I was working on my Etsy Shop’s about me page, I broke down the name, RetroRufflesAndRust explaining what it means and how I came up with it. This is what I wrote,
“The Retro comes from my obsession with retro/vintage style. I think it comes from my admiration of my Grandparents. I am obsessed with the 1940′s. Ruffles comes from my love of sewing. Rust comes from my habit of dragging home old junk (sometimes rusty) and recycling/upcycling it into something fabulous. You can see bits of all of those things as you look through my eclectic creations I have for sale in my store.”
This got me thinking just how much of an inspiration my grandparent where to me and how much they influenced my life. It’s not that I had never known it but I don’t think I had ever realized the extent. It’s not until very recently that I put two and two together that the vintage items that catch my eye also strongly remind me of my grandparents.
What inspires you? I am not talking about the song on the car radio that fits your mood for the day or the feel good story about the disabled girl who took life by the horns on the Lifetime channel, I am talking about what really inspires you. Let me rephrase the question, what part of your life sets deep rooted inspiration at the very base of you? What inspirations have taken hold over you and molded you into who you have become?
I am fascinated with the 1940′s. I love the style of the time, the “look”, the way people dressed, decorated their homes, the music and the way life was lived and it all goes back to my grandparents. In the 1940′s my grandparents were in their twenty’s. They belonged to what I believe was the one of the greatest generations in history.
My Grandfather Albert or Al as he was called was born in San Francisco in 1920 to Italian immigrants, he was the oldest of two boys. Coming from a home where the only language spoke was Italian my grandpa started school not knowing any English at all, it took him until the third grade before he had learned enough to be able to communicate with his teachers. In 1923 my Grandmother Marie was born in San Francisco to an Italian mother and a Portuguese father. She was the oldest of two girls.
Al and Marie lived across the street form each other. They grew up together and they went from childhood playmates to high school sweethearts.
This picture was taken on December 6th 1941 in Yosemite. Al was 21 and Marie was 18. Look at the smiles on their faces, they were both so happy! Little did they know that in less than 24 hours from the time this picture was taken their lives would changed forever. The next day December 7th 1941 was the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
Just as many young men at the time Al enlisted in the military within weeks of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he chose the Navy. He began his training to be a Navy Radioman in 1942. He was very lucky and was not shipped out to the Pacific until 1944. While he was stationed in Virginia during his training Marie boarded a train with her Aunt and headed across the country from San Francisco to Norfolk and on February 15th 1944 she married Al. The picture below was taken on their wedding day.
They stayed together in Virginia a few months and then Al received his orders and they returned to San Francisco where he shipped out into the Pacific. It wasn’t long after he was gone that Marie found out she was pregnant. It’s hard to comprehend but there was no communication, no phone calls and in some cases no letters were aloud. Marie had moved back home where she stayed with her parents and sister during her pregnancy, her in laws were also right across the street. She spent the nine months of her pregnancy taking photos and saving them so when Al returned she could share everything with him. The picture below is of Marie at 6 months pregnant.
On January 9th 1945 Marie gave birth to a son who she named Donald, my dad. With no communication for months Al finally received a letter in June of 1945 while he was in the jungle. In that letter he learned he had a son. Al spent his last months of the war sick with malaria. He returned home to San Francisco in September of 1945 to Marie and his baby.
Al needed a job and he needed one quick in order to support his new family so he took the first one he could get as a temporary guard at the San Francisco city jail. That job led to a position with the San Francisco police department where Al worked his way up through the ranks and different departments to his final position as a homicide inspector. He worked on some of the most notorious cases in the Bay Area at the time like the Zodiac and the Zebra killings.
Marie worked outside of the home which was not the norm for the time. She also loved to cook and was a very talented cake decorator. She made a lot out of a little by darning socks, making and mending clothes, canning food as well as other things all while being a working mother.
My grandparents were genuinely good people. Strict Roman Catholics who attended mass every Sunday. They worked hard and spent their lives trying to be kind and trying to always do the right thing. What I have shared with you is just a tiny piece of their story which is a tiny piece of a much larger story, the story of the generation that they were a part of. You see it wasn’t just my grandparents but it was the mentality of the people from that time.
I have so many fond memories of my grandparents and I am so proud of the amazing people that they were. I believe that I am attracted to items from their time because it reminds me of them. It is not just about the physical though, it’s a reminder of a very honorable way of life. I think in life we are inspired by so many different people and different things and those are the building blocks that make us who we are. Step back and think about who and what really inspires you, it’s amazing to see just how much and what parts of your life those inspirations have influenced.