I was the only child of an only child and grew up listening to family stories told by people who were all old enough to be my grandparents.
Great Uncle Charles fought in the the Spanish American War. He was haunted by the memory of having to shoot his wounded horse after a cavalry charge — and probably by other things as well, but he didn’t speak about those in front of me.
Great Uncle Frank wanted to be a jockey, but was under age and couldn’t because his mother refused to sign the permission papers. He enlisted in World War I, and told her she could keep him from being a jockey, but should couldn’t stop him from enlisting. Apparently you had to be older to be a jockey than to go to war.
Great Aunt Winifred wanted to be a Ziegfeld girl but didn’t make the cut because you had to be tall — 5’5”. The family lived in Riverside, Manhattan, and she had loads of friends, cousins, parties, and visits to the theater. When Jane Mansfield was at her most famous, my aunt said Jane was trying to be Marilyn Miller. I thought she meant Marilyn Monroe, but she said, no, Marilyn Monroe was also trying to be Marilyn Miller.
What they never talked about was the war that had just ended: World War II. So I thought nothing happened then, at least not on Staten Island, where I lived.
Then I researched this book. All kinds of things happened on Staten Island — spies, German submarines, boys shipping out to war. I guess they never talked about it because it was too recent to make a good reminiscence.
I hope you enjoy reading about it — I certainly enjoyed discovering it.