My father, Joseph Carey, grew up in the South Wedge section of Rochester. From about 1925 to 1930 my dad delivered the Democrat & Chronicle in his neighborhood. His day would begin at 3:30 a.m. when he would ride his bike down to the D & C building, which was on Main Street. Although it looks very different today, at that time the Main Street bridge was lined with buildings that completely blocked the view of the river. After he picked up his papers, my father would often stop by Hall’s Bakery at the corner of Andrews and Front streets and buy a donut for a nickel before continuing on his way back to Hickory, Gregory, Averill, and other streets in the South Wedge to deliver his papers before dawn.
Once a week he would collect money from his customers. He told me that after 1929, when the Depression hit, he would occasionally have to “carry” some folks for a week or two, because they were unemployed and had trouble paying. That money would come out of his own pocket. The paper was so important to his customers because the Help Wanted ads were their only resource for finding work.
During the early years of the Depression my dad lived with his mom and five sisters and brothers in a single parent home. His mother did whatever she could to support her family, including wet nursing, midwifery, laundry, and doing “piece work” on two industrial-sized sewing machines set up in the living room. One of her sewing jobs was making baby shoes for a local shoe factory for about 3 cents per shoe.
My father’s grandmother found more interesting ways of making money including reading tarot cards and tea leaves, and during Prohibition, making bootleg whiskey from a still in the basement of her home on Averill Ave. As a boy, my father used to monitor the speed of the drips in the still for his grandmother, who would then tell him to turn the gas up or down. She would also send him on his bicycle to the Fleischmann Yeast Company on Pearl Street to buy yeast for her whiskey making. When asked why he needed so much yeast (two pounds on every trip to Fleischmann’s) he was told to say: “My grandmother makes a lot of bread.”
My mother, Clare Louise Harvey Carey, was born in 1915 in a house at 31 Beaufort Street in Swillburg. After attending Blessed Sacrament church and grammar school, she went to Mercy High School where she was president of the second graduating class in 1933. She would get to high school by boarding the subway at Goodman Street, getting off at Winton Road and walking the rest of the way down Blossom Road to Mercy H.S. At the end of the day, she followed the same route in reverse to get back home. She often told me how much she enjoyed riding the subway during those years.