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Moving to Brooklyn, New York

By MeleCo, 09/04/2014 - 9:29am
Mele Family Memories Moving to Brooklyn

Following my great-grandparent's marriage, they lived on Christopher Street in the Village and then on King Street in a building that my grandpa’s uncle Vincent owned.

My grandpa’s family moved to Brooklyn in 1923, which is a great story.  Ed, my grandpa’s older brother and former CEO of Mele Companies, was five and my grandpa, former VP of Mele Companies, was two. It seems that my grandpa’s uncle Vincent, a doctor, bought a beautiful house on Beverly Road in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, and had his mother live with them. Now you must understand that my grandpa’s great-grandmother never learned to speak English. She was literate and read the Italian paper “Il Progresso.” My grandpa’s aunt Betty, uncle Vincent’s wife, was from Lexington, Kentucky. They met in France, during WW1 when Vincent was a physician in the service. Betty Hayes was an ambulance driver. So after about six months, Betty told Vincent that he had to make a big decision – she or his mother! If you could see Betty, you would understand that it was an easy choice. So – Vincent decided it would be very appropriate that his mother live with her youngest daughter’s family- my grandpa! A new house was found on Ditmas Ave. – only a short distance – about half a mile from Beverly Road. The house was jointly owned by Vincent and my great-grandfather. That’s how the Mele’s settled in Brooklyn.

My grandfather’s first memory of life at 1016 Ditmas Avenue was seeing the construction of the six story apartment house which abutted the property where he lived. There was six to eight feet between his house and the apartment building, which wasn’t expected by my grandpa’s father and uncle. When completed and occupied, my grandpa made friends. On the west side of the building was a major road, Coney Island Avenue. There were retail stores on the side facing Coney Island Avenue. The neighborhood was made up of those of the Jewish religion, in the apartment building, and mostly wasps that had their homes on Ditmas Avenue going east. Even the names were English; Stratford Road, Westminster Road, Argyle Road, Rugby Road and Marlborough Road, after that the streets had numbers, 16th St.,  17th St., 18th St. etc.

My grandfather’s parish was located at St. Rose of Lima, on Webster Ave. and 8th Street, about eight to ten minutes from his home. It also had a grammar school. The school was run by brothers of which my grandpa does not recall their religious order. My great-grandmother took my grandpa with her when she visited the head brother. Waving her hand in his face and in a strong voice said “and my son is left handed and don’t you dare try and change him” – and the rest of the story – my grandfather’s mother could write either left or right handed. In my great-grandmother’s era, at the Catholic School, the nuns tied her left hand behind her back to ensure her writing with the right. Anyhow, the head brother got the message.

Thanks for reading! There’s much more to come as I tell my grandfather’s stories.
Elizabeth Mele