street locations. Different cultures and races were embraced. We played together and we grew together.

I am an ambassador of Waterbury, Connecticut, not formally but through the people of Waterbury who so influenced me. My life in Waterbury did indeed prepare me to relish the opportunities placed before me and use my talents to the best of my ability.


                                                              

From Charles Monagan: When I was a boy growing up in Waterbury during the 1950s and '60s, the dining universe was narrow and pretty monochromatic. In downtown Waterbury- a busy, bustling place that was the center of my universe in those pre-McDonald's days- there were coffee shops, department-store lunch counters (Kresge's, Woolworth's, Howland-Hughes), one major cafeteria (Waldorf) and a handful of more colorful joints where adults could drop in for an okay hot meal and a highball. Ethnic options were very limited. There were a few good Italian restaurants, among which Diorio's and Bacco's are still around today, a couple of German spots (Drescher's remains in business downtown) and one Chinese restaurant, The China Inn, a den of mystery located down a flight of stairs off a raffish side street called Harrison Alley. The Elton Hotel on the Waterbury Green had a decent dining room, as did the nearby Waterbury Club. Fine, creative, chef-driven dining, as we think of it today, was basically unheard of. To my mind, a fancy restaurant was a place that served parfaits for dessert. If there was French cuisine within driving distance of Waterbury, I was unaware of it.

Not that I would have gone there to eat, anyway. With five children in the family, we really didn't dine out much. No one did- at least no one I knew. Our restaurant of choice on those rare instances when we did go out was a place called Litchfield Farm Shop on Watertown Avenue, one of a small local chain of dairy bar/restaurants that years later sold out to Friendly's. For more special occasions, we might go downtown to Diorio's. It had a wonderful warm and urbane atmosphere, with a long wooden bar, high-backed booths, a cigar case by the cash register and mustachioed waiters who could dazzle young diners by juggling plates and utensils before they laid them down on the crisp white napery.


From Carol Bauby (gypsy.carol@charter.net): The minute I saw the name 'China Inn', I started to salivate! I learned to love Chinese food at the China Inn. My grandmother and mother both loved it and we went there as often as possible when I was growing up. I remember the black exterior and waiting in line on the sidewalk on Harrison Ave to go downstairs to eat. Ahhh---I can just smell it! I also remember, not so fondly, the 'Comfort Station' next door. But I have NEVER had Chicken Chow Mein taste as good as what I had there. Mmmmmmmmm!!

One time, on a Thursday evening when the downtown stores were open late, I went for dinner with my mother and actually had to wait in line more than 30 minutes. The place was packed!! That must have been its heyday.

I can't remember when or why it closed but know for sure I had lunch there with my sister in the early 70s. We were eating and some newbies came in to eat and wanted salads. (we chuckled!) The server had a hard time explaining in a Chinese accent that they didn't have salads but my sister said to me, 'Sure they have salads, as long as you don't mind it stir-fried with rice'.


Jennifer Warner Cooper provided her memories of life in Waterbury in the early 1970s in the Hartford Courant NE Magazine 1/22/06 issue:  

I live in a leafy green suburb: Glastonbury CT. It's lovely, really, and I've no plans to move. But I was raised in a different Connecticut town, a dirtier, noisier one, and I can't forget her. My town was Waterbury. 

Waterbury gave birth to the American brass industry and, later, officiated at its funeral. We raised John Rowland, our felonious former governor, and we've packed a few of our mayors off to prison. Waterbury knows jail: when the boys get out, there's a block party with red, white and blue balloons tied to the folding chairs, big foil trays of lasagna, and music, because somebody's cousin is in a band. On a mid-spring Saturday in the early 1970s, I boarded the city bus with my friends, a pack of 12- and 13-year-olds in Wrangler jeans and Converse high-tops. It was our day to go downtown.

We headed for the back of the bus, put up our feet, lit our cigarettes and compared smoke rings. This bus was ours: We sat on torn vinyl seats, some patched with sticky, peeling duct tape, most scrawled with graffiti, lurid professions of love and hate in English and Spanish. The engine was loud and the bus stank of exhaust, a smell we loved.

The bus passed through the hills on its way downtown: Waterbury's hills that roll, not with apple orchards or pastures, but with hundreds of muted gray and beige three-family houses, great grids of neighbors anchored by big brick or cement blocks that were the schools. And the cross, too, was there; the huge cross of Holy Land USA rising up from the hill behind lower Baldwin Street, like a conductor with some sort of ethnic orchestra of steeples below: the French church, the Italian, the Polish, the Irish one "out East." There were others too, modest and tucked away, like the new Portuguese one and the storefront iglesias down on South Main.

One of us reached up to pull the frayed cord to signal our driver; here was our stop. We ground out our smokes on the dirty bus floor.

We made our way across the Green toward the bowling alley. The blotchy patina of the horse monument on the east side was constant, as was the low-level chaos playing out across the grass and benches: A few kids ran, trampling the paltry new growth of tulips and daffodils and throwing popcorn into mad flurries of pigeon wings. Three or four people slept, newspapers over their faces, on park benches. A couple of men, some staggering, drank from bottles dressed in brown paper bags. The bleached blond woman with the sad pockmarked face and crooked lipstick sat on a bench, filing her nails. And the feral-looking red-haired man we'd seen so many times was shouting and moving toward us now, trying to make eye contact. He wanted a dollar; he wanted salvation. Knowing we were in no position to provide him either, we moved, without any discussion, as a herd or a flock would instinctively move. We moved as one, avoiding his eyes and his battered hands. We moved away, and kept on going. We moved reflexively and without fear, or even a second thought.

So we went on to bowl a few frames at Seena's Duckpin Lanes. We could have taken a transfer bus to get up to the swankier Lakewood Lanes, but Seena's would do for us that day, with its cheap bowling and well-stocked and unsupervised cigarette machine. It was dim and dank inside, and smelled of the stale oil from the Fryolator. We came out of the alley surprised and disoriented to discover that it was still only early afternoon. We squinted and took deep breaths, like animals emerging from a dark burrow, adjusting to the presence of light and air.

Over on Bank Street, we stopped in at Howland-Hughes Department Store, which had an elevator with a uniformed operator. The operator, dressed in brown, had a stub where one of his right-hand fingers should have been. I loved the macabre. When he closed the accordion-like jaws of the inner gate I stared and wondered, as always, if he was injured here, in this very elevator, finger reluctantly offered as a sacrifice to his chosen profession. On darker days, I wondered, too, where the remains of the accident lay.

The Silas Bronson Library on Grand Street was next. The boys spent their time in the first floor periodicals section, fondling the worn pages of National Geographic that revealed to them exotic naked breasts from around the world.

We ordered pizza at Domenic's, a tiny and cramped inferno of a place. It had just a few tables, which were somehow always occupied, so we found room at the chest-high Formica counter. The wall behind the counter was mirrored, and we stood, using handfuls of cheap paper napkins to wick the oil from the tops of our slices, and watched ourselves eat.

The world was Catholic then, and our parents had stipulated that we were to attend the 4:15 vigil Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church, that vast marble and granite cathedral with ornate pillared statues and an impossibly high Sistine-esque ceiling. Marginally compliant, we arrived late, sat in the last pew, and left early, at Communion time. While there, we examined our purchases, fretted with buyer's remorse, told jokes, passed notes. We were noisy, but were only part of the din, the humming cacophony of this cavernous place. Around us, old Italian widows dressed in black fingered their rosary beads and murmured incessant Hail Marys, while schizophrenics in from the Green babbled their own incomprehensible word salad.

On the bus ride home, the spring sunlight was slanted, more golden, and the windows, we saw, were streaked and filthy. We were finally quiet; cigarettes and other contraband needed to be hidden. Later, in houses up and down the block, our parents asked what we'd done downtown. Our answers were, I'm sure, all the same: "Nothing."

So it's more than 30 years later and I am in my suburb, and I see my own children. Maybe I see yours, too. I see them in their Speedo swim goggles in the summer and I see them in their travel soccer uniforms in the fall. I see them wait for the school bus in their parents' cars because it is drizzling. I see how badly we want to sanitize their lives, and I know that my own two will never have a dirty bus ride. I see that, like most parents, I've wanted to give them everything. I'm disappointed, though, because I can't: I can't give them what I had.

I wonder then, if I am just sentimentalizing and romanticizing the dirt and the danger of my old city, because this is what we do. Maybe I am, but I see them, our children, and I think: How lucky. How very, very lucky I was.
 


From Lynn Baldoni: I also grew up in Waterbury with memories similar to Jennifer Warner Cooper, though maybe a couple of years off; I graduated from high school in 1973.

I have fond memories of taking the bus downtown with my mom on Saturday afternoons before I was old enough to take the trip with my friends. We would shop and go to Woolworth's or Kresge's for an ice cream soda when we didn't go to Howland Hughes for lunch.

As a teen, taking the trip downtown by bus gave us such a feeling of independence and of feeling all grown up. They are trips that I treasure to this day. The girls and I attended the 4:15 mass on Saturday, sometimes after confession. My grandparents owned the Waterbury Shoe Repair on West Main Street by the old Musler-Liebeskind, and my great-aunt and great-uncle owned the Olympia across from the Green on West Main Street, so our roots were deep in downtown.

Just the other day I had commented to a friend of mine that neither her children nor her grandchildren have ever taken a public bus! Gosh, what they have missed. Thanks for stirring old memories.


 From Arnold Smith (sirwilliam2@cox.net): I returned to the Waterbury area three years ago after being away from here for 59 years to be with my daughters. They had memories of the area where their grandparents lived and liked it so much that they moved here. For me returning to my roots was just one large shock! The city is run down, drugs, robbery and killings are rampant. The south end is no longer French, nor the north end Italian, in fact all the neighborhoods as we knew them are now basically gone and destroyed. The Italian population moved to the Town Plot area and one can see a bit of old Waterbury there.  My grandfather lived close to the French Church (St. Anne's) and used to venture up as far as Howland Hughes on Bank St. to see us, and give us a nickel.  He didn't speak English. 

The Waterbury I grew up in was the 1930s through the depression and into the late 1940s. The Waterbury that I knew was a bustling  pretty industrial city where you could walk about in any area of the city safely at any time of the day or night.  People were respected and looked out for one another. We had a large Mohican Market on North Main Street opposite the Green, Howland Hughes, M.A. Green’s Jewelry, Soda Fountains, Pharmacies, restaurants, three theaters down town, The 5 and 10 cent stores, sports stores, and taverns.   

I remember that one of the best hamburgers in town could be found at the K and J Sandwich Shop directly to the right of the Loews Poli Theater.  While I was in High School I worked at Stone’s Sandwich Shop, directly to the left of Loews, where all the Crosby and Leavenworth High School students hung out after school.  Later, while a senior in high school, I was the head cook at the Cape Codder Restaurant at the corner of Spring Street. 

My teachers in grade school and high school were all concerned fantastic people and I remember all of them fondly. I also remember that we had to wear a tie, coat or sweater when we attended school.  And if we were going downtown we had to dress appropriately. If we didn't, we could not go, it was simple as that.  We also had to wear clean underwear to be sure in the event we were unfortunate enough to be in an accident.  We were not allowed to go to bowling alleys or pool halls, as it was considered inappropriate.  

We ate our breakfasts at home with the family, we mostly took our lunch, in my case, it was a sandwich of butter, or butter with the choice of ketchup or mustard... we were poor but didn't know it, but we were happy.  Now they feed the kids breakfast, lunch and take care of them after school... and you wonder where your money is going.  The only ice cream we had growing up was in the summer time when the Good Humor man came around (and we did not get ice cream every time). During the depression we got second hand toys for Christmas presents, but we always had Christmas.  Later, during the 40's when there was more money, and I had jobs, we had more.  On Friday nights my father brought ice cream home, and for birthdays, we had ice cream, cake (home made) and soda pop.  And that was the only time we had soda.  Our first soda pop was both birch beer, and root beer made by my mother. I also remember her canning fruit and vegetables, making donuts and bread when we were very small.  

There was usually one wage earner in a family and "he" could support his family on his earning's alone.  The lady of the house stayed at home and took care of her kids.  Welfare was available for those without work, but most people were to proud to accept it and didn't.  There were some food programs around Christmas, and if I remember correctly... I was very small, we had to go to the Armory where we would get a large bag of fruit. That was it.  

We use to "bull" school I believe on Thursdays to go to the morning show at the State Theater (now extinct).  My girlfriend worked as an usherette at the Strand Theater.  

Waterbury was a grand and wonderful city, and as much as we hope, it will never be the same for obvious reasons. Just take a ride downtown or in fact most areas of the city.  Unless there is a miracle Waterbury will never recover.  

First the Malls came and then all the factories began shutting down because it was cheaper to export the raw materials, have the work done cheaper overseas, and then returned to the U.S. and be sold here cheaper than we could produce any particular item here. This was due primarily to the greed of our corporations and the mismanagement of our import export policies of the U.S. Government then and now... So what else is new? 

Our family first became an actual part of the history of Waterbury and Connecticut about six months before I was born, when the National Guard Airplane, in which my father was an observer crashed on Bradley Avenue in the Town Plot area of the Waterbury.  The pilot, Captain Arnold Rasmussen was killed and my father severely injured.  They did, however, make the news nationwide in a time when such incidents were fairly rare. It was also in a time when there were maybe one or two murders a year in the whole of Connecticut, instead of the two to four or more that take place daily in Connecticut today. 

I guess we all have fond  memories of Waterbury and especially the time period we grew up in this city... Fortunately It is a "sentimental journey," that we all can take.. and share with our children and grand children.  

Except for now... it was all good.....in Waterbury. 


From Noel Weaver (Fort Lauderdale, FL): I remember American Brass, Chase's, Scovill, Waterbury Tool, Farrel, Plume & Atwood and many others, they are all gone and will never return. As far as Waterbury getting industry to replace the above, it is not likely that they will ever get heavy industry of the nature of the above. Whatever is left around Waterbury is mostly small industry, with a small number of employees, mostly non union and will never be able to fill the shoes of the departed large industries. As for the Brass Mill Mall, will it every fill the shoes of the Scovill plant that it replaced? NEVER!!!!

 

As for trains, I remember the through trains to New York and Boston as well, there were two through trains between Waterbury and Boston right up till the 1955 floods. I have old New Haven Railroad records here when there were two and three switchers around the clock in Waterbury and a good number of through freight trains too going to Hartford, Maybrook, Bridgeport, Cedar Hill and probably other places too. Without the heavy industry not only in Waterbury but all over Connecticut and New England, these trains, too, will never again return.  

I stopped in Waterbury in the summer of 2003 in my travels and it was sad to see today compared with the 1950s. 


From Jim Shine (jimshine@adelphia.net)Hi there, I am a younger ex-Waterburian, but I have many memories of the town.    

 

The pic you have up of Lakewood with a rollercoaster stood the hair up on my arms. I never knew they had one. I did remember hearing the round building once housed a carousel. As kids I remembered we all used to tell scary stories of Lakewood. Like it was a man made lake used to cool the old machines in the mills. Sometimes currents would flow again and pull you under and as you got closer to the island in the middle, the water would be hundreds of feet deep. I laughed as I returned for a visit years ago and saw they drained the whole lake to clean it. It was winter and you could walk out far on the frozen mud. It never got all that deep. 

My grandparents lived at 456 Mill Street, right across the street from an old factory. It was the back side of the Waterbury Button Co. that was seen in the movie "Stanley and Iris" (boy do I remember the controversy when that was being made). Their house was quite old and it had this long line of garages that was obviously originally a stable for horses converted. The whole place was leveled in the 80s. I remember a time, perhaps in the late 70s, when a car went off the road on that tight curve and crashed into the old factory building. Crime was increasing back then. I remember there was a big fenced parking lot on that street that would have burned out and stripped cars sitting inside. One would go and another would quickly replace it. Volkswagen Beatles seemed to be a prime target. I remember Mrs. Barra lived next door (her address was most likely on South Main Street) and she owned a 4 floor green apartment building with a store front at the South Main street level. There was a sort of courtyard between a few of the buildings, stretching from behind the 7-11 Bar and Grill to my grandparents’ house. 

I grew up on Greenwood Ave near Fulton Park. I went to Mary Abbott school a few years and that was closed down and I was sent to Kingsbury. Later on I took on a paper route for the afternoon paper and delivered to that place after it was opened as apartments. Having friends at Kingsbury School allowed me to visit many of the houses in the Overlook-Willow section. There were some really neat houses in there. I remember seeing servants calling systems, and one house between Fiske Street and Willow had an old cage looking elevator. 

My dad had an office in the Anaconda building. If you look at the main entrance, there was (maybe still is) a bridge right above the doorway when you walk in and start to climb the stairs. That bridge joined his offices. It was a fantastic building and I would frequently poke around on Sunday when dad would catch up on paper work and nobody else was around. I remember TV Channel 20 shared that floor as well. In the bowels of that building I remember a limo sat. Dad said it was the owner of the building’s car (was it Drummond?). I also remember finding an old, fully stocked and operational Civil Defense fallout shelter complete with a spring loaded metal sliding door. My best memory was on one of the upper floors, the Pie Plate had an office up there. A guy dropped a bag full of gift certificate books out in the rear parking lot. I found them and returned them. He gave me a book to thank me for being honest. 

My mother cared for John Greco (the builder of Holy Land USA) in the last year or so of his life. I don't remember what his illness was, but it was probably a stroke as she said he couldn't talk. I remember she had a hard time getting paid. The church took care of all that and they would try to haggle with her over her paycheck after she already put in the hours.

Some of my earliest memories of Waterbury in general:  

I remember seeing the remnants of the trolley tracks around town. They would pave over them and eventually the pavement would wear and expose the tracks.

Howland Hughes- That was where I had to get my Cub Scout uniform as they were the only place selling them. That place was like walking into a time warp. I never appreciated it back then.   

The Naugatuck Valley Mall- I remember when they had the waterwheels setup through the mall. One at each of the 3 major entrances. The Sears side had a tobacco shop (and the Mall was frequently full of smoke). I also remember seeing organs demonstrated over that way. I think McCrory's hadn't touched their dinette until the late 80's. It would have been considered retro today. 

The Colonial Plaza- My mother would take me to the rollerink and bowling alley that was there. I remember going into Kresge's and seeing items with K-Mart price tags on them. We would hit the movie theater over there often as well. There was a restaurant in there too, I can't remember if it was Friendly's or Farm Shop.  

In elementary school we were taken on a tour of Reymonds Bakery. I don't remember much, but I was fascinated by the machine that bagged the bread.

I moved away 15 years ago. My father still lives in Waterbury, but relocated to Town Plot (he used to be proud to live next door to the mayor, but that was short lived as the guy got in trouble). The area I lived in was going down hill, my dad was stabbed one Christmas Eve, and we were getting robbed all the time. I had no hard feelings leaving. But it seemed the first few years after I left they demolished many of the old factories I remember.

I thank you for posting the old pics for us to enjoy.


From Chuck Lund (niteowldj1@aol.com): I'm sure you have already heard about the new cross on Pine Hill. Most Waterburians do not like it. It is somewhat smaller, and does not have the night-time appeal the old one had. It's a shame that John Greco's wonderful creation has fallen on bad times. I still remember the picture of the original Cross on the cover of Life magazine back in the 1950s.

I wish We could go back to the '50s and 60s. It was so much easier to live back then. All the good stores are gone, Most of the Movie Palaces, Great Hamburger joints, The Drive-in Theaters. Only two left in Connecticut now.

You have a nice picture posted of my street. (Madison St.) Nice picture of Paul Lord's Sunoco station also. You should see it now. Nothing there today even resembles anything as to how it used to look. I originally grew up on Vine St, and the family moved to the east end (Reidville) when I was 12. I got an apartment on Grand St. when I was 18, and went to work as the Peanut man at the Planters store until the? flood.

I then joined WWCO doing basketball games with Joe McGuinness, and later did a weekend music show when Wayne Hickox left to take a position at a Hartford Radio Station. I was told that he passed away, although I have not gotten any confirmation on that. I'm still with WATR doing emergency fill-in, and Engineering when asked to go over to see what’s wrong when they get knocked off the air, or there is some kind of distortion in the audio, since I live just a block away from the station. The Gilmore Family still owns the station, only selling the FM side about 8 or 10 years ago.


From Joe Palladino (jpalladino@rep-am.com): The Tour of Connecticut bicycle race, and the accompanying Tour of Waterbury, has been canceled for 2006. They will try and revive it in 2007. I hope they do. The event brought some of the best cyclists in the world to town.

The coming and going of world class bikers left little impression on Waterbury and yet, we can safely call it the biggest thing we had going on. What has happened to us? 

Waterbury once was a great sports town. That is ancient history. We chased every minor league baseball team out of town by simply staying away. We occasionally have a good high school football game in town, but watching a game at Municipal Stadium is akin to laying across the Metro-North tracks and waiting for the 9:17. 

We've always had sensational high school basketball games, and I presume we always will. But we'd rather stay home and watch UConn on the tube. It's pathetic.  

We used to come out for anything. Now we have nothing to come out for.  

 

Back in the 1950s Waterbury people came out and supported everything. Today, we support nothing. 

The level of support Waterbury gave its teams and its athletes, once upon a time, was stunning. In 1990, when Waterbury American Legion won the state championship, fans packed Municipal Stadium on a nightly basis. At one Sunday-morning showdown between Waterbury and Naugatuck, at Veterans Field, 2,000 fans showed up. It was played in a heat wave not unlike the one we endured last week. Emergency medical personnel were called to the field twice to treat fans overcome by the heat. 

Would we see that level of support from local fans today? No chance. What has happened to us? 

We used to bring 2,000 fans out to Hamilton Park Sunday afternoons for City Amateur League games. Major League teams played exhibition games here on off days in the 1950s because they'd draw big crowds in Waterbury. We packed gymnasiums to see Calvin Murphy and his all-stars. We'd fill the Stadium with 10,000 fans every Friday night for boxing matches. We packed the Armory to see Gorilla Monsoon. We sat and shivered at the Stadium for Waterbury Orbits games.

This used to be a sports town, the best in southern New England, bar none. But we haven't been able to call this a sports town in years. Look at what we let happen to our sports stadium. We fix our fields with money from the state. We won't pay for it ourselves. That's a crime. Don't even get me started on the golf courses. 

We have come to this: A bike race became our top sports attraction, and we lost that too. 


From Robert Hoebel: The “Roost” was owned and operated by Richard Lawton, one of the many Lawton families that lived on Grassy Hill Road. It was a large building originally housing chickens. I remember harvesting chicken manure with my dad in or around 1956 before Mr. Lawton restored the building into a square dance facility in or around 1958. 

The home square dance club was the “Roost Promenaders”, which was active for about 20 years. My parents, sister, and I were active in the Promenaders for many years.


 From Joe Pesino: In early December 2008 I was using my metal detector in the woods near Woodtick Reservoir (the old Scovill reservoir) and I found a brass badge about four inches under the ground. The wooded area was once the backyard of an old house which is now gone.

I did some research on the Internet but found nothing so I contacted the Waterbury Republican American and they sent me the following info.

On September 14, 1926 a delegation of 325 members of the Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce visited Waterbury and they were hosted by the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce. The Pennsylvania delegation was accompanied by the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. A parade, including the Mattatuck Drum Corps, greeted the Harrisburg group at the railroad station. Besides a tour of the city, the group was treated to a sheep-bake at Hamilton Park. Although there is no mention in the articles of the badge you have in your possession there is no doubt it was made for the attendees of this event.


Pop, a Waterbury memoir by Peter Boone Bertolette 

He sips at his drink as if it were the sole reason for life and pays no heed to the chatter of the truck drivers or the clickclacking of the pool balls, as well as the bonging of the pinball machine which lured him into this bar in the first place. As he leaks out his luncheon imbibement he notes his reflection on the towel roll. A touch of heckling grey for his hated whores.  

Now he was working nights--11-7. Home to hear the mother bitch in the kitchen school and baby breakfast two boys and girls with a thirst for car keys out of this pocket comes tuition for the private school or college. He heads up to the attic calm of his hiding place. Four hours of sleep then sneak past the mother again to waste his afternoon but something to do. Golf doesn't hold his interest. Pinball does.   

"Oh Waterbury," he muses, "How in hell did I end up here? The brass city which makes my zippers." Fumbling in his wallet he notes the pawn ticket held as receipt for his golf clubs and he pays the barmaid leaving a dollar for lunch. Today is payday and he makes the ride to Naugatuck for his check. He gets off Route 8 heading south on Rubber Avenue to the footwear division of U.S. Rubber Co. The valves on the green blue Ford station wagon tap as he idles in Employee Parking Lot #2. He turns the key and prays against the annoyance of pre-ignition. He mutters; "Religion works, but only for the inanimate." The car does not diesel.  

He shows his security card to the guard at the gate and is admitted. Heading for the payroll office he bumps a busty young secretary against the wall. He mumbles--"Sorry, this just isn't my day." She winks, "Better luck next time."   

Something to think about through the haze of seven Tom Collins' on an empty stomach. He saunters through the door feeling a little self-assured and at least less depressed. Thanks to the whole lack of anything. Holding. Talking. The whole day of it lapsing into night secret motels or the western upstairs of the Kingsbury Hotel. Why did Bob choose Waterbury?  

Read the whole story  


From Roy O'Neill: My CD, AMERICAN BRASS, is a collection of songs that grew out of my experience growing up in Waterbury. I was born during World War II. The week I arrived President Roosevelt died and Harry Truman took over. The first President I remember was “Ike” Eisenhower. Looked good in uniform and had a smile that was meant to sell toothpaste.

My early years were spent on Washington Hill, an Irish neighborhood on the south side of the city. We lived with my grandfather “Doc” Quinn, a real doctor complete with black bag, stethoscope, big ol’ 49 Hudson and this great big cigar that he was always puffing. He was a doctor when they still did house calls. Patients later told me they knew when “Doc” Quinn was in the house because they could smell his stogie from the third floor.

Mom was “Doc’s” oldest daughter and I was the oldest of nine kids. Dad was a salesman for the Thinsheet Metals Company. Metal was a big deal in Waterbury. Back then it was the Brass Capital of the World. Waterbury made buttons for the Civil War, bullets for WW I and bombs for WW II, Korea and Vietnam. Then, brass went bust. The big mills all closed and the City has been struggling to find a new identity for itself ever since. But there must be something in the water. It may be an aphrodisiac or some other form of contaminant because people from Waterbury really like the place a lot or can’t wait to get away.
   


   

 

 

What a great read John Fusco provides in Paradise Salvage, his debut novel set in Saukiwog Mills, a fictionalized Waterbury, Connecticut. Fusco grew up in Waterbury and still has relatives and friends in Town Plot. He pays tribute to his roots, but it is, despite uproariously funny passages, a somewhat mournful celebration. Read entire review. 

  

 


Carmen Anthony Vacalebre was a coal miner’s son, born in West Virginia to a father who had crossed the waters from Italy to seek a better life. After 28 years in the mines, his father, who had married his Italian-born wife when he was 45, moved his young family to Waterbury. (Sadly, Carmen’s dad died of black lung disease.) Carmen fondly remembers a Waterbury childhood filled with close friends and good food. "Sunday morning was heaven," he recalls. "Making the meatballs and the sausage and the braciolle … I miss those days. My mouth waters just thinking about it."

During high school, he worked for a restaurant supply company; after graduation in 1965, he became a meat cutter for Grand Union. A major turning point in his life came when he met the Trefz brothers, who owned a McDonald’s in Waterbury and hired Carmen on as general manager there. As part of his training, he attended McDonald’s University outside of Chicago. "That experience set the tone of my career," says Carmen. "I not only learned how to run a restaurant; I learned how to run a restaurant company."

Thus, in 1969, Carmen launched Me-Ma’s, a fast-food restaurant of his own. He soon opened in two more locations, and kept Me-Ma’s going for 30 years. It was in 1982 that Carmen bought territories for Arby’s Roast Beef restaurants, which were being introduced to the area. Eventually he owned 11 Arby’s franchises, which consistently won awards for quality and service.

As his career took flight, Carmen rewarded himself and his loved ones with fancy dinners at legendary New York steakhouses. While he dreamed of someday owning an upscale steakhouse of his own, he kept a mental record of favorite elements and details.

In 1996, he became fixated on a vacant space on Chase Avenue near his office in Waterbury. He made his move, and, later that year, Carmen Anthony Steakhouse opened to critical and popular acclaim. Well-heeled patrons loved its vintage-style bar and lounge with high-backed booths and black-and-white tiled floors; its classic dining room with traditional steak house offerings, beautifully executed; and its service, so attentive that it bordered on fawning. In 2000, with four Carmen Anthony restaurants humming along, Carmen sold his 13 fast-food restaurants and was free to concentrate on his beloved steak and fish houses.
   


 

 

A Pleasant Institution - John S. Monagan's memories of Waterbury 

 

 


 

Growing Up Italian and American in Waterbury

A remarkable oral history by Sando Bologna and Attorney Richard M. Marano about growing up in Waterbury. Reflect on the humor, neighborhoods, pathos, hard work, patriotism, education, and sociability of the city’s past and present.

                           PURCHASE INFO 

  


  

#9780738538112 -- $19.99

Images of Rail

 --Waterbury Trolleys--

 by; Connecticut Motor Coach Museum 

(softcover) 128 pages 

Waterbury Trolleys traces the growth and expansion of the streetcar system throughout the Naugatuck Valley. This system became part of the Connecticut Company's extensive streetcar network, spanning 1,138 miles statewide at its peak in 1918. As automobiles became a primary mode of transportation, the streetcar lines in Waterbury transitioned to bus routes. By 1937, streetcars were officially replaced by buses. This wonderful collection of vintage photographs documents the network of streetcars that once thrived in Waterbury.

Contact the Museum by telephone at (860) 627-6540 or by email at giftshop@ceraweb.org for ordering information, or order from Amazon.com 


 

  

  

The Mill on Mad River by Howard Clark, copyright 1948, tells the story of Anson Holt in his rise from an orphan to become a dynamic man in the brass button manufacturing industry in Waterbury in the 19th century.

Available at Amazon.com    

 

 

 


 

 

Waterbury (Images of America) (Arcadia Publishing) (Paperback) by Frederick W. Chesson 

 

 

 

 


We may get a sense of Waterbury's past by looking at pictures or personal accounts or reading old newspapers but surprisingly enough there is a book on the subject by Jeremy J. Joyell (A Lifetime Ago: Before The Death Of Childhood, iUniverse).

Born in Waterbury in 1942, Joyell recounts his early years living on Wood Street attending Walsh and then Bunker Hill grammar schools. Through Joyell we learn the life of a simple family in the 1950's growing up in a small apartment where the father worked in a brass factory and the mother stayed home. Relatives lived in the same neighborhood in some instances for many years. Eventually his family moved to a more suburban setting on Wayland Street in the Bunker Hill section.

Joyell's first day of school was in 1947 when he was dressed in a sailor's suit hand made by a relative "authentic in every detail down to my chief petty officer's insignia" walking with his mother and brother in a baby carriage down Dikeman Street then to Walsh School. Joyell's first experience with moving pictures was watching Pinocchio at the Carroll Theater on North Square. His hair was cut by Pat Travisano on East Farms Street at Pat's Barbershop "a spittoon sat in one corner, presumably for the tough old Italians who smoked Perotti cigars..." on Cherry Street was a twenty foot high milk bottle on the roof of Worden's Diary. And as Joyell tells it:

“On summer days, horses drank deeply from the Carrie Welton fountain which was designed specifically for the horse traffic of an earlier day. Handsomely dressed men and women walked quickly from store to store on Bank Street in search of fine clothing and jewelry. Downtown employees grabbed last minute grocery's at Mohican Market, which opened onto the street much like an open-air bazaar in foreign countries.”

In Bunker Hill his new street on Wayland Avenue was occupied by doctors and executives and beyond that were mostly untouched woods for miles. This was his new world of Valentine, Woodruff, Circuit and Adalaide. Joyell played Little League at a place called Mert Conner Stadium which had a press box, club house and and outfield fence with local advertisements. Joyell doesn't mention the location of the stadium only that it was lost forever during the flood of 1955 along with his birth certificate located in a file somewhere in the complex. Little League doesn't exist in Waterbury anymore but at that time it shouldn't have either because as Joyell explains for a town of 100,000 plus there were only 8 teams which was a violation of Little League rules. As for the flood he recalls going down Bunker Hill Avenue and right at the bottom is where the Naugatuck river started. If that's the case the river indeed over ran it's banks onto a large area. There isn't much said on matter in Joyell's book but if the river came up to Bunker Hill Avenue then there is no wonder there was such devastation.

A Lifetime Ago will be enjoyed by many in this area for what it is. A postcard from Waterbury's past with people living in a different way. 


The View From Cracker Hill by Bettejane Synott Wesson describes life in Waterbury in the 1950s. It's a story told from the perspective of a young girl living in the inner city five blocks north of downtown in a section known as Cracker Hill. The author's impression of city happenings, family events and Catholic school are told with humor and a growing awareness of the chances brought to her own town by the post war economy. But whether she's describing an air raid drill or a trip to Woolworth's her love for her subject is obvious. She says, "People sometimes ask, 'What do you see in Waterbury?' For me, it's not simply about memories, the way it was in my beloved past. It's also about Waterbury's potential, what it could be one day yet to come."

Available at Amazon.com


Wicked Waterbury: Madmen & Mayhem in the Brass City
Edith Reynolds John Murray

In its early days, Waterbury was a muddy swamp, a breeding ground for pestilence and mosquitoes. Yet the town’s early settlers rarely strayed from the path of Puritan righteousness. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, this rigorously policed, morally upright community had become what one politician called a “crossroads of slime and evil.” Authors Edith Reynolds and John Murray document the major episodes that gave Waterbury the nickname “Sin City.”

Available at Amazon.com  


 MEMORIES OF WATERBURY IN WORLD WAR II

The War is a seven-part series, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for PBS, that examines the myriad ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America. By telling the stories of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns – Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota – Part 3 of the series portrays this enormous worldwide catastrophe on an intimate, human scale.  

Waterbury was chosen because "they used to say every soldier from Britain or America was riding, shooting, or wearing something from Waterbury", Burns said. The War intertwines vivid eyewitness accounts of the harrowing realities of life on the front lines with reminiscences of Americans who never left their home towns, and who tried their best to carry on with the business of daily life while their fathers and brothers and sons were overseas.

Residents of Waterbury interviewed in The War include:
Tom and Olga Ciarlo — Their brother, Corado “Babe” Ciarlo, was drafted out of a Waterbury factory in l943, became a replacement in the 3rd Infantry Division and served in Italy. Tom and Olga spent the war in Waterbury helping their mother cope, contributing to the war effort and looking forward to Babe’s letters home.
Anne DeVico — DeVico graduated from high school during the war and saw her two older brothers and most of the boys she knew go into the service. She got a job at a Waterbury newspaper office and dated a New York boy who went into the Air Corps and named his plane after her, “The Waterbury Anne.” On New Years’ Eve l943, with her mother’s permission, she went to New York, and in Times Square, met a sailor from Valparaiso, Indiana, named Bob Swift and fell in love.
Raymond Leopold — Twenty-seven and newly married, Leopold left Waterbury for the Army in l943. Trained as an expert rifleman, he joined the 28th Infantry Division as a replacement and arrived on the front lines in Europe in November l944. Leopold showed such skill in first aid that his commanding officer made him a medic — and although he had been trained to kill people, for the remainder of the war he tried to save them instead.

Joseph Vaghi — A native of Bethel (a few miles west of Waterbury), Vaghi graduated from Providence College in December l942 and became a naval officer. He trained as a beach master and first saw combat on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was wounded, recuperated and then assigned to train troops for amphibious operations; after a few months, he volunteered to go into combat again. He was sent to the Pacific to be a beach master for the invasion of Okinawa. 

 

 

Leo Goldberg: "The landlord's son on a visit from Waterbury told me about how easy it was to get a job in a defense factory, and there I was working in a gas station at $12 a week for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. And I said, 'OK, we'll give it a shot.' While looking for work, there was one memorable morning when I got on a bus, sat down next to a stra....somebody who turned to me and said, 'Good morning.' And I looked at him as if to say, 'Who are you to say good morning to me.' After all, I'm from Brooklyn, New York. But any rate, the impact was very great. The friendliness that I found in Waterbury was something I was not accustomed to. The difference, you know, I felt right away. I was barely 20 years old or whatever it was. And I just felt a difference that this was a very friendly place. I found a room at uh, some rooming house. So, uh, it was just a difference experience. You know, I've heard stories about why would anybody from New York City want to settle in...in a hick town. Well, it was to my liking. I liked what I saw, and Waterbury was a lot different then than it is today. And we stayed." 

Tom Ciarlo: "Waterbury at that time, during the war was like, you could almost compare it to a miniature Times Square. It was never quiet because there were so many factories and each factory had three shifts so they're going around the clock. You didn't have cars because you, there were no gasoline stamps, so you had to take buses. So we had busses running up and down from the center of town to different streets all over the city going constantly. And there was always a humming city. There was always something going on, the restaurants downtown were always booming, so were the bars. Theaters were always full. There was always something going on." 


                                                                                                                          

From Al Heavens, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist: I've been previewing Ken Burns' 14 1/2-hour World War II documentary, The War, a little bit at a time over the last month or so because one of the towns it focuses on is my birthplace, Waterbury, Conn. Frankly, though, from what I've seen, Burns spends more time on Mobile, Ala., Laverne, Minn., and Sacramento, Calif., than he does on Waterbury. 

Most parts of the city shown in the film so far disappeared in the flood of 1955 or in the misguided urban-renewal efforts that followed for 50 years. Then again, most of what I see as I drive along Interstate 84 above the city these days is unfamiliar. Factories that employed my parents, relatives and neighbors are now shopping malls or vacant lots. In one bow to the past, the huge Home Depot south of the highway is on the site of a lumberyard destroyed by a spectacular fire when I was about 7 years old.

So much has changed that Waterbury is only vaguely recognizable. Too bad Channel 12 in Philadelphia isn't based in Waterbury, because there would be enough "things that aren't there anymore" to fill out the schedule around the Britcoms and Suze Orman for years.


Waterbury's Part In World War II (a 1946 Sunday Republican newspaper booklet)


  

Send your memories of life in the Brass City in the '40s & '50s to anexwaterburian@yahoo.com for posting here, or you can post them yourself on the Waterbury Time Machine Blog.

More vintage views of Waterbury on another website

Waterbury 1674 - 1974: A Pictorial History 

Waterbury and her industries. Fifty attractive and carefully selected views of the many leading manufacturing establishments, public buildings, churches, residences, park, street and general bird's-eye views of Waterbury, Conn in 1889. 

 

Join the Waterbury discussion on Rootsweb. To subscribe and post messages send "subscribe" e-mail to ct-waterbury-l-request@rootsweb.com