here it is:
My memories of my Uncle Joey
When I was 10, I loved going to my father’s place of business, a trucking company that he ran with his 4 brothers, and it was called “THE FIVE “B” TRUCKING CO. Why the Five B trucking Co, when there were 6 sons? Well, Ralph, or Raiffie, the youngest, had married a beautiful women whose family were kinda connected, and had a large, very large trucking company called “Ross TRucking”so he was able to own a paper stock trucking company that delivered heavy paper rolls to printing companies. His, is another story for another time. For now, I’d like to talk about Uncle Joey. Oh, buy the way, when us boys went to work with their fathers, we called the trucking company “The Five “B” Trucking Co and one “Son of B”!
I’ve written a few stories about my family, and each in it’s way, talked about one of the 5 brothers. This story is about my Uncle Joey, as he was a one of a kind man’s man. One who would go out of his way for you, that is if, you were family. My memories of him start when he got married. It was a wedding, like all weddings of the day, called a football wedding. Here again is another story for another day. But what I remember most, was the beauty of his new wife, and the way they danced the “Pee-Body, floating along the dance floor round and round. It was by watching them that gave me the thrill of it all to become a fairly good dancer. I could say more but it’s always best to be humble!
At work, Uncle Joey had a fuse that blew in a second. I saw him flatten a big truck driver because he had yelled at my father. When I say flatten, I mean one punch, and down for the count of fifty, but he really was a lovable guy, really, and handsome…WOW!!!
Well, our day started at 3AM every morning in the railroad yards on 34 St. and 12th Ave, naturally in Manhattan, where all of us would load in the trucks with sides of beef, some weighting 250 lbs each, all out of a railroad car that came from Chicago. When it was our turn to carry, we would swing a hindquarter of a cow onto our shoulder but allow it to lean on the side of our head for support. One Uncle, usually Uncle Al, standing on a box cause he was short, would then cut a rope that had kept the hindquarter hanging onto the roof of the railroad car. The weight would hit all of a sudden, and only practice allowed us to control the weight, and not fall off balance. we would then carry it out to one of our trucks that was backed against the door of the railroad car and waiting there was my father with a hook that could roll on a rail hanging on the roof of the truck, he would hook the ankle of the hind allowing us to then let it swing into the bowls of the truck. Waiting there was another Uncle, usually Uncle Tony, stacking each hindquarter as close as possible to tightly fill the truck.
Uncle Joey after the war…1945/6? His ship had been torpedoes, and I can’t imagine where he learned to swim on Mulberry St.??? he looks sad here, but when he smiled…Boom!
Please remember that at age 10 I was about 4.0’ and about 100 lbs. and could do no more than watch or pass metal hooks to my father, and it was only after when I was 16 that I too carried the meat. After loading all the trucks, we would each then get into one or the other truck, and deliver them to the 14thSt wholesale meat market. After all the trucks were unloaded at each wholesaler involved, which was now about 7AM, each brother then had his other particular job to do with his truck and each had their special way to take care of it. Before they began, all would have coffee and buns that was ready for all including the local horseback polivemen, who always were there as well for a great breakfast loaded with fun and laughter. Uncle Mickey’s truck was perfection and no one was allowed to drive it, period! The rest jumped from one truck to the next, not caring which one they would be driving, didn’t even bother to clean the windshield. When there was a problem with a truck the brothers would call Uncle Joey to come fix it. He was called “The ScrewDriver Kid”, and fixed everything with his trusty screwdriver, even flats! A few times he sent sparks flying when a truck wouldn’t start. He used his trusty screwdriver and somehow would create a short and a screeching of sparks would fly. Crazy thing, none of brothers would curse, whereas, cursing was the standard language among the workers throughout the meat market. Maybe it was because one of us boys was around, so they watched what they said.
It was Uncle Joey’s job to start with a small truck for “The Route”. What’s the route you ask? Well, it’s delivering from the different wholesalers, the sides of beef now cut up from yesterday’s batch we delivered and deliver to the local butchers in Manhattan that were our customers. Uncle Joey had about 25 customers. What was done daily by each of his customers was to arrive at the meat market at about 6am in the morning and buy whatever they needed for that day, or week. Each always bought from their same three or four wholesalers. Different butchers had different wholesalers that they favored, for either quality or type of meat. After each butcher finished his purchases, he would stop off at our office give the list and receipts to my father, then have a cup of coffee with buns, be kidded, or teased about one thing or another, but it was fun for all, and my father would oversee everything with a wet stogy in his mouth and always with a little smile on his face. Everyone in the market always wanted to stop by our office, especially the NYC mounted police, who would tie their horses to the mirrors of our parked trucks. Each officer would be part of the fun and each made all of their co-officers throughout Manhattan know to leave Bianco Bros trucks alone, no matter what, and we had a lot of things wrong that tickets could easily be issued for. On the other side of the fence was that my father grew up with “Uncle Pete”, a truly wonderful man, but with a special power that no one else in New York had, and coincidently, it was his niece who married our Uncle Raiffie. “Uncle Pete” put the word out about Bianco Bros, and so we had protection from another source. We could travel anywhere in the city and not worry. We had a lot that we had to worry about without the “cops” being on our backs. Most of the trucks were maintained by Uncle Joey, who had his regular work plus trying to maintain our trucks. We had 10 trucks and they were all old and falling apart. Most had poor brakes and it was a challenge to be able to go anywhere and use only your head to get around without brakes. Even today when I drive, I hardly ever use my brakes. Another reason the Cops liked us was that they shared the stuff that somehow would fall off the truck. Cousin Al, who we all loved and was so special, wanted to become a cop because of the ones that hung around our office. There is another story here, but I’ll save it for when I specially write about him. I still miss him terribly.
OOPS! Back to the story. Our butcher customers would leave the sales slips he received for his purchases for Uncle Joey to pick up that day. Then, Uncle Joey would have to cruise the whole market and pick up whatever each of his customer bought. The workers from each wholesaler would set aside each order for each butcher and knew who were Uncle Joey’s customers, and would have the order ready and in the order needed for Uncle Joey to pick up. Again, please realize that almost all the workers in the market made their way to our office for the comradery that was always there. It would start very early in the morning around a metal barrel with a blazing fire in it. Uncle Tony would double talk everyone, while uncle Mickey would play practical jokes, Uncle Al had a very dry humor but very funny, while my father and Uncle Joey would be laughing.
Uncle Joey’s customers didn’t buy every day, so his truck would be full but not overloaded. He would plan accordingly his route for that day. When it was my turn to go with him, He would have me use a hand truck and pick up all the boxes and things that would be nearby where he was at that time. Some crates had chickens in them loaded with crushed ice to keep them fresh. Some boxes had assorted deli-meats, such as baloney, or salami, and some had cleaned flank steaks. We would load the truck backwards so that when we were fully loaded, the orders on the back of the truck, were for the first stop and so on till the truck was empty.
After he made his rounds of wholesalers, it would be about 8:00am, he would then begin to make his deliveries which would take him till about three o’clock. As each of the kids of the brothers were old enough, they would love come to work with their dads, but always wanted to go with Uncle Joey. My brother Al has his own stories, as does each of the sons who came to work. It usually worked out that only one nephew would have the chance to go with Uncle Joey, and when it was my turn, I reveled in just being close to him. He was a man’s man, with a beautiful mustache, bushy black hair, and very handsome, but usually with a serious face, that is, till he laughed. No, not because of anything in particular, but that was how he looked, just very serious! Nobody would ever think of approaching him to threaten him. When he smiled, it hit you in the gut…it was beautiful. Our dress for work was a light blue striped uniform that usually would last one day, please realize we were working with meat, blood and a lot of greasy fat, not to mention all the oil and goock we got from just driving the trucks. We all had to wear a flat hat, called a “newsboys hat” because we had to carry the meat on your shoulder, part of it would be on the side of your head, for balance, and the hat took all the grease. Sometime it was a hind-quarter of meat that weighed two hundred pounds, or maybe a four-quarter that could be over two fifty to three hundred pounds, and very, very, very greasy. The hat was a must, but he looked like a guy who knew who he was, who was not afraid of anything, anyone, except my father, who each brother adored. I’ll write about my father in another story, but for now it’s Uncle Joey.
At his first stop, the butcher, “Joe De Mino”, was a guy who loved to pull jokes on him, and later on, us. He spoke with a strong Italian accent and always looked like he was laughing. In those days, each retail store would put down sawdust on their floor, fresh every day. It just was the way it was done, no matter what retailer you went to, a restaurant, grocery, bar, butcher, baker, or candle stick maker each would have a floor of saw dust about two inches thick. Spill something and the sawdust absorbed it. Actually in those days the main the real reason was that people would simply spit on the floor wherever they went. It was a bigger problem in the subway, because people would spit on the shiny cement floor and others would slip on the spit, and wind up in the hospital. It got so bad that eventually, starting in the subways, they passed a law “NO SPITTING”. Didn’t do much good till heavy fines were handed out. Then people got the idea, and fast. But please remember it was socially accepted, well, maybe not the for “high fluting” people, but they never really went anywhere and had servants to do the daily stuff. Getting back to my story, “Joe De Mino” would ask us to be careful not to disturb the sawdust and he would make a pathway through it and lay down newspapers in our path till we left, as his butcher shop had to be perfect when he opened for the day. His neighborhood was in the center of Greenwich Village, where a lot of gay people lived. Not that there is anything wrong in that! So, he catered to mostly single customers, small portions, and he bought accordingly, small stuff, and maybe not the best, in fact it was pretty smelly.
Uncle Joey would then go to his next stop, go through the same procedures and continue on. Each butcher was a character, and each had his idiosyncrasies. Each had a different clientele, as was the case in each area in lower Manhattan. It had either a certain nationality, or class of people, but always with different tastes. After a while he would wind up on Mulberry St, the street of where our family began, with two customers who were uniquely opposite. The first was called “Stingone”, and as it turned out, his son was very interested in my oldest sister, Elizabeth. She didn’t like him and tried everything to avoid him.. Guess what? She eventually married Dominick Guerriero, his nephew, whose mother was “Stingone’s” sister, and they started their own little empire, again another story for another day. Stingone’s butcher shop was in the lower part of Mulberry St, whose neighborhood was very ethically Italian, where a lot of sewing sweat shops were going full force making dresses and blouses. They really weren’t as bad as they were made out to be. My Grandmother and all the girls in the neighborhood would be given work that they produced at home. I would love to watch them sewing dresses on putting sweater parts together. I loved it so much that I would help…not very good at it till later. A man would come to the third floor of 250 Mulberry St, where our family was based. We rented the whole third floor and everyone of the brothers and sisters grew up on that floor. Eventually my parents rented one of the four apartments on the fifth floor, were the first four of their children were born and grew up.
Back to “Stingone’s! A change was beginning to take place on Mulberry St, as Chinatown, which was south of Canal St on Mulberry, was moving North and eventually, by 2010, moved their border right up north to the end of Mulberry Street at Houston St., where the Term “So-Ho” came from. Well, everything south of Houston street is “SOuth HOuston”, and Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese founded the area directly north it called “Tribeca”. They both grew up one block behind Mulberry called Mott St. They are probable 5 years younger than me, so I didn’t know them, but they went to St Patrick’s Old Cathedral school and church.
OK, let’s get back to “Stingone”, he was cheap and never offered us anything, but he always asked about my father and mother. The meat he bought was always “Good” grade. And we always made sure stuff fell off the truck before we reached his stop. It’s amazing how those dead chickens got out of their box.
Our next stop was one that always amazed me. The butcher was a skinny guy with wild hair who thought we was an artist, acted like an artist and painted like Picasso. As we arrived at his stop, because the street was narrow with cars parked on either side, we held up all the local traffic, but no one would dare complain when they took a look at Uncle Joey. The place was more like a pig pen than a butcher shop, but he had such a great personality, his customers loved him. He mainly very skinny goats a grade lower than good. Every day he would paint a gigantic picture on brown paper used for wrapping, and display it in his front window which was not too clean. He had other paintings on all his walls, as he painted a new one the older one was moved in rotation on the walls about the shop. He too spoke very broken English, but it always with a wonderful big smile. You couldn’t just like him, you just had to love him. I’ve got to mention here that when we arrived on Mulberry Street, I would do some crazy antics. In order in jump on to the back of the truck easily, there was a knotted rope about one inch thick with the knots about a foot apart, so that you could grab a lower knot with one hand and with the other hand grab the next knot up and so forth till to eventually got on board the back of the truck, either with your butt or onto your feet. What I loved doing was to hold the bottom knot and swing out and bounce along as the truck moved forward. Each bounce would take me about 8 feet till the next bounce. It was like flying. Sometimes I would swing out past the side of the truck where Uncle Joey would see me in his side mirror and he’d have a big smile on his face. I did things like that when I was young, and then continued on till now, but a little more cautiously.
Uncle Joey always planned to reach a particular butcher, whose shop was off of Delancy Street, at noon time. Why you ask? Well, to have lunch, not just a little lunch, but a spectacular lunch. I can’t remember his full name, but his first was Carmine and his wife, and Uncle Joey’s wife, Aunt PeeWee, were childhood friends. She too was very, very beautiful just like aunt Peewee. Both Carmine and Uncle Joey, with their respective wives, were terrific dancers. Being they grew up at the end of the 1920’s, they danced the popular dance at that time called “The Peabody”. I would watch them at some party and dreamed of being that good… The dream came through… didn’t it? At any rare, we would have a great fresh piece of meat fried before our eyes with a glass of wine, then black coffee to kill for, topped with anisette. The area where the shop was located had Burlesque theaters, with vaudeville shows on their marquee, and Yiddish was the spoken language.
As we worked our way across the tip of Manhattan, well before the Twin towers were built, (Did you read my account of being their), stopping for different customers along the way till we would eventually arrive at “95 East 3rd”. Now here was a butcher, a Prime butcher. What’s a prime butcher? All meat is federally controlled, and it has established 3 different grade of meat. GOOD, then a little better, CHOICE, then very much better PRIME. Most butchers bought a combination of Good and Choice, but never PRIME. It had 2 inches of fat around each piece, and you could tear a piece off and eat it just like that. Really, we did it all the time (when we could get away with it). So, when we went to “95 EAST 3RD ST”, it was an honor. The butcher was a German Giant and spoke with that German English accent and would laugh so loud that your ears hurt. His two gigantic sons also worked for him and they too spoke with the accent and laughed just like him. His shop was spotless, big, with shiny chrome hooks along the walls, and gigantic mirrors on all walls. His saw dust was twice as thick as anywhere else.
He never bought anything small, so his hinds of beef were 300lbs. Try swinging that on your shoulder, but his sons didn’t bother doing that, they just would grab the hind under their arm and carry it in to the shop, twist it and reach it to a hook on the wall. Uncle Joey, or myself, didn’t have to carry anything into the shop as the boys did it all. Usually there was always a couple of wooden crates of chickens cleaned and ready to sell, a pig, that weighed 250lbs (Got to have pork for sausages) and a two hundred pound prime calf. This stop was the only one that Uncle Joey was careful to make sure that nothing was falling off of the truck. WHAT… did things fall out the truck? Well, they must have or else our family would never have the best of everything that meat could offer. Each uncle was great at one style of “falling off the truck“, and Uncle Tony was the best. Every day when everyone was ready to go home, my father would have ready a package for each of his brothers. It was share and share alike, not what you brought back with you, but everyone’s put into the pile for all to share, brothers, policemen, and whoever was there at the sharing.
We had about 3 more stops, but it was all downhill from here. This didn’t mean we were through for the day, no, no way. Now Uncle Joey had to take another larger 40’truck that had rails inside hanging along the roof, so that the hanging meat could be stacked from front to back. One driver could handle the load, as the rails allowed the driver to roll the meat, usually hinds or fore-quarters, and roll them to the back of the truck where another rail could be attached later at the “A and P” warehouse loading dock rails, or whatever customer we were delivering to. Then it all easily rolled from the truck into the warehouse cooler. There were 5 “A and P” warehouses we had to deliver to. They were located as follows: In the Bronx, where Uncle Joey delivered to, Brooklyn where uncle Tony delivered to, Garden City, Long Island where Uncle Mickey delivered to, Newark, NJ where Joe Gag delivered to ( he was married to Aunt Millie), and finally “A and P Maspeth, NJ” delivered by Louis (a Bianco from Corning, NY., married to our cousin Maryann Abbatte). My new brother in law, Dominick, married to my oldest sister, would now take the load to A and P Bronx. By then Uncle Mickey got a job working for a provision house, and this started the end of Bianco Bros as we knew it.
The reason we delivered to the A and P warehouses, was that my father was able to land this large account that used our trucks exclusively. It was called Berliner and Marks and they sold only calves and veal. It was owned by two Jewish men, Herb Berliner and William Marks, who were my father friends and who trusted him completely to make sure all their business was handled correctly, and it was. So, now three day a week we had to deliver sides of veal to freezers, to be sent to our armed forces overseas. Bianco Bros became our new name and all the trucks were painted with “Berliner and Marks” logo on all sides. We got more trucks and hired more drivers, as we kept growing.
As I finished High school, I wanted to go to College, but still found time to work at Bianco Bros. I never finished College as Bianco Bros was growing and my father wanted me to work with him thinking I would one day take over, as my older brother Al (Aniello) was already headed in another direction. In 1954, when I was 22, I bought a brand new car, a Mercury Monterey, for $3500.00, all from my savings that my Mother held for me from all my jobs. Seeing no real future at Bianco Bros, as my Uncles weren’t that much older than me, I left to start my own business… Here again is another story for another day, as this story affected my parents, my siblings, my family “to be”, and my future. It’s written in: “thewhiteknight.org”