Interview with Dominick Cinotti
Is Part Of
Broome County Oral History Project
Interview with: Dominick Cinotti
Interviewed by: Nettie Politylo
Date of interview: 8 June 1978
Nettie: Dominick, will you give me some recollections of Endicott, please?
Dominick: Well, I can start with my grandfather when he had first come here the first time—and ah—two of his older boys, my father and my Uncle Dan—ah—they usually came to pay some debt off—you know—in the old country or to make things better for 'em at the time, and ah—
When they got here, my grandfather was always telling stories about how they had to, ah—get from one section to another and depend on the railroad, you know, to get them there, either by hand cars or hop rides. Most of the time—[chimes ring]—they’re these, they were what they call section hands—like, between Apalachin, Vestal and into Lestershire where it crossed the Susquehanna River—time, most of this was done, as I say, with a hand car. If they had to get up there, usually on Sundays for Mass, they would start either from Apalachin or Vestal all the way to Lestershire on Main Street, Johnson City, ah—St. James Church—is the one—was the only Catholic church around, I guess, at the time, outside of Binghamton, and ah—they would go back and forth and there was stories, like sometimes, if they happen to walk the rails there and there were two fast freights or whatever coming through—they would have to stand sideways and just about be blown off the track and miss. That's one of his favorite stories, and how he could’ve gotten killed—and ah—there was quite a few accidents that way there—you know—you never watch them because when the trains would pile down on you. I remember—well, something that just came to my mind now, like our Oak Hill Ave. crossing was very dangerous—with the same effect there—cars were becoming numerous, and there was—later on they had watchman going on there—and ah—then there was quite a few accidents—you know—just by these darn crossings at the time, which was another thing—at the, say—ah—like they had to get from different places, and they spent time on the Lehigh railroad, which was another one between Owego, Newark Valley and Ithaca, and this Ithaca, there was a small town they would call Caroline—I guess it's still there today, outside, it’s between Richford and Ithaca—I guess, when you get off that area—there's been stories of these railroads—this is long before Endicott even existed, I guess, you know, a few years.
It might’ve been a trip back to the old country that they would come back, because I guess they would try and the money ran out and they would try and get and make a life for themselves. So, with the two boys when they got interested in this and that. I remember my grandfather working on Washington Ave., and I mentioned the casino, I think, there they used to—call was put out by the, what they called “The Binghamton Railway Company” at one time, and they did this so they could get people to ride the trolley cars, which was another fascinating thing, you know, trolleys between Binghamton and all the way down to Ideal Park. Everything—you know at the time—there, before Endicott Johnson there, they had a pavilion that I could remember. The funny thing about these pavilion attractions, they had mirrors that would be squatty or elongated—I guess every kid in the Endicott area would remember this stuff. Well, going back to my grandfather, and my uncle and my father, when they first started to build Washington Avenue, it started from scratch—which was meadowland—and then they put that street in—originally Washington Avenue, the business section was supposed to be McKinley Ave.—this is why McKinley Ave. is wider than any other streets—coming through there, and this, the trolley tracks were supposed to come up to the North Side—believe or not—over that viaduct they had there—it was the only viaduct, I just remember that—so they did put the business district more to the west than it happened to be—ah—Washington Ave.—they ran that spur right down Washington Ave.—trolley spur would go all the way into McKinley Ave., and that was it. About that time is where, this was where IBM or the original Bundy was being built then—my uncle, I remember one of them, was running wheelbarrows up the second floor and up to the sections there, just loaded down—where they could just put that concrete up—it was all done by hand at the time—this is the way he always mentioned, you know, about working on these darn planks—a lot of people—just a lot of wheelbarrows would just hurl down—because they couldn't make it, and this is the original IBM—if you say, this is a little off the corner—wasn't really on North Street, just a little further in—then across, where the Laboratory is now, in the building there, there was a Peerless Dairy—I guess at the time—that, I guess most of the kids could remember that part of that burned down at one time, and then along North St., I remember, there was a old garage, they used to fix cars there in that section—but that is all changed now. In fact, I'd say—Endicott today, if it ever got any bigger there I'd wouldn't like it—I don't think, most of the natives don't. It's getting to be like a city—traffic—whole Triple Cities area. More people are finding it's a good way of life here, especially the New York City people. In fact, I think I'm responsible for a couple of doctors moving in this area. My brother gave me a call from Georgetown, once, right before graduation. There was a white doctor, so as to speak—reason I say “white,” because Wilson Memorial was getting all these foreign, Indians, and—not Koreans, but in that Filipino like the rest of these two—come up and intern so—ah—Ernie called me up one afternoon, he said, "Show them the Triple Cities," which I did, you know—and he liked it. He was from Staten Island—he had a child—and his wife was ready for another one, I guess, and he was graduating and he took one look at this area, from Staten Island, you know, he liked it very much. He's a prominent doctor—physician, in fact he went right into EJ—went into residence, he's a good internist now—his name is Dr. Ponterio, and he came up because through, my brother would tell him stories about the Triple Cities, and through him—there's been another doctor—another dentist, I guess, was Dr. Cargoza, that came right up from that Staten Island area, so you can see the influx of the Triple Cities—by these city physicians and professional men that are getting out of New York City—to come up in this area. That's very prominent—I noticed—oh—what else can I say?
Can I talk about, about EJ? Now I'll start right in. The way we started off with EJ—I know I spent 47 years with the company. I can say that we were treated fairly well—outside the knowledge—that people—you know that they might knock the company. I can say for their medical program, and if it wasn't for Endicott Johnson, I guess, I, because my father died young—I was left with two sisters, two brothers and a mother. During the Depression there—we had a hard time—through this EJ Medical program, you know, you couldn't really look for a job in any way—then most of the people in the area, you know, it was a program, free dental, free medicine. In fact, I know people who were flown down to St. John Hopkins—then they had something like, well, TB, was years ago very prominent, if you will recall. They even had a place outside of Saranac Lake, over there, where they used to send workers, which was quite prevalent—I'd say, where some of the workers were down there—it was nothing to spend thousands of dollars on them—whatever it was. I remember one case—I'd say, a girl on Murphy Ave—wasn't it? Or somewhere where a young girl was burned almost—I'd say about 60% of her body, and it was through plastic surgery—thousands, thousands of dollars—on these hospitals—it’s things like this that are unheard of—I know it will pass through records—you know, people will forget very easily.
Well, say, well, when my father first come—we'll get right back to, ah—the way they built their house—was on Endicott Johnson. Now this is before they gave EJ homes—I mean—before they got that started—they gave away land, and through Endicott Land Company. Outside corner lots—you had to pay $100 per corner lot—anything else was free—we lived at Odell Ave., behind the school near Witherill St. When I was born in Italy—I was about eight or nine months old, and my mother, when we came here—my father was already building the house on Odell Ave., which went down after a while, I guess, after many years my mother was very sorry about that—to see the house go down because they had to have a playground for the kids.
Well, the only thing we had to play on rocks really—on the side of the school—North Side School—before they built it. I know I was saying something about Marko's having a window there—it was a good target for baseball or football or anything, and this window, you know, being broken—say—times everything—that was my cousin, my brother and another boy—we had to split this charge about, I'd say about 13-something a piece to pay for the window—this Marko, he was a, he had a heart of gold but he could only do so much. He was very good about it—I remember him knocking on the door and he said, "Dom, I know it was your brother”—you know, everything like this and that—“You want to pay for the window? I just can't get any more insurance.” That was a week's pay as far as we were concerned—stuff like this. If you want to ask me anything else—possibly how we entertained ourselves?
Nettie: I think that would be interesting—how you entertained yourself.
Dominick: At the time, we used to play dankeeper [sic]—and I wouldn't tell kids today, they had to open water tanks—that is something else I remember—follow the arrow—they used to have a ladder, and iron ladder, going up these things, and we'd start swinging around these darn ladders that go into the inside of these things they are 30-40 feet deep. We'd go down the ladder—we’d have to follow the arrow and cross it off and come up the ladder and swing around and follow the arrow down and see—and these are well protected. We just used to shimmy up old low wooden things that we used to hide—and they had a door, we never broke the lock on the door, but we used to go over it and get down and things like that—you often wonder today.
For Halloween—we used to take rosin and a piece of string and, say, about 150 feet or so away from the house, and attach with a rubber washer and a screw—make a lot of noise, and that was the—oh—that was the—thank God—I didn't say about the entertainments and our curfew—which was another, and they took off the list. Maybe it is still a law as far as Endicott is concerned—it might be still on the record.
A nine o'clock curfew—going down to the movie, I'll never forget. There were six of us on our street and our parents wanted to impress us, I guess, about this Dante's Inferno. We all went down to Washington Ave., and we got into that movie—it was about 6 o'clock at night, and we never realized the movie was long, it can happen with—I can still remember the time because it was a little after we used to have the town clock there—it was about ten after nine—six of us were walking across the street, about where Burt's might be now, or they had the fire station right there and police station was there—and one of the policemen, he didn't have anything else to do, whatever, and he came right there and took us in. Our parents had to come down for us—there was no phones to call them up—they got word for them and they had to walk down as there was no transportation for us. And that was it, that was the event.
Nettie: Then you got home and you got the devil.
Dominick: No, no, we were sent by our parents to see the movie—there was nothing, you know, that they could do—as I said—kids today should appreciate what they have—as far as freedom—because that 9 o'clock curfew is, just wrought-iron. I wouldn't be surprised that that
wasn't still on the books.
Nettie: Well, you had some really interesting recollections, Dom.
Dominick: I could go through a lot of them, the tanneries. [Bells chime]. We used to run between the pits, mostly down at the tanneries—anyone that's familiar—they had vats that were about 6 feet or 8 feet deep with acid or with stuff, and we'd do down for wax or whatever it was you have, we’d start running it between the darn vats and just that first thing—probably ten inches wide—one of those with an acid bath—splinter there—this was our fun in the tanneries. Then they would have a stacks of bales upon the thing—we would play King of the Hill—right on these darn bales of leather they had outside on some of these, lower Oak Hill Ave. or in freight houses in that stuff there. We were used to that smell—it was just part of—right by the tanneries. I can always remember talk about putting people on the spot—you know, I might have been a young brat—your father might have been one of them who bought magazines or smelly like perfumes like that that we would turn in for prizes of a movie camera or projector that you'd never get what they would take, or sell them some bottles of some sort of cologne—some had enough of them, but they all chipped in. Oh, they were a great bunch of people—we would go there to have our lunch—they would have fun themselves, because they were Russians, Italians, Czechoslovakians, it was a great—they had fun there—made fun of each other in a kidding way—like on Christmas especially, because the Julian calendar—like the Italians or any of them who had Christmas would come around—then the Russian Orthodox would come with umbrellas—especially if it was raining and there was no snow—this was a great, great thing, and January 7—I can remember that on January 7, that they would have snow but we would always get even with them on Easter—because I can remember my parents, they used to go in their shirtsleeves even if it was bitter cold, just to show that Easter come late.
It's talk about exchanging recipes, the Italians were great on greens and fried peppers and all that stuff, and they would exchange on holubkys. I remember eating holubkys when I was growing up because of the Russians—whoever—exchanged sandwiches—when we would have lunches—coming back from Henry B. Endicott or high school.
And another thing I can remember, really, when IBM took advantage of the diner—if you can remember, for 15¢—sometimes EJ workers wouldn't get in because IBM was there—I can go a step further—where it got to a point where most of my friends were IBM-ers. I remember one asked me, "Dom, it's my turn to entertain—can you get me eight tickets for a banquet?" Well, that does the line—I finished them off, because for $1.00 you could wine, dine and have a great time with a band—got to a point where EJ workers, themselves, were not attending—a lot of IBM friends—but what the heck, I could not blame them for doing this—but this was where Charlie Johnson was trying to be a good Joe. He could never keep with George F. He wanted to be liked—he tried many ways—but he just couldn't.
Another thing, if they wanted to know something—I played golf for 25¢. You go around the country—I've been to quite a few places, you tell them this stuff about playing golf for 25¢, they wouldn't believe you—if you had a course on there—this is well known that were no hazards on it, he said, “I don't want my workers climbing hills and everything after a day's work,” which was true—not on a golf course—for 25¢—we used to play, that was another thing, they wanted to borrow our cards—people didn't work for Endicott Johnson just to go down there and play for a 25¢. Then if I remember there were quite a few stories, like lots of the time we wanted to go to the IBM’s neighboring golf course, you couldn't get on there—you had to almost sign your life away to get on there as a guest.
So, this is the part of the difference between EJ and IBM—which is true. IBM is a great company—there is no getting around it, but they were a lot stricter—’cause EJ, what happened to EJ was their own fault as far as management—as far as anything else, because the workers—in the first place they were too lenient and then they were too generous. But, IBM, as a company, you can see, they do a lot for their workers today and then a lot more than Endicott Johnson could ever manage. Well, there might be a few more stories—there might be a few stories to think about to my recollections. You came to interview my wife—and—I—
Nettie: Dom, thank you very much. It has been interesting. [Pause]. Dominick Cinotti is the husband of Angelina Cinotti.