Remembering my Dad, who would have been 90 years old today, but passed away at the young age of 59. I’m gong to share some of the story of his life up to the time when he married Mom. Dad never said much about his childhood, so I’ve pieced together happy and sad times discovered in Nana’s “stuff.”
George Sabo, about 1947,
when he and Mom married
9 February 1926 was a difficult, but joyful day for George and Julia Sabo. Their son, George Andrew Sabo, arrived after a difficult labor. Most of the problem was his weight and Nana’s petite frame – Nana said Dad weighed nine pounds when he was born. I can’t imagine having a nine pound baby at home in 1926. Nana was barely 5′ 2″ and I don’t think she ever weighed more than 100 or so pounds, dripping wet.
George, Born at Home
George and Julia had been married for ten and a half years when Dad was born and they were thrilled with their new son, who was strong and healthy. I imagine after the sky-high infant mortality rate back in the village, which their families were used to, a healthy baby was a huge relief.
There are no photos of Dad at his baptism, but that would have happened when he was only a couple of days old, which was the Greek rite Catholic tradition. I’m sure it was linked to the infant mortality rate.
Probably the First Photo
This photo was taken upstairs in the Summer Street house, in what I knew as my grandmother’s bedroom. It isn’t the best picture, but I think it might be the first picture taken of Dad.
George and Julia, first generation Americans born to Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant parents, were doing well in life. They met sometime between November 1910, when Julia permanently returned to the United States from Udol, Slovakia (her parents had settled in Passaic, but about 1897 or 1898 made the decision to return permanently to their ancestral home) and 1915, when they were married at St. Michael’s Church on First Street in Passaic.
They worked hard and saved enough money to buy their first home together at 49 Summer Street, not long before baby George was born.
Summer with the screened in porch
49 Summer Street
George and Julia were also in the midst of opening Central Market Company in Passaic, a butcher shop financed through a partnership with Julia’s brother, Pete and their friend, Andrew Lengyel.
They were more than ready to welcome baby George into their lives.
George in Backyard, c1927
George and George, c1927
Nana freely admitted that she spoiled her son. I think she was also a bit over-protective of him, too, because he was her only child. Based on my grandfather’s clothing, it looks like it was probably a nice spring day, but Dad looks like he is ready to meet Nanook of the North!
George, George and Julia
Probably Dad’s 1st Birthday in 1927
George thrived and, from all appearances, was a happy little boy. Although he was an only child, he had cousins living nearby and they played together a lot.
Peter Scerbak, George Sabo and Emily Scerbak
When it came time to start school, Dad was enrolled at Roosevelt #10, which became my elementary school 26 years later.
George, ready for kindergarten
As far as I can tell, Dad was an average student. I only have one item from the time he attended #10. This must have been a draft of a school assignment or else it never got turned in.
Letter to Elaine
I have no idea who Elaine was, but Dad had great penmanship and it sounds like he loved the assembly at school.
Dad’s birthdays were occasions for family and friends to get together. Nana made sure notice was given to the Herald News!
9 February 1929
9 February 1930
9 February 1935
10 February 1936
Around Mother’s Day 1936, Dad would have made his First Communion at St. Michael’s Church. As an adult, he was never very religious, but Nana always was. I remember asking once why she didn’t send him to St. Michael’s School, but I don’t remember the answer. I think she felt public school with a more ethnically-mixed group of students would be better than a Catholic education with 100% Slovak children. She loved her culture and her friends, but remember back then, children were to be Americans and blend in, so off to #10 he went.
First Communion with Cousins
Emily, Peter and Julia Scerbak
At this point, all looked rosy and bright for the little Sabo family, but all was not as it appeared. Even though it had been years since he worked in the mills, George Sr. developed tuberculosis and died on the day after Thanksgiving , Friday, 27 November 1936.
Funeral Prayer Card
George was the first family member to be buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Garfield. Julia and Dad both survived him by 49 years, but joined him there in 1985.
Sabo Plot at St. Michael’s Cemetery
Nana continued to work at Central Meat Company, keeping the books, and raising Dad on her own. She and Dad continued to live in the house on Summer Street. It was built as a 2 family home, but I don’t think she ever rented out an entire floor in the house.
Dad graduated from Passaic High School in 1944.
Dad always loved sports, especially playing baseball and football, but he didn’t play on his high school teams. I think that was Nana’s doing – she was afraid he’d get hurt.
World War II was still raging on when Dad graduated in June 1944. He had turned 18 that year and was called up. However, Nana knew a lot of people around the city and Dad was rejected as physically unfit! This was the same Dad who said he could have played minor league professional baseball right out of high school.
Rejected for Service
Nana had lost her husband 8 years before and she wasn’t about to take a chance on losing her son. I don’t know how she managed it and no one has ever explained this, but I am sure she talked to someone with authority who issued this certificate of “unfitness.”
New Year’s Card, c1945
I am not sure what year this picture was taken, but everyone looks like they are near the end of high school or maybe recently graduated. Dad is in the center of the photo, but I don’t have any idea who any of his friends are.
World War II came to an end. Dad was out of high school and, although Nana managed to get him admitted to Notre Dame, he had no aspirations to go to college, so he went out job hunting.
George at Fairleigh Dickinson Job Forum
There is no date on this news clipping, but Dad certainly looks like a recent high school graduate. He ended up in a career as a purchasing agent, which he enjoyed.
He met Mom, Doris Priscilla Adams, sometime after he graduated from Passaic High School and 6 June 1947, when they were married.
Mom and Dad, about the time they married in 1947
My memories of Dad include Al Jolson and Roaring 20’s music, which he loved, Yankee baseball games on the radio in the summer and not very successful attempts teaching me to ballroom dance.
Dancing with Dad, c1959
Dad loved to dance and his teaching method was to have me stand on his feet, raising each and moving along to the music. I was always his “little girl” and until I started school, I was often called “Lindy Lou.” No, my middle name wasn’t Lou, it’s Anne, so I’m not sure where that came from.
Nana’s Valentine from Lindy in 1953
I also remember us sitting in our rocking chairs watching TV – it was channel 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, or 13 and that was it!
Dad and Linda, Rocking Away, c1958
About this time, my teacher gave a class assignment in which we were to write all about our dads. It was probably in June for Father’s Day, just before school finished for the summer. From the size of the lines on the paper, This was probably written when I was in second grade.
Linda’s Thoughts on Dad
We lived with Nana in Passaic and she lived with us when we moved to Wayne. In Passaic, she lived upstairs and whenever she needed help, Dad would go up and do whatever needed to be done.
Fixing Something for Nana Upstairs, c1957
Dad loved Nana and was always there for her in later years, just as she was there for him after George Sr. died. I remember being very jealous of the beautiful Valentine cards he gave her and the HUGE gorgeous heart shaped box of chocolates. (It was really the chocolate box I envied!)
Valentine’s Day, Long Ago
Dad also loved us. I was always his little girl,
Dad and Linda, c1953
but he was thrilled when my brother arrived in 1957.
Dad and Mike, c1959
Do you notice anything about Dad in these last two pictures? Yep, Dad was a heavy smoker – Camels – for all of his adult life. It caught up with him early, as he died of lung cancer six weeks after his 59th birthday. If not for that, he might be here today to celebrate his 90th with us.
R.I.P. Dad. We love you and miss you.