This month Paul S. Henderson is hosting an ActiveRain contest/challenge titled "March 2017 challenge, Tell me the most unique or special place you have lived." Because of the story Paul shared about living aboard the USS Ethan Allen SSBN 608, a 410 foot long submarine in the South Pacific Ocean in the 1070's. I thought about sharing my story about living on an Aircraft Carrier, the USS Ranger for 3 1/2 years in the 1970'. During that time I did 3 cruises to Vietnam, got to see Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hawaii, and the Philippines. But as interesting as it was living aboard an Aircraft Carrier with 5,000 other guys, I think The Most Special And Unique Place I Have Lived is where I was born.
In was born an a small island in the Azores, Portugal called Santa Maria. My family lived a very comfortable life there. My father was a Fireman, and since all the house were made of stone, he did not have a lot to do.
In the late 1950's the island my father was born on, Faial, had a major volcano which destroyed a significant portion of the island. Because of that the U.S. made it possible for anyone born on Faial to come to the U.S. So in 1959 my father began the process of processing the required paperwork for me, my brother, two sisters, and mother to the U.S. This also meant we had to go from Santa Maria to Faial for my family to go through the process of applying for, and completing the necessary documentation for us to come to the U.S.
Santa Maria was one of only two islands at that time in the Azores that had an airport, unfortunately Faial was not the other island. The only mode of transportation to get to Faial was by ship. The ships did not travel very fast, and the rooms were very small. Making it very tight quarters for a family six.
Unlike Santa Maria which was fairly modernized, Faial was not. Santa Maria had electricity, and inside plumbing. Faial did not, at least not the part of Faial where my father's family had a house. So during the time my father was processing the paperwork for us to come to the U.S., as the oldest it was my job to help gather wood for cooking, and draw water from the well outside the house.
Kerosene lamps were used to provide light at night, and cooking was done in wood furnace oven. Also the roofs of all the houses were packed with volcanic ash from the volcano. So we had to nail lager paper bags, like the type of bags cement comes in today, to the underside of the roof to keep the volcanic ash from failing though the cracks into the house. These bags had to be taken down periodically as the volcanic ash built up on top of them.
I wish I could share more about this time in my life, but I was young, and only have spotted memories of this time. However, I do remember, that in March of 1960 all of the necessary documentation for us to come to the U.S. were completed, and in early April my family and I left all we had behind, except for some cloths and boarded a plan for the U.S. I had just turned 8 years old in March, my brother was 3, and my two sisters were 7 and 1 1/2 years old.
We flew into Logan Airport in Boston, MA and were picked up by one of the Catholic Priests my Aunt worked for in Providence, RI. She had come to the U.S a year earlier, and worked as maid, and cook for a Catholic Church in Fox Point, a small section of Providence.
We lived in a 2 bedroom, 3rd floor apartment, with half a bath. There was no hot water, and we used a large tin tub to bath in. We had to heat the hot water for baths in a very large pot, and then empty the tub manually when we were done. We also did not have a working refrigerator, so the Ice Man would deliver a huge block of ice every couple of days to keep the food cold.
Because there was only 2 bedrooms, my mother and father had one bedroom, and my brother and I, and two sisters shared the other bedroom. We could only fit two twin beds in the room, so my brother and I shared one twin bed, and my two sisters shared the other. This as you can see was also a unique experience, and there is a lot more to share about my early years in the U.S. But I will share this story at another time, because there is a lot more to tell about the transition we went through here in the U.S.
I have never been back to the Azores. So this year my wife and I have decided that after 57 years it is time I go back to see where I was born. I still have family in the Azores, so it will be a special trip for many reasons, and I hope to write a blog or two later in the year about my trip, and share pictures.
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