Snow Was My Grandfather's Passion
He was in charge of getting rid it and wasn't shy about getting the job done.
Shoveling snow and spreading salt, as I did this morning, always brings back thoughts of my paternal grandfather.
Grandpa didn't think much of snow. We didn't go sledding or build snowmen together.
My grandfather was a New York City Dept. of Sanitation borough supervisor. Therefore, his job in the 1940s, '50s and into the '60s, was to get rid of snow. Quickly.
And he wasn't shy about it. We lived in a Brooklyn brownstone above my grandparents. The walk and stoop (stairs) were shoveled and salted before dawn.
Grandpa would wake my father up at 4:30 a.m. on snowy weekdays, reminding him to "get an early start."
I was informed that my grandfather wasn't the easiest boss. For example, when the garbage trucks were full, one crew member drove the truck to the dump in Staten Island, while the other two crew members went for coffee.
Grandpa didn't appreciate wasting time. He invented the "relay" system, instructing the crew to call in when the garbage truck was full. He then dispatched an empty truck to pick up the crew and keep working. It wasn't received well by the rank-and-file.
My father once said union representatives wore out a path to my grandfather's office door. I believe that. I also believe the story about a large rank-and-file celebration upon my grandfather's retirement.
I distinctly recollect a phone call from him one winter day in the late 1980s, when I worked in the New York City financial district. That was Grandpa's old "territory."
He'd retired to a southern state by then and was watching news reports of a New York City snowstorm.
The conversation went something like this:
"Hey Tom. How are the streets up there?"
"They look fine to me, Grandpa."
"Is the blacktop showing?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"I remember trying to plow those streets. They're too narrow. We had to use the front loaders and dump it all in the river. I had those streets melted and the blacktop showing by 8 a.m."
"Okay. Sounds good. Well we're fine here. Gotta run. Love ya."
The old man just couldn't let go of the sanitation job he loved for so many decades. It was an entry-level job he took as a young immigrant and he rose through the ranks. He was proud of his work until the day he passed away in the early 1990s, a couple of days before Christmas.
I would have given anything to have him back earlier this month to listen to his reaction about the problems the New York City Dept. of Sanitation endured with the recent 30-inch snowfall.
I can hear his voice in my head, telling me everything they did wrong and how he'd like to be back running things. He'd set them straight, all right.
Sadly, I searched this morning for a photo of my grandfather this morning to post with this story. I can't locate it.
But, every time it snows, I remember. Boy, do I remember. And I miss him even more.