by Maren Schober
Her name is Rose Venditto but she is known to many in New London as “Rose from Kresge’s”. And for good reason. Rose warmed many a tummy and heart with her good home Italian cooking when S.S. Kresge’s department store was on State Street, New London.
“At first they wanted me only to cook what they gave me, and I did,” Rose smiles as she tells me. “But the customers did not return because they did not like the food. So I went to my boss and asked him if I could change some things with the food. He agreed, and I started making my homemade meatloaf with gravy, glazed hams and homemade spaghetti with sauce. The customers loved it and soon I began making a lot of money for the company through the food bar.”
Rose worked at Kresge’s until she was 74 years old! “When I finally retired, they sent me and my daughter to Kresge’s main headquarters in Michigan where they treated me like a Queen and gave me a diamond ring to thank me.”
Rose comes from a strong, loving Italian family and family means everything to her. Born in New York City on September 25, 1913 to Vincent and Carmela Mingoia, Rose enjoyed growing up with her five brothers and three sisters.
“My father was a foreman stone mason, and we all moved to a house in Norwich when he found work he liked in that area. He helped to build ConnCollege and also worked at the Submarine Base.
“My mother taught me to cook, and I helped her cook for our large family. Can you imagine what is like to cook for nine people every day?
“I went to St. Patrick’s School in Norwich until I graduated from the eighth grade. I loved school and the nuns who taught me. The subjects were interesting, and the nuns were very kind.”
After the eighth grade, Rose went to work. “I was only 15 years old, but I worked in the Majestic Pants Factory in Norwich from seven o’clock to five o’clock sewing the seams of men’s pants on the machine. When the inspectors came, my boss told us to run and hide in the building so they would not know workers were as young as fifteen. I hid in the restroom.” Rose worked there for 10 years.
“Friday nights my girlfriends and me went to clubs on Bank Street in New London to dance and meet boys. There I met my future husband, James Venditto. We got married at St. Patrick’s Church in Norwich 7:00 a.m. September 24, 1938… right in the middle of the Hurricane. We didn’t want to wait any longer.
“Everything was flooded and there were no lights. No one was able to come to the wedding but the priest and two family members.
“The house where I am living now was moved from Williams Street, New London to Belvidere Street. It was pulled by horses as it rested on top of a bed of rolling logs! It took six months to move the house that way. My three children were born here, Mary Jo, James, Jr. and Carmela.
“I wish everyone would have a happy family like mine and have no enemies.” Good advice for all of us.