Wednesday holiday recap

Growing up Christmas Eve celebrations were always at 18 Newton.  It was my great grandmother’s house so her four kids and their kids all came over to open gifts.  It was a Polish family so some of the old world traditions were observed.  Passing around the Opłatek and saying a blessing as it was passed.  It is an unleavened wafer that is similar to communion at mass.

But we made our own as well that fit that family.  Normally, there would be no red meat at a Polish Christmas, instead fish would be served.  We had a Krakus ham.  Everyone was required to have a have a ham sandwich on fresh baked bread before presents could be opened.  There was no twelve course meal.  The adults had a lot of alcohol, there were no traditional fruit drinks.

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Here is Joanne Switkowski with three grandchildren and three great grandchildren taken on Christmas eve probably 1977.

Another long family tradition that ended with my great grandmother’s death was the stocking pictures.  All of the kids were required to stand with the giant red stocking.  I have no idea when it started or where all of the pictures ended up.  But, here is a small selection of the us with the stocking.

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Pictures from the estate of Joann Harris


Christmas time at Newton street started the day after Thanksgiving.  I would clean the living room and dining room and get the tree set up and decorated.  After that was weeks of cookie making by my mother.  She made at least a dozen types of cookies and a couple hundred each.  We kept them in tin containers until Christmas eve.

On Christmas Eve morning the food was started early.  baked ham and oven baked bread were the staples.  One of my main jobs was setting up the plates, cups, and candle holders in the ling room.  The candle holders were made by my Uncle Joe when he was at Corpus Christi elementary school.  The other big thing was the old fashioned peculator coffee maker.    The family lived on coffee.  It was a 40 cup machine that usually needed to be refilled twice during the night.  Cookies were brought out and everything had to be ready for 5 pm when family started arriving.

More in the next blog.


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Wednesday recap

JJ (28)

Once again we are at 18 Newton St.  My great grandmother Joanne sitting on the front porch.  When I lived there it was concrete steps with iron railings.  My great grandmother was still sitting there.  Most summer days she would sit at the top of the steps and wait for neighbors to walk by and update her on goings on in the neighborhood.  I would sit at the bottom of the steps with my dog.

The place is now owned by a management company that replaced the front door with a grey metal security door.  The front bushes that are two feet here are now almost ten feet tall and unruly.

Wednesday recap

JJ (10)

This picture was taken in 1955 at the family home at 18 Newton St. in Buffalo.  Before I mention the people in the picture I need to point out the hand crank pencil sharpener on the counter on the left.  That sharpener was still there in 2008 when my mother finally sold the house.

Back to the people, starting on the is my great grandmother Joanne Switkowski nee Gulcewski.  The rest are her grandchildren.  Right next to Joanne is Joseph Surdyk. Next is the oldest grandchild my mom, Joann Alajko Harris, then Joe’s sister Martha Surdyk.  Behind her is Kathy (Tina) Alajko Kurek.  Next to Tina is her brother Joseph Alajko.

I will guess based on Joe standing next to his grandmother that this is his early birthday party.  Joe was born July 7, 1947.

Four of the people are still with us, both Joanne and Joann are gone.