What about The American Way? It was a Washing Machine Company, and one of the newest in business. A friend, Peter Virgilio, and I decided to go into business together. I was 21, and very self-confident and impressionable, especially since my father had 5 businesses going at that time, and I guess it rubbed off. So, although I never had worked on Washing machines, except for our own at home, I felt it would be great to try, especially since Peter who was a little older than me, had worked for a washing machine company called Frigidaire, so between us, we figured we could handle anything that came along. We looked for a little store nearby that we could rent, and sure enough one was available across Mosholu Parkway on the main retail street called Rochambeau Ave. It was a good location as it was in a Jewish section who mainly lived in high rise apartment buildings, where residents had washing machines. So, we called our new little company “THE AMERICAN WAY WASHING MACHINE COMPANY.
As yet, dryers had not been invented and washing machines were simply a round tub on 4 legs having a wringer inside and on top edge was a swinging arm that rotated horizontally and in the arm was 2 revolving 12″ hard rubber rollers that squeezed out water as you placed the wet cloths just washed, through them. That was the total that the washing machine did, but it was a lot better than using what my mom used all her life, and that was a framed board that has ribs running horizontally across it. Where a women placed the wet cloths from the sink water onto it and rubbed them vertically onto the board till the dirt was forced out of them. Afterwards, the cloths were rinsed and rung by hand till most of the water was out of them. Then onto the cloths line out the back window to dry in the sun, that is, if you were lucky enough to have a large on open space for the sun to enter. Most building at that time were 10 to 20 feet apart and sunlight never really entered there. Actually, the higher up you were the better chances the cloths had to dry, especially since the cloths line from apartment above you, dripped leaking water from their drying cloths. So, the new washing machines were a big jump forward for women, yes, still needing cloths lines but less drying time.
Back to our new adventure! Now after we set up our shop with the few tools we both had, and painted a big sign saying “The American Way Washing machine Co. placed it high above our store front window. I next painted a sign on the glass window telling we could repair any make washing machine and charge by the hour, I then found out that Peter could only fix machines he had learned how to fix on his last job, but could not manage any others. So, I was the fixer upper on those, which turned out to be most. However, it was fun to take them apart and learn as I worked, figuring out the how and why, each part worked. Once started, we managed to barely pay for the rent and electric bills, but heck we were still living at home and needed nothing more to live on. I now bought a 1947 -2 door Pontiac that had a perfect
trunk for carrying a machine, from Mr Brutto, my father and our families closest friend, so I could easily transport a machine back to our store and then figure out how to repair it. One of my first customers was a woman who lived on Belmont Ave in the Bronx and was the wife of the man who sold me my 1937 DeSoto. Tony (Cher’aze) Guerrero. He was a character and one to watch and learn, but his wife was charm herself, and her name was Carmella. She kind of knew that I was lost with her machine, but she patiently said for me not worry and take my time, I did and finally found the problem, which was that the machine needed a new water pump. I told her I’d return with a new one in a day or so. She said sit down and have a cup of coffee, and we talked. She was so different than Tony, and showed class in every way and but warm to talk to. At the time, I didn’t have any association with women other than my Mother and two sisters. She made me relax and I liked her for it. I came back the next day with a replacement pump, and told her it was a used part we had in stock. I finished repairing the machine and it worked perfectly again. She asked me how much? I said no charge as she was like family. She refused to accept it and said please you must charge me or else I won’t call you again if it breaks again.What could I do? I charged her $15.00 for both the part and my service. Boom! she paid it gladly and became my friend for life, as whenever we met at family get together’s, we would meet and chat happily.A few years later, My sister Elizabeth would marry Tony’s brother Dominick, who became a true brother to me, and the Love of our whole family.
Our business grew a little, but it wasn’t enough for two partners, so I told Peter that he could take over completely, as I was going to work for my families trucking company, and I did. Pete eventually closed the store and began driving a NYC taxi at night. We kept in touch and “hung” out with our other 205 St friends by going to dances in Yonkers, where I met Barbara Peters. Peter didn’t like her, and I couldn’t understand why, but much later after many years, I heard he was gay and wanted to keep our relationship. His close friend, Joe Ragusa, and he had a long and strong relationship from growing up together on Villa Ave, the main Italian section in the area. His reasons for our partnership may have been different than what I thought. Crazy thing was Joe Ragusa was a quasi-famous local strong man, I can remember seeing him at a local restaurant showing his strength, by having two men sitting on a table where he would get under it and raise it till it was over his head…Strong!!. Yes! that he thought he was god’s gift. One time he pulled a loaded garbage truck with his teeth and at another time held a man driving a mini motor cycle on a circular platform on his back and arms, as the man drove round and round.
I did go to work at Bianco Bros, and this was my second time, as I was there when I was 13, working along with my father and his brothers. Actually I learned to drive a truck at that time, as small as I was then, just under 5′. I’ve written some stories about working with two of my uncles, Joey, and Tony that were part of my loving to drive and being part of a wonderful family. At the younger age I would get up with my father at 3;00 am and he would have his coffee that he shared with me, It was a concoction that contain day old black coffee with a shot of Dewars scotch with very little sugar. After I drank a slug, It would hit me…POW!, but what good it did do was to keep me warm in the half hour drive to the 33rd St railroad yards (Now the sight of the New York Coliseum which will be closed). Once there, we would meet up with my Uncles, Al, Mickey, Joey, Tony, and two hired helpers. The routine never changed, as my father had a pair of wire cutters to snap the special Federally controlled seal put on when they closed the freight car. This seal my father kept to bring back to the wholesaler we were bringing the beef to, as it showed that the beef inside was according to the “Bill of Laden”. The door were swung open and a blast of freezing cold air would come shooting out into our faces.. in the summer it was great, but the winter…forget.about.it! Then the first truck was backed so that one side of the back portion was directly in front of the opened door. at that side inside the truck were rails connected to the ceiling, that allowed rolling hooks to move along them easily with the load of 3 to 4 hundred pounds of beef. On the other side in the back were all the hooks necessary to fill the truck with beef. that would be hind quarters and Fore quarters. look inside for thr hooks we used.
Fore Quarter Hind Quarter
My Father the oldest, and in charge of all that went on, would stand along side of the rail end with an empty hook positioned to be able to hook the beef either a hind of Fore- quarter. Now came the hard part each brother would then grab at the quarter of beef and swing it on his shoulder. He would then come to my father who would place the hook into the beef, at the leg end for the hind, and in the center of the breast for the fore-quarter. it didn’t take long for me to learn and then do what each brother did. I learned that it was not the weight that counted, but how you handled the quarter. big muscles were not the key, but using your bone structure properly making them meet each other like a steel bar, to handle the weight. It usually took 3 trucks to empty one railroad car and sometimes we had 2 to unload, so it was just about 6 am when we would then drive to 14th St to the wholesaler. There each truck was backed into a place that had a railing that would meet the trucks railing. It was then an easy job to connect a special rail between the two and begin to simply roll all the beef onto it and into the cooler of the wholesaler. After finishing, was the fun part, as we all would come around a steel barrel that had a large fire going. flame and smoke would spew out along with fire bright sparks flying into the night sky. Now everyone was laughing, telling joke a stories, with my uncle Tony in the lead. He was the funniest and all would laugh, but what was best to watch my father as he would be there with a slightest smile that made every brother love him even more, not to mention my feelings. It was at this time I would become an acrobat, where I would take a roller hook, grab onto it and “RIDE THE RAILS” with everyone watching and laughing. I would fly down the rails just as the beef had done, with the men working there knowing to close certain switches allowing me to go from retailer to retailer. I’d do it a few times but always waiting till “They arrived”. who were “They”.. well it was the royal NYPD mounted police.. five of them. They came for the comradely, and our fresh coffee and donuts. they’d arrive and place the horses bridles onto the side view mirrors of out trucks. they did this every day and most of all on Fridays.. why you’d ask? For their share of all the meat that fell off the trucks as we delivered it. The brothers were not trough yet, as now each had a truck to load and deliver to the A&P warehouses to unload and come back thereafter finally ending their day at 3 to 4 o’clock. and again doing the same thing the next day and the next…
When I came back in my 20’s, I was now doing everything that my uncles did and then some, as I would take a second load after they as were finished, with my father waiting for me so we both could go home to the Bronx. After a few years of this I made enough to buy a brand new Two-tone green Mercury Hard Top for $3500, as my mom saved every penny I made till the day I needed it. At the time, I was going pretty steady with Barbra Peters, did so till we were married in May of 1957.