Click here to open the audio recording of this transcript. (part 1)

Click here to open the audio recording of this transcript. (part 2)

Albert Salerno

Copyright Jim Metzner Productions, Inc.

The following interview was contributed as 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 present time.

This interview focuses on sandmining in Port Washington and was part of the Local Legacies initiative of the Library of Congress and "Pulse of the Planet" radio program. The interview can be used only with the permission of the copyright holder for such scholarly and educational use as it may determine.

This interview was conducted for "Pulse of the Planet" by AMY STANDEN with ALBERT MICHAEL SALERNO and LUCY SALERNO at the PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY on SEPTEMBER 21, 1999.

The reader is asked to bear in mind that he is reading a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written, word. Editorial corrections have been inserted by hand, when required, to help preserve the authenticity of the verbatim transcript. Permission to quote for publication must be obtained from Jim Metzner Productions, Inc. or from the oral authors, their heirs or forebears.

Elly Shodell
Port Washington Library
Oral History Program Director

(c)Jim Metzner Productions, Inc.
340 Croton Heights Road Yorktown Heights, New York 10598

Interview with Albert Michael Salerno(AS) and Lucy Salerno(LS) by Amy Standen(Q)
September 21, 1999

Click here for index

page 1

Q: All right, can I just get you to tell me your name?

AS: My name is Albert Michael Salerno.

Q: And your name?

LS: Lucy Salerno.

Q: Okay, do you want ... And you share an address I take it?

LS: ... [laughs] ... Yes, 21 North Maryland in Port Washington.

Q: Okay. And the area [zip] code?

LS: Is 1-1-0-5-0.

Q: Okay, great. Can I just get you to introduce yourself?

page 2

AS: All right, my name is Albert M. Salerno. I was born in Port Washington in 1928, and
I live at born at 30 North Maryland and live at 21 North Maryland. I started to work in the sand and gravel industry when I was twenty-two after I came out of the army. I had taken my father's place as a caver. A caver is a two-man team that climb a bank that is approximately 175 to 200 feet high, with a pole, and at the end of the pole is a spear that you undermine the sand so you make it safe for the machinery on the bottom to
make a right-hand turn or a left-hand turn as it progressed to mine the material. As it mines the material it goes into a hopper, which is approximately 20 feet high and 15 feet square, that goes onto a conveyor belt, that goes to a processing plant where it is separated-the boulders, the rocks and the sand and gravel. And then from
there it is crushed and then onto the processing plant where..that is approximately 125 feet high with screens in it of different size, where it's separated and going into different units to be put on the ground in different piles to be loaded onto the barges to go to New York City or Pennsylvania or Connecticut.

Q: So now, back to, you were saying what you did. You were the, you were
undermining the sand. How did that work? What were you doing exactly?

AS: Well, as the machine digs the material the bank becomes overhanging and very dangerous to the machine.

Q: Because it's digging the material from below?

page 3

AS: Because it's digging underneath the bank. And our job was to go up and to go in and
keep undermining the hardpan or the clay to make the top topple down, and when that top started to come down you had to run for your life, otherwise you would be buried. Which the machines have been buried many, many times before we even had a chance to go up and undermine it.

Q: Were you doing this from the top?

AS: In approximately the middle of the bank, then we would have a rest for a
while until that machine, the material was disposed of through the conveyor belt. I
stood on that job for about nine months, and then I had an opportunity to become an oiler on a crane and eventually a crane operator. Being a crane operator I did
excavating in the ponds that, where the silt was deposited, and that was recasted and recasted over until it dried out and then was sold for baseball diamonds, race tracks, tennis courts. There is very, very little waste in the material that we mine. It's
like..let's see, what could I say? Oh, like if you were mining in a stone quarry there's seven different products that come out of stone and nothing is wasted. I've worked in a stone quarry up in Kingston building docks. It was really a stone quarry producing, making cement out of the stone that was mined up there.

Q: But the sand that you were mining was just .., [inaudible] ...

page 4

AS: The sand that we mined from 1950..and it started in 18..around 1864. And it used to
be called Cow Bay sand because it was the best granular sand that you could find to make concrete, which is probably every building or subway you see in New York City is built by sand that came from Long Island, especially Hempstead Harbor and Manhasset Bay and Northport.

Q: So how does the sand that you mine ... Actually, let's go back to when you were talking about your work. So becoming a crane operator, that was a step up? That was better than being one of the guys who was undermining ...

AS: Well, yes, being a crane operator was dangerous in its work also. In the sand banksthere used to be many, many men accidentally killed. As time went on machinery became safer, conditions became safer. I think my father was about the last man to pass on in an accident in the sand bank, and that was in 1950. What else?
Q: What's it like working with so much sand? I mean, do you remember the danger of it mainly, or is it the ...

AS: Well, the ...

Q: ... weight of it?

page 5

AS: The danger is always there and you have to be alert. Some accidents happen that are machine-wise unsafe, but everybody took precautions and to make sure that accidents did not happen. And there's, you had to walk around with a steel helmet on,a safety helmet because you never knew what was going to fall from the sky, especially walking under conveyor belts and under machinery that's always moving and churning. And, let's see, what else?

Q: Was it hard work?

AS: Oh, yes. It was hard work especially when it came time to move the machines, move the conveyor belts, break the conveyor belts apart, put planks down. Real hard
manual labor.

Q: Can you think of maybe the most, the most difficult part of the work and describe it in a little bit of detail?

AS: The most difficult part of the work was being a caver. That was the most dangerous because you're up high in the air, like I said 175 feet. The bank would be probably 200 feet in different areas as the land sloped. And you had to be alert. When you are the first man in and the other man is behind you about six feet, he's constantly watching the bank with the movement of the sand trickling down, and that would be a

page 6

telltale sign that a cave was gonna be coming. I was caught running downhill in a cave three times, and youhad to run fast. Huh, you really had to run fast.

Q: What do you mean running downhill in a cave?

AS: Well, just imagine where that light is and the machine is down here and this bank is overhanging on the machine. You go in five or six feet in front of the man that's your partner, and you start undermining the sand. And when you see the trickling, your partner sees a trickling of the sand coming, he knows that it's gonna come so he'll tell you to back out. And if you don't back out fast enough, you go down with the slide, and you have to keep running at an angle. Not with the slide but at an angle of the slide to get out of it. Otherwise it sucks you in. It was really dangerous. But I was young and I liked it ... [laughs] ... It's crazy.

LS: A risk taker.

AS: Huh?

LS: Risk taker.

AS: Yeah, yeah.

page 7

Q: So you liked the danger of it, whereas your wife didn't find it ...

AS: Yeah, it ...

Q: as exciting?

AS: Yeah, it was exciting and it was dangerous. pumps you up. And you gotta know what you're doing otherwise I wouldn't be here. Yeah.

Q: How old were you?

AS: I was twenty..twenty-two, just turned twenty-two. I did that for I think eight months, then some other man thought my job was easier and he wanted it. So I was glad to get out of it and go someplace else, and some other danger some place else. It was, it was very exciting at times. And the pay was good. I made thirty-five, forty-five dollars a week. Can you imagine that? Today forty-five dollars a week? Yeah.

Q: It wouldn't get you much.

AS: No.

Q: Back then what did that, what was forty-five dollars a week? What could you do ...

page 8

AS: Forty-five dollars ...

Q: For a young guy of twenty-two years old, what was that like?

AS: Well, at twenty-two years old I had just gotten married. I had a mortgage on my house. We went to the store with forty-five dollars and you came home with bagfuls of groceries. It was, it was a good life. It was no competition. Everybody was in the same boat. It was really, really great, yeah.

Q: There was no shortage of jobs? Everyone had a place to work?

AS: No, there, there was no shortage of jobs. I don't think there ... During the depression, yes there was, but if people really wanted to work they would get out there and work. It's..I remember one time I was on strike and I would go out and look for another job, do everything. You didn't make much money. I think I was making a dollar, dollar an hour. But..and in the beginning there was no benefits and then eventually the union got more benefits and it became more lucrative. And I really feel that.. well, I raised three sons and paid all my bills and it was good, it was good. And without the union we would have nothing.

Q: So you went on strike?

page 9

AS: Yes, we went on strike.

Q: When was that?

AS: The year, what year was that? That was 19..1950? Or ', 1952. I think it was '52. But the strike only lasted a week and then we went on strike again in 80..1 think , 84. And that lasted seven weeks. But we all went back to work with a good contract and from' 84 I believe the end of sanding, sand mining was in ' 87. It was probably the last year that the material became unmineable and it was too much clay. It was called dead sand, that you could not use for concrete.

Q: How does the sand on the beach of Long Island turn into a skyscraper in New York? In New York?

AS: How did what?

Q: How does that, how is that sand made into concrete? What's the process?

AS: Oh, well, the sand and the grit and the gravel that's produced is mixed with a certain
amount of water and a certain amount of cement to give different pound pressure per square foot. And like I said, the Cow Bay sand and sand mined in Northport and Hempstead Harbor and Manhasset Bay was the best sand available in the world.

page 10

Matter of fact, the sand banks, the sand banks are, in Port Washington I believe, is one of the, was one of the largest in the world.

Q: What's so good about the sand here?

AS: I beg your pardon?

Q: What's so good about the sand here?

AS: I guess it started in 1864 when Gallaghers were the first ones here and they found that to make concrete their concrete would last longer to the elements than any other product made. Eventually the stone products came in from upstate New York mixed in with the sand from Long Island, it was very coarse and it made good binding and it was good concrete. What else?

Q: So how do you turn sand into concrete?

AS: Well, you have your mixture of, you have your mixture of sand, grit, and gravel, whichever job requires. And then you also have stone, different grades of stone. And with the mixture of cement that gives you the different tests that they make with the different materials determines how much cement you could add to the sand and gravel.

page 11

and how much water. If you got too much water it crumbles. If you got too much less cement, it crumbles. It's gotta be measured right.

Q: So cement is just a mixture of all of these ...

AS: Cement is a mix..concrete is a mixture of the sand, the grit, the gravel, and the stone, along with cement. And to make other different products such as mortar you have to add lime to it. That also you need a coarse sand to, with the cement and the lime to hold your bricks and blocks together.

Q: So where did the sand from Port Washington go? Where did it end up?

AS: Most..I would say most of the sand from our area ended up in New York City and Jersey. But mostly in New York City, because New York City was a booming
metropolis at the time. And it's still booming but I believe the sand and gravel that they're getting now is dredge from underneath the Verrazano Bridge. And there isn't too much sand being mined on the Island, I think, and in small quantities for the builders, the small builders on Long Island. But the majority of the sand from Port Washington went to New York City. It was well known. The big contractors with sand and gravel was Colonial Sand and Stone, McCormack Sand and Gravel, and the big concrete outfits were Transit Mix, Colonial also, and ... They also have a sand mine plant up in Wingdale, New York. But the sand from upstate New York is coarse, but it's gray like topsoil. But it makes good concrete. But it's a small operation.

page 12

Q: This is still going on?

AS: Wingdale to my knowledge is still going on.

Q: ... [inaudible] ... Wingdale.

AS: Wingdale, New York.

Q: Where is Wingdale?

AS: Wingdale would be up near Mount Kisco, somewheres around that area.

Q: ... [inaudible] ... So when you were working on the sand mines did you ever go to
Manhattan and look at those buildings and...

AS: Well, when I, when I went to... like I said, after I became a crane operator the barges
would get into trouble. They would have a hole punctured into them and they would
sink. And I became the crane operator and my job was to go out and to lighten up the barges and pump 'em out and save the materials so that it wouldn't be a big loss.

page 13

That was also very dangerous because can you imagine a barge 44 foot wide, 130 foot long, 12 feet deep, and it's full of water. And as you unload this barge you don't know how the water is going to shift within the container. And when you see this barge corning up out of the water it's like a big monster that wants to grab you. And you just control it by the way you unload the material on the barge. That is also very dangerous. I've had a couple of close calls. One was in Hempstead Harbor where the barge was caught underneath my barge, the derrick that I was operating. And there was no way of getting off but jump overboard. But I stayed with it and the barge slipped out and I was all right. But it was ... That was very dangerous, the barges, 'cause you didn't know, you didn't know which way they were gonna turn: on top of you, underneath you, or sometimesthey didn't come up at all.

Q: You mean, this is if they're sinking. If something happens to them ...

AS: Yeah.

Q: ... and they start to go down?

AS: As it goes down you don't know which ...

Q: Sometimes they go like that, sometimes they go like ...

page 14

AS: Sure, they go like this. Oh, that's dangerous. Like if, if you're digging material off a
barge that's sunk, if you dig too much off of one side it will roll; if you dig too much off the middle it will stand up on end. And you have to learn how to control it. There wasn't many, there wasn't many operators that went out to do that, to my knowledge.

Q: So you would go, you would take the sand out from the sand pits. You would load it onto..can you just go through that process again up until the point where it's on the barge?

AS: Well, after the barge is loaded it will go off to the city. And ...

LS: How does it happen? How does it get on? You know, points. You know, further back than that.

Q: Just start from the beginning again.

AS: Well, from the ...

LS: ... digging it out ... [inaudible] ... with the crane.

page 15

AS: From the processing plant it's put into three different piles. And underneath those piles is a tunnel. The tunnel has a conveyor belt and it goes down underneath the..Shore Road onto the barge that is in Hempstead Harbor or Manhasset Bay. And from there a string of barges would be, maybe about eight, nine, ten, or twelve, and a tugboat would come in and they would lash them all together and take them to wherever, to a point in Flushing Bay. And from there it's distributed by different tugboats to different docks. There are more than, more than a hundred docks in New York City that unload sand.

LS: How did the sand, though, get from say the plant to each of the barges?

AS: That's what I told you, through the conveyor belt underneath the ...

LS: Oh, I see. Underneath the road?

AS: Underneath the road, there's a tunnel. And there's a conveyor belt and uh, in the tunnel.

LS: Uh huh.

AS: And then it's loaded onto the barge.

page 16

LS: Is the sand then washed as it's going along? Or ...

AS: No, it's already, it's already been processed.

LS: Oh, I see.

AS: And it's put into three different piles on the ground over the tunnel.

LS: Okay

AS: Sand, grit, and gravel in three different piles.
LS: And then was each of those barges assigned to pick up a different material? Say one gravel, one stone, or one whatever?

AS: However the orders came in. If it was a full load of gravel it went to a certain place, but usually the barges would be accompanied by sand, grit, and gravel, three..three barges at one location. The operator at the dock can unload the sand to one hopper, the grit to another, and the gravel, and then it's up to the concrete mixer upstairs in the building to put those materials together with the cement to make the concrete.

Q: I got it. So you'd use all three of those ... [ingredients] ...

page 17

AS: You have to..yeah. It isn't like one barge of gravel would just go to one plant because if you don't have the other ingredients you won't be able to make any concrete.

LS: Okay, okay.

Q: If you could watch the ... I'm thrilled to have you ask questions, but since our voices aren't going to be on it ...

LS: Oh, I forgot about that, okay.

Q: It's a tough thing to learn. But you said before that the..when we were in Elly's office, that the sand was washed with salt water, and that's not apparently the best way to prepare sand?

AS: Like I said, the sand is washed with salt water, but then the state inspectors found out that, that there, that sand that's washed with fresh water is much better because it
doesn't have the alkaline in it that would cause the cement to disintegrate faster. But by that time New York City was built. The Empire State Building is built and all the big buildings from way back in 1864 are still standing, so they must have did something right. Somebody comes in with an idea that you can't use milk with coffee anymore, you gotta use cream, and the doctors say, "Don't use cream." So who knows who's right? But the buildings are still standing.

page 18

Q: So the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building and Woolworth Building,
these old buildings are ...

AS: They were built in, in the thirties. And, oh, I can't, I don't know the names of too many buildings in New York City, but there are some of the buildings still standing from way back in 1864. And it was..concrete was around then, and that's when ... I don't know where they got the material before that, maybe small, little plants. But the majority of..they say that New York City was built by Cow Bay Sand from Long Island.

Q: So starting you said around eighteen ...

AS: About 1864. That's when the first sand bank started around this area in Long Island. Of course, 1864 there was no such thing was all farmland out on the east end of Long Island. The eastern end of Long Island I hear that they do have some small sand mining plants that are portable. And it's good material. Like I said, it's not washed with salt water.

Q: Um hmm. So how many hours a day did you work?

AS: Well, I'd..basically it was eight hours a day, but if the business was, called for more hours it would run to ten to twelve hours a day. But when I, when I left the sand

page 19

bank, when the operations were being shut down I was working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. And then the material got so bad that it wasn't, it wasn't mineable. You couldn't sell it. And it shut down the operation.

Q: In what year?

AS: Beg your pardon?

Q: When did they shut it down?

AS: I believe it was in '87..'87 or '88. I think it was....

Q: ... hundred and twenty years this sand mine operation was ...

AS: Yeah, about that, yeah.

Q: So you, your '" Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead.

AS: It was a good life, a good life. There were quite a few people in Roslyn and Port
Washington who worked in the sand mines and it was like a father-son operation.
There wasn't any industry around here but sand and gravel, and it was mostly Italians,
Polish, German and Irish who worked there. In the beginning all immigrants, all immigrants.

page 20

Q: And you, your father also worked in the sand mines and you grew up in the sand mines?

AS: Oh, yeah, yeah. My father came over at the turn of the century and my mother did,
too. And they settled in Port Washington. And his, his cousin got him to go into the sand and gravel mining. He that time with those steam shovels operating they were all steam and they would come across a boulder. And my father's job was to drill holes in the boulder and blow it up. And he was nicknamed Dynamite Charlie. He could blast fifteen or twenty boulders at a time. And then in the thirties they complained that the blasting was too loud and too much, and they stopped blasting in the sand banks. Big boulders that would come along were buried in the ground.

Q: So you'd sort of roll' em out of the way?

AS: Roll 'em out of the way, yeah. Yeah.

Q: That must have been dangerous, also.

AS: Yeah.

Q: It all sounds pretty dangerous ... [laughs] ... actually.

page 21

AS: Yeah, yeah. It was nice, though, in Port Washington. You could roam the hills up Beacon Hill and there was not many houses. It was mostly farmland, but the Gallagher Brothers, they owned everything from Beacon Hill all the way across
to Manhasset Bay. And then they stopped their property line at Port Washington Boulevard.

Q: Gallagher Brothers owned the sand mining ...

AS: Gallagher Brothers owned that. There was a land grant from the King of England and that was long before 1864. And they held that property and eventually as their family died off it was handed down to other members of the family.

Q: So hat was the community like? Everyone worked in the sand mines, everyone knew each other ... [inaudible] ...

AS: Oh, yeah! Well, what happened was one time there was a strike way back in '38. And to prove that the sand mines were very valuable to the community of Port Washington, they were paid with-after they went back to work-with silver dollars.And ...

Q: The workers were paid ...

page 22

AS: The workers were paid with silver dollars, and they flooded Port Washington with silver dollars. And the merchants
loved the business but they didn't like to carry the weight. It was just to prove the fact that the sand mines were putting the
money back into the community.

Q: Who was giving out the silver dollars?

AS: The people who owned the company. It was O'Brien, Metropolitan. There was always an element in Port Washington that didn't want sand mining, but to prove that sand mining was valuable to the town that's how they paid 'em. And they proved their point.

Q: That's quite ingenious, isn't it?

AS: ... [laughs] ... It's crazy.

Q: So they gave all of their workers silver dollars?

AS: Silver dollars.

Q: So anytime you spend one everyone knows where it came from.

page 23

AS: You spent it ... It came from the sand banks, yeah, yeah.

Q: What did people do for fun? What was the ...

AS: Oh, fun. I think after working all day in the sand banks there wasn't much time for fun. Just on a Saturday or a....a Saturday night or a Sunday wedding. Don't forget, you know, the town back in nineteen, in the twenties and the thirties, the population must have been maybe ten thousand people the most. There was no stores on Port Washington Boulevard to speak of, just up near Willowdale Avenue, a couple of buildings. We had Bohack and an A & P and a Ralston's. Those are the supermarkets that we had. It was a quiet, little lazy town. I think if the war hadn't come along, I don't think anybody would have left the town, they would've stayed right here. Like myself, I moved from 21 North Maryland to 30..from 30 North Maryland to 21 North Maryland. I didn't go too far.

Q: ... [laughs] ... That's where you live now.

AS: That's where I live now. I lived there seven..well, in my house fifty, fifty-one years. And then I was born across the street. It was a nice town.

Q: Can you say that again? The, "1 think if the war hadn't come ..."

page 24

AS: I believe that if the war didn't come ... 'Cause, you know, we were in a Depression and I don't think anybody would have left the town. I know my brothers, my one brother was working for fifteen dollars a week. My father didn't have a job 'cause the sand and gravel had come to an end. Nobody was building. There wasn't any money to be had.

Q: This was during the war?

AS: But..this, this is before the war. Before the war. Things started to change
around 1942. But that's when the industry came in. And then even the sand and gravel was producing very little 'cause there was no construction during the war. There was no building. And most of the sand bank workers were laid off.

Q: So then after the war you had ...

AS: After the war there was, there was a big building boom ...

Q: And all the sand miners went back to work?

AS: ... on Long Island. And in Port Washington houses started to sprout up and things were getting better all the time. But it was nice.

page 25

Q: Was there a time of year when people were doing sand mining, or was this a year- round operation?

AS: What's that?

Q: What time of year were people sand mining? Was there a seasonal change to it?

AS: It was, I would say it was seasonal up until, up until 1950. Like I said, after the war
from' 48 to ' 49 and' 50 buildings started to go up and then we worked through all winter. But in the twenties and thirties the sand banks would be closed from the first snowfall in October or November and the winters were brutal 'til March or April. It's not like that anymore. The climate has changed. And the conditions have changed also. The buildings with processing sand were enclosed and the elements did not affect them for operating all winter.

Q: So you'd be digging sand, mining sand ...

AS: Mining sand.

Q: ... April through October, something like that?

page 26

AS: We would be mining sand from April 'til October. That's in the twenties and thirties. In the fifties on it was six days a week, , cause the booming of the building industry.

Q: So right at, post..right after the war ...

AS: Right after the war.

Q: ... [inaudible] ... a year-round ...

AS: A year-round operation.

Q: Um hmm. I might ask you some questions.

LS: About what?

Q: What are your recollections of your community?

LS: Um, at that time?

Q: Yeah, what was it like? Did you grow up in Port Washington?

page 27

LS: Yes, actually I was born in Port Washington. Three of my brothers and I were born
in Port Washington, and my father also, too, worked at the sand bank. He was, though, a laborer. And I guess-I'm not really sure now that I think about it-what that meant. And eventually, though, he did become an oiler on a crane. And, of course, like all professions that was considered, you know, of course above the laborer. And he was paid more by the hour. And he worked there actually from about 1929 until his seventieth birthday when
he was then-I think he became sick, did he not? And then had to retire. Or, I'm not sure if that was retirement age.

AS: ... [inaudible] ... mandatory.

LS: It was mandatory, okay, so that ... And that..and many of our friends, friends of my Mom and Dad, my father was of Sardinian background and he and many of his friends then came to Port Washington when they learned, I guess, through a mutual friend that there were jobs here in New York on Long Island. And so because of that, because many of his friends were from Sardinia, we sort of grew up in a Sardinian community. And many of us, you know, offspring of those people who worked in the sand bank became very, know, it was almost like a very close family unit. And many of those children are, of course, within our age group and so we still see each other. We're not really that friendly because like all communities, all families, you know, marriage and children and so on. But when we see each other it's always a good feeling. And it's always, I think, you know that sort of connective thing. You know,

page 28

the..not always, you know, very..when we were always together it was very happy. But then, you know, we were a community within a community and sometimes felt a little bit, you know, insecure because we were of Italian background, because our
fathers-most of them-were laborers. But I'm sure the others, you know, just as I did, as you grew older, you know, sort of put that into perspective. So..although when we did do that project for the library it was interesting about how, you know, so many of the women especially had such feelings about, you know, about this fact. That their dads worked in the sand bank. And some of those women as children lived in what were called company houses. And that one story so impressed of the women told about how because they lived in a company house and lived down on Shore Road, they then, she and her family and the other children who lived in those company houses, were the last..the first ones to be picked up in the morning and the last ones to be dropped off after school. And so because of that, they were labeled, you know, that they lived in company houses and, you know, more or less it was sort of insinuated that they were poor kids from the other side of the track. And I never really realized, you know, that something could be so hurtful. But they were talking about it and, as if it were very, very hurtful. So that was kind of part of it, too, you know.

Q: What were the women doing in ... You see these pictures of the sand mines and it's all men. So what were the women doing?

page 29

LS: Well, the women did, you know, as most of the women in that generation did. Very few women worked. They then took care of their families; were excellent, excellent housekeepers; excellent, excellent cooks, and that was their way of life. If they
wanted to go to what we called at that time the Main Street, then there was no such thing as a ride in, you know, like the early part of the thirties, the middle thirties, because there were no cars. Most of them just walked to the Main Street. And that was quite a hike. And so they did their shopping, you know, once or twice a week because there was no refrigeration. And that was what they did. They gossiped, they, you know, did just, you know, household things as most women, though, of that generation did.

Q: Do you remember that..was this a happy place to grow up?

LS: Well, this was really kind of neat because..because of this community of Sardinian people, or Sardinese people as they're called, what we would do is like..not every
single Sunday, but most Sundays we would then congregate at one of the houses and so the children would play and the men would sing and play cards, and the women, you know, were busy with whatever it was that they had made for their company. And so that's why this community was so close knit, is because we did inter-visit. And it was kind of,.you know, that was kind of happy times, you know. But, you know what? It know, let's not forget, you know, Depression time, and there wasn't really a lot of money. And so, you know, my brothers and I were always

page 30

happy, you know, as a unit. And this is, you know, not so nice to say, but misery loves company in that all of the families thatlived in our neighborhood were all more or less, you know, depressed people, you know? Depressed in that we didn't have that much money. So ...

Q: Was most of your peer group, were you the Italian contingent of the sand mining?

LS: Let me think now...

Q: Or it is '" [inaudible] ...

LS: ... where..see, where we left .... I think that no, the Italian community sort know, sort of congregated together. I don't, I lived what we called up town on South Street and so we're ... And then there were different communities in different areas, different Italian communities. And one was in that West Shore Road area. And so then we didn't really see those children unless we had, you know, like a visit on a Sunday or some such thing. So if there was, you know, some calamity within the community, then of course one family helped the other or they all sort of ... But that was, you know, very common with most Italian communities, even with, you know, the people ...

page 31

LS: ... you were..when you were growing up. See, and most of the areas where they settled, I mean it would be common sense to settle where you would be more comfortable. And so, I think to be more comfortable, that meant, you know, speaking Italian, feeling comfortable about the language, feeling comfortable about customs. And so, Al's family congregated in another..not congregated, but lived in another part of town
where Italian families kind of lived.

Q: And everyone spoke Italian.

LS: Well, in my household, my father spoke to us in Italian, but my mother was born in Pennsylvania. And so she spoke to us in English. She spoke to my father in Italian. And with Sardinese..the Sardinese language, that dialect is a language within its own, and unless you were born in Sardinia, you would not be able to understand it. And so, then, most of the men that we knew had gone to school, and in the school, they taught Tuscan Italian. And so, my father was able to communicate with other Italians. And that was interesting too. My mother could understand the Sardinian dialect, and she maybe would use words now and again, but never really attempted speak it. And so, we grew up not really knowing all of the Sardinese dialect, but we understood all of this Italian. My older brother and I spoke Italian until probably we were about ten, and then I don't know slowly we stopped using it. And now I hardly speak Italian at all, only because I'm always afraid that, you know, the genders are gonna come up upside down. And most Italians
are very like, you know, kind of uppity

page 32

about ... [laughs] ... "You're not speaking the language correctly." So I hardly ever use it at all now.

Q: What was the music of the time? What would you listen to on Sunday?

LS: Well, you know what? It's..that's kind of like a lost art. What would happen was that the men would get together and they..most, in most households they made their own wine. And so then..and I think, you know, kind of thinking about it and talking about it throughout the years, I think that probably Sundays in Italy the men just gathered themselves and met at the local cantina. And because there were so many of them in, you know, congregated together--excuse me-in one little town ...

Q: In Port Washington.

LS: In Port Washington, then they just carried over that custom. And so what they would do is they would drink wine. And you know what? I don't really remember them playing cards so much as just sitting around a table talking, talking, talking. And then they would start to sing, and it was really like a chant. And what they would do is one man would then tell a story of maybe about a second man that was there. Not necessarily something that happened present day but maybe when they were growing up, when they were children. And then he would chant that little kind of story. And then they would all chorus, youknow, with a "Boo, boo, boo!" Like that kind of

page 33

thing. And so it went around the table. And then for some reason they always held their hand up to their cheek. And I guess that made the "Boo" ... ... [laughs] ... I don't know! More focused. I don't know what that was all about. But instead of kind of, you know, taking some kind of pride in that, I can remember we as little kids were always, "Oooh! Oooh! That's not my father that did that, that's your father that's singing now." We were kind of embarrassed by it.

Q: Sort of the old, old ... [inaudible] ...

LS: Yeah, yeah, and oh, so, so ... I mean, we didn't verbalize this and maybe we didn't even, you know, kind of think it. You know, it sort of wasn't a thought, but maybe we were alike a little bit, kind of, "Oh, they're so Italian. Oh, dear, Oh, dear! So embarrassing!'! You know, Americans don't do that. It could have been that.

Q: So what was the music you would have listened to had you had your choice? Was it sort of swing music of the day or popular music?

LS: Well, I guess probably. You know, what was ever, you know, doing at that time. Yeah. I remember as a little child all of the songs from the "Wizard of Oz" that we all loved so much. And then as we grew older, of course, you know we were like jitterbugs and all of that, you know? ... [laughs] ... As it was, you know, whatever came into, you know, style; singing or dancing or whatever.

page 34

AS: Off the record.

Q: Okay, this is room tone.

AS: Yes.

Return to page 1

Barges 12-14

Caving 2-3, 5-6
Colonial Sand and Stone 11
Concrete 9, 10-11
Cow Bay sand 4, 9, 18

Empire State Building 17

Gallagher Brothers 10, 21

McCormick Sand and Gravel 11
Metropolitan 22 O'Brien 22

Sand mining process 14-16
Sardinese community 27-28, 29, 31-33

Strikes 8-9

Transit Mix 11

West Shore Road (PW) 30