Frank Fiorello was raised in Queens, New York, during World War II. He was born in 1936 to an Italian immigrant family and attended Catholic school as a child. He later went on to serve in the Korean War and moved to Florida later in life.
Frank Fiorello recalls his memories of being a young child during World War II. Many of his recollections revolve around hearing stories from his parents and talking with his friends about the news they had heard. He speaks about the air raid drills that New York City underwent and his fear that his hometown would be bombed the same way that London was.
Memories of Air Raids
KA: And your earliest memory of the war would be what?
Well, the earliest memory would certainly be the air raids. We used to have air raids quite a bit and, again, an “air raid” meaning that all the lights had to go out. Mr. Walsh was our block air raid warden, and he would come around with a flashlight, his own small flashlight, to make sure all the lights in the neighborhood were out, there was nothing lit. My sister and I—not my brother so much because he was a little younger—we used to hide under the bed with a little transistor radio and try to listen to whatever we could pick up. That was a very dramatic thing.
Fear from Watching Air Raids on Television
I was always afraid of the air raid because I thought for sure that they would come and we‘d be bombed. Although we didn’t have a TV, we used to go down to the candy store. In the old times, the candy store had a TV, and you would go down there and you would watch the news. We didn’t even have a phone. The phone was in the candy store. If you wanted somebody, you’d call the candy store and they would send one of the young kids up to the house for the phone call. But mainly, the stories I told were of being afraid of being bombed.
KA: You mentioned that you would watch the news at the candy store. Now, was that a very dramatic experience?
Oh yeah, of course. Again, because everybody was there and everybody was in the same boat. We were all young kids and we were all kind of afraid. Again, eight and nine, very impressionable, and then you would see whatever they would show on the TV. If they showed you bombings, especially in London, which was really devastated, you’d see a lot of that and you think, “Oh my God, if this happened here.”
It could have happened in our neighborhood because the borough of Queens, the East River just crossed it—we were right near Manhattan. So Manhattan would be the place they would bomb. They wouldn’t really come after us. But who knew? Yes, we were afraid—very dramatic to watch the TV.