Helen "Nellie" Matejcik Nacincik (1912-1998) was born in
the town of Hermon, of an immigrant family from Austria-Hungary
who came to the area because of the work in the mines.
The family later moved to Talcville, Town of Edwards, for the
work in the talc mine in that community.
She was the second oldest child of the seven children of
John and Mary Krsak Matejcik. Although she did not have the
opportunity for a high school education, apparently, the
desire for it was always in the back of her mind, and when in
her seventies, she took classes for a GED diploma near her home
While attending these classes, her natural talent for story
telling, using events from her life, came to the surface, and
the following stories are her thoughts as she relates growing
up in a small mining town in Northern New York, beginning with
the difficulties encountered because of the inability to speak
Permission was received from her daughter, Peggy Nacincik Pierpont,
to allow the adding of these marvelous memories to the Edwards
History Center Internet site for all to enjoy and be enlightened
of an age gone by.
Early School Years
I started school in a two room building in a small mining town
in upstate New York. One room had first to fourth grade
and the other fifth to eighth grade. The building had
two sets of steps, or stairs, on either end and entered a hall,
which had hooks on one side to hang up our coats. At the
end of the hall was a table with a pail of water for drinking
purposes. The privy was outside, with two separate entrances.
Since my sister nor I could speak English at the time, we had
to put up with a lot of ridicule and tormenting jeers from the
other children. However, we had an understanding teacher
and she pantomimed programs that enabled us to learn English
and before too long we were accepted by the other pupils.
There must have been about fifty little desks and the teachers
really put themselves out to teach us.
Of the early games, I remember tag and relay races. We
also played "Annie, Annie, Over", throwing the ball over a roof
and someone catching it on the other side. We had three
high swings and seesaws for the younger ones.
Being such a small village, we didn't have any clubs.
We didn't even have a movie house and only a small country store,
and if the owner of the store didn't have the merchandise wanted,
he would order it for you from Sears or the Montgomery Ward
The only contests we'd have in school were to see who had the
best written paper or report card. With the best report,
the winner would have every Friday afternoon off until the next
monthly test. I think we all tried for that.
We weren't into fashion in the 1920s. As long as we had
clean clothes and bodies and made a neat appearance and were
well behaved, our teachers were satisfied.
A Day From the Past - Berry Picking
Between the ages of ten to eighteen, my brothers and I and my
younger sister, Anna, spent the berry picking season doing just
that, picking blueberries and blackberries. My older sister,
Mary, generally stayed home with our baby sister and to make
lunch for Dad and the boarders.
|My three younger brothers, and they were all younger
than I, and a younger sister, Anna, and Mom and a neighbor
and her two older children would start in the morning.
Dad would drive us as far as the meadow that was about
half a mile away from the trail that would take us to
the ridges where we picked the berries.
The meadow usually had high grass and my little sister
had to be carried sometimes because the grass would
be wet with dew and we'd all be wet up and over our
knees before we'd get to the ridges, shivering and cold,
the younger ones crying often. However, the sun
would soon warm us up.
Mom would prepare hard-boiled eggs and bread and cheese,
pickles and sometimes fruit for our lunches. We
drank the lake water with our meal. Mom would
wrap the eggs, bread, and cheese in a cloth square and
tie it around me, as we had a lot of walking to do -
sometimes seven or eight ridges to find the berries.
The Matejcik Family around 1928 or 1929. Front,
left to right: Anna & Pauline. Second row:
Paul, John & Peter. Back row: Mother Mary,
Father John & Nellie. Oldest daughter Mary
took this picture. She was married and living
in Edwards at this point.
My brother, Paul, and I carried bushel baskets on our shoulders
and Mom carried the pails and small pots 'til we got to the
berrying spots and then we'd pick the berries into the small
pails and pots and empty them into the bushel baskets.
Each basket held thirty-two quarts and we had a twelve quart
pail that Mom carried and smaller pails that my brother, Peter,
carried. John and Anna were too small to carry anything
on the trail going home. When the berries were plentiful,
we would get the baskets and pails filled early and get started
for home early, nevertheless, we were happy to see Dad either
coming to the ridges to meet us or waiting for us at the meadow.
At seven o'clock every night the train would stop by our house
and the engineer and fireman would drop off two milk cans, which
would hold fifty quarts each and on the return trip pick up
whatever berries we had picked. Most days we had picked
about eighty quarts, which was very good for the children and
At the end of the day we had a treat - an ice cream cone.
All in all, a pleasant day, as I recall. I guess at that
young age we didn't mind the cold and wet and later the hot
sun, but it is nice to think so far back and remember how it
was. Thanks for the memories of yesteryear.
A Box Social
A Box Social gets its name from what it implies. A social
get-together and a box - a place to put the eats or goodies
in, an ordinary paper box, or container, decorated for that
purpose. Generally a country house, or a farmhouse, and
a fiddler in the community were the necessities.
The lady would prepare the box of food, generally sandwiches,
cake, or fruit dessert and make a pretty package with ribbons
and bows and sometimes a cigar on it and then hope that her
boyfriend would bid on it.
The box would be placed on the table as the ladies came in.
After most of the guests were in, the dancing would begin as
soon as the fiddlers came in. Most of the dances were
square dances, tho there were waltzes and foxtrots, too.
During intermission the auctioneer would announce the time to
auction the food boxes and the fun would begin. The bids
began at $1.00 and some went as high as $20.00. Once my
brother bought my box for $6.00. That was a laugh because
his girlfriend had given me the paper and ribbon to decorate
my box. He thought it was hers. Whoever bought the
box had to eat with whose box it was. His girlfriend's
box was bought by my other brother, so he had her with him anyway.
We all had fun together.
We had the Socials for quite a while once a month at different
residences and I don't know when or why they were discontinued.
They were fun while they lasted.
The Box Socials were an entertainment not only for teenagers,
but also for older people and grandmas and grandpas, who really
whooped it up when a group of the oldies got together.
The oldies knew the old songs and most of the barn dances.
It was more fun watching them than participating in the dances.
Everyone knew each other and it was their way to show their
appreciation at being one of the crowd. It was fun that
was really enjoyed.
The Matejcik family at Pauline's wedding in 1948.
Left to right: Mary Brown, Paul, Anna Hurley, Peter,
Mother Mary, John, Pauline Jasinski & Nellie Nacincik.
Father John had passed away by this time.
Mrs. Nacincik wrote a number of other memories of
growing up in Edwards, New York in a time when life
was much different. Her happy marriage was
arranged between the two fathers when she was born, -
and where but in Talcville, would the train frequently
stop and shoo her pet cat off the track rather than
hurt the animal. Read more of her stories at the
Edwards History Center when visiting our community.