The Melnick / Melnyk Family

Chapter 4

The Family Business

To make living conditions easier, two major practices were followed. The first was keeping boarders, the second was bootlegging which was carried out by virtually all members of the community. Maria Melnyk housed about twenty boarders, although she had only enough room for ten. These boarders were usually bachelors. Ten men would work back shift at the plant and sleep at day, the other ten would work day shift and sleep at night, thus making room for twenty boarders. In 1913 room and board was two to three dollars per month. Other prices were as follows: pay – fourteen cents per hour, twenty-five or twenty-six dollars a week, seven cents for a single loaf of bread, fourteen cents for a double loaf, thirteen cents for a pound of meat, and twenty-five cents for six pounds of beans.

It took a few years to settle into a permanent residence. Ivan and Maria first lived on Laurier Street in Whitney Pier; from here they and their children would move several times, for varied reasons. The Melnyks next move was to
“Honky Town” (1) where they rented a company house on Ferris Street, west of Victoria Road. The family was evicted from the company house but with just cause. Ivan had been making moonshine when the still blew up, setting the company house on fire. As mentioned before, bootlegging became the most common and most effective way of increasing one’s financial situation provided of course one was not caught. From “Honky Town” the family continued to move, especially when the family began to grow in number for original quarters were becoming too small.

In the fall of 1918, the family moved back to the “Coke Ovens”. Between then and 1934 the family lived in several locations. Their second dwelling in the Coke Ovens was located on Tupper Street on the east side of Lingan Road. From here they moved to 19 Rear Frederick Street, and then to 27 Lingan Road. At this time, however, Maria and Ivan developed marriage problems and Ivan, being the type of man he was, left the family. Maria was unable to keep up with the rent and finally the Jewish landlord, Arthur Green, seized the furniture for back rent. The family then moved to a dwelling they had previously occupied on Frederick Street and by 1934 Maria had saved enough money to buy a house at 130 Tupper Street, which still stands today.

Maria and Ivan remained separated for the rest of their lives. Ivan, being stubborn, built his own home at 101 Muggah Street and later, his oldest son, Joseph, moved in and resided with him for several years.

In order to increase her income, Maria cooked and served hot meals to prominent Jewish members of the community on special occasions and holy days. This would occur two or possibly three times a week. A bottle or two of spirits was usually ordered and a fifteen to twenty dollar tip was left for the fine service.

Maria, able to speak only a little English, developed a strong business orientated approach, which was passed on to several family members.

Webmaster's Notes:

(1)  The term " Honky" or " Honkie"  is a derogatory term for white people, especially in North America.  It should  not to be confused with "hunky"  a disparaging term for a person, especially a laborer, from east-central Europe.

Copyright © 2006 Robert Stephen Melnick. All rights reserved