Mary's First Romantic Interest: Gus Mostick


At 15, my sister Mary was very well developed not only in figure but mind. She was interested in boys and the boys were interested in Mary. Courtship was different in those days, and according to our family there were strict and time tested rules that had to be followed.

Our parents desire was that their eldest daughter would meet and marry a man who was from a good and proper family, Catholic, and of courser Polish!

It would have been difficult for them to think otherwise. They were in the New World, but their ideas were formulated from the old. They thought in terms of their homeland, Poland. There suitable suitors were from a homogeneous community that was Catholic and of course, Polish. One only had to be certain that young man came from a good and proper family.

The patch in contrast was small and this limited Mary's social circle. And as small as the patch was it was further divided into other well defined communities of Lithuanians Slovaks and Italians. A11 of these original immigrants were of the same mindset as my parents.

The few available Polish suitors were either too old, too young, or worst of ail totally undesirable!

One and one-half miles south, and on the other side of the railroad track was another more homogeneous community of Greeks, called Brooklyn. Although reasonably close: they were shunned by most of the older Eastern European immigrants because of their different religion and calendar. Discrimination prospered in the patches where it was considered unthinkable to marry outside your religion or nationality.

The Greeks were the latest wave of immigrants to arrive in a the anthracite coal region. Most of these were adventurous young single men who had come at the beckoning of the coal companies who canvassed Europe looking for cheap labor. These young men boarded with established families. In those days boarding was a common practice; a necessity for any widow with children, and a way for others with small families to increase their families income.

These were the young entrepreneurs, the fledglings who risked all for this new life--accepting whatever the coal company or the community had to offer.

Gus Mostick was one such fledgling. At age 22, he had been in the United States 3 years. Gus was well embodied. His dark Mediterranean good looks and muscular body were characteristic and attractive to the young women of Eastern European descent.

Initially Gus worked for his Uncle Aris who was a contract miner in the strippings. His uncle had prospered and so had Gus, under his tutelage. When he was twenty his uncle slipped from the mine ledge and fell 30 feet into the pit seriously damaging his left leg. Further work in the strippings was impossible.

Fortunately his Uncle Aris was one of the few men in the Brooklyn patch able to save a modest sum- possibly because his wife was barren and they had no children.

After his accident he was able to buy into a beer distributorship in Mahanoy City, a small city four mites from Brooklyn. His nephew, and protege came to drive one of his beer wagons. As Gus's only relative in the New World, he was his protector. ''It is no good for a young man to work in the mines. The mines will kill you or cripple you for life".

Gus was personable and bright. He could not only converse in English but knew Slovak and Polish.

Mary met him at a wedding that she attended with one of her girl friends. News traveled fast in the patch and after only two dates Ma heard about Gus. She was very upset and forbade her to ever again date Gus Mostick. I can still hear Ma's chastisement ''No Polish girl can marry a Greek ! What calendar would you follow? What Christmas would you celebrate? What church would baptize your children? And look at their homes- they're black with dirt".

Ma was on a tear and when Ma was upset, everyone was upset- but still thankful that they were not the object of her anger.

Mary was indignant but could not voice her concerns. She was also very fair and felt that Ma's criticism of the Greek community of Brooklyn was unfair. True their houses were blacker than most but they were also situated closer to the mines and the railroad track. Trains passed twice daily expelling large billowing clouds of soot. ''But Ma you need to see their homes. inside they are scrubbed and clean".

Mary was determined to plot her own course, and the truce would be short lived.