Press-Republican

Guest Column

December 18, 2013

Memories of mother who never gave up

My mother, Lila, was a quiet, almost shy, woman who lived her first married life within my father’s shadow.

Not only was he the sole breadwinner (because that’s the way things were in those days of the depression), but he came from one of Brooklyn’s first African American families.

To make matters worse for my mother, Ken Sr. had excelled at track and football at Boy’s High in Brooklyn and was a national track star at Pittsburgh University.

As I noted, my mother was shy, not one of the social climbers who surrounded popular athletes. But she was light and bright and could pass for white, a quality that was important in those oppressive days.

And she was beautiful, with a smile that could persuade the sun to move the clouds aside.

While Dad went to work, Mom stayed home and tended to us kids, cooking, washing, ironing, shopping, cleaning and all those other housekeeping chores that fell to women in those days.

She didn’t complain about her lot anymore than my father complained about working two jobs to support his family.

Expectations for men and women were very different in the ’30s and ’40s and in today’s world would be looked upon with contempt. But that was all we knew, and most people tried hard to live up to expectations.

Mom was a wizard with a sewing machine and could make just about anything, from a formal gown to a shirt or a pair of pants for me or my brother.

We didn’t always appreciate them because anybody could tell you (and did) that clothes with a label are better than homemade stuff. So we wanted clothes from Macy’s or Gimbel’s, not those inferior concoctions sewed to perfection by my mother.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Guest Column
  • clute_cropped.jpg Finding accountability, healing

    Today, I focus on the vast majority of cases that do not go to trial but end in a guilty plea, writes former District Attorney and City Judge Penny Clute.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • krieg_felicia_mug.jpg Affordable doesn't mean low quality

    Drugstore products often perform just as well as their high-end counterparts, Felicia Krieg writes.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Opportunity to repair infrastructure missed

    A vibrant economy requires roads, bridges, dams and other assets that are in good condition, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ken_wibecan.jpg Remembering the Sixties

    Each Memorial Day and Labor Day in the early 1960s, about a dozen of us city-dwellers drove to Lake George, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg The right to be forgotten?

    Europe taking first steps toward securing privacy with Google and Facebook, writes columnist Stu Denenberg.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Ethical consumerism in vogue

    However, making purchasing choices that can help save the planet aren't always that simple, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg U.S. lacking leadership

    Inspiration is hard to come by as society struggles to fulfill the traditional American dream, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for quality, safety, animal welfare

    June Dairy Month is a good time to appreciate all the effort that goes into producing the very best in dairy products, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Libraries still relevant

    In the digital age, it takes innovation and creativity to assure libraries stay a vital part of the community, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Trees at risk from pests

    The Emerald Ash Borer is a major threat to ash trees locally and across North America, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo