Mary E. Wilson Autobiography – 1926 and 1927

Mary E. Wilson

Mary E. Wilson

Mary has settled in to life in America and truly enjoys school. That is the one high point in her life.

NOVEMBER, 1926

I had to go back to school as I was only 15 and my brothers and I were ridiculed because of our accent and dress. My poor brothers got into a lot of fights.

Because my father had spent the “landing money”, my mother could not buy us new clothes for a while. She worked in the Stratfield Hotel in the cafeteria and my Uncle Arthur got my father a job as a painter, which he hated.

I loved my school and adored Miss Blood, my teacher, because she was so helpful and kind to me. I was not used to boys and girls being in the same class because in the past I had always attended schools for only girls, so I was very shy and insecure. I did make a nice friend, however, named Polly Griffin, who lived next door to us and she was the one who really helped me adjust to a new country. She was going into nurse’s training in Bridgeport Hospital and she begged me to go into training with her. I still had my old ambition to be a nurse and at that time you were paid a small amount of money plus books and uniforms but my Mother would not allow it.

MARCH, 1927

On my 16th birthday, my Mother took me out of school and brought me to the General Electric Company. They gave me a job on one condition …. I pin up my hair. My Mother also got a job at General Electric and we worked from 7 AM to 5 PM for 5 1/2 days at $.25 an hour.

So ended my childhood, of which I had virtually none at all, as it was taken from me at an early date. Responsibility had been forced upon me at a very young age. I had never learned how to play and I felt cheated and angry because I so wanted to be a nurse.

I had joined the Christian Advent Church with Polly and our Sunday school teacher was named Lena Hilt. She was so nice and friendly to me.

There was so much quarreling in our home between my Mother and Father that we were not a happy family. Mother was a very dominating woman and my father, a weak man.

I started going to night school to lose my English accent and get used to American money. I learned how to type and was fascinated with American history. I think I attended evening school all my unmarried years and I really loved it. I took a practical nursing course which was conducted by Dr. Sprague. I loved it and was so proud the day I graduated.

Tomorrow, we start reading about a week in the life of the Guion family during 1943. Lad is about to be married in California, Dan is in England, Ced is in Alaska and Dick is in Brazil. Dave is nearing his 18th birthday and is trying to make a decision on what to do. Grandpa is quite apprehensive, realizing that the one son he thought might not have to serve Uncle Sam will probably follow in his brother’s footsteps. This is his last son and his worries are about to increase again.

Judy Guion

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20 thoughts on “Mary E. Wilson Autobiography – 1926 and 1927

  1. Don Mulcare says:

    Thanks for bring to life those lonely letters in a closet. My wife’s family came through Ellis Island. We visited EI about 10 years ago. Quite a place. Also thanks for looking at my blog. I’m honored..

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Don Mulcare – I had no idea what that was like. I didn’t know anyone – I thought – who had the experience of Ellis Island. I didn’t know that my friend’s mother had come here in 1925… not until she gave me her mother’s autobiography and asked if I would be interested in sharing it. Reading Mary’s Autobiography has been an eye-opener for me.

  2. Mrs. P says:

    It is so sad that Mary never got a chance to enjoy her younger years but I am happy to see that she did pursue her dream of studying nursing.

    Though my family never demanded it of me, I turned over my paycheck from my first job for almost two years so I could help out with the family finances. I never really knew how bad or good they were, only that we had to have food stamps which horrified me at the time. My mother always accepted my contribution so I figured we must have needed the income.

  3. I always read Mary’s autobiography and warm to her as she records a childhood we would find deplorable today and was not particularly strange then. I love the plain stating-the-facts style.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      hilaryconstancegreen – How Mary faced the hardships in her life and took responsibility is an attitude that we see in many of that generation. Couldn’t we all learn so much from them?

  4. Anna Bobko says:

    I also was paying rent to my mother for my room til I married. She believed it was a way to learn responsibility and how to budget your money etc. Which I suppose wouldn t hurt a lot of people today.

    • hezabinda says:

      Anna, we are of the same generation and I paid my Dad $15.00 a week until I got married !! We never questioned that.

      • jaggh53163 says:

        hezabinda and Anna – I knew in grammar school that I wanted to be a teacher and never really appreciated the fact that my parents supported me through college. I married right after graduation and didn’t have to support myself until after my second husband passed away. What a humbling and educational process it has been.

  5. The number of children that had to go to work to support their families in those days is amazing. My mother’s brothers went to work after eighth grade.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      warturoadam77p – I think many in the Baby Boomer generation had no knowledge of the sacrifices our parents made so that we wouldn’t have to work as hard as they did. I’m just beginning to appreciate what my parents (Lad and Marian) went through because of all these letters and Mary’s Autobiography. I am overwhelmed.

  6. Gallivanta says:

    Mary’s hardships made her very resilient. Her determination to continue with her education is wonderful. She could so easily have just given into despair and hopelessness.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Gallivanta – I knew her as the mother of a friend of mine and I had no idea of her early life until I was given her autobiography. I’m very proud to be able to tell her story, a story of strength and determination.

  7. My heart goes out to Mary. I like to think that I don’t take for granted the opportunities available to women today but I know I don’t always remember the struggles of the generations that came before. Thanks for a great post.

  8. gpcox says:

    Children back then really never had much of a childhood, they grew up fast whether immigrant or citizen. My mother was still paying my grandmother rent the week she got married. I enjoy reading Mary’s stories, good to have a first hand account of the era; like with your family’s letters.

  9. Wow. I read your posts with excitement and expectation. Absolutely love and admire what you are doing. Your stories take me back to a place where my grandmother matter of factly tells me a story from her days in the gold camps.:)

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