I grew up in Binghamton, which is in the Southern Tier section of New York State, not far from the Pennsylvania border. I had, and have, two sisters, Leslie Ellen Green, born about 16.5 months after my birth, and Marcia Elayne Green, born a little more than five years after me.
We grew up with our parents, Leslie Harold Green and Gertrude Elizabeth (nee Williams) Green, at 5 Gaines Street in the city’s First Ward. When I was born, my parents lived upstairs in the two-family dwelling, but soon my parents moved to the first floor, and my paternal grandparents, McKinley Green and Agatha (nee Walker) Green then lived upstairs.
The house was owned by my maternal grandmother, Gertrude (nee Yates) Williams, who lived a half dozen blocks away at 13 Maple Street with her baby sister Adenia (Deana) Yates. Our house was a small place, with a living room, a couple bedrooms, kitchen and what was essentially a large hallway.
After Marcia was born, when the girls were destined to get the second bedroom, my father built a couple walls in the hallway to create a very small bedroom for me. He painted the solar system on my ceiling.
Our mother worked at McLean’s department store downtown, first as an elevator operator, then later in the bookkeeping department. Although we were supposed to attend Oak Street Elementary School, since we went to Grandma Williams’ house for lunch, it was determined that we would instead go to Daniel Dickinson school instead. This, of course, had a profound effect on us in terms of who our childhood friends were, a surprising number of which we still are in touch with.
Our father had several jobs: truck driver, florist, painter (both artistic and sign painting). He had a job working at IBM for about six years. It was at night, and it wasn’t particularly intellectually stimulating, moving inventory on some conveyance.
When Dad quit his job to work for something called Opportunities for Broome, a project funded the US Office of Economic Opportunity, my ninth grade homework teacher, Mr. Joseph, told me that my father was crazy. NO ONE left IBM in those days, and certainly not for some likely short-term government job. Frankly, I thought it was a great decision, and time proved this to be correct.
Grandma Green died in 1964. She was one of my Sunday school teachers, and she taught me how to play the card game canasta. I taught my Aunt Deana how to play canasta, and we also played 500 rummy and other card games; she died a couple years after Grandma Green. I played bid whist and pinochle with my parents.
Each of my parents was an only child. This meant that my sisters and I never had uncles, aunts or first cousins. This makes our tribe rather small these days, with our parents deceased, and each of my sisters and I each having just one child, a daughter.