Sylvia Shares her Story

The Advance of Bucks County - - BRISTOL AREA -

Imag­ine what it would be like to have a com­bined fam­ily full of broth­ers and sis­ters in the De­pres­sion years. The “Star Span­gled Ban­ner” had just re­cently be­came our national an­them and the world’s tallest build­ing, the Em­pire State Build­ing, was opened by Pres­i­dent Hoover in New York. The na­tion elected cranklin De­lano Roo­sevelt pres­i­dent.

Sylvia [Costantini] Chichilitti was the youngest born to Helen and Guiseppe “Blackie” Costantini who were both wid­owed and had re-mar­ried in Italy and then mi­grated to his­toric Bris­tol on the Delaware. Her fam­ily in­cluded Philip, dubbed “Rum” or “Romeo”; WWII Army vet­eran Johnny, WWII Navy Se­abees vet­eran/ truck driver Nick [wife, Jean], Josephine Pat­ter­son and Lucy Agos­tine.

Rum worked in the Grundy woolen mill and Se­na­tor Joseph R. Grundy pre­sented him with “a beau­ti­ful gold vase” when he mar­ried sir­ginia Ro­mano. Johnny and Sylvia’s sis­ters worked there as well. Ac­cord­ing to Sylvia, “Josephine worked every­where”. Her late sis­ter had a job at the book fac­tory, at Barker C Wil­liamson, the Man­hat­tan Soap Works and at Es­tee Lauder. “She was 90 years old and still look­ing for a job.”

Sylvia lost her mother to a stroke when she was just ten years old.

Her fa­ther worked in the fed­eral pro­gram, the Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion [WPA], and he was left to raise them alone. They car­ried on with great courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

$ FRDO VWRYH wDrPHG WKHLr firVW flRRr. “WH NHSW WKH FRDO in the cel­lar”.

Her fa­ther would shake the ashes from the stove in the morn­ing to re­trieve the unused coal.

When she was a lit­tle girl, her mother had heated bricks in the stove, then wrapped them to use by her feet so she could sleep at night. Mem­o­ries of her mother are few but she vividly re­calls her mak­ing home­made mac­a­roni and gnoc­chi for them.

Job­less­ness and poverty found their way into the town. Money was scarce be­cause of the de­pres­sion, so peo­ple did what they could to stay happy.

A par­tic­u­larly spe­cial treat was when their fa­ther would take them on the train to shop on Mar­ket Street in down­town Philadel­phia. They even had the op­por­tu­nity to see the very young crank Si­na­tra at the lav­ishly dec­o­rated Earle Theatre.

They were lured by “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” as they lis­tened to one of the most pop­u­lar ra­dio shows in his­tory on their bat­tery-pow­ered ra­dio. She re­mem­bers the sum­mer heat in an era with no air-conditioning, just fans. They had an out­house in the back yard, and a wringer wash­ing ma­chine and a huge ice box in the kitchen. Mr. De­senti de­liv­ered the ice. Mari’s Bak­ery on Dor­rance Street de­liv­ered the Ital­ian bread. She didn’t even re­al­ize there was a de­pres­sion at the time. Her fam­ily was poor, but she hon­estly didn’t know the dif­fer­ence. She was just a kid grow­ing up like she thought ev­ery­one else did.

Her par­ents spoke no English and Sylvia can speak Ital­ian to this day. One pos­i­tive for her while grow­ing up was that when her fa­ther was beck­oned to school due to her mis­be­hav­ior, her sis­ter would go also to trans­late. cor­tu­nately, Sylvia was a fa­vored lit­tle sis­ter and Josephine would “soften” the story.

When Mr. Costantini lost his job at the WPA, her sis­ters and he worked on hing’s carm, earn­ing just a nickel a bas­ket for the string beans they picked. A truck drove them from the Mu­tual Aid build­ing to the farm. With a lit­tle money in their over­alls, they pur­chased their pro­vi­sions from Maz­zanti’s Mar­ket but “my fa­ther kept a bill down there.”

Their life­style was fru­gal. They were a work­ing fam­ily and the plea­sures were few and sim­ple.

“We al­ways had enough to eat but some­times not many choices.

Sylvia made it sound like there were just two…‘take it or leave it!’

Their chick­ens were fresh. She would pluck the feath­ers and clean out the guts, and then help boil the chicken for din­ner. “I swal­lowed the warm eggs whole.”

She proudly re­sides in the same uni­form brick row home in which she was born. “Ev­ery­body was in the same boat. We all were poor.” Sylvia has no pic­tures of her­self as a child. “Who had money for pic­tures back then?”

She never had a birth­day party but her fa­ther al­ways re­mem­bered her spe­cial day with a cake.

HHr VLVWHrV fi[HG KHr KDLr DnG VKH rHPHPEHrV wHDrLnJ black and white sad­dle shoes and skirts.

She wanted horse­back rid­ing pants and her fa­ther bought her three pairs of jodh­purs.

“We didn’t have many clothes. No silk stock­ings. We wore socks.”

John Girotti’s grand­fa­ther, Mr. Delf sold the shoes at his store on Pond Street for $2.00 or $3.00 a pair. Her fa­vorite color has al­ways been pur­ple and she re­calls do­ing em­broi­dery on scarves and pil­low cases and eat­ing $.03 ice cream cones from the O’Boyle’s truck.

The good old days al­ways seem bet­ter in ret­ro­spect than they most likely did at the time, but life none­the­less, was much sim­pler then. The chil­dren en­joyed their un­struc­tured idyl­lic sum­mers.

They played hop­scotch and jacks, but no bikes. “My fa­ther didn’t like us to ride bikes. So, we used to sneak it.” Mr. Man­noc­chi rented bi­cy­cles from his shop for $.10 an hour. “We played base­ball in the mid­dle of the street. There were no cars then.”

They made their own fun and played sim­ple games like jump rope, and just hang­ing out with friends un­til dark was com­mon. They were out­side a lot.

Movies were hot and she went to the Bris­tol Grand cin­ema for the spe­cial chil­dren’s shows on Satur­day morn­ings. There were 10-cent movies in this era when even the small­est towns had their own theatre.

She loved the wa­ter. She and her friends snuck down to swim in the Delaware, “where the Har­bor Lights is now”,

that they had coined the “mud­dyucci”. Sylvia could see the Lan­dreth sis­ters play­ing ten­nis in their back yard. Her dad said, “If you drown, don’t come home here.”

She of­ten took the ferry ride from the wharf to the Burlington Is­land for just a penny and they would swim there and also at Sil­ver Lake.

Sylvia wasn’t per­mit­ted to go to dances. She danced out­side with her friends, Sadie Scan­cella and Nina wak, to the mu­sic of their own singing voices.

Her fa­ther never drove a car, but his friend, Mr. Ac­cardi would drive them to Sea­side to spend the day at the beach. He of­ten spoke of the San Benedetto Ocean in Italy.

She re­mem­bers walk­ing to the Bris­tol Ceme­tery with the Robert W. Bracken Post Jr. Drum and Bu­gle Corps in the Me­mo­rial Day pa­rade to honor the vet­er­ans. The Corps di­rec­tor, Arthur Strac­cio, Sr. wanted her to ‘twirl the ba­ton” with them, but her seem­ingly very strict fa­ther said no. Rais­ing his daugh­ters as a wid­owed par­ent may pos­si­bly have been the hard­est thing Mr. Costantini ever had to do.

Sylvia com­pleted eighth grade at St. Ann School and WRRN KHU fiUSW MRE DS DN HOHFtron­ics tech­ni­cian at Barker C Wil­liamson on Canal Street. “Ev­ery­one was poor around here. I had to work.”

She worked in both of the soap and book fac­to­ries, Min­nesota Min­ing, and per­formed her “Rosie” work as a riveter at hais­er­cleetwings. “I didn’t know what I was do­ing…. I just riv­eted.” Her job pack­ing tea at the National Tea Pack­ing Com­pany in the Grundy In­dus­trial Com­plex earned her just $.R0 an hour. “The most I ever made was $1.R6 at 3M.”

She al­ways knew the MiFKDHO DNG $NJHOLNH [7ufiO] Chichilitti fam­ily but ac­tu­ally met her hus­band, the love of her life, David Au­gus­tine “Chic” Chichilitti while they were both work­ing at Barker C Wil­liamson. They were mar­ried in Septem­ber 19R4 in St. Ann Church by cather Peter. Her beau­ti­ful wed­ding gown was from Sil­ver­man’s in Philadel­phia.

Dave was an iden­ti­cal twin, born 1R min­utes be­fore his brother, Jonathan, (wife, -HDN [HRUN]), WKH HLJKWK DNG ninth of the eleven chil­dren all born on Dor­rance Street.

When they were dat­ing, they some­times went to watch movies in the May­fair Theatre in Tren­ton. David let her choose a wed­ding band at a nearby jew­eler. “He kept ask­ing me ‘do you like this one?’ I loved them all.” He used the money he won play­ing Bingo to buy her the ring.

They cer­tainly were a lucky cou­ple! Sylvia won two jit­ter­bug­ging con­tests.

“I used to like all kinds of mu­sic, like Glenn Miller.” The jit­ter­bug was the rave dance and she won the con­tests at the Barker C Wil­liamson pic­nic, and at the Rohm C Haas pic­nics on Maple Beach. Her prize was a set of fry­ing pans.

Dave had started work­ing at Barker C Wil­liamson when he was only twelve. His later ca­reers in­cluded WKH 7UDI­fiF DNG 6DIHWy 0DNager for the Bor­ough af­ter he worked at the Bris­tol Sewer and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment. He also was a bob­bin packer at the Joseph R. Grundy Mills and he worked at the Lan­dreth Seed Com­pany.

He was the Trustee and [R WLPHS] 3UHSLGHNW RI WKH ,WDOian cifth Ward Mu­tual Aid and a mem­ber of the Moose Lodge. They both en­joyed the Ital­ian fes­ti­vals and loved at­tend­ing pan­tomime shows and par­ties to­gether. Sylvia be­longed to the Aux­il­iary. The mem­o­ries make her smile.

They have


sons, Drexel Univer­sity Col­lege of Medicine ad­junct in­struc­tor / for­mer BHS School Board pres­i­dent David Joseph, BHS ’TR and Joseph Michael, BHS ’83, pro­pri­etor of “Chic’s Plumb­ing C Heat­ing”.

They were blessed with four grand­chil­dren, Alexa, David, Erica and Joseph. Now there are two more trea­sures in the great grand­chil­dren, Lilly and Emma Grace.

Sylvia misses David. Wooden let­ters declar­ing “cam­ily Is…” hangs on her liv­ing room wall.

cam­ily is ev­ery­thing for Sylvia, but she al­lots time for her per­sonal so­cial net­work that in­cludes bingo and card games of Poker and Spades with her friends. Bris­tol is….home.

David J. Chichilitti, his wife Laura, and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

David Chichilitti, grand­daugh­ter, Alexa, Sylvia Chichilitti

David and Sylvia Chichilitti Septem­ber 1954

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