Steve and Anne Szalay

Born in Budapest Hungary

I remember my grandfather and grandmother the one thing I remember the most was when I was a young teenager. I called my brother the m-word in front of my grandfather. He picked me up by the throat, slam me against the wall, and I could see the fire in his eyes. He said if anybody ever said that to him, he would chase them 20 miles and cut their throat. Scared the hell out of me.

Joann, Phyllis, Richard, Norman and Mitzi

I remember my grandfather telling me about the Hungarian army. He was an officer. He had seven horses the more horses you have in the Hungarian military, the higher up and rank you are. Seven horses are a lot. They fought on horseback with swords and a lot of border skirmishes.

My grandmother and grandfather came to America through Ellis Island. They were Church mice poor, and when they died, they were millionaires.

When I was young, I would watch my grandfather eat an apple. When he was finished, the only thing left was the stem. They knew what it was like to be hungry. That’s why they came to America.

My grandfather was a ditch digger. In those days, you did it with a pick and shovel. My grandmother scrubbed St. Paul, MN, capitol building floors on her hands and knees. I remember the square foam pads she used to use to kneel on. She made a lot of Hungarian sausages and other Hungarian food and sold them to government officials. Over the years, they made many friends, and when they retired, they would come and visit my grandmother and grandfather in Alhambra, California.

One time my grandfather would have a little bottle of wine he would sip on to stay warm while digging the ditches in the winter. He had gotten drunk and passed out in the ditch, and his legs froze. They took him to the hospital, telling my grandmother they would have to amputate his legs. My grandmother threw her hands up, went to my grandfather’s room, picked him up, carried him out of the hospital, took him home, and made him well. His legs were never the same, but he had them. She had a lot of home remedies. I remember she helped my dad when he had a bad back and always gave me a spoonful of some syrup.

I remember when my grandmother bought the Alhambra house, they were living with my Aunt Betty at the time. Now, remember my grandmother couldn’t speak a word of English. They went over to talk to the owner of the house. He was going to carry the contract. He wanted to draw interest in the monthly payments. My grandmother told him to put in the agreement that she could pay the house off at any time. My aunt Margaret would translate for my grandmother. He figured this dumb Hungarian they’re never going to get the money to pay the house off. So the next day, my grandmother paid him off cash. She was an intelligent lady. She owned three homes in Minnesota.

I remember my grandmother used to set us four kids on the sofa we were young. She would give each of us a needle, a spool of thread, and a light bulb. We had to sew the buttons on our shirts and the holes in our socks. We’d stick the light bulb in the stocking to sew up the hole in them.

I remember my grandfather and grandmother raising chickens and selling fryers and eggs. I remember my grandfather working in the yard most of the day. He would come in every once in a while. He have a cold beer and rests his legs. He plays solitaire. I remember he poor beer in a clear white glass about 1/4 inch deep for me. It was so good I can still remember it to this day.

I remember Sunday dinners, it’s a big thing. Sunday dinner was a formal dinner. You would take a Saturday night bath. My brother and I would have to take a bath together my two sisters would have to take their bath together. We would have to where our suits ties shoes had to be shined. We’d have to carry a hair comb in our back pocket and a hanky. We would take shifts going to church because there were so many, and some had to stay home and do the cooking. I can still remember that breaded fried chicken. All week we would have our meals in the kitchen, but on Sunday, we would eat in the dining room. Everything was formal. I remember the fancy salt and pepper shaker, chandelier lights, pictures, plates, and silverware. We will use these on Sunday. First, it was soup. I still remember homemade noodles in homemade chicken soup. The salad I can remember the lattice was crispy, the tomatoes taste like tomatoes. The vegetables were from my grandmother’s garden. Everything was perfect because I can still remember it.

My uncle Steve and Alfred (Al), my father, fought in the Second World War. My aunts and mother worked aircraft factories. I remember we used to have air raids where we would have to turn off all the lights. I remember my mother would pack a lunch for us kids and leave it at the bottom of the stairs. There would be one Snickers candy bar she would cut four ways.

I remember my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, and uncles moving to California from St. Paul, MN. My mother and father stayed behind because my father was managing two filling stations. Every time I would write a letter to my grandmother and grandfather, my aunts and uncles would answer it and tape a dime in the letter. $0.10 was a big thing in those days. A movie cost $0.09 an all-day sucker was a penny. My mother and father were church mice poor. We had one two-Wheeler bike we had to share. It had no tires, and one of the pedals was missing. But we still rode it. I remember one day when I was coming home from school. There was a crowd of people by the house. I was scared. I thought something terrible had happened. When I got home I saw four brand-new four-wheel bicycles, fully loaded shock absorbers, horn bells, and chainguard kickstand fenders. I think my brother was a Schwinn, and mine was a Hawthorne. My grandmother bought the bikes in California and had them shipped to us in Minnesota

I got sick, and they thought I had leukemia. I had some blood disease. So my dad put me on the plane for California and had my aunts take me to Children’s Hospital. He sold his business and the home, and the family drove from St. Paul, MN, to San Gabriel, CA.

I remember my grandfather had this pocketknife and used it all the time. They were very old when they passed away. My grandmother had a heart attack, and my grandfather died of colon cancer.

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