BEFORE I DIE, PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW

WOW! HERE I AM AGAIN AT THE COMPUTER, STARTING TO TELL YOU A VERY PERSONAL STORY. IT IS NOT EASY TO TALK OR EVEN WRITE ABOUT SOME PARTS OF MY PAST, BUT I REALLY FEEL COMPELED TO WRITE ABOUT THIS PORTION OF MY LIFE.

THIS YEAR WILL BE MY 73RD YEAR IN THIS WORLD. HEALTH IS FINE AND MY WIFE AND I ARE COMFORTABLE FINANCIALLY. SINCE I HAVE RETIRED AND MY SPOUSE HAS NOT, I HAVE BECOME HER ''BOY TOY". THIS NAME IS SPOKEN LOVINGLY OF COURSE. I COOK AND CLEAN, AND GO FISHING OFTEN. IF YOU HAVE READ MY OTHER HUBS, YOU WOULD KNOW THAT MY PASSION IS FISHING, AND I LIVE TO FISH.

NOW THAT YOU HAVE SOME BACKGROUND, I WILL BEGIN MY STORY.

IN OR ABOUT 1960, MY LIFE OF PROVIDING FOR ANOTHER ACTUALLY BEGAN. I HAD JUST BEEN MARRIED AND I WENT TO WORK IN NEW YORK CITY. MY FATHER AND HIS BROTHER WERE MANUFACTURING FURRIERS. THEY WERE KNOWN FOR QUALITY FUR COATS AND FUR COLLARS. MY DAD SUGGESTED THAT I APPRENTICE IN THE INDUSTRY SO THAT SOME DAY I COULD ENTER THE FIRM AND CONTINUE THE NAME IN THE INDUSTRY. THE ABILITY TO GAIN EMPLOYMENT IN THE FUR INDUSTRY REQUIRED ME TO GET AN APPRENTICE UNION CARD. THAT MEANT I HAD TO JOIN THE FUR WORKERS UNION. MOST PEOPLE WOULD HAVE A VERY DIFFICULT TIME JOINING, UNLESS THERE WAS A CONNECTION TO SOMEONE IN THE UNION. THIS IS WHERE MY LIFE AND MY IDEALS WOULD BE BURNED INTO MY BRAIN.

I WAS A VERY NAIVE 22 YEAR OLD, BUT I WAS AMBITIOUS AND ANXIOUS TO BEGIN MY CAREER. IT SEEMS THAT THERE WAS ANOTHER BROTHER OF MY FATHER IN THE FUR INDUSTRY. HE WAS AN OFFICIAL IN THE LOCAL CHAPTER OF THE UNION, AND HE WAS ABLE TO ASSIGN ME A JOB AT A LARGE GREEK FIRM, SO THAT I COULD LEARN TO SEW FUR ON A SPECIAL MACHINE. I SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED A "GREEK" COMPANY, BECAUSE THE GREEKS THAT HAD COME TO THE USA CAME FROM A SMALL TOWN CALLED CASTORIA. THIS TOWN WAS THE FUR MANUFACTURING CENTER OF GREECE. THESE PEOPLE WERE TAUGHT ABOUT MANUFACTURING FUR GARMENTS FROM THEIR CHILDHOOD.

THIS SHOP WAS CONSIDERED A UNION SHOP. THAT MEANT THAT WORK BEGAN WITH THE SOUND OF A BELL IN THE MORNING, AND IT STOPPED AT THE SOUND OF A BELL AT NIGHT. LUNCH WAS 30 MINUTES, AND YOU WERE ALLOWED 2 BATHROOM BREAKS DURING THE COURSE OF THE 8 HOUR DAY. BECAUSE I WAS LEARNING, I WAS GIVEN SOME SLACK ON THE TIME. I WAS ABLE TO COME INTO THE SHOP TWO HOURS EARLIER AND LEAVE TWO HOURS LATER. MY TEACHER WAS THE UNION REPRESENTATIVE. HE WAS LOVINGLY CALLED THE SHOP BOSS.

THE UNION SHOP WAS FRIGHTENINGLY STRICT. AT THE SOUND OF THE NIGHT BELL, YOU HAD TO STOP IMMEDIATELY, EVEN IF YOU WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEAM. IF YOU DID NOT STOP, THE SHOP BOSS WOULD FINE YOU A WEEKS PAY. I LATER FOUND OUT THAT THE SHOP BOSS WOULD SHAKE DOWN THE WORKERS, SO THAT THEIR MISTAKE WOULD NOT BE REPORTED. THE WORKERS WOULD HAVE TO GIVE THE SHOP BOSS A SMALL CONTRIBUTION EVERY WEEK. THERE WERE OTHER THUG TACTICS GOING ON, BUT BECAUSE I WAS THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK , AND A RELATIVE OF A UNION BOSS, I WAS LEFT ALONE.

SIX MONTHS WENT BY,AND I HAD GRADUATED FROM APPRENTICE TO A MACHINE OPERATOR. MY SALARY AS A STARTER WAS MINIMAL. I SUPPLEMENTED MY INCOME BY GETTING ODD JOBS AT OTHER SHOPS. WASHING FLOORS AND CLEANING BATHROOMS WERE MY SPECIALTY. THERE WERE NIGHTS WHEN I GOT HOME VERY LATE. SATURDAYS, AND SOMETIMES SUNDAYS WERE ALSO PART OF THE EARLY YEARS.

NOW THAT I WAS READY TO UNDERTAKE A REGULAR JOB AS AN OPERATOR. I WAS MOVED TO A MANUFACTURER THAT MADE MINK JACKETS. THERE I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO PIECE WORK. THIS MEANT THAT THE MORE I PRODUCED, THE MORE MONEY I MADE. REMEMBER THE BELL, AND THE SHOP BOSS? WELL, I NEEDED TO MAKE MORE MONEY. SO I WOULD SNEAK MATERIAL OUT OF THE SHOP AND GO TO A NON UNION SHOP WHERE THEY LET ME USE A MACHINE FOR A SMALL FEE. I WOULD WORK LATE INTO THE NIGHT TO FINISH ONE OR TWO MORE JACKETS. THE NEXT DAY I WOULD SNEAK THE JACKETS INTO THE SHOP IN MY LUNCH BAG.

IT SEAMS THAT I WAS NOT THE ONLY OPERATOR THAT WAS DOING THIS. THERE WERE A LOT OF GUYS SNEAKING MATERIAL OUT. BECAUSE I WAS A UNION RELATIVE , I WAS NEVER APPROACHED BY THE SHOP BOSS FOR THE USUAL GREASING OF THE PALM, BUT ALL OF THE OTHER WORKERS HAD TO DEAL WITH HIM, SO THEY DID THE EXTRA WORK TO PAY HIM. NOW THIS EXTRA WORK DIDN'T HURT ANYONE. IT HELP[ED THE OWNERS WITH QUANTITY, AND SUPPLEMENTED THE COST OF THE PAYOFFS. SOMETIMES A WORKER WOULD TRY NOT TO PAY OFF THE SHOP BOSS. I LEARNED FIRST HAND THAT THIS WAS A DANGEROUS MISTAKE.

ONE NIGHT, AS I ENTERED THE SERVICE ELEVATOR, ONE OF THE OTHER OPERATORS GOT ON WITH ME. HE WAS A GREEK GENTLEMAN, AND HIS ENGLISH WAS ROUGH. WE EXCHANGED GREETINGS AND TRIED TO HAVE SOME CONVERSATION. HE SEEMED NERVOUS TO ME, BUT I THOUGHT THAT HE WAS SHY ABOUT HIS ENGLISH. THE ELEVATOR STOPPED ON THE THIRD FLOOR, AND A HUGE MAN GOT ON. HE HAD A SKULL CAP ON AND WAS DRESSED IN A SUIT AND TIE. HE TURNED TO ME AND SPOKE TO ME IN YIDDISH (JEWISH). I AM JEWISH, BUT I ONLY UNDERSTAND A LITTLE YIDDISH. THIS YIDDISH I UNDERSTOOD. HE TOLD ME TO GET OUT AND RUN HOME. HE THEN TURNED TO THE OTHER MAN ON THE ELEVATOR AND STARTED TO PUSH HIM TO THE BACK . HE TURNED TO ME AND BRANDISHED A BASEBALL BAT, SO I RAN LIKE A BANDIT DOWN THE STAIRS. MY CURIOSITY WAS STRONGER THAN MY FEAR, SO I HID IN THE STAIRWELL ON THE GROUND FLOOR AND WAITED FOR THE ELEVATOR. AFTER ABOUT FIVE MINUTES THE ELEVATOR CAME DOWN. THE DOOR OPENED AND THE OPERATOR WAS ON THE FLOOR. HE WAS BEATEN PRETTY BAD. I WENT TO HELP HIM, BUT HE KEPT TELLING ME TO LEAVE. I RAN UP THE STAIRS TO THE FIRST SHOP THAT WAS OPEN AND TOLD THEM WHAT HAPPENED. THEY CALLED THE POLICE. THE SHOPOWNER TOLD ME NOT TO SAY ANY THING ABOUT HOW IT HAPPENED. I UNDERSTOOD AND WAS PREPARED TO OMIT SOME DETAILS. THE POLICE ARRIVED, AND WHEN WE WENT DOWN TO THE GROUND FLOOR, HE WAS GONE. THERE WAS BLOOD ON THE FLOOR, SO THE POLICE BELIEVED THAT SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED. THEY QUESTIONED ME FOR A SHORT TIME AND LEFT. THE NEXT DAY WE HEARD THAT THEY FOUND A MAN ON SEVENTH AVE. THAT HAD BEEN HIT BY A CAR AND DIED. IT WAS THE GREEK OPERATOR.

TIME PASSED AND I LEARNED MORE SKILLS, BY WORKING AT NIGHT IN OTHER NON UNION SHOPS. I BECAME SO GOOD, THAT I WAS ABLE TO ACCUMULATE SOME DECENT MONEY. I LEARNED TO STRETCH RAW SKINS, NAIL GARMENTS OUT ON A PATTERN, AND SLICE THE FUR FOR THE SEWING OPERATOR. ALL OF THESE SKILLS WERE SEPARATED IN THE UNION BY PAY SCALE. BECAUSE I WAS ABLE TO LEARN ALL OF THESE SKILLS, WITHOUT UNION PROBLEMS, I ASKED MY FATHER IF I COULD BUY INTO THE BUSINESS.

AFTER CONFIRING WITH HIS BROTHER, I BECAME A MEMBER OF THE FIRM. IT WAS DURING THE FIRST FEW MONTHS OF BEING A BOSS THAT I LEARNED ABOUT THE UNIONS THAT CONTROLLED THE INDUSTRY WITH AN IRON FIST. MY FATHER WAS A QUIET MAN, VERY CONSERVATIVE AND CLOSED MOUTH. HIS PARTNER , MY UNCLE WAS ALSO CONSERVATIVE, BUT A BIG MOUTH. I FINALLY ASKED THEM TO TELL ME ABOUT THEIR UNION BOSS BROTHER. I LEARNED THAT MY UNCLE WAS A CARD CARRYING COMMUNIST, AND THE UNION WAS A COMMUNIST UNION. THEY WOULD MARCH UP AND DOWN THE STREETS DURING THE RUSSIAN HOLIDAYS SINGING "DOWN WITH THE BOSSES" AND "WE SHALL OVERCOME". WHAT BOTHERED ME WAS THE FACT THAT THE UNION WAS MOSTLY MADE UP OF JEWISH IMMIGRANTS. THEY HAD THEIR OWN POLICE, THEIR OWN SUMMER CAMP FOR THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEY WOULD HAVE THEIR OWN PAPER THAT WAS A WEEKLY PROPAGANDA SHEET.

MY PARENTS RARELY SPOKE TO THAT PART OF THE FAMILY, BECAUSE POLITICALY, THEY WERE OPPOSITES, AND MY PARENTS WERE LOVERS OF THIS COUNTRY AND MY UNCLE WAS A HATER OF THIS COUNTRY. MY UNCLE'S FAMILY WERE BRAINWASHED EARLY AT THE COMMUNIST CAMP AND BECAME VERY ACTIVE IN THEIR PARTY. THEY ALL HID THEIR AFFILIATION BY REGISTERING AS DEMOCRATS. MY COUSINS BECAME UNION ORGANIZERS. THEY WERE ALL COLLEGE GRADUATES AND BECAME ACTIVE IN LEGAL FIRMS THAT FOUGHT FOR THE WORKERS. I LATER FOUND OUT THEY BECAME MEMBERS OF THE ACLU. THE ONLY TIME WE WOULD MEET WAS AT WEDDINGS OR BAR MITZVAHS.

THIS STORY IS TRUE, I'M SAD TO SAY. THERE ARE OTHER INCIDENTS THAT WERE EQUALLY TRAGIC, BUT THAT WILL BE IN ANOTHER STORY SOME OTHER TIME.

I WRITE THIS AND PUBLISH THIS BECAUSE I SEE THE SAME KIND OF PICTURES BEING DRAWN TODAY. I AM TERRIBLY AFRAID OF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE IN CHARGE OF THE GOVERNMENT TODAY. I HEAR THE SAME SPEAK AS I HEARD FROM THE UNION THEN. I HEAR THE SAME KIND OF SPEAK FROM SOME OF OUR POLITICIANS. HISTORY IS A GREAT PROVIDER OF TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES. THIS COUNTRY IS HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. THE LEADERS TODAY SOUND LIKE THE LEADERS OF THE SOVIET UNION YEARS AGO. REMEMBER HITLER WAS A SOCIALIST BEFORE HE BECAME A NAZI.

Comments 1 comment

Dick Gavron 6 years ago

Great story, Lorenzo. We do learn from our past experiences; don't we?

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