Don Visco

July 22, 2003

Interviewed by Mary Miles

Don's wife is Phyllis. He has a nice laugh, big white-teethed friendly grin.
deep deep Yankee accent. Hoss, fahm, etc.
RR cap…worn all his life…

I am a native, born here, 1934. My mother's family in 1914, her whole family moved here from a farm in New Brunswick, Canada. They came to Nantucket because her uncle, who was Aquilla Cormie, the last blacksmith on Nantucket, and his shop was on Strt Wharf, where the 4 Winds Gift Shop is now. That shop, if you can picture it…it's all full of tourist stuff now, but anyway, that was Uncle Quilly's blacksmith shop. He was my mother's uncle and my grand-uncle. Uncle Q had come to Nantucket years before and that's why my mother's family came here. They were poor back there on the farm, there was nothing in Canada for them, so the whole fam moved here. HOW DID AQUILLA COME HERE? I'm not sure, but he had been here for a few years…he was a young man then, plying his trade, and that was the days before fancy welding machines and everything, and everything was done by smithies, including shoeing horses. Aquilla used to do horses, and there were a lot of hosses around. When I was a kid ppl who lived out of town were still using hosses and wagons. They'd come to town…if they had a job, they'd tie their hoss and little wagon in the little alley behind the stores on Main Street, put a feed bag on 'em, and they'd stay there all day, and when they were finished with their job in town, away they'd go. The two I remember were Old Man Gibby Burchell…I say Old Man meaning Gibby's and Eddie's father…and Weston Esau - he lived out on Somerset Road, on the dirt part, and he used to come down every day with his hoss and a little buckboard and tie the hoss up there; he worked for the town…[phone rings…and rings] [find out more about where Weston Esau worked]
My mother went to school here, I think the school on Orange street then, down near the corner of Lyons Street. When her family first came here they lived on a farm called the Snow Farm, on Hummock Pond Road…right now there's a subdivision there…it's rt on the big curve where you swing right and that's where they lived. They went to school in a hoss and wagon. Eyup. I never knew my grandparents, any of them, on either my mother's or father's side. My mother met my father here in the summer of 1922, and my father was a bahbuh, and he came to do barberin' in the summer. She wasn't born here…her brothers and her father were all stonemasons. Her maiden name was Ross. So anyway, that's how my mother got here. My father came here to do barbering in the summer and they met and that was it. So then he stayed here. He'd been in WWI, was a ship's barber. I don't know if they still have a rating of ship's barber in the navy or not.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR SCHOOLING HERE. I went to the first four grades at Cyrus Peirce, the old school, and then we moved…we used to live on Mill Street near Prospect Street, and then we moved to the other part of town…we moved to Gay Street, which is rt near Academy Hill. And so then I switched and went to Acad Hill School. Right next door. I finished HS rt there at Acad Hill. Class of 1952. Yup.

WHAT DID YOU DO FOR FUN AS A KID? OH! laughs. We did all kinds of things. We had a lot of fun, were always busy. We didn't do things…you hear about kids today doing these awful, destructive things - we didn't do things like that. But we had a lot of fun, and we raised the devil a lot…you know, on Halloween. In the summertime, up until I had to go to work, I spent a lot of time down at Children's Beach, and we used to go over and dive for coins at Steamboat Whoff. We'd make 2 or 3 dollars in change, and that was big money for us kids then.

WASN'T THAT DANGEROUS? Yeah, it was - they were always chasin' us out of there, the cops, and then somebody would go up and tell my father at the barbershop, then my mother would find out that I was down there, and then I'd get the devil. But we used to go down to that beach a lot.

WHERE WAS THE BARBERSHOP? On Main Street…first he worked for Ed Terry, who had a big barbershop down from the Hub, before you get to where Murray's Liquor Store is now. Big barbershop with a big back room and they had a bootblack there in the back, and there were tables. In those days, when there wasn't a lot doin', and men didn't have a job or somethin', they hung around the barber shop, playing cahds and stuff. The barbershop was like the center of activity in town. If you wanted to know what was going on or which fishin' boats came in, which didn't, who was out, and so forth. All the news came out of the barbershop. That's where everybody hung out. I remember going in there - big high ceilings, no air conditioning, with big ceiling fans and flypaper hanging down from the ceiling…and spittoons on the floor. You know, a lot of men chewed tobacco then. I'd go in now and then and bum a nickel off him for an ice cream cone…it was a nickel for a single scoop, a dime for a double decker then. I'd go up to what's now the Hub, it was Rogers, or up to one of the drugstores further up the street, and I think a cup of coffee was a dime. I think a haircut was only 35 cents; shave was 25 cents, and all the shops had a sign - if they were busy in the summertime, they'd put the sign up. "No Shaves." Because shavin' took too much time and wasn't a moneymaker, so no shaves. You could hear all the town gossip there. That's where all the information flowed, in and out…the barbershop.

DID YOU HAVE TO HAVE JOBS AS A KID? Yeah, we did little things like mowing lawns and cleaning people's yahds and things like that, and I had an old bicycle. We were lucky as kids - some kids didn't have anything, not a bicycle, and they had to walk everywhere. I had an old bike, if you were lucky …the tires were all wore out…you had to know how to change the chains…had to fix flats yourself. But we had a good gang of kids, and had fun growing up. WHAT

WAS YOUR FIRST JOB AS A TEENAGER? Hmmm…Oh, I did have a job after school and on Saturdays at Cady's…Cady had a food store on Main Street, which was also on that block between the Hub and Murray's Liq Store. When I was a kid, there were small stores everywhere - up on the corner where Congdon & Coleman is now was J.B. Ashley's Mahkit, and there was Cady's, and there was Doc Ryder's on Orange Street, and they all had deliveries. You didn't even have to go in there and shop…you could call your order in on the phone, and they had trucks and they'd deliver rt to your house. Mr. Ashley was pres of the Pacific Bank than. I remember JB well - I can see him now. Out in front of the two big windows they had produce stands with big awnings, and it was a busy store. Upstairs was a bakery, and they baked all their own stuff every day. I remember the poor guy, he's been gone for a long time now, who did all the trucking for JB. He had to lug all that stuff up those stairs on his back - sacks of potatoes and flour and all that stuff. Ervin Chase, I can see him now.

ICE DELIVERIES? Oh yes, Island Service Co. had a big ice plant on the Isl Service Wharf, and ppl would put a cahd in their window [SEE NHA PIC] that would tell the drive what size chunk of ice. Not many ppl had a fridge then, it was ice boxes…and you had to chip the chunk to make it fit your icebox. He had a big insulated blanket over those 300-lb cubes of ice, and we'd wait for him to chip…he had a rubber apron on his back and a pair of tongs, and he'd sling that hunk of ice over one shoulder and then go deliver it and put it in the icebox. And we'd hang around the back of the truck waiting till he was in the house, and we'd be up there getting all the chips. laughs. The tongs the drivers used weren't as big as some tongs…but they might have had a larger pair that they used for the 300-lb cakes. They used tongs for everything in the old days. With block and tackle and gin poles, to life everything…in the days before modern cranes and front-end loaders and forklifts. Everything was done by manpower.
The wharfs were very busy then…when I was in school there must have been maybe a dozen families who either owned a boat or captained a boat, and all based on Natckt. And we had the big ice plant here, and they used to pack out fish here. They'd pack them out and they load it on the trucks and drive it around to Steamboat Wharf and send it to market, all ice down in the boxes, on the steamer. also on Steamboat Wharf a fella by the name of Ed Tarvis packed out fish, too. So there were two places that I remember packed out fish, and I suppose before my time there were even more.

DID THE KIDS IN THESE FAMILIES GO ON TO BECOME FISHERMEN THEMSELVES? Most of them didn't, no. I know of a couple - Tobe Fleming, his son Toby, who was in my class in school, went on and stayed in the fishin business. Of course he's retired now. He lives in Westport, MA now, I think. And the other one was one of Jack MacDonald's sons, Robert - I think he's still fishin to this day with his own boat.


HOW COME YOU DIDN'T BECOME A BARBER? Everybody asks me that. laughs. No, I just wasn't interested. I started working in construction when I was 14 or 15 years old…I worked for Red Rounsville, who owned the Nantucket Construction Co. off of the 'Sconset Road. His name was Walter Marlon Rounsville. He ran the Nantucket Construc Co and for several years also ran the big cranberry bog that belongs to the Foundation now. Anyway, where the big sandpit is now, where Holdgate and ??clevy?? are now, that was the Nantucket Construc Co. I worked there during the summer, and then as soon as I was 16 years old and got a driver's license, then I could drive a truck. In those days you didn't need the special licenses that we need today to drive a truck. I worked there off and on for years, and then for a couple of years one of my friends and I - Dick Gardner - worked for Ellen Ring at the Cycle Shop, which is still there on South Beach Street.

DID YOU GO ON TO SCHOOL AFTER HS? Nope - I wanted to keep on working…I wasn't int in going on to college.

WHAT WAS YOUR TEENAGE SOCIAL LIFE LIKE? big grin. WE had a LOT of fun. You know, it was so different when I was in HS…there were only a couple of us that had automobiles. Even most of the teachers didn't have them. There was no money around then. The season didn't start till thr 4th of July, and then the day after Labor Day, boom! Everything shut down…not like it is today. But I had a cah when I was 16, a 1939 Chevrolet Coupe - nice coupe that had belonged to Walter Royal, who was cashier at Pacific Bank. He traded it in for a Jeep or something and I got his cah…I saved money for it, had to borrow some from my father. And Ricky Lewis had a Ford station wagon, and Snook Blount had a 1934 Pontiac sedan. There were only two or three of us had a car while we were in school.

SO THAT MADE YOUR SOCIAL LIFE BETTER! Oh yeah, that helped, definitely. But I spent a lot of time as a kid on the wharf…and it was a real working waterfront…after school and after supper, I spent a lot of time opening scallops. And I got to be quite proficient at it. I was quite fast. There were only a few old-timers who could open faster than me. They really weren't faster, they were steady. They didn't go home for supper, they didn't pause…so they ended up at the end of the evening with a few more pounds than I did. I made good money, and I always had a few coins in my pockets. Spent a lot of hours shuckin' scallops, yup.

WHEN DID YOU MEET YOUR WIFE, PHYLLIS? That was in the summer of 1956 - that was the year the Andrea Doria sank, remember that?

AND SHE JUST TOLD ME SHE'D COME HERE TO WORK AS A WAITRESS, WITH HER COUSIN. Yup - she came here for the summer to make some money…they both worked at Allen's Diner, which is now the Club Car - that was a real working man's diner [kids used to be sent there for there lunch - me].

DID YOU MEET HER THERE? Hmmm…[thinks a minute] I met her one night down to the Boathouse Restaurant. They used to have jam sessions on Sund'y afternoons down there. In the 50s. That was before Beinecke did all the whoffs over. Down the end of…oh gosh, can't think of the name of that whoff. Belonged to the Hutchinson family, from 'Sconset, who also had the JC House too, in the 50s. It was a nice restaurant with a nice bah, and that's where I met Phyllis.

WAS IT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT? [ONE of those wonderful smiles, and a heh heh heh.] I don't know about that… So we went out all summer. She used to live in a boarding house - there were a lot of boarding houses here, where working people could come and rent a room for the summer. She paid $8 a week, at Mrs. Smalley's house on Broad Street, which is now the Land Bank Office. Yup. There were a lot of young ppl who'd come…lot of Irish kids, college kids… So we went kinda steady all summer, and we got married the next winter at the end of January. Yep, she stayed on. And then I got drafted, so I went to Ft. Benning in GA for basic trng, and then went to Texas, El Paso, for training in NIKE missiles, and Phyllis came out and we lived in Tx for a little while, and then we went to Germany, and she came over after I got settled…that was great…it was 1957, and it wasn't that fah after the waw - there were still a lot of houses, whole blocks bombed out that they'd never cleaned up, just the rubble was there. We had a good time in Germany. In 58 we bot an old cah, did a little travelin', and we went to the Brussels World Fair. WE didn't have children then - our oldest son was bawn right around Christmas time, 1958. Phyllis had come back before I did, and then twds the end of my enlistment, my Dad got sick and passed away suddenly, so I flew home, and I only had a short time left, so I was mustered out at Fort Dix in NJ. We were the first operational NIKE missile battalion in Europe, and we were their defense for Frankfort, Heidelburg, and Mannheim, that area of Germany. Course that was in the days before satellites were up. Learned to speak just enuf German to get along…we met some nice people over there, and we lived with a Gm family in their house.

INTERESTING WAY TO START MARRIED LIFE. EVER GO BACK? No - always wanted to go back to Europe, because I want to go to Italy, where I have cousins and second cousins and third cousins…all kinds of relatives. My father came from a big family, and his father and mother were immigrants from Italy. Yuh. That's why my name is Visco, Italian.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE WWII YEARS HERE…YOU WERE VERY YOUNG…It was busy around here; it was a military island, practically. Besides the Coast Gahd…they were everywhere - they had a station at Coskata, on Muskeget, at Madaket, Surfside…they had beach patrols with dogs, everything, 24 hours a day. And then the Navy was at the airport - they constructed the first 2 runways there, and they were training the naval fighter pilots with bombs and rockets. That's why you go out to Tom Nevers and you dig, and you come up with all kinds of stuff out there. Yup. I don't think there's any live ammunition there now…I think they found some ordnance not too long ago that got exposed on the beach. Of course it's washed away so much since the 40s…I saw one night, during the Blizzard of 1978, when they got all that snow that crippled New England - we got rain, mostly…I saw 35 feet go in one night at Tom Nevers. Since then we've lost all those other buildings.

DO YOU REMEMBER A LOT ABOUT THE WAR? Oh yeah - in the city it must've been awful, in a lot of places, where ppl had to stand in breadlines and everything, but there was none of that here - there was rationing and everything, but everybody had a victory gahden. Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY had a gahden…and everybody had animals. Downtown. On Orange ST, and Union St….everywhere. A lot of ppl had their own chickens, ducks, geese, goats, and pigs, believe it or not. And it's not that long ago. And there was a lot of bahtuh then [barter]. And there were fahms everywhere, don't forget. Nantucket was full of them, and animals everywhere…and you didn't see all this scrub pine and all this prolific brush that you see everywhere on the sides of the roads…if you look, you can't see anywhere any more because of the brush. It's really awful - it's dangerous, even. [phone rings again]
Right up the head of Main Street, just past Caton Circle on the Madaket Road, that was Charlie Thurston's fahm, right? And then around the cawnuh to the right on New Lane was Maxie Chase - they ended up swapping properties for some reason, and Maxie Chase ended up on Mad. Rd. and Charlie gave up the dairy fahm and Maxie, in that big bahn, went into the chicken business. Now, Andy Lowell has chicken and fowl on New Lane…he always had them. [I remember the eggs, honor system…and from Acad Hill can still hear the rooster in the morning.] Yup - honor system - same way ppl would grow flowers, gladiolas and things, and put'em in a little caht down on Main Street, and you'd put your change in, honor system, and take you a bunch of flowers…I don't know if anybody does that any more.

TELL ME ABOUT THE BARTERING. Oh, well bartering was big, because the fahmers were growing vegetables, and there was an active fishin industry here, and nobody went hungry around here. Nobody. I remember my father trading for fresh fish in the barber shop… I want to tell you, it was rough and tumble around here with the fishermen…after being out at sea for 10 or 12, sometimes 13 or 14 days before they got back - because lots of times they wouldn't come right here, they'd go right on to New Bdfd, pack out their fish, sell them at the auction there, and then come home. And before they got to my father's barber shop there was a place called the Spa, on the other side of Main Street - a spa and café. The café was only open in the summertime. It was kind of a rough place. laughs. But the fishermen would stop there to have a few drinks, you know, and then they'd stop in the barbershop and get cleaned up and go home. But I've seen the time when my father wouldn't let them in, because they'd stayed too long at the bah. Then he wouldn't take them in. But they'd stop in and get a shave, get all dashed up…I used to love the smell of the bay rum and that stuff. Of course now you can't do that in Massachusetts - you can't use a razor on anybody…no razors any more. I suppose it must have something to do with AIDS, and stuff. But they'd crank the chair down and the fella would be back there [leaning his head way back with eyes closed] and my father would put those steamin' hot towels on him…and you know, they'd have an awful stubble after 12 or 14 days. I can see him now, stropping those straight razors, and then shaving them all up, and then he'd splash on these…the whole back of the bah…was all mirrors on one side in front of the chairs, and it was all lined with the diff kinds of tonics and aftershaves. I can still smell them! [Emil in Holden] My father used to cut a lot of women's hair…those who wore their hair short, like lots do today.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE RESTAURANTS ON THE ISLAND THEN? What's now the Atlantic Café, near the Dreamland Theatre, which was there when I was a kid, was Cy's Green Coffee Pot. That was a great place. And we lived…Old Man Cy and Rose lived rt next to us on Gay Street - we lived at 11 and they lived at number 9, and he was a great old guy; he had an old Chevrolet truck, and he used to leave early in the morning, and I'd hear that truck staht up…he'd put his foot all the way to the floor on the gas pedal, and instead of having it in first, he had it in high gear, and he would try to staht out and go up Gay Street and get around the corner, and the motor would be screamin'…I don't know how many clutches old Cy burned out on Gay Street, trying to get to work. I'll never forget that. Cy's was a popular place, and Allen's Diner, and then in the summertime next to the Spah Bah was the Spah Café…that was quite popular too. On Main Street were all the drugstores and the A&P branch, and then the little store that was up by the monument was another A&P branch. There was another one on Orange Street. There were stores everywhere - Doc Ryders…and then down at 56 Union, that was Souza's market then. Where Tonkin's is now was another drugstore - that was R.G. Coffin's Drugstore…he had a soda fountain. There were all kinds of drugstores, yuh, and another one up around the cawnuh where Congd and Coleman's is now, and down Petticoat Row, there was Toner's Drug Store. And yes, they did sell a little bottle of liquor now and then. You know, during Prohibition…that was the reason there were so many Coast Guardsmen down here…I've been told…as a kid around the wharf all the time, I got an education! Grins. Hah hah! Oh man, the stories they told about what went on…yup. They used to fly booze in here at Tom Nevers, which is all full of scrub oaks now? That was all meadow…they'd land the biplanes out there. they'd fly the booze in. And some of the fishermen made more money bringin' in the booze than they did catchin' fish around here. It was 1933 when they repealed Prohibition. I want to tell you, there were a lot of legitimate businessmen on Nantucket who got started running booze. Oh yeah…some very prominent names. [wicked laugh]

I did run a couple of times for Selectman, but never did get elected. the first thing I did townwise, I was appointed to the Right-of-Way Committee…I think that was 1970…and that was a committee that was formed back around 1950 by Town Meeting…it was supposed to be a watchdog committee to protect the public's rt of access to ponds and shores. The Committee never had any statutory authority - it was an advisory committee - we'd report to the Selectmen and the County Commissioner. [side one ends]

ARE YOU POLITICALLY ORIENTED? Well, I was always interested in the best things for the island and the people, and in 1972 I was elected to the Planning Bd, and I was on that for 10 years, and then off for 8 years, and then was appointed again to fill an unexpired term, and I'm still on it. So about 22 years or more.

WHEN DID YOU START YOUR OWN BUSINESS? I started in 1956; I said if I was gonna work this hahd, I might as well work for myself. It was construction…I'm supposed to be retired now…laughs [he's deeply tanned, and looks very fit and trim] Each of my two boys is in business for himself, and they operate here. David is the oldest son; Carolyn is next; then Stephen, and then Jennifer [who I'd just met, and her little son, cute!] I have 10 grandchildren.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OTHER INTERESTS & ACTIVITIES ON THE ISLAND - BELONG TO ANY CLUBS, ANY HOBBIES? Yes, I belong to the Madaket Admiralty Club - been a member there for 35 or 40 years I guess. It's a social club - it was a sailor's type water club, started in 1937, when they built the clubhouse. I'm not a sailor…I have my own boat, but it's basically a social club. And I belong to the No. 4's - that's the club over the Hub…the John B. Chase Engine Company No. 4. [see my pic of this] I have fun - we don't do too much…people change as you go along over the years, and the last few winters, Phyllis and I go to Fla for a couple of months. [Phyllis had met Wes my bro in Sarasota, his shop]

HOBBIES? I like to go fishing - we have a small boat in Madaket…Phyllis isn't too much of a boat person. And I have a family lobster license, so I have some pots out. Family scallopin, never miss that, oh yeah. Love that. A lot of ppl don't understand - they think you have to cook everything…I eat 'em raw. [we talk about cooking seafood] I've been a little bit busier than I wanted to be this year - I still have a truck that I send to the mainland for materials and stuff for the boys or diff people…it keeps me active. But my real hobby is collecting antique fahm tractors. I got 4 of them… I have a Model A in the bahn over there, and just sold it yesterday. Had it for 5 years. It's gonna stay on island. You know, I wanted to move on to something else…Phyllis wants either a 55 or a 56 T-Bird… [I tell him of the 1931 Model A I had in high school] In the days before these fancy SUVs and Jeeps, that's what we went fishin with…model A's - we'd take the wheels off and we'd get the biggest tire then came on Chryslers or Lincolns or Mercurys, they were 15-inch, and those wheels would fit right over the lugs of a Model A…and that's what we used to go fishing. Yup.

WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS AND WORST THINGS ABOUT THE ISLAND TODAY? Today…hmmm that's kind of hahd. I don't think Nantucket is headed for hell in a handbasket, no. I've been here too long; I've seen all the changes. These people think it's terrible because you gotta wait 2 minutes at an intersection? That's baloney. If I were king I'd try to do something about the traffic, yes. I'll tell ya, they need to get out and get their markings fixed - crosswalks, stoplines, stuff - most of them are faded out - even the dbl lines on the road. The town's crying poor all the time.

WHAT IS IT THAT'S MADE YOU STAY, NEVER MOVE AWAY? I love Nantucket, that's all there is about it. I love it. We were fortunate enough to get this place before prices went too crazy…and a lot of ppl wanted this property… There's a cottage on the property that goes back to 1929; we rent that out…the property belonged to a family named McGrath.
[I had asked if they'd moved that little cottage from somewhere else, noting that Nantucketers LOVE to move houses around.] They moved houses around in the old days too, a lot. Horses would pull a house along the shore…they'd slide the house back on the shore on greased planks - I've seen that done, yup. I saw Donald MacDonald do that several times on the south shore, oh, 20 or 30 years ago…jack the house up, then set it down on greased planks, and just psssshew - snake it back - just pull it back from the shore, because of erosion. [I mentioned watching a house being raised on Lily St so that a basement could be put in…and wondered how in heck they manage to do that.] They do it hydraulically, and when you stop and think of it, it's quite simple…it's just an engine driving a main pump, and off of the main pump there's a separate hydraulic line that goes to each jack, the valve, and they can control each jack. You just push the button, turn the valve, and they all go up at once, hydraulically.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE PPL WILL SAY ABOUT YOU IN 50 YEARS? laughs. In fifty years? Well! I hope they think good of me, I hope they think I was able to do somethin' for Nantucket. WHAT

DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT HERE? chuckle. Well, you know, what I got a good feeling from years ago, we were quite active, and that was all the years we served on the Right-of=Way Committee, a lot of access roads to the shore were being gobbled up by property owners, and we prevented that several times, and we got West Miacomet Rd laid out, and different roads all over the island, because we'd been constantly losing the access. Because in Mass people think roads are public because they've been using them for years, but sorry, not necessarily so. In Nantucket there's prob more registered (in the Mass. Land Court) and there's no adverse possession and no prescriptive rights against property if it's registered in Land Court, and we lost so many diff accesses over the years. Now when everybody wants to go to the ocean, there's only a few ways to get there. I always felt good about when we could preserve access. Yup.

ANY MAJOR CONCERNS ABOUT THE ISLAND TODAY? Yeah…I'm concerned with the young ppl of the island. Phyllis and I are fortunate enough to have worked hahd and made good investments, and are able to help our kids, and I hope my grandchildren who want to live on Nantucket can afford to stay here too. I mean, that's just unbelievable - I've seen so many Nantucket families move off who inherited property from their parents or grandparents, and they cdn't afford to keep it.

TELL ME ABOUT PHYLLIS' CAREER HERE. Phyllis is retired - she was the Register of Probate for Nantucket. She's been retired for maybe 5 years, and enjoys it. She misses the ppl, though - she dsn't so much miss the work as the interactions with people.

ABOUT THE RAILROAD CAP YOU'RE WEARING…IT'S SORT OF YOUR TRADEMARK, RIGHT? Yes, laughing…you know, it's funny. When I was as kid, after school I started working for Al Sylva at his garage on North Beach Street - after school, worked there a couple of summers too, and I used to buy these caps at the Knobby Shop - Porky Levine's. He was a short, chubby guy…Reggie's uncle. WE always called him that…they'd say, "We'll go down to Porky Levine's, get a pair of gloves, pair of boots, a hat…" So I used to buy these striped caps for 50 cents, because down there [probably $15 now!] Yes! I don't think he even has 'em down there any more. RR engineers used to wear the striped caps…you don't see them too often. So when we go to the State Fair in Tampa every year, they have a big steam exhibit there, so I always make it a pt to stop by there and buy a cap…I buy 2 or 3 to last me through the year…they're great, because you can wash them. When I was 15 years old I started wearin these, and I still wear 'em. laughs.
I feel good…nothing replaced yet, laughs…[has a young, buoyant attitude] well, I can't do everything I used to - nobody can. I'll be 69 in September, and I can't get out and work with those young guys all day long any more.
I could go on and on and an with Nantucket stories. And you know, it seems like there were a lot of characters around in those days. Real characters… Today, if you're a character, it's different…the characters I remember were kind of harmless, right? There was a fella who used to have a little caht with two ash barrels, and he used to sweep the street - Charlie Chase [SEE MY PIC OF HIM] When we were kids we used to tease him, and he'd go up in the alley behind the stores and eat his lunch and have a nip or a beer or something, and us kids would always be singing songs about Charlie Chase: Rich man has a good cah and a poor man has a Ford; Charlie Chase beats 'em all with two wheels under a board.. We'd taunt him, like kids do…he'd swear at us, throw something at us… And then there was a black fella, Peter Rose, used to go around with a hoss and wagon sellin vegetables. He had ptd a sign on the side of the wagon saying "Bless the Lord Vegetables." Well, come to find out, Peter used to go around at night stealin the vegetables out of people's gardens… So they finally caught him, after years.
There was a lady named Rose, and we'd sing "Beauty Rose, stinkin' toes, 'round the corner there she goes,' and she'd holler at us and shake her fist at us, and we'd run. Another fella we used to raise the devil with was…you know the man who comes in the early summer and pahks across from the Atheneum and shahpens knives? His father did that before him, only he didn't have a cah - he came over on the steamboat and walked everywhere. He had his little grinding wheel on his back, and a bell…he'd walk everywhere, ding ding ding…up and down the streets, and the housewives would come out and get their knives sharpened. We used to tease him, call him the hurdy-gurdy man…kid stuff. He'd holler at us, but cdn't catch up…and we were a bit scared of him, cuz he had knives!
I grew up next to Charlie Pearl's family, Chahlie was the oldest, and Alfie was the youngest - he was my pal…we were little when we lived there…and there was Carl. Fuzzy, we used to call him, because he had bright red hair. Yup. So we lived there next to the Pearls for years, and on the corner was Mary "Fuddy" Van Arsdale and [her husband]…he still used his outhouse when we lived there, on Mill Street.
You know, you forget about things, and when you staht talking, they come back…