THE REMINISCENCES OF ALBERT MARINO

Click here to open the audio recording of this transcript.

 

PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM

PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY

THE REMINISCENCES OF ALBERT MARINO


Albert Marino


Preface

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, or forebears.

Elly Shodell
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

Click here for index

page 1
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 me.

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.

LS: Uh-huh.

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.

page 2
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 job was?

AM: Yes, he was a laborer in a sandbank.

LS: Do you remember the date, approximately the year?

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.

page 3
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 the hills.

LS: When you say 'climbing hills’ in actual fact that was, then, the sandpits, the hills that you're talking about?

A.M.: That's right, that was the sandbank.

LS: Where did the other men from the sandpits live?

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


page 4
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 Roslyn schools.

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?

page 5
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

 

page 6
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 the sandbank?

A.M: Well, I started to work in the sandbank in 1936, March of 1936.

LS: Do you remember what your first job was then?

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

page 7
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.

page 8
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 that’s the way the whole country was run, we’d 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

page 9
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

page 10
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 talking about?

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 course.

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 time, when

page 11
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 various places?

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?

page 12

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 did.

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

page 13
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.

page 14
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 Italy.


LS: Generoso, is the first name, and DeMita is the second name, the surname?

A.M.: That's the name, his real name, in Italy, yes.

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 know?

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.

page 15
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.

page 16
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 little rooms?

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 Shore Road?

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?

page 17
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?

page 18
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.

page 19
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

page 20
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,

page 21
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 typical Italian.

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 father was.

LS: Were your uncle and your father partners in this sandbank, or did they each, individually, own one segment of a sandbank?

A.M.: They each owned their own. They were never partners,

page 22
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 any point?

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 younger

page 23
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 was

page 24
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 from

page 25
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 boiler system?

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

page 26
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 those days.

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?

page 27
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)

page 28
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,

page 29
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?

page 30
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

page 31
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

page 32
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?

page 33
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 rig?

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?

page 34
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 expensive.

page 35
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 machine?

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

page 36
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

page 37
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 tiring?

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

page 38
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.

page 39
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 on that?

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?

page 40
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 organized.

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 O’Brien 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. Pope’soffice, because Colonial was running that plant in West Shore Road

page 41
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

page 42
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.

page 43
LS: Was that his profession, a so-called union organizer?

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

page 44
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 have children?

A.M: Yes, I had one daughter. She was born in 1935.

LS: Did your wife know what you were about to do with this union thing?

page 45
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 you or,
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

page 46
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 hours.

A.M.: No.

LS: Oh, nine weeks.

page 47
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

page 48
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 weren’t 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,

page 49
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 strike occurred?

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

page 50
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 don’t 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?

page 51
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.

page 52
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?

page 53
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 with it?

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


page 54
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, they’d 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.


page 55
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 off.

page 56
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.


INDEX
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
McCrory 10
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
Northport 28

O'Donald's 10

Police Station 41
Pope, Generosa 10,46,48

Rengo, Mr. 16
Roslyn, 3, 18, 55
Russians 20

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