didnít take long after the New Year for events to unfold. In March of
1950, Bugs and Helen got married. Helen was just 19-years old and in
those days the legal age was 21, which meant she needed permission from
her parents. There was a slight complication, however, it seems that
Helen was pregnant.
They went to Monsignor Rector at St. Anthonyís
Catholic Church for the marriage ceremony, but he wouldnít marry them
without telling her parents, who were living in Tucson, Arizona at the
time. A phone call to Frank and Lillian Mininni and the happy couple
One other little bit of information; they had a
co-conspirator. It seems Bugs had to sneak some clothes out of the house
on Adams Street because he didnít want mama to know he was getting
married. She would have thrown a fit if her blue-eyed baby left her. I
managed to get Bugsí bags out of the house and the happy couple got
hitched without a hitch.
Anna Carrocci was very angry when she found out
that Bugs and Helen were married. She didnít like Helen for years
afterwards. It was about 10 years before she finally accepted Helen and
gave her a wedding present.
I went out for spring training for Steuben-ville
High Schoolís football team. I had made All-City guard the previous
fall and did very well. At the end of the training period, I was playing
second string varsity guard, right behind a guy named Calvin Jones.
Jones went on to get a football scholarship from the University of Iowa
and became an All American in 1953. But my Big Ten aspirations were not
Be that as it may, the plans for leaving were made and a going away party was scheduled. Theresa said goodbye to her best friend Rosie Bevalaqua and posed for pictures with Pete and Anna. All the sons, daughters-in-law and grand-children were at the house on Adams Street to say farewell.
The four travelers managed to put on smiles for the camera that last night at their old home. The next day they packed up their belongings, hitched up a four-by -five foot trailer to the old Plymouth and headed west. The speed limit in those days was 50 miles-an-hour and it would take about four days to reach Tucson, Arizona. Mama, Theresa and I had no idea what was waiting for us.
The most vivid memory of that whole trip was the heat. As they left Ohio in late June it was hot and humid. As they got to the Midwest it was hotter and even more humid. When they got to the southwest it was just plain hot. That should be hot with a capitol H. The old car did not have air conditioning, so the windows were always down. The only cool water on the trip was from a desert water bag that hung on the front of the car. The evaporation cooled the water.
Pop was the only driver: Theresa was old enough, but didnít have a license and at 14-years old, I was too young. It seemed like the trip took forever, especially with three unhappy people. Mama because she was leaving all her children, grand-children and friends; Theresa and I because our young lives were being ruined (we thought).
Anna, Theresa and I almost fainted the first time we saw the tent
in which pop was living. We couldnít believe we had given up a nice,
big house for such a Spartan hovel. Besides, it was June 26, 1950 and it
seemed hotter than hell.
There was very little money and the little family
was barely scraping by. We did the only thing we could and that was for
all of us to go to work. Pop continued selling the Watkins Products;
mama got a job washing dishes at a restaurant not too far away; Theresa
got a job at a small cafť in downtown Tucson; and I got a job as a
ranch-hand on a small ranch nearby.
The ranch had about a dozen or so cows, but a lot
of barbed-wire fence. I really thought I was going to be a cowboy, but
all I did was fix fences. They gave me a bag of staples, a hammer, a
pair of side-cutters and a roll of barbed-wire. My job was to walk along
the fence, tighten any loose wire, and replace the lost wire. I was some
kind of cowboy. I did get to ride a horse twice when they had to move
All that hot, miserable summer pop, mama, Theresa and I pooled our money and slowly began to gain our way back to solvency. By the middle of August we had saved enough money to rent a small furnished apartment on South Sixth Avenue on Tucsonís south side. It was a two bedroom place; one room for pop and mama and one room for Theresa, who is pictured here. I slept out on the couch. It was a lot better than that miserably hot tent and tiny trailer.
In the background of this picture of me, you can see the Catalina
Market and Grocery. The owners of that small store were a couple of
German descent and were Catholics. They talked me into being baptized at
a church nearby after I had taken Catechism. I was 14-years old when
that happened and when this picture was taken. Pop never said a word
Everyone continued working: papa the door-to-door
salesman; mama the dishwasher; Theresa the waitress; and I, no longer a
cowboy, got a job pumping gas at a service station nearby. The little
two pump station was on the northeast corner of Liberty Avenue and Ajo
The station sponsored a stock car, which raced
every Saturday night at the quarter-mile dirt track at the Pima County
Fairgrounds. It wasnít long before I was in the pit crew, changing
tires and making sure there was enough gas in the tank for the upcoming
On Sundays, I would help the mechanics tear down
the engine of the race car and get it ready for the weekend races. In
hardly any time at all, I was a fairly good mechanic myself. Those old
flat head engines werenít as complicated as todayís over-head valve
Popís health continued to improve. He was a
different man; he had lost a lot of weight and was maintaining a very
healthy diet. He was growing stronger every week. His recovery was so
good that he managed to get a job at Hughes Aircraft Company at the big
plant south of town.
It didnít matter to any of us that pop was a
janitor. He now had a good job with a good income and benefits and life
got steadily better. Mama quit working and stayed home to take care of
Theresa was attending Tucson Senior High School and
I went going to Wakefield Junior High. No football for me. The school
didnít have a tackle football program, just flag and that wasnít
good enough for this would-be star. I did play on the baseball team the
spring of 1951.
The finances of the Pete Carrocci family improved so much that
mom and pop were able to buy a small two-bedroom house at 202 W.
Veterans Blvd. on Tucsonís south side.
The house had one bedroom on the east front part
and one on the east back side. There was a bathroom with a tub and
shower also on the east side. There was a small living room right inside
the front door and a small kitchen behind that. In the back of the house
was another small room and thatís where I slept. A large evaporative
cooler kept the house livable in the desert heat.
Pop had a small garden and a small work shed in the
backyard, along with a grape trellis and small swing. Life was good,
again. It was just on a smaller scale.
It was during 1952 that Theresa Ann met Bob Bell and fell madly
in love. Bob was from South Haven, Michigan and was stationed at the
base at Marina, Arizona while in the Air Force. He liked the area so
much that he decided to stay. Theresa and Bob were married October 18,
In 1953 I joined the Arizona National Guard. One of my buddies at
high school, Jack Lyons, lived next door to the Commanding Officer of
the unit and he talked Jack and me into joining. The unit was a tank
company and had M-4 Sherman tanks from WWII. I spent the first weekend
climbing around the tanks and getting generally filthy and decided there
must be some-thing better to do. I also pulled K-P. During the following
drill I joined the mess section and became a cook.
In my senior year, I decided to play football again
and was surprised to make the varsity team. Thatís me on the left side,
number 94. I played offensive left tackle and defensive tackle and
linebacker. The team had been state champs the year before, but couldnít
repeat. One of the players was declared ineligible for being over the age
limit and we had to forfeit the first four games, which we had won.
I didnít win any honors playing ball, but the
coaches did manage to get me a half-scholarship to a small California
school Iíd never heard of. Where was Pepperdine College anyway? It
didnít matter; I couldnít afford to continue my formal education.
On Valentineís Day 1954 I took Marcia Rae Sgutt
to the school dance and we dated steadily the rest of the school year.
After the senior prom we went our separate ways.
I graduated from high school in June of 1954 and
shortly after went to the U.S. Army Food Service School at Fort Ord,
California. I finished the eight-week course on August 15th and
was third in the class.
Also in í54, the small Bell family moved to South Haven,
Michigan, where Bob and Terry opened a Laundromat. Robin Ann was born on
November 20th of that year.
They worked hard for a few years trying to make the small business go, but Bob eventually had to get another job to make ends meet. They finally closed the Laundromat and moved back to Tucson. Theresa worked at a doctorís office and Bob worked as an electrician.
In January of 1955, Tina Carrocci was born to Julie and Virginia. They now had two girls, Tina and Signa Jean and one boy, Robbie Ray.
Pete Carrocci was thriving by the mid-50s. He was healthy and
strong. His little garden was flourishing and once again providing greens,
beans and fruit for the table. There was a fig tree and an olive tree in
the back yard. He said it was almost like being back in Italy.
There were even friends around with which to discuss
various topics. One man in particular believed the earth was flat and Pete
would spend hours trying to convince him otherwise.
Going to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico was a favorite thing when Pete and
Annaís sons came to visit.
Hereís Julie and I posing in front of a curio shop in
Nogales. The gift items were cheap and so was the liquor. It was easy to
stock up on scotch, rum or bourbon before heading back to Steubenville,
Wintersville, or Weirton.
The Larry Martin family continued to grow. Michael Paul was born November 22, 1956 and Keith Martin joined them October 21, 1958. By this time, Larry was running a foundry in Mansfield, Ohio.
Joseph Peter Carrocci was born July 8, 1957 to Joe and Dodo. They are shown here on a visit to see Pete and Anna in Tucson. It was a long drive from the Ohio Valley to Tucson and not all the sons could afford to make the trip.
In January of 1957 I married Shirley A. Gilliland of Tucson. Now
the last of the Pete and Anna children was married and out on his own. For
the first time in their marriage Pete and Anna were living alone.
They had a nice house and a nice garden. By this time, Pete had retired from Hughes Aircraft Company. With a small pension from Hughes, the small medical pension from the mill, and social security they could make ends meet.