In 1930, Ralph and his new bride, Babe, moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts so that Ralph could begin his new job as a chemical engineer for General Electric's plastic division.
|The 1936 move, 120+ miles from Pittsfield to Nahant|
|Nahant: A single square mile peninsula of land|
Since my grandfather, Dinon, lived here for 6 years between the ages of 5 and 11 (1936-1942), he remembers Nahant better than Pittsfield.
“In Nahant, it was a regular town, because they had a town hall, a library, and they had a few small stores," Dinon said. "I remember there was one store that I passed all the time that was run by a Jewish man that had candy. So I would rob my globe bank and buy some candy on the way home ... I would probably buy licorice. I don’t remember them having red licorice or any other color, if you got licorice it was just black. Some of the licorice they made into the shape of a pipe.”
"Big tree after Sept. 1938 Hurricane"
In September of 1938, the Great New England Hurricane blew by - and was just another adventure for a happy seven-year-old boy.
Since it took a while for his baby brother, Daryll, to get big enough to play with, it was common for Dinon to run around the island on his own. One spot that he liked was the mile-long causeway that connected Nahant to the mainland.
Old Postcard of Castle Rock and Egg Rock
"On one side, it had this beautiful white sand beach. I never went down to just lay on the beach – I wasn't really that crazy about sand, y'know, walking in the sand, getting it between my toes and all that, but I liked to climb on the rocks," Dinon said. "On the other side of the road, there were these HUGE rocks; I don’t where they quarried these, but they were MONSTROUS, huge. And they just dumped them there, they didn't try to build a wall or anything with mortar and all that kind of stuff, they just dumped them to help hold the causeway. But these big rocks really fascinated me. Since they were dumped there willy-nilly, why, there were lots of crevices that you could crawl around through, and so, by myself, when I was six or seven years old, I would crawl through the crevices these rocks had in them, until one day I darn near got stuck at the bottom, and I panicked. I got out, obviously, but I never went back."
"I was really a bad boy," my grandfather said, folding his hands and shaking his head. "Most people do not know that I would hitchhike into Lynn and would shoplift from some of the drugstores – take a flashlight, or something, nothing very big."
As he told this story, he was sitting in the neatly-maintained home that he purchased 40+ years ago with his life-long wife, the same house that they raised their four children in. Even now, in his eighties, he continues to landscape his yard, fix his gutters, pay his taxes, and go to church every Sunday. In that living room, the thought of my grandfather shoplifting at any age was stupefying.
Old Postcard of Bass Point Beach in Nahant
"One day, the police came to the door at my home," Dinon said. "Well, I denied it, I flat-out denied that I had anything to do with it, because there was another kid that was doing the same thing. We stashed our ‘loot’ in some abandoned building … I guess we did it because it was something to do. After the policeman came to the door, I just quit, I mean, that was it, baby! I wasn't taking any more chances, I didn't want to be a crook! But there was a short time in there that it was more fun than anything else, that I was doing it and not getting caught, but I came very close!"
He chuckled, embarrassed.
"I don’t have any clue as to why they came to the door, because this was early evening when the policeman showed up. So, my guess now is that they caught the other kid and he ratted me out, that’s the only thing I can think of. But it was a time, and I was glad to finally get back on the 'straight and narrow', I guess," he said. "I don't think my parents ever found out. I told [your grandmother] Liz, but very few people know that I did that, and I don’t even think any of my kids know. But you know, as a kid, you do some dumb things – you get in the wrong crowd, or, whatever, and veer off the 'straight and narrow'."
At the Nahant home, in the
sailor suit his mother made
According to family stories, his mother, Babe, was a gold standard for the housewife. She stayed home with the kids, was a famously good cook, and was great at making clothes for all the family members.