Through Any Given Door

1.99.7 Pick-Up Stix, Sep 1953

Cathy, Debbie, Sep 1953

Sep 1953 • Tuolumne ~ Our family scattered like a drop of Pick-Up Stix. Mom was now living in San Jose. Larry had returned to college. Carleen, Chuck, and the baby would soon leave Sonora and move to Southern California. Claudia stayed with her best friend JoAnn Davis to begin her eighth grade year. After what happened to her, Betty did not want to go to high school in Sonora, so she and I were sent to Tuolumne for three months to live with the Guidicis.

Guidici family, 1949 Tuolumne

Santos Guidici—they called him Sanch—worked in the box factory at Pickering Lumber in Standard. He and his wife Mary were also Catholic, and good customers in Dad’s store. They may have owed Dad money and offered to repay him with childcare, or perhaps simply out of kindness offered to take us in. They had three children of their own: Carol was married and out of the house by the time Betty and I arrived, and Dennis had enlisted in the military. LeeLee, the youngest, was the only one still at home. When we lived there my sister pretty much kept to herself, while I wondered where I was and how I got there. I went to Summerville Elementary to start kindergarten. Betty went to Summerville High to start a different life.



My small room had just space enough for a bed, a four-drawer dresser, and a hard-backed chair, the white wall adorned by a plastic holy water font and small wood crucifix. It was their son’s room before he went into the Navy. Betty shared a room with LeeLee, who was a couple of years older than my sister. They walked to school, did chores, and attended Mass together at St. Joseph’s, but the two of them didn’t talk much. LeeLee knew Betty had some kind of trouble, but she didn’t ask.

Theirs was a far cry from our house. They lived a half mile out of town, which seemed like a long way from anywhere; we lived right in town. Their off-white Bakelite radio sat on a shelf built into the kitchen wall and was on at odd times; our radio was a big wooden floor console in the corner of our living room. Here, we woke up each morning to the sound of the news; at home, we didn’t listen to the news. Ours at home was only on at night, tuned to the “Green Hornet” or “Inner Sanctum.”  

Mary made soup at the beginning of the week. She’d always say at Sunday dinner, “Whatever you don’t eat today will end up in the soup tomorrow.” Monday through Saturday supper always included soup, but never on Sunday. Sunday meals were special (though not ravioli special). She lived in mortal fear of another depression so could be quite miserly. “Four squares of toilet paper is all you need” and “four Ritz crackers with your soup, no more.” She canned and thought it extravagant to buy things you could make yourself such as soup, tomato sauce, canned fruit or vegetables. She had large, pullout bins for flour and sugar and would leave the flour sifter and small bowls in the bins to scoop out what she needed. Like Mom, Mary was a seamstress, and a good cook too, except she made ravioli for the holidays and said her nightly rosary. Her treadle sewing machine was on the sun porch, a little alcove off the kitchen with a door that everyone came through. They seldom used the front door.

Santos Guidici 1940 Pickering Lumber Co. (semi-pro team)

When he was younger, Sanch was a real baseball player in the minor leagues, and also played ball for Pickering. Now in his spare time he worked in his large vegetable garden and among his grape vines, and like many of the Italian families in the neighborhood, made wine. The garden had bell peppers, tomatoes, beans, and basil. Mary made her pesto from scratch for her pasta, though she called it basilico. The family called it green spaghetti. Sanch had a rabbit hutch out in the field that they shared with Mary’s sister who lived next door. They often had rabbit for Sunday dinner. The kids were sternly admonished not to make pets from what could be the next meal. Betty already knew well the pain that could cause.

to be continued…

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Barbara Jacobsen says:

    Of course, you were so little. Thanks for explaining. Still, it feels like that was a healing interlude for you.

    • Probably more so for Betty. I do remember living at their house, but only what my room looked like, the little girl next door, and Betty cutting the hair and painting the nails on one of her Little Women dolls. I still have it.

  2. Barbara Jacobsen says:

    This sounds like a healing interlude for you and Betty. You have retained so many lovely, earthy memories.

    • I actually remember very little of any of this. All the stories were told to me by family or those I interviewed. A granddaughter of Sanch and Mary helped me with the details on this one.

      • Janet Sasaki says:

        Again, resemblance to my family in the 50s. My mother was a great seamstress too, and she was also influenced by the depression. We practically had to count the toilet paper sheets too. She didnt realize that she, being raised on a farm in Selma, Ca, was much better off than city people. She was always lamenting the fact that her underwear was made from flour sacks, and she hated eating rabbit because she had made friends with the farm rabbits.

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