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Natalie Carbone Mangini Page


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Natalie Carbone Mangini Page


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Natalie Carbone Mangini

 
 

 
 
I’ve always been satisfied with whatever I did...
 
 

Noodles, Nukes, and Nurturing

Natalie Carbone Mangini was born in Long Branch, New Jersey on August 24, 1928 to Natale  J. Carbone Jr. and Mary Skodak Carbone.  

Natale Carbone, Natalie’s father, was born in Crabtree, a small town located just north of Greensburg, PA. His father, Natale Carbone Sr., was born in Colliano, an Italian city in the Campania region of southwestern Italy. Natale Sr. immigrated to the United States to become a coal miner, but “he brought a pair of scissors with him.” He soon realized that it was easier being a barber and cutting hair than working in the coal mine. Therefore, he became an itinerant barber and would travel from village to village on a set schedule where people would be waiting to get a haircut. He and his wife, Maria Grazie di Girolamo, had eleven children, and all of the boys in the family became barbers. They worked in the same shop, and all of their earnings would be collected at the end of the day for the family. 

 

 
 

 

Natalie’s mother, Mary Skodak, was born in Greensburg, PA. Mary Skodak’s mother, Susanna Bodnar, was Slovakian, and she escaped an arranged marriage and immigrated to America. She worked as a cook to a local baroness in Hungary and earned enough money to arrange for a divorce and travel to the United States. When she married John Skodak, they had five children, including Mary, Natalie’s mother. The girls in the family were raised Lutheran and the boys were raised Catholic to reflect the religions of the mother and the father. 

Mary Skodak met her husband, Natale Carbone, when he was working in a small shop that his sister had owned at the time. They fell in love and, as Natalie’s mother always told her, “between the two of them, they had a quarter” when they got married.  Natalie’s father found a job opportunity in New Jersey to be a barber, and the family moved there for a year until Mary’s mother fell ill, and they returned to Greensburg to take care of her. The family ended up staying in Crabtree, and this was where Natalie was raised along with her two siblings, Rosalie and Natale III. 

 

 
 
 
 

 

The Restaurant

Crabtree was a company town where all of the employees of Jamison Coal & Coke Company lived during the mining hay day. The company rented the houses in the town to the miners and their families, and Natalie recalls that most of the families were required to take in boarders and also shop at the company store for their goods. As the company was declining and “going out of business” during the Great Depression, Jamison sold off many of their properties in Crabtree. 

Natalie’s family bought the local social hall in 1936, which was a large building that included a pool hall, barbershop, and confectionary store on the first floor, and they created a ten-room apartment on the second floor where Natalie’s father moved the family. Natalie would help her grandfather sell goods in the confectionary store on many days after returning home from grade school. 

 

 
 

 

As the Prohibition laws were being repealed, Natalie’s grandfather had suggested that her father start a “tavern or beer garden.” Her father went three times to obtain a liquor license, but his wife refused to sign the papers each time because she did not want to raise her children in the environment of a beer hall. Finally, Natalie’s mother Mary agreed to sign the papers under the condition that they open up a family-friendly restaurant instead. Therefore, Carbone’s Restaurant was opened in 1938. 

Natalie’s father was the first bartender, and Mary was in charge of the kitchen. The whole family, including Natalie and her siblings, did their part helping with the restaurant. Due to the growing popularity of Mary’s delicious dishes, they had to continually expand the restaurant to accommodate the hungry crowds, which included the departing servicemen and their families during the war. Once they reached full capacity on the first floor, the family bought the house next door so that they could convert the upstairs apartment into an additional dining space and amenities for the restaurant. Even with the increased seating capacity of 350 people, they kept outgrowing their space as Carbone’s became exceedingly popular and widely known with the local community and beyond. 

Natalie’s father decided to build a new restaurant instead of trying to adapt his first restaurant to the new government regulations. In 1973, the new Carbone’s Restaurant was opened to the public and was one of the biggest Italian restaurants in Westmoreland County at the time, seating up to 500 people. True to Mary’s vision, it was and continues to be a family friendly restaurant that proudly serves the family recipes and quality Italian cuisine. It has been an integral part of the community, and it has employed countless dedicated employees over its many years of operation. It remains to be a well-loved destination for those near and far.   

 

 
 

 

Throughout the years, the life of Natalie and her family has revolved around the restaurant activities. She was and remains consistently devoted to its success. As we continue to discuss Natalie’s life, imagine the buzz, chatter, and flavor of this restaurant as a constant presence and backdrop.

 

 
 

 

A Love for Learning

Ever since Natalie was a young girl, she loved learning. She admits that she “never cared about dolls or anything,” but that she loved reading. Her parents were keen to notice her thirst for knowledge, and they always gifted Natalie books for Christmas. Natalie’s mother enjoyed recounting an incident when Natalie was in fourth grade and she walked in from school with her arms filled with books, exclaiming, “Mom, look at all of the stuff I’m going to know!” Natalie’s parents were very encouraging of her interests and education. 

 

 
 

 

When Natalie was 10, her mother got her a chemistry set for Christmas. “In those days, chemistry sets had dangerous stuff in them; you could make fireworks…I’d burn holes in my mother’s rugs and stuff like that doing experiments and making things….” She and her neighbors loved playing with this chemistry set. From this point on, Natalie had it in her mind that she would be a chemist when she grew up, and this little chemistry set started the spark that would grow in years to come, fueled by good teachers and the thirst for knowledge.  

Natalie loved school. She attended Greensburg Salem Elementary School for three years before transferring to a school in a different township after the family moved. The teacher was quick to notice that Natalie needed a greater challenge; and therefore, Natalie skipped the second grade and moved into third grade. Interestingly enough, in a one-room schoolhouse, this meant that Natalie physically moved over one row to be in the third grade. 

 

 
 

 

Natalie went to Greensburg Salem High School for two years, and due to the absence of buses, she and her schoolmates had to pay for a commuter bus to take them to school every day. She acknowledges with a laugh how crazy it sounds that they had to pay for their ride to school every day. Natalie finished her two remaining high school years at Saint Joseph’s Academy, and she graduated in 1945.  

Natalie had ambitions to go to college, and her parents were very supportive. Getting married and having children was far from her mind at the time; Natalie continued her studies at Seton Hill for 4 years. In 1949, she graduated with a BA in chemistry with a math and physics minor, and she took teaching credits in the case that she would have to become a teacher. When asked why she chose to focus on chemistry and physics, Natalie exclaimed that “those were the two subjects that were hard for me and so I wanted to learn about them…chemistry and physics were a challenge, and I like a challenge.”  

 

 
 

 

The Nuclear Chemist

After Seton Hill, Natalie first did research at Mount Mercy College and then worked in the Mica Division at Westinghouse. She was bored by the job at the Mica Division of Westinghouse and considered it to be tedious and routine. She heard that “Bettis” was hiring at Westinghouse, and she jumped at this opportunity to submit her resume.  

Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory still exists, and it is a research and development facility outside of Pittsburgh that works exclusively on the design and development of nuclear power for the U.S. government, specifically for the Navy. At the time, it was operated by Westinghouse Electric Corporation and referred to as the Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Division. According to Natalie, Bettis was a clandestine plant that was working on nuclear reactors, and they were doing “secret work during the cold war.”  

 

 
 

 

Natalie was offered an interview, and she found out years later that her supervisors misread her resume and were under the impression that she was a man. They were certainly surprised to see a pretty lady with her hat and gloves waiting to be interviewed. They decided to proceed with the interview anyway, and they initially offered Natalie a job in analytical chemistry, one of three jobs posted at the time. Natalie kindly turned down their offer because she wanted the job available in radiochemistry.

Two days later, they called and gave Natalie the position, and she went about obtaining all of the necessary clearances to work at Bettis. This was how Natalie became a nuclear chemist and the first woman scientist hired at the Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Division in 1951.

 

 
 

 

When asked why she preferred radiochemistry, Natalie always pursued the challenge. She exclaimed, “I didn’t know anything about radiochemistry, and I figured that I would learn as I went along.” Natalie continued taking classes on radiochemistry at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, and she thoroughly enjoyed every minute of her ten years working at Bettis. 

Editor's Note: “Radiochemistry is the chemistry of radioactive materials, where radioactive isotopes of elements are used to study the properties and chemical reactions of non-radioactive isotopes.” - as defined by our friends at Wikipedia.

 

 
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When asked why she preferred radiochemistry, Natalie always pursued the challenge. She exclaimed, “I didn’t know anything about radiochemistry, and I figured that I would learn as I went along.” Natalie continued taking classes on radiochemistry at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, and she thoroughly enjoyed every minute of her ten years working at Bettis. 

 
 
I figured that I would learn as I went along.

Natalie had a great rapport with her colleagues and enjoyed learning, growing and collaborating with this group of people.

Natalie described their principal job as the employment of radiochemical techniques to solve other people’s problems, both inside Westinghouse and in other places around the country.  She also did work at Chalk River Nuclear Facility in Canada.

She would usually be the only woman on the job, but this didn’t seem to bother her as she just focused on her work.

 

 
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One of Natalie’s most notable contributions at Bettis was working on the Shippingport Atomic Power Station Reactor, the nation’s first full scale atomic reactor which supplied electric power to homes and businesses in Pittsburgh. Natalie also worked on the development of the reactor used in the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, as well as subsequent nuclear submarines such as the Skipjack and Trident. Natalie also co-authored the first technical procedure used on the atomic submarines for detecting and disposing of radioactive materials.

These are just a few examples of her groundbreaking work at Bettis, or at least of the work that she is cleared to discuss. 

Editor's Note: “The USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine. The vessel was the first submarine to complete a submerged transit of the North Pole on August 3, 1958.” Read more about the USS Nautilus here and here.

 

 
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The Nautilus was launched on January 21, 1954. Natalie was scheduled to go on its trial run, but that was thwarted when the Naval officer in charge looked at the manifest and asked, “Is this a woman?” When it was acknowledged that “Natalie Carbone” was indeed a woman, he exclaimed, “There will be no women on this submarine! Get a male replacement.”  The first time she was able to board the Nautilus was in 1986 when she took a trip to Groton, Connecticut, where it is decommissioned in dry dock.

 

 
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The Nautilus famously arrived in New York Harbor on August 27, 1958, and Natalie was invited to the welcoming ceremonies for the submarine after its historic journey, which crossed under the ice cap of the North Pole. The Navy nicknamed the journey “Operation Sunshine.”

 

 
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Natalie went to New York for this occasion, and she received a lot of publicity at the time. She was featured on the Today Show and was interviewed by their anchor Dave Garroway about her contributions to the Nautilus. Natalie was also featured on the TV game show What’s My Line?,  in which a panel of  celebrity judges would have to guess a person’s line of work, which they eventually did in Natalie’s case. 

 

 
 

 

A very funny story involves customers of Carbone’s who were vacationing in Miami and were watching the show. The wife exclaimed, “I know her line! She’s a waitress at Carbone’s Restaurant in Crabtree!” They were surprised to know that their weekend waitress was a famous nuclear chemist!  Natalie was surprised by the public reaction to her work, and she received stacks of fan mail from people around the world, including a letter from a Nigerian prince. 

 

 
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Natalie received many honors and distinctions over the years including an award from Mademoiselle magazine, which selected ten women who were making a difference in the world. She received the Award of Merit in Atomic Science in 1958 from the American-Italian Association (AMITA). Natalie was also featured in Time magazine in a national advertisement for Seton Hill College in March of 1967. She also received numerous awards and recognitions from Seton Hill.

From the time that Natalie was in high school, she worked as a waitress at her family’s restaurant. Therefore, as Natalie pursued her career at Bettis, she also returned home every evening to work as a waitress. She loved being an atomic scientist by day, and she truly enjoyed helping the family and relating to the customers in the evening. For her, waitressing was an easy release.

 

 
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During this time, Natalie fell in love with a man from her hometown, Vincent Mangini, and the couple married in 1957. Vince was always very supportive of Natalie and her pursuits. Natalie subsequently found out that she was pregnant in 1960, and the policy at Westinghouse was that you could work six months and then had to quit your job. Natalie was prepared to resign when she discovered the pregnancy, but they wanted her to finish her six months with them. She agreed under the condition that she would not go into the lab because she worried about the effect of radiation on her unborn child.  

 

 
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Even with her added precautions, Natalie didn’t want to get her hopes up in the case that the pregnancy wasn’t viable given her job with radioactive materials. When her first born, Vanessa, came into the world in 1961, she was happy to count ten toes and ten fingers and see a very healthy baby. Natalie and Vince went on to have three more healthy children, Vince, Natalie, and Melissa. 

 

 
 

 

The Mother and her Jewels

Natalie loved her job as a mom as much as that of a nuclear scientist. In fact, she viewed her job as a mother as being more difficult due to the chaos and unpredictability that ensues when one has to take care of a family. At least when she was working with atoms, she could run experiments and had a methodical approach to her work.  Natalie completely enjoyed her new role as a mother and accepted the transition with grace and ease as she hung up her scientist coat at Bettis.

 

 
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Natalie went on to help her husband Vince with their family business, Crabtree Oil Company, where she would do the accounting and answer phone calls until his death in 1990. All the while, Natalie worked at Carbone’s Restaurant as she raised her family. 

Natalie considers her children to be her “jewels,” and she enjoys the closeness of her family.  Natalie has truly accepted and relished every new chapter in her life, and she is a beautiful example of a humble person who has made her valuable contributions with joyfulness and love in every area of her life.  

At one point, there was a company that was prepared to produce a movie about Natalie’s life, but after reading the script, she turned down the offer and her ticket to Hollywood because they painted the family restaurant in an unfavorable light. It just wasn’t worth it to her, and the restaurant, along with the surrounding community, is near and dear to her heart.

   

 
 

 

Natalie’s family still forms the cornerstone of Carbone’s family restaurant. Her one daughter who was trained in culinary school has taken over the reins as head chef, and the other children are involved in other capacities. Natalie, to this day, is a frequent fixture at the restaurant, working and talking to regular customers and friends about whom she genuinely cares. Ironically, not many of the thousands of customers who have poured through the restaurant doors to this day could guess Natalie’s contributions to science. 

 

 
 

 

Natalie is a trailblazer who paved the way for women and their mission to break the glass ceiling, and although she is extremely proud to have helped the cause for women, this achievement does not define her. Natalie did her job as a nuclear chemist, she excelled at it, and she loved it, but yet her accomplishments in her field also do not define her.

Natalie’s legacy is her beautiful family.

 

 
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