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My introduction to public school near Syracuse University was most unpleasant as my inability to speak English attracted so much attention and ridicule that I concentrated intently on learning English and soon forgot all my Italian. I was called "Dago" and the like by those "bad little boys" and received more than one bloody nose. Such children refused to be impressed with the fact that I as much an American, if not more, than many of them. That situation infuriated me the more I studied American History, my favorite subject in grammer school. Perhaps it was there that a deep and lasting love of our country was born in me. There never was a time since, an occasion, when the Star Spangled Banner was played, or our flag raised, that I have not been thrilled and held my head a little higher.
Never will I forget the wonder and joy of seeing my first Barnum and Bailey circus, none of the first Christmases when my maiden aunts came from New York bringing wonderful presents, nor of the exciting winter carnivals held on our hilly street. Lanterns dimly lighted the iced track down which long bob-sleds loaded with young people would tear at great speed. One morning, I was on such a sled when we scared two horses hitched to an ice-wagon which panicked and ran over us seriously injuring two girls, while I was not hurt. How I enjoyed those winters and long summers given over to basefall, tennis, and various athletic events. But above all I loved the Fall with their football games. Such exercize helped my physique and muscular development which was to prove an asset on later years.
When father was appointed Dean of Fine Arts of Syracuse University we moved to a large 14 room brick home on historic Genesee Street and resulted in a gradual change of my associates. Our summers were spent at a lake such as Ontario, Skaneateles, or on beautiful Keuka at Gibson's Landing which was to later mean much to me. Then I practically lived on the water, learned how to handle boats, canoes, and - what was most important - sail boats. At Keuka mother rented a 16 foot boat, The Pancake, for me which I'd sail regardless of weather and often when mine would be the only boat under sail. Poor mother worried more than I knew and the day came, of course, when with my brother we ended up hanging onto the upturned Pancake until drifted ashore where we managed to right her. From then on I was called "Captain Vic of the Pancake", often teasingly so within the family circle. Little did I dream what I one day would be doing on Keuka Lake.
My father died when I was fourteen and the expressions of grief on all sides, including newspaper editorials, brought me the realization of how highly he was regarded and how little I really knew him. Mother was left the difficult task of raising three active boys - my sister being no problem - as father was involved with his duties which included advising and helping all who appealed to him leaving little fitme for us. lacking father's income necessitated losing our lovely home and moving into an apartment. Along with my brother, I was at an age when a strong guiding hand was needed, but mother's was a devoted hand and tender, loving heart.
At that time I had a newspaper afternoon route of 75 customers scattered over much of University hill requiring my walking a total in excess of four and a half miles which was also good for my physical development. For that chore I received all of $1.50 per six day week which provides a comparison of the dollar value then against today and the effort required to earn one. (1896 vs 1959)
It was essential for we three brothers to ease mother's financial burden as much as possible. Paul joined a wholesale clothing house; Stephen secured an appointment to West Point; and I, with one year of High School, became a bank runner and later a mechanic's helper at Solvay Process Works. My education came largely through family upbringing and association with the so-called "best family" children. It was out of the question for me to hold up my financial end in such relationships which was not a good influence. The realization came to me as I grew older that such children are not necessarily the best associates for a growing boy at an impressionable age. Some incidents left an imprint that has often caused me to soften judgement of the escapades and tendencies of modern youth.
The foregoing is related to explain certain influences that prompted me to take an introspective look that resulted in my enlisting in the U.S. Army in early July for the required period of three years with my seventeen years of experience.