The Strand Theatre-West Blocton, Alabama.
You are a 14 year old girl at the movies. The movie stops suddenly and a man walks onstage to make an announcement.
We have been attacked at Pearl Harbor.
It is December 7, 1941.
You would have to wait until the next day when the newspaper comes out to tell you where Pearl Harbor is even located.
You remember being afraid of bombing and mandatory “blackouts” that required covering your windows with blankets at night.
You move first to help an Aunt and Uncle with six kids that summer in Arizona. Your family would later follow.
The mining community better known as “Little Italy” would become vacant.
You later work at a grocery store where you separate and tally ration stamps. These coupons were required for meat, sugar, coffee, and canned goods. Even gas and shoes.
You remember that blue ration coupons were canned goods and red were for meat.
You remember and remember and remember.
You are Mrs. Hilda Holland Tozzi.
A local historian who has not lived here in over 70 years.
At 92 years old, you have given many of us the priceless treasures hidden in your memory.
Technology has allowed you to share not only your grandparents but mine.
I am amazed that you gave directions to your grandparents bread oven.
When the rock was stacked and bread was baked, you told me that you could smell it all over the hillside.
People would find excuses to visit your grandparents when bread was baking.
I love to imagine you at a computer giving directions to your cousin Charles. Go to the bend in the creek, turn around, go 200 feet, turn left, there it is…
It is so wonderful to know that it would be moved and enjoyed by 5 generations of Farnetti children over a century later thanks to you.
It was Charles that said I needed to write a story about you.
After I talked to you for an hour and a half, I agree. But I have to admit Mrs. Hilda-you deserve a novel.
I have 8 pages of notes, a few hours of my time, but my heart is still so full.
The beauty in your comments stands out.
When you talk about the Great Depression, you say “we never went without”.
“We pooled our resources and we kept each other alive. Life was different. Simple. No distractions.”
And I believe you.
You tell me how Fonso Farnetti bought all of the punch board raffle tickets to help raise money for my grandmother Maudie to have a glass eye.
I remember my Aunt Genevieve and my Dad both saying how much her eye bothered her.
But to me, she was a beauty. I never knew your family played a part in that.
Just for a moment, you gave me my grandmother. Not just her pain, her healing.
There is always a desire in all of us to understand who we are and where we came from.
When someone like you shares your stories, it is more precious than gold.
Thank you for sharing your time and memories with me Mrs. Hilda. I hope your New Year is as wonderful as you.
And I am so thankful that your memory is just like that bread oven,
Built to last…