Woman Before Her Time
By Trish Hubschman
Aunt Ginny was born in 1907, four days before Grandma. Their mothers were sisters and fathers were brothers. Virginia and Marge grew up like sisters. That’s how Grandma’s first cousin became our aunt. She was always a part of our lives.
When she was twelve, Virginia’s father, Joe, died, leaving his wife, Linda, and daughter to fend for themselves. Grandma’s parents, Millie and Frank, welcomed Linda and Virginia into their home in Brooklyn. Marge and Virginia were even more like sisters then. The next six years were happy, family times.
Virginia was grateful to her aunt and uncle, but she was duty-ridden and mature and felt it her responsibility to take care of her widowed mother. At eighteen years of age, Virginia and her mother moved into their own apartment and Virginia sought employment for herself. She took a job as a stenographer.
Every morning she took the El train to work. Every night she came home exhausted. But she didn’t complain. She did what she felt she had to do and was content. Her mother, Linda, and cousin, Marge, saw things differently.
A young lady your age should be going out and meeting people and making friends, both Linda and Marge insisted.
Virginia protested that she didn’t have the time and she was happy as she was.
“I met this boy last night at a party," Marge said. She had stopped by Virginia’s to share this exciting news. “his name is Lou. He’s nineteen and very mature. And there’s someone I want you to meet too.”
Virginia rolled her eyes, but didn’t protest. They’d been over this many times before.
A week later, she was getting dressed to go to a Giants football game in the Bronx with Marge’s friend Bill Mallon. There was a knock on the front door. She answered it. Indeed, Bill Mallon was handsome, well-mannered too. He tipped his cap. “Miss Virginia Sodaro? I am William Mallon at your service,” he said.
Virginia giggled and the rest of the day was lovely. They took the train to the Bronx to see the Giants play football. She knew nothing about the sport, but learned a lot that day and enjoyed the game. She also enjoyed Bill Mallon’s company. He too was working hard to support his family, his widowed mother and three sisters.
“We’ll get together again soon,” Bill assured her.
They didn’t see each other again for a decade.
A few weeks later, Virginia was called into her boss ‘office at the insurance company where she and Marge worked. Marge was already sitting in the office.
“Both you girls are excellent employees,” Mr. Smith began. “we’re very sorry to have to see you go, but the economy isn’t doing well and we need to streamline the company. We’re letting go of the employees with the least seniority.”
Marge and Virginia were on a train heading back to Bay Ridge before the business day was over. “What are we going to do now?” Virginia asked.
Marge shrugged. “Look for new jobs, I guess.”
So, that’s what Virginia did. In the evenings, she pored over the newspaper job wanted ads. There weren’t very many of them. During the day, she took the train into Manhattan and walked down the streets of the Business District. Nobody was hiring. Then an opportunity fell into her lap. Her former boss, Mr. Smith called. “I have a cousin in San Francisco who’s looking for a reliable bookkeeper for his small shipping business. I thought of you, Miss Sodaro. What do you think?” he asked.
Virginia didn’t need to ponder it. “Yes, I’m interested.”
A few days later, she and her mother were on a train heading west.
Marge and Lou were married in February 1934. Their first child was born in November the following year, a girl. They named her Virginia. In 1936, they moved to Long Island.
Virginia was an avid reader, books, newspapers, magazines. She discovered she had a keen interest in politics. She also enjoyed writing. She kept a diary.
In 1938-39, the economy was looking up. Virginia and Linda were homesick. In 1940, they were on a train headed to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Frank and Millie met them when they got off the transfer line in Brooklyn. Virginia was in her uncle’s arms. Linda fell into her sister’s.
“Remember that lovely boy you went tp a football game with years ago, Virginia?” Millie asked. She sat in the front of the Packard. Virginia and Linda were in the back.
“Yes, that was Bill Mallon,” Virginia replied. She thought about him from time to time. But she wouldn’t call him a boy. He was eight years older than she was.
“Well, I saw him the other day. He dropped by his sister’s house. Katie bought the mother’s house across the street from us.”
“He was a nice boy,” Linda chimed in. “You liked him, Virginia, didn’t you?” Virginia nodded.
“Well, dear,” Millie went on. “I invited him to our house for dinner tonight.”
virginia and bill were married four months later. They bought a house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, not far from Frank and Millie. Linda moved in with them. Virginia and Bill enjoyed playing golf. Frank sometimes joined them. Millie wasn’t a golfer. She preferred doting over her three grandchildren.
Marge gave birth to her second child, Frances, in 1938 and a son, Anthony in 1944. Virginia didn’t have any children.
Because Virginia’s continued interest in politics, a friend of the couple’s suggested she run for local office. “Oh, dear, no, I can’t do that,” she said, but she did. For twenty-three years Virginia held the post of co-chairman of the Republican party in her district.
Frank passed away in 1957, Millie in the 1960s. Linda died in 1972. Bill was tired of going to work and considering retirement. “We can move out to Eastern Long Island,” Bill told Virginia. “We can play golf whenever we want.”
Virginia agreed and promptly stepped down from her elected position with the Republican party.
Author’s note: I had my own bedroom at Aunt Ginny’s house, called the bicentennial room. I loved being with her. Uncle Bill died in 1980. I still went out to Aunt Ginny’s with my mom or grandparents. She wrote a column in a local newspaper. She supported and urged me to write. She was the only one I shared my poetry with.
In the early 1990’s, she fell down her basement stairs. She was okay, but afraid to live alone anymore. She moved into an assisted living facility closer to mom. She made friends there and enjoyed it. She left us for good in 1999. She was one of the most important people in my life and I’ll miss her always.
Trish Hubschman is the creator and author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series, Tidalwave, Stiff Competition and Ratings Game. Tracy is a Long Island private detective. Her sidekick, Danny Tide, is the leader of the rock band, Tidalwave.
She is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Kevin, and their miniature German shepherd mix dog, henry.
My email is palhub