On July 4th, 1951 Ada Cafueri spent the day at Yankee Stadium with the skinny guy from the around the corner. “He was older and got taller,” Ada said. But while the doubleheader amounted to a date, the pairing still fell under the umbrella of friendship, according to Ada. Even so, the unsupervised 18 innings had to meet with approval from above.
“I had to ask my father,” said Ada. “He wanted to know, ‘why can’t you go out with him after he comes home from the service.’”
Rolling with the overprotectiveness, the dutiful daughter countered that the game was tomorrow. But the final say had a lot to do with Charlie having the right lineage. “Daddy was a Yankee fan so it was ok,” Ada joked.
On 161st Street, Charlie explained the game, bought hot dogs and Joe DiMaggio hit a home run. Sitting in the middle tier, nightfall added to the aura. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was,” Ada beamed.
Of course, they came right home afterwards and a couple of dates followed. Beyond being able to hold a good conversation, Ada’s impression was positive. His father less hands on, said Ada, “He was on his own, and you could already see a father like mentality in the way he looked after his brother Bill.”
The young man was also showing signs of excelling as a manager of people and work places. “Charlie worked for Allied, and he helped reorganize the supply and distribution department,” Ada sad. “They were very pleased.”
But dating was more a social event at the time, and boys and girls weren’t rushing head long into love affairs. “I dated someone else, and so did he,” remembered Ada.
Duty did call, though, and at a nearby club, the gang held a going away celebration for Charlie’s Army stint in Germany. In this regard, the guys didn’t sell themselves short.
David and Charlie were still too drunk to drive to the Port Authority the next day so Ada drove with her friends. “I didn’t know how to drive a shift,” said Ada. “David operated the shift petal from the passenger seat.”
However, the team effort turned out to be for naught. “The Fort Dix doctor sent Charlie home, because he still had too much alcohol in his system to pass the blood test,” Ada revealed.
A month later, Charlie returned for the test, and the recruit was off. As such, the two year stationing was transformative. “It’s where I grew up and developed my plans for the future,” he wrote his mom in 1995.
Along the way, Ada and Charlie corresponded, and the letter writing led to the two friends meeting in Italy. They went to see Oklahoma together in Rome, and Charlie made sure that the show’s final curtail wasn’t the end. “When I get back to New York, you have to take me to a play,” he coyly reciprocated, according to Ada.
A friendly gesture maybe but the 1995 letter reveals that there was something more brewing as Charlie experienced it. “Little did I know that she would ultimately be my future. I must have sensed it, because she was the only one I wanted to see that night,” Charlie wrote about his December 23, 1955 return.
Even so, Ada’s return to America had her concerns turn to the job market, but a brief detour put the 21 year old on a permanent path. Her friend Antonette was getting married, and the life long friend thought Ada would make a great two week replacement.
The school agreed, and Ada cautiously took the reins. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Ada remembered upon walking into the classroom.
On the other hand, Ada felt fortunate that her friend left behind instructions, but a welcoming personality give the rookie plenty to fall back on. “After the pledge and the prayer,” she said, “I had them introduce themselves and tell me their stories.”
So by the second day, it wasn’t too bad, and the two weeks went fast. The success didn’t mean the resumes to business executives stopped, though.
But before any replies came in, Antonette again reached out. One of the nuns at the school was sick, and a three month, third grade position opened up.
56 kids to the class did not deter Ada, and St. Francis of Rome had its replacement. “The girls got attached to me,” she remembered.
The boys, on the other hand, were more of a challenge with their limited attention span. Either way, Ada drew on her childhood. “I was always a leader in the way I organized our play on the block,” she said.
So the natural affinity paying off, Ada now had the chance to see what she was getting in to. “I liked the response when the kids were successful,” Ada said. “I felt a sense of accomplishment.”
The rewards didn’t end there either. “I used to have parents give me food to take home,” Ada remembered.
The take home wasn’t all that she took away, however. Ada decided to become a teacher. After getting a job at Bloomingdale’s, she completed the necessary education courses and was soon up for job at North Belmore in 1956. “The superintendant hired me on the spot,” Ada boasted.
Making her bones, she still had to make due on a promise. “When Charlie came back, he called me on taking him to a play,” she remembered.
A good place to end the second act, stay tuned for Part III.