I’m not sure of the date when I bought this bentley, but it was about 1967 and I luckily found it in a vintage car shop on 12th Avenue and 32nd street, in Manhattan, NY. I actually went there to look at an old Triumph, but when I saw the Bentley alongside of it, I fell in love. It had a little paint problems on it’s hood and one spare tire was missing on the drivers side, but sitting in it was a dream, cause it was right hand drive. It had four on the floor standard shifting to change gears, but more importantly the shift lever was on the left of the driver…(Wow-I’m left handed), and it was a four door as well. Sitting in the back seat for two was so different than in standard cars, as the ceiling and walls was in the shape of a box with back and side windows square as well. Above the drivers seat there was a sliding roof which I proceeded to lose one day driving on the West side Highway passing under the George Washington Bridge, going to work. Broke my heart cause when I pulled over 3 miles down the road at an exit, and made a “U” turn and proceeded north back under the bridge again till I saw my roof on the other side of the road all battered and smashed. I pulled onto the grass and ran back for it, at least I could use it as a model to make a new one out of wood. I did, but it never was the same, cause no matter when it rained, water would find it’s way in and usually got me wet before I started my work day. The only real problem I had with it was it’s ignition that constantly failed. So I would have to back it down our short steep driveway and jump start it that way. I would go to work to New Jersey with it, and every chance I could, take my two sons to ski. They loved it and so did I, as wherever we went we drew a little crowd ogling when we parked. At the time, I was learning how to fly a single engine plane called a Cessna and would drive my Bentley to White Plains airport to do so. Never got my pilot’s licence becausethe day of the test, when my instructor said for me to land the plane, I proceeded to do so, following normal procedure by dropping my speed to then make a left turn toward the runway, but just at the same time a giant 747 Airbus was “touch and going” making practice runs, as they were new planes that were just being introduced into air travel. My instructor grabbed the wheel pushed the throttle up to high and took over flying the plane, and as he did so we went into the passing jet stream, almost flipping our plane!..He failed me, so no licence! Me, “The one and only” !
in the early 30′, an opportunity came along to Bianco Bros Trucking, our family business, and it was delivering talks of bananas from the docks of New York City to fruit wholesalers…I’d like to tell you of my first experience with bananas and how we were involved. I don’t know exactly when it was begun, as it could have been my grandfather that started it, or later when my father took over running the company. Well, one day when I was about 10, when I occasionally went to work with my father on Holidays, my Uncle Tony asked me to come with him on his next run. Naturally I was excited just knowing I was going to be a helper and just so proud. Into the truck we went and he drove across town to the lower the Hudson River where there were piers that boats could dock next to, to load and unload their cargo.
This picture was taken well before there were cars or trucks, but the piers were the same when we went there, just a little disheveled and much older.
Into the gigantic pear we went and as we moved further into it, it became darker and darker, so much so, Uncle Tony had to put on his lights, as did the fifty or so other trucks already waiting in line. We stopped behind the last truck in line and he immediately jumped out and told me to do the same. Walking up to the front of the line, he went up to a desk set up there to register, in doing so he knew the men behind the desk and with a big smile began to happily talk, but in doubletalk, which he was great at. All the guys around looked at him thinking him speaking in another language, but after a while, they all would begin to laugh knowing he was fooling them. He really was good and the best part was that he would speak as though he was asking a question. The men behind the desk would ask him to repeat it and again he would double-talk but maybe add even more gibberish. After a while everybody would laugh and laugh. Eventually we went back in our truck, and moved along the line until our turn came, where he then backed our truck onto a platform. He said to me “Come on, we have to load the truck”. Well, talk about a new experience!
A boat being loaded to bring bananas to New York Harbour
We walked up a railed platform with just a single chain fence as a guard from falling into the water, where you could be squeezed to death by the boat floating back and forth along side the dock. It led into hole of a mid sized ship, not a liner, or big cargo carrier, but rather one that treaded between the islands of the south sea islands and then back here in New York Harbor, just to deliver bananas. Onto and into the boat I went behind my uncle, and as we went down, we passed men carrying tall stalks of bananas on their shoulders going out of the boat, laughing as they did so. Seeing me, a young kid, they yelled to my uncle, “Hey! Watch out for the big black spiders, they are much bigger this trip than the last one. I gulped, Wow! What? Well, now I really had a problem, I had to watch out for spiders, and it was getting darker and darker as we went down and down, with only dim lights flickering, here and there. Uncle Tony turned to me and said don’t listen to those guys, they’re just fooling to make you scared, but let me tell you, they did a very good job! Remember I was only 10 years old!
It’s not black but that’s close to what I saw!
As we went down, I noticed men who were standing near each stalk awaiting to help the next driver, who were very, very dark, who laughingly spoke in a way that sounded like a song in different language, but it actually wasn’t as I listened real hard. They were laughing and laughing as they sang, and sweating so much so, that their skin shined, even in the dark. I had seen a “colored” man only once before, and that was when my friends and I ran down Mulberry St. all the way to Houston St. to see what the commotion was about, because we heard loud yelling from people crowding all around, cheering, as they moved down Houston St, passing Mulberry, but none never so close as to be involved. When we got there, panting, we saw two guys fighting with long knives, they were very, very dark almost black, swinging their knives at each other with blood running from their bodies as they passed our street along with the loud crowd cheering them on. I say this was the first time because we lived on a street that was closed to anybody not living on it, including “The cops”. At that time they didn’t put “colored people” in books for children to see, at least not in any that I saw, but at the same time, I never really saw a true tree. So now, I was not too shocked to see these guys. My uncle’s turn came and he walked up to a stalk of bananas and swung it onto his shoulder as one of the Black men pulled on the bow of a knot on the cord that was holding it to the ceiling. My Uncle Tony said to come follow him, and this time if you see any hands of bananas on the floor pick them up and bring them with us. Up we went and sure enough there was a hand that laying there that “accidentally” fell off one on the stalks that someone was carrying. I picked it up and boy, was it heavy, with at least fifteen large green bananas on it, and crawling around one of them, came a spider that had to be as big as my hand with black fur on it. I didn’t hold onto that hand of bananas very long and certainly didn’t pick up another one.
Down to our truck we went and as we passed another manned desk that was directly along side of the ramp, they recorded our name, and weighed our stalk, so as to be able to tally and charge the Bianco Bros’s customer. When inside the truck, my uncle told me to tie the top of the thick stem of the stalk onto the roof railing of our truck with the same rope that had been left on the stalk. So onto a box that Uncle Tony had set up for me I jumped, and tie it I did. We continued this procedure time after time till the truck was fully loaded with about 100 stalks hanging there. We then closed the back doors and drove off to our customer’s warehouse that was also dark, dreary and also full a big black spiders; to do just the opposite, unload each stalk onto hooks on their ceiling. It took four hours from start to load till unloading, so back for another load, but this time Uncle Tony said that I had better pick up the hands that fell, as they were our tip, that we would then share with all my uncles, as well as the mounted policemen that hung around our office on 14th St. and Eleventh Ave, to have coffee and and fresh fried meat. This too, is a story for another time, or you might read my story about Uncle Joey, that explains our Policeman friends.
A note here… Do you remember: I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say Bananas have to ripen in a certain way When they are fleck’d with brown and have a golden hue Bananas taste the best and are best for you You can put them in a salad You can put them in a pie-aye Any way you want to eat them It’s impossible to beat them But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator
This is about what I know of my Family
What I learned about my family
It’s new beginning in America
My memories of my life and how really wonderful it has been
to this day and will be the rest of the days of my life
I want to write this about a life of:
Differences, Fulfillment, Uniqueness, Originality,
and most importantly of all
Where to begin? Well, simply by starting from when my family began living in lower Manhattan, yes, on Mulberry St, where most Italians landed after leaving their homeland, and going through Ellis Island.
My Grandfather, a man who was different from most Italians that were arriving, as most had nothing and were forced into manual labor. However, this was not what my grandfather wanted, as he knew that America offered more, much, much more, so he looked for a way of owning his own business. He came to America in 1894 and immediately found work at the Fulton Fish market, as it was what he knew back home. The Fulton Fish Market created a family of workers where employees and employers worked closely together. All the wholesale companies were privately owned. The work was considered unskilled, because it did not require any training, just doing what you were told and protecting your employer from his competitors.
The Fulton Fish Market became a place where male Italian immigrants and even some criminals, could find jobs. The working conditions were harsh and physically hard in all weathers. The owners and workers dressed the same way: in high rubber boots, flannel shirts, wool hats, and aprons. At that time all the workers on the docks of New York and New Jersey had to belong to a Union organization that really belonged to the Mafia. This made him realize that his business would never grow and maybe even lose some of it. The Fulton Fish Market became a strictly wholesale business that sold a minimum of ten pounds per order to fish retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. The daytime activity became nocturnal work. Procedure stayed basically the same throughout the market’s long career. Fish was unloaded starting at midnight and the selling began at 3a.m. on Monday and 4a.m. Tuesday through Friday. The trust relationship between buyer and seller was very important. The customers, mostly male, wandered around the stalls looking for the best price. When the sale was made, the customer got a number to take to the cashier. Then workers, including Aniello, loaded the fish into large wagons in order to transport the fish to their customers. By 9 a.m., all sales were over, the floors and sidewalks were hosed down, and the market was empty until midnight, when the process started again. Inspectors sometimes wandered the premises making sure sanitation codes were followed. It got it’s name being close to the Fulton Ferry, which carried people to and from Brooklyn. The proximity to the East River provided an opportunity to fresh fish.
Before the 1930’s, fishmongers waited at the docks to unload fish from the fishing boats that docked at the piers, and Aniello was one of them. The market has been plagued with extortion and racketeering since the 1900’s. Personal loyalties and comradely within firms and the market as a whole, insured fishmongers’ protection within for each other. Organized crime in the Fulton Fish Market is traced to Joseph “Socks” Lanza, a friend Aniello made while they worked together. As a young man Lanza worked alongside of him in the market and eventually with the help of his family, Lanza organized the United Seafood Workers Union in 1919. Lanza kept the market running smoothly, but ran outrageous rackets; Aniello wanted no part of it. Wagons that were shipping fish from out of state could be charged up to $2000/year, just for the right to deliver its cargo; most of Lanza’s revenue came from this. Aniello, being an old friend and compatriot never paid a cent, and just wanted to be left alone to do his business. An investigation was started in 1926, and by 1933 enough evidence had been collected from less than reluctant witnesses to charge Lanza with racketeering and extortion.
Because of his inherited abilities and stronger desires, Aniello soon found a way of beginning his own business. By using the knowledge obtained from his work at the Fulton Fish market, he saw that most Italians on the street where he lived had to travel many blocks away to the Fulton market to buy their fish. They had no problem going to Delancy Street, where markets of all kinds of food filled the streets with carts and at storefronts they purchased everything else. Aniello realized that he could bring the fish to his Mulberry Street and thereby sell the fish at prices and a convenience to his neighbors. His old bosses liked the idea because he saved them from throwing away fish that would otherwise go bad, and because of his added volume, not to mention his friendship to Lanza. So he bought a cart that was easily available as small manufacturers making them were plentiful. It had two wheels and back legs to keep it stable when he left it sell his fish to a customer, on his cart he added a bell that hung on a wire between two boards he attached an upright on each side and in the middle of the cart. With it, he began to bring his idea in to a reality.
As he was doing all this, and in his spare time, he studied what was necessary to become a Citizen, and sure enough he became one within two years after he arrived in America, while still working for his bosses in the fish market. The market was close to the Fulton Ferry, which carried people to and from Brooklyn, and its proximity to the East River provided an opportunity to sell fresh fish to the passengers.
Having everything in place, he began his new business. He would rise very early and go to the Fulton Fish market, buy his fish and was given the ice necessary to keep the fish fresh. He would then push his cart to Mulberry Street taking an hour to do so, as he wanted start from Canal street and end at Houston street, which was about two miles long. He was young and powerful and had a dream which gave him the strength to it. So, he would begin “His Route” at about 8:00am in the morning ringing his bell and yelling “OH PESHE”, “OH PESHE”, translated it simply meant “ Oh Fish”. Slowly but surely, he captured more customers and as his business grew, he would extend “credit” to those people who had to wait for their salaries. After doing this for about five years, and as his business grew, he decided to go back to Italy and marry. He knew who he wanted as his wife, so it was just a matter of traveling back, marring her, and returning. In the meantime having a personality that allowed him to have many friends in the neighborhood, he chose one to run his business while he was away. He knew the best way to keep his friend honest was to tell him to keep all that was earned from the business. He spent the time necessary for his friend, Vincente, to learn all that was needed, from starting his day at the market to ending the day cleaning up in the horse barn on Grand and Mulberry Streets. So, off to Italy he traveled via a Tramp ship that allowed it’s passengers to work their way across. To then ask his girlfriend of the past, Elizabetha, to marry him, and after little while, return to America with him.
Who was this women he loved and wanted to spend his life with, as in those days marriage was sacred and final. Well, she had to be really special because physically they just didn’t fit. She was near six foot tall and big all around, no not fat, but just big. While in comparison my grandfather, Aniello, was just about five foot tall, but solid like a rock. Arriving back in Avellino to marry her, he naturally had to go to her parents for permission. Her family were called The Belloise’s, and they were very much in favor of it, as they knew my grandfather was now an American, and rich in comparison to most of the people of his village. Another important reason was that the Bianco family had a wondrous history, as two generations back, my grandfather’s great grandfather, was considered a local hero. He was the man, with his army of volunteers, who defended his area against the northern cities who were trying to unify Italy under one King. He was a very treacherous individual who thought nothing of killing to protect his area. One time he actually killed all the people in one family, men, women, and their children, because they were secretly supporting and suppling information to the Northern spies. He did this by asking all the townspeople out to the square to witness their execution. Everyone feared him, but they also respected him for his bravery. Later, a book written about those times in Italy, describes him as one to be feared and one who thought nothing of killing. Everyone called him by his a nickname, “Il Tremilyre”, the frightening one, and all his soldiers, not really soldiers, but militia, were completely behind him. As long as he was alive, the North was stymied and so after a time, the Northern Generals conspired and hired two of his closest comrades to shoot him the back, while they were alone with him. After killimg him, they too, were eventually killed by his true friends, but not by secretly hiding it, but in the square where everyone could see. However, once he was eliminated from the scene, the North was able to easily move south and unite the country, as the militia was leaderless. The book describes in detail his life and death and the repercussions that followed.
So, getting back to my grandfather, with the genes of Il Tremilyre inside him, he too was both feared and respected. He was born and grew up in Mugnano Del Cardinale, which was a section inside the town of Avellino, but at that time it was not a true city, but a village. It was situated on the southeastern side of the only mountain in the south of Italy, call Vesuvius. With the permission and blessings of the Belloise family, he married Elizabeth Belloise, and after a few months, she became pregnant and as time was passing, was shortly due to deliver her child. Aniello could never allow her to have this baby in Italy, as he wanted his children to be Americans, as that time, as it is today, when a baby was born in America, he or she automatically became an American citizen. Knowing this, he said good bye to his family and friends, promising them that he would slowly bring each of them who wanted to come, to America, one at a time. So, off to America they went, and in very short while after their arrival on Septemer 23, 1901, she bore a boy they named Salvatore, as was the tradition, after Aniello’s father. That boy was eventually to grow up and become my father. Aniello was so proud of his son that he gave him everything he wished for as he was growing up.
When settling back on Mulberry Street, Aniello immediately rented one half of a floor in a building on the corner of Mulberry Street and a cross street to be later named after a famous Prince. Later on in this story, you’ll learn why, but now was the time for Aniello to get back to his business, and his friend was ready for him to take over. He did so, but made some major changes due to what he had learned in Italy. He knew he had to grow, and that push cart alone would never allow him to do that, so he purchased a team of horses, and a wagon that they could pull. He still continued to sell on Mulberry St, as now it took no time to cover his Street. He also found work by knowing, Lanza, the local Mafia boss. He asked him to allow him to deliver bananas from the arriving boats to warehouses in the city. He did this, and went after any other work he could find using his new horse and wagon team, using the help of his friend, Vincente, as he felt indebted to him for taking over while he was in Italy. One thing he made sure of was to impregnate his wife, Elizabeth, as fast as possible after she had her first child Salvatore, which always took eighteen months from the birth of her last child, except for the one time when a little girl died in childbirth. So, eighteen months later a daughter, Louisa was born. Aniello was little disappointed because he wanted sons to help build his business, but as it turned out, Louisa became very independent and did not immediately follow the ways of a women of that time. You’ll hear more about her later in this story.
At that same time, more competitors came onto the scene and were now vying for his customers, as these truckers were either part of the Mafia, or paid the Mafia to allow them work around the docks. This made him realize that his business would never grow and maybe he might even lose some of it, as now the Fulton Fish Market became a strictly wholesale business that sold a minimum of ten pounds per order to fish retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. Realizing this, he was able to concentrate on the business carting Bananas, and looked for an opportunity to try to get into the other parts of the market, mainly meat. At the time the vendors of the meat markets there, were forcing the fish wholesalers out of their market locations, due to the growing meat industry. As this was happening, Aniello saw that he must find a customer in the meat market. Again with the influence of his friend, Lanza, he was able to get a small amount of the meat business. Eventually, because of his quality service to the meat wholesalers, his reputation grew. He could be depended upon to perform extra services, like getting his fish customers to buy from the little meat retailers opening up around the city. The butcher shops, as the retailers were being called, liked the idea that he would do work for them, like pick up saw dust from the docks from barges delivering the saw dust to warehouses. It was a standard practice that butchers and other retailers laid saw dust over all their floors, which soaked up any blood or other wet materials that would come into the shop. Actually from my memories still very young of walking through these shops, they had a fresh woody smell. All thought that it was very sanitary, and sawdust was used this way up until my days working in my Grandfather trucking business, called The Five B trucking Co. So Aniello would bag the saw dust at the docks and then be able to supply the sacks to his customers. He now was in the sawdust business, which allowed him to also supply the neighbors of his butcher customers. With the advent of getting more and more butchers, he proceeded to buy more horses and their matching wagons. When my father was old enough, he would drive a team and with it learn the business from the bottom up that he would eventually take over. The meat wholesalers would pay my grandfather, Aniello, weekly and he would in turn pay his friend and now two other drivers due to the added business. However, the time came when the meat wholesalers and fish wholesaler were at odds with each other and most of the fish people moved across the street away from the market and so created their own market. Eventually, the fish business was growing faster than the meat business and the meat wholesalers realized they needed the fish people back to keep the market open. Eventually, the market did close and the meat industry moved over to 14thSt and Ninth Ave., closer for Aniello to work from his home and the horse stables which were one block south on Mulberry St. As time passed more sons came of age and they too were given a team to drive. The business grew with four teams and hopefully more to come, as more sons were born and then eventually came of age. Aniello was getting old and he relied more and more on my father, Salvatore, to run the everyday affairs, however, he held the purse strings. With all his business done in cash, he eventually was forced to consider a bank to keep it in for security reasons. His friend Lanza was now a big racketeer, and his protection to Aniello was gone. So a small bank was just starting four blocks south on Mulberry Street. It was called “Bank of Italy”, a natural name for a Bank on Italian Mulberry Street. This bank would eventually branch out and grow to become Bank Of America, one of the largest banks in today’s world. Into the bank he kept his money and he watched it grow as the years past.
Now is the time for pop to move into this story!! Use some of the pictures from his story, or bring his story into this!
Getting back to my father, from the start he was spoiled and got whatever he wished. What was very different about my Grandfather was that he told everyone to speak only American English to his son. Yes, his children were to understand Italian, but English was to be spoken in and around them, and this was very surprising as he only could speak Italian. What little I learned was from him and my giant of a grandmother. He never used Italian curse words, but she was excellent at it. One word she used all the timw when yelling at my uncles was “SKI_VUSE”, don’t know what it means but it got her point accross.
Thereafter, every 18 months or so, another child was born to them. Next to come along was a daughter, named Louisa (Louise), then another boy called Aniello (Al), then another girl the named, Angelina (Angie), and then anotherboy they named Anthonio(Tony), and another, Micchelle(Michael), then another, Juseppie(Joe), and another bot, Rafaella(Raffie), and lastly a girl named Amelia(Millie), and finally that was it, and just enough! It took sixteen years to accomplish this and all the boys learned fast that they were always beholding to Salvatore. One time, many years later in the mid forties, when I was 12, while working with my Uncles, My uncle Mickey, told me that my father got everything and all the other sons could do was watch and envy him.
Salvatore, pronounced Sal Va Dode, was sent to Kindergarten at age 5 and his teacher was Miss Speirer who was a wonderful young lady who loved working with Children, as I can attest to, as I too, was taught by her when I was five, 31 years later. The school was around the corner on Prince Street, between Mulberry and Mott, and was called St Patrick’s School. It was a school set up by it’s church that was located around the corner on Mulberry St between Prince and Houston Sts.
It was called St Patrick’s Old Cathedral that was built early 1800’s, because a Newer, Bigger, and more famous Cathedral, was also called St Patrick’s, it was built in Mid-town on Fifth Ave and 39th St. very much later, where Cardinals were in residence. One who was called Cardinal Spellman, after his death, had a very large High School was built in his honor called Cardinal Spellman High School, that has become one on the most prestigious in New York. At any rate, and no matter what, our church was wonderful, beautiful and had catacombs beneath it. Going to mass and communion there every morning was a wonder, as no matter where i looked around the church, there was a new splender to see. Completely surrounding this great Catherial was a very old Cemetery that dated back to the earliest days of when Manhattan was just beginning under British rule. In that cemetery there was an actual Prince, I belive from Ireland, who was buried there just after the church was founded. His headstone was a tall 4 sided tapered column that went ten foot above the height of the 12 foot red brick walls surrounding the church. Looking from Our Grandparents window, you could see the cemetery and the obelisk elegantly standing with a head shaped dome wearing a royal crown slanted on it, and a stone shaped scarf wrapped around its neck, having a carved crest showing his royal heritage. This grave was why the street directly along side it was named Prince Street.
The church had a school that was run by The Sisters of Charity nuns, who lived in a small house built for them along side of the school. They had habits that were all black with long robes that touched the ground, with a cape surrounding their shoulders. Their scull cap hats covered their heads completely, with no hair showing as it was probably cut very short. The hat was actually a bonnet with a serrated brim that encircled their face from one side of the chin to the other in a fan affect that had a bow that hung down over the robe in front. At their waist, was a heavy twisted rope of the same color knotted in front with long tasseled tails, and hanging from it was their rosary beads. As I recall the wonderful memories of my childhood, they were gentle, loving and were called Sisters. I still remember my 4th grade teacher who was funny and kind who constantly pushed her finger under her bonnet scratching an eternal itch. Her name was Sister Sicilia, a woman of Irish decent who we all loved, that had charming ways to make us children react, who by the way, called me Sal Va Tor Ray. Hey wait, this is about my father and not me, but this only shows that we experienced the same things while growing up.
The Nun of the Right was how my teachers dressed and who taught both me and my father at St Patrics.
The Nun on the Left is an Ursline Nun that thaught me at St. Philip Neri school in the Bronx from 5th to 8th grades.
I really don’t know too much about how my father grew up, but it must have been wonderful for him as he received anything he could wish for. When he finished St Patrick’s, he went to a high school called La Salle run by French Christian brothers, and coincidently, I went to a High School called De La Salle having teachers, from the same order, French Christian Brothers. I don’t know how his marks were, but I do know he was a wiz at math. I can remember him running his finger down a column of numbers on a piece of paper as fast as a ball dropping to the floor, and then simply call out the correct addition. Wow!
He never finished High school as he was needed in his father’s business, as it was growing very fast. Now Grandpa had 3 strings of horses to pull his wagons and as each son was old enough, he was brought into the business, after learning how to handle a team of horses.
Grandpa would buy another string and wagon for that son when his training was finished. The horses were kept in a stable which was few streets south down on Mulberry St., near Grand Street, which had four floors and a ramp going from floor to floor, no elevators in those days. It’s still there today, but is now a garage with an elevator. Coincidently, after my father left Bianco Bros, the business failed for lack of direction, so his brothers rented this same garage and operated it for many years until each retired.
Going back again to the time when all were young and the business was growing, , all the boys had to stable the horsesafter their days work, and clean the stalls to be ready for the next days work, but when they returned home, they found their mother ready with a meal fit for kings. This is a good place to stop and describe her, to start with, I remember her as being a giant in my young eyes. She was nearly six foot tall and weighed about three hundred pounds, all of it loaded with laughter, always a gigantic smile on her face and bellowing laughter. A trait that all Belloise’s have, yes, she was a Belloise and more will follow about that family. She would lean out their third floor window, above Mulbrry Street, to watch the world go by, to then gossip with her neighbors above her and across the street, who were doing the same thing, leaning out and getting the latest gossip, all in Italian. Now my grandfather was by comparison, just about five foot tall, rounded but not fat, who ran his home like his business, with a stern hand. That is, except for my father, who could do no wrong, and after he left high school he began working with his father full time, learning ways to improve it. One thing was to move slowly into more hauling of meat for their local butchers and bananas for fruit wholesalers. When he was 20, he began going to Broadway nightly, dressed in a fine tuxedo, custom made to fit him perfectly, that still is in the family. That same Tux, I gave to my son Michael, he was the only one thin enough among us, to be able to fit into it. At one time I too wore it, that is, when I was in my 20’s to my fourties. My father would buy tickets for a particular show playing that night, and would attend, but I don’t know if he brought a woman along. It was at this time he began smoking those same cigars his father smoked. He saved all his playbills from the shows he attended, and when we were young, we would look at them in awe. My God! He saw Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and “The George White Follies” to mention only a few that I can now recall. We kept these play bills, but somewhere over time they were lost. Note here: My sister Nanette says she has them. My dad had it made, but his brothers didn’t appreciate the fact that he got to do everything, and they could only dream. One day his father told him he wanted to go to the place that sold cars. So, my father took him to a dealer that sold Duisenberg cars.
While in the showroom, my grandfather showed my father the car he wanted, my father then went to the salesman, told him that they wanted that particular car and how much was it. The salesman laughed and said to forget it as they couldn’t afford to buy that car as it was just too expensive, thinking to himself as he looked at them… “Greeseballs, just low class Italians”. My father said to him again, “How much?” The salesman, laughing, then told him with a sneer the huge price. My father turned told his father the price, who then gave him cash for the total amount. The salesman couldn’t believe it and said that the car was a show room sample. My father said do you want to sell that car or not and then showed him the cash. Well, they drove away with that car. As it turned out that car became the turning point in my father life. I don’t know exactly when, but one day my father, along with some of his friends, took a long ride to upstate New York. They brought along with them, bootleg whiskey made by our famous “Uncle Mike”, that turned out to be either too powerful, or just very bad. All aboard passed it around as they traveled north, it was so strong and powerful that it affected everyone, and most importantly, my father, who was driving. I’m assuming that he was knocked senseless by the drink, so much so, that he crashed the car into a bridge wall along the side of the highway. Again, I’m not exactly sure, but I believe at least one of his friends aboard was seriously maimed, or killed. This event changed my father’s outlook on life… no more the gay blade… no more being spoiled…and definitely no more bootleg wiskey! This story was told to me by my Uncle Al, his younger.
After a while, still working with his family, when he was about 24, his father told him to go out again with cash, and buy another string of horses and a new wagon as well, business was getting even bigger, with more sons coming of age. My father took the cash and came back with a 1919 Cabover Mack truck, which had wooden wheels, hard rubber tires, and a Cab body that had two open sides, no doors or signals, with just a seat, steering wheel and a curved roof. On top of the cab was a metal catch-all to hold a canvas cover(not in this picture). However, it did have a new thing just invented, a horn that went ROOGAH, ROOGAH, when you pushed down hard on the horns top. When he arrived home with the truck, his father went ballistic; he couldn’t believe his son and favorite would disobey him. He cursed at him for buying something that had to maintained, that no body knew how to drive, that needed this stuff called gasoline to run, and where to buy it. He yelled “The horses only ate their oats and hay, which they had plenty of, not this new expensive gasoline.” He was so mad at my father, that he actually threw him out of his home and told him never to come back. Now my father was in a fix, spoiled as he was, never needing anything, had to leave, where to go, where to get the money to live on, as his only trade was his family business. He too, was thick headed and said to his father that he’d go and wouldn’t come back, and that his father had to change with the times if he wanted their business stay on top, and not lose it to men who would use these new trucks.
So, he finally decided to visit his Uncle, in a little town called Yatesville, in Pennsylvania, who was his father’s brother. I believe his name was Angelo and he too had a large family, who owned a three story brick home that he built himself. When he arrived, my father explained his situation to his Uncle who gladly accepted him into his home. Angelo had a lot of children with one already married and very successful in a real Estate business in a larger City, very nearby, called Pittston. Another son, who was also named Salvatore and about the same age, became a close friend to my father and they would go out together. One day as they were walking the four miles to Pittston to a see a silent movie, they spotted this pretty young girl up on a hill in front of her home along side of the road, singing while she was hanging laundry. Cousin Salvatore knew her from the (truly) one and only little red school house in Yatesville, which also acted as the Catholic Church for Sunday mass, so he yelled to her “Hello Antoinette”! She smiled back at him and said “Hello” back in such a melodious way that it was more like a song.( she always spoke words like in a song, except when she was yelling at me hiding under a bed) My father seeing her, stopped, turned to his cousin, and asked to be introduced. Well, he met her and that’s exactly when my father fell in love, big time. The all knowing City slicker just went bonkers over this young country girl. They saw each other every day thereafter, with cousin Sal acting as a chaperone. After about a month, they agreed to get married, but when they told his Uncle, he explained to my father that he must go back to Mulberry St and tell his parents his new plans. When he did, his father and mother were so happy and couldn’t say enough just to see their son again and now to know he was going to give them grandchildren. They both welcomed him back and said they wanted to meet this wonderful girl who he kept talking lovingly about.
It was the tradition at that time, that couples were married in the church of the Bride, so the whole New York family and their friends began planning to go to Yatesville for the wedding ceremony and reception afterwards. As it turned out, my mother’s sister Alice was also planning to get married. Her fiancé, Jimmy Zarra, was a returning solder that spent a year after World War One in an army hospital because had driven through an area that the Germans had gassed. This was while he was in the army acting as a special motorcycle courier (Pre-CIA), the gas had affected his breathing terribly, and since he later worked in the local coal mines, he eventually would die from it. He was a very handsome, adventurous, and daring man, who rode his old motorcycle with a flare and local people knew him to be wild. So, after much discussion over who would marry first, the two sisters finally decided to have one big wedding, a double wedding.
In New York, my grandfather being so happy to have his favorite home again, asked his oldest daughter, Louise, to rent an apartment in a building on Lafayette Street where only the rich could afford to live. The best part was that the apartment she rented could be seen directly from that third floor window. It was to be for the new couple to move into directly after their marriage, what no honeymoon? He also had her furnish it as well. Now for his plans for a very special reception when all returned from Pennsylvania, and his plan to go to the wedding! He asked my father to rent an entire railroad car that would be put on the train that daily passed through Pittston. When the time came, all family and friends from New York traveled to Pittston, Pa in that railroad car, reveling as they went, drinking the home made wine the family made each year. More on the wine further along in this writing.
When they arrived, My Grandfather was absolutely thrilled at meeting this vivacious beautiful young woman (By the way, I know this is all true, since it this was described to me by that same beautiful woman, with no show of embarrassment, or humility). However, the same reaction to my mom cannot be said for my Grandmother, as for most mother in laws, she thought this woman was not good enough for her son, she was a hillbilly and wouldn’t be perfect for her son. She continued with this attitude until she died, even though my mom did most of the cooking for the whole family on weekends and holidays. When it was time for the marriage ceremony to begin, all attended the double wedding, and the reception afterwards, with no major disasters,(Usually, at weddings at that time, a fight always broke out with things flying) considering there was this bunch of City slickers, meeting truly, a pack of country bumpkins. It was most likely that my grandfather set the rules on behavior. The wedding went on till late hours and actually both side enjoyed each other ways. Because they had to meet the schedule that the train followed going back to New York, everyone had to wait till the next day, so they reveled even more in the coach car overnight. In the morning, the car was attached to the train, as my mom’s family and some friends boarded for the trip. Also boarding was mom’s sister, Alice and her new husband, who planned to go on further to follow their honeymoon plans. Once again back on the train was all happiness, with singing, playing cards and general laughter. Upon their arrival to New York, yet another reception was planned and was ready for the two couples, their families and friends. The train dropped off the car on a siding, where there were Bianco wagons and trucks( a little smelly, but clean) waiting for all to be brought to that next reception. It was a great success, because the New Yorker’s who knew all, were thrilled to have been able to go to Pennsylvania, and in a private railroad car, with all expenses paid. As for the people from Yatesville, well this had to be the biggest event of their lives, and probably never to be beat! However, my mother’s brother, Louis, had just found coal in their back yard, to later to become a multi-millionaire.
The excitement continued for my mom, as she never, ever, thought she would be living in the biggest city in the world. After a while as it wore off and things settled down, my mother who was not used to living in this big city needed time to get acclimated to her new husband and his life style. My father’s sister, Louise, was there to help, and took my mother under her wing and helped her to set up house, and buy cloths that were “City cloths”. The apartment they lived in was really too expensive to run once they started having children, so they lived there only for a short while, that is, until their first child was born, nine months later, who they named Elizabeth, after my fathers mother. My father now began to take over the daily running of the business, as my grandfather was getting old and wanted to settle down for the first time in his life, and he did so gladly. Here he is, below, older, but happy, as it was his intension to get his whole family, those married and those not, to move to the Bronx to be with his family friends and In-Laws, the Belloise’s.
The man who started it all for our family.
Because of my father’s personality, he was able to make their business grow more and more. One opportunity that came along, was delivering bananas from the docks to fruit wholesalers…I’d like to digress again to tell you of my first experience with bananas and how we were involved. I don’t know exactly when it was begun, as it could have been my grandfather that started it. Well, one day when I was about 12, my Uncle Tony asked me to come with him on his next run. Naturally I was excited just knowing I was going to be a helper and just so proud. Into the truck we went and he drove across town to the lower Hudson River where there were and still are piers that boats could dock, to load and unload. Into the gigantic pear we went and as we moved further into it, it became darker and darker, so much so, he had to put on his lights, as did the fifty or so other trucks already waiting in line. We stopped behind the last truck in line and he immediately jumped out and told me to do the same. Up to a desk we went and he registered there, but in doing so he knew who the men behind the desk were and with a big smile began to talk, but in doubletalk, which he was great at. All the guys around would look at him thinking him speaking in another language, but after a while, they all would begin to laugh knowing he was fooling them. He really was good and the best part was that he would speak as though he was asking a question. The men behind the desk would ask him to repeat it and again he would double-talk but maybe add even more gibberish. After a while everybody would laugh and laugh. Eventually when we were back in our truck, we moved along the line until our turn came and he then backed our truck onto a platform. He said to me “Come on, we have to load the truck”. Well talk about a new experience! We walked up a railed platform that led into a mid sized ship, not a liner, or big cargo carrier, but rather one that treaded between the islands of the south and here in New York Harbor, just to deliver bananas. Onto, and into the boat I went behind my uncle, as we passed men carrying stalks of bananas on their shoulders laughing as they did so. Seeing me, a young kid, they yelled to my uncle, “Hey, Watch out for the big black spiders, they are much bigger this trip than the last one. Wow! What? Well, now I really had a problem, now I had to watch out for spiders, and it was getting darker and darker as we went down and down, with only dim lights flickering, here and there. Uncle Tony turned to me and said don’t listen to those guys, they’re just fooling to make you scared. Let me tell you, they did a very good job! As we went down, I notice men who were very, very dark, who spoke in a way that sounded like a song in different language, but it wasn’t, after I listened hard. They were laughing and laughing as they sang, and sweating so much so that their skin shined, even in the dark. I had seen a “colored” man only once before, and that was when my friends and I ran down Mulberry St to Houston St. to see what the commotion was, because we heard loud yelling from people crowding around, cheering, as they moved down Houston St, but never so close as to be involved. When we got there, panting, we saw two guys fighting with long knives, they were very, very dark almost black, swinging their knives at each other with blood running from their bodies as they passed our street along with the loud crowd cheering them on. I say this was the first time because we lived on a street that was closed to anybody not living on it, including “The cops”. At that time they didn’t put “colored people” in books for children to see, at least not in any that I saw. So, I was not too shocked, now to see these 2 guys. My uncle’s turn came and he walked up to a stalk of bananas and swung it on his shoulder as one of the Black men pulled the bow out of the knot on the cord that was holding it to the bottom of the roof of the deck above us. He said to come follow him, and this time if you see any hands of bananas on the floor pick them up and bring them with us. Up we went and sure enough there was a hand that has fallen off, or “accidently” cut off one on the stalks that someone was carrying. I picked it up and boy, was it heavy, with at least fifteen large green bananas on it, and crawling around one of them, came a spider that had to be as big as my hand with black fur on it. I didn’t hold onto that hand of bananas very long and certainly didn’t pick up another. Down to our truck we went and as we passed another desk that was directly along side of the ramp, they recorded our name so as to be able to tally and charge Bianco Bros’s customer. When inside the truck, my uncle told me to now tie the top of the thick stem of the stalk onto the roof railing of our truck with the same rope that had been left on the stalk. So onto a box Uncle Tony had set up for me I jumped, and tie it I did. We continued this procedure time after time till the truck was fully loaded with about 100 stalks hanging there. We then drove to our customer’s warehouse that was also dark, dreary and also full a big black spiders; to do just the opposite, unload each stalk onto hooks on their ceiling. It took four hours from start to load till unloading, so back for another load, but this time Uncle Tony said that I had better pick up the hands that fell, as they were our tip, that we would then share with all my uncles, as well as the mounted policemen that hung around our office to have coffee and and fresh fried meat. This too, is a story for another time, or you might read my story about Uncle Joey, that explains our Policeman friends.
Getting back to my Dad and how his reputation brought customers who realized they could rely on his honesty and loyalty, to use our services, so we grew even more. He made his brother Al, who, although he was a grouch and naturally very, very pushy, run the drivers and the everyday trucking affairs, and he did an excellent job of it. My father stood by in the background, taking care of the customers, billing and finances. Eventually he decided that he wanted to try something new, while still running his family business that was now handling both meat and bananas.
The new adventure he started was the grape and homemade wine business. He, along with his first cousin, Anthony A. Bianco, worked together to create their business from nothing. This cousin, Toniucch, (meaning Anthony in Italian, in an endearing way), moved to Fresno California after my grandfather who was still running things at the time in the early 20’s, after bringing him over from Italy, then gave him $3000.00 dollars in cash and told him to go to California, and find a business to buy. That’s exactly what he did, and after a while, Toniucch created a business that grew to be very large, in doing so he needed to sell a lot of grapes, faster, and in railroad car quantities. So he made an agreement with my father to handle the east coast end to sell grapes by the carload. He bought directly on the vines from local California farmers, had them picked by migrant workers, packed in 35lb boxes in a warehouse he rented, then placed in railroad cars and shipped to New Jersey. The railroad cars were sent to a staging area that was in a train yard near the waterfront in Jersey City, NJ, which was a sizable city where my father was very close friends with the Mayor. He would then arrange through a auction house, to auction and sell these same cars of grapes, with him taking over the sale from the highest bidder, have them pick up their purchases in this same yard, and after being paid, would send the total amount to Toniucch, who would later settle all accounts. All this began each year on or about Mid-October, and ran daily until all the cars of grape were sold, or till Thanksgiving Day, when all his customers who made wine from grapes would stop buying. They knew that as the boxes of grapes lying in the railroad car were getting older and riper they began to get wet from some grapes bursting and bleeding juice through the wooden grape box. They felt that the wine produced from these boxes would not be perfect, and may even spoil and turn the wine into vinegar, which happened to my dad quite a few times. If there were full cars unsold, or even half my father would have to keep them for himself, like it or not, to then make his own wine, which would not always be as good as it could have been, had it been made earlier. Or the alternative, to lose the cost of the grapes, plus all the accumulated charges to get them to New Jersey, so he always decided to use them and take his chances with the wine made, as he was always compensated by Toniucch for those loses when they settled up. Besides the customers who bought from the auction, he would sell from his own grape cars that he purchased to use for his own local customers and distributors, who came to buy at that same railroad yard, but bought in much smaller quantities. To these customers, he gave credit and they paid him usually after they sold their grapes to their customers.
The two cousins worked well together, but Toniucch had bigger plans and was free to do what he wanted, so grew even further by purchasing land with vineyards already producing, from local farmers, who were retiring. He then set up a giant company called Anthony A. Bianco Fruit Co. and became so big that he was able to buy the Minute Maid Orange Co.’s ranch of 20,000 acres, with a partner, Mr. Dell Web, a man who went on to develop a gigantic company making homes throughout Florida. As for Toniucch, please realize that he accomplished all this while never really speaking English. Initially, he asked my father to join him, but being loyal to his brothers, he said not now, as he knew his first priority was to stay and oversee his family business, but he promised Toniucch that someday he would join him, by moving to California, and buying a ranch of his own… That someday would never come!
So what happened when my father had a half of railroad car of grapes left after Thanksgiving? Well, first off he would start by preparing our cellar. He had wine barrels from when my Grandfather made wine, a time I remember clearly, and insist that I digress to tell you about how they made wine, and thereafter, to continue on with my father life.
When I was about seven or maybe eight, I remember watching my father and Uncles bring the boxes of grapes from a truck down into a very small dark cellar that my grandfather had rented from the building owners. In that damp, dark cellar was the equipment ready to make their wine, as they did each and every year. There was a crusher, a squeezer, and two kinds of barrels. One type was placed upright on to a one foot high wooden frame that lined the room, with its top off in the first small room, allowing just barely enough for one person to stand inside between the barrels. The other type barrel was laid on its side on a frame two feet off the floor, and would eventually hold the newly made wine. They were set up in the other small room which was along side of the first, but separated by a door which was locked at all times. When it was time, all the brothers chipped in, weather they liked it or not, or feel the fury on their father, as wives don’t count along side of him who ruled the roost. Each son having his special job, even I had a job, which I loved, even though it didn’t do right by me, as I would get very dizzy doing it. I’d best explain each of the different processes, till it was my turn to help, and by the way, mine was a very important job for a ten year old.
To give you a better picture of where that basement was, I’d like to draw the picture that will be in my minds eye, forever. All the buildings on Mulberry Street were five to seven stories high and all had cellars that had stairs that were below the sidewalk level, with entrances directly in front of each building and next to it’s main entrance. There were wrought iron railings on two sides of the stairs, bolted to the cement sidewalk and to the buildings wall as well. In front was a chain hanging across from rail to rail for safety and to keep kids from playing around them. However, I found it was fun to put my belly on the chain and do a flip. One time, and only one time, I tried to walk across the chain and slipped, but luckily I had not developed anything there yet to break. However, in another story at another time, I can tell you about really breaking one. Ok, Ok! Back to the story!
The workmanship on each railing was of bent and twisted black wrought iron, beautifully hand crafted, as the buildings on this street were being constructed for the rich Gentry who would be living there, as it was going to be a very new and fashionable place to live, “uptown”, way up north of Canal St. So, directly on top of the stairs, level with the sidewalk, were two metal hinged doors when closed covered the entrance, kept out the rain and nosey people, so they were padlocked to prevent uninvited entry, when they were opened they leaned back onto to rails, allowing full entry to the basement. The stairs going down were made of flat blue/grey slate, very steep, and were worn in the center from 75 years of use by the time I saw them. The basement had rooms partitioned to allow tenants to rent for further storage, and each had a padlocked door. As I watched from above, in one of the two little rooms my Grandfather rented, two of his sons took the lids off the grape boxes and stacked them near the crusher, while my grandfather sat and watched the procedure, smoking a stogie. My father got his smoking habit from him and continued smoking them till his death, which was actually the cause. Another son then dumped each box into the crusher. What’s a crusher? It was shaped like a square hardwood funnel, with two steel rollers attached horizontally on the bottom, so that while they turned against each other, they churned and swallowed the grapes thrown into it, crushing them as they went through. This crusher had a wheel with a handle connected to the rollers that was turned by another brother. When each barrel was three quarters full after crushing about ten boxes, they would move to the next barrel, fill it, and so on, till all the boxes were empty and the barrels were full. Usually my grandfather bought 50 boxes, as 5 barrels was all that fit in the first room he had. He would sit and watch all that was going on with my father running the show, with a cigar in his mouth, but usually not lit. My job was not part of this first operation, so my grandfather would give me or my brother if he was there, a nickel to buy candy at Fay’s coffee and candy store across Prince Street. Fay was a spinster lady who actually roasted her own blends of coffee. She had coffee for all tastes, black for Italians, Brown for the wimps, and blends for the rich and famous. Beside this she was gorgeous with her hair in a bun, always happy with a warm smile, and so beautiful that we would want to go the just to see and talk to her. She was my first love, a shame cause I was too young. She would give us free candy when we were sent to buy a pound of coffee, or three cigarettes.
The next step was to put covers loosely placed onto the filled barrels, with a smell like grape juice permeating the room and out into the street. The day’s work was done and the soon to be wine, was left to ferment, with always someone going down to turn the mixture, it was usually my father, as we lived on the fifth floor in this same building while most of the other brother lived elsewhere. He would stop and let the mixture settle after about seven days, then allow more time for the mixture to ferment even further. The fermenting process was creating a sediment that began forming into a “cake” that eventually floated to the surface. He would watch each barrel till he saw all the sediment rise to the top and the smell was clearly of young wine, “Neuveau”. When satisfied, he would call his brothers to again help for the next step in the process, and this is where I came in. I’m not sure if my brother Al helped as well, but he must have been there as well, however because he was bigger and much fatter than me, he was unable to fit into the barrel to do the job needed. I was very small and slight, more perfect to be put into the barrels, be able to scrunch down, clean out the seeds, rein, stems and other things like leaves that had formed into that cake shape of about 18” thick. Before I was put into each barrel, the liquid had to be removed, so everyone helped to drain the young wine down through the bottom of each barrel, where a wooden spigot which had an open and close knob, hammered into the bottom, to allow the liquid to flow into awaiting pails. They were then passed through to the next room, chain gang style, where it was poured into the awaiting barrels to ferment there for months, till the wine was ready to drink. Only after this was accomplished and the barrels were empty of fluid, did they put me in the first barrel with no shoes, socks, shirt, but with throw-away short pants. In the beginning, the smell was wonderful, but as I scrunched down into the barrel, it was much stronger, so much so, that I had to come up for air every so often, and very dizzy in the process. Actually, I had to come up anyway, as each time I did, I had a small bucketful of the contents in the barrel. That bucket was passed to a brother who then dumped the contents into the squeezer; I did this continually till the barrel was empty, and then on to the next, and so on till all five barrels were empty. OK so what’s a squeezer you might ask? Well it is a free standing device that was made of cast iron, and very heavy. It stood on three legs and on top of them was a flat iron surface with a channel at it’s circumference that would catch the juices from the squeezed grape rynes. Vertically standing on the top of the base and directly inside the channeling was series of 1”x2”hardwood slats a half inch apart held together by three steel rings, one in the middle an two on each end, top and bottom. In the center of the flat iron base was 2” solid steel threaded bar that was welded at the bottom to the base and stood vertically straight up past the height of the wooden slats by about one foot. See photo below!
This wine press we had for years; until dad moved to California. Then I gave it and all his other equipment to Mr Brutto, his main distributor and very our close friend. There is another great story about this man and his family that needs telling… but when? The picture shown is a smaller version, as ours had three metal rings, and could hold more ryne.
A giant bolt made to screw onto this pole had two places for pipes to be inserted, to give strength to the person, or persons turning it down. On top of the still wet and juicy ryne there was placed two 2”thick flat semi-circular hardwood boards, each were a half that fit snugly between the center pole and the wooden slats, when together fit around this pole, pushing down the ryne. As the bolt moved down into the squeezer, it would press the boards that would then press fermented grapes. Another set of boards was placed over the first set to keep the mixture under tremendous pressure. As the grapes were being squeezed, a liquid like dark red blood would run from it into the channel and then to a point that was flared to allow the liquid to fall into an awaiting pail. The crushed fermented grapes were taken from the fermenting barrels and put into the squeezer, one barrel at a time, till all barrels were empty. The liquid that went into the pails was passed along into the second room and poured into each barrel equally to add “The Blood” that gave strength and body to the soon to be wine.
This ended the first steps in making home made wine. The barrels in the second room would stay for months till after tasting a shot glass with his father every so often, and they both agreed that the wine was ready. My father would then add a few tea spoons of sulfur to each barrel, as this would stop the fermenting process and the wine would remain with that level of alcohol and maturity, and not ferment further into vinegar. Wine was now ready to drink! WAIT, wait… We’re not done yet!
What do you do with the ryne that is now squeezed dry and looked like matted saw dust that is again in a cake form?? Throw it away? Are you crazy? This is why you make wine the in the first place. This dried stuff is gold…pure GOLD! You take one of the up right, now empty barrels, clean it, and throw these dried rynes into it after separating and loosening it. You then add two gallons of pure grain 100% Alcohol into the barrel as well, let it stand for another month or so… and what do you have… “Grappa”. What’s Grappa used for? A thimbleful of Gappa sipped very very slowly will knock you out, but as you fall to the floor, you’ll first feel your throat burn so much that you will spew out flames and burn the kitchen curtains. You don’t get a lot from the batch, a little less than the two gallons of “alcky” you put in, but at the rate you can drink it, it will last a long time. It was usually served to guests on holidays, proudly mentioning how strong it was this year. So, now you know the process that my father had to use to make wine from all the boxes of grapes that didn’t get sold. He followed the same procedure making his own wine.
The wine business had its good points, but making an awful lot of wine between Thanksgiving and Christmas was not the way to spend your young adventurous time. Actually it was fun, but very hard work when it was first the three of us, then when Al went to College, just the two of us. Actually my mom was right there with us doing as much, or even more than us. What a woman… and she was my mom! By the way!! Her story is coming soon…to theaters in your neighborhood!
So what did my dad do with all this wine, some great to drink and others not so hot, that he would wind up with each year? It was usually anywhere from 10 to 15 barrels, or 600 to 900 gallons of wine, and our family could barely drink a barrel in a year. Why it too was gold… GOLD! No not like the Grappa, but dad turned it into real money…Three to Five dollars a gallon depending on the quality! Distributing it is another story, with a lot of laughs and a lot of work. My Mother knew exactly what to do with the money collected and my father just smiled with his stogy in his mouth and let her do whatever she wanted, which was always to save it to use later for us 6 kids.
My father, who had his main business to run, stayed with it with his brothers, but after a while, because of the connection the trucking business had working mainly with wholesale meat dealers, he found he could buy and sell “Spring Lamb” that was a main course with Italians at Easter. So, he would travel to the South by car; buy spring lambs, have them delivered to a friends cooler, then just days before Easter use his same distributors from his wine business, to sell and deliver them to their same customers annually, usually Italian families. This business really took no time from the trucking company, so he then started looking for another market to bring to New York, and it was Christmas Trees.
He started going to Canada to buy Christmas trees in early November and would have two or three railroad cars of trees shipped to Jersey City, NJ, the same yard he used for grapes, they were to arrive about two weeks before Christmas. When they arrived, he would open the cars and begin selling bundles of trees to his wholesalers. Some bundles had three trees wrapped together, some four and some only had two. As it worked out, the bundles with the most trees were made up of smaller trees, and those with only two were very tall, full and round. His distributors would then sell these bundles to men in different sections of New York and New Jersey, who found places on street corners, to open and sell their trees to people who passed by, wanting to get their home ready for Christmas. His railroad cars were in a staging area where his customers could come to pick up their bundles. When I was about 10, he would take me along on weekends to help him. I loved every second, as we would start very early in the morning, first have a cup of his coffee brew, which was day old black Italian coffee laced with scotch and milk, enough to keep you warm inside for hours. I would watch him, with his cigar in his mouth, chewing on it, but never lighting it, and because it was always so cold in the yards, his nose would drip. Guess what, my nose now does the same thing and I think about my dad and how he looked, and to boot, later I too went into the Christmas business, but big time, like him a leader to first bring different Christmas ideas to people. Double guess what, my son Michael is also in the Christmas business.
At the cold railroad yard, I would watch him, knowing he was the boss and he was my father. His customers would arrive and yell to him “Sally”, another year, but I can’t pay you till after Christmas. He would smile to them, without having to say anything, and they knowing all was well, because he was “Sally”. I would help his customers load what they bought, as small as I was, and they would tell my father “Sally, you are training him good to take over the business.” He would then open his little book, ask them how many bundles of what count, and note the sale, some paid at once, and some would pay later, but not too many ever paid at once.
About the middle of the Second World War, rationing began, making meat and meat products hard to get, and only available by using “Meat stamps“, which were given to each family according to the amount of family members in it. It forced most of the Wholesalers to stop their deliveries to local distributors, who in turn could not sell to local butchers. This forced The Bianco Bros trucking to temporary close down. My uncles, as well as all men under the age of 40, had to report for induction to enter the Armed services. Uncle Al went into the Army and became a cook stationed in Battle Creak, Michigan. Uncle Joey joined the Navy and was on a Navy destroyer that was in a few sea battles, and came home with a quite and solemn attitude, possibly a little shell shocked. Uncle Mickey when reporting for his physical into the army, acted crazy. He told me he actually sat on a steam radiator so his body heat was very high, He was classified as “4F”. Uncle Tony actually was “4F”. Uncle Raffie was helped by Uncle Pete, an uncle through marriage, who was then very connected, and got him “Deferred”. Uncle Pete was a wonderful man and everyone respected him, including me. He would always call me over and ask about my mom. He went to school with my father and always was there for him. Bianco Bros never had to join a Union, when all other truckers, and their drivers were forced to. My father being the oldest son was not inducted. He went to work at the Brooklyn Navy yard and was hired as carpenter building wooden ships. He had no idea how to use a hammer, but that is where the government made him work. Our meat supply dried up just a little, but my father could have made a fortune selling meat that was made available to him to people in the black market. He told us that he could not take advantage and make money that way. Many people who had his same contacts made tons of money selling meat, bypassing food stamps and charging double.
When the Second World War was coming to an end, we moved to the Bronx, as it was a plan my Grandfather had to have all his children move there and remain together, It didn’t happen, as each child moved where their wives family lived, spoiling that plan. We lived on the first floor of a rented apartment in a 2 family home on 205th St. and the Grand Concourse, it was a paradise in comparison to the three rooms in a fifth floor cold water flat on Mulberry St. As was always the case when kids moved into a new neighborhood, I had to prove myself to the boys my age and had to fight anyone who thought they were going to control me, so fight I did and no one bothered me after I fought the neighborhood bully. I had Belloise blood in me, and had no problem with any who thought they could fight and beat me. They first called me “Lefty” cause I did everything backward, so they couldn’t understand how I fought. Eventually they all called me “The Saint”. Why? That’s a story for another time, but for now to say they all went to pubic school and I alone, went to Catholic school. I didn’t allow cursing in front of me. Eventually they respected me for it, called The Saint and it stuck..
My father was a man for his family, no, not one to dote over us, but one that provided for all our needs, and was there when we needed him. Not to mention we got his cars after he would buy a new one. Most men would go out at night to drink and whatever, but he would be there for us till later in the evening, when he would go one block down to 204th Street. Living there was his Uncle Sal Belloise, my Grandmothers brother, He had a four story family brick home, and always sat on his stoop (the front stairs to his building) and just for the fun of it would actually ask people who passed by saying “You Gotta soma change? Here was a guy whose two sons were Champions of the World in Boxing, didn’t need the money, but loved just to con people. Well, mostly weekday nights my dad would go to Uncle Sal’s basement and play cards till late into the night with all the crony’s of the neighborhood. This was his only recreation… from attending major Broadway plays nightly when he was young, to playing simple card games with his friends. He was happy with his life, knowing he did what he wanted, whenever he wanted, and now was a time to relax. Many times, I would go with him, down narrow steps to the finished basement and smell the room with all the Italian men smoking and drinking wine, sitting at a big round table laughing and talking in Italian, usually with a few curse words when someone would lose too many times. His life from then on was… Work… home to eat, then TV, and then to Uncle Sal’s. It was for him a comfortable way to retire, with a wife that was there for him in every way. Eventually he bought a one family home in the country, still in the Bronx, but near the border of Mt Vernon. It had four floors with bedrooms for everyone and a few as spares, as two of my older sisters were married. There were still farms around that mainly grew vegetables for the Manhattan market. If you go there today you will see glass dome that protected the crops in the winter, but broken and no longer used.
Being too far from Uncle Sal’s, his weekends were spent with us, him barbequing flank steaks like they were hamburgers, and my mom baking everything from bread to all kinds of macaroni. Us kids would have all our friends over; a home that had happiness, love, respect, and peace. So much so, that all my friends called my parents “Mom and Pop” and meaning it, as their homes didn’t have what we had. Best of all, each of us would bring our cars to wash, wax and just be together. At the time I didn’t realize it, but most men were not like my father, they were only after what they could do for themselves, while he was there for us, all the time, soft and easy. His few friends would come to drink our sometime good wine, but mainly to be there with us. It did help that there was always great food for all. Great bread, steaks, fresh vegetables from our garden,(don’t forget my mother was a farmer) and wine galore, sometimes great and sometimes just so, so!
A note here about my taking over his book when he retired; when he was 64 in 1965, neither he or my mother knew that he had terminal cancer and wouldn’t live much longer. His doctor took me aside and told me privately about my father’s condition, so I told no one. In those days, cancer was a disease that no one talked about or even knew too much about, therefore was kept secret. So, without telling them, I suggested that they retire sooner, rather than wait till he was 65, which was less than a year later. They bought a new station wagon, loaded it with their immediate needs, and headed for California to spend their retirement days with their other five children and loads of grandchildren. I told them that I too would follow later. When my Dad was ready, he gave me his book, as well as all his personal financial papers, and asked me to handle everything that needed taken of. I was to sell their house, and send them the funds. When I looked through this business book with him, I noticed that there were about 8 men who hadn’t paid him fully, and still owed him quite a bit of money. I said that he shouldn‘t worry and that I would collect the money for him. He said “No, forget about the monies due.” I said why, they owe you and I’ll get the money. He then said to me don’t do anything about the debts, as these were the men who made him all the money he earned from the trees, wine and lamb businesses. They did the work and what money they owed him was small compared to what he had gotten back tenfold from them. So, he said listen and learn. “People, who work for you, earn for you a lot more than you pay to them, so when the time comes, forget their debts“. This is a lesson I followed the rest of my life. When the time came for me to retire, I gave my businesses to my employees free and clear. It felt good… maybe not too business smart, but I followed my fathers ways and am proud of it.
He died six months later, and I cried!
Hold this till you don’t need it:
Writing this story of his life, has made me realize how very much like him I turned out to be. I only wish that I could now tell him personally how proud I am of him, but I feel that he reading this over my shoulder as I write it, and probable pushed my memory to help in its writing.
In order to get a true feel of where my father came from, and how he became a very special man, I will need to touch on his parents. before I do, I must make this remark about him. EVERYONE who knew him loved him, and I mean everyone.
A note that needs a home::::
Getting back to my father, from the start he was spoiled and got whatever he wished. What was very different about my Grandfather was that he told everyone to speak only American English to his son. Yes, his children were to understand Italian, but English was to be spoken in and around them, and this was very surprising as he only could speak Italian. What little I learned was from him and my giant of a grandmother. He never used Italian curse words, but she was excellent at it. One word she used all the timw when yelling at my uncles was “SKI_VUSE”, don’t know what it means but it got her point accross.
Below is just another version written before I investigated further into my Grandfathers youth
His parents were unique in that they did not fit the term Immigrant. My Grandfather was a man that drove himself forward as soon as he arrived here in lower Manhattan. He was single, strong, and very smart. He immediately began working in a fish market along side of the East river, and after a while saw that he could fill a need for people who lived in buildings on the street where he lived, Mulberry St, all of which had many floors, all walkups. If they wanted fish, they had to plan to shop for it separately as it was sold only in that one area near the river. So, he bought a push cart and began buying fish at a low price, as he dealt with his old bosses and knew what they paid for each particular fish. He would start very early every morning and begin his route on Mulberry Street at Canal St, mainly because most of the people living there were Italian emigrants who spoke no English. He would walk along yelling OH Pesh!! OH Pesh, and as he walked, a bell hanging on a wire across his cart would ring and ring with the bounce of his pace. People came and bought, more and more, as they learned that his fish was fresh, his prices were fair, and also because he gave them credit, trusting them to pay when they didn’t have money at the time he came by. I don’t know how much he earned, but it must have been substantial, because he was able to save enough to travel back to Italy after only 5 years, and as an American Citizen, then to marry and return with his new wife to continue with his business and begin a family. His wife, a giant of a woman for her time, was from a family called Belloise, who were associated with his family on the hillsides of Vesuvius Mountain, which has little towns along it’s base, and one called Avellino where they lived. Both families were notorious for being “Robin hood type bandits” on the local highways going through the mountains heading North and South. I believe, but am not sure; a bandit called Il Tremilyre was his great grandfather, whose name was Salvatore Bianco. This Salvatore was also famous for his flirtatious ways as he walked through the towns with his shotgun on his shoulder, acting pompously as the warden for the local Baron’s land. He was eventually shot by a Cockled husband while he was in the wrong position using his other weapon.
When Aniello arrived back in New York with is new wife in early 1901, she was very close to having their first child. In September of that year, she did and it was a boy, who one day, would be my father, Salvatore Anthony Bianco, the first of nine living children of my Grandparents. There were one or two babies that didn’t make it in between, at least that is what Aunt Millie, their youngest daughter, told me. It was very common in those days that babies were lost to disease, or some other malady, so parents just accepted it, even though they were very sad at their loss. When my father was born, he was treated like a little god. As in all European families, the first son would inherit all from his father to carry on the name and traditions.
At the time I didn’t think as funny, But actually it really was. I only just thought of it because I’m going for a Coloncancer operation and felt I had to tell my surgeon about a scar that might be a problem….
I’m writing this to inform you of something that I had completely forgotten about for over 40 years. In a meeting this past week with my General Practitioner, Dr M *****, we discussed the up and coming proceedure that MSK doctors were going to perform on my cancer. In the discussion we talked about some of the happenings I’ve had over the years, and I recalled an event that happened to me in 1972. My one year old son was just learning to walk, and he was playing with a 6″ handheld Indian brass bell, that was a sample of what I was importing at the time. He left it upright on a chair and it was not vivible under a dining room table that was in a corner of the room. I, being very agile, and without seeing it, swung around and sat down on that chair landing directly on that bell. Needless to say, it went straight up into my body between my penus and my rectum. Jumping up, I knocked over the Thanksgiving table and pulled out the bell which had gone completely in, all the way up to the bell portion. Out came the bell and a lot of blood as well. I was rushed to a local hospital, but by the time I got there my testicles began filling up with the blood that could no longer come out the hole created by the bell as it swelled and closed. My Testicle sacks filled to the bursting stage and were the size of a fooball. The doctors at the hospital, could not see how to proceed, and they finally agreed it was best to let nature take it’s course. They moved me into a room in the maternity ward and I was put into “Sits baths” daily to releave the pain and allow my new football to float. I was there for two weeks and at the end of that time, was released with no further damage to my body. I was 40 years old and strong, and just forgot about it. However, Dr M brings up a point that there may be scar tissue in that area from the accident that might effect my operation.
I tell you this with a laugh, but at the time it was not so funny as they make it out to be in the movies. Also just to make you aware of this incident before you operate on me. I have had no repercussion from that accident nor the one earlier( I was 18), were I fell onto a steel shaft cutting my left testicle in half, causing the same football affect. Here again no physical affects had changed any of my abilities, especially having children…I had 3 sons. Both incidents happened and disappeared. Just for your knowledge, and maybe a little laugh.
The effect of “32” in my life.
I was born in 1932 in a cold water apartment on Mulberry St, in Manhattan, NY
32 years later, 1964, my father died of cancer.
32 years later, 1996, my 13 year relationship with a woman and her children ended drastically.
One half of 32 years later, 2013, I had cancer and a triple Bypass surgery.
In the other half of 32 years later, 2026, I’ll become a senior citizen who is shooting to become a centurion in 2032. Shouldn’t have a problem reaching that point, but can I make it to the next 32 years on the 100th anniversary of my father’s death. See you then!!! Guess what??? Every time I chance to look at a digital clock, the minutes are almost always on 32.
Just realized that the number used to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit is 32!!! Better still!!! Everything freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The other day while checking out at Lowe’s, I mentioned to the young girl cashier after she mentioned my bill was $32 dollars and change, I exclaimed hey! my lucky number “32” and I was born in 1932! She laughed out loud and said it was her lucky number too! I said do you see it all around you every day? She said yes and that she uses it whenever she can, like myself. We laughed together and became true soul mates, she at ?32? and me at 84.
7:32, 3:32, 8:32 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂