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|Offspring of Margaret Rice and Joseph John Szczesny (1920-1997)|
|Kathleen Szczesny (1949-)||10 November 1949 Hudson County, New Jersey, United States|| Steven Thomas Borland (1950-2010)|
|Barbara Szczesny (1952-)|| |
|Deborah Szczesny (c1959-)|
Birth in 1924
Margaret was born June 16, 1924 at 232 Tenth Street in Jersey City, New Jersey, to parents Peter Račius (1879-1944) and Eva Daukšaitė (1883-1971). She was 12 pounds at birth. According to Margaret, "This is how it was. When I was born at 232 10th Street in J.C. NJ on June 16, 1924 my sister Kate, 10 years older than me, had to run to the drug store to borrow a scale to get my weight at birth of 12 lbs, so my sister Eva tells me (years later). I was my mother’s 7th baby." Margaret's sisters Eva & Lizzie were already married & had children 1 year or so older than Margaret. Also, two of Margaret's brothers (John and Edward) had already died prior to Margaret's birth.
Childhood years (1925-1939)
Margaret grew up during the Great Depression. Fortunately, she wrote down many of her recollections about her lifestyle and her family during that time period. Margaret's essays and memoirs on her childhood were found among her possessions after her death. These essays were written in a voice addressed to her daughters, so when she mentions people such as Aunt Kate, she is referring to her own sister Kate. When she mentions Dad, she is referring to her husband Joseph. She refers to her own father as Pop. Where such naming conventions may create confusion, hyperlinks and/or parentheticals have been inserted for clarification. Some of the longer essays were written in several notebooks, while the shorter ones were written on scraps of papers.
Essay: My Way of Life-Growing Up
I’m writing this for no special reason because I know there’s a lot of people my age, still around, that lived the same way. I just wanted to leave something to my daughters to let them know the way my life was-as I remember it. I guess it was pretty much the same in some ways. Some heart-aches, some happiness. All in all a good life. Only minus the modern conveniences.
We didn’t have any regrigerators. I guess the real rich people did-but we weren’t rich. We had an ice-box. It was made of wood. The top of the ice box opened up on hinges. That was where the ice went. The ice-man came around everyday. He had real large blocks of ice on his truck. You could buy a 10 cent piece of ice or 15 cent piece. He had an ice-pick & would chop it to the size you want. Put it in your ice-box, after leaving a trail of water drippings along the way. We always got the 10 cent piece, unless we were going away.
Essay: Memories of 232 Tenth Street
There were two buildings on Tenth Street, Jersey City, N.J. 230 & 232. No others. I was born at 232 Tenth Street, on June 16, 1924. My sister said she ran to the corner druggist to borrow a scale. I weighed in at 12 lbs. What a bouncer. My mother lived on Tenth Street for 22 years. They were three family houses. In the back yard was a railroad, out in the open. Every day when the train passed it went kind of slow. He always tooted. The entineer always waved to us. The trains that passed in our back yard were steam trains. They put coals on a fire. I don’t recall. It’s so long ago. Later they changed to electric trains. One day right in back of our house-the electric train passed-the engineer waved as he always did. Then something happened. The train caught on fire. The lady upstairs was looking out of the window and screamed-her boyfriend was the engineer. He burned to death-what a tragedy.
My mom was janitor for the two houses. I was about eight years old, but always helped her. Every weekend, usually on a Saturday, I’d scrubbed the wood steps and floor in the hall with a scrub brush. There were no rugs or linoleum covering-just wood. In the hallway on each floor was an open gas jet. Every evening before it got dark, I had to light them with a match. No globe or nothing. It was an open flame. When I think of it now, it was kinda spooky with the light flickering and casting shadows on the walls. There was never a fire. The toilet was in the hall. We were lucky-only 1 family on the floor. It was pretty good-some people in the neighborhood had their toilet in the yard. At least we had a pullchain to flush. We had no bathroom. Once a week, we take a bath in a round tin-tub. My mom would put it in the middle of the kitchen & fill it with hot water she heated on the stove in kettles. We didn’t think anything of it then-but can you imagine-what a difference now? I remember my grandpa living with us, he was 90 years old. He was my father’s father. I don’t remember what kind of bilding was next door, but my grandpa was watchman for it. He used to sit outside in an armchair in the evening. This was in the summer. I remember sitting on his lap. He had a long white beard & white hair like Santa. We would watch the lamp lighters light the street lamps across the street. One by one, they lit them with a long pole-they were gas lights with an open globe on them. We used to roller skate in the gutter with ball bearing skates after they lit the lamps. I didn’t even remember any cars in the street. Only the green American Express Mail truck-it used to pass our house every evening. It had the large poster on the side with a picture of a pack of Double Mint Gum & with a picture of twins.
The lady upstairs lived there for 22 years also. Our families were good friends. Her daughter Margie and I grew up together. I was older. Later on in years, we even worked together in a factory-breaking eggs to make powdered eggs. Her sisters and Aunt Kate used to go out together. She had two sisters. They were Polish and had relatives come in from Passaic. On Saturday night they used to come in a open car with writings all over-like the ones you see in the movies. Upstairs they always had a house full on weekends. After the weekend they had a lot of soda bottles left in the hall. So my girlfriend and I brought them to Mrs. Beans candy store to collect deposit on the bottles. We got half each I was happy, I got a small brown bag full of candy for two cents. I bought licorice hats, fifteen for a penny and 15 red candy dollars for a penny. That was a treat.
Every Friday my mom made potatoe pancakes. When my friends sister came home from work-she walked in our house before going upstairs to hers. Nobody locked their doors, then. She would call my mom Ricey and come in and eat with us, then she would go home.
Memoir: Fire-House Showers
When I was a little girl, I lived 1 block from the 9th Street Fire House. When it was a real hot day in summer, the firemen opened up a pump, put up a shower, for the neighborhood children. It was fun. When they shut it off, we plop in the water in the curb. They blocked off the street. Not many cars then. I’m 81 now-where did the time go?
Essay: Free Coffee
It was very long ago, but I remember when my brother Pete lived with us. He wasn’t married yet, was still in High School. We lived in Jersey City. Hoboken was the next town. On the waterfront in Hoboken was a Maxwell House Coffee factory. One day, it was pretty early & there was a lot of commotion in the city. The Maxwell House factory was on fire and cans of coffee were floating down the river from Hoboken to Jersey City. That was the Hudson River. People were in boats, etc. picking up the coffee. My brother Pete had a canoe, so he put his canoe in the river & went to get my mom some coffee. We were all coffee drinkers, especially Maxwell House was one of the best in those days. He came home with a load of coffee. It was so exciting. My mother was happy because we didn’t have much, but mom never complained. We always had plenty of food on the table. I don’t know how she managed because my father wasn’t a good provider. Most of the time he was in another state. He was a cook for a railroad camp. He cooked for the men that took care of the rail road tracks, etc. When he was home, he was a gambler, played cards in the saloon & came home drunk most of the time. I’m ashamed to say. But that’s the way it was. Once he won a saloon in a card game. I used to go there in the afternoon & fill the little dishes with pretzels. Every Friday, it was free lunch for the customers. My mother made delicious clam chowder. It drew in a lot of customers. I never knew Dad then. We were young kids. Maybe I was nine & Dad (referring to Joseph Szczesny) was 13 years old. His mother used to send Dad to the saloon to buy clam chowder every Friday. Years ago people had little pails-if they wanted to-buy tap beer & take it home they would bring in these pails. Dad used to go with the pail & buy clam chowder. Isn’t that strange & I never met Dad until about fourteen years later. The saloon was right across the street from where he lived. Some time later my father lost the saloon in another card game. I guess a gambler never wins.
His saloon was on Henderson Street & Steuben Street, Jersey City, N.J. on the corner.
Memoir: Years Ago-No Welfare
We were poor during depression so we were on relief. Twice a year my mother got a coupon to get me free shoes. We had to go to a certain shoe store. You had a choice black shoes with laces or black patent leather shoes. In the winter my mother got me the black with laces. Around Easter, she got me black patent leather. Most of the children in Jersey City had the same shoes. My mother got a food coupon for a certain store to by some food. Sometimes she had to go & stand on line to get a bag of free cornmeal. She always took me because I was about 5 years old.
In 1930, Margaret's father Peter was listed as a head of household on 10th Street in Jersey City. The household in 1930 consisted of Margaret's parents Peter and Eva, Margaret, and her siblings Peter II and Katherine.
Marriage of Margaret's sister Katherine in 1931
Margaret's sister Katherine married and left home in 1931. Katherine's first husband was Paul Olson, and they married in Port Jefferson, Suffolk County, New York on December 26, 1931.
Margaret's Untitled Essay on her sister Katherine
We lived in Jersey City. Every now and then we went to my sister Kate’s house. She lived in Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York. It was about 65 miles away-but in those days of my childhood, it took about five hours to get there. There weren’t as many cars on the road, but the speed limit was different. My sister Eva’s husband Johnny would take my mother and me, and Theresa, my niece. We’d stay for the weekend. When we came home, the kitchen floor was all wet-because the ice-box has a pan underneath where the melted ice runs in. It has to be emptied so often, or the weekend-so out came the mop. What a mess.
When we got half way to Aunt Kate’s house, we stopped near the woods. Everybody went in the bushes to empty their bladders. Then we’d have lunch. We brought coldcuts and bread, etc. Aunt Eva always had a couple of thermos full of hot coffee. All of us were coffee drinkers. We also had fruit. After eating we were on our way. Uncle John really drove slow. You’d think he was a turtle. It was always fun.
Marriage of Margaret's brother Peter in 1936
Margaret's brother Peter II married and left home in 1936. Peter's wife was Sally Checkman, and they were married in Harrison, Westchester, New York on July 18, 1936.
Margaret's Essay on her brother Peter: Gone Fishing
I must have been about twelve years old. I was on vacation in Port Jefferson, Long Island. When school closed, I stayed with my sister Kate for the whole summer, she lived there with her husband Paul Olson & daughter Ann. My brother Pete happened to be there too. We had a lot of fun times together. One day, he asked me if I wanted to go fishing with him. I said okay. So I put my bathing suit on, then I helped carry fishing poles & pail, etc. He didn’t have a car. We went to some private area. We had to go through Iron Gates which were opened. It was called Belle Air Estates. We walked on a road about two miles in to get to the water. It was the Long Island Sound. We fished from the beach. I don’t remember if we caught any fish, but I do remember it was low tide when we got there. We fished a long time & Pete said the tide is coming in-we better get out of there. Well, it was too late-we were surrounded by water. They dredge a lot of sand there & pile it up about three stories high. Our only way out was to climb one of these mounds of sand to get on the other side. Well, we start climbing-every few feet we’d keep slikding backwards. I’ll never forget it. I don’t know how but we made it to the top. It probably would’ve been a lot easier if we didn’t have to carry fishing poles, etc. Then we had to slide down-a lot of sand slid with us. It was exhausting. Then we had to walk back two miles to the gate. It was already getting dark. What a day, one I’ll never forget. Besides, I didn’t know then, but my brother had a hole in his heart. All I can say, God was with us. He lived his life to the fullest. His heart condition was discovered when he was seventeen & had his tonsils removed. He was rurning blue-a patient in the next bed called the nurse. That saved his life. He lived till 53 years old.
Young adulthood (1940-1945)
Death of Margaret's father in 1944
Margaret's father Peter died November 30, 1944 in Jersey City, New Jersey, at age 65. Peter's funeral was held at Saint Mary's church, on Second Street in Jersey City.
Margaret's Essay on her Father: Memories of my Pop
I remember when a horse and wagon came down the street with a rope tied on to a lot of tin cans and the driver of the wagon would be calling out, rags, rags & he’d ring a bell. Of course, he was called the rag man. He bought old rags and papers, etc. That was one way people could make a few dollars. My pop was one of those people. He had a wagon with built of sides-it looked like a wooden box on wheels. He roamed the streets before daybreak. It was dark yet. When I walked to school I used to pass him, he was on his way back. He’d look in barrels for rags and papers, pieces of copper, etc. After collecting them, he’d take them home and go down the cellar and sort them out. When the rag man came, he’d sell them. When I met him in the street I never thought anything of it. Now, I think what a shame. He wasn’t working, so that helped put food on the table. That was a way of life then, with a lot of people.
One time he brought home a lot of boxes of candy, a cigar store thre out. The cigar store used them for window displas. He got fooled. Most of the boxes were filled with fake chocolates. A few had real candy in them and they were good chocolates. What a treat that was. When I think back, I can’t believe I ate them. We were poor and thought nothing of it.
Also, I remember when I was about 5 years old, after the depression (meaning after the stock market crashed), they had bread lines, where they give away free food. My pop used to take me with him. It was real early in the morning. It was dark yet. We lived one block away from Saint Francis Hospital, and in the morning the nuns used to give out stuff in the garage. When a child was with them, you’d get bread and buns and cup cakes. This time they gave pigs feet. I remember telling my father, pop they have whiskers. He replied-That’s OK. I’ll shave them when we get home.
Employment in the 1940s
Margaret cracked eggs on assembly line. Sometime during the war, she switched to the production of radio transistors.
Margaret liked big band music, and she enjoyed dancing. She wore bloomers, which were puffed out pants. Margaret liked to demonstrate to her grandchildren how she did the Charleston and other dances.
Coney Island adventures
Margaret enjoyed taking trips to Coney Island with her niece Ann. Margaret recalled that one time while they were swimming in the ocean, someone stole their 22 cents carfare home, and an old man sitting under an umbrella on the beach replaced the money.
Marriage to Joseph Szczesny
Essay: How I Met My Joe
When I was in my early twenties-after going with a lot of guys on dates and dancing, etc. One day I asked my mom-how do you know when you meet the right one? Being I used to go once every Tues. to St. Jude’s Novena with my best girlfriend-my mom said ask St. Jude to let me meet the right one. I did just that. On the ninth week, the last day of the Novena, my girlfriend & I met Joe (her cousin) for the first time-he just came back from World War II. We had to go to his house to meet his sister. Because his sister & my girlfriend & I used to go to dances together. The next week when my girlfriend met me to go to the Novena, she hands me a letter from her cousin Joe, asking me to go out with him. I accepted. Two years later, we were married. Then we were together for 49 years. Many years later, after we were married-he told me when he came back from the war he was very restless. So, when he went to New York-he visited the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He lit a candle & said a prayer to meet the right girl for him. After that, he met me. Both of our prayers were answered. Also that was true love. Don’t you think?
Essay: Our engagement
Every Friday or Saturday when he didn’t have to work, Joe came to see me. He lived in Jersey City. I lived in Hoboken. He had to take a bus. Before he came to my house he would stop at Loft’s Candy store and buy me a box of milk chocolates. He ate most of them-but the thought was there. Then we would go out. Every week he took me to New York to see a musical. It was fun. We enjoyed them & enjoyed being together. He never asked me to marry him, but being I consented to being his girl-he took it for granted, I guess. Every week he start giving me money to save for a ring. I was calm about it. Then, one day he asked me for the money, he said he’s going to get me my ring. Some guy was selling them that he knew. I thought nothing of it-gave him the money. Time went by-we were still dating but no ring. Then one night he came & showed me a large diamond ring. It looked beautiful. He said he had to bring it back to the guy-because he had it appraised and there was a large crack in it. That was that. What a let down. I was thinking that was just a lot of baloney-he’s not getting me any ring-but I never mentioned it. After that he didn’t either. We were still dating, then March 18, 1947 he came to visit. I was taking a nap on the couch-because I had to get up five A.M. to catch the six A.M. special bus to work. After work I was always tired. He woke me up and ssaid I have a star for your finger. I was still half asleep, I didn’t know what he was talking about. When I finally woke up, he put the ring on my finger. What a surprise! We were engaged. We were so overjoyed, we had to tell someone. So I put on my black Sealskin Coat and white scarf & gloves. Off we went to Union City to my brother’s house-to show off my ring. What a memorable day that was.
Margaret had a bridal shower, at which she recalls receiving lace doilies from her sister Eva's store window. (Eva had a cleaning shop on Grove Street in Jersey City, where she also sold hand-made clothing items).
On May 29, 1948, Joseph and Margaret joined in marriage at Our Lady of Grace, a Catholic church in Hoboken.
The newly wed couple went to the Berkshires in Massachusetts for their honeymoon. A receptionist at their hotel loaned them a car, since the honeymoon was during the hotel's off season, and Joseph didn't have a car yet. The song Tora Lora Lora was popular during their honeymoon, and Margaret would often sing the song around the house.
Joseph was employed as a longshoreman on the docks in Jersey City. He unloaded cargo from the American President Lines ships that came into the port along the Hudson River. At some point, he received further training to operate the cranes that lifted cargo containers off of the ships. Occasionally, he also drove foreign automobiles off the boats. He also manually loaded and unloaded cargo from the ships. Joseph belonged to the International Longshoreman Association (ILA).
Life in the 1950s
The Szczesny family was poor throughout the 1950s. Joseph would often go to the train tracks and look for potatoes that fell off the train cars to feed his family. In 1950, the family lived on Washington Street in Hoboken. That was probably where Joseph and Margaret lived from the time they were married.
Move to Second Street
Around 1954 or 1955, the family moved to 298 Second Street in Jersey City. The rent was $36 per month.
Move to Ninth Street
Around 1959, the family moved to 307 Ninth Street, when the landloard, Mr. Pompeo, raised the rent to $70 per month because he wanted to to free up the apartment for his son. Joseph chose to move to Ninth Street, because his sister Anna (Szczesny) Gallas lived upstairs.
Life in the 1960s
As Joseph continued to work and save money, the family eventually had a more comfortable standard of living by the 1960s. Margaret also worked during the 1960s.
Property in Perrineville
At some point, around the year 1960, Joseph and Margaret purchased land in Perineville, Monmouth County, New Jersey. Joseph built a house on the land which he took his children to visit on vacations. The family still resided in Jersey City, though, since that was where Joseph was employed.
Move to Jersey City Heights
In the mid 1960s, the family moved to 144 Bowers Street in Jersey City Heights.
Margaret worked in the 5 corner bakery in Journal Square in the early 1960s. She also worked in Loft's Bakery on Central Avenue, and in a convenience store called Malberts on Central Avenue in the late 1960s, and possibly into the early 1970s.
Margaret also volunteered to advertise for the democratic campaigns (handing out posters, flyers, etc.)
Life in the 1970s
In the early 1970s, the family moved to 40 Prospect Street in Jesrsey City Heights. In the 1970s, they also began taking family vacations to Lavelette, in Ocean County, New Jersey, on the Jersey shore.
Death of Margaret's mother in 1971
Margaret's mother Eva died January 15, 1971 in New Jersey.
Marriage of daughter Kathleen
Margaret's oldest daughter Kathleen was the first to marry and leave home. She married Steven Thomas Borland on March 29, 1974. Joseph's first grandson Kevin Borland was born to Kathleen and Steven on January 20, 1975. The Borlands moved to Lake Hiawatha in Morris County, New Jersey in 1975, and then to Scenic Lakes in Sussex County, New Jersey in 1978.
Marriage of daughter Barbara
Margaret's second daughter Barbara Szczesny married Joseph Czorniewy in the late 1970s. Barbara and Joseph remained in Jersey City for many years.
Life in the 1980s
Move to Brick Township
Around the year 1980, Joseph and Margaret purchased a retirement home at 560 Susan Drive, in Brick Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. Margaret lived in the home for about a year by herself, while Joseph continued working in Jersey City, from a modest apartment until he was eligible for retirement. Joseph visited Margaret on the weekends during this time period, and painted and made other preparations to the house.
Marriage of daughter Deborah
On August 17th, 1985, Deborah was the last daughter to marry. She married Steven Rice (of no relation to her mother's Rice family) and moved to Morris County, New Jersey.
Trip to Hawaii
Margaret's daughters chipped in to purchase Joseph and Margaret a trip to Hawaii for one of their wedding anniversaries.
Life in the 1990s
Death of Husband Joseph
Joseph died August 21, 1997 from a massive heart attack while mowing his lawn in Brick Township. He died on the chair on his front porch. He was buried at the Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine in Pennsylvania, where he enjoyed attending Polish festivals. According to Margaret, "He never left me. He’s always in my heart . . . All the things we did together-I relive them in my thoughts."
Life in the 2000s
In the 2000s, Margaret's health began to steadily deteriorate, following congestive heart failure. In addition, althoguh Margaret did not have Alzheimers, her mental state also steadily deteriorated, especially her short-term memory.
Margaret died March 3, 2007 in Morristown, New Jersey. She was buried beside Joseph at the Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine cemetery.
For a list of the known ancestors of Margaret Rice, click here.
Of her daughters Kathy, Barbara and Deborah, Kathy had two sons, Kevin Borland and Steven Thomas Borland II, Barbara had a daughter Jill Czorniewy, and Deborah had a son Adam Carl Rice. Joseph's grandson Kevin is married and lives in Virginia. He has a 13-year-old stepson from Thailand, but no children of his own. Steven Thomas Borland II is married, but does not have any children yet. Jill Czorniewy is finishing high school, and lives at home with her parents. Adam Carl Rice is attending college in Pittsburgh, and is also still single.
Memories of Margaret's descendants
- Margaret recalled dressing up as a gypsy for Thanksgiving when she was a child, and going out begging. Kathleen Borland explains that children used to go trick-or-treating on Thanksgiving, much like we do now for halloween.
- Kevin Borland recalls that Margaret collected salt & pepper shakers and dolls. Her children and grandchildren bought her souveneirs from every place they visited, so she had a substantial collection at the time of her death.
- Margaret recalled going with her mother a few times to Michigan to visit her aunt Maryanna's family.
- Margaret recalled getting hair-cuts from her father’s bar friends when she was little.
- Margaret recalled that when she was young, about 9 years old, she lived across the street from a convent. Now and then the nun would take her to the 5 & 10 cent store. When they returned, the nun gave her a handful of pennies.
- Please add your contributions here and add your name to the list of contributors below.
- Kevin Borland (author of article, compiled and translated sources and conducted genealogical research on Joseph's ancestry)
- Margaret Rice (provided essays with information on Joseph and provided other information to Kevin Borland)
- Kathleen (Szczesny) Borland (provided recollections of her father)