Home | Schlectweg and Becker Family History - Eleanor Angelo

The birth of Eleanor Becker (1909-1985)

Eleanor (Becker) Angelo in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, 1909-1985, 16 KB

Eleanor Becker's parents were not married. Her mother's name was Mabel Cecilia Becker (1887-1911). About Eleanor's father nothing is known, nor about why Mabel was resident in Martins Ferry, Ohio, at the time of Eleanor's birth. The family story is that Eleanor's father was already married, although he did not tell Mabel this, and that they met when she was working as a clerk in Philadelphia.

Photograph: Eleanor (Becker) Angelo in 1965, in the front room of her home in Cinnaminson, Burlington County, New Jersey, where she lived from 1958 until her death.

Bureau of Vital Statistics

County of Belmont
Township of       
Village of Martins Ferry
City of       
No. 5th and S[?] Walnut [?] St.
3rd Ward.
If [?] hospital or other institution
give name of same instead of street [?]

Registration District No. 4th[?]
File No. 17770
Primary Registration District No. 5007[?]
Registered No. 91

FULL NAME OF CHILD  Mabel Elenor Davison

Sex of child Male
Legitimate? YES
Twin Triplet of Other
Number in order of birth
To be answered in case of plural births only
Date of birth (Month)(Day) Mar 19, (Year) 1909

FULL NAME FATHER William Davison
RESIDENCE Martins Ferry O

RESIDENCE Martins Ferry
BIRTHPLACE Philadelphia Pa

Number of child of this mother 1 Number of children, of this mother, now living 1

I hereby certify that I attended the birth of this child, and that it occurred on 19th Mar, 1909, at 9:30 aM
(Physician or Midwife) Physician
Address Martins Ferry O

Filed March 29, 1909 JW Darrah MD Registrar.

Source: "photostatic copy of the original certificate of birth of Mabel Elenor Davison which is registered and preserved in the Vital Statistics Division of the Ohio Department of Health", dated 29th October 1941.

Notes: (1) The handwriting of this document makes it possible that the entire document (except the Registration numbers) was filled out by one of the two doctors or by someone else. (2) The sex of the child is incorrect, and there does not seem to be a town or city named "Aiken" in the state of New York, and Mabel's maiden name is stated to be "Mabel Davison". (3) Eleanor's husband Ralph Angelo (Raffaele Angelillo)'s Petition for Naturalization is dated 14 October 1941. Whether the photostatic copy of Eleanor's birth certificate is related to that event, I don't know.

Apparent surname of Eleanor's father

(English) the son of Davy or Davie
(Scottish, English) pet forms of David. (E.C. Smith, New Dictionary of American Family Names, 1973)

There are estimated to be 22,405 persons named DAVISON in the United States, which makes it the 1257th most popular surname. (E.C. Smith, American Surnames, 1969)

Family History of Eleanor Becker

Based on conversations with Eleanor's younger first cousin Warren Hutchison (1921-2010). Warren's parents were Ross and Edith (Becker) Hutchison. Edith was the only one of Eleanor's mother Mabel's siblings who survived the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Notes of 15 February 1994

Eleanor's grandmother was Anne Becker (née Schlectweg). Anne was born in the U.S. sometime after the Civil War. Her maiden name means something like "muddy road"; it comes from the time people were named after the place they came from. (Some members of the Schlectweg family changed their name to "Slackway".) Anne married a butcher named Becker (he was an alcoholic), with whom she had 4 daughters. They lived in Philadelphia.

Corrections: Anne Schlectweg's husband was William Becker. (Warren did not mean to suggest that there is a town of Schlectweg. Notes about the origins of the surnames Schlectweg and Dickinson and of the surnames Becker and Kiehl.)

Mabel Becker and her daughter Eleanor, 1909-1911, 32 KB
Mabel Becker and her daughter Eleanor, 1909-1911

Anne Becker's oldest daughter Mabel was Eleanor's mother. Mabel was a rebel. She ran off with a married man named "Snow" -- this was Eleanor's biological father. Eleanor was born out of wedlock in Martins Ferry, Ohio, on 19 March 1909; her mother Mabel was 22 years old.

Corrections: Mabel did not know that the man was already married. "Davison" probably was his name. (For all Warren knows, he may have overheard his mother say "It's snowing," he said.)

Mabel died of spinal meningitis ["bacterial inflammation of any one of the three membranes that envelope the spinal cord"]. It took her in a couple of weeks. [The cemetery record states Mabel's death was caused by consumption.]

Mabel brought Eleanor to live with her mother Anne in Philadelphia. The child was given the name Eleanor Becker. Mabel died in 1911, when Eleanor was 2 years old. When Eleanor saw her mother in her coffin, she said she looked like a "big doll".

Corrections: Eleanor thought her mother's corpse was a big dolly. (Warren spoke about the thoughts of a two-year old child.)

Anne (Schlectweg) Becker in her rocking chair, 19 KB
Anne (Schlectweg) Becker in her rocking chair

Eleanor lived with her grandmother until she was 7 years old. But the grandmother was in a wheelchair and Eleanor was disobedient; she did not come home after school -- she behaved like a rebellious girl. So in 1916 Eleanor went to live with her Aunt Edith.

Corrections: Anne refused to use a wheelchair. She used to slide herself around in a rocking chair. But she was crippled with arthritis and could not chase after a child.

Anne died in 1935, in a hospital or home. Eleanor wrote to her Aunt Edith (then living in Trenton, New Jersey) with the news. Eleanor called her aunt "mom"; Edith called Eleanor "sissy". (Anne as well as Warren's parents, Ross and Edith, are buried in Chelten Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia; the cemetery records state Anne's date of interment as 6 August 1934.)

When the Hutchison's took in Eleanor, they were living in something like "Narragenset" St. [1327 Narragansett Avenue] in Philadelphia. They later moved to Collingdale, then Secane (suburb of north Philadelphia -- almost part of the city), and then Bristol.

Eleanor Mabel Becker, seven years old, 17 KB
Eleanor at seven years old

Mabel's sister Edith Becker had just married Ross Hutchison, and they took Eleanor to live with them in Collingdale, just south of Philadelphia. Here Warren was born in 1921. The family later lived in Bristol, Pennsylvania, where Eleanor met Ralph Angelo (Raffaele Angelillo).

Warren remembers Eleanor very well, though he was only 3 when she married. She was a rebellious girl. She used to push Warren in his baby buggy and tell people that he was her's; she wore a wedding ring. When she was 15 she took Warren -- without his parents' knowing it -- to Burlington Island (on the Delaware River, near Bristol Borough) where there was an amusement park. They took the ferry over, and she bought him all sorts of amusement snacks. Warren called her "sissy".

Corrections: The wedding ring was Aunt Edith's, but she wore it only on special occasions, keeping it in a drawer at other times. Eleanor "borrow" it and wore it to school, telling the other children she was married. Edith found out when Eleanor's teacher wrote Edith a note: what is this ring about?

Warren remembers the merry-go-round and the cotton candy of Burlington Island.

Warren was very fond of peanut butter -- the pre-WWII kind, which was only ground peanuts with salt. Eleanor used to let him eat from the jar. Once it got stuck in his throat, and she got in trouble.

Warren's parents were Eleanor's legal guardians. They knew she was going out with Ralph (though at the time they thought he was only 10 years older than Eleanor). When she ran off and married him on 4 June 1924 in Croydon, they could have had the marriage annulled, since Eleanor was underage. But they saw Ralph as a serious man who would give Eleanor the stability the rebellious girl needed.

Corrections: Not Eleanor's legal guardians; they had not adopted her. "People didn't worry about that in those days."

They thought Ralph was 30 years old -- 15 years older than Eleanor. [He was 35 years old.]

They awoke one Sunday morning to find Eleanor gone. But she soon called them, told them she had gotten married, and would be home next day.

Ralph Angelo was born in a small town not too man kilometers from Naples. Warren served in Italy during WWII and used to talk to Ralph about it. Ralph was a strict man, but Warren thought well of him.

Notes of 16 September 1995

Warren lived close enough to Ralph's store in Bristol Borough to walk there. He took a nap on the cot in the back of the store several times. They walked everywhere or took the trolley. (The old Bristol crossing and railroad station no longer exist.)

Notes of 23 February 1994

Warren did not stop seeing Eleanor after she married. He can remember Ralph's store in Philadelphia (maybe) with dried peppers hanging from the ceiling; it was an Italian grocery store; about 1924. (Correction: The store will have been the store in Bristol Borough. Ralph's son Leon Angelo, who was born in Philadelphia in 1931 and lived at the store, said the store in Philadelphia was not an Italian grocery. When Eleanor married on 4 June 1924, she was living with Ross and Edith Hutchison at 914 Jefferson Avenue in Bristol Borough. [List of Addresses in Bristol Borough for this family history.])

Ralph had a Ford (maybe) station wagon with real wood sides; he always had a car, though maybe only one family on a block had one in those days. (Warren can remember being troubled by the lights; it seemed to him that they ought to be on inside the car; but Ralph explained to him that if they were on inside, he could not see to drive.)

In 1926 Ralph and Eleanor took Warren to an Italian "block party" [as they used to have in Camden in front of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church] in Trenton's borough of Chambersburg (southern tip of the city where there still is an Italian colony, called "the Burg"), on Clinton St.

In the same year they took Warren canoeing on the Schuylkill River (maybe, because Warren was living in Trenton).

The name "San Angelo" (from Ralph's Petition for Naturalization) sounds right to Warren; maybe he was mistaken in thinking that it was so close to Naples as a few kilometers. ["San Angelo" was Sant'Angelo d'Alife.]

Ralph did have a sister [Eleanor's son Leon remembered seeing Ralph's sister once and said she looked just like her brother, but that was in Maple Shade, and would have to have been Ralph's sister Elisabetta, because Anna died in 1935; Leon thought he remembered the name "Carmela", but Ralph had no sister of that name]. In 1928 or 1929 she came with their mother to visit Ralph. The sister wanted him to remarry in the Catholic Church, since otherwise he would go to Hell. He had no use for priests; he thought they were only good for "[Warren said something else, but I can't recall at all what it was] and collecting money"; Warren called Ralph a "real individualist". He once threw a priest off his property.

Warren does not believe that the sister had to come from very far away to visit Ralph.

Warren also said that I was also Irish, not only German -- but I don't know why. [Andreas Schlectweg's wife Mary Jane Dickinson was from Ireland. Margarett Kiehl was from France (Alsace).]

Notes of 16 August 1995 -- Quakertown, Pennsylvania

Warren told me that Mabel Becker is buried in Chelten Hills Cemetery, Philadelphia.

Warren's father Ross Hutchison's helped Ralph build the house on Fork Landing Road in Maple Shade, New Jersey. He said the wop need his help; he did it mostly for Eleanor whom he treated like a daughter; she always called him "dad" (he died in 1947); Eleanor did not get along to well with her Aunt Edith (she died in 1962). The house was on one floor; additions were made as they were needed. Warren called it a house built by a printer (Ross) and a farmer, which is what he thinks Ralph was at that time.

Corrections: Warren does not think his father Ross meant to belittle Ralph by referring to him as the wop. That was the way people talked in those days. (Warren thinks the expression comes from when Italian laborers would say, when asking for work, "Me wappo", meaning "I am strong". [I have not been able to find an Italian equivalent. The sound of the English letter 'w' would be 'ua' in Italian, as the ship's name Werra became "Guerra" in Ralph's Petition for Naturalization.])

When they were building the house on Fork Landing Road, Ross Hutchison came there and stayed for about a week. Warren thinks he was 15 years old at the time (which would then be about 1936). Warren would not call it a tin house; it was made of wood, though it may have had a corrugated, galvanized sheet-metal roof. [But children used to make fun of it, Eleanor's daughter-in-law Victoria said, by saying "you could open it with a can opener".]

When they were living in Philadelphia, Ralph sent a letter to Staten Island, which is where the Hutchisons were living, telling Ross that Eleanor had run away from home and asking Ross if he could find her. Ross found her. Ralph used to communicate with telegrams; the Hutchisons had no telephone.

Warren said that Ralph's sister broke relations after Ralph threw the priest off his property. The priest may have been concerned that the children were not being baptized soon enough. [Eleanor's son Leon Angelo was never baptized.]

Eleanor Angelo at 750 North Forklanding Road, Maple Shade, Burlington County, New Jersey, 38 KB

Eleanor Angelo, at 750 North Forklanding Road, Maple Shade,
Burlington County, New Jersey. Before 1958.

To the left is Ralph's 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck (in which as a small child, sometime in the years 1963-1965, but I think 1965 -- I think it was in this specific truck -- that, after I asked him (the truck fascinated me), he once drove me in the backyard of the house, no more than a few yards in either direction, not too long before he died; I did not of course understand how ill he was or how close to death. This is the only memory I have of him and the photograph I took on that day the only photograph). It was blue with Ralph's name written in white block letters on the door: RALPH ANGELO.

Both Marie (Becker) Scott and Florence Becker died in 1918 in the great influenza epidemic after WWI; they died within hours of each other. Florence never married.

Corrections: Marie and Florence died ½ hour apart. Edith was also ill. Ross Hutchison and Marie's husband, Bob Scott, took care of the 3 girls. Anne said they did not look after Florence as well as they did their wives. Anne and Ross never spoke to each other after that, even though they lived in the same house together for years afterwards.

William Andrew Becker, born 9 January 1862, 23 KB
William Andrew Becker
born 9 January 1862
married 22 February 1885

William A. Becker left his family -- and no one knows what became of him. But when the Hutchisons were living in Broad Channel, New York City (on an island in Jamaica Bay in the borough of Queens), there was a butcher whom Edith thought might have been her father, though he was married and did not use the name "Becker". (William Becker had left home 20 years before.) He used to give Edith extra portions of meat when she when into his shop. (Edith and Ross were married in 1916; her father left before then). The butcher's wife used to tend the cash register.

Corrections: It seems that was a fanciful notion, as I believe William Becker died alone in Philadelphia General Hospital on 20 July 1927 (death certificate). It seems that no one there knew anything about him except his age (65) and his occupation (butcher). Before his death he was living at 2124 Germantown Avenue. This may (or may not) have been a boarding house, because the informant for the certificate was "Victoria Hadock [reading of last name very uncertain]" of that same address. In the 1920 U.S. Census, William was living at a lodger at 2355 Ann Street, Philadelphia. Philadelphia General Hospital was a charity hospital in west Philadelphia for the medically indigent, and the gravesite William is buried in belongs to the cemetery -- namely Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia -- and is unmarked. (Notes from 11 and 19 August 2019.)

Anne Schlectweg was baptized Lutheran in Philadelphia. Warren has the certificate somewhere, but falling apart. (A note about Eleanor Angelo's religion.)

Ralph must have been a very big man -- as wide as the end of the kitchen table, Warren indicated. He was very strict with his sons; as soon as they got home from school they had to work on the farm. Eleanor would try to get them out of this, which would make Ralph angry.

Corrections: When Warren indicated the end of the kitchen table, he was talking about Ralph's son Ralph, who was indeed a big man. Ralph senior was very short, about 5'4" tall, husky, stocky, very strong.

Warren served in the U.S. Army Air Force. He was stationed in Bari for 6 months from January 1945. The ship he said on, together with escort, crossed the Atlantic with all lights blacked out at night -- until the reached the Strait of Gibraltar which was neutral territory. Warren landed in Naples; they used a sunken ship as a pier. He went to Bari by way of Caserta (where he slept outdoors in a tent and froze [It was very cold in Cassino for Austrian prisoners of WWI; Sant'Angelo d'Alife lies half way between Cassino and Caserta]) and then Foggia. He does not remember Caserta as being devastated in the War. While in Bari, Warren grew a moustache, to look like an Italian.

The photograph of Eleanor at age 7 was taken in Collingdale, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Notes of 8 October 1995

When Anne (Becker) Schlectweg died, Eleanor was late in telling her Aunt Edith about it because she though the Hutchisons would have read about it, forgetting that they no longer got the Philadelphia newspapers.

Warren's brother Leroy lives northeast of Pittsburgh. Warren talks to him on the telephone sometimes, but not too often.

Warren thinks that Ralph's father Nicola Angelillo's job of gate tender was a very serious one: the trains did not slow down when they went through Bristol Borough (Warren is interested in steam engines.)

Family History of Eleanor Angelo (continued)

Based on recollections of Eleanor's son Leon (1931-2003) and his wife Victoria (Valente) Angelo, who was Eleanor's daughter-in-law for 32 years until Eleanor's death in 1985.

The earliest information I had about Ralph Angelo came from Victoria. She will have heard this -- or something like it -- from Eleanor. First, that Ralph was born in 1889 (Correction: 1888) near Naples (Correction: not that near, because, although in Italy's present region of Campania, Sant'Angelo d'Alife is on the far side of the Volturno River, at the foot of the Matese Mountains, and thus beyond the classical area called "Campania"; for the WW2 draft registration card from 1942, Ralph's place of birth is stated to be "St. Angelo. State of Naples"). And second, that Ralph arrived in America in 1900 with his mother (Corrections: in 1901 and alone; his mother came in 1905).

Eleanor was married to Ralph (Raffaele Angelilli) on 4 June 1924. Their marriage license names Ralph as "Raffaele Angelilli", and states that Eleanor was born in Scotland to a Scottish mother, but her father's and mother's surnames are blank spaces. And it names Eleanor as being a 21-years old clerk (rather than a 15-year old schoolgirl).

Eleanor's first two of five children were baptized at Saint Ann, Roman Catholic, church in Bristol Borough, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Both were sponsored by Angelo and Elena (Angelillo) Morganti. The first (who was born in Croydon) was baptized on 22 May 1927, the second (who was born in Bristol) on 29 August 1928. Her third child, namely Leon (who was born in Philadelphia), was never baptized.

Eleanor said that "they took the children", meaning Ralph's family. Eleanor herself was an independent-minded Protestant and raised in that faith. But like Leon, her oldest and youngest sons married Catholics, and they raised their children Catholic. Eleanor said to me when I told her, "they got you"; although she said nothing against this, I don't think she approved.

Warren said that Anne (Schlectweg) Becker used to read Watch Tower publications -- or at least that she had some at the time of her death.

The Italian store in Bristol and marriage in Croydon

In the 1920s Ralph had a wholesale Italian grocery store in Croydon, Bucks County, Pennsylvania (Correction: at 334 Washington Street in Bristol Borough), which he lost during the depression, which seems to have begun earlier in Bristol than the Great Depression of 1929. Eleanor worked for him there and one day when they were in the store truck, they decided to be married; they were married on 4 June 1924 in Croydon before a justice of the peace. Ralph almost 35 years old, Eleanor 15, "still on roller-skates," her son Leon said.

The earliest story about Ralph is that sometime before he was married he worked as a waiter in a private club at Princeton University. He had some books from there of which he was proud; his son Leon remembered this.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The family's last residence in Pennsylvania was 211 Green Street, Philadelphia (near Spring Garden and the Delaware River), where they had a store front grocery store. The downstairs was: store and kitchen (single story); the bedrooms were upstairs. The store front was a convenience store in an ethnically mixed neighborhood with ethnically mixed customers. One of the boys had to sit in the store when their parents were in the back. When a custom came in, the boy had to call out "Store!". Ralph's store also sold candy -- which his sons stole in quantity; when he found this out, he was shocked and threatened them with the police; they were locked in their rooms upstairs.

Once when he was locked in his room, Leon escaped by climbing out the window and jumping onto the kitchen roof. But he caught his hand on a clothes hock and cut himself badly. A black man named Buster who walked with a limp took Leon and Eleanor to the hospital in his coup (a small 2-door car).

In contrast, when in 1949 Victoria went to see Williamsburg, Virginia, with a friend of hers from the office at school, the bus driver told them to move to the front of the bus when they sat down in the back. In Camden for the first 15 years of her life, Victoria's next door neighbors were black Americans.

Leon taught himself to play the piano when he was about 7-years old in Philadelphia. Ralph had given the piano to Eleanor as a wedding present. Eleanor always put up a Christmas tree and got presents for the children at Christmas. (In New Jersey Leon played the piano at his church.)

My father learned to read when he was four or five years old. When he was seven his father used to have him read the newspaper to him. His father thought Leon should have become a radio announcer, that that was what he would have been good at. Both my grandparents were very proud of he. "He was the only one [of the boys] who never gave them any trouble." Nonetheless Victoria thinks Leon was afraid of his father when he was youth; he tried to stay out of his way.

Leon remembered going with his father to buy produce at the wholesale market on Dock Street; they would take a huge, 2-wheeled push cart with them. (The Dock Street Market moved about 25 years ago. Leon did not think there would be much left of it, since the small farmers who took their produce there are mostly gone now. [Notes of January 1997])

There were three other places in Philadelphia they lived before that one, Leon thought. One had a u-shaped alleyway behind it; here lived a neighbor woman who gave him American buttered bread with sugar on it. He remembered a street name like "Dereen".

Also in Philadelphia, Leon thought he saw his father's sister; anyway, she looked very like him; she "looked like a man" because she had a fuzzy face and a powerful upper body. (If this was Ralph's sister, it would have to have been Elisabetta.)

At sometime when the children were told that their mother Eleanor was in hospital, the children were put into a boarding house. Leon remembers that he got hit with a wet dish rag: "You didn't have to do much to get hit."

When her son Leon had his tonsils out, Eleanor put a sheet on the kitchen table and made him lie there, since that was the easiest way to keep her eye on him. His kindergarten teacher came to visit him and gave him a fruit basket at this time. (Victoria said she thinks Eleanor told her that Leon weighed ten pounds when he was born.)

Leon played hopscotch when he was a boy in Philadelphia.

Maple Shade, New Jersey

In 1940 Ralph moved his family from Philadelphia to Maple Shade. He drove a horse and wagon (horse-drawn wagon) over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge with the family's possessions. Leon was nine years old. Ralph, with the help of Eleanor's uncle Ross Hutchison, built their house, except for the plumbing (and I imagine the electricity, which there must have been if they had a refrigerator, which they did), at 750 North Forklanding Road. (Victoria thinks the house may have come from Sears and Roebuck.)

Ralph had five acres of land of land; he intended to leave one acre to each of his sons. He did not approve of Leon's choice for a wife -- he did not think she was strong enough to be a farmer's wife. That was the standard he used. Ralph did not take up farming until he was 52 years old and had been in America for 39 years. I don't know if it had always been his dream to own farmland (That was the dream of many Italian immigrants). He told Leon, "the Depression ruined me".

Ralph had bought an old, defunct apple orchard in Maple Shade, which they cleared, dug up and planted. Ralph became a truck farmer while also working at a tool factory (When he applied for a Social Security number in 1935, Ralph was working at an abrasive company; his Social Security number was 162-10-4397). For his truck farm, Ralph had a pickup truck with his Americanized surname "Angelo" painted on the door. Victoria once saw my Leon driving this truck on Market Street in Philadelphia, before they were married.

On their farm they used to bury the cabbages in the dirt with their roots sticking out.

Ralph also made his own wine, which (after they were married Leon told Victoria), brought out the worst in him and he used to beat Eleanor: their son Leon "just wanted the father to stop hitting the mother," she said. (My father never said anything to me about this; not that I would have expected him to.)

Ralph always treated bread with respect; he would not place a loaf of bread upside down: it was "the body of Christ". Leon remembered this. Eleanor used to make the traditional sweet-bread for Easter with crosses of dough over the hard-cooked eggs.

In 1958 the family moved to not too far away from Maple Shade to Cinnaminson. The house that Ralph had built on North Forklanding Road was knocked down and a primary public school was built on his land.

Ralph died of cancer. Eleanor cared for him at home for two years. With no daughters or friends to help her, she had a very hard life. Eleanor told me she could imagine what Ralph would say to her when she got to Heaven; he would beckon her with his index finger and say, "Come here, girl; I've got some work for you." She always referred to Ralph as "pop", although I don't know if this was because of the difference in their ages or because this was what the children called him.

Eleanor used to call spaghetti "spaghetts". Her husband Ralph taught her how to cook spaghetti, and, I think, make sauce, but she never made this for us or at Christmas time. (Someone called it "wop food", but I don't remember who it was.)

Eleanor told her daughter-in-law Victoria that Ralph had wanted to go back to visit his village in Italy, and that she was sorry he hadn't gone after he retired and before he got sick. (It is through Ralph that I am a citizen of Italy.)

My mother once told me she never thought of Leon as Italian; I did not either. I never really knew my father's family; I never really knew my father either (On the other hand, I never really knew my mother, so what are we calling "knowing someone"?) But my mother's parents way of life (in old age) affected me deeply; if I am Italian-American, it is because of them. My father's mother (also in old age) was special to me, but I always felt like a guest in my father and his family's world; it was a foreign country, not home. (Bluntly, the intervening generation of both families, even in old age, seemed to me only something to escape the ignorance of, and had no other influence on me but that. In contrast the example my father's good qualities of thought and outlook, about which there was a certain nobility, has affected me deeply.)

School yearbook class picture, Leon Nicholas Angelo, 27 KB
Class picture for the yearbook. Leon Nicholas Angelo, either in 7th or 8th grade (Maple Shade School No. 2) or in 9th grade (Moorestown High School)

Leon's birth certificate, from 20 July 1931, has his father's name as Ralph Angelo and the mother's name as Eleanor (Becker). He was born in Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia. Eleanor signed Leon's school report card: Eleanor M. Angelo.

A Prudential Life Insurance Policy was taken out by Eleanor for Leon when he was an infant. It was what was called "a penny policy": people would pay $0.10 a month, but it did not take much to bury people in those days, when a loaf of bread cost $0.05. But even after my parents were married, Eleanor did not give the policy to them (as Victoria's own mother had done). But Eleanor had not wanted to give Leon's birth certificate to them either; I think she didn't trust the young people to take care of the documents. (From the policy Victoria received about $140.)

Eleanor told Victoria that her mother (Mabel Becker) had worked as a bookkeeper at Bookbinders Restaurant in Philadelphia.

Leon said that his father Ralph died cursing priests.

Ralph paid $100 a acre for his 5 acres in Maple Shade, a lot of money in 1940. They kept a pair of goats. They refrigerated and drank the milk. The goats made a least two kids. Leon imagined they ate them, but he didn't remember.

Ralph did not have an automobile in Philadelphia, or in New Jersey before 1950. In 1950 he got the pickup truck.

Eleanor gave me the American Legion medal that was given to Leon when he represented Maple Shade at "Boy's State". This was when boys went away for a week and set up their own government. (There is a group photograph of Leon with other boys wearing Boy's State t-shirts.) Leon thought he was about 13-years old, but he doesn't remember where they went for the week.

Eleanor's oldest son Michael Raymond Angelo was always called by his middle name. (His first name will have been given him by Ralph's family. In Sant'Angelo d'Alife every first born male child seems to have been given the name "Michele"; the Archangel Michael is the "holy angel" of the village's name.) Raymond went to Moorestown High School and to college, but not for a four-year degree at college, Leon thinks. Raymond was rather short and slight of build. He did not get along with his father Ralph and moved far away from home.

Victoria said that Ralph did not keep his savings in banks. Raymond once "stole" his father's money in order to run away from home. Ralph called the police on him, but what, if anything, happened, Leon never told her; nevertheless, he did graduate from a technical college as an engineer. Victoria said that Raymond was always Eleanor's favorite.

Victoria thought that Ralph's mother, Maria Martone, named Eleanor's children, since his mother regarded Eleanor as incompetent. (She was the one who had Eleanor's sons Raymond and Ralph baptized Catholic.) The name given Leon at birth, namely Leone Nicola (which was misspelled "Lione Nichola" on the certificate), won't have been given him by Eleanor. (Leon an ancestor named Leone Rinaldo, but that was 1787-1827.) Eleanor always called her son by the name Leo.

Victoria said that for a time Ralph's mother lived with Ralph and Eleanor (which is possible because Maria's husband Nicola died in 1920, Maria in 1930) and that whatever Eleanor did, Ralph's mother undid; for example, if Eleanor placed the baby outside for air, her mother-in-law took the baby back inside again. (Ralph refused to go to his mother's funeral, but my grandmother Eleanor did go.)

At Moorestown High School, Leon Nicholas Angelo, 32 KB
Leon Nicholas Angelo, about 15 years old, at the old Moorestown High School (1946).
Leon graduated when he was 16 years old

Raymond and later Leon used to walk about a mile from their house, along Forklanding Road, to catch the school bus on Maple Shade's Main Street. Maple Shade did not have its own high school. Leon did not have a job while he went to Moorestown High School (grades 9-12). He used to swim in Pennsauken Creek, though it was very dirty.

With no sisters or aunts and five boys in Ralph's house, there were no napkins at the supper table. When someone needed to wipe his hands he asked for "the rag." "Can I have the rag." It was farm life. The goats' shed had to be cleaned, and Leon said that male goat was a very mean-spirited animal. Victoria said that her father never ate until all the children were seated and given food; but many Italian men were not that way; my mother said that Ralph's father used to be served first. My father Leon was like Victoria's father had been.

University on one dollar a day

A professor at Rutgers University in Camden cautioned Victoria about marrying "a man who never tells you what he's thinking". Leon never did tell us "what he was thinking". Victoria called him "a poor boy who never got over being poor". He had wanted to be like the lawyer in who drove around in his sports car, a gentleman, not the son of a man who worked in a factory. The U.S. Marine Corps allowed Leon to be "an officer and a gentleman", retiring as a colonel, but to the end of his life he felt that Ivy League types would never let him into their circle. ("The short and simple annals of the poor. The boast of heraldry ..." My father, as Abraham Lincoln had been, was ashamed of his background.)

When my father had responsibility for instructing junior officers, they used to call him "the padre" because he told them not to use foul language; he said "it showed you had a limited vocabulary" if you used such words. And of course a gentleman did not.

Leon was in the first graduating class of Rutgers Camden. He had been given a full scholarship to the College of South Jersey, which was a two year college in Camden. But after two years, the college was taken over by Rutgers and Leon was awarded another full scholarship; the professors came from the University of Pennsylvania, part time. The College of South Jersey began as a law school when you did not need an undergraduate degree to become a lawyer. Then it was like a junior college. Leon got the scholarship because another boy could not use it. Leon told the school he could not use it because he did not have the money and he needed to work during the day. But Arthur Armitage, who was from Collingswood, New Jersey, told my father: don't worry about the money; they would get the money for him and he could come during the day; they found him a job in the bookstore at college. Arthur Armitage was also very active in getting Rutgers University to take over the College.

Leon has taken the science course (in contrast to the academic-prep and business courses) at Moorestown High School, although he had studied French there as well; he was president of the school's French Club. That was why as a captain he was later stationed in Haiti at the U.S. Naval Mission (which was closed by President François Duvalier in 1963).

Rutgers held its baccalaureate at the Protestant church at 5th and Cooper; Dr. Allen also used to give lectures there on English grammar. When Victoria first met Leon (she worked in the office at Rutgers, but not before at College of South Jersey), he used to say "at" as in "Where's it at?" and "Hot dang!" (Once Leon met Victoria at a dance. He told her that he had been cleaning out the goat house, but he had washed and did not smell. He asked her to dance. She (did not know how to dance and) told him to dance with her sisters. He went away, but came back later to ask to borrow 25¢ to catch the bus home. Victoria was born and spent the first 15 years of her life in a slum, the Italian colony in Camden, at 3rd and Berkley Streets, where they had nothing. "I don't like to remember those days. For me life began with your father.")

When my mother was going out with my father, her father shook his finger at her and said, "Watch myself, daughter. Don't make a fool of you. Watch myself." Because my father was younger than my mother and because my mother had never dated anyone before.

"Your father went to college on a dollar a day. What would have happened if he had not gone to college? He would have ended up as a clerk in an insurance firm."

Leon was also awarded a full scholarship to Rutgers law school, but had to leave school for the Korean War. His father Ralph gave his son $1 a day to go to college, which was enough in those days for transportation and food.

Ralph's neighbor in Maple Shade, Mr. Hoehn

When he was young Leon sometimes used to work on the farm of George Hoehn (The name is German but it was pronounced as if there were no 'e'). Mrs. Hoehn was a Quaker; she and her brother would "thee" and "thou" each other. George didn't, nor did their children. Leon always spoke of Mr. Hoehn with some respect. The workers were allowed to eat the wind-fall peaches; Leon said they were the best because you knew they were ripe.

When Leon was born, in the hospital the nurses called him "Peaches"; Eleanor told my mother this. When my father was a boy he used to pick peaches; he said the worst thing about it was having peach fuzz fall on your sweaty neck. When they put the peaches in baskets, he told me about "topping": they would select the best looking peaches to put as the top layer of the basket. But he hated when picking peaches the peach fuzz would get on his sweaty neck. His brothers used to call him "low-limb Leo" because, Victoria thinks, they said he only picked the fruit lower on the tree.

Mr. Hoehn had 200 acres. He worked it alone, also with his brother-in-law and a couple of the Angelo boys. He used a farm truck (the kind with removable panel sides) to take his produce to the Market. Leon remembered riding with him (you had to be 17-years old to drive); they took the ferry to Philadelphia (which maybe cost $0.50), but drove back over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The wholesale Market was on Dock Street near Delaware Avenue, the same place Leon had gone with his father when they lived in Philadelphia; the Market was where restaurants and stores bought. Mr. Hoehn also grew tomatoes for Campbell's Condensed Soup Company in Camden.

Leon really respected the Quaker farmer next door. They used to go very early in the morning (3 or 4 AM) to take produce down to the docks; but on the way home they stopped at a place and had coffee and a donut. He used to like that. But he hated farm work.

Spoken Family History's Limits corrected by Documents

This is what Leon and Victoria Angelo told me and believed about Leon's family history. First, that Leon's father Ralph came to America from Campania with his mother when he was eleven years old (Correction: Ralph came to New York alone; he was three months shy of his 13th birthday when his ship sailed from Naples; he was detained at Ellis Island until his father Nicola came for him).

It appears they came to Philadelphia (Correction: Ralph's father Nicola brought the family to live in Bristol Borough where he worked for the railroad), but who if anyone they knew there isn't known (Correction: Nicola Angelillo came to America in 1892, followed at some point by his oldest son Michele, who died in 1916 and is buried in a cemetery somewhere in Philadelphia).

Leon never knew his grandparents (Ralph's parents died before Leon was born, Leon's grandfather in 1920, his grandmother in 1930), nor did he have any aunts or uncles (Correction: of Ralph's two sisters, Anna died in 1935 when Leon was 4-years old, but Elisabetta lived longer and Leon once saw her in Philadelphia when she came to see her brother. Eleanor wrote what appears to be something like -- the pencil marks are quite faded -- the name "Elisabetta Jacovone" on the brown envelope that had apparently had held the photographs for Ralph's Certificate of Naturalization).

Eleanor's parents died when she was very young (Correction: her mother when Eleanor was two years old; nothing is known of her father). Ralph and Eleanor married when he was in his late thirties and she was 15 (Correction: Ralph was almost 35-years old).

Victoria was later to remember (September 2016), or misremember, that Ralph moved the family's things across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in a pushcart. "I think your father told me it was a pushcart." But she isn't sure. The bridge is very steep to be pushing a full cart up and steep coming down as well -- and Maple Shade is many miles away from Camden. I always remembered the story that it was a horse and wagon my grandfather drove. Which seems more plausible? Because although it would be possible even now to take a pushcart across the bridge's sidewalk, what would you do when you reached the other side?

"Truth is to the historian what eyesight is to the living creature." (Polybius)

But often the living creature distorts the historical record, either by not knowing all the facts (and therefore not knowing the truth), by reporting hearsay that time has confused with knowledge, or by hiding facts it regards as shameful, or by romanticizing the past.

If you have only known a man in old age, you may not have known that man. Some make peace with the world when old, although they had not when they were younger. On the other hand, a corrupt soul may become more corrupt with age, a selfish soul more selfish, an ignorant soul more ignorant, a narrow soul more narrow, and this will show itself as well as any nobility either inherent in the man or the "wisdom of old age".

Human beings were no better in the past than they are now. Look around you at those you know. That is how human beings are. Customs change, "but man is always man" (A. Schweitzer). It would be nice to believe that each generation was slightly less ignorant than the one before it. But it wouldn't be true. Perhaps they are less brutal.

On what would have been my parents' 54th wedding anniversary (6 June 2007), my mother and I visited my father's grave. My mother asked if he was a good father to me. I asked her if his father was a good father to him, and then answered my own question by saying that he gave him money to go to college (and let him live at home during those years); and my mother agreed about that: Ralph did let Leon go to school. And so in that way he was a good father. And so about my own father, as about anyone, you could say that there were good things and bad things about him.

As for me, I neither have nor want to have anything in common with my ancestors, with my European family's sixteen centuries of ignorance and superstition.

Visit to Aunt Edith (1957 or 1958)

Leon took his mother to visit her Aunt Edith at Metuchen (in northeast New Jersey) as well as my mother and me (I don't remember this). Eleanor told her aunt that my mother only married my father so that if he was killed in war she would collect his death insurance (This was after Leon had already come back from Korea). Victoria said it was an ordinary house, "not luxurious"; Edith's son Leroy "was a bit strange; he was fond of cats", but my mother does not think she met him, only that there were cats in the house.

After California, where I was born, and Philadelphia where he worked for a year as a Marine Corps recruiter, Leon studied at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for one year and earned an MBA. Eleanor wrote to her son that his "name was mud in the family" for not being close to them; my father wrote a reply but then he tore it up and did not answer his mother's letter, which my mother was glad of (my father was never disrespectful to his mother, never answered her back). When Leon was stationed at Philadelphia, Eleanor wanted them to put their furniture in the attic of her house and come live with her, but they lived in an apartment in Collingswood instead (Victoria said she would have "gone nuts" if they had gone to live with her mother-in-law). When the house in Cinnaminson burnt down, Eleanor told Victoria, "you won't get anything", that it would all go to her son Ralph. "She said a few nasty things like that to me." Eleanor thought Victoria gave herself airs by living in an apartment tower and calling me "Robby", according to Victoria.

Victoria never forgave her mother-in-law for things like that. She would later say about herself, "I wasn't very nice to her either." When we used to visit Eleanor, my mother would look through magazines when she spoke to her (which was quite rude) -- even when my grandmother was an old woman and had put the past behind her. (There were many contradictions in my mother.)

Warren did not like Eleanor's son Ralph, Victoria said. My mother said that Ralph talked rough, but he had a gentle heart (That was what I thought too).

Victoria said that Ralph senior did not let Eleanor have friends and that they always talked bad against the neighbors, calling them bad names. Once Eleanor dreamed that her son John came back (He died before her), and she was very sad that on waking she was glad that he had not; that my uncle was verbally cruel to my grandmother, I well remember (He made Eleanor cry when we were alone, but I was a small child and said nothing).

My own memories

My grandmother could not have been more kind and loving towards me. Always. When I was ten years old she used to play board-games with me; one I remember was with taxi cabs and police cars, which Eleanor called "cop cars". Each player had one of each, and you won points based on how many passengers your cab picked up, but if you broke the law, your opponent's police car could land on your space and take all your passenger points away.

Eleanor always sent me birthday cards.

In her last years, Eleanor told us of a dream she had which had quite disturbed her. She was standing at a bus stop, and when the bus came, the doors opened and Joseph and Mary handed the baby Jesus out into her arms. She did not understand this dream.

Mabel C. Becker of Philadelphia, 1887-1911, 27 KB
Mabel Cecilia Becker
1887 - 1911

Raffaele's younger brother Giovanni

Despite the limits of spoken family history, if it had not been for Eleanor's cousin Warren Hutchison, I would never have learned of Eleanor's Becker and Schlectweg ancestors.

And it was from Eleanor's daughter-in-law Victoria, and from Victoria alone, that I learned of Ralph's younger brother Giovanni Angelillo, who was killed in WW1 and is buried in France. Otherwise I would never have known. But Victoria remembered, or thought she remembered, Eleanor telling her that Ralph had a brother who died in WW1, fighting for the U.S.

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/schlectweg/Mabel-Elenor-Davison.html
Last revised: 8 June 2018 : 2018-06-08 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo

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