Me and My Siblings – Part I-A

A while back I began writing about my oldest brothers. To review what I’ve written so far, click here.

Our last family portrait

Our last family portrait

I left off at a point where both Bill and Lew (Seward and Somers to family members) had been discharged from the Navy and had moved back in with our parents. We’ll pick up the story from there.

By 1953, both of the twins were home. They each had a car and a job. Lew had an office job with American Standard and Bill was driving a local delivery truck for Hammel’s Express. I don’t recall the exact amount, but they each paid our parents for room and board.

Lew didn’t last long with American Standard; he hated being cooped up in an office. He took a job as a truck driver for Fort Pitt Plumbing Supply. Years later, when they went out of business, he went to work for a company called Dilner that operated a facility for loading and unloading river barges. Somehow during that employment he came into contact with asbestos and now suffers from a lung disease caused by asbestos.

It wasn’t long before they each took jobs as bartenders in the evenings to supplement their incomes. After all, it cost money to go to all the sporting events they attended with their friends. They both had season tickets to the University of Pittsburgh football games and often went to away games. In fact, one year they took me along to a game in Syracuse, New York.

They also went to Pittsburgh Steelers games, Hornets hockey games at the Duquesne Gardens, as well as Pitt and Duquesne basketball games. Of course, they went to many Pirate games too.

In addition to watching sports, they took part in bowling leagues and played football and softball. My guess is that they also played more than their share of basketball and golf.

Sometimes it seemed that the sports in their lives outweighed their desire to spend time with the ladies. However, they did manage to go out on dates from time to time. That’s when I played the part of a valet for them.

I often shined their shoes for special events and made many trips to Swartz’s cleaners to have their dress clothes cleaned and pressed. I don’t recall if Mr. Swartz did shirts or not because, for whatever reason, the twins opted to have their dress shirts laundered by Brandi Cleaners – a company that picked up and delivered to our house.

Both of my brothers liked having nice clean cars to drive. They often paid me and our other brother (the other Lew) to wash those vehicles. If memory serves me, while they both liked newer cars, Bill was the more conservative. He began with a 1953 Pontiac that he traded in for a 1956 Pontiac. That car gave way to a 1959 Pontiac which was eventually replaced by a 1955 Ford. (I’ll explain that move shortly.)

In the meantime, his twin went from a 1953 Plymouth to a 1955 Buick. The Buick was replaced by a 1958 Oldsmobile that was quickly replaced by a 1959 Cadillac. The Caddy was a real shock to my parents’ systems. At $6,500, it cost three hundred dollars more than our house.

Lew soon tired of the Cadillac and traded it in for a 1960 Buick convertible. I really liked that car because I was about to turn sixteen and had high hopes of one day driving it. However, the combined costs of all the new cars caught up with Lew. By the time I got my driver’s license, he was driving a 1955 Chevy.

Eventually Lew got his finances in order and bought a new 1962 Chevy. He’s had so many cars since then that I couldn’t begin to keep track. The major factor is that he learned his lesson and only drives what he can afford to drive.

In 1959, Bill got engaged to Rose Macino. Bill was a thirty-two year old bachelor and Rose was a nineteen year old girl from a large Italian family that owned a corner grocery in the Elliot section of Pittsburgh.

While some fathers of nineteen year old girls might’ve been upset with their daughters getting involved with older men, Mr. Macino was delighted. That’s because my brothers were well known in the area and had sparkling reputations. They were seen by most to be great ‘catches’.

Bill and Rose were married on Memorial Day of 1960. Bill liked the idea because he’d always be able to remember their anniversary. That’s before the government stepped in and changed the official date of Memorial Day. Thus, if you can remember when Memorial Day used to be, you’d know the date they tied the knot.

For Bill, the jump from paying mom and dad for room and board to paying rent and buying groceries for two came as a surprise. That’s why he sold the 1959 Pontiac and replaced it with an old Ford.

By 1961, Bill was the proud father of Lynne. Over the next several years, Rose would give birth to Amy, Billy, Richie, and Mark. Each of those children will tell you there was never a more loving – and forgiving – father.

In the meantime, Lew held out. It wasn’t until 1965 when he finally married. His bride was a widow by the name of Dorothy McConnell. Dot, as she was known, had Elizabeth (known to all as Snookie), Dee, Dick, and Patty.

This marriage made things rather interesting for me. Dick and I had graduated from high school together, and Patty – who I dated from time to time – was a year younger.

Because of my sisters, I already had three nephews and a niece close to my age; now I had nieces older than me! In fact, Snookie and Dee were already married and had children. I became an instant ‘great’ uncle!

Both of the twins settled into married life and were fantastic fathers – whether their children were their own or not. They continued to be great sports fans, but had to give up the road games and many of the home games. They continued to bowl and golf, but long ago gave up football and softball.

We lost Bill to cancer a few years back, but Lew is still going strong.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about their differing personalities… and the fact that I often felt as though I had three fathers.

Bill was the more laid back of the two. While he always encouraged me and his own children to do our best, he readily accepted whatever effort we made and praised us for our successes.

Lew, on the other hand, was the perfectionist. He was probably harder on himself than he was on others, but sometimes that was difficult to see.

I recall one time when the three of us (the other Lew was in the Army at the time) were building a new back porch for our parents. We were at the point of putting down the flooring. I was measuring, Bill was cutting, and Lew was nailing.

If a board was a thirty-second of an inch off, he’d throw it back at us. If it was too long, he wanted more cut off. If it was too short, he wanted it discarded.

The porch was about twenty feet long across the back of the house and came out about ten feet. We were laying the boards perpendicular to the house and at the rate we were going, the scrap heap was bigger than the porch. We would soon run out of lumber and have less than half the floor laid.

Then Lew received a phone call. When he went in to answer the phone, I ran up on to the porch with a stack of the scrap. I began nailing the boards while Bill handed more up. By the time Lew got off the phone and came back out, I had two thirds of the flooring down.

He took one look at the jagged edge, yelled at me for turning it into a hillbilly dump, and stormed out of the house and drove away.

While he was gone, Bill and I completed the flooring. I then took the electric saw and, starting at one end, cut the boards to make them all the same length.

The subject was never again brought up for discussion.

Lew’s temper and need to be perfect cost him a few golf clubs… that were either thrown into lakes or bent around trees. However, the event that caused him to rethink his attitude and led to his mellowing occurred at Alvin’s Southside Bowling Alley.

Alvin’s had five floors with about six alleys on each floor. One evening, Lew was bowling on the fourth or fifth floor and having a terrible night. Please note that ‘terrible’ is a relative term. He may have been averaging over two hundred for the three game set; but if he thought he should be averaging ten pins higher, to him, it was terrible.

When his anger got the best of him, he walked over to an open window and threw his blowing ball into the alley below. Fortunately, there were no pedestrians in that alley.

Taking driving lessons from the two of them was a “good cop, bad cop” experience. Bill would concentrate on what I was doing right and Lew would do the opposite.

To a great extent, I believe my personality was shaped more by my brothers than my parents. I’m sure my children will tell you that at times I could be compared to each of their uncles.

There is so much more I could say about Bill and Lew, but I’ve already gone my self-imposed limit for words. I’m sure my writings will continue to reflect on them as well as my parents, sisters, and other brother.

——————————————————————————————

I never gave it any thought until now that the twins were always referred to as Bill and Lew or Seward and Somers. Bill (Seward) was the oldest… by a few minutes, so I guess that’s why we never said Lew and Bill or Somers and Seward. I’ll have to ask Lew if that ever bothered him.

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