By Charles Ciechanowski-Chinoski-Chase
The family doctor was Dr. Halushka who provided many good old fashioned medical services to the family. On 27 June, 1939 Charles Anthony, the last of four children, was born at Herman Kiefer Hospital in downtown Detroit. On his birth certificate, Joseph’s occupation is shown as unemployed.
In 1940, Joseph went to work as a machinist for Detroit Transmission Division, which later became General Motor’s Hydramatic Division.
The home on Fisher Avenue was on a 40 X 100 ft lot. Therefore, it was difficult to have any meaningful vegetable garden. To solve this problem, Joseph purchased 3 acres on Phelps Drive, a block off Gratiot avenue, near 15-Mile Road, a few miles south of Mt. Clemens. Two of the acres were planted in alfalfa. The third acre had fruit trees, many types of vegetables and tons of strawberries and raspberries. Many wonderful feasts resulted. Also, much of the harvest was canned—including tomatoes, jams, dill pickles, etc. Before putting dills and gherkins into jars, they had to spend time in large crocks in order to gain their flavor. These crocks were continually raided by family members who were too impatient to wait for the final product.Fisher Avenue was a wonderful ethnic neighborhood which had very interesting people of several nationalities. Joseph and Mary Kopas (along with their children–including their son Bernard [Ben]) lived across the street. Mr. Kopas was from Czechoslovakia while Mrs. Kopas was from Pennsylvania. Chuckie, as the youngest was called back then, adopted Mrs. Kopas as his grandmother. He used to raid the Kopas kitchen quite frequently, especially when grandma Kopas was making Kalacha.
Four doors down from the Chinoski’s, on their side of the street, lived the Palmeri family. Mr. Tony Palmeri was from Sicily and Mrs. (Celia) Palmeri was of Polish descent, but was born in Detroit. Chuckie always called Tony, “Uncle Tony”. The Palmeri’s did something that was very smart—they had a kitchen in the basement. With no air conditioning at that time, the basement provided some important coolness when eating dinner during the hot summers. Chuckie often took advantage of the Palmeri’s subterranean kitchen.
World War II, for the U.S., broke out 7 December, 1941. In February 1943, Joseph, Jr. joined the U.S. Marine Corp and served in the war of the Pacific until January 1946. Marion and Joseph proudly hung a white flag, on which there was a blue star, in their front room window to designate that their son was in the service of our country.
During World War-II, many industries changed over to the manufacture of war implements. The automobile industry was ideal for this operation because of their precision work and mass production methods. This was true for General Motors Transmission Division at which Joseph worked. As a machinist, Joseph was involved in the manufacture of critical parts for machine guns that were used in both the European and Pacific Theatres.Probably in 1942, Ben Kopas, across the street on Fisher Avenue, joined the U.S. Army and served in the European War. In 1943, Geraldine, traveled to Camp Shenango, PA, where she married Ben Kopas on 27 June (Chuckie’s birthday).
Joseph, Sr. was very handy with his hands and did a lot of great things around the home. More importantly, however, he used these skills to make some very precious gifts for Chuckie and his grandchildren—Gerry and Ben’s: Jim, Mike, Kathy and Karen; and Mary and Joe’s: Suzy and Judy. Joseph, Jr. returned home from WW-II in January 1946. Soon afterward, we had another wedding in the neighborhood. Joe married Mary Palmeri on 1 June at St. Joseph’s Patronage—Detroit, Michigan. After the wedding ceremony, the wedding party went to Belle Isle, on the Detroit River, for some great picture taking (This year they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary).
Joseph’s GM work took place in Detroit until the Hydramatic Division moved to Inkster (in Redford Township) in 1950/1951. The family, Joseph, Marion and Chuck (he had just finished the 6th grade) moved to Redford Twp. where they moved into a home at 11375 Columbia Avenue in 1951.
Joseph worked at that Inkster Hydramatic facility until it burned down in 1953. Joseph’s last job was at GM’s Hydramatic Plant after it moved to Willow Run, MI. His badge number was 503-053.
Marion was a master of the kitchen. Her cooking and baking skills were phenomenal. When she baked a 15-inch apple pie, it was not unusual to see more than half disappear at one meal. And this is with only two people partaking—Joseph Sr. and Chuck. When she made Polish Pounchkies (“Pączki” in Polish), the men of the house got very excited. Marion would typically make these sweet rolls in the winter. She would put her dough mixture into a large container and place it in a small linen closet next to the chimney coming up from the basement. The heat from the chimney caused the dough to rise, filling the house with a wonderful aroma. The final product was a delight to eat.
Money was never plentiful, but the Chinoski family was blessed with much love. Closeness and constant family support made the way of life very enjoyable. Small trips within Michigan and many visits with family and friends were what was important. Joseph and Marion also had a deep commitment to the Catholic faith. Mass every Sunday was a minimum. Many times during the summer, mass was attended by Marion and Chuck on a daily basis. Joseph and Marion’s prayer books were well worn, because of their constant daily use.
In 1954 Marion developed problems in her throat which resulted in surgery to remove growths on both sides of her neck. The problem subsided but then recurred in May of 1958. Shortly after entering Detroit’s Harper Hospital, Marion passed away on 12 May, 1958—the day after Mother’s day.
In 1960, Joseph had a heart attack on 14 August, Gerry’s birthday. After a period of convalescence, Joseph returned home to rest and try to regain his strength. On 21 January 1961 (Joseph, Jr’s. birthday), Joseph Sr. had a relapse and again entered the hospital. After another period of convalescence, he returned home. On 10 June 1961, Joseph (who by then weighed about 100-lb) attended the wedding of Chuck to Carole Chaikin. Seven days later he attended the graduation commencement of Carole and Chuck at the University of Michigan.
A few days later, Joseph re-entered the hospital and passed away on 27 June 1961 (Chuck’s birthday).
On July 1 the funeral mass was at St. John Bosco with internment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery next to his beloved wife, Marion. Section 22, Lot 427, Plot # 9.
A lawyer once said that: “Joseph Chinoski is the richest man I have ever known”. What he meant was that he had never known a man with such passion and love of God and family.
Author: Charles Chase