Earning money anyway I could when there was a 2 year crop failure in California

In 1959, my brother, Al, my brother-in-law Dominick Guerriero, who was married to my oldest sister, Elizabeth, and myself owned 4 flat bed trucks hauling fruit for Bianco Packing Company. It was owned by my other brother-in-law, Funzy Bianco, who was married to my other sister, Jeanie. We had been doing it successfully for two years and it was doing very well. A lot of hard work, but it was a future for us all. The crops the next year was very poor and not enough to keep 3 families with income and forced us to find other work. Being there only enough for one of us, my brother and I decided to let Dominick stay with the trucks and we would find other work.

So my brother went back into selling cars, which he had done before we started our little business. I knew washing machines from my little company in the Bronx, NY, so I went looking for work that way. It didn’t pay much and it was only part time, so I looked elsewhere. Being a good talker, I tried selling life Insuranse for John Handcock Life, Inc. I didn’t do well going door to door, so I came up with a new idea, selling group insurance to farmers. I asked my superiors at  John Hancock if I could set up my own group plan, called Farmers group. I using my old 1937 Plymouth I started going to farmers locally, then making a larger circle as I progressed. My idea was great but the timing was bad. Most farmer were going through the bad crop production and had no money or time to think about insurance, so I expanded my area of customers. One that looked very possible was a group that I could try to sell, and so I called it “The Mormon Group”. I met with a young man that headed the local Mormon church in a town called Sanger, Ca. The group had set up a separate area and made it into a combine-like community. My new friend, Ted, allowed me to come into his community to try to convince his followers that insurance would protect each family in time of death. They all listened, but again no takers! I turned out that Ted was actually trying to bring me into his foal. So, my having a very strong sense of being a Catholic, I explained to him that he could no more convert me than I could convert him. Thereafter we were just friends. Not getting anywhere with insurance, I need to earn everyday money to live, so besides working as a washing machine repairman, I found work at the local Drive-In theater in Sanger for $1.00/hour, as a repairman, janitor, and Soda-jerk. I worked 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and when I was needed to repair machines, I did that as well. In the first two years of of Our trucking company doing well, I purchased a home North of Fresno, Ca. so when things got bad, I looked for work anywhere, doing anything to keep up the payments. using one of the trucks when I wasn’t working, I travelled into the Sierra Nevada Mountains finding dead tree lying about and with the permission of the rangers, I cut them and brought them back as firewood that I sold wherever I could. It was back breaking work, but between my other jobs, I was able to make payment towards our home and the furniture we had purchased fron a family friend. this tells of a tuff time, but there is mre to come in another story.


Beginnig of new story:

Our Next door neighbors were very friendly and tried to help. He, Mel Freeman, asked his brother brother who had a local store

My childhood friend… Raffey Papperrella!

Today I thought of something, and someone that I have not thought of for 75 years. Why now? Well, I was thinking why people go out and kill. Just a rambling thought and then it dawned on me that I knew a killer, but when I knew him he was a 7 year old boy like me. We did everything together as boys will do. Get into trouble in little ways, or, sometimes just because we were  trying something new that looked interesting and fun. He was just like me in that we trusted all that was around us, and sometimes with the fear of knowing we were doing something naughty, and the he, she or they,  around us would let us know we were big trouble. some a kick in the butt, or worse they’ll tell our mothers. So, always there were controls, but controls we knew were out of love and not about spitefulness. My family moved away when I was 10, Raifey and I never saw each other again. His full name was Ralph Papperrella and his family was not large like mine, but he had a baby brother and a mother who was loving like all mothers. The rest of his family I never knew. One time we were playing pitch with a ball we made out of an old baseball that no cover. I had wound string that my Grandfather gave me around it to give it weight and bounce. Well, we always played in the street, as it was the only place that we had. Sometimes I pitched the ball to him or he to me. I remember so clearly one day as we were playing pitch, we noticed a big beautiful car parked just a little way down the street next to our famous “empty lot”. We knew this car didn’t belong there, cause who had such a big beautiful car like that. So we played our usual game hitting the ball down the street along side of where the car was parked. One time I was up and hitting the ball just beautifully…Here come the ball I swing…  Bam! then another Bam! It went straight at the Cadillac windshield. It shatters and the ball bounced high into the air. You never saw two kids run like the wind, me into my building, and straight up 5 flights of stairs and Raifey to his house which was near to where the car was parked. I naturally was curious to find out what was now happening in the street below. I wasn’t big enough to to look out the window unless I stood on a chair. At the time, I was a little peanut and stayed that way till I was 17, then poof! 6.2′. No way was my mother allowing me to look out by opening the window, cause she had them all locked so none of us kids could drop down five floors. I was dying to know if the owner showed up and who he could be. Had to be some rich guy, but what was he doing on our street? maybe he was one the guys with a bent nose. We didn’t need cars, we had trucks that were very smelly from the meat my Uncles delivered. Time for bed without a clue of the results of my great shot. No way could I tell my Mom! She was already mad at me for having a man with a camera take my picture then come up the five flights and told my other she owed him for the picture.  I still got it, somewhere… ? Think my Ex has it with all the stuff I left behind. So, off to bed with my two sisters and brother, all in one bed. Boy, I couldn’t wait! When allowed out after breakfast of oatmeal, down I ran (jumped) to the fourth floor in one jump, then the third floor, second floor and at last the first, but being careful not to step on a drunk sleeping on the steps, and then out into the street. Hey the car was still there like nobody saw it, and there it stayed for days till a police tow truck came and towed it away… Turned out, it was a stolen car left on our street after the joy ride, or some “other” activity. Raffey and me continued to play ball each day after that. Seven years later, I, now living in the Bronx on 205th St and Grand Concourse,  accidentally met Raffey’s mother, only with her other younger son, not Raffey. She said they still lived down on Mulberry Street and Prince St., and only came up to my neighborhood due to the famous local Bronx boy who said he sees the Virgin every day in a little cluster of trees near Villa Ave and Mosholu Park. This event had caused considerable fame, and people were coming from all over to experience it. Raffey’s mom was one of them, and meeting me was just a coincidence, as our street was just across from the supposed sighting in the park.
She was so happy to see me and I her, and then I asked…”Where’s Raffey?”. That is when she sadly told me that Raffey was in prison for killing someone. How could this happen? He was just like me! She was a great Mom, just like my own. What happened to Raifey Papperella? Who knows! Could this have been my fate as well, if we had remained on Mulberry Street? No way, cause a father makes all the difference in a boy’s life, and Raffey didn’t have one living at home. Maybe if I still lived there I could have prevented it, me being so close to Raffie. Hey Raffie what happened???
Since finishing this story, I accidentally went online to find out if Villa Ave still existed. To my surprise, the story of the boy who saw the Virgin came up.  Go online to: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/22/nyregion/the-boy-who-saw-the-virgin.html
 At the time we who lived in the neighborhood believed the boy was a hoax, as his reputation from friends around him said he always lied and was sleazy. He went to the same Catholic school I was going to and that was the general opinion of him. Just by chance, the story explains the time it happened. It was 1945, and WWII just ended with all the excitement it brought, and the returning soldiers. Even with all this happening, the little boy who claimed a vision with the virgin was big news. So much so, a star like Frank Sinatra went to visit the boy and brought him a statue of the Virgin. If you want to learn more about this event, google “Villa Ave”. I never found out anything else about Raifey after that, but it did have an effect on me, even at that age, to make me realize that life can take you on a course of self-destruction, simply because of where you live.