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Saby D'Amico and wife


The following interview is one of a series of tape-recorded memoirs in the Port Washington Public Library Community Oral History Program. This series was developed in order to systematically gather historical information about the important themes in Port Washington's history from before the turn of the century until the present time.

This interview focuses on sandmining in Port Washington, and was part of a New York Council for the Humanities Project, "Sands of Port", conducted by the Public Library in 1981-1982.

This interview was conducted for the Port Washington Public Library by Elly Shodell with Saby D'Amico in Port Washington on May 4, 1982. The reader is asked to bear in mind that he is reading a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written, word.

Editorial corrections have been inserted by hand, when required, to help preserve the authenticity of the verbatim transcript. Permission to quote for publication must be obtained from the Port Washington Public Library or from the oral authors, their heirs or forebears.

Elly Shodell
Oral History Program Director
Port Washington Public Library

Funded by the New York Council for the Humanities

(c) Port Washington Public Library

Interview with Saby D'Amico(SD) by Elly Shodell(ES), and Mitch Carucci with Agostino(A), Photographer, May 4, 1982. Car Tour of Sandbanks (first two minutes with group of workers).

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page 1
SD: Here's the washer. Inside they do all the washing and separating of the grit, sand. The railroad goes over there. From there, it used to go up the hopper. (Machine sounds).

ES: What's that long trestle?

SD: It's another conveyor belt. They dig from the other side and this side. There's two places they dig. Now they only dig from one side. Now you're gonna see the conveyor belt.

ES: Are those truck tracks?

SD: No, that's the payloader. The payloader piles the sand up. You can see the bulldozer coming down the mountain.

ES: What was this house?

SD: This was a workshop. This was the tie shop. Years ago, they used to have the railroad. It used to come around in here and swing around.

ES: A roundhouse.

ES: What was this?


page 2
SD: This was the crusher. Used to crush stones. See the conveyor belt? Then it goes underground and comes up again.

ES: Who thought of this system?

SD: Colonial did this one, all the conveyor belt installations.

ES: Is that a pond?

SD: Only a small one. The big pond is in the back.

ES: Is that an old box car?

SD: No. This is part of the conveyor belt that brings up to thehopper. It's a loader. They used to have a tunnel underneath where it goes to the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt is not all exposed. It's a mile-and-a-half long. The pond, it's like spring water, then it comes to the washer. Because, it used to come higher, then they couldn't dig no
more. See, I used to come in the back occasionally because we had trucks. This was the cemetery. Where they threw trucks away. They used to call it the truck cemetery because there were about 80 or 90 trucks which we used to put in there because it was too old, spare parts. And then maybe 4 or 5 trucks we'd take the parts, fix another one, keep it in shape. Now you're going over the conveyor belt. Now you can see the long conveyor belt. The Pope Company bought land '47, and they put a conveyor belt. See, they have a crew, there is a shop only to repair this conveyor belt. All this was barracks. See how rough is the sand. You get the fine sand, the grit, everything.

page 3
ES: Did these conveyor belts break down often?

SD: Oh, yeah, they got to keep maintenance. If one of them bearings breaks, it sags a little bit, and you see it start to spill. So,what they do at night, they have a night crew to repair all these conveyor belts. See, there's one there needs to be changed -one of the rollers.

ES: How can you tell?

SD: The sand doesn't hit the belt anymore. You see, it doesn't even turn. It's a dead roller. So that one has got to be replaced.Because if another one goes, all the material drops. See down there? That's the shack where they got the spring water. See,you gotta keep checking all these things ... you get a different size of screening, different size of grit. We'll follow the otherconveyor belt. Because this one, it goes so far, then you have to come back again.

ES: Where do the conveyor belts start from?

SD: Where they dig.

ES: Could we get to where they dig?

SD: Yes. You're gonna see a lot of birds over here. You're gonna see rabbits. Everything, you're gonna see.

ES: Look at the truck cemetery. There are hundreds of them. These are really unusable now?

page 4
SD: Yes. Even if you tried to use it, the engine, they have trouble with the engine, they leave it here on the side. It's all corroded now. The operation is all hydraulic, and hydraulic you gotta keep in condition. Otherwise, it will never work anymore. The reasons these trucks are put away, like the body on this one is pretty good, but the engine is of no use to them. They come and take the radiator, and put it on another truck that is in operation. They're obsolete. In other words, they're out of use. It doesn't pay to repair anymore. We used to come in the back when we used to be busy. They say, we need another ten trucks for this job. So we used to come back to see the best one. According to the book, because we got the numbers. 1103, 1185. You know what's wrong with the truck. So you go pick 'em up, take 'em out, and you know we have trouble with the mixer. So we take it out of one, put it in another, and let the truck go to work. I used to take parts from one to the other. That's pretty big, the one over there. It's an 18-yard. See this one is the 12-, that's the 18-, and some of them they got the 15-.

ES: Where do these trucks take the cement?

SD: They mix while they drive. It's what they call transit mix. They go to the hopper and they get 8 yards of sand, 3 yards ofgrit, 4 yards of cement, and they dump everything. They got to mix and discharge. And they mix dry -- no water or nothing.Once they get to the plant, to the job, the contractor tells you whether they want a wet load or a dry load, so they put so many gallons of water. Then they start to mix. He's gotta mix in 20 minutes. And it's gotta be dumped. And it's gotta be dumped continuously. Cause if you keep it there, it starts to set up a little bit.

page 5
ES: Where do they dump? On the building site itself?

SD: No. They dump in chutes. They got the chutes where they make the roads, and the truck keep moving, and it keep dumping and then they got the machine to level off. For a road. And building, they put in a big bucket, you raise it up about 2 yards at a time. They keep dumping, they bring it up, and then they dump it. And they got a vibrator, which they move the concrete so it doesn't stick. So they mix it up so it won't form air pockets.

ES: Did they use it for streets around here?

SD: Oh, wherever they built the roads. Colonial had four plants in Manhattan -- 54th Street, Roosevelt Avenue, then they had one on 34th Street, and one on 150th -- all over Manhattan. And they bring it with a barge. They bring all the material.

ES: It's not so noisy, the conveyor belt.

SD: You wait for a while, the noise is coming back. Because now we got the part there is no joint. Underneath, the joint is made of metal. That's where you get the noise. Wait. Because the conveyor belt is coming back again.

SD: Can you see all this pile of dirt underneath?

ES: Yes.

page 6
SD: Because the conveyor belt broke. When it gets really bad, they clean it out. Otherwise it hits the belt.

ES: To repair it they have to stop the entire operation?

SD: Yes. They do it at night. Now this is the one they complain, the pitch is too high -- it was too steep. They had to grade it.

ES: They only have one truck digging.

SD: That's what they call a stiff leg. They start to dig with that. This is separating the biggest stones. Because you can't bring it through the washer. Now you can see how long this conveyor belt is. This is a trap basin, to pick up the water with.

ES: This man is wearing a mask (near the cliff).

SD: I think he had a throat operation. Agostino.. (short dialogue with Agostino in Italian)

A: It's down on the other side.

SD: Is the electrical one over there, or the mechanical?

A: The payloader's is all mechanical.

SD: I'm talking about the drag-line.

page 7
A: They don't use it anymore, the drag-line.

ES: Why did they do away with it?

SD: It was too much money. You're talking about a million dollars. That's a big machine. Part of that was electric. It worked like a robot. I used to pick up ten yards of material at a time, in one shot. Like a truckload. In one shot. They pick up. That's too expensive. Cost over a million dollars.

A: It's in there.

SD: Oh, it's on the other side. We'll take a look.

ES: Is that it sticking up?

A: Yes.

SD: Who's over there on the payloader now?

A: Dominic.

SD: The operation is not as big as when Colonial used to have it.

page 8
That drag line was tremendous, used to work day and night. People used to complain. At ten o'clock they had to stop. The drag line, it made noise. And the people that lived there, they didn't want to hear this noise. This is too steep now. They should go underneath and come out slowly. A lot of clay in there. See that yellow color, the stuff gets hard like concrete. You can tell right away that it's clay. Port Washington has the best sand in the United States. Everybody loves this sand. New Jersey, they send trucks over to pick up Port Washington sand. The men keep going back and forth, checking every roller.

ES: The rock crushing used to crush these boulders?

SD: That's right, yes. They got the stone crusher. They make gravel. That's all for a road. This is one of the separators. Up in the washer, everything gets separated... the sand, the grit, all this. And the water keeps washing all the time.

ES: How long do the conveyor belts last? Twenty years?

SD: Oh, no, not that long. Because on the sand, it's got acid. Sand has ferrous salt and acid. Colonial didn't want to go out of business, but business slowed down. Construction was very bad.

ES: They sold to Morewood.

SD: No, they sold to Utility and Industry. Utility and Industry is not even in the concrete business, not even in the construction business. It's a water company from Jamaica, and they're more or less in the real estate business.

page 9
I think there's a long story behind that, because the cement company was behind that. Because Colonial's got their own cement plant in Kingston and they make their own cement. You want to see the drag line, right? This is one of the buckets, too, they used to drag. But this is a small one. Used to pick up and scoop, used to be with the stiff leg. Pick up and dump, pick up and dump. Now they do it with a payloader. And the payloader is not as fast as the drag line. Drag line is a big operation. Now over here, they covered, but they dumped a lot of stuff in this place. And I remember years ago, Helene Rubenstein, I think they dumped a lot of chemicals. They told me that the wqtchman used to come and he'd see the people go up inside. This is part of Colonial, too (stockpile of tires half-buried). All together, it's four or five miles, everything.

ES: You're really far from civilization here.

SD: That's right. If you come, and you don't know it, you don't know where to get out. .

ES: Does Antonio have a walkie talkie, in case he gets into trouble?

SD: Oh, no. But they have men walking back and forth all the time. At 3 o'clock the night crew comes in. They work in the washer.

ES: Here's the drag line.

SD: When I was here, they never had this thing dragging.

ES: This was probably brought in in the 60s.

page 10
ES: How did you know about owning the stock in Metropolitan?

SD: In about 1951 Colonial brought em out.

ES: Frank was telling us Joe Kennedy used to come down. There seemed to be a lot of political figures.

SD: Oh, Colonial, a lot of politicians involved in Colonial. Here's the tunnel. Marino used to work there, in the tunnel. If there was anything that broke under the tunnels, he gotta see it.
(Machine sounds from trucks, conveyor belts, etc.)

ES: Here are some machine shop sounds.

ES: Tell me about the Colonial reunion. Where was it held?

SD: In Leonard's. There were 400 people. In Great Neck. I sent invitations to everybody. 1576, that's the people used to work in Colonial. They had people from Kentucky, from Florida, from Maine. They come from allover. Since they are retired,we are lucky enough to track them down to find out the reunion. I has one as far as Arizona.

ES: What are they doing now?

SD: Some of them, they moved out there, they stayed. Some of them worked for different companies. Not sandmining, but a different concrete business. Or material export.

page 11
ES: Was management there?

SD: Well, Tony's one of them. Tony Scopa, used to work there.

ES: They could build another town here.

SD: Or another industry, so our taxes could go down. With the small industry and good landscaping it looks beautiful. This is part of Colonial, too. It looks small until you get in there.

ES: I wonder why they called themselves Colonial.

SD: Because this was an Italian colony, with the old man Pope. That's what they called it. That's where they got the name.

ES: Did you know Pope?

SD: Yes, the father. Not the son. I mean, I know the sons, they're still living, but the old man, he was a great man, believe me. Great person. The man came over, even when he died, couldn't sign his own name. Never went to school, nothing. He used to make a cross, and he bought the company in his name, not on his brain. I'll tell you one thing. He was not an educated man, but he was shrewd. He was a businessman. He knows how to handle the dollar, and he gambled. And he treat the working people, the men, For instance, in 1947, 46, the union come in. And I remember every year, we signed a contract. He said, all right, the contract is signed. It was four or five different companies. And he said, "For my men, 10 cents an hour more." After the contract was signed, he used to give!

page 12
Then he picks men, the best men that he's got over there, and he said, !'Give me a group of men. I want 60 men.'! Themechanics, not the chauffeur, the best one got from 5 to 20 cents an hour more, according to the capacity. He used to treat usgood. Now there is the kids. The son has got the Inquirer. That's Generoso Pope, Jr.

ES: Frank (Barker) told me he's still friendly with the chauffeur.

SD: The one he has now?

ES: The one he had then, and still has.

SD: Eddy Mandarino.

ES: Yes, Eddy Mandarino.

SD: Thursday night, we had a meeting. When Frank he wanted to join
the committee for the Colonial reunion. We're gonna have it again this year.

ES: When?

SD: And Thursday we're having a meeting over at Aiello's office. And Eddy Mandarino is 78 now.

ES: Is the reunion going to be in the Fall?

SD: Yes, October 17th. At Leonard's.

page 13
ES: Maybe we could set a little exhibit. Do you think they would like that?

SD: Oh, yes. Because now who's involved is the Teamsters. And the Teamsters, I organized the first reunion because it was an idea between myself and the chauffeur. And the Teamsters said, "Go right ahead, " and the Teamsters got something in with Leonard's. And we got the best room, the best hall, the best food you want. The President, Cody, he's in trouble and eventually Cody's gonna go in jail now. I think the only they're gonna get him is tax evasion. But now he's gonna take over Sasso. Sasso is the one who wants me to run the reunion again. And there's no problem with the reunion for them, because the Teamsters themselves they got all the delegates and all the chauffeurs, and they all come in. They fill up the hall fast. Then when we make the journal, you send the delegate out. You give them 3 or 4 slips each, and you say, "Bring me a contract." $100 each. They go to the contractor; they pay for it. $30 each last year, we had dinner and dance, gala. (laughter).

ES: Thank you so much for taking me on this tour.

SD: That's why I was saying that night when we had the reunion over at the house (Catherine Chester's), you are interested in the foundations of Colonial. About 35 years ago.

Return to page 1

Agostino 6
Aiello 12
Antonio 9

Barker, Frank 12

Chester, Catherine 13
Cody 13
Colonial Sand Co. 2,5,7,8,9, 10, 11, 12

Dominic 7

Kennedy, Joe 10
Kingston (New York) 9

Leonardis 10,12, 13

Mandarino, Eddy 12
Marino 10
Metropolitan Sand Co. 10
Morewood 8

Pope Co. 2
Pope, Generoso 11-12

Rubinstein, Helene 9

Sasso 13
Scopa, Tony 11

Teamsters Union 13

Utility & Industry Co. 8-9