Category: Reinventing Ourselves

VW Patty Wagon Visits Hometown Ansonia

My humble hometown of Ansonia, CT, while only 6 miles by 6 miles, is filled with memories beyond larger than life. My great-great grandparents, on both the Italian and Irish sides, came to America in the early and mid 1800’s. The Irish relatives came to America due to the potato famine in Ireland. They opened a fish and meat market on Main Street in Ansonia in 1861. Despite the IRISH NEED NOT APPLY signs, my great-great grandparents, Peter and Mary Mulligan, were so thrilled to be in America, they named two of their children after USA Presidents. My great grandfather was named George Washington Larkin, once the sheriff in Ansonia, and his brother Alexander Hamilton-Larkin. My great-great aunt had a school named after her in Ansonia called Annie E. Larkin School, now the Ansonia Police Station, after having taught immigrant children there for over 50 years. My grandparents owned Larkin Real Estate and Insurance in the 1940’s, where eventually my mother Judy, and her brothers Jack and George, were also working in the family business. To this day my mother, Judy Larkin-Nicolari, works in real estate for Coldwell Bankers; all the small family businesses found it hard to compete in contemporary times. My sister Lynne ironically opened a store called Moodswings in the exact location on Main Street where our grandparents had their Larkin Insurance Company. My grandparents went to Ansonia Public Schools in the 1920’s, my parents in the 1950’s, my sisters and I in the 1970’s, and my niece Kelly, Lisa’s daughter, in the 1990’s. Four generations. My Italian side got on the train from Ellis Island, saw the smoke stacks in Ansonia, and with the thought there must be work here, got off. They have been there ever since. Three generations crammed into a small house on Central Street, yet they were happy growing tomatoes and making sauce, aka gravy. My father, Dr. Richard F Nicolari, recalled when the ice man delivered the ice block for the refrigerator. Imagine. My grandfather, also Richard, a blue collar guy who worked at the local YMCA for 45 years and at the Anaconda American Brass for 50 years, was clearly a man with a work ethic. He was certainly proud of the day when his eldest son, my dad, became a school principal at 26 years old and then Supt of Schools in Ansonia at 34 years old. They didn’t say much, but the lump in their throats spoke volumes.  As a kid, I always found it interesting how the Italians went to Holy Rosary Church and the Irish went to Assumption. My mother must have won the toss because we went to Assumption Church and Assumption School, also my mothers alma mater. Her parents lived directly across the street. To this day, whenever I leave Assumption Church, I find myself in a flurry of visuals as I gaze across the street and picture me with my sisters and cousins in our Easter bonnets on THAT wall. And when I take a ride to 35 Johnson St, the Larkin homestead where the four of us grew up in the 1960’s, I cant help but picture my sister Carolyn being taken to the hospital for sticking a pebble up her nose that would not come out. And here we are. My sister Lisa presently teaches at Ansonia Middle School; I taught and was a school administrator for 28 years in Ansonia. And through all the ups and downs, our parents were always unconditionally proud of their four girls. As my sister Lisa faces a new chapter in life, putting her house on the market and considering leaving her hometown of Ansonia, emotions are flying as the unknown awaits. When my friends initially drive through my hometown, I can almost read their minds upon entering this middle class town with not much fanfare. However, leaving, they are all green with envy of my roots, and all know, that is priceless.


Good Vibrations

You are here….Groovy!

Welcome to my blog. My name is Patty Nic. I am the proud owner of a 1974 VW Westfalia Camper. As a baby boomer, I was yearning to return to a time when life was simple. The days of growing up on our dead-end street in the 60s, playing kickball, selling lemonade, climbing rocks, putting on “The Sound of Music” type plays in the backyard with my 3 sisters, and charging the neighbors 25 cents to see us… type simplicity. The urge to revisit those feelings brought me to September 23, 2016, when I impulsively went on e-bay and purchased my “Patty Wagon.”

I loved the color so… SOLD!

Everyone thought I was crazy to buy something without even seeing or driving it. I did say impulsive, right? There comes a time in life when we do need to just JUMP (as Steve Harvey likes to say) I jumped. It was the BEST decision I made in a long time. I own a condo on the water, a Mercedes Benz, I’ve traveled to Europe, Africa, and Australia, been guests on TV shows such as Steve Harvey and Dr. Oz, and yet, I am happiest when driving my VW Camper. Every cell in my body is content and at peace. Not only am I happy, it became very clear that Patty Wagon also brings out the BEST in everybody that I meet along my adventures.

Living in New Haven, Connecticut, where Yale puts us on the map, brings an interesting mix of cultures. From young kids who see my VW Camper as the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, to the Woodstock survivors, and everyone in-between….teens, college kids and pre-baby boomers; all give me thumbs up, a smile, a beep, or want their photo taken with the “Patty Wagon,” which got me to envision how this camper brings out the best in our community…so I wanted to share this good vibration with the world via my blog.

So follow me as I chronicle, not only the refurbishing of my camper, but my adventures of meeting people, going places, doing random acts of kindness, and sharing stories that bring people to their “happy place.” In a world of stress, I am doing my part of starting a peace movement…all through the (eyes) and windshield of my Patty Wagon VW camper.

Peace out…and onward.