My Dad kept everything.
No, really. Everything.
I have recently come into possession of boxes full of binders that he kept for documenting each of his eight children’s lives. The data is exhausting, but oh so much fun to go through.
In my older sister Fran’s folder, I found a great old photograph of her and her school chums schlepping down Franklin Mountain on a cold January day in 1961. She was doing what the president asked her (and millions of other kids) to do … take a hike! President John F. Kennedy kicked off his National Physical Fitness Campaign by encouraging everybody to take a 50-mile hike. And Fran did! I know this photo is from that event because as indefatigable as my father was in taking family photos, my mother matched him frame for frame by writing on the back of each picture.
My brother Jim’s folder includes a number of his high school report cards. Without revealing Jimmy’s grades, the amazing thing these revealed was the dearth of classes we had to take. The year was 1968 and Jim’s entire school day workload was English 11, Social Studies 11, French 1 and gym. How did they cram all that into one day?
My sister Susie’s archive is filled with photographic evidence of her “Run for the Roses.” Susie was nominated by the Sidney Elks Club to be the Queen of the Sidney Bi-Centennial celebration held in 1972. Unfortunately, Sue did not win, but the photos and newspaper clippings show what a festive community-wide party we threw to celebrate Sidney reaching 200.
My brother Bob’s file is filled with colorful evidence of his very colorful life. I really liked the reviews and photos from his starring appearance in the Tri-Town Theatre’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” more than 40 years ago.
Sister Chris is seen in many old photos working the counter of our family restaurant in Sidney, Don’s Subs. Chris worked there for a long time during her school years and to see photos of her waiting on the customers when she was only 14 or 15 is wonderful. While most kids were enjoying their after-school activities with their friends, Chrissie was thoroughly enjoying her time waiting on tables, ordering supplies or making meatball subs (a menu in her folder tells us that the meatball subs “made with Mama D’s famous spaghetti sauce” were 79 cents!).
My twin sisters, Mary and Teri, were born in 1966. Their arrival was the cause for great celebration in our already-large family. In fact, even The Daily Star ran a feature article titled “Now There Are Two More D’Imperios,” showing pictures of my baby sisters in their cribs. To say that their folders are voluminous would be a monument to understatement. Their arrival was even a cause for my Dad to buy a new Kodak camera. Thankfully, these were the days when photographs carried the dates on the edges of them. So we can really identify the years of their youth in the hundreds, yes hundreds, of photographs of Mary and Teri.
So what was in the brown box marked “Chuckie’s Folder?” Everything.
The bill for my first car, a 1963 Dodge Polara, bought from Whitaker and Sons for $699. My acceptance into the Culinary Institute of America (yes, I always wanted to be a chef). I had forgotten about that one. Unfortunately, my parents “ran out of money that year,” and I was unable to attend. I hadn’t forgotten that. My rejection letter from the Selective Service at the height of the Vietnam War (I am blind in one eye). The receipt for my education at Albany Business College. It is dated June 22, 1969, and it is noted “final payment received, fifty dollars”.
But my favorite item that my rat pack Dad saved for me to unearth 63 years later is the actual bill from my birth! It is on The Hospital stationery (that is what the Sidney hospital was named) dated Oct. 2, 1949. It is an itemized bill, and it’s an eye-opener.
“Room Charge (six days): $45.00 Delivery Room charge: $15.00. Drugs (mother): $3.60. Nursery Charge: $10.00. Dressings and Baby Beads: $4.00.” So the total cost for the arrival of “Big Chuck” was a whopping $77.60.
At first I was dumbstruck to think that my father kept this receipt for more than six decades. And then I got to thinking. Maybe he was going to return me someday!
I’ll catch you in two ...
“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find “Big Chuck” on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.