Yesterday's Magazette

5 – Memories Of 1940s

My Memories of The 1940s

By Colette Sasina

Mama told us her “Joany come lately” story on our eighth birthday in 1949. “You were born first, Basil. Colette Joan, you rolled around an hour and a half more before Doctor Martin coaxed you into the world.”

In retrospect, my take is a bit more creative. I simmered like a reluctant squatter, stretched like a sleepy grizzly after a long hibernation, savored the space gifted me by my twin’s debut. Then I settled into a yoga position: Down Dog. Impatient, Dr. Martin grabbed my feet and yanked me out.


Basil kept his “first” status throughout our lives, including his dolorous death a decade ago. Being “Joany come lately,” I’m still around, retired, reflective. I meditate, practice yoga, child’s pose my favorite. Sweet basil in my kitchen spice rack is a prayerful reminder to celebrate our unique earthly connection and eventual heavenly reunion.

In the beginning we lived on the second floor of Grandma and Grandpa’s house in a cozy apartment with back stairs and a landing to its private entrance. Extended family lived in bungalows on either side. Relatives referred to us simply as “the twins.” Mama enjoyed their help in the early months. Large, varnished wood cribs overwhelmed the tiny womb-size nursery as if to validate our tiny primal dyad.

Papa worked two, sometimes three jobs, crafted toys, and did the food shopping at Harry’s Market. The bus dropped him off by the front door after work. A few years later, Mama took over, and delivered her intense “You both better listen to me,” speech, harness us, vise-grip our tethers with one hand and pull her shopping cart with the other to Harry’s across four-lane Van Dyke Avenue. Harry kept Mama supplied with rewards for our cooperation. “Here Margie, take this bag of penny candies. Don’t know how you manage with such rambunctious toddlers.”

Grandma and Grandpa hosted family Sunday pancake suppers. FDR’s Fireside Chat followed one evening. Basil and I sat in front of the RCA Victor floor model console radio and ran our fingers over the fabric speakers, inviting President Roosevelt to reach right through and shake our hands. We pretended to catch his words as they resonated through the grille.

Several months later, while Basil and I dug for treasure in the backyard with Grandma’s old stainless spoons, a cacophony of whistles, drums and horns exploded nearby. Startled, we dropped our spoons, ran to the house, clambered halfway up the stairs and bumped into Mama running down. She smiled to calm us, grabbed our hands and led us back outside. “The war is over! Thank God the war is over,” she sang. We all stood at the curb to watch neighbors marching down the street waving flags. A tall man in uniform carried a long stick from which hung a puffy, button-eyed, mustached rag doll like a fisherman showing off his catch. Mama called it Hitler in Effigy.

Papa came home from work early that day and danced Mama around the kitchen, a rare uplifting sight especially in the heat of summer and with the undercurrent of anxiety thick in daily conversations. Their blissful mood inspired Basil and me to join in, spin like tops, wrestle like bear cubs. Decided right then I didn’t like the word war.

The following spring Papa and Grandpa tilled and enriched the soil in the yard and the lot next door. We helped Grandma Zoe and Mama plant a victory garden and several rows of pansy seeds. Soon buds bloomed flowers in a magnificent myriad of color. Her pansy paradise became the talk of the neighborhood. Principal Harris called to arrange a field trip for his nearby school. Teachers and students paraded through the yard. We never saw so many friends before.

That fall we moved into our own home a mile away, closer to and on the safe side of Harry’s Grocery. Papa built a knotty pine bedroom suite upstairs for Basil. Having our own rooms was the first degree of separation. The second degree happened when we started school a year later. The nuns split up multiple birth siblings, further diluting our profound primal dyad.

Demographics dealt the final blow. Boys outnumbered girls in the neighborhood. Basil joined them to play baseball, climb trees, and hunt frogs. Tomboy Nancy, the only girl on our street, preferred their activities. I liked playing house, dolls, and hosting tea parties. Occasionally, Nancy indulged me. Our neutral ground featured board games and hide-n-seek. When summer took Nancy away to family in northern Michigan, my dolls kept me company.

I remember Papa quoting Victor Hugo, “The first child is a continuation of the last doll.” Our brother Brian was born when Basil and I were ten; a real, live, cuddly, doll-like gift for me to love and help take care of. The 50s would be special indeed.

Vol. 39 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – 2012


1 Comment »

  1. Yesterday’s Magazette is a unique gift that keeps right on giving. With heartfelt gratitude, thank you Ned.

    Comment by Colette Sasina — March 18, 2017 @ 7:16 am | Reply

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