Dad's Family Artifact
A series of found recordings remixed
As part of a continued Father’s Day wrap up, I felt a little audio history was in order. Not so much for humor’s sake but more for the human interest angle on family history.
In 1982, we were taking our annual summer vacation to visit Grandma Ida and Grandpa Jim, My Dad’s mother and step father, at their home in Cape Cod. While there my dad decided one day to record a conversation between Ida, Jim and him. Dad told me later he wanted to capture their personalities on tape for posterity.
After Dad passed away in 2011, I found that tape in some of his belongings and converted it to a digital format.
I recently went in and remastered it to get rid noise. Here’s the result.
Now before you, take a listen I need you to keep two things in mind.
First, Grandma Ida was an Italian woman who was…ummm… How shall I say it?… a bit “off the cuff.” She spoke her mind, regardless of the context or other’s sensitivities.
Next, If you know anything about the Cape Cod area, you’ll know that there was always this rivalry between Italians and Portuguese immigrants. I’m not sure why since their cultures are so similar. So be forwarned, you’ll catch a few off-color comments from my Grandpa Jim.
Remember this was 1982. It was a whole different mindset from today.
I present this as a family and cultural artifact.
From what I gather, the parade they’re talking about is the Portuguese Day Parade of 1982 that took place in New Bedford, MA.
If you listen to this you’ll hear Grandma talk about one of her other sons, John, having the same camera as my dad. I’m sure this rankled Dad a bit since he was trying to be a professional photographer (when he wasn’t busting his hump working or attending night school) and plunked down a bit of money on a bunch of camera equipment that I doubt John owned.
Ida was constantly painting my Uncle John and Uncle Frank as the “Golden Boys.” They moved out to California in the early 50s and became big successes in her impoverished depression-era eyes.
However the truth was that Frank was a multi-divorced Playboy cheapskate who sired bastard children around like a farmer throwing chicken seed, and John, was an LA cop who was one cold, money grubbing S.O.B.
Not exactly “Golden Boys” by any measure.
But that was Ida. She wasn’t conciously aware that while she was idolizing her sons she was also twisting the guts of her other two kids.
I think this was due to her own poverty-stricken, fatherless upbringing. Her father died in a horrible rail yard accident when she was just a young child.
Watching how her own mother struggled to raise her and her four siblings must have imbued a certain hard quality in how she raised her own kids. This was compounded by the fact that Ida had a rough marriage to an lousy drunk that divorced and took off on her while the kids were still young.
As a woman without much of an education, and as a lone parent raising her three sons, Ed (Dad), Frank and John, plus one daughter (Pat), she definitely faced alot of difficulties, especially when being a divorcée was so scandalous back in the 40s and 50s.
As tough as it was on her, I’m sure it was equally hard on the kids. This might explain why when Dad turned 18 he ran off to join the Army.
As I worked on this tape to re-master it, It allowed me to again reflect back on my family’s relationships with a new found clarity that a decade or so more of life experience can only provide.
It’s ironic how you never noticed the full intricacies of a relative’s character when they’re alive and have the ability to dodge any revelations of truth. But once they’ve been gone awhile, everything they did and were is clear as day.
I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
After I found this tape and digitized it, I found some of the dialog to be so wacky that couldn’t resist the urge to remix it. So to end this story of family history on a high note here’s a couple of wacky tracks.
If you’d like to hear more of Ida, Jim and Dad yack about things like Taxes, Government employees and Photography, look for them on my SOUNDCLOUD.
Thanks for letting me ramble about family. I’ll be back to providing comics and other nonsense in a couple days.