Nancy Ciceroni was the youngest of five children. For some extra money, she and her mother helped Denison, a local factory, to sort tags. Mrs. Ciceroni’s father worked for a gas company. They did not have machines to dig up oil in those days, so her father dug tenches for wires that would pump it out of the ground. In order to save money on food, her family wanted to plant a garden so their neighbor lent them some land to do so. Growing during the Great Depression caused Mrs. Ciceroni to have a straight-forward, realist view towards life.
This is Sean Haffey, Julia Schleppi, and Joe Fargnoli and we are interviewing Mrs. Nancy Ciceroni on May 7th, 2008 for the Wayland High School History Project.
Q: Please state your name.
Mrs. Ciceroni: My name is Nancy. Oh, you want my full name: Ciceroni.
Q: How old were you in 1929?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I don’t know.
Q: What Year were you born?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I was born 7/11/14, that’s July 11th, 1914.
Q: So you would have been 15 Years old in 1929?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yes.
Q: Where did you live during the Great Depression?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Framingham. That was before I was married.
Q: What were your parents’ names and what did they do for work during the Great Depression?
Mrs. Ciceroni: My father’s name was Peter; my mother’s name was Louise. And my name is Nancy.
Q: What was the family name?
Mrs. Ciceroni: What was the family name? DeMarini. That’s capital D, e …
Q: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I had a brother Louis, the oldest, Leonard, my sister Jackie, my sister Mary, who passed. They all passed away incidentally. Then there was me.
Q: Do you remember what your parents did for jobs?
Mrs. Ciceroni: What did they do for jobs? My father worked for the gas… I forget now. My father was a… used a pick and shovel. Those days they didn’t have the machinery that goes down, scoops, no. My father dug the hole, for them to put the wires in because he was a laborer. That’s all. He lived till he was close to a hundred, and I’m going to do the same thing. I don’t want to reach a hundred though. No.
Q: Was your mother a housewife? Did she work?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Did she work? No. My parents, they had children and my father says, the mothers got to stay home with them. Teach them, and take care of them. So, that was it.
Q: How did your mother raise you?
Mrs. Ciceroni: How did she raise me? Well, it was nice. Yeah it was.
Q: What kinds of foods did you eat when you were a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Anything I could get my hands on. Believe me, that’s the truth. My mother said, that you know, we would have a bowl of fruit on the table, so she’d let us have some food, and then my brothers and sisters who were older than me would go out in the yard and play. But I wouldn’t. I would say, “I have to go to the bathroom, Ma.” She’d say “Ok”. I didn’t have to go. I was staying here, letting my brothers and sisters go outside because I was going to finish the food. Oh boy.
Q: Do you remember if it was all homemade food?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah, my mother did a lot of that.
Q: What kinds of foods did she make?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Italian food. Naturally Italians are going to eat Italian food: Pasta, homemade sauce, and raviolis.
Q: Did you buy any cereals or would she make that too?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah she would buy the, what was the name? There was one kind. I forgot. Now that you mention cereal, one of my brothers loved Cornflakes. I didn’t. So, my mother said I want you to eat your breakfast. I didn’t want Cornflakes. She said, “this is what you’re having for breakfast today.” I looked at it and I said, “Mother, you know I don’t like it, and I’m not going to eat it.” I didn’t go out to play that day. I was punished. But I would go from one window to the other window where the kids would be, and talked out the window and my mother would come in and say what are you doing? I was a daredevil, I was. And I was only a little thing. Oh well, live and let live.
Q: You said earlier that your uncle owned a fruit store, is that where you got most of your fruit?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah, do you know downtown Framingham where the Sears and Roebucks is? He used to have his store there. It was a fruit store, but he catered to all the rich people. He had a good place there.
Q: Did you have a big house when you were little?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah it was a good size. We had a bedroom for my parents, a bedroom for my sisters and I, and a bedroom for my brothers, Yeah.
Q: Did you grow and can your own food back then?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah. We didn’t own a house in Framingham when I was a little kid, because my father was working, and there were seven of us in the family, so it was a pretty good-sized family…
Q: How did you grow your own food? Was it a garden that your mother had?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah. My mother had a neighbor who didn’t use his yard, he didn’t have time to make a garden, and he told my mother that. “Would you like to make a garden?” She said, “I’d love to, but I don’t have too much land.” So he said, go right ahead. And the garden was, oh I’d say about the size of this room. Oh, we’d eat vegetables ‘til they’d come out of our ears, but they were good. It was good. My mother was a good cook, she really was. She was born in Italy. But she was the type of a person that enough wasn’t enough for her. She’d get up and she’d make the coffee, and she’d get everything set up, and then come wake us up, and then we’d sit and eat…
Q: Did you can any of those foods that you grew?
Mrs. Ciceroni: My mother did. I did very little because I was short…
Q: Did you own a car?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Tells a story of how her husband got a car at a much later date.
Q: What kind of clothing did you have as a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: What everybody else wore. My mother did a lot of sewing when I was little, because it was cheaper. She bought the material, and she was a good seamstress.
Q: How did the clothes compare to the others?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well, she’d see what they were selling at the store, and she’d make one just like it. (She then tells us the rest of the story of how her husband got a new car at a much later date.)
Q: What kind of games did you play as a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I didn’t play no games. It’s all right.
Q: Did you do any work as a child in the 1930’s?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, I think I worked all my life.
Q: Do you remember what you did for work during the depression?
Mrs. Ciceroni: To tell you the truth I worked in the shoe shop, and I had to, I don’t know the name of what I did. Of course, the factory was right down the street from where I lived. Oh well, great life.
Q: Did you ever go to the circus or carnival as a child?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh, I practically lived in the carnival. The carnival was like, just a short ways from my house. Where was I, my mother would say. Oh, the carnival is here again. Don’t you dare run up to the carnival. She couldn’t find me; I was up at the carnival.
Q: Do you remember how the movies and the radio were back then?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well, they weren’t like they are today. Naturally.
Q: Did you ever go see any movies?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah we went to the movies. Even as kids, every Saturday afternoon I was in the movies. Because they weren’t too far from the house.
Q: Did you ever listen to the radio?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well we didn’t get a radio as fast as others got them. But I would go to the neighbors and I would stay there. We had some wonderful neighbors though. Very, very nice people.
Q: Do you remember any of the programs that you would listen to on the radio?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No, I don’t remember them. They’re gone those things have gone by and you don’t think of them no more.
Q: Did you ever listen to music as a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah I was always jumping and yelling and dancing. And when my mother asked me what I was doing I would say, singing, don’t you like my music mom? When I think about it my poor mother must’ve been crazy. But that’s the way I was.
Q: Did you ever watch sports?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No I never watched sports, my brothers used to.
Q: Did they like baseball?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, baseball, football.
Q: Did they play any sports or did they just watch them.
Mrs. Ciceroni: No, they would play, Yeah. Oh well, great life, but don’t weaken.
Q: Did you have a hero or role model as a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I don’t think so. I can’t remember.
Q: What was your average day like?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well, what do you expect a little devil to do?
Q: Did you go to school?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, I went to school, all the way to high school. I got tired of school too.
Q: What did you do in school?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I was a good girl in school. I really enjoyed life as a kid. I had a lot of friends. I used to invite four or five kids over on my way home from school; “oh you can come over my house and play.” My mother would see me come in the door with a group of kids, and say where are you going. I’d say, “we’re coming here; we’re going to play.”
Q: Do you remember any of the things that you studied in school, like any subjects?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, there was history, and arithmetic, and all of those things.
Q: What was your community like? You said you had good neighbors.
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, they were all good people. In the neighborhood where I lived as a child, it was like a circle, you know, all around. The kids would go out to play, and it was like one big family. If one of the neighbors were sick, then three or four of the other women would run over and one would wash the floor, and the others would do other things. That’s the way we lived. You helped one another. I think it’s a good idea too…
Q: Do you remember if your neighbors ever helped you out with food of money?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah, they’d call me, and they’d say, “would you run down to the store for me?” Sure, and come back with the change, “here’s your change!” Then they’d say, “oh this is for you.” I would thank them, and say, “want me to go to the store again for you?”
Q: Do you remember any chores or responsibilities that you had when you were growing up?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No.
Q: You said earlier that you would stay up late making tags as a child.
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh, making tags, Yeah. From the Denison, oh Yeah. But everybody else did.
Q: Can you describe what that was like?
Mrs. Ciceroni: How would they do it? Well the Denison had trucks, and he’d have men in the trucks, and another man with him that helped him, and if you were taking tags, you had a number. My mother’s number was 705, and they’d have a book, and in a box they’d have the tags. You know, you could take as many as you wanted, and they would give them to you, and tell you when they would come to pick up the ones that were all done. Well, that’s all.
Q: How many tags were there, and how much did you get paid for doing this?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well, they had boxes of 1000, and then they would have boxes that were 150 each.
Q: How much did you get paid for doing this?
Mrs. Ciceroni: For what?
Q: How much would your mother get paid for doing the tags?
Mrs. Ciceroni: They had on the paper there a dollar a box, or $2.50 a box, it all depended on what you were doing. That’s all.
Q: did the Great Depression affect your family members?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No. My father died when he was in his late nineties, my mother too, by golly.
Q: Do you remember anybody close to you that had it rough during the Great Depression?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well, Years ago, people lived different than people today. The reason for that I think is because they lived a different way. Like you take a group of houses. Well they got to know each other and if one was sick, then the other neighbors, women would run over and help, and give the kids a bath, and they helped one another. Nowadays, you got an apartment. Well that’s it. Just you and your husband in the apartment. And it was nice because you were friendly, you were all friends. You don’t see that around too much, friendly, you know. Well, what are you going to do.
Q: As a young kid in the Great Depression did you go to church a lot?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh yes, you had to go to church if you lived with my mother. “God has been good to you, you know.” Oh, I heard that so many times. And we lived so close to the church. Oh well.
Q: You said that you lived so close to these places, did you do a lot of walking when you were a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, well we didn’t own a car, so if you wanted to go anywhere, you had to walk.
Q: Do you remember the President of the time, Franklin Roosevelt?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Franklin… Oh gees, I don’t remember.
Q: Do you remember seeing a Hooverville, or any cardboard villages of homeless people during the Great Depression?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I don’t think so, I don’t think I did.
Q: Was the area you lived in pretty well off, they weren’t in a lot of poverty?
Mrs. Ciceroni: It was nice Years ago, because you lived with a group of people that were all friendly. Everybody was friends. You know, and that’s the way it is to live, because you enjoy life better that way. You really do. I was brought up that way.
Q: Did anybody you knew have financial problems or problems with money?
Mrs. Ciceroni: You mean my brothers and sisters?
Q: No, anybody you knew.
Mrs. Ciceroni: No not really, because their husbands would work. Those days the men folk were, well, nice people. You know, they knew they had a wife, and they and children, and they had to be taken care of, you know. And of course the women would stick together, and like I said, help each other. I remember my mother would cook out of big pans, big pans. She would not only cook for us, she would run a bowl over to this neighbor, and another bowl to this neighbor. They would do the same thing though, you know, when they made something. You know, they’d make it big. But my mother was always doing it, she said, “We’re in this world, we’re all brothers and sisters, and we have to be good to each other. That’s about it. You know the neighbors would sometimes be outside, and they’d say, “Nancy, would you do an errand for me?” Where do you want me to go? “Up the street to the store.” I said, “What do you want? you write down on the slip what you want. And give me that, and give me the money, and I’ll give them this and I’ll come back with the change,” and I was only, like I say, small. You see me now too. Oh, what was I talking about? I forgot what I was talking about.
Q: You were talking about the neighbors asking you to go to the store.
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah. And God help me if I didn’t come back with the change. My mother would have killed me. But I wouldn’t do it because you know, my mother drilled it into our heads when we were kids; “don’t you ever steal anything.” She said, “because I’ll pick you up and carry you right down to the police station.” My God that was terrible, that was terrible. I just walked the straight and narrow.
Q: Was there a lot of stealing back then?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well kids, they didn’t mean, you know. Now there were kids that would go down some street, not where they lived and they would climb a fence, because there were apple trees, and they were stealing the apples. And what they would do is that they would sit down before the people that owned the store, that owned the land knew they were in there, see. It was an apple they were eating, they would eat a few mouthfuls, then they would throw them in the yard. And not only was the yard a mess, but them doing all that, you know. Oh, my mother wouldn’t allow us to do anything like that, and we couldn’t be disrespectful. Ooh, Mr. or Mrs. So and so, if not Helen or Joyce, no no. To a grown up you do not do that. Oh what are you going to do? Great life…
Q: How many brothers did you have?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Two.
Q: Did they work when you were a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh yes.
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, we all went to school.
Q: Do you remember what your brothers did for work?
Mrs. Ciceroni: My oldest brother worked in the Denison. He was the boss of some floor, oh I don’t know. I know that much. But my poor father, he used to go and dig ditches and things like that. That was heavy work.
Q: Would your brothers give your mom and dad some of the money that they made?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, they came home with their pay, give their pay to my mother, and my mother would turn around and give them pocket money.
Q: Did your brothers live at home when they worked?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Did they live home? Oh Yeah.
Q: How old were they when they started working?
Mrs. Ciceroni: You know, I don’t know if everybody does that, but the Italians do a lot of that. It’s your family, and you’re good to your family. And we grew up with that, you know. And your neighbors, your neighbors are your best friends. They need a helping hand; you go right over and do it. I know my mother used to. Cause we had a wonderful neighborhood. People used to, people were different. You’d think they were related. They were so good and kind to each other. My mother would make big. She’d have a fowl, and she’d make a big pan of sauce, soup. And then she’d cook the pasta and put the pasta in there, and she’d give a bowl to this neighbor, a bowl to that neighbor, she didn’t have no more bowls.
Q: Do you remember how old your brothers were when the started working?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well, Years ago, you had to be eighteen Years old or older to start to work, otherwise you couldn’t work.
Q: But did people do it anyways?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah. And I fooled everybody. Because I was small, I was eighteen Years old, and I thought I was smart. My mother kept saying, “That’s too much for you to do.” ‘Oh no it’s not. I can do it!” I did. And I always got along with everybody in a fashion, always. The boss, too. My mother, my father always said, I’ll never forget when I had my first job. We’d have supper, because we had to have it as a family, together, you know. We’d all get around the table, we’d eat, and my father used to say to my mother. Of course, my mother would hop here; hop there, you put one bowl on the table, and my mothers preparing the second bowl. Because my father and we kids would help ourselves, you know, course, Nancy would have the place empty before my mother brought the second course…
Q: How are the kids back then different than they are today?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yes! How are they? Well, the kids Years ago, this is my opinion. The kids Years ago would listen to their parents more than the kids of today. Kids today, the mothers got to talk morning till night. And the kids just go out. You read the paper and you see there’s a lot of robbery. There wasn’t much robbery when I was growing up. Because the kids listened to their parents, and they were a family. You know, they were taught to be good to each other and all that, you know. But what are you going to do?
Q: When you were a kid did you save a lot of things, were you wasteful, or…?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Let me tell you something. I did that when I was a kid. My drawers they were, oh dear God, but my mother came home, and she took the drawer out. And she brought it over and put it on the bed, and she said, come here young lady. Uh oh. When I heard that, it wasn’t very safe to keep your mouth going. She said, “You’re going to clean your drawer.” I said, “Just tip it over.” My mother said, no you don’t do that. WHY? She said, why? Because you got clothes there, you’ve got different things there and you’ve got to fix them up the right way. Oh just throw them in the drawer…
Q: What would your family do when you outgrew your clothes?
Mrs. Ciceroni: They would throw them away. Oh, if you outgrew them. Pass them down to the next kid.
Q: Did you wear your sisters old clothes?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No, oh no. My mother was a seamstress. And she made a lot of clothes for us kids. Like all summer, and by the time we went to school, I remember one time, I think I was in the third grade, she had, seven dresses made for me. And my sisters too, you know. And you had them hanging in the hanger, and you had to keep the closet clean, …
Q: Do you remember the big things that were built back then, like the Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge?
Mrs. Ciceroni: To tell the truth, I never saw them.
Q: But did you hear about them?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I didn’t give a damn one way or another. No, I didn’t. If that’s the way they want them, then let them have it. They’ll get sick of it.
Q: Do you remember one of the World Fairs, the 1930 World Fair?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Yeah I didn’t see that either.
Q: Do you remember anybody talking about it?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, course that was a big thing.
Q: What do you remember about it?
Mrs. Ciceroni: I remember I wished I could go see it and all that. But you can’t have everything you know.
Q: Did any people you know go to see it?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Oh Yeah, neighbors. Like I said, we had some wonderful neighbors. They were wonderful.
Q: Do you remember anything else that was in the news?
Mrs. Ciceroni: There wasn’t too many robberies as there is today…
Q: Do you remember learning anything about World War II?
Mrs. Ciceroni: To tell you the truth, I didn’t give a damn one way or another, I felt terrible that the boys had to go like that, fight for somebody else. My mother said, “Don’t you open your mouth cause you’ll get in trouble.”
Q: You would get in trouble for speaking like that against the Government?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Well no, but somebody might not like it. They’d be wondering, where the hell that kid come from.
Q: Do you remember anything about Hitler or Germany?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No, I didn’t care. If they want to kill each other let them. Let them stay over there where they belong, that’s all. Oh well, great life.
Q: Did you save a lot of things when you were a kid?
Mrs. Ciceroni: Did I save?
Q: Yeah, like when you were done with a jar, did you reuse it, or throw it away?
Mrs. Ciceroni: A jar? No, my mother wouldn’t allow it. Because she said if you put one in there today, I guarantee you that by tomorrow, you’ll have a million there, and we won’t be able to move in the house; no you don’t have that…
Q: For heat did you have candles or a fire?
Mrs. Ciceroni: No, we had electricity. And they had the long chain. We always had a dog and a cat…