THE REMINISCENCES OF ALBERT MARINO
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PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
THE REMINISCENCES OF ALBERT MARINO
The following interviews are part 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 current time.
This interview focuses on the sand mining industry in Port, and was part
of an oral history/video workshop given by the Port Washington Public
Library in the summer of 1981. The interview was conducted by Lucy Salerno
with Albert Marino in Port Washington during 1981. An acompanying edited
videotape of this interview is available for viewing.
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 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,
Oral History Director
Port Washington Public Library
Underwritten by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts
(c)PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Albert Marino(AM) as interviewed by Lucy
Salerno(LS) July 7, 1981
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LS: This is an interview with Mr. Al Marino,
retired foreman of the McCormack Sand Company in Port Washington, New
York. Mr. Marino worked in the sand banks since 1936, as his father did
before him. This interview is beingconducted on July 7th, 1981 at Mr.
Marino's home at 17 South Street in Port Washington. My name is Lucy Salerno.
This tape is being made for the Port Washington Public Library Oral History
Video Workshop with the help of a grant from the New York State Council
on the Arts. Mr. Marino, thank you for inviting us into your home and
thank you for sharing this part of your life as a contribution towards
Port Washington's history. Tell us, Mr. Marino... I think I'm going to
call you Al, cause I've known you such a long time.
A.M: Please do.
LS: Tell us, when and where were you born.
A.M.: I was born in 1914 in Italy.
LS: Do you have then brothers and sisters?
A.M. Yes, I have two brothers and two sisters.
LS: Were they born in Italy or in America?
A.M.: No, they're all born in America except
LS: How did that happen? How were they,
then, born in America and you in Italy and yet you're the youngest child?
A.M: Well, my father and mother went on
a vacation and I was born there and in a year and a half they came back.
AM: So, I am an American citizen because
my father was citizen before I was born so I actually didn't have to take
out any papers.
LS: Why did your parents come to the United
States? Do you know that?
A.M: Well, it's economic reasons. There
was those little small towns, it's hard to make a living, and he decided
because he had his relative in this country, so he decided to come here
to make a better life for himself and his family.
LS: Do you suppose, then, that was why they
came to Port Washington? Why they settled here?
AM: That's exactly what they did. They directly
came right to Port Washington because they had friends, he had friends
here, and relatives, so that would be the logical place to come.
LS: Do you know what your father's first
AM: Yes, he was a laborer in a sandbank.
LS: Do you remember the date, approximately
AM: It would be 1894.
LS: Do you remember or do you know what
his salary was?
AM: Yes, he talked about it many times.
He got 10 cents an hour, working 10 hours a day, so he got $1.10 a day.
LS: He was a laborer, was he?
AM: He was a laborer, yeah.
LS: Where did your family live in Port Washington?
AM: On West Shore Road, where all the sandbanks
are. He built a place there and... First he boarded there, and then eventually
he brought my mother here and they built a little house there.
LS: Your mother and father did not come
from Italy, then, together?
AM: No, he came 1894 and she came in 1895.
LS: Does that area look very much different
than it does today?
A.M.: Yes, that time all the mountains and
the hills were all there and if you look at it today they're not there.
But I think that's part of working in the sandbank. The land goes. That's
what the industry would, cause when I was a child there was alot of hills
and we used to always climb the hills and that's the way I went to school,climbing
LS: When you say 'climbing hills in
actual fact that was, then, the sandpits, the hills that you're talking
A.M.: That's right, that was the sandbank.
LS: Where did the other men from the sandpits
A.M.: Well, the majority of them, I would
say 90 percent, would live in Roslyn and Port Washington. Cause in those
days they didn't have no way to travel, they just walked or had a bicycle.
So they had to live close to their occupation. So, most of the percentage
came from Port Washington.
LS: What schools did you attend when you
were a young boy?
A.M.: Well, I attended a school that Goodwin
and Gallaghers built for their people. That was built in the West Shore
Road although that only went as far as the second grade. But that school
was built a long time ago and all the sandbank workers and all their children
all went to that school, up to the second grade.
LS: And then what other school did you go
to from that point?
AM: Well, then that was the time of the
climb, start climbing those hills. I had to go through the sandbank, up
the hill and
come to Port Washington, where Port Washington Boulevard is now, and where
the police Station is right now. That was a school there. And that school
went far as the sixth grade. So, I attended that school for one year but
unfortunately burnt down. And after that my father living on the west
Shore Road and we got the mail from Roslyn so he decided to send me to
LS: You mentioned this school that Gallagher
and, whom else had built?
A.M.: Yeah, Goodwin and Gallaghers.
LS: ....were the owners then of...?
A.M: They were the owners of the sandbank
and they built a school for the children of the people that worked in
the sand bank.
LS: I see.
A.M.: That was a good deed that they did.
And it was alot of immigrants that came from the other side and they had
small children and not only they had a little education, they learned
the English language and that was a great thing that Goodwin and Gallagher
did for the employee.
LS: Did you have any other family living
in Port Washington other than your immediate family, mother andfather
and your brothers and sisters?
A.M: Yes, I have an uncle, James Marino,
which lived in Port Washington Boulevard and he came here, I
think, about five years before my father came. So he was already established
here. That's my father's brother.
LS: Uh-huh. What was his occupation?
AM: Well, he was a sandbank operator. He
actually owned one sandbank. Well, that was before I remember, that's
what my father, they would tell me, cause he actually owned that sandbank.
And thatapproximately would have been maybe 1900, I don't know.
LS: Is this the same James Marino that,
at one time, had a stone house on Port Washington Boulevard?
AM: That's the one, yeah.
LS: And his children, did they, too, then,
work in the sandbank?
AM: The only one that I remember that worked
in the sandbank was his grandson. None of them worked in the sandbank,
none of his children.
LS: He seems to have been very affluent,
then. Did he make a good living from operating that sandbank?
AM: Yes, he made a very good living and
not only that, that stone house was built in the winter time when,you
know, the sandbanks are more of a seasonal operation. When it comes winter
they cannot operate too well. So he would take his men and build that
stone house on Port Washington Boulevard. That was done, I don't know
how many years, but it was done every winter with his own men and he'd
pay his men and kept his men. They had to have a good livelihood, by working
there in the wintertime when the sandbanks couldn't work. So he killed
two birds with one stone.
LS: So to speak. Did your father, then,
because of his brother's ownership in the sandbanks, did he have a status
job, such as foreman or superintendent or some such thing?
A.M.: Well, my father, evidently, in those
days they would call that a straw boss.He was not a foreman,
buthe was under a
foreman, where a foreman would have alot of the men, say he would have
fifty men, and my father was a straw boss, he would take care of, maybe,
fifteen or twenty men. So, my father built himself up from there.
LS: When did you first start working in
A.M: Well, I started to work in the sandbank
in 1936, March of 1936.
LS: Do you remember what your first job
A.M.:Yes, my first job was... Cause I was
already married and my father-in-law was operator of a derrick, floating
derrick, and the Depression was just...things were just getting a little
bit better, because we just came through a terrible depression, and this
was 1936 so there was just a little bit more work. So he needed a fireman
on a steam boiler so we come and got me and that was a thing that I had
to learn because I came from a grocery store to a fireman on a derrick,
it wasn't an easy thing. But my father-in-law stayed with me and I learned
the trade and eventually I was operating the machine.
LS: You talk about, then, that your father-in-law
actually was responsible for your first job in the sandbank. Since your
uncle and your father did operate the sandbank why did you not, then,
go to them and get a job from them? Were they still owners of it?
A.M.: No, they already gave up that. I imagine
that the times got later in years. I imagine they didn't know how to operate.
They eventually sold out. They couldn't handle it because the both of
them weren't well educated. They only had a little schooling on the other
side, in Italy, and when they came
here maybe things were just a little bit too fast for them. So my father
gave up his sandbank, he had one in where McCormack was, and my uncle,
eventually, gave up his. So, these big companies bought them out. And
that was, I don't know exactly what year, but I was only a child then
when they gave that up.
LS: Do you think that your father and your
uncle were well paid for their companies, for their ownership?
A.M.: Well, you see, you have to consider
this. Now, they didn't own the property, they owned the business and I
don't think they got too much at those days because I know my father sold
his plant and then went to Italy for a while. And my uncle did the same
thing. So evidently, they did get paid pretty good.
LS: Uh-huh. Now, you were telling me about
your first job in the sandbank. Who, then, did you work for at that time?
Who was the owner?
A.M.: In 1936 the place was run by Colonial
Sand and Gravel. Before that it was Goodwin and Gallagher and during the
depression the things were so bad that Colonial came in and ran the plant
for five years, from 1932 until 1938, so it was almost between five and
six years. So, that's when I come into there, it was Colonial time, although
the plant was under Goodwin and Gallagher's name yet, but Colonial was
running it because things were so bad, the depression. People don't realize
how bad, because I was only a teenager and I could see those men working
one day a week, two days a week. And that was the economic of the country,
it isn't the sandbank's employers fault, it was just things were bad and
everybody was actually not making a living.
LS: Do you remember what your pay scale was
at that time, in 1936, when you started to work?
A.M.: When I started to work I got... We
were working nine hours and I got $4.00 for nine hours, which come close
to 45 cents an hour.
LS: And were there any benefits with that?
I mean, vacation time or any such thing?
A.M.: No vacation, no nothin', not even
a coffee break.
LS: Could you describe a typical day at
that time at the sandbank?
A.M.: Well, a typical day was that we got
paid from seven o'clock until we finished. There's no such thing as time
and a half, it was all straight time. But under those conditions, and
I think thats the way the whole country was run, wed probably
would have to start, and we did start at a quarter after six to half past
six in the morning and not get paid until seven o'clock. So, that was,
again, I would say, it isn't the sand company's fault cause that's the
way the things were run in the whole country at that time. We know that
it has improved since then but those were the conditions that you worked
many hours and not got paid for it.
LS: Do you remember, did the bosses or the
foremen take advantage of the men? Did they work them extremely hard or
was it, as you say, expected of the worker at that time?
A.M.: Well, in those days there was no such
thing as leanin' on the shovel because they had a strategy of straw bosses,
foremans, allover the place because then you had to work. There was no
way that you could lean on it because they would fire you right
away. Again, I'd like to emphasize, that was the conditions. It wasn't
just one sandbank that way, they all worked the same way. That was the
conditions of the people, they had to work hard because there was no machinery,
everything was back work, and in the shipyard there was no machinery to
lift planks, they had to do it all by hand, and it was a terrible days
work, nine hours and these poor elderly men they would come home and they
were tired. That was the conditions in the sandbank.
LS: How did you progress, then, from a fireboy
to a foreman?
A.M.:Well, the way I progressed was that,
unfortunately, my father-in-law died, he died at a young man, and me,
an unexperienced, I only worked with him for four months, and I had to
take over the machine. And it's like the old sayin' if you learn the hard
way you learn better. So, I had to learn the machine if I wanted to or
not. And from there I went on to bigger machines and then after thirty
years on the machines then I eventually got tired of machines and I took
a foreman's job in 1964.
LS: When you tell us about operating the
machine, could you tell us then, again, what kind of machine was it?
A.M.: I have pictures of the machine, maybe
sometime we could see them. I transferred from West Shore Road to the
Manorhaven plant in what we call in production, that you put a steam shovel
into a bank and you put the material into a hopper, with a conveyer belt,
and that would go to a processing plant. And that's the job I had, was
a, we would call it production engineer, running the shovel down the Manorhaven
plant, which is now the Soundview...where all those houses are. And that
picture shows just about where I was digging, it's just about where the
garden apartments are in Sound view. And I showed a fella that lives in
the garden apartment, I
showed him the picture and he was all excited about it. I said, "That's
just about where you're living, whereI dug." So it was interesting.
LS: Then the sandbank came almost right
up to Shore Road, what is Shore Road now?
A.M.: Yes, right up to the road because
where King Kullens is and McCrory and I dug that all up, and that bank
was maybe about eighty feet high right by the road. And as we went in
towards the golf course the bank got up to a hundred and fifty feet. And
then we dug all the way to the golf course, then we had to stop, we couldn't
go any farther.
LS: What golf course is that that you're
A.M.: The Sands Point Golf Course.
LS: So, now, where the Terrace is now, where
the Guggenheim School is now, that was all part of the sandbank?
AM: No, that's where we had to stop, that
was the border line. We had to go up to the school and up to the golf
LS: Did Colonial also, too, own that?
A.M.: Yes, Colonial took that plant over
in 1939. That plant was originated by the people by the name of O'Donald.
And then in 1939 Colonial took it over.
LS: Colonial was owned by what family?
A.M: Generoso Pope, it was the Pope family.
LS: Could you describe, then, the set-up
of the sandbank company you worked for at the very first, the very first
sandbank company that you worked for?
A.M: Well, they were established of the
biggest sandbank inthe world, that's the one in West Shore Road. At that
I started, they would load twenty or twenty-five barges a day. The irony
of the whole thing, that New York city was pretty well built up and when
all these plants would run on West Shore Road they would produce close
to forty barges a day and, well, New York City can't handle that no more,
so even if there was good times we would have split times for the simple
reason the market doesn't call any more, cause New York, all the subways
were built. Because all the subways and all the buildings in New York
City the sand came from out here, from Port Washington. I imagine that
ninety percent of the concrete in New York City the sand come from Port
Washington. So, as New York City's being built the market for the sand
wasn't as much, so they eventually would have to build a new plant, built
a smaller plant, because there was too many men out of work.
LS: Also, too, what was the process? You,
then, mined the sand in Port Washington and then how did it get to the
A.M.: Well, we mined it and then we had
to bring it into a processing plant to wash the sand. That means they
take all the clay and all the roots, loam, and that sand had to be clean
cause New York has a specification on sand. So then, after that was tested
and the sand was all right, we'd put it on barges and the barges would
tow to Manhattan, or wherever it went, and even to Jersey and Connecticut.
So, it was actually a tugboat job to bring maybe fifteen, twenty to thirty
barges a day in towards the city.
LS: Also, can you compare the differences
in the jobs in your father's early days to your own job experiences?
A.M.: Yes, it's a tremendous difference
because of automation and machinery coming in. No way the men worked as
half as hard as my father did, in those days. Before they used to have
these little trains, everything was steam, not only you work hard it was
dirty. You could just stand in the sandbank all day long and you'd come
home you're black, from the soot, from the steam. Now everything is electric
and diesel, all conveyer belts, and what do you do? You just watch a conveyer
go by and where in the olden days they had to use pick and shovel. So,
it was a tremendous improvement. And again I would say it was the improvement
of America that the technologies worked and it affected the sandbanks.
So we improved with the rest of the country.
LS: And did you and your father work in
the same place, in that same area?
A.M: In the same area, yes.
LS: Did you often times talk about the changes
in the jobs and the changes that occurred in Port Washington?
A.M: Well, my father used to kid me, or
I don't know if he would laugh at me. He says, "Aw, you people workin',
you're making better money than I did and you work less." Well, he
did that on a jokingly way, but the was trying to put up a point that
when they worked, they worked hard. We didn't work half as hard as they
LS: What was the attitude of the bosses
towards the workers in the pits?
A.M.: Well, again, the attitude is that
they had a job to do and everything was done manual, and if the mendidn't
do it the job wouldn't be done, you see, where alot of job is done by
machines today. So their job was to keep the men working hard and, naturally,
alot of the men resented it. They figured they're working too hard. So
there's the situation, it's not their fault and that's the way the world
was ran at that time when you didn't have the economics and you didn't
have the machinery, so you had to
work physically hard.
LS: How and why did the union come about?
A.M.: Well, for that same reason that, I
think, what you brought up once before, we had no conditions, we had no
benefits, we had nothing. So we thought it was about time in 1937 and
close to '38, that we do something. The conditions was bad, just the same
as the conditions were in the coal mine years ago. So we figured there
was an improvement, there had to be an improvement. And so we organized
in 1937 under the
charter of the Steam, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers.
LS: Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Marino,
but our time seems to have run out. Can we please come back and talk with
you again? We've left you at such an interesting point, maybe we can pick
it up right at this point the next time.
A.M.: Sure can, it'll be my pleasure.
LS: Thanks you very much for inviting us
into your home.
AM: Thank you again.
LS: I am Lucy Salerno, and this is Mr. Marino.
We're at Mr. Marino's house at 17 South Street in Port Washington. Mr.
Marino, where in Italy were you born?
A.M.: I was born in the town of Nusco, would
be the province of Aveilino, it's near Naples.
LS: What was your father's name?
AM: Generoso DeMita, that was his name in
LS: Generoso, is the first name, and DeMita
is the second name, the surname?
A.M.: That's the name, his real name, in
LS: Then how did it then become Marino?
Why was it changed to Marino?
A.M.: Well, when he came to this country
my uncle, which was his brother, was already in business in the sandbanks
and he didn't like the name of DeMita so he asked if he would change it,
pick out a name and we had a cousin in Long Island City whose name was
Marino so the uncle took that name, and then when my father came here
he also took the name of Marino.
LS: Why do you suppose that the lawyer did
not like the name of DeMita? Why did he suggest the name change? Do you
A.M.: Well, he, evidently, didn't like the
sound of it, to be in business. I guess the simpler the name the betterso
he asked my uncle if he would change that name and he liked the Marino
so my uncle took the name of Marino.
LS: What was your mother's name?
A.M.: Maria, her maiden name was Puruleo
and she was in the province of Aveilino, also, about, maybe fifteen miles
from where my father came from.
LS: When your father first came here, he
boarded on West Shore Road. Do you know with whom he lived?
AM: I didn't know with who he lived with,
but he did come here before my mother, so he evidently boarded down there
and he was there when my mother came from Italy.
LS: Did he ever tell you any stories about
that time, about when he first got here, about, perhaps, the people that
he lived with?
A.M.: Well, he lived with those old, Italian
peoples, they seemed to gather together, and he went to work intothe sandbanks,
which he saved a few dollars to get my mother. So, they were just typical
Italian people that each one had their families in the other side, they
come over here to make a living.
LS: You said that your mother and father
built their first home on West Shore Road. Did they own land?
A.M.: No, they didn't own the land, they
got permission from Mr. Willetts, he was the owner, and he asked permission
if he could build a home there, with a little grocery store, which my
father worked in the sandbank
and my mother took care of the grocery store. It was a pretty good set-up.
LS: Then you and your brothers and sisters
helped in the grocery store?
A.M.: We definitely did. Since we were children
there was... First thing, you got to remember there was great, full-loaded
mill and there was alot of work to be done, and they would come in for
sandwiches and sodas, whatever, and it was alot of work.
LS: Was it, then, mostly a lunch trade, not
so much like breakfast and dinner, but mostly a lunch trade? And, also,
did the people, then, buy their groceries there, aside from sandwiches?
A.M.: Yes, it was mostly lunch trade, and,
not only that, my father built more shacks, a long house with ooms, and
he rented out to the men that worked in the plant. And I remember he used
to charge them, when I was a boy, he used to charge them $2.00 a week
to live there. And they would buy all the groceries at the store. So,
my father was happy and so were the men living there because they all
had a charge account, they used to pay my father weekly. So any time they
needed something they'd go right up to the store and...
LS: Did they do their own cooking in those
A.M.: Yes, they did their own cooking, and
most of them took their lunches, but a lot of them came in for a bottle
of beer, or a sandwich, cause they only had a half hour for lunch. They
had to eat that fast and drink that beer fast and go back to work.
LS: Did you have any neighbors along West
A.M.: Yes, we had people by the name of
Caruso, Michael Caruso. He raised his family there, they were up, like,
on a hill. And, eventually, they also had a little bit of a grocery store,
a very small business. And, then, a little bit down farther we had Mr.
Langone. They, also, owned a little grocery business. So, we, eventually,had
three grocery stores around that site, and everybody made a living for
the simple reason there was an awful lot of men working in the sandbanks.
LS: Then, people, then did their weekly
shopping, did they, at the grocery store?
A.M.: No, it was a grocery store but you
might as well say it's like a deli. Our stuff was just a little bit higher
because we didn't have a big store, so alot of our women would go, maybe,
up to the village of Port Washington or the village of Roslyn and did
their big meal, big grocery shopping. Ours was more like a deli, and lunch
and some beer. So, as far as like a supermarket, no, it was just a small
grocery store. So for the family they had to go out to a bigger store.
LS: Is that house still standing?
A.M.: No, that was torn down, I don't know
exactly what year, but it was torn down in, say, in the last fifteen years.
Actually, when the sandbanks started to peter out then they wanted the
property and, eventually, my father moved out and they took the property
over. I think it was about fifteen years ago, maybe a little more when
they took it out, I don't know exactly the year.
LS: He did not own the land, he owned the
house. Was he reimbursed in any way for the house when they talked about
tearing them down?
A.M.: No, they weren't reimbursed at all,
they just gave them a year's notice that they wanted the property and
in a years time they had to go out. I imagine that was the agreement,
although that house was there I'd say approximately maybe fifty, sixty
years. And then the time come, we in the family knew it eventually the
time would come that that house would have to be demolished to make room
for the sandbanks and that's exactly
what happened. They gave us about fifty, sixty years there.
LS: Then they needed that property, then,
to mine more sand?
A.M: That's right. It also involved Mr. Caruso
and Mr. Langone. . It wasn't just our store, it was everybody. They needed
that whole land. And they were fair enough, they gave us a good many years
notice and eventually we moved out.
LS: You told us that Goodwin and Gallagher
built a school on West Shore Road for the children of its workers. Did
the company do anything else for these children or for the employee?
A.M. Well, they had every year they had
a tremendous big Christmas party and that was for all the childrenfor
the people that worked, the men that worked, in the sandbanks. And it
was an elaborate thing, all the food you can have and each child, regardless
how old or how young, they all got a Christmas present. So, the sandbanks
did do alot of things, even going as far as St. Francis. Years ago St.
Francis Hospital used to be just for children. And every week they used
to go up there, with the truck, pick up the children, bring them down
the beach, and they used to donate and they used to send food. So, they
were good to the employees and so is St. Francis Hospital, which is the
hospital today, they did alot of work up there, also.
LS: At what point did you meet your wife?
A.M.: Well, her father worked in the sandbank,
and I knew him very well, and when I went to Roslyn School,I would say
in 1928 and '29, I met my wife. I think I was in the fifth or the sixth
grade. So, it was a long time ago that I met my wife. I was in the fifth
grade when we started to go together.
LS: What is your wife's name?
A.M.: Helen Malcolm.
LS: Malcolm was her maiden name and what
was her father's name?
A.M.: Robert Malcolm. He was a fellow that
came from Nova Scotia, came to work here. And my wife's mother comes from
Norway. So, you can see in Port Washington people really came from all
parts of the world to work in the sandbanks. I have a mother-in-law that's
Norwegian and a father-in-law is from Nova Scotia. So, we actually went
to school together.
LS: Did Mrs. Marino live in Port Washington,
as a child?
A.M. She was born in Port Washington, and
then they moved to Connecticut and eventually they came back to Roslyn.
And when I was transferred to Roslyn school that's when I met her.
LS: Talking about the grocery store, again,
was there just the grocery store or was there something else within the
grocery store... Tell us about the bar that was also, too, included in
the grocery store.
AM: Later on in years not only we had houses
where the men would live, we had the grocery store, and we also had a
bar. In the meantime, my father, he, eventually, owned the plant which
McCormack ran now. At one time my father owned that plant. Now he had,
I imagine the same as the coal mines used to have, he had the sandbank,
he had the grocery store, he had the bar, and he had the men living there.
And my uncle
did the same thing. Now, he had a sandbank which was right across from
the shipyard that's in Hempstead Harbor and on West Shore Road, there
was a sandbank there. So, he had a grocery store, he had a bar, andhe
had men living there, so my uncle and my father had the same thing. And
eventually got to be, they got to be enemies. If one
of my father's men went over to my uncle's bar, which is James Marino,
he got fired the next day and vice versa. So, they owned the same thing
but they were bitter enemies. So, with that they probably didn't get to
be millionaires for the simple reason they didn't cooperate with each
other. So, when the companies come in and bought them out.
LS: Did the disagreement that occurred between
your father and your uncle, did they, then, just occur over this petty
business or were there more serious things, do you think?
A.M: I believe there was more the petty
things that started because they were getting little big, as far as money
was concerned, evidently my uncle went to my father to back him up on
certain things and vice versa, and, evidently, nothing worked out and
it just didn't work out. They got to be pretty bad enemies.
LS: You mentioned before the word "typical
Italian", would you say that this kind of thing between your father
and your uncle was typically Italian?
A.M.: No, I don't believe that was typical.
What I meant by "typical Italian" was that the Italian men would
come to this country and try to make a home for their family and for their
children. They wanted their children to do better than what they did.
Now, that would include Ireland and that would include the Russians, that
would include all of them. If you notice down in history the men always
came first and then they brought their families. So, when I say "typical
Italian", they're very, very close to their family, they always wanted
to see their families improve and their children go to college. We'll
take an example,
we'll take Dr. Teta in Port Washington, he was a doctor for many years.
His father was an old sandbank worker. So that, to me, is a typical Italian,
work for their children to improve. Say my father was, on the other side,
was a shoemaker by trade and when he came over here he didn't bother with
the shoes at all, he just worked right in the sandbank to try to make
all this money he could to send his children to school. To me that's a
LS: How do you suppose that your father
accumulated money enough to buy a sandbank?
A.M.: Well, I think it was that the know-how.
He was a straw-boss at one time and he eventually got to be a foreman
and how he got that was that Mr. Willis gave him the authority to run
the plant and he was actually an owner of the plant. The reason I say
that because one time he had an accident. One of the boilers on the steamshovel
blew up, and he got so dis- gusted he sold the plant to my uncle Jim and
he went back to the other side. So, those are things that happened but
my father went that much education, didn't realize that boiler could be
fixed and start allover again. So he just gave up and went back to the
other side. So, then my uncle took the plant over and he stayed here and
he built up the plant a lot bigger then when my father had it. So, actually,
as far as money is con- cerned, my Uncle Jim was alot wealthier than my
LS: Were your uncle and your father partners
in this sandbank, or did they each, individually, own one segment of a
A.M.: They each owned their own. They were
unfortunately, because if they were partners maybe today we all would
have been millionaires. I don't know. But they were, instead of being
partners, they were enemies. So, like I said before, my Uncle Jim Marino
had a plant, oh, about a mile away from my father's plant. We always wished
that they would've been partners and if they were we wonder what would've
happened. We always did consider that but they weren't, they were enemies.
LS: Can you tell us some of the names of
the families at that time that were working together? Were there only,say,
just the father of the family, or, as in your case, with your father-in-law?
Your father-in-law worked for the same company and then you worked for
the same company? Did your brother work, also, too, in the sandbank at
A.M.: Yes, I had one brother named Fiori,
he worked in the sandbank. In fact, that's the only job he had, also myself,
we never worked any other place but the sandbank. But my other brother
was an automobile mechanic, he opened up his own garage, so he never did
work in the sandbank. But he knew all about the sandbanks, but he done
better in his own business. Because the wages was very low, we were only
getting 45 cents, 50 cents an hour, I say in 1936 and '37, so it was no
advantage to work in the sand banks because the depression was just over
and it was good to branch out. So my brother, James, he branched out,
he built his own garage.
LS: Was it very typical, then, for, say,
more then one member of the family to work in the sandbank?
A.M.: Yes, there was quite a few father
and son. In those days, today it's a little bit different. I think the
people branch out and the sandbank is not as workable as it was years
ago. Years ago we had five, six hundred people working. Now we got less
than a hundred. So you can see the opportunity's not there in the sandbank
like it used to be. The father, some- time, would like the sons to work
in the sandbank because you learn so many different trades in the sandbank.
There's all kinds of trades to be learned. So, some of the young boys
did work in the sandbank. I wouldn't say that today, though.
LS: You first worked as a fireman on a floating
derrick. Could you tell us, what is that job? What does a fireman do?
A.M.: Well, the fireman's the same as the
fireman, say, on the railroad, these steam engines. He would put the coal
in and the water to make energy for the machine to run. So, it was a hard
job and we're so thankful that they don't do that today. That's something
that was done years ago, everything is diesel and electric now, but those
days fireman was an awful hard job, especially in hot weather, you'd have
to open up that door and there was so much heat in there and you'd have
to throw coal in and make sure you didn't have too much water in the boiler
because if you put too much water in the boiler the engineer would probably
jump allover you because when you put too much water, the machine would
lose its power. So, it was a terrible, hard, hard job and thank God that
they don't have to do that today.
LS: Where was the boiler located on the
derrick? Was it fairly close to where the engineer, then, is?
A.M.: Yes, I would say... In fact, the machine
that I was running, the boiler was exactly four feet away from where I
operating. So, not only was it hot for the firemen, but it was very, very
hot for the engineer, too, and you can imagine those days his patience
would run thin, because if everything didn't run right he would jump up
in the air, because the conditions... It's not his fault, because the
conditions were so bad from the heat of the boiler and the work, so, actually,
it made it bad for the fireman because he had to toe the mark or else
the engineer would jump allover him, which was natural.
LS: Now, you shoveled coal, the firemen
shoveled coal into the boiler. What, though, does the steam boiler actually
do on the derrick? What is the purpose of it?
A.M.: The purpose of that is, that's the
energy, that's the energy of the machine. Let's take, for instance, you
drive in a car. You have an engine, the engine gives you the power. In
those days steam gave you the power.The engine was built so that the steam
would go through the engine and would make the cylinders go. Now what
your power is now is gasoline or diesel fuel or electricity. At that time
we had steam. And, like I said before, thank goodness that the American
people got away from that. Not only that, it was very, very costly because
you had to get the coal, and then you'd run out of water, you'd have to
run a pipeline to get water. So, it was very costly for the company and
very hard on the men, so you can see how the conditions have improved.
LS: You used the term "floating derrick",
what is a floating derrick?
A.M.: Well, it's a crane or a shovel, whatever
you want to call it, they put that on a barge and they can tow that barge
one place to another. It floats on water. Sometime we'd go all the way
to Northport with it, or sometime we'd go way upstate to do a job. So
that's why they call it a floating rig.
LS: Oh, I see. And you mention the word
"shovel", that is a steam shovel?
A.M.: A steam shovel, yes. You have a cranes
and you have a shovel, and a shovel actually a bucket would dig away from
whatever you're doing, and a crane would dig straight down. So, a shovel
would do a certain kind of work and a crane would do other kind of work.
But the power was always the same, the steam. That's the way they got
their energy from.
LS: Was the crane also operated to a steam
A.M.: Yes, in 1936 we had it then. Around
1938 we started to get diesel shovels on diesel drag lines, diesel cranes.
And, later on in years, we got electric ones. So you can see the progess
that was being done. And the progress that it made it easier for the men
and it was a cleaner job. So, as the country progressed, so did we.
LS: Was that a dangerous job, do you think,
being a fireman on a floating derrick or any sort of a fireman that worked
next to the steam boiler?
A.M.: Well, I don't know what you mean by
dangerous but we did have a few accidents. In fact, we had, I remember
when I was about eighteen years old, we had a man, the boiler exploded,
and he got killed. We've had them but, thank goodness, that wasn't very
often. It's sometime, what happens that the water gets too low on the
boiler and the boiler could explode. There's so much power there. Now
they have even steam boilers now they call, what
you call, a safety plug. It's made out of lead and if that melted then
the water would come down through the boiler and put thefire out. But
what makes it explode is, now when you don't put water in the boiler,..
See, the fireman has to do two things, keep the fire hot and make sure
there's water in the boiler. So, we have had accidents, boilers blow up,
but, thank goodness, that wasn't very often.
LS: When you became an operator on your
father-in-law's derrick, was there someone else, say, who was with the
company longer who had seniority, who may, perhaps, should have gotten
that job and not you? Did it work in that way, you know, that because
you were the fireman then you were in line for the job?
A.M.: Well, in those days, in 1936, we had
no unions so there was no such thing as seniority. They felt that as long
as I was fireman and, actually, I did help my father-in-law run the machine
once in a while, I didn't help him as much as I was being broken in to
run the machine. So, it was no seniority at that time. they felt I was
capable of running it and they just gave me the chance and I went right
on. Today it would have been different, today you have seniority or different
classifications. If there was an engineer out of work they would have
sent him. But in those days, the operator, whoever was operator, he left
whoever the company thought was qualified they put in. Not because I was
a fireman, but anybody. They had sole say who would go on the jobs in
LS: Then your father-in-law must have been
a very generous person and taught you to operate, part of the day, when
you were not, then, being a fireman?
A.M.:Yes. he did that. He said he was going
to teach me everything he knew. Unfortunately, he didn't live that long,
because he could take a machine that only operated, he could repair it.
(End off Tape 1 Side 1)
LS: You spoke of the floating derrick, going
from place to place, what places did it go to?
A.M.:It went from one plant to another,
their own plants. Colonial, they had a plant in Manorhaven, and they had
a plant in Northport, and they had two plants in West Shore Road. Now,
the things that the derrick would do is, say, for instance, maybe a derrick
was damaged, we'd go repair it, drive its piles, or we would dredge.A
barge, as it's being loaded would go on the ground, there wasn't enough
water, we would take some of the mud out. Or, a possibility, we would
go into the city. They would have stakeboats. Now, a stakeboat is a scow
with a big nine-ton anchor, and they used to tie the loaders boats to
that and from there they used to deliver it. Now, once in a while, those
anchors, with the tide and the weather, would drag away from where they
were supposed to be. So, my job was to go to pick that anchor and bring
it back where it was supposed to be. Now, that place was right in front
of the Statue of Liberty. And so, that was one of our duties. So, we had
so many duties. Say, for instance, a scow was sinking. We'd have to go
over there unload that boat, take the sand off the boat and put it on
another boat. So, we had alot of work, every day there was something to
do. So, it was a very important part of the sandbank.
LS: You spoke about an anchor, was that
an anchor on the barge that held the floating derrick?
A.M.: No, this anchor was on a barge, itself,
what we call a stakeboat. That barge would stay there at all times, and
any thing that came up to it would tie to that stakeboat. And that nine-ton
anchor would hold there steady, and they would tie,
maybe, even thirty or forty loaded boats right there. And then from there
the tugboats would take it and bring it to different parts of Manhattan.
But that was the, say, for instance, like that would be the home base,
right in front of the Statue of Liberty. And that's when, sometime, bad
weather, it would drag. It was too much weight and it would go out towards
the channel. And you can't have it towards the channel because that channel
has to be open for other boats. So, then the word would come, and well,
I'd have to go up there and hook onto the anchor and bring it back where
she was. So, it was an all important job of the sandbank.
LS: What channel are you speaking about?
A.M.: I'm speaking about the East River
in New York City, that all these big ships go by. In other words,that's
where the deepest part of the East River is, the channel. They call that
a channel because there could be thirty, forty feet of water there. Where
the anchor was, where the stakeboat was, probably was only, maybe, twelve,
fifteen feet. And every once in a while it would drag into the channel,
cause the channel was deeper and the anchor would go towards the channel.
But, maybe, three or four times a year we'd have to pick it up and put
it back again. Or else, in other words, the Coast Guard would call up
the company to say, "Look,your anchor has moved, and move it back."
So, we had to do it or else there could have been an accident there.
LS: Would you sometimes go to these places,
like the Statue of Liberty, just work for the day and then come back to
Port Washington, again, or did you sleep over on the derrick?
A.M.: Well, many a times the job wasn't done
in one day, we had cabins right on there, we had right on the barge, we
had a stove, and we'd cook there and we had bunks to sleep. But, it was
only a matter of one or two days, the most. But, most of the times we
could finish the job in one day, then come back to Port Washington. But
there have been times that we had to sleep right on the barge, because
we're right out in the water, we're nowheres near a dock, and by the time
you come to a dock, the closest dock would be the battery, and if we went
there by the time we got home it would be time to get up and go back to
work. So, it would pay us to stay right there, and we always had food,
and it was good. It was quite an experience to sleep on the derrick and
during the nights you can hear these tugboats and steamers going by, and
you don't sleep very much because you're not used to it. But it was fine.
LS: Then, the derrick did not go on its
own on the sound and into the East River while you drove in? It was just
that you boarded the derrick in the morning and spent the day working
and just stayed with the derrick at all times?
A.M.: Yes, our home base is in Port Washington
and when we had to go to the Statue of Liberty one of the larger tugboats
would hook onto us and tow us there. And we had a day's work and many
a times the tugboat would have to go away and do its own job, while we're
doing their job. And, naturally, there was always communication. Our job
wasn't finished so the tugboat wouldn't come, it wouldn't bother, we'd
stick right on there. And, probably, the next day he would come and pick
us up and
bring us back to Port Washington. But all the time we were on the floating
rig, we never got off the floating rig, because there's always somebody
that's got to be on the floating rig. That was the law at that time.
LS: There were, then, on the floating rig,
the man is called the engineer, then the fireman. Were there other people
also working on the derrick, such as mechanics?
A.M.: No, we didn't have mechanics but wedid
have other people. We had carpenters, riggers, because it was quite a
big job to lift that nine-ton anchor and, probably, a two-ton chain on
there, so it was quite a heavy thing. So we had regular riggers. We, probably,
would have five men all told. We'd have the engineer,fireman, and three
other men doing the work because the fireman had all to do with take care
of the steam, and the engineer, he's got to pay attention to what he's
doing, so the other men would do the hooking up, giving the signal when
to heist. So, it's a team action of five men. Some jobs that we went was
just the fireman and the engineer, smaller jobs, but this was a little
more of a bigger job, and the water was kind of rough. I would like to
give you an experience, if you want it.
LS: Oh, please do, that would be good.
A.M.: One time I had the anchor lift up
and we were supposed to put the anchor on the derrick because after so
many years these old cables and other things, that would drift into the
East River, would get caught on the anchor. So, we figured we'd want to
clean that anchor. So, I got the anchor up in the air and I looked down
the East River and here comes a big, navy tugboat, and he was going. And
I knew if he'd come near us his
waves would cause us trouble. So, I gave him the signal and I blew the
whistles for him to slow down, but, evidently, he didn't slow down. When
he passed by me, the anchor was going one way and I was going the other
way, cause the waves was erratic and I had to drop the anchor in the water
and start allover again or else I would have had an accident. So, the
East River is rough and there's alot of traffic. So, that's why it takes
more men to do that job. So, it could be a dangerous job if you don't
watch. And, sometime, these big steamers come in, they make big swells.
But this navy tug was coming fast, and we were really frightened. He didn'tslow
up at all, and I had to drop the anchor and start allover again.
LS: Did he realize just how close he was
to that boat?
A.M.: Well, he wasn't, I would say, close,
he was in the channel all right, but it was the swells. That he was going
so fast, it was a navy tug and they have big tugs, And what would happen,
the machine would go one way and the anchor would go the other way, just
like taking a rubber band and you're pulling this way it would break and
if I broke the cable the boat would have went up and I would have tipped
the machine overboard and, probably, would have got killed. So, our best
thought was to drop it over- board, again, which we did. We put it in
the water and started allover again. But, you see, those things can happen.
The East River is a rough river, and there's strong tides. So, that's
why we'd need more men to do that particular job.
LS: Since this job was somewhat dangerous,
and it was, certainly, an important job, those jobs on the floating derrick,
were your wages, then, higher, somewhat higher, slightly higher, than,
say, those men who stayed back mining the sand?
A.M.: My wages were, on the floating rig,
exactly the same as the men, the engineers, who were in the plant. So,
regardless where we went we got the same wages, although we knew that
the city men got alot more money because they were already organized and
we weren't. So, regardless of where we went, we went upstate and we'd
go to the city, no matter where we'd go we always got the same wages,
there was no differential.
LS: So, was it hard to get a job on the
A.M.: Yes, it was hard because that particular
rig, it was actually built in 1900, it was one of those old, old rigs,
and some of the engineers were actually afraid of that machine. That machine,
one time, killed a man. Another time a man got, the machine tipped over,
and he was sixteen months in the hospital. So, they were afraid of that
machine. As far as I was... I was a young feller and, I guess, the same
thing today, the young fellas don't seem to care and I went right on the
machine and nobody bothered me because nobody wanted to run that machine,
so I was safe. And I believe the company respected me for that, for taking
that machine over, because I didn't know any better, I was young. But
I noticed as I got older I was a little more careful.
LS: Then, no one else, in actual fact, wanted
that job, did they?
A.M.:Well, they would like to have, be on
a floating rig, but that particular machine itself, they were afraid of.
LS: I wanted to ask that. Was that the only
floating rig that the sand company owned?
A.M.: Yes, that was the only one. And then
we were equipped with pumps in case a boat was sinking. It was well...
with the pumps and with everything, everything was ready on there, but
everybody was afraid of the machine. It was a dangerous machine and, thank
goodness, they don't make those kind of machines any more. It was a machine
that was built around 1900. And it was a land machine that they put on
a barge.And, I guess, the machines, same as anything else, they get a
reputation and nobody wanted that machine. I took it because my father-in-law
died and I took over and I was twenty-two years old. All in all it gave
me a good livelihood.
LS: I wanted to ask, too, this floating
derrick, then, was it something that was thought up by the company you
worked for? Did your father-in-law think, well, this would be a really
good idea if we put this crane on top of this barge? Or was it something
that was used by different sand companies elsewhere in the United states?
A.M.: Well, it paid the company to have
their own men in their own rig to do the work because if they didn't have
it they would have to hire a machine. Oh, say, like Merrick and Chapin,
they had so many derricks that they would hire out, but it would cost
them alot of money. This way they had their own rig, they could send her
where they want her, and the wages was low at that time, so it paid them.
I think that rig saved the company an awful lot of money and it did good
work. It dredged, it built docks, and unloaded barges, like I said, lift
up anchors, and even went down the shipyard and worked, lift up stone
crushers that whatever very handy machine. So, if a company had to hire
a machine every time they had to do something, it would be very, very
LS: Then you think the company designed this
machine on their own, or was it a machine that was bought
elsewhere, designed by another company?
A.M.: No, it was just a regular machine
that made by...I forgot even the name of the machine. But it was a regular
machine that was supposed to be in the plant. The only thing they run
it on a barge and made afloating rig out of it. It wasn't what would you
call one of those big, big floating rigs with a A-frame. It was just a
regular crane, and it was a handy, it was worth doing it. And the company
knew that it was a good thing that they could go anyplace, and we did
go allover. When I went upstate and we knew jobs had to be done, we'd
go and it's so easy to travel by water. You take nowadays when they'd
trans- port a machine they'd have to have trailors, they have to have
permits, to go on the road with these big machines. This is on a barge
on the water and it's just a matter of getting a tugboat and pull you
where you had to go. So, it was feasible to have it.
LS: After these few accidents did happen
did the company do anything to improve the safety measures on this particular
A.M.: Well, what I meant when they had the
accident, that time that machine was a land plant, a land machine. It
did the work on the land. And I believe that was one of the reasons why
they put it on the floating rig, on a floating barge. And they bolted
it down so it couldn't move. It was one of those narrow
track machine. Now, what I mean by narrow track, you take a railroad,
their tracks could be, maybe, six feet wide or five feet wide. These here
in the sandbanks were only three foot six wide, the rails. So, it wouldn't
take much to tip the machine over, because the narrower the two rails
are the quicker it will tip over. So, there was so many people got hurt
and so many times it turned over, they thought it would be a good thing
to put it on a floating rig and bolt it down. And that's where, three
years, that's what they did with that rig, because she was just too dangerous
on the land.
LS: Did you think that, when you took over
your father-in- law's job, did you think that that's what you would like
to do for the rest of your life?
A.M.: Well, as far as the sandbanks is concerned,
that's just about the highest position you could get outside of being
the foreman or a superintendent. You have all different classifications
and you have all kinds of mechanics. The operators were paid a few cents
more and they were just as high as you could go, so I was, as a young
man, I was on top of the heap and I thought I was a big man. Because you
couldn't go any higher unless you went into supervision.
LS: Did you feel that you were doing the
job that you would like to do always, because of that challenge? I imagine
that was there.
A.M.: The answer, I did that from 1937 I
went on it, 1936 I went on the machine and I didn't get off until 1964,
so most of my life was on...not on a floating rig, but different rigs.
And then in 1964 I took a foreman's job because I really was starting
to get up in age, and running a machine in production is a hard, tedious
job. So, I finally gave that up, and the foreman's job, the opportunity
was there, so I took it. It was a foreman on a loading, to load the barges.
I made less money, but I was well satisfied because after running the
machine for so many years I think you kind of peater out, you lose your
interest after so many years. Your body doesn't hold like you will when
you were twenty or thirty or even forty years old. As you go later in
years your body says, well, you're getting a little tired. So, I did take
the foreman's job after so many years being on the machines.
LS: Well, as an engineer on a derrick or
any kind of a crane, is it physically tiring, too, as well as mentally
A.M.: Well, it's according to what type
of job you have. Now, if you go in production where you dig into a bank
and you put into a hopper and a conveyer takes the sand away, that can
be a mentally and physically a tiring job because you're doing the same
thing over and over and over again. You're putting, say, for instance,now,
you're putting two buckets a minute into a hopper and if you do that for
eight hours I believe mentally and physically you get tired. Now, there's
other parts of the machines that you could heist steel, or you're doing
dock work. Now, those jobs are more interesting because you don't do the
same thing every day. So, you have a differential as being an engineer.
If a fella says I'm an operating engineer, that you have to ask him, "What
do you do?" Now, if he's a dock builder or a steel, he's not working
nowheres near as hard as a man in a sandbank on production. So, there's
different engineers and
the man on production, it is mentally and physically, you only can do
that just so many years until you tire out and you're not useful to the
company no more. Your production goes down because you're tired and then
you get so tired you can't even think, so it's time to get out. It's the
same as an athlete, when he reaches a certain age his legs give, so an
engineer is the same way.
LS: When you were working on the floating
derrick, I asked if it was a dangerous job. What would be your feelings
about that? Is it dangerous, do you feel, a dangerous job?
A.M.: Well, it wouldn't be more danger than
any other job. Well, I wouldn't say it's a dangerous job. The accidents
has been very, very little on a floating derrick. But, like I said, that
same machine if you put it on land it would have been dangerous, but putting
it on a derrick and bolting it down, it wasn't dangerous. It was interesting
because you did so many different kinds of work, you didn't do the same
thing. What makes a person tired is doing the same thing every day, and
eight, nine, ten hours a day so then you actually would be very, very
tired. No, I would say there was nothing too dangerous about it.
LS: But looking back now, did you feel,
always, that you had chosen the career that you would always like to do?
A.M.: Well, once I got to be an engineer
I could say that. I did that, I enjoyed running the machine, and I had
no idea of going any other place. I figure I started there and there's
where I was going to finish. Actually, I never had another job. I worked
in that sandbank since I was twenty-one years old till the day I retired,
never had another job.
LS: When we talked earlier we talked about
unionization coming into the sandbank. Let's talk about that some more
now. When did the unionization first come about, can you give me a date
A.M.: Yes, I can. First I want to say that
in the '30s the Wagner Act came out. That was a law that gave us the right
to organize. See, before then we had no rights to organize. So, when the
Wagner Act came out that gave us the opportunity to organize in the sandbanks.
And that was in 1937. I, person ally, went to this fellow named Harry
Goodwin, and I knew he had a charter steam, Mechanical and Electrical
Engineers. And I talked to him, I says, "Now, we should organize.
I think the conditions in the sandbank is not improving with the country."
Because we knew that the building trade in New York and all over the United
States was organized, they were getting a fairly good salary, they were
starting to work into pensions and welfare, but we had nothing. So, he
says to me, he says, "It's a good idea, we're going to work on it."
And I believe it was only about five or six months later, we went to the
company and we said, "We're organized." And what happened, they
didn't believe us. So, I'll never forget that day, we had a fellow running
the train, coming back with that steam again, he just pulled a string
and blew the whistle, everybody stopped work. So, then the company realized
that we were organized now. That was in 1937.
LS: What made you decide to organize? Was
it you, alone, that decided this? Did you have support from the other
men? Did they have any idea of what you wanted to do?
A.M.: Well, I spoke to three or four men.
I spoke to my brother and two other fellows that something has to be done
because we knew by radio that things was being organized all over the
world and allover the country,and we thought it was time, because the
conditions did not improve in the sandbanks. Now, the conditions when
I started, oh, even in the early '30s, we just come out of a depression.
The men were so down on account of depression, because they only worked
one, two days a week all during the depression and there was no way they...
They were all in debt. And the wages that we were getting, getting thirty-five,
fifty to sixty cents an hour and they knew they couldn't make a living
and the company never offered anything. So, we figured it was time to
organize. So, that's how it actually started. Like I say, we went to this
Mr. Goodwin and then we organized, secretly we organized, and then we
went to the company. There's no way they would believe us that we already
LS: What company were owners of the sandbanks
when you decided this?
A.M.: Well, that was the McCormack Sand
and Gravel, there was the OBrien Sand and Gravel, there was the
Wilson Plant, which is in Port Washington that's where the disposal plant
is on Harbor Road. And then there was the North Shore, which is part where
Manorhaven is now. So, then they still wouldn't believe us, so we blew
the whistle and they went on strike. The strike only lasted, I think,
just for the rest of the day and they realized that we were organized
and we walked into Mr. Popesoffice, because Colonial was running
that plant in West Shore Road
at that time. We walked in his office and he looked up and he says, "What
took you fellas so long?" He says, "I'm glad to see you's organized."
So, we sat down, we got the other companies, and we signed a contract
for one year. Then, after the one year, that's when the trouble started.
LS: Just to get back now to the time that
you decided that you would organize. How many men were involved in the
sandbank at that time?
A.M.: I would say, approximately, six hundred
men. That would take in all the plants. That would take in, like I said,
the McCormick, O'Brien, Wilson, and a few of the little plants around.
LS: Were the three or four men who became
interested in unionizing, were they all working at the same plantas you
were, or were they men from different plants whom you contacted?
A.M.: No, they were all fellow workers where
they worked with me. We all worked in the same plant.
LS: Were there no interest from the men
in the other plants about organizing?
A.M: Well, our conditions weren't too good
and theirs weren't too good either. So, the conditions, it wasn't that
one plant was better than the other, they were all alike.
LS: The conditions, excuse me, that you
talk about then are what?
A.M: Well, that we didn't have no wages.
The wages didn't go up and we were working nine hours a day, and we had
no welfare. Unfortunately, if somebody got sick and he did save $2.00
that was gone. We had nothing to go back on. We thought, as the company
goes, we should go. The company was bad because they
weren't unionized. So, now, that the building trade organized and other
factories organized, we figured it's about time we organize. So, that's
how, actually, we got started. Nobody came to us to organize us. So, we,
actually, did that ourselves.
LS: You talked about Harry Goodwin, why
did you go to Harry Goodwin?
A.M.: Harry Goodwin had this independent
charter. Now, he, evidently, contacted these people from Yonkers and they
had this charter and this charter would cover anything as far as the building
and construction trade is concerned, because there was the steam, mechanical
and electrical engineers, so it took in everything.. So, that was the
logical charter, that would take in the sandbanks because it took anything
in the building trade, it took in.
LS: How did he come by this charter?
A.M.: Well, evidently, he knew these people
in Yonkers where the headquarters was, and he, apparently, had orders
to try to organize people out this way in Long Island. But he didn't quite
reach the sandbanks, yet, and this happened to be more of a coincidence,
because when I mentioned it to him he really was happy about it. So, it
actually was a coincidence. He probably would have came to the sandbanks,
maybe, in five or six months later. But it just happened that we went
over to his house and we knew what he was doing, so he was the logical
guy, and, boy, he was happy when we went to his house.
LS: Was that his profession, a so-called
A.M.: Well, he, at one time, owned these
cranes or rigs, and he, evidently, didn't make out too good with them
and then he got to be an organizer of the steam, mechanical engineers.
Yes, he was an organizer.
LS: Just to clarify a point, now. The name
of the firm that you had mentioned earlier was Gallagher and Goodwin.
Is Harry Goodwin related in any way to these people?
A.M.: No relation at all, a different Goodwin
completely, no relation.
LS: When you went to see Mr. Goodwin did
you go alone?
A.M.: No, I went with my brother-in-law,
was his name of Humpert DeLapp. I says to him, "Let's go over."
He was older than me and I was young and I was a little bit afraid that
I would've been not accepted so I felt that by bringing an older man I'd
get that safeguard that Harry Goodwin wouldn't say, "Hey, wait a
minute,now. You're too young for this." So, it worked out good, it
was just Mr. DeLapp and myself.
LS: What was Mr. DeLapp's job at the sandbank?
A.M: He was just a worker. I don't quite
remember what kind of job he had, but he worked in the sandbank.
LS: How long had he worked there?
A.M.: He worked a good fifteen years, he
was there about fifteen years, yah.
LS: Do you know, then, if any of the men
talked to him about unionizing?
A.M.: I don't understand the question.
LS: Any of the men who worked with him,
do you suppose
that they, maybe, had mentioned to him or talked with him about getting
a union into the sandbanks? Or was that just
something that he thought, well, we must do this?
A.M.: Are you talking about Mr. Goodwin?
LS: No, Mr. DeLapp, Mr. DeLapp.
A.M: Oh. No, we discussed it, to be truthful
with you, we discussed it for months. I used to go to his house and we
would talk about the day's work sometime and the conditions, and we always
said that I think it's about time we organized, but we didn't know where
to go. I heard of unions but I didn't know what it was all about. And
then we heard about
Mr. Goodwin and that's when we decided to go to his house.
LS: Were you, then, apprehensive about
your job? Say, did you think that if the bosses found out about your thoughts
about a union, were you not afraid that you might be fired?
A.M.: Well, that entered my mind but, as
being twenty-one, twenty-two years old, I didn't mind it at all. I figured
I figured it wouldn't have been that much problem because the country
was getting organized, and I knew that, and at that time with the Wagner
Act coming in, we were within our rights. I knew there would've been trouble,
but I felt pretty safe because Now the laws was that you couldn't get
fired for organizing a union. So, I thought I felt myself that I was safe.
So, if I was fired I figured someday I would come back somehow.
LS: You were married at that time, did you
A.M: Yes, I had one daughter. She was born
LS: Did your wife know what you were about
to do with this union thing?
A.M.: No, she didn't, and we kept it pretty
secret because we didn't even know if the men knew, we felt that they
might have been talking about it and the company would hear about it,
and made it hard for the men, so it was kept pretty quiet.
LS: But you know what, you didn't try to
get any kind of a feeling from the men, perhaps, that they would back
perhaps, they would walk away from this thing rather frightened?
A.M.: Well, what happened was that when
we talked to Mr. Goodwin, we went nice and slow. We'd go to this fella
and we'd talk to him. Actually, we had no opposition at all. But we told
everybody to keep it quiet, we may be trying to do something. And these
men were so loyal that I never yet heard that any man would squeal. The
company was so surprised that they never expected it. So, it wasn't done
overnight, it took months to organize everybody. Gradually, we'd go to
their houses and tell them what we were trying to do. We had no opposition
whatsoever. It was very, very easy.
LS: I'm interested, again, the wives of
the employees, do you suppose that they were...that they tried to influence
their men in one way or another? About striking or not striking?
A.M.: Well, to be honest with you, I don't
think the wives knew it, and if they did, alot of those wives, I'd say
the majority of those wives, came from Ireland, Italy, Russia, Poland,
I don't think they understood what unionism meant. The only thing they
knew that happens it would be beneficial. So, there was no opposition.
And they knew the times was hard, and anything would have been an improvement.
So, as far as the wives is concerned, I imagine some knew, and,probably,
the majority didn't know
cause they never interfered with their husbands. And it worked out fine
because we never had any trouble with wives. We never had a phone call
that the wives would say, "Hey, what are you guys doing? You're going
to jeopardize my husband's job." We never had one phone call.
LS: The day that the whistle blew, did Mr.
Pope realize what was happening?
A.M.: Well, Mr. Pope had an intuition on
anything, he was a tremendous, smart man. All his plants in the city,
retail, everything was organized, and he knew that, eventually, some
day the sandbanks would be organized. He knew that things would be organized,
he accepted it. Although it cost him more money, but he got good qualified
men by being organized. So, when he found out that we are organized he
acceptedit with open arms. There was no problem whatsoever with Mr. Pope.
Because he went all through it, and, as far as I knew in history, he was
one of the fellas that, maybe, helped the union because he was one of
the first building contractors to sign the building and construction trade
unions. So, he was one of the originators and he knew what it meant. Because
always said, and he said that to me, he says, "If I came to this
country broke, if I have to I'll go back broke, but we got to take care
of the men and give them a decent wage. "
LS: You spoke about the strike lasting nine
hours. What happened within that nine hour period?
AM: You mean nine weeks.
LS: Oh, excuse me, I thought you said nine
LS: Oh, nine weeks.
A.M.: Well, now, with the first, yes, you
were right. The first strike we had only lasted a few hours because that's
when they recognized that we did have a union. So, we didn't go back to
work the rest of the day, but the next day we sat in with Mr. Pope, it
took a day or two, we sat in with Mr. Pope and we signed a contract for
one year. And everybody got a littleraise, not too much, at the beginning
they got. These fellas that were getting 45cents, they went up to 60 cents
and the fellas that were getting 60 cents went to 75 cents. So, that was
the start. We didn't get that much but we got a few pennies and that was
a good start.
LS: Did you get any other benefits, you
know, perhaps, sick days or hospitalization, or vacation time?
A.M.: No, we were new and you just don't
go asking too much at the first time. We were just tickled to be organized.
And what we settled for was just money and conditions, nothing was spoken
about welfare or pension, because we knew that later on we would. It's
like the old saying 'you have to crawl before you can walk' or whatever
the saying is. So, we had to go very slow, and that's why we signed a
one-year contract that things could be studied. So, we were glad that
our wages went up a little. But the conditions, and, naturally, with seniority,
and just the regular thing that would be in a contract.
LS: Were any of the safety conditions improved
because of this first contract?
A.M.: Yes, but not only account of the contract,
because the country, itself, was beginning to be safety minded because
the unions were beginning to cross the government, to have agencies, to
go around, because there were so many people being killed and
hurt, not only in the sandbank, but any building and construction. So,
they were putting the pressure on the senators and congressmen to have
these commisioner or these boards to go around and have this safety thing.
So, there's alot of new laws came out, the safety of the men. And so that
involved us. Anything that the government put out we automatically would...
have to have it in the contract. They would automatically would be in
there. And the things did improve because the government said they have
to be more careful. If a place had to ...you walk and the boards werent
strong enough,the unions looked right away, to get that board changed.
From then on the accidents were alot less, I would say fifty, sixty percent
of the accidents were alot less than it was before we organized.
LS: I, also, too, can't help thinking that
Mr. Pope, then, most of his men, or all of his men in the New York city
area, were organized, and the union at that time, or the country, at that
time, was becoming more and more union minded. I'm curious, why didn't
anyone from New York city come to Port Washington and try to organize
you guys? Why did you
have to go and look for the unionization yourselves?
A.M.: Well, sorry to say this, but the people
always thought that the men that worked in the sandbank was the, probably,
the lowest trade you could find, which I don't believe so. So, nobody
even bothered. We weren't getting paid much and there was alot of foreigners
there that, alot of them, couldn't hardly speak English. Like I said before,
they came from all parts of the world, Italy, Ireland, Russia and Poland
and the Slavs, and they came from allover. And alot of them couldn't speak
English, so they didn't even bother. I don't know why,
but, eventually, they would have, but we were anxious to get organized
right away. Eventually we would have been organized by the building and
construction trade but they took their time and we just couldn't wait.
LS: Then I don't quite understand this though
I mean in actual fact the sand mining here was indirectly responsible
for the jobsfor those people in New York City and yet they considered
you lowest man on the totem pole.
A.M.: Well, what happened when we did organize
then the bigger boys in the union, in building and construction realizedthat
if we went on strike on our own we could put at least 250,000 people out
of work in the city which was under the building and construction trade.
Now we have 500 or 600 people working that can control 250,000 people
that means that the unions in the city weren't as powerful as they could
be because that would make us powerful. Because we could go on strike
and they would be out of work so the AFL Building and Construction Trade
evidently realized that they made a mistake and they wanted to get in.
LS: And, also you said that the first strike
lasted only a few days and then nine months later was it, then, that another
A.M.: Yes, we had the, the year was up,
we signed a contract for one year. Now we know that the Building and Construction
Trade in the union in the city was very, very powerful, they were well
organized. They did not want the company to sign with us, they wanted
us to sign with the Building and Construction Trade. So here it is the
company was well satisfied
between the union and the men, could not sign with us for the simple reason
New York City would boycott them. What I mean by boycott, they wouldn't
unload their barges because there wasn't AFL building and construction
trade. So what happened is that is that the pressure is put onto the company
not to sign with us. So as long as they didn't want to sign with us, we
had no alternative, we had to go on strike. So we went on strike, and
we were on strike for nine weeks, but it was worth it for the simple reason
that we had a local autonomy that means although we signed with the AFL-CIO,
I dont know, I don't remember if the CIO was in, at that time it
wasn't, with the building trade we were independent, we are our own boss,
that was what was important. The local autonomy, although we signed with
them they had to make a special charter that we had our own delegate,
our own executive board. We were our own boss and that proved it was well
worth us joining the AFL because that was a tremendous big union and we
were backed by them but we still were our own boss. So when I realized
what we had to do we signed with them and then we signed with the company
and would you believe since
1938 until right up to this day we never had another strike.
LS: Let's see I wanted to ask you something,..about,
oh, what happened then to the first union that you were organized under?
The one that Harry Goodwin had the mechanical and electrical engineers?
Did they not fight to keep you on with them when AF of L came out and
clamoring that they wanted you back?
A.M.: Well, that was the reason of the nine-week
strike, we didn't want to go with them because we felt they didn't organize
us, we organized ourselves and it wasn't fair for them to come in. But
eventually we seen their point. Now when that happened, Mr. Goodwin which
helped organize the whole sandbank, he could not be a delegate. So the
men accepted it because we have to remember we just come from a depression
and the things just starting to get a little better and here we were on
a nine weeks strike and people bought their homes, and there was people
who lost their homes so we figured nine weeks was enough, the company
could not sign with us so we figured we have to join the AF of L which
we did but that meant that Harry Goodwin could not be delegate, so again
we talked about this local economy and being our own boss it was up to
us that one of our men and make him business manager or delegate and that's
the time we put in Thomas McCann; he was our first delegate or business
representative when we turned AF of L and he turned out to be a good delegate.
LS: Harry Goodwin then was, was he extremely
upset by this changeover in that he was instrumental in bringing the union.
A.M.: Well, he was naturally he was upset
but he realized that his hands was tied and all the men's hands was tied
but there was nothing else we could do because like I said just finished
depression, things was hard and we were on the streets for nine weeks
and during nine weeks there was a lot of hatred going on because they
brought on strike breakers and there was a little bloodshed so we figured
enough is enough. So when they promised a local autonomy that are our
own boss we accepted that right away.
LS: I wanted to ask you something too about
that nine weeks while you were on strike, you said that there were bloodshed,how
did that happen?
A.M.: Well when they brought in strikebreakers
because still we are on strike for nine weeks and most of the city workers
were out of work, that means the AF of L, the Building and Trade, them
men weren't working so they brought in strikebreakers so they could get
some sand over there so they could put their men to work. Well you know
the old storywhen somebody takes their job, there's hatred there, things
can happen and these were professional strikebreakers we realized that
so lots of men would have stones, throw stones at them, couple went to
the hospital, couple of our boys went to the hospital. So there was some
bloodshed and we knew that and the Port Washington police did all they
could possibly do to keep order and then the Nassau County police come
in. So it was bloodshed and it wasn't a thing I would want to remember,
that was a tough nine weeks and it was like I said it was bloodshed and
if it continued it would have got worseand worse so there were four or
five people who were seriously hurt and thank goodness that we realized
we could not beat AF of L so we joined them and it proved that that was
the right decision.
LS: When I think back about this strike
I can remember not really everything in its right slot but I can remember
something going on on Davis Avenue and it had something to do with food
being distributed, could you tell us what that was about? Do you remember
about it at all?
A.M.: Yes, there was Gallagher Brothers,
that's another company way out in Port Jefferson, they wanted, the AF
of L wanted them to go to work and produce sand for the city and the men
just wouldn't do it so what happened was that a lot of people donated
money and we bought food for a lot of these men that like I was saying
we come out of a depression a lot of there people didn't have nothing
to eat and on Davis Avenue there we had a hall there that's where we used
to have our meetings and we set up all this food and we give out to these
men so they could survive. So that's why this kept on for quite awhile
until most of the things were eventually straightened out. We did have
to support some of these men to give them food, we had no strike benefits
or anything like that. A lot of these people donated money and even some
of the merchants donated because we had the merchants helping us out.
LS: Do you remember what was the attitude
of the people in Port Washington towards that strike, were they upset
A.M.: Well, they was upset, they understood
what we were trying to do, they were upset because people had no money
to buy things and lot of it was put on credit and they sympathized with
us because I know I went to different merchants and they were jokingly
say "when is this strike going to be over. Things is tough for us
here." Because we had to remember that majority of the people lived
in Port Washington and Roslyn and if they didn't have money to spend,
they didn't do the town any good. So they sympathized with us, they knew
the conditions of the sand banks and we had no complaints with the merchants
and they was with with us and so was the Port Washington police far as
that was concerned, they had to do their job and they would just ride
around and see that everything was all right. We had sympathy even as
far as the company was concerned, theyd rather sign with us, but
they just couldn't do it there was just too much pressure on the other
end. So it wasn't a company strike, it was actually a union strike. All
the merchants were sure glad when we settled and got back to normal.
LS: What ways did the sand pits change after
the union came in?
A.M.: Well, so many good things happened.
Not only the wages went up, the conditions, your job was safe-guarded,
you didn't have to worry from one day to another that you didn't know
if you'd be laid off or not just because you didn't look right or you
might have said something to the foreman. Everything generally improved,
in every category it improved, and the company there was no problem with
the company, they accepted it and as you talked to them we use to sit
down every once in a while and talk to the company and say yes
we should do it this way and we had a very good relationship all these
years. And I think this is one of the best relation- ships in the country.
Because like I said we had no more strikes and the men are doing very
good. Automation come in and every time things would change, we'd discuss
it and we sat down and discussed it.
LS: How many men do you think are working
now in the sand bank?
AM: I would say approximately about a hundred
including the ship yard, there's only one plant left because New York
City don't use the sand like they use to, we can figure from 600 men down
to 100 men, that's quite a difference now.
LS: Do you think there are still offspring
of those men were working before you retired, are some of their sons now
coming into the sand banks to work?
A.M.: Oh yes, right now I can think of three
or four right now working in the sand banks with their sons are working,
so it's a father-son, and that's the way it should be, I believe nowadays
if the father can help the son get a job and with the union sanction,
I think that's the way it should be.
LS: When all of your sand has been all mined
and there really is not a sand bank any longer, how do you think you will
remember, what would you think about it, when you think of the sand banks
what would come into your mind do you think?
A.M.: Well, I would say an awful lot of
men including all of Port Washington and Roslyn benefitted by it. Say
for instance like in Manorhaven or Soundview, it beautified the place.
We can see what's being built there now and eventually in the West Shore
Road where there's factories being built. So it's what I can remember
is that we all made a good livelihood and now that we should receive a
pension, which something we would never have without the union, we got
this pension, we got the welfare and I can remember a lot of good things
about the sand bank that wouldn't have happened unless we organized so
that what I can remember is down the West Shore Road especially all that
big mountain is dug-out, the factories was going up putting a lot of people
to work. I don't know how many people are working over there now, it's
quite a few and I imagine it will continue when the other plant finishes
That's an awful lot of property, there's hundreds of acres there, so it's
up to the people what they want to do their property.So I think it benefits
all the way around.
LS: Well this has certainly been an enlightening
hour and we thank you very much for allowing us to come into your home
and hope we can come back again.
AM: It was my pleasure and it's very nice to reminisce knowing we can
sit down and you spent all your life in the sandbank and it's a wonderful
thing to talk about it.
LS: Thank you again.
Return to page 1
AFL Building and Construction Trade 49
Auburn Sand and Gravel 40
Aveilino, Italy 14
Calabra Bros. 53
Caruso, Michael 16
Coast Guard 29
Colonial Sand and Gravel 7
D'Amico, Generoso 14
Davis Ave. (Port Washington) 52
Delapp, Humpert 43
East River 29,30
Goodwin, Harry 39,40,42,43, 50, 51
Goodwin and Gallaghers 3,4,7,18,43
Guggenheim School 10
Harbor Road 40
Hempstead Harbor 19
King Kullen 10
McCann, Thomas 51
McCormack Sandbanks 1,7,40,41
Malcolm, Helen 18,19
Malcolm, Robert 19
Manorhaven 9, 28,40, 55
Marino, Fiori 22
Marino, James 4-7,20,21
Marino, Maria 14
Naples, Italy 14
Nassau County Police 52
Police Station 41
Pope, Generosa 10,46,48
Rengo, Mr. 16
Roslyn, 3, 18, 55
St. Francis Hospital 18
Salerno, Lucy 1
Sands Point Golf Course 10
Soundview 9, 55
Statue of Liberty, 29,30
Steam, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineers 13,23-26,39
Teta, Dr. 21
Wagner Act 39
West Shore Road 2, 9, 10, 15, 18, 28, 55
Willis, Mr. 21
Wilson Plant 40