My maternal grandparents, Antonio W. and Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence, were born, grew up and raised their daughters in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.
They had spent their lives, even after they married, in close proximity to their extended families. So when 1950 rolled around and they were about to become empty nesters at midlife, they clearly longed for something new.
Gramps at age 47
My maternal grandfather Antonio was a jack of all trades. Known as Tony to his peers, he was Gramps to our family — the oldest son of Italian immigrant Peter Di Lorenzo (anglicized to Laurence) and Mary “Mamie” Curcio, a first-generation Italian American (who we called Little Grandma because of her short stature).
Gramps was a skilled machinist who had studied auto mechanics in Detroit. He was also a veteran of his father Peter’s garage and auto parts business — and in 1940 was the proprietor of a used car business. By 1950, however, Gloversville was starting to decline and he was contemplating a new future.
Boom at age 44
My maternal grandmother Elizabeth, known to us a Boom after I mispronounced Grandma as Booma, also wanted a change at midlife.
Boom was young as grandmothers went, and always kept up with the latest fashions, footwear and accessories. She was modern in other ways, too. She learned to drive and loved to get behind the wheel — and she wasn’t shy about hitting the gas pedal, either.
She had also attended teacher’s college, but put her skills on hold while raising a family. As 1950 dawned, Boom dreamed of putting her skills and creativity to work once more.
My grandparents’ bold move
When the census taker called in April 1950, my grandparents were preparing for their bold move.
Their plan? To leave their Gloversville hometown to find a property large enough to house them, my parents, me and my future siblings — and to establish their own money-making businesses.
Hence, as revealed by the 1950 census, they lived in a rented apartment, my grandfather had left his job and was “looking for work” — as was my father, since our family would be joining them. And that’s how we all ended up at Whispering Chimneys in 1951 — a 10 acre farm in Altamont, Albany Co., N.Y. (Shown below.)
Leaving family behind
Meanwhile, my grandparents’ transition was not easy for the family they left behind. Although Altamont was only an hour from Gloversville by car, Little Grandma (Gramps’s mom) was beside herself.
“She cried and hugged him and carried on like he was never coming back,” Dad told me. But Gramps was determined and eyed the barn at the farm for his future machine shop.
Meanwhile, Boom cleared a farm building down by the road for a shop specializing in country and early American antiques and collectibles.
“She absolutely loved that shop,” my mom told me.
Boom named her business Whispering Chimneys Antiques and took full advantage of its location along Route 20 — a major thoroughfare before the New York State Thruway was built.
A well-matched team
At midlife, Boom and Gramps appeared to be a well-matched couple with similar aspirations. When she had ideas, Gramps had the practical skills to assist — building this and that as needed, like a sign for her shop or a bank of windows to let light into the barn.
Together my maternal grandparents made a good team — and how wonderful to have the 1950 US census catalog them just as they were planning their bold move.
Up next: Family occupation descriptions in the 1950 US census. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
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