This weekend was the annual Lost Dutchman Days. Saturday’s festivities kicked off with the parade. Just to give an idea of how big a deal this is in Apache Junction, the parade route starts at the intersection of Old West Highway, Idaho Road and Apache Trail – winds west down the Trail (a divided highway) for about a mile, makes a U-turn and doubles back in the eastbound lane. The parade is more than an hour and a half long. The entire parade route is packed with spectators four and five deep. By contrast, the Christmas parade barely lasts twenty minutes.
In keeping with the Old West theme, and with AJ being an equestrian town, there are a lot of horses in the parade. The AJ Mounted Rangers are deputized citizens that provide security at events. They patrol the shopping centers during the holidays, and are regulars at the Superstition Mountain Museum events.
The Shriners arrive en-force. They are usually soused by the time the parade begins (9AM). When I grow up I want to be a Shriner because they get to drive those cool little cars in the parade.
Our plan was for me to get photos of the parade, especially photos of Liz n the 1956 Thunderbird, representing the Museum. Then I would save a seat at Captain’s and wait for her, grab a bite to eat then head out to the rodeo. As fate would have it, Liz was the last vehicle in the parade, not counting the semi-truck for the local food bank.
It is a good thing I was thinking ahead. Before the parade I slipped Casey, the bartender, some cash to reserve a couple stools at the bar. She said it wasn’t going to be packed after the parade, and I told her I suspected it would be. When I arrived after the parade, there were two empty seats. On the bar were two glasses – one of Coke and one of Sprite! By the time I sat down, she had replaced the soda with an Alaskan Amber.
This was the second day of the rodeo. The first day had record crowds, and the bleachers were packed Saturday as well. This year there were no injuries to either animal or rider.
The nice thing about the rodeo is that all proceeds go to charity. Beer is $3 a can – so they are not out to rip you off. The Johnsonville Brats are one of my fave’s. On the rodeo grounds is a carnival for those not interested in the rodeo itself. Two sound stages with live music all day, Ferris Wheel and other kid’s rides, food vendors galore and tents hawking saddles and riding gear, leather jackets, flags, belt buckles, boots and cowboy hats, all against the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains. You can’t get anymore west than this, before you hit a bunch of bleach-blonde surfers.
We sat and listened to Outside the Line for an hour or so. They were excellent, and are a regular act at Lost Dutchman Days. The dance floor quickly filled, and it was a pleasant way to wind down the day.
The day was a perfect chance to play with my new camera. I brought only the camera with the 18-55mm lens, and a spare battery. At a little over 300 photos the battery died, so that was a smart move on my part. Since smart moves are rare these days, I felt I had to mention that!
I didn’t lug along the camera bag, since I didn’t want to be saddled with the bag – get it, saddle bad? – for eight hours. But I sure wish I had brought the telephoto lens along for the rodeo. The bronco’s would get out in the middle of the arena allowing for some good action shots, but the bulls bucked out of the chute and threw the riders right out of the gate – bulls 10 – cowboys 0. No decent shots. I know better for next year!
Morel Pagano was a very close friend. People ask what I would have in common with an 86-year old man, a person 32 years my senior? No, Mo wasn’t a father figure. He was more of an overgrown juvenile delinquent. As am I.
Mo and I shared a love of jazz. We were both artists. We shared a fondness for female derrieres.
I have never been one that enjoyed funerals or memorial services. I never wanted to mourn the departed, but rather to celebrate their life and remember the good times. “Good TIMES!” Mo always said “Good times” in our conversations over the phone, in our infrequent phone conversations since I moved to Arizona.
I am sorry, however, to have missed Mo’s funeral. Rob Shannon set up a “studio” vignette at the funeral home. one of Mo’s self portraits, and his palette and brushes. The parlor was a mini gallery with a retrospective of sorts, showcasing many of Mo’s self portraits. A fitting farewell.
There are two people I regularly call on my phone – my mom, and Mo. Now it is one person. I am not a phone person. To me, phone calls are like getting teeth pulled, necessary, but not necessarily pleasant.
The tie that bound Mo and myself, and Mo and Liz, and Mo and many others was that we were artists. Mo was first and foremost an artist. He was a prolific artist – putting me to shame with his ability to continue producing. And so, it is only appropriate that the final unpublished story/chapter that Mo sent me was titled “Artist”. And so, here is Mo’s final chapter…
My parents could hardly draw a stick-man but their four children were born with draftsmanship talent. We were asked to make posters for school and town. Brother Jules stopped drawing when he entered high school and found out it didn’t attract girls, Leroy drew much longer for himself with pencil and colored pencils, Joy did art work all his life, mostly posters and labels on everything around him. Me, I could never resist the temptation.
There was artwork, prints, hung on our walls mostly American social comment works and Italian satire works by Pietro Longhi, the Carracci brothers, my father’s favorite was Veronese’s “The Marriage at Cana”. Pop and Lee were always showing me fine art but I was in love with comics, wanted to be a cartoonist.
Whatever extra money I made was saved for the first of the month to buy that months comic books. The first ones were a copulation of the Sunday news paper scripts, later they became an identity of their own and exciting super hero’s came on the scene. At first many of the originators did not draw well but as they became popular hired skilled trained artist to do the drawing and some of the art work was magnificent. There was a Sunday supplement in our newspaper,” The Spirit” by the artist, Will Eisner, and in 1942 they had a Spirit coloring contest; I was in the top ten and was awarded a $50.00 war bond. This was my first recognition beyond hometown. Confident, that summer took a mail correspondence cartoon course and did well. Then the first money earned was copying those pornographic small comic books that that my friend Gabe sold for us. Confident that same summer created my own script “Korky and his Kat” brought a dozen examples to our local newspaper. A very nice man took me and showed me the printing process and that they did not hire the cartoonist but got the scripts through a syndicate and they were already on plates for printing. My favorites were Krazy Kat, Li’l Abner, Captain and the Kids, Joe Palooka, Pop-Eye , Dick Tracy and so many others, later it was Peanuts, Beetle, B.C. and especially Calvin and Hobbs. I still believe George Herriman (Krazy Kat) is one of America’s greatest artists. Some of the comic artist were the most skilled draftsmen in the world, people like Lyonel Feininger, Alex Raymond, Harold Foster, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, Raeburn Van Buren and so many others.
One of the papers we had delivered to our house was the Camden Courier Post; they had a political cartoonist, Jerry Doyle, he drew with a lithograph pencil and could be as caustic as Daumier. He was a master draftsman. The other political artist that was highly respected was the legendary Herb Block of the Washington Post. I still admire skilled, creative draftsmanship in all forms of art.
In high school took the college prep course so could not fit art classes in my curriculum but still did some kind of art work; some of my best friends had a print shop course and made personal cards for people I helped them design, many also still made signs and posters for occasions.
I was 2 and1/2 credits short to graduate in 1947 and had go back to school for ½ day, ½ year to make up those credits and graduate. Took art and music appreciation to make up the credits, loved them and got all A’s .The art teacher inspired and motivated me to continue art work.
After graduation, took evening courses with Matilda Phifer, she was the best artist in the area at that time and taught discipline and basic rules, even how to clean one’s brushes properly.
Then drafted into the Army. They too, after basic training let me continue some art work as long as it was on my own time. Drew cartoons of the history of our company and some posters for officers dances and other functions. My company commander asked me in I would paint those cartoons on the walls of the mess hall, they turned out good and the men enjoyed them.
In 1953, the division closed down Camp Polk and we moved to Fort Reilly, Kansas. Later Camp Polk opened again and became a Fort. Anyway Fort Reilly was different, nearby was a college in Manhattan, Kansas, there were many cultural events, art shows, concerts.
Most of our officers were from Louisiana and missed their home State. I was taken from my cooking duties and given a special assignment to paint murals of Louisiana scenes in the Officer’s lounge. Each day a pleasure so I took my time, The painted panels were composites from postal cards, magazine pictures and photographs of Louisiana, jazz bands, southern mansions, river boats, the French quarter, bayous and the Mardi gras. They loved their Nola. The murals turned out good, still have the letter from the officers thanking me.
Honorably discharged as a Sergeant, we went back home to live at my in-laws home until we got settled. We had one room, I set up an easel and continued to paint in my spare time. Went back to bricklaying and in a short time we got our own apartment across the street but I was addicted by the blessing or curse to paint and enrolled as a full time student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on the G.I bill. Hard decision to make, give up “security” to follow a dream?, best move I ever made.
At the Academy I was a hard working, inquisitive student and popular with both students and instructors
In my 2nd year there was a major juried show at the Philadelphia Museum of art with a New York jury, many of my instructors were rejected, I got a painting accepted. Imagine my elation, 26 years old and a painting on the walls of the Philadelphia Museum. Since then I got enough rejection slips to wall paper a room. Back in the day there were National juried shows at the Pennsylvania Academy, the Whitney, National Academy of Design, Corcoran, Cow Palace (San Francisco), Chicago Institute, Dallas museum and an International biennial in Brazil. I was rejected from all except the P.A.F.A. I also got rejected from a Fulbright, Prix de Rome, Guggenheim, Tiffany and Gottlieb grants.
Then my 3rd year, the year for me to compete for the Cresson European scholarship. That was 1958, on February 2nd, blood clots within inches from my heart, in the hospital for more than eight weeks, had to drop out of school. Had a recoup for a month at home. Doctor said I could never lay bricks again, Jules got me a job as a commercial artist in Washington D.C. Worked and lived there for about seven months.
Still had time on my G.I. Bill, that September decided to go back to the Academy and try for the European Scholarship, got it in 1961 and me and Elizabeth spent that summer in Italy and Paris. A fun and memorable time in our lives. With the award is a scholarship for a year more at the Academy. But having no means of support and Elizabeth was pregnant so I could not take advantage of it. Went back to bricklaying, wore protection but still got clots and sometimes had to leave jobs.
There were struggle ,ups and downs like everyone’s life, painting helped so much, Teaching, lectures, sales, commissions sometimes brought in money and always brought pleasure in so many ways.
I was still working as a union bricklayer but had rainy days and cold winters months off to paint, never kept a record but painted well over 2000 paintings and I ain’t finished yet. I sometimes painted to earn money, commissions and local scenes that pleased people because of the subject matter. At others times painted to create art, these make me proud, hope I did enough of them. When trying to create there is always self analysis, starts with inner compulsions to create our own world, often this becomes difficult, are we one of a kind? – there are easier ways? Give in to the wider appreciative public they are willing to pay for paintings they like. If I do this am I allowing myself to be seduced by the market place? With all of the great creative artists of the past how can I produce a work that will have durability to have cultural longevity or be aesthetically valid and stand the test of time over generations and cultures.
I left the Academy believing that working with systematic discipline directly from nature with maturity a natural style would evolve, with this belief I gave subject matter a more important place than it deserves in art. After about 10 years painting directly from nature, developed a formula. It was well received, But art must be a growing, creative process. Then I started to explore other things, when back to my early loves and started collages like the comic script’s, movie and travel poster’s for their ability to reveal attitudes and values with their colorful vignettes, collage offers me freedom for me to put out messages, thoughts and feelings, words were often used. After a few years I tired of the literal aspect of this work, but fell in love with the segmented shapes, coarsely painted contours and jarring colors around the drawings, photos and words. This led to the next period – fragmented paintings. These paintings were done from sketches and photos, I felt I was on the brink of Modernity. Often I went back to academic painting, sometimes because they sold when we needed money others times because I loved to draw interesting people, could never resist the beauty of the human face or figure, my favorite artist are those that captured this, Valazquez can bring tears to my eyes.
Spent one year with a 27 year old neighbor as a model, 18 paintings and many drawings, she was a great model.
Then went back to a quasi- abstract style, still at times paint “realistic’ portraits, can’t help it, love drawing in this manner at times
The battle to “understand “art. Having been educated in academic elements and principles of design, worked at teaching myself to “read” contemporary art. Looking at art is by no means passive, requiring a concentration, an active participation on the part of the viewer, ideally the spectator enters into a compact with the artist. Time and study will create a dialogue between the work and the viewer. Basic valves with technology changes them but they remain and can still be used.
The cause of painting is more important than the result, a painting is an attempt at building a progression, each application of paint changes what is already there and also anticipates what the next stroke will be.
Multi-media brings a world of discovery and exploration in art. With today’s technology the assembled components; conjunctions are significant in constantly building the composition. This requires the viewer a considerable amount of work.
Robert Frost made a couple of profound statements one was something like; “If you want a challenge in life, choose to be artist” the other; “When you come to the fork in the road, choose the one less traveled on”.
Rejections are a disappointment, but serve a purpose, it’s an opportunity to evaluate and analyze.
It wasn’t always rejections there were a few National shows, several at the Academy’s Fellowship exhibits, State exhibits and regional shows that excepted my work and there were prizes.
Looking back on the past 60 years, I am not disappointed, but I do feel my accomplishments should have been more, I worked hard but even so there has been time and effort dissipated. There were periods of experimentation, when nothing happens. There are times one feels empty and sterile and everything done must be destroyed.
Spent my life gazing at great work of the venerable masters of the past and they still remain the source of my faith and inspiration.
There have been diversions, the world of rebellion and boundless freedom!!! Collage, expressionism, fragmentation, Cezanneism ( still trying to absorb that), cunning innovations, cerebral cults, aesthetic formula’s.
Perplexity overtakes me when I think about my aims in art.
It is a rewarding journey.
I am a small town person that enjoys living “where everybody knows my name”, meeting old friends at the Post Office or the Diner, mostly have the same conversation over and over, but you can feel the warmth and affection and enjoy distorted stories of the past.
So I settled back in Hometown U.S.A., a peasant son?
I saved and scrimped. For fifteen or so years I have been relying on cheap digital cameras and more recently, my cellphone to take photos. Point and shoots have come a long way, cellphones even more so. For casual photos, they suffice 99% of the time. Hell, I used an Olympus and later a Canon digital point and shoot for all of the photography I used in my newspaper, Inferno. Nine years, tens of thousand of images. Macro shots of coins and jewelry I sold on eBay. I really can’t complain.
But there comes a point you want more control, need more features, and with some shot you just cannot do it without a telephoto lens. I spent two months reading reviews, and researching websites and retailers. I didn’t want to spend a fortune – I could have drained my savings and bought twice the camera. This is the first time in my life I actually have a reserve of ready cash in the bank – money that I don’t touch except for emergency. I have a credit card that I use for small purchases and pay the balance off monthly. I am going to need a good credit rating eventually when I am ready to replace my truck.
So after all my research, I opted for the Canon EOS Rebel T5. I used to have three different 35mm Pentax SLR’s. I played with the idea of getting a Pentax. I worked for Canon USA for fourteen years, and so I have an affinity for the product line. Canon treated me well. I opted for Canon.
I had a full working darkroom. Some people wax nostalgic about those days – not me. Fuck chemicals, and processing fees and film and delayed gratification! I delayed my gratification long enough! I wanted full digital and the ability to experiment creatively without spending a ton of money on processing.
I bought a kit from Focus Photography through Amazon. The kit included the camera body, two lenses (18-55mm autofocus with image stabilization, and 75-300mm with autofocus) two batteries with charger, a Vivitar tripod, 32G memory card, three filters, slave flash, lens attachments (wide angle, telephoto and macro) lens and camera cleaning accessories, a camera bag, and a half dozen other accoutrements. And I didn’t have to take a second mortgage to afford it.
The next morning after my shipment arrived, Liz and I were on the Lost Dutchman Trail. I couldn’t wait to try out my new toy. It has full-automatic abilities – put your brain on hold and let the camera do all the work. All you have to do is worry about composition and shoot. That morning I used the automatic features and shot away.
I wasn’t worried about making creative shots. I recreated shots I have taken many times with my point and shoot. I chose a trail that was familiar – and was surprised to find petroglyphs I had missed on previous excursions. I am guessing these are trail marks lefts by the Spanish, and not by native tribes. This trail was used by the Spanish and Mexican miners over a hundred years ago.
This weekend I will get to play some more at the local rodeo, during the Lost Dutchman festival. I hope to get some good action shots. So far I am extremely satisfied with my purchase. The camera is user friendly, and anyone can pick it up and take acceptable photographs. And, it has all the features for the more experienced photographer. Just like riding a bicycle, I expect my experience with the all manual and mostly manual Pentax SLR cameras I owned in the past, I hope to be up to speed shortly.
The second unpublished story by Mo Pagano. We all know Mo’s history in Greenwich Village, his escapades in Atlantic City at the jazz halls, his career as a bricklayer, his time in the Army. Some even know about his short boxing career. This autobiographical account takes us way back to his high school days, playing football.
Mo, beside painting and writing stories and non-fictional articles, wrote prose and poetry. He frequently ended his story with a bit of prose, as is the case with this chapter, one of the last he wrote as far as I know.
I never played on the first team or the forth team; as a freshman there were only two that made the J.V. team, I was one and became part of a squad that in 1943 were group four, South Jersey champions. So I got to know and travel to games with champs
We had a coach that put players in positions by how they were built; back in the day football was a simple game, the single wing and the double wing, plays with odd numbers went to one side, even the other, zero was over the center. It was basic blocking in the right direction and playing both offense and defense. The tall thin guys were ends, the heavy bulky ones, tackles, the quick short stocky, guards, and a big tough bull was the center. The center had to pass the ball back through his legs then block, the opposition always put a man directly in front of him. The backs were chosen by their timing, speed and coordination and if one could throw a pass, that was a rare treasure and he was protected. I played High School football off and on for four years but never received a sweater letter “V”.
My downfall as a football player started in elementary school. I was 12 years old maybe the best running back on our small sandlot team that played area teams. We were playing a game within our own team when a car drove by with a middle-aged couple. The ball was left on the field, every player jumped on their bicycles or ran to this house down the street The middle-aged couple were foster parents of a girl that enjoyed sex or the popularity it gave her, I followed, took my turn. I DISCOVERED SEX !
In High School the coach selected me to play left end and was given the number 17. Had a great year, scored 9 touchdowns and got to make friends with players from county cities, expanded my world and sometimes got to meet their sisters and their female friends. We had a passer that threw a “soft” pass and it was easy to catch also we had an end-around play that let me run.
Our coach taught Algebra 1 but he was dedicated to football and winning. I sat in the back of the room, believe he thought I was related to John Pagano, who played for him in the late ‘30’s. John was an “A:” student, a Varsity football, basketball and baseball player. That wasn’t me! Anyway, he would not call on me unless I raised my hand and would come back before the class ended to discuss football plays with me so I didn’t learn much and paid for it with Algebra 2.
In my Sophomore year, still on the third team, started dating a few girls; it took money for movies, sweet shops and whatever. So I quit in mid- season and took a job at a clothing store to support my main interest. The coach still believed in me and would stop me in the hallways and talk to me say things like “Look at you, ducks ass hair cut, zoot suit, all that hair no wonder you can’t think, you belong out on the football field showing pride for your school”
“I’ll be there next year.”
The next year I was there. Made 2nd team ,played in every game except one. My father needed me to labor for him one weekend.
“I no givva a damn about ah football, you gotta worka fa me”
Got my Mother to call the coach and say I was sick.
I was the best defensive end on the team and whenever the passer had too much time he put me in. Once against Atlantic City, I crashed in, grabbed the passer by the face and threw him to the ground, 15 yard penalty, pulled me out of the game. Coach yelled; “You dummy you cost us 15 yards go sit at the end of the bench I don’t even wanna look at you!” The next play the boy that went in for me got punched in the face by their 220 pound tackle, they got a 15 yard penalty.
“See coach it’s O.K., we got it back.”
I was always put in the two minutes before half time and two minutes before the game’s end. One game I hid a small box of Wheaties and just before half time took it out for all to see, coach became furious. I didn’t get to play much that day
Senior year, a new coach; he had played under the previous coach and was just the opposite. With him it wasn’t all about winning, it was about building character. Keep it simple be a good student follow the rules.
“I’m not your other coach, go out for any position you want.” I hadn’t scored a touchdown since my freshman year so went out for halfback, didn’t know what I was doing, got the shit kicked out of me every time I got the ball, went back to left end. The team had too many ends and none could catch the ball. Our quarter back was an accurate passer but threw a hard spiral pass.
The new coach saw I was a competitive fighter and asked me to play guard.
“No way I wanna make touchdowns.”
Later as we got to know one another and he realized I was a loud-mouth, smart-ass, clown that detested all his rules, when he saw me veins would pop out of his head. He put me back on the scrimmage team.
Coach number one build this team, coach number two destroyed it. He had only a dozen plays. “ If everyone executes their job we will win.” He replaced good players with good obedient students. It could have been a championship team. We had a super quarterback, Gene Caterina; he could run and pass, made all-state and the award for best high school football player in South Jersey. Later after two years varsity at Temple University won the award for the best college player from South Jersey. I scrimmaged against him. Hard to tackle, so quick, so coordinated; once I committed he beat me. I learned to go for his waist and maybe drag him down. At best he was 5ft 9inches and 160 pounds. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but was cut, came home to play for a paid semi-pro team. Got $100.00 a game.
1946, Vineland High School, a special day; at assembly a red an gray woven for a sweater large “V” was presented every football player that played the required amount of quarters in varsity games.
It was my senior year. I expected to receive a letter, not because I played on the varsity team but because I had participated as a player for four years. It was an unwritten rule (we called it the Howard Fraley letter, he played on the forth team for four years and was awarded a letter). All names were called – not mine.
In those days Newfield students rode the train to and from school. When we were all seated and the train was moving, my fellow Newfield students left me and went to the front of the passenger car and sang the Vineland High Alma-Mater. Howard Smith, the teams starting halfback stood up and pretended to be the school principle, introduced “coach” Frank Mangino, a junior who had already three varsity letters. Frank called my name and presented me with his letter; proclaiming I earned and deserved it. I took it and laughed but when I got home a tear fell. I treasure that red and gray letter more than any coach Testa or Vineland High School could have given me. IT’S SPECIAL !
Now you know coach number two’s name, coach number one’s was Dallalio.
Dallalio was all about winning. He built winning teams and his record shows it. He played end at Georgetown where he was also an outstanding baseball pitcher. Dallalio was very dramatic, loud, caustic and sarcastic but it was quickly forgotten if he needed you to win. I liked to mess with him. His big fault was he played his best players even when they were injured, destroyed some careers because of this. A tough fullback came out of the game with his shoulder hanging out of the socket, coach called him “SISSY“, another good back broke his arm broke his arm below the elbow in the 3rd quarter; they taped it up and put him back in to complete the game”. If he had a good passer, no one could touch him in practice but when he was the baseball manger and had a good pitcher, he put him in every game. In a game when they started hitting the starting pitcher, manger tossed the ball to his best pitcher, “Here get in there.”
“No way I pitched yesterday.”
“You Prima Donna, I pitched double headers.”
“That’s why you threw me the ball underhand.”
There were at least a dozen new plays to learn every week for the next game at the end of year the players learned a hundred plays. Coach Dallalio didn’t care if you played “dirty”, got angry only if you got caught.
Coach Testa was a religious man. He liked to win but was more concerned with the discipline of a team sport and making one a better person. He favored good students that followed the rules and had a problem with good players that were not obedient and questioned, a guard quit the team, a running back transferred to another school and excelled there and Mo went down to the 3rd team again, but as a senior could not play in J.V. games, hung in, scrimmaged every night and “broke the coach’s balls” and watched him walk away with veins popping out of his forehead. I teased but had great respect for him. He was what I could never be, an excellent football player, a running back at Temple University on the only team Temple brought to a Bowl Game. Later he and I met in stores or wherever and had healthy conversations, he was an honest man and surprisingly kept up with what and how I was doing.
He gave his team a dozen plays and that was it,” If everyone does their job we win”. If you played dirty for coach Testa you were off the team. Think he lost more games than he won, after a few years he became Athletic Director.
I had to go back to school, half a day for half a year to make up credits to graduate so I became a member of the class of ‘48, knew them all well. Was eligible even to play football but chose to play with a semi-pro team, The Vineland Eagles.
Went to every High School home game that year, my hometown boyhood friend was the best player on that team.
Long before the Chicago Bears had the “refrigerator” Vineland High School had it’s own “refrigerator”. It was in the season of 1947. The ‘47 yearbook reads “ Then came the Bridgeton game. The Bridgeton fans and their team expected to see a slaughter they came in droves. The final score was Bridgeton on the long end of a 15-12 count but the red and gray put up on of the greatest battles ever seen on Gittone Field, coming nearest toward spoiling Bridgeton’s undefeated season.”
It is easy as time passes to over do the performance of one football player and they may become a legendary name but in my mind it is safe to state that no one else ever played as inspired as even he had been able to surpass. After truly remarkable achievements on both offense and defense as a lineman, coach Danny Testa allowed him to carry the ball as a fullback. I believe this was a way of Mr. Testa thanking Frank for his superior efforts, a tribute. There was a resounding ovation from all the fans as Frank barreled into Bridgeton’s defense for gains time after time.
Frank Mangino has never been taken lightly to us that watched him play sports or knew him.
He was seriously injured in his Freshman year at the University of Delaware. He said they put him in a flat wooden wheel barrow and wheeled him off the field.
Semi -pro. The Millville Blues had dis-banded, So the Vineland Eagles was made up of players from both cities and was a winning team. The teams we played against were never scouted so we depended on the plays we had, and they were good. Our coach was a lineman from Villanova, assistant coach a running back out of Notre Dame.
We were paid by splitting up the gate money and had sponsor’s to buy our equipment. Made as little as $5.00, on away games, we got a contract and a fixed amount, most we ever made was once $25.00. Always felt the men in charge of the team’s business skimmed some off the top.
I went to play end and was a substitute the first year, the first string ends were Bert Gullock, who played on the 1943 South Jersey championship team and Dick Harris starter on Vineland’s legendary 1939 team, undefeated and only scored on once., he was unbelievable, long stride, deceptive speed, large hands and any ball he could touch HE CAUGHT.
The coach seeing that I wasn’t much or a receiver, asked me if would play guard, after watching Dick Harris,“ YES“. Coach Testa had the last laugh. After going to Church in the morning he came to everyone of our games, many of our players played for him. He motivated me, I had to show him I was good, played hard and had outstanding games, got good write-ups in the local paper but still at times a clown, the fans liked that, the sports writer named me “the peoples choice”.
We compiled an impressive record in 1947 season, winning 9- losing 2.
Then my last game, our county rival the Bridgeton Indians. It was late in the season of 1948. The Indians were coached by Bob Deuber, the fleet-footed touchdown ace of the University of Pennsylvania and mentioned for All America until a track injury put him on the sidelines that season. The game was close and he put himself in at the forth quarter.
For me that game was WWIII, face to face with Sam Scafidi, who once played with a minor league professional team, a short , stocky, tough, proud man; he was stronger but I was quicker and beat him many times. All through the first half we punched each other, no face masks in those days, threw dirt in one another’s face, even kicked if no Referee was around. At half time he unscrewed his rubber cleats and left just the metal screws, I made a tackle down field, was on my back, he jumped on both my legs, holes in my legs left me paralyzed, was carried off the field in a stretcher. Doctor cleaned the wounds with alcohol wrapped my legs and in a little while went back in the game.
We lost the game in the final minutes with a 35 yard pass, 6 to 0.
I spent the next week in bed, in pain, keeping the sores from becoming infected. Missed a weeks pay.
Never played football again.
Ten years later developed blood clots in my legs, the Pathologist said they were caused by this injury.
That was the title of Mo’s regular feature of a column in Inferno, the newspaper I published for seven years. Mo never missed a deadline. That column became a book. After the demise of the newspaper, Mo still had the writing bug. He went on to wrote two more books. He was working on a fourth. Up until the end he never ceased painting and writing.
As promised, here is one of his unpublished stories in its slightly edited (spelling, punctuation and grammar only) glory.
We were members of bricklayers local #7, Camden N.J. I write “we” because there were seven from my family in that local at the same time, three generations: my father, two uncles, me, my brother, a cousin and my nephew. Had another cousin that lived in Vineland and belonged to that local, number 40. Our local’s jurisdiction was Camden, Gloucester, Salem and part of Atlantic Counties.
I became a member in November, 1951.The large majority of the membership were Irish-American from Gloucester City N.J. and were in control. They had enough votes to elect their chosen Business Agent. Members voted every two years. When I joined the union, Earl Richards was the Agent for more than 16 years. I thought he was fair and knew how to deal with both workers and contractors, but a large group of Italian-Americans, mostly of the immigrant generation thought that he favored his Irish friends and slighted them.
It was a good thing at the time to have an Irish Business Agent because most of the union contractors were Irish, J.B. Kelly, McShain, McCloskey and others. It probably helped communications.
The immigrants had a cause, but a major problem was language; it was difficult for Italians to learn and even if they did it was always with a strong accent. Italian vowels are always pronounced in the same way.
The sounds of the vowels are:
a as in await
e as in every
i as in igloo
o as in open
u as in duet.
In the English they have many different sounds. This may be a reason they had a hard time getting into a union. Written test were given, they were hard tests, even the members already in the union could not pass them and most Italians although skilled mechanics had little education could not even read, some could only write their name. These same tests were given later to keep Negro’s out of the union. One of the ways for Italians to become union members was to do as my father did; find a town or city that had a local in a nearby state that had a dominate Italian population, join that local and then transfer. The International card was good in all the United States and Canada. Some bricklayers traveled and went to the states where there was work.
The immigrant bricklayers were usually very skilled and did good work, but in Italy they were not only bricklayers but stonemasons, plasterers, tile setters and concrete finishers. While hard workers, they were not trained for the mass fast production of the U.S.A. Here the trades were separate, our local was only bricklayers and stonemasons, plasterers , cement finishers and tile setters had their own locals. Some adjusted but some still did excellent work but slow. I was on a job when one of these men was hired his work was near perfect, at the end of the day he was laid off; the foreman said: “I hired a bricklayer not an artist“. In contrast the best bricklayer I ever worked with, maybe the best in our local was of this generation, Giacomo Cichetti. “Jack“, born in Calabria, came to the United States as a young man and spoke English without an accent, he was quality and quantity. The saying was; “He has a level in his eyes and a plumb rule in his hands”. No one did more or better work.
On election night the older Italian bricklayers before the meeting would meet at a nearby house and discuss how to get an Italian-American member into some office. My uncle Tom got voted in as secretary, but he took the “O” from the end of his name and became a active Mason, so was of no value to the cause. Anyway he later became a contractor and hired mostly other Masons,
Then later they discovered a very bright and popular young member and with a block vote he became secretary. He was an excellent secretary and a popular member.
After W.W.11, there were trade schools for Veterans with the G.I. Bill, one was bricklaying. Many after completing the course joined the union. As a result the majority of our local became Italian- Americans and we voted the choice of the older Italians as business-agent and he was good, protected and fought for the workers but was a gambling addict and took some money from our union to bet on horses. He got caught. Was banished from his job, had to pay all the money back and could never hold a union office again. He became a foreman with a local contractor. He was smart enough to groom a pro-te`ge` Joseph DiRenzo, the best agent we ever had, fair, honest and a fighter for worker’s rights. He remained in office until his death in 2008.
Joe had some foresight to the future, so sometimes he made a deal where we took something in our benefits instead of a pay raise. Some members complained; the best example I remember was a shop man for J.B.Kelly. He got up at one meeting and in a loud voice shouted; “I DON’T NEED A GODDAMN UNION TO TAKE CARE OF MY MONEY, PUT IT IN MY PAYCHECK”. When he died, he was without any money. The union insurance paid for his burial.
Bricklaying was hard and competitive work. It started with the low bidder getting the contract, he had to make a profit on workers’ production. The general contractor could make a profit on paper with sub-contractors bidding lower than their bids. All contractors kept skilled hard workers (shop men), most kept bricklayers from different locals so they could use these men as union stewards so not to get one from the hall, sometimes the business agent would not allow it, depended on who it was. But the contractor always hired men from whatever local they had the job. One of their favorite things was if the needed one man call the hall for three, before the day was over two were laid off and they kept the one they liked. The union rule was the bricklayer had to be paid for two hours, often a worker was laid off after only two hours. Smart contractors put their foreman on incentive programs so at Christmas their bonus was based on the profit they made on the job they ran. As a result they found ways to get the most from the workers. One of these was after the corner builder got only a few courses on, put the line gang on the wall so the corner man had to work quickly to stay ahead of the line burners, if the men working the wall did not like the corner man when the corner grew small near the top they would pull the line so hard it would topple down some of the corner, this happened to me only once; another foreman, if he had competitive men, put them on corners same time and let them race.
J.B. Kelly had a road superintendent, “Dutch” Henry; he came on the job about 3 or 3:30 with a pocket full of money. If he saw someone not working they were laid off and paid off with cash on the spot. I saw a laborer, that saw Dutch Henry’s car approaching take a wheelbarrow out of another man’s hands. One of his favorite tricks was to fire one of the best bricklayers in front of the men, then in private as he was leaving tell him he was not laid off but to report to another job site in the morning.
The job of the shop steward was to work like every other bricklayer, but to make sure working conditions were safe and union rules were followed. He also collected union dues from each member at the end of the week; he was given time for this. I was a steward many times, most of the times the problems were easily worked out. There was only one time I stopped a job. The section we were to work on was two scaffolds high loaded with pallets of bricks and full mortar pans. The legs of the scaffolds were leveled off with 4 inch HOLLOW blocks, “No one git up on that scaffold, it’s not safe”
“You son of a bitch, I’ve run jobs for 30 years, I know to build a scaffold”
“Fuck you, Nobody go to work.”
Called the hall, Agent came out, said it was not safe, held the job up for hours until the scaffolding was done properly and safe.
That foreman never hired me again and gave me the worst spots to work on that job.
After all the other building trades had a coffee break, we voted one in, 10 minutes at 10 A.M. The big contractors were 100% union and went by the book, a laborer took your order, coffee only, no pastry, no sandwiches and you drank it in place after 10 minutes a whistle blew, back to work. With most of the smaller contractors that were mostly family and friends, we could go down to coffee truck, order what we wanted, sit on a block and talk for 10 or 15 minutes.
While it was usually less tense with the smaller contractors they were sometimes not reliable, some would hold back on paying pension and welfare funds to leave the money in the bank for the interest. Others kept two sets of books and paid their relatives and friends less than union wages.
One contractor would go back to his Village in Italy, recruit good mason’s, bring them here, pay them way under scale.
I was lucky enough to work for two of the best “family and friends” contractors, Romeo Gelsi inc. and Contarino Brothers Inc., I became “family”. They were both fair and never reneged on union bylaws.
Romeo was a union bricklayer that went into business with a friend and they did house building. He decided to expand and do commercial work, his partner did not agree, they separated. He got a school contract in our local, hired out of the hall and tried to run the job but he overloaded his ass and didn’t know what to do, showed the prints to one of the workers, Jake Zimmer; he read the blueprint with ease, (part of the apprentice program is blueprint reading) Romeo handed him the prints “ Here you are now foreman”. Jake was his foreman and he was a good one. He made a profit on every job.
My first job with them was a small school in Vineland, it was a crew of maybe 6 bricklayers, across the street was a bar, at coffee break a laborer came to me;” What ya want”
“Coffee and a bun “
“I ain’t goin’ to a god dam diner, goin’ to the bar”
“Get me a Bud and a packet of peanuts”
Some days Romeo would come on the job near noon and take us to the bar for lunch.
There were times when he needed work at his home, we would do it, he paid us union wages and we drank and his wife, Vange would cook a super lunch for us; family! He was awarded a big school contract and had to hire more men then the ”family”. As Romeo approached the job a bricklayer said to him “Mr. Gelsi, those men are drinking up there” Romeo said nothing, then went up to Jake; “Find out who that guy is and lay him off”.
Drinking on the job is against union rules this includes lunch time.
Both Romeo and Jake were heavy drinkers but drinking on the job was rare. I worked a job for Mobil; their security went into to the parking lot at lunch time, took every one’s name that had an open beer in their truck or car, took it to the contractor, ALL WERE FIRED.
One last Gelsi story, the superintendent on the Cumberland County College said to Jake “I saw the bricklayer up there drinking beer”
“He is one of my best workers, find out what kind he’s drinking , I’ll get it for the other men maybe they’ll do as much work as he does”.
Contarino brothers, don’t know how many there were, I worked with at least ten. Didn’t know their father but he must have had the world’s greatest sperm because his children were all physically strong and mentally alert.
The father was married twice so there was one family my age and older, another a few years younger but they were family oriented and loyal. I had a good rapport with all members of this family, even though all had strong individual personalities.
The father had a non- union house building business established and had his children work with him. When he retired, the boys decided to go union and bid on commercial jobs. But they came in to the union with an attitude, being Sicilian they did not trust any organization but with their “smarts” it was lets wait and see. When they got some men from the hall that served three years apprenticeship and could easily read blueprints and knew how to organize a job not to waste moves and time. They hired them as foreman and learned from them when they ran jobs. In a short time they became 100% union and prospered.
With most contractors, one was a “number” but with them if you worked hard and did good work, you were treated with respect and greeted with personal warmth and consideration. They knew who you were and where you lived, if they got a job near you, you were sent there.
They enjoyed me being an artist and in winter, with the cold weather when we only worked only a few days a week, sometimes just hours, they would lay my off so I could collect unemployment.
“Go home and paint, call us when the weather breaks”
I would call them in the spring; “Good go to this job”. Then I would call my agent, he was a friend but scolded me for not calling him first, then would laugh and say “O.K”
They did not always have work for me so often have to work for other contractors and I would quit them when an overtime fire brick, Glass factory job came around.” Money makes the world go ‘round”. But Contarino Brothers Inc. was the best shop; the foreman, laborers, bricklayers, family were friends and like a all good friends we at times had our conflicts. They were always settled with “family respect”.
Bricklaying is different than other building trades, in most, one measures for whatever point they must meet and they cut the material at that measurement but with small units like bricks you have to make the measurements by adding or subtracting on each course. Example; if an inch had to be made up to reach a height and the brick laid up at 2 ½ inches and you had 16 courses, you would lay the brick up at 2 and 9/16ths and in 16 courses the inch would be made up..
One would think bricklaying could be boring, laying these little units, one on top of two, one on top of two. But it is the opposite, there is constant problem solving. All bricks are different, some soak the moisture and the mortar cannot be spread to far ahead, others dry slowly and move even sink with the weight of the brick on top of them. The bricklayer must constantly be conscious of the weather, can’t work the same when it is damp as on hot dry days. I remember a job in winter that the bricks would not absorb and if you built an corner or lead plumb, it would move forward out of plumb. A clever bricklayer decided to build his lead and lean it in. It fell backwards. On that same job, I was building columns I would go six courses , slowly, eyeing every brick, never using my level then moved to the next column, same thing then after a few hours when they set, go back and plumb them. Some the next day.
Another thing that kept the trade interesting was we worked with many different bonds. Bonds is the matter of overlapping for the construction of a wall. They are made up of stretchers, a length wise brick and headers, the brick in width-wise. Some bonds are English bond, Stretcher bond, Flemish bond, American common bond; a really interesting one was Ideal bond sometimes called Rat-Trap bond, it is laid by placing bricks on their sides having a cavity of 4 with alternate course of stretchers and headers. Then there were Paver bonds and patterns, Herring bone, Basket weave, Running bond.
Masonry is a tradition in our family, my Grandfather was a stone mason for the rail road in Italy, he taught my father the trade, my father taught his younger brothers. Uncle Anselmo was a bricklayer and stone-mason, Uncle Gaetano (Tom) was a bricklayer, foreman and contractor and they taught my generation and we taught my nephew Ron.
There was great pride taken in one’s skills with the immigrant generation there was as much respect for a skilled mechanic as there was for a teacher, doctor or lawyer. Bricklayers wore white overalls, my uncle Tom as a foreman went to work with white shirt, white jeans and a black leather bow tie. White being the color of mortar did not show on your clothes, they even oiled their shoes so the mortar wouldn’t stick on them and show, to be a dirty bricklayer was a disgrace. I did this, my agent said “No mortar on your shoes, are you ashamed to show you’re a bricklayer”. My nephew Ron said “I throw mortar on my shoes, it makes the foreman think I’m working hard”
After the 1950’s there were changes, technology and an attitude changed things. Tradition was abandoned. When I learned, everything was done with hand tools, the bricks were solid. In our tool bag we carried 3 chisels – a point, 1 inch, a 2 inch and a 4 inch closure, and a mash hammer to cut the brick. Now they have a saw and even a ruler that has brick courses marked on it.
I was old school, even was taught to put a board, a nail and a string to mark how to cut each brick for an arch to make all the mortar joints the same width. The last arch I built came already cut in a box.
This could be the story of my life, in bricklaying I was taught the traditional, in painting I had an academic training.
Two of my favorite quotes about bricklaying: Mario Contarino,, a college graduate;” It was much easier getting a college degree than being a good bricklayer”, the other is from J.B.Kelly; ”We never laid a non-union brick.”
I first met Mo Pagano at an exhibition at the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts. I was on the board of directors of the foundling community arts center. The only thing I knew about Mo at the time is that he was a contemporary of Pat Witt.
Mo’s wife, Elizabeth, had recently passed. She had been very ill, and he had devoted his life to taking care of her. That was a full time occupation. With Elizabeth’s passing, Mo was lost. His entire life had revolved around her, and he had lost contact with old friends, outlived others, and had all but forsaken his first love of painting.
This entry into the exhibition was the first in a long time, but not to be his last. Mo fit in with our eclectic band of misfits – artists and musicians, ages 18 to 80 – and we began to invite him out to our soiree’s. Mo entertained with stories of his life and of the early times at PatWitt’s Barn Studio – much of which he later admitted was apocryphal. He enjoyed spinning a good yarn.
Mo touched the life of everyone he met – and he relished the role of “dirty old man” which he played up to the hilt. He told me often how much he like being old, because he could get away with saying things that a younger person could not say, and be excused due to his age. Liz ad I called him “Old Man”, and he promised me that one day he would “piss on my grave.” That probably won’t happen.
Fast forward many years:
I had begun publication of a local underground arts newspaper. I was recruiting a stable of writers and contributors willing to work for the privilege of having their name in print. mo was a regular with his feature, “Mo Knows”. He wrote abut art, jazz, Greenwich Village in the 50’s, Atlantic City during the heyday of jazz, and whatever he felt like writing about. That series of articles eventually morphed into a book, “Mo Knows”.
Mo put us all to shame with his work ethic, spending entire nights in his studio, producing a prolific output of paintings. Somehow he found time to continue writing. Short stories, memoirs, and they became two more books. “Everybody has a Book” was his autobiography. The book is written as if he were sitting there, telling you. I can still hear his cackle when he said something he found humorous.
“Short Stories – some shorter than others” is an amalgam of anecdotes and tales where he really cuts loose. Many of the themes are adult in nature, and the language less reserved or cautious. All three books are available on Amazon.com.
Two years ago, Mo began work on a third book. I have three of his stories intended for the new book, a book which unfortunately will not see light of day. I will post his last three stories here in the future. He wrote them to be read and shared. Mo is in the hospital. A recent surgery led to complications, he is on morphine to keep him comfortable. He has had a lot of visitors, and even though they say he is asleep, I sense the old man hears them and appreciates them. And if he had anything to say about his life, he would say “Good times!”
This is my latest completed painting – Arizona Sunset. And yes, we do have sunsets that look like this – well, in an impressionistic sort of way. It was my gift to my niece at her wedding. Well, not really my niece. She was married to Liz’s nephew, and to make things uncomplicated when we meet new people they call me their uncle and I call them my nephew and niece. Because then we would have to explain that Liz and I are not married, we let people assume what they will. Then we would have to explain that Mike and Tami are divorced for many years, even though until last year they lived together and remain best of friends. Anyway…
Yesterday we attended Tami and Patsy’s wedding. Mike joined the Universal Life Church at the same time as I did, for the sole purpose of performing weddings. We are in the company of the likes of Bryan Cranston, Richard Branson, Sir Ian McKellen and Conan O’Brien. Mike joined to marry his ex-wife, but this time without the commitment. I joined – well simply to be able to tell people I am an ordained minister.
I was disappointed to hear the wedding was going to be dry. I assume that is due to either persons on probation not being allowed to be at an event at which alcohol is served. There may have been other issues – but at least none of them were Mormons. We found a work-around – red Solo cups! Mike’s place is right around the corner from the hall they used for the wedding, and he stocked his liquor cabinet with hard liquor. Jameson for me, Bullit bourbon and Coke for Liz, gin and tonic for Mike and his sons.
The ceremony was very traditional – the candle ceremony, the cutting of the cake, and the food fight between the bride and bride, first dance and all that. Mike altered the ceremony to fit the circumstances, the brides exchanged their own written vows – I wasn’t sure what to expect since this was my first gay wedding.
Tami’s brother-in-law Tom and I did severe damage to the fifth of Jameson. Both brides had the support of their families, which was very good to see – Tami’s family has always been supportive of her lifestyle, and it was good to see Patsy had what I hope is the same acceptance.
Everyone retired back to Mike’s place after the wedding – including the brides. We did more damage to the liquor. And best of all, Liz and I were able to make it back home in time for the season premier of The Walking Dead!
Yesterday. a Millville, NJ icon went out in a blaze of glory. Gil passed a year ago. and the bar had been shuttered for several years. Gil allowed the license to lapse rather than to sell it for less than he thought it was worth. It was sort of a thumbing of his nose to the big chains that were coming into town and buying up the licenses for their sterile corporate boxes, I imagine.
John’s Place went out with one helleva party – I was there – and is now home to the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Ottos went out with a whimper – and I here the building is soon to be razed. An inglorious end to a Millville original. I was at Otto’s on the last day, too. Are we noticing a pattern here?
I wasn’t at Gil Bear’s on the final day. I don’t know if anyone was – he opened and closed when he pleased.
Yesterday, about 11AM Arizona time, a friend from Millville posted the pics of Gil Bear’s with smoke pouring out between the first and second floor of the wood frame building. I knew from that initial photo that the building would be a total loss. Three alarm fire, with all of the local fire departments on the scene, another friend, Ed Schwegel, caught what I believe to be the only video of Gil Bear’s collapsing as the gas main exploded. Hopefully the link below works for you – Facebook can be temperamental.
Gil’s was one of those bars that flew under the radar. It was a quiet bar for a shot and a beer on a Saturday afternoon. There were three dart boards for tournaments. Pool tables. And on a slow day Gil Bear would share stories of Millville’s sordid past – naming names and giving background information that otherwise had been forgotten over the years. Stories of Leon behind the Levoy Theater, of a Finch cahaining himself to a tree on an islet on the Maurice River downstream of Kerr Glass, of Carlton the Ice Man breaking into City Liquor, and getting drunk on Boone’s Farm and falling asleep on the floor.
Gil Bear’s didn’t have the notoriety of John’s Place, was not known for the misogyny of Otto’s Bar. It wasn’t Kirby’s with the coke in the men’s room and bar fights in the parking lot. It wasn’t The Pond, nor Larry’s. It was nondescript, a neighborhood bar, a safe haven for a quiet afternoon, for a game of pool, for good conversation. It was a working class blue collar bar. There are fewer and fewer of them in Millville.
So here is too Gil Bear’s! RIP Gil, and RIP Gil Bear’s.