Bob Martino Sr. Autobiography 2012
Note: This is a work in progress. Many additions to come.
I am going to attempt this piece of work on an age block chronology. I will note as I start a new block what age area I will be covering. These facts may not be in their exact chronological order.
Back in time to my heritage
About the only couple of facts I
have regarding my Dads early life was where his Mother left him in Italy in the
year 1900 and 01 with a wet nurse. Can you imagine that. She came to America
with her Brother and two older sons and saved enough money in a couple of years
to bring the whole family over including my Grandfather Martino who died the
year I was born. My Father did go back to Italy with his Father for a trip and
they hit a volcano eruption. Mt Etna.
I have nothing on my Mother other than the fact that she lost her Mother in Childbirth to a male (George) that was adopted out and only the older kids my Aunt Esther, Uncle Carl and another daughter knew about it. My Mom was too young to know about it and finally found out years later and I recall her meeting him for the first time at our house in Queens. She just about feinted when she seen him as he was the picture of her Father.
When my Uncle George found out himself that he had been adopted he went to drink and he was a very successful exec at an insurance company in Hartford. He used to sob continually how he "killed his Mother" and wound up hanging himself in his basement.
All I know about my Grandfather Anderson was he had 5 children in America including my Mother a little before and after the turn of the century and when my Grandmother died he went back to Sweden and had 5 more children with his sister in-law. In fact I got a letter from one of the offspring in Sweden that claimed he was my half brother. I gave it to my Mother and she had nothing to say as the period of the loss of her Mother was when her and her smaller Brother Arthur were put in a home and was a very sad time in her life. It turns out that it was my Mother who was a Half sister to the fellow that wrote me. He just had his generations balled up.
Age block from first born to 5 years old
October 28 th 1935, Physicians Hospital Jackson Heights , Long Island New York. Robert Martino was born.
Dad, John Martino, Mom, Agnes Anderson
Historic Day when Prohibition was repealed.
With Dad being born in 1900 and Mom in 1903 it is easy to calculate that they were 35 and 32 years old respectively. They passed on in 1982 and 1983 Dad first.
I believe we lived over the Empire Fish Market that Dad operated on Woodside Avenue just under the L train rail, for a few years.
Age block from 5 years old to 10 years old
For a few years Dad had a bug to live in the country and commuted to his work on the Long Island rail road. We lived in multiple areas on the Island, Bellmore for one and if Dad could turn a dollar he would sell and buy another home. In fact one day it was told to me that he was looking for his toothbrush and it turned out it was still packed in the suitcase. When he approached my Mom she told him she didn't bother unpacking it because she figured we wouldn't be there that long.
I don't remember anything of the first few years and a few instances preschool when we finally moved to 69th street coming off the hill from Maspeth Long Island and this was around the year 1940. It was a Woodside Long Island address. 6109. Mom swore we would not move again where I was ready to start school. She kept her pledge as I finished high School still living in the house. Mom was a disciplinarian and I recall one day I came home from school with a low mark in one subject that just passed with the skin of my teeth. She went into a rage and again as a professional baseball player in her youth she started to pick up anything she could get her hands on to throw at me. She said "You are going to shame me throughout the whole neighborhood" Fortunately for me along with her very accurate arm she hit me with the soft stuff like pillows and just missed me with the ash trays. She said and I can hear her over 60 years ago "The whole neighbor hood is going to find out about this mark in arithmetic" (I had a 68, 65 was passing by the way) I said "Mom, no one knows about it" She said "They will find out" and continued to chase me through the house with all kinds of vessels aimed and whizzing by my head.
World War 2 started soon after our Maspeth/Woodside arrival. Many of the neighborhood boys were called. One of my boyhood friends Father was called into the Marines at the age of 37. My Dad just missed the age requirement at about 40 years old. Thing were short. We had rationing stamps and I remember going to the butcher shop with left over fat that they used for ammunition. We had some scary reports of Nazi submarines off the coast of Long Island where they said they had missiles on board. In about 4 years the wars ended with Germany and the Atom Bomb halted the war with Japan and the boys came home.
My grammar school days are somewhat fuzzy during the war. I recall my first teacher at PS 78 Mrs. LaStrange and my second grade teacher was Mrs. Sicalesy. She had a yard stick that she carried down the aisles as we wrote and if we dared write with our left hand we got smacked across the knuckles. I guess this brutality has been corrected. I was born a natural left hander and started writing with my left hand until my knuckles couldn't take it anymore. My left handed proficiency still exists as I have switched hands in Paddle ball for 35 years, I played street hockey with my left hand and did a little golf with my left hand. Oddly enough my Mom was a straight left hander as she played baseball and threw left handed yet wrote magnificently right handed because in her school days it was right handed writing or else.
My Grandmother Martino lived with us for a few years. She didn't speak a word of English and in fact didn't till the day she died in her 90s. She used to sit me on her lap and slip me some dago red wine. My Mother was horrified and told her to give me water. My Grandmother said "water is what you wash your feet with".
Of course she spoke only Italian to me and to this day I can recall some of her conversations with me. In fact there was one incident where I had a pair of knickers that my Mother insisted I wear to school. In case if you aren't acquainted with knickers that were really from the past like the 1800s. They were pants usually corduroy that wore like iron that ended just below the knee and you wore long socks to come up to them.
Well I wore a hole in one pair and my Grandmother being a seamstress as she did have 16 children of her own and did it for a living besides seen the hole in my pants and promptly grabbed some fabric and patched the pants. The knickers were like a dark gray and the patch she put in was purple. I suspected my school chums would really ride me about the patch and they did.
I came home from school and although this was over 70 year ago the conversation in Italian was like "Norna, Mieta Shorne, del la petza intra vostra Calzone" Translated "Grandma, I am ashamed of the patch in my pants" My Grandmother came back and said Bobbie, No mieta shorne, del la petza intra vostra calzone, mieta shorne se no persona petza pet tay. Translated "Bobbie do not be ashamed of the patch in your pants, be ashamed if no one patched them for you."
Age block from 10 years old to 18 years old
My love for sports got started with basketball and baseball. In the 7th grade I was transferred to a Junior High school PS 73 in Maspeth about 12 blocks away from home. My first school was just across the street from our house and when we used to have air raid drills during the war for some reason we evacuated the school and took to the streets. We used to line up on the streets. When I got across from our house I ran across the street and ran into my home. This didn't make the teachers and my Mother happy when she had to go to the school because of it.
As I got into my early teens we had a lot of school yard activities and my sandlot baseball career started and I joined a club team by the name of The Wynwoode Incas. The coach of the team had one full arm and a stump on his right side. His name was Bert Haggerty. His brother was a priest and we were obligated to go to early mass on Sunday mornings or no play. Actually Bert was a catcher on our senior team with his one arm and of course batted with one arm. He was one of the best hitters on the team by the way. He caught Whitey Ford the hall of fame Yankee on our senior team although Whitey really was the first baseman until his later teens when he started to pitch. Bert had a knack of catching the ball, tucking the glove and ball under his right stump and in a lighting flash movement removed the ball from the glove and threw it. In fact he used to throw out base runners from a crouch. His whole arm his left was powerful and I can attest to that when he used to grab me by the neck. We went on to win multiple championships over about a 5 year span. I was a catcher a rather slim one and I was subjected to many collisions at the plate and in fact the last collision broke my arm and that was the end of my baseball career in the summer of 1953.
Started high school a 3 year stint and picked a vocational school in Manhattan. The New York School of Printing where we were taught the most ancient means to set type and wrap up the composition with string. When I graduated they were just starting to do linotype (automatic type set). I picked the school because of its sports teams and played basketball, baseball and the swimming team. We did our Swimming at a YMCA on 9 th avenue.
We were like life guards in between our team practice and we had the regular students come in for learning how to swim. The coach Mr. Anthony used to have the students jump the deep end knowing that most would go under and he would pick one of the team to go in and save a student for "practice". I approached one black guy with short hair where I couldn't grab him by the hair and he lunged at me and took me to the bottom of the pool. We were rescued by one of the more senior team members. I didn't have an illustrious career in Sports at the school but was on the first teams. We played high school basketball in the Manhattan league and one school Harem High had a basement with high ceilings where they had their basketball court and had 4 large padded concrete support girders within the court itself. The home team had developed screen plays using the posts and we soon caught on and did the same and whipped them. This happened to be the same court that Lew Alcindor played on after I graduated. He went on to become Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a hall of famer with the Los Angelus Lakers.
I graduate from High school in 1953 before I broke my arm playing ball in a championship game at the parade grounds in Brooklyn and then left in October for the country with my Dad to start my farming and farm market career along with starting a family of my own in a few years.
18 years old to about 45 years old learning how to be a farmer, as a marketer, husband and Father.
It was quite a change in my life moving to Valatie New York in the Town of Kinderhook from the big city to go to work for my Dad and Uncle Sal on the Maple Lane fruit farm. We built a market on the road that year and started to operate it in the spring of 1954.
Route 9 where we built our first market was on the corner of Maple Lane and our farm. Keep in mind at this time Route 9 was the only artery to the Capital Albany, the Adirondacks and Canada. There was no NY Thruway.
Saratoga race way was on the way and we had the privilege in serving some important VIP's. I'll never forget before we were married , Doris and I made a trip to Hudson and when we returned I drove into the market with a load of pears and who was walking around to the rest room, Perry Como. We had a nice relationship with Mr. Como and his wife in his stops back from the track and on to NY City. He used to pull up with a Cadillac (it was yellow) and trunk that you could fit 6 people in. In fact it was the only vehicle that we knew of that had an automatic trunk release at the time. If he hit the horses pretty good he would say to me as he popped the trunk "Fill it up Bobbie" and I would proceed to load up that trunk with Maple Syrup cans under the spare tire and of course just about anything we had on display, bags of corn, tomatoes, cherries you name it. What a tab that was, more than we took in the whole day. I remember him pulling in one second trip of the week and he popped the trunk and said again "Fill it up Bobbie, but take it a little easy on the Maple Syrup and put in plenty of tomatoes as my Mother wants to make a big batch of sauce for the winter. Of course I honored his wishes.
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker
As stated above we built a roadside market on Route 9 that was the only path to the north areas, the Capital District, the Adirondacks, Canada etc. and there were many celebs that ran this road to the summer horse racing season of Saratoga. In addition there were many sharp characters that used to stop, horse playing business men and many in the food business.
Had one gentleman and his wife that pulled in one late afternoon. We had most of our products in baskets and very little sold loose by the pound. So this invited a curiosity from many customers regarding how much these packages weighed in relationship to the cost and of course comparing the price to what the current per pound price was in the big city produce markets.
So this gentleman walked over to these baskets of Hale Haven Peaches. They were 1/4 bushel peck baskets. He said "How much does this basket of peaches weigh son?" I said "Oh my guess would be around 15 pounds" When you work around produce and sell some of it by the pound you become very proficient at guessing the weight of different packages and I was pretty good if I may say so. He picked up the basket and kind of hand weighed it by lifting it up and down. He said " This basket doesn't weigh 15 pounds" We kidded back and forth for awhile and I said "I'll tell you what, I will bet you double or nothing that I can guess the weight of that basket of peaches closer than you can" The peaches were $2.75 and the bet was $5.50 or nothing. I thought I disarmed him and called his bluff. He picked up the basket and weighed it in his hands again. He said "O.K."
We took a couple of paper bags, I gave him one with a pen, he wrote his guess down and I took another bag and wrote my guess down. We put the peaches on the scale and the weight was 13 pound and 6 ounces.
We turned our bags over in suspense and guess what? My guess was 13 pounds 8 ounces. His guess was 13 pounds 6 ounces precisely what the weight was.
Him and his wife walked to the car with the peaches in hand. His wife turned to me and said "Son you just learned a good lesson, my husband a butcher of 50 years could guess a side of beef within a 1/4 of a pound and smaller packages always right on the noggin".
They sat in the car for a few minutes and got out of the car again. He said "Well we don't need any peaches" and walked around and shopped and gathered over 15 bucks worth of stuff. It kind of took the edge off me losing the basket of peaches. He stopped quite regularly and always said when he got out of the car "What do have for double or nothing today Bob" I said just that "Nothing"
I had taken a room at Stones lunch at the bottom of the hill as you go into Valatie. They were wonderful people and I ate all of my meals in the restaurant and slept up stairs over the restaurant. Red Stone used to put a little coal on the fire in the basement and let it gravitate up through the grills in the floor before they left for the night. By morning during that first winter it got mighty cool up there but I survived as the coal had burned down. Mrs. Stone used to take a portion of my modest paycheck about 200 a month for my room and board. I think she took half of my paycheck a real bargain for me. She lived well into her 90's.
My Dad and especially my Uncle Sal were pretty rough on this city kid when I started to work with them and displayed my total ignorance in just about everything except catching a baseball or sinking a jump shot with a basketball. In fact one incident I do recall when we were building the market Uncle Sal was really ragging on me and I got so mad at him I just about threw a hammer at him. Uncle Sal called me Kelly and of course he remembered me when he worked for my Dad at the fish market in the City before he left for the country. He ran black market chickens to the city during the war. Just as I picked up the hammer he stopped me and said "Kelly, when the day comes that I stop ragging on you that will be the day that I don't care for you anymore"
In fact the last days of his life I called him on the phone and asked him if the Thomas Watson that we built, sold and took a mortgage back on a house to on Maple Lane in Valatie around the time 1949 was the same Thomas Watson that cultivated the new IBM that his Father had founded years before. It was the original ticker tape IBM and original International Business Machine company. (Can you imagine my Uncle taking back a mortgage for $7,000 from the head of IBM?) He bought the house by the way for $13,500, 3 bedrooms, 2 car garage, fireplace on 2 acres of land with about 20 apple trees.
I didn't realize this until I read just a few a weeks before my Uncles death that Mr. Watson was riding his Motorcycle to work in Armonk after his retirement where the IBM complex was built. I recall Mr. Watson riding his Motorcycle to Fishkill rain, snow or shine everyday to work from Valatie before they gave up the idea of building the new IBM complex in the Kinderhook New York area and this is where I made the connect. The Kinderhook Fathers turned down this magnificent complex based on the concern for President Van Buren's estate and bones being disturbed in some way. They wanted to build it on the flats going south out of Kinderhook.
It turns out that my Uncle was very friendly with Mr. Watson and they used to go fishing in Tavernier Florida in the years he lived in the Kinderhook area. He also accumulated a pile of IBM stock for peanuts based on his relationship with Mr. Watson.
There is one experience I just have to get down in print. My Father was very instrumental in my business life and really paved the way for my wife and I, but it is not in anyway taking away the hard road we had in our life making it. In fact one day I told my Dad I needed a thousand dollars to make payroll and he said to me "If I give you a thousand dollars you will hate me for the rest of your life"
I did have one experience when I first arrived to the farm with my Dad and Uncle to give you an idea how significant my training period lasted.
My Father was as stingy as you could be. He believed paper towels were a waste of money and actually washed aluminum foil in the sink to preserve it for another day. He was a depression participant and they were rough times.
I recall one day in the packing house carelessly dropping a bushel of cider apples and having him chew my ass to the bone. About 50 cents worth of cull apples.
We had a situation in our apple orchard and one block in particular that required a huge amount of hand thinning because of the excessive set of fruit that produced little apples. The whole crew had to tape their fingers because of the abrasive action of pinching off all the peripheral apples and leaving the king blossom to grow nice and big and valuable.
I was told that there was twig light apple grower meeting about 20 mile away one evening where there were professors from Cornell U discussing the chemical thinning of a heavy set leaving the king blossom but potent enough to weaken the peripherals. I said to my Dad I would like to go down and investigate the use of a new material Naplathenic citric acid and apply it to this troubled block of Red Delicious apples. I came back the next day to the old man, and he said give it a try.
I got on the speed sprayer and applied the chemical. This was a 30 acre block of fruit and my guess there was a good 300 bushel per acre yield or close to if not over 10,000 bushel of apples. With the market that year about 4 bucks a bushel tree run this came out to close to $40,000 worth of fruit. We waited a few weeks after the application and started to see how well the chemical worked. You took your finger and kind of jiggled the cluster of the king blossom and all the peripherals about 6 or so. The idea was to shock the cluster enough to have the peripherals drop but not the king blossom.
But as the old saying went, the plans of men will often go astray and they sure as hell did go astray because I cleaned off every apple in the block, $40,000 dollars worth in one hour on the spray rig.
Now with my Dad being as penny pinching as he was you would think he would have gone ballistic. He didn't though, didn't even say a word about it. Then next spring another meeting was arranged to see what happened the previous year and I went to him and said I would like to go down to the meeting. He said "go ahead" I came back the next day and told him we had to make an adjustment in the concentration of this chemical from 8 ounces in 500 gallons of water to 6 ounces. He shook his shoulder and said "go ahead it is only money"
The results were perfect and we continued each year there after instead of hand thinning. The object lesson was of course comparing the picayune box of cider apples to the incredible blunder of cleaning a whole block of apples and it reminds me of one of Dads favorite sayings "if you give a man enough rope he will hang himself"
The last phase
This is the more important time of my life as I entered my adulthood. This was the time of my life as everything that took place in this period has shaped my life for better or worse. This leads me to quote a saying that I have in a Blueeyedcurse website that we have. It is in a feature http://blueeyedcurse.com/twistfate.htm The quote is below.....
"You can tell a person by the company they keep"
In fact my Dad had a saying "Bob, you are so lucky that if you fell into a two holer you would come out of it with a new suit of clothes". I didn't realize it when he made that comment on more than one occasion what he really meant by my luck. It soon dawned on me that he really was talking about the good fortune I received when I was introduced to my soon to be wife and Mother of my children Doris Jennings of Valatie New York. It was love at first sight and that included the night she threw a deck of cards in my face when I went out on her in a game of Canasta. That was the night I said "She will be my wife if she will have me"
In the feature I did not mention my wife as my primary advisor and in fact mentioned very lightly the influence I had from my Dad and Father and Mother-in-law, Leonard and Esther Jennings. My Dad called her Essie. I remember her handing me up 2 by 10 timbers when I was building our warehouse. As far as my father-in-law he was a master carpenter, taught me how to work with my hands and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't do something with his handprint on it. When and if you pass Peacedale or review the buildings on our epeacedale.com website please take it from me that he had a hand in just about every nail and board that went in every structure at Peacedale Farms. My wife and I miss them dearly. I moved my Mom up to one of the apartments from Woodside and in fact my half brother Donald spent a few years with us before he told me one day he needed the truck to go over to the mountains and bring home some Cauliflower. The way he looked at me at the kitchen table at the market that day was very weird. I can see him looking me directly in the eyes when he said it. The next day they found him dead in the truck at his aunts house who he was close too.
My Father and Mother in law eventually moved into one of the apartments and took care of the property. Doris's Brother Bob and wife Laverne along with their 2 boys Jim and Craig built a home and showroom on the south part of our property. They built furniture and sold it in the Heritage House. They now live in Texas near our Daughter Pam. Bob passed away in 2015.
Peacedale Farms was where it all started and it looks like that is where it will all end...
They didn't call me apple Bob for nuttin honey!
The luckiest day of my life
nnhe luckiest day of my life
Mr. & Mrs. Peacedale and Kristina
On our 50th Anniversary
Below is a link developed by our son in a little celebration for our 50th Anniversary in 2006
In regard to my extraordinary exposure to the giants in my life, my Dad who taught me how to do business for one. In fact I recall an incident when we started to run out of different products during the week and had a tendency to jack up the prices to slow them down and make an extra buck. Dad helped us at the market after he moved into one of our apartments just above my Mom as they stayed separated. We were fortunate to have a building for them to spend the rest of their lives. My Dad knowing how much the product cost me had a habit of going to the counter and having one of the employees give him price tags lower than what I had jacked them up to. One day I noticed a price change on an item and a gal at the counter pointed to him as the changer. I went to him and said "I am not going down to Jersey for more Tomatoes till Tuesday and we will run out" He said "Then run out God damit, because you do not have a license to gouge your customers"
I have often commented that it took my Dad 20 years to teach me how to make a buck and his last 10 years usually sitting in a chair behind the cash register enjoying the business as he loved business, to not take more than I should.
To give you an idea regarding my Dad's affinity for business because he was a proud vendor and always said he would not sell anything that he would not eat himself. He wanted to die in his own bed in the apartment house and was not interested in Hospice or anything like that. I had taken him in a van to the hospital to try and arrest his cancer for 18 treatments but it didn't work. In July of 1982 we knew it was coming to the end for him but we carried on our business. We had 24 hours nursing for him and Carol Cosgrave a dear friend managed this for us.
I had spent some time with him in the morning of his death. He hadn't opened his eyes at least for me in about a week. I sat down by his bedside and said to him "Dad, I am really proud of you" He opened up his eyes and said "What the hell are you proud of me for" He also said "Don't look so sad Bob because everyone gets their turn" At 77 I am beginning to get the message.
He also said "I have to tell you "I never married your Mother" I said "So what else is new, I knew this for years"
Early afternoon I got a call from the nurse at the apartment. She just said "Bob you have to come over to the apartment" I knew what was up. He laid there in peace and his suffering from the dreaded cancer was over.
We made arrangements for the funeral director to come and bring his remains to the funeral home. I can vividly remember the hearse going down the road. It was like I was with him, because I was. I just couldn't believe my Father was in that hearse going down the road.
We all gathered on the front lawn of the apartment house, the nurses, the tenants, my wife and her Mother and others as well. Everyone started to leave. My wife and her Mother I believe went over to our house and everyone finally left. I was left alone on the lawn and didn't know what the hell I was going to do. Again we were jammed with perhaps 40 cars or more in the parking lot and everyone going nuts at the market. I said to myself "Well this is the first opportunity I will have to ask the question, What would Dad want me to do? Within a second or two I heard a voice "Go out to the market and get the money" I walked into the market and an old timer came up to me and said "Hey how is your Dad" I said "He just died an hour ago" I thought the fellow was going to drop dead himself in front of me.
I can't leave out my Mother in the principles she taught me as a child. She was a tough cookie but had a heart as big as a house. She had a niece with tuberculosis that she visited for 4 years every day during the week as her husband was with her on the weekends. She took 2 buses and a train every day rain, snow or shine to visit her and clean the hole she had in her back that wouldn't heal.
In addition to my in-laws, let alone my wonderful wife and her counsel, this is one fellow that will tell you without equivocation that I wouldn't have came anywhere near the status in life along with its luxuries without the blessings of the people that I have had around me. It was just good fortune but more than likely Providence as I am a great believer in the almighty designing and patterning ones life for better or worse. I just hope that I can leave this earth worthy of what has been bestowed on me.
Peacedale Farms our life for over 30 years
With the view of the property above you can get a pretty good idea of what the Peacedale property was and especially the special farm market on the main road that supplied us with a living for many years. This is where we raised our family that consisted of 3 rather healthy children, Pamela our oldest, Robert Jr. in the middle and the last a 10 pounder Patti was when our family Doctor said in the delivery room to my wife "I think you and Bob have had enough kids because they are getting bigger and bigger. All of our children now in their 50's (year 2012)have been out on their own now and living in different parts of the country and very successful on their own. They didn't show any interest in perpetuating the farm market other than a son in law Steve Cosgrave who took over for us but died in an unfortunate auto accident. He did leave 2 boys Steve and Jared that are grown up and on their own and we are very proud of them. Our Daughter in Houston a very successful realtor in the Woodlands Texas has two beautiful daughters and one great granddaughter Madison and our son Rob in Internet advertising just became a Grandpa with his daughter Maria. Her new son Noah is a prize. (Sweet little Jade came along shortly thereafter) Patti our youngest in the medical industry (the 10 pounder) has quite a delegation of her own brood in addition to Steve and Jared and grandchildren so many I have lost count. A few great grand children have also entered the scene.
Pam our oldest daughter was into horses as a teenager. We had an area on the farm where the two horses she had grazed for the summer. In one incident she asked me to feed her horse who she had on another farm. I said sure. So the first day we went over to this farm and started to walk toward the barn with a bucket of oats for this horse. As I approached the barn door the horse started to bang against it and started to break it down. As the horse came out of the barn I turned around and started to run for my life and dove over the barbwire fence just as the horse was biting at my rear. I told Pam when she came home that she had better go over and feed the horse because that horse did not want me even in the yard. At the point Pam said "Oh I forgot Dad that horse does not like men" I said "Thanks Pam". That is our beloved little Amy Lou in her arms. She lived to 15 1/2
Peacedale Farms and Market
I am going to be adding many of my memories of Peacedale as the years go by. I have a couple of experiences that I just want to get down in writing while I am above ground.
Before we moved up to Peacedale from our little ranch home next to the Maple Lane market my Dad and I purchased Peacedale from Charles Rouse about 5 miles north of the Maple Lane Market. One of our employees lived in the rather old house that goes back into the 1700's. We operated the Maple Lane Market and we took a place on the road at Peacedale and set up another fruit stand as they called it then. We simply went around about 8 fruit trees and cut the lower limbs to a height of about 7 feet and this is where we displayed our fruit. This was our cover and when it rained it rained and a piece of plastic over our heads was our only means to stay dry.
Eventually as our children were getting bigger we really needed a larger home and decided to move into the Peacedale home that still exists to this day. My wife was very proud of our Maple Lane home but it was really too small. We used to sleep on a convertible in the living room and the kids slept in the 2 bedrooms. I brought her up to the Peacedale home in February and told her we were moving in soon. She cried like a baby and couldn't believe it. We stood in the living room and you could see daylight through the clap board siding as the house was dilapidated. We filled up the cracks with newspaper and moved in. At the time we had the main bedroom downstairs and two upstairs where the girls were in one and Rob was in the other. When we eventually save a few bucks we built an addition and an extra bedroom and a bath.
Again we were operating the two places of business and I used to go down to Maple land close that up for the night and come back to Peacedale and close that up and let the help go home.
We did have a habit of jumping in the car after we closed up and went down to a soft ice cream place. Pam used to follow me over to the Maple Lane market before we moved to Peacedale to help me close up anticipating our trip to the soft ice cream place. One night we had a nice rush of customers coming in the yard and we welcomed them or at least I did. Pam on the other hand was getting a little aggravated at our delay in closing up the store and I seen her walk over to a woman that had just got out of the car to patronize us. She came over to me and asked whether the little girl was my daughter. I said "yes". She said "Do you know what she just told me?" I said "What" She said that Pam told her "That my Daddy has enough customers and doesn't need any more" At that time I had mortgages coming out of my ears.
When we finally moved up to Peacedale, we still operated our roofless fruit stand and things were really financially tough. My Dad was very principled and said to me one time if he loaned me any money I would hate him for the rest of his life.
I write about the following event in one of our features "The Saga of the Red Delicious apple"
It was a dark rainy night in October and I was under a piece of plastic praying for a customer to come by. We were flat broke. Doris had been down to the Doctor a few days before and he wanted to put her in the hospital with pneumonia in her back. She came over to the make shift fruit stand and said that she really needed to go to the Doctor for medication because of her back. The only problem was we didn't have any money and we were living off the sales coming off the road. At that time Dr. Rogati our family Doctor would charge us 3 dollars for a visit and anything we needed from him. I often said Dr. Rogati would have done a appendectomy for us for 3 bucks. We would need a prescription and that would mean the pharmacist Henry Drecksler. Again 3 bucks what ever we needed, penicillin etc. you name it.
I asked Doris whether she had any "lose change" at the house. She said "no"
Just as we were ready to leave and not be able to go to the Doctor, a truck pulled into our yard. He was lost and we gave him directions to get to Chatham. As he started to pull out he stopped and said "What the hell are you kids doing out here on such a terrible cold rainy night like this" We said nothing. He got out of the truck and said " It looks like you need some business. How much are these baskets of apples" They were beautiful Red Delicious apples. I said "2 dollars about 30 lbs" He said "I'll take 3 baskets if you put them in the front cab on the floor as I have a bad back". I put them in his truck he handed me 6 dollars. When he pulled out I handed the 6 dollars to Doris. She went down the road with the old broken down Plymouth wagon we had. She came back in about an hour. I said Dr. Rogati 3 dollars? She nodded yes, I said "Henry the pharmacist 3 dollars, she nodded yes.
I said "Lets go home" The next day the sun came out we sold a pile of apples and have been selling a pile of apples ever since as ever since is what I call the Twist of Fate and that truck driver perhaps saving my wife's life.
The Twist of Fate
Below is a list of 4 individuals who played huge roles in our lives. This cast of very generous influential individuals and their roles will become very clear when you read the little attached tales to our lives below.
The first of the 4 individuals, an elderly colored migrant worker by the name of Will Odoms. He had a vast amount of down to earth wisdom that I fed on for 20 years plus, especially agricultural practices.
Will picked apples for us and we had a system where the picker would put a voucher paper in his row of boxes in the orchard under the tree they were picking from. We would pick up the boxes, and verify the count. Most pickers used the format of 4 dashes and a cross through it to total 5 to make it easier for all to count. I didn't know that this method was favored by the illiterate. At the time I was not conscious of the pitiful aspects of illiteracy.
On one occasion I needed some extra pickers one early morning to fill a sweet corn order to a supermarket. I asked Will to show up for the first time ever to pick sweet corn. The requirements were to place 54 ears in a bag. That was the standard. We started out this early morning with a little daylight, about 6 of us including Will. I was going up my row setting the pace picking one ripe ear after another. I looked back and I didn't see Will. I walked back a ways and there was a young migrant picker that was going through some hand gyrations with Will. I was a little upset and said "What are you guys doing, I have to get this order up to Albany soon". I thought they were doing some type of a primitive gambling as they used to shoot crap every Saturday night after they got paid.
The young migrant said "Mr. Bob, Will can't count" I said "What do you mean he can't count" and I went on and said, "One, Two, Three etc." The young man said the only way Will is going to accurately get 54 ears in the bag is if, and he showed me by raising one full hand with 5 fingers, and showing two full hands with 10 fingers indicating 5 times 10 equals 50 and one more hand with 4 fingers to total 54. Don't ask me how Will was able to pick corn with one hand, hold on to the bag with another and go through the finger gyrations to maintain his count. I checked a few of his bags and guess what, they were all on the button 54 ears.
I was stunned because at the time in my early 20s I did not know there was anyone in the world that could not count. At that point I said my God, this man can't even count, but yet he has been and continued to be one of my very special advisors.
The moral of this story is, if you have the good fortune of obtaining an advisor relationship with an elder, don't grade his/her quality of advice by the amount of education they may have had or even if you have discovered at times where they were not up to speed on a subject, because the next subject matter and their input could very well knock your socks off. I have asked questions of individuals that you would never guess would produce a quality response only to be startled by their perspective.
Walter Mahler was a hard headed Dutchman farmer who had a vast knowledge and he knew how wet behind the ears I was when I started. He was a wonderful and generous man. In fact he was so generous to me the only way I can tell you how generous he was as most in the farm community are, is with an experience we had planting butternut squash potted plants with a prototype planter from Union Carbide. It was a device that laid down black plastic mulch about 3 foot wide and had a clam shell action. The clam shell would penetrate the plastic and plant the pots and heel them in besides. Now Union Carbide knew there were many glitches to the machine and needed some guinea pigs to get the mechanical problems solved so they offered the machine for loan free. We had a nightmare on our hands with 2 of my best mechanics working with me. We were pulling our hair out trying to tout the plastic and have the pots planted at the proper depth.
Up the road comes Walter Mahler. He gets out of his truck chews me up and down for not having the brains to calibrate this machine properly and goes about showing us the details of settings as he had used the machine a few weeks before in his plantings. Our ground conditions were different and we had to make different adjustments than the way he left the machine.
The squash plants took off soon after planting and we had a bumper crop, such a bumper crop that one September evening we loaded a flat bed truck with 368 bushels of Butternut squash. Early next morning I pulled into the Menands farmers market where there were two lines of the backs of trucks facing one another where the buyers promenaded. We expected a rush to our trucks as squash had just started and we had an early edge because of the heat generated by the plastic.
I looked across to the other lineup of farmers and who was there with a truck load of Butternut Squash?, you guessed it Walter Mahler. To make a long story short the market was flooded and there were no buyers at a decent price for most of it. We both took our loads home.
So the moral of this story was, don't help a fellow farmer who is wet behind the ears, especially if it can cut your own throat as it did Walters.
But wait a minute this isn't the end of the story. The next summer we were out in the same field struggling again with the same problems we had the previous season and who comes up the road? You guessed it Walter Mahler. He got out of his truck threw his old farmers hat on the ground and went about dressing us up and down and yes once again solving our problems. He had zero concern how our success would again come back to haunt him with his aid no less. That is what you call a true blue advisor. Actually we had a great deal of rain that fall and for those who didn't plant on plastic they were drowned out. Walter and I cornered the market that fall on Butternut squash. We made a bundle.
One short story before I enter into the heart of this particular story. I used to go to auctions all over the northeast with Joe during the winter as this is how I accumulated almost 30 miles of irrigation pipe. We were a little late to an auction in Jersey one Saturday morning and there must have been 300 pick up trucks of farmers attending. There were no parking spaces along the road unless you wanted to walk a mile or more. Joe had a big old Cadillac and picked an area a very wet area in a beet field to drive into knowing he would sink out of sight, and he did. I said "Joe, how the hell are we going to get out of here" He said "You see that big John Deere tractor over there, I am going to bid it in and after the auction we will borrow a chain and you will pull me out to the road. The auction started and it came to the bidding on this tractor. Joe and another interest kept bidding higher and higher, they were passed 20 grand. Joe walked over to his competitor and said to him "If you want to buy that tractor, I will stop bidding, you can have it, but you will have to pull me out of the beet field with it. The farmer said sure, and he did.
The "advisor" part of this segment happened one day when myself and about three of my help trying to lift some very heavy trusses on top of this warehouse we were building. They were 30 foot long and trusses this long are very wobbly on the side. We tried to get 2 of them up and they busted in half. We could have hired a crane out of Albany but the thousand bucks it would cost was against my grain and pocketbook.
Up the road coming I heard a familiar sound of a large tractor with it poot, poot diesel sound, poot, poot, poot. I knew it was Joe as he was farming land north of me and trafficked past my place on many occasions.
I got in the road and waved him into my yard where we were building this warehouse and explained to Joe that bulling these trusses on the roof was not working and the evidence of 2 busted trusses proved it.
He said "where is your front end loader" I said "over in the barn" He said "get it and bring me at least a 14 foot long length of angle iron from your shop that he knew we had for welding purposes.
He bolted the angle iron to the front end loader bucket. Now the bucket went up a good 10, 12 feet on its own, add the 14 feet angle iron on that we were up about 24 feet.
Now he said "Now hook on to the middle of the truss on the ridge top. We lifted the truss up and being that it was hooked in the exact center the truss teetered, it was balanced so that we could actually turn it by hand.
We walked the tractor alongside of the existing building with it turned parallel to the front end loader, lifted it up passed the peak of the existing roof, rotated it 90 degrees and placed each truss, there were 60 of them as nice as you please on the top of the walls that we had already constructed.
It was a small brilliant piece of engineering.
Now I refer back to my previous comments in this feature about flattered advisors calling up extraordinary powers when approached by someone for help because I said to Joe "You know Joe I was at your farm last spring and you were building a structure and had the same problem I had trying to physically bull trusses on a roof, but you did not deploy what you advised me to do" Now it wasn't that he didn't have the equipment as he had a half a dozen loaders and bigger than mine.
He thought for a minute when I pressed him and he said with a smile "You know Bob, that's a dam good question".
The Twist of Fate, the Daddy of them all.
So with this it leads me to "The Twist of Fate" for my wife and I regarding our direction in business and a piece of advice we received from another advisor when I made it known to him that I was really struggling in business and needed some fresh ideas. This advisor was a burly old codger by the name of Mr. Horton. He was a horse trader and had a wad of tobacco in his mouth the size of a softball. He also had a little roadside market and bought a few items from me at times, and when he came in to my little area off the road, I had no roof at the time, just a few benches to hold my display, I would seek some of his advice. This is when we first started out.
Everyone Loves Strawberries
At the time there were few strawberries grown in our area and in fact he said to me, "Bob you see that 2 or 3 acres just north of us right on the road, what you should do is grow strawberries in that area." He said "You are not going to make any money on growing strawberries, but you are going to get two things that you need desperately." He first went on to enumerate the problems with strawberry culture, weeds, frost, difficulty getting them picked, disease etc. and I will list them in detail below, because it is interesting. I guess it was at least interesting for me and my family as it was survival.
The first of the two pieces of advice was the super effect of growing strawberries on the road and the visual effect of passerby's seeing activity and stopping for just curiosity sake. As Mr. Horton said, "It will put you on the map" and boy did it do just that. When you are picking 10,000 quarts of Strawberries a day as we eventually did and we spread them out on our tarmac for every vehicle to see, along with the warm bodies sprawled all over the fields there were few cars that went by that did not stop. It put us on the map, God Bless you Mr. Horton.
Growing strawberries was a real challenge as Mr. Horton related. He was just relating to the 3 acres, but we compounded it 10 times by eventually growing 30 acres. There were many major impediments to making money with them as he said, but we were driven to solve the problems and we will list them for you.
Mini Water Melons
Had one very prominent experience that stood out and still does to this day at our Peacedale Farm market. We had a very busy day one Sunday and my Dad used to stand in this annex building where we had a full display. He used to make the sales to take the pressure off of the main counter and keep the money in his pocket. We had a nice display of what they referred to as N---er head water melons. I don't like using the word as I don't have a racist bone in my body, but this is what the trade referred them to as. They were not the typical sized watermelons. There in the bowling ball sized class or a bit smaller. My Dad was in his glory with the rush of sales. He loved business.
One young man darted out of a car and headed for the watermelon display. He was black as the ace of spades and it turned out he was an African that was visiting the States with some people from Albany. They obviously provided this young man with some spending money and in fact some of the money was 50 dollar bills. The price on the watermelons was 3 for 50 cents. We used to buy them by the bushel for a buck at the time. The young man obviously was knowledgeable about numbers but didn't have a clue in regard to the value of the currency. He was so excited about finding these watermelons that I suspect were grown in his native country, that he grabbed 3 of them, handed my Dad a 50 dollar bill and ran like hell to the car he came in.
My Dad stood there with the 50 dollar bill and seen the young man get in the car and started to pull out of the yard. He went into a panic and instructed one our employees to run out to the car and insist that they return for their change like $49.50. The young man had no conception of the relative value of our currency to a product and actually believed that the 50 number on the bill was exactly what we needed for the 3 watermelons. I thought my Dad was going to have a heart attack when the young man was finally dragged back to receive his change.
I will be writing more on Peacedale Farms and market operation and perhaps when time allows I will add to this autobiography because I have thousands of experiences to relate. If you want a taste of our farm experiences open up the http://blueeyedcurse.com/twistfate.htm link.
Blueeyedcurse.com A Holistic Website
As mentioned above we mentioned the twistfate.htm This is a feature that is among 50 or so features we have written on and for the most part are health related along with a few features in our farm experiences. We have accumulated many of these facts by various sources on the Internet and have a great deal of our own theories regarding the subject matter. We have felt as in our autobiography material that these very important facts should be recorded for historical purposes and become a legacy for our descendants to review.
Age 45 years old to now in retirement at 77 years old (2012) and still counting.
It has been a great ride with no regrets.
The following information are events that took place in our lives and not necessarily in chronological order. Whether this is read in a week or so or 100 years from now I believe it should make for interesting reading.
The Apartment house
In 1962 we decided to convert an old chicken house into an 8 unit apartment house. (It still stands over 50 years later) We started it in November of 1962, went through the winter of 1963 and in the fall of 63 President Kennedy was assassinated. For those who are reading this perhaps in the last part of the 2000 century you will have to go back in your history books.
We enlisted Uncle Walter Repp and my wifes Father Pappa Jennings to do some of the major work and we contracted out the rest.
We hired a retired Plumber Frank Delardi and he did an outstanding job.
It was a very interesting project and will stick in my mind until the day I die.
We worked the whole winter of 63 tearing out and putting in the partitions of the apartment house. I got most of the material from Wicks lumber across the river as there was no Lowe's or Home Depot back then.
We got as far as June of 1963 when we hadn't decided on what to use on the exterior of the structure as quite frankly we were just about out of funds. We had a small market on the road made up of a few tables and no roof over our heads. An old Dutchman by the name of Paul Shalltegger stopped by the market and asked me what we were going to use on the exterior of the building. Paul was a top notch mason and had just come back from Iran where he worked there building docks for the Shah and their fledgling oil industry. Paul said to me "Why don't you put brick on the building". "Just give me a kid to mix the mud and keep me in brick when you move the scaffolds every morning" I told him I was just about broke. He said "I can get you good used brick down in Valatie where a fellow by the name of Ray Hamm is taking down one of those old mills" He said "he will ask you 5 cents a piece, offer him 3 cents and you need them delivered in piles around the building"
I decided to go down to see Ray Hamm and sure enough he asked me a nickel a piece. I said "I can give you 3 cents for 30,000 and I want them delivered" He said "When do you want them?"
We eventually used close to 40,000 as the chimney gobbled up close to 5000.
Called Paul told him and the next week we were laying brick. In short Paul laid close to 40,000 brick and ceramic tiled 8 bathrooms in 32 working days which meant he was laying 1500 brick a day more or less. In New York city if you lay over 300 brick in a day the Unions put you in the east river "with the fish". That was a Mafia expression like "concreta bootza"
The last thing he did for me was to ask for a couple of stone window lintels to dress up the big chimney breaks that are on the building. He told me to go down to Ray's and get the stones as he would need them after lunch. I went down to Ray's and we had to pull a wall down to get the stones Paul wanted, a white and a black one. I came up the road with the stones that weighed the back end of my old Plymouth station down, and backed into the chimney. Paul said "you have a big apple ladder over at the barn, I can see it sticking out. Go get it" I brought the ladder over leaned it against the chimney. Now with the area being quite low, the 2 stories plus part of the gable end this was a feat getting these stones up to Paul as they weighed at least 125 lbs each. I started up the ladder with the first stone on my shoulder, as Paul cat called me from the roof. I got up about 5 rungs on the ladder and my knees started to wobble. I was frightened to death. Paul seen me struggling, threw his cap down in disgust, came down the ladder, put the first stone on his shoulder and almost ran up the ladder while it was wobbling, as I held on to the ladder terrorized. He put both stones on the roof and he hollered down "Get me the mud up here G-d Dammit"
That was the last thing Paul did for us and got killed in a head on crash going to a job at the golf course in Valatie a few days later.
I mentioned Frank Delardi above the retired New York City plumber we engaged and I worked closely with him, sweating pipes etc. I couldn't put down my bio without the following experience I had with Frank. He was a rough and tumble city plumber but we got along real well. When he completed the plumbing "rough in" he said to me "Bob I going to Florida for a break but I don't want you closing in any of the walls over the rough plumbing until I get back and pressure test the system. I said no problem other than the fact I was just about out of money and needed to rent these apartments ASAP. So I started and finished sheet rocking all of the walls and yes over all of the plumbing pipes while he was gone. When he came back from Florida and seen the walls covered up and I thought he was going to kill me.
We drilled the well and hooked up the water tank and the moment of truth arrived with the plumbing system that I entombed. Frank came up and was standing in apartment 4 with my Dad next to the apartments hot water heating pipes. He said "O.K. Bob go down and open the main valve" I went down and all of sudden I heard them hollering up stairs "Turn the water off, I just got hit in the leg with a leak" I went up stairs and Frank said "The whole F-----g building is a sieve" We soldered the leak and I went down and turned the water on again waiting to find another leak and guess what, the only leak in the building was the one that hit Frank in the leg.
In June of 1964 we started to advertise the apartments but had little success as the local community knew the building had been inhabited by chickens. In order to rent these apartments we rented them for 55 dollars a month and if they signed a years lease we gave them the last 2 months of the period for free.
By the way this project cost us a total of $32,000.
There is a great deal more to this project and some day I may put it down in writing.
A little history
Started this on the fourth of July 2016 as the history of our country and how it applied to our 50 plus years at Peacedale and was a significant period in the history of the country and I thought it was worth writing about. Perhaps in 50 years or more we will have a great, great, great grandchild that will be a history buff and will enjoy the Peacedale/History connection related here.
I was watching last night an American Revolution TV special called Legends and Lies by Bill OReilly of fox.
Last nights show related George Washington's order to a General Knox to retrieve 40 cannons from the Ticonderoga area of New York that the British left behind when the continental army chased them back to Boston. The 400 plus mile trip to haul these cannons back to Boston was brutal, some required 2 horses dragging one cannon. Many of the soldiers didn't have boots on and helped the horses push these cannons through the mud and snow with bloody socks and rags around their feet.
General Washington believed that the cannons placed on the highest location overlooking Boston (Dorchester Hill) would intimidate the British General Howe into leaving the last vestige of British control to eliminate the total destruction of the Boston proper that not only included British troops, but also the British sympathizers that resided in the city itself. Washington also knew that the cannons on the British ships did not have the range to hit the cannons on the hill, but knew the cannons on the hill could easily reach all parts of the city of Boston. The intimidation worked, the British got on their boats and fled back to England and I don't believe a shot from the cannons had to be fired. The British by the way didn't know the continental army did not have enough gun powder and resources to physically remove the British from Boston. The Cannon ruse was the only way Washington could pull it off.
They showed a map of the route they took from Ticonderoga to Boston that crossed an area just a few miles from our home in Schodack New York where we had our farm, market and raised our family. There was and it is a junction referred to as 9 and 20 again just a few miles from our home that incidentally dated back to the 1730s, that meant the home was being lived in when this General Knox journey occurred. I can attest to the age of our home from construction projects over the years that involved wooden pegs some 12 to 16 inches long and 200 year old bark still hanging on to the studding on the insides of the walls with the faces planed most likely with antiquated draw knives.
Although the Knox cannon caravan did
not pass our home there was considerable activity going by our door during this
period for those interests that took the Albany/New York City Route 9 versus the
Albany/Boston Route 20 that General Washington and General Knox decided to
take considering the critical location of the British position in the Boston
This event led to the declaration of Independence and American Revolution was won and something that has been of late very dear to my heart when I sit here determining whether I personally have an obligation to perpetuate the growth of a key area of the State of New York. This key area is a few miles from where history passed 240 years ago that was the impetus for a thriving new country called America and a country that has provided the blood of many brave Americans during the wars that have preceded us.