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Interview with John Warski

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John Warski talks about his interest in carpentry as a young boy after emigrating to the U.S. in 1907 from Austria, and going to Jessup, PA. He describes finding his way in a new country on his own and finding working in the boiler room at a factory where he shoveled coal into the boiler. He tells of leaving to go work in Endicott as a carpenter, and later at Endicott Johnson. He also discusses building his home.


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Broome County Oral History Project

Interview with: John Warski Sr.

Interviewed by: Nettie Politylo

Date of interview: 16 November 1977

Nettie: This is Nettie Politylo, interviewer, talking to John Warski Sr. of Cafferty Hill Rd., Endicott, New York on Nov. 16, 1977. Mr. Warski let us start at the beginning when you arrived in America.

John: I came this country–-Beginning from little boy, something.

Nettie: Yes, you can start at that time.

John: Well when I was a little boy I was interested little bit in carpentry job. We had a little farm, not much. I can't make a living from that, my father dead in job, what they call Carpo now, he go to work over there they been 1907.

Nettie: You came to this country in 1907?

John: Yes I come in 1907. I come to this country in 1907. My father go to work over there and they kill him in job. I comes over here landed go through Bremen, Germany and landed in Baltimore. From Baltimore they bring us grandchildren, four or five, six people together they come to Pennsylvania, Olyphant.

Nettie: Excuse me, did you come to Baltimore by train or boat?

John: Oh, we came by boat—ship.

Nettie: Did you go to Ellis lsland first?

John: No, Baltimore they got Casa Garda in building. New York is different what they call Casa Garda, Baltimore is different. Comes over here brings in May 1907. We go together to Olyphant—those people they have father and cousin over there but I have address to my cousin in the Jessup next place over there. They get out of Olyphant. I go out with them too. I don't know nothing too much about it…how it goes. They go find those people their cousin and when they found out so I get different address I not belong to them. I take a walk about one mile from Olyphant they show me where to go up to Jessup. When I come to the Jessup I walk by the railroad tracks come to Jessup and sit on the bench between the bushes and grass—been thinking—what am I going to do? What am I going to ask for? You know what it is. Then I see man walking by the railroad track inspect the track they got hammer and wrench. I look over there well recognize he been from my village, he work on that track over there. He look on me that I sit over there he don't know me—he know me old country all right been me—been working for the priest been neighbor of the priest. Then after while he looked willow and I starting to call the name Mike! Mihal! Mihal! See I don't know the language, nothing. He stop, look, look stop and start to go again…I start holler again to by the name—he start I started to come to him and he started to come to me, we get together just been in front house where he been living—he rented house by the tracks. I told him who I am—he been surprised what I doing over here. I explain that few people they take up in Olyphant but my address been over here—they tell me to use what got address—I had address fellow been my mother's sister's husband his name Orayko. Well then comes there he takes me in a house he been married been village across river just like Susquehanna that woman been come from there… Well I take wash up every morning come from old country they have to wash themselves wash—all kinds of people, you know. She give me eat this, this. After while that cousin I have address to him he come from work. He live same house just other people rented boarding over there. When they come from work he find out I was over there and he come to me started to talk this, that—then he go to store, buy me some clothing—little bit cheap clothing so—I don't have just—what I had on myself, some shoes like that. Then in about 2 days he ask the boss about the job for me for the breaker, breaker that big building—so breaked the dumped coal in big lumps and when they break in pieces they screen it—they call it breaker, coal breaker. I get a job over there to pick slate—see they got of place. Sitting over there they keep the hands down—chute go down got little bench—piece board over there they keep their feet like that when (pold) roll down—see something—try they got another chute for the rock. I work there 10 hours a day I think so 9 hours a day. $1.00 on a day, yeah. I been working for little while and I ask that cousin, I come to him—figure like same job only different factory—dumped different type of rock. I ask him been needed man for the driver up the colander dump where they dump all rock they give me that job over there for the driver. I been working over there two to three years, maybe 2 years I don't know something like that before I started again to pick slate. I don't know how long that happened maybe one year something like that—I changed the jobs so on the rock. Then after while I don’t know how long I work the breaker burned down. No job. Been working at home. I have to do something. I have two guys been working in a paper mill near Watertown, Dexter, New York near Canada. I wrote a letter and they tell me come on up and maybe you will get a job there. So I come and two days later over there I look around I come later—I had friends and they take me on the board from my village and I wrote to him. I get up in the morning been living by the paper mill, by the factory. I just go there look it over how they make the paper so interesting. I asked them first should can I go inside—yeah, you go in there—nobody bother you. Take a look inside the shop. Then I saw some kind of guy—sport— well find out he been superintendent of that shop. He talk to me and asked—well that happened later, he talked to me and make ask—"You look for job?" Yeah. “Well come afternoon sometime tell me sometime in afternoon, then you come get your job.” I said, all right. Well then he go for a little while, well, half hour—well you better start tomorrow morning. All right—I come tomorrow morning ask—he look, look on me and don't say nothing. I ask him for what happened to my job you promised me yesterday? “Oh! I forgot it—” Well he give job to work down in the basement with water been in machine, lots to explain. Then after while l work I don't know how long I work, I been interesting been recognizing the building the fireman. I like look lots time how they work—Italian Jew boss engage on the boiler, that's all. Just the boss. Then I ask if you remember get the job get another boss in the same company, see. This factory where I go different building. They give me job, said you take the job if you want it. Well then—I want to wheel coal or ashes from the boiler—see they push cart inside boiler, they got regular tracks, open door coal run down, sometimes fireman when visit somebody gets close to boiler, if far away have shovel to them. Then clean fire, put ashes on pile—I have to take the wheelbarrow, my job to wheel like on a dump, other side of boiler. Then I work while I plan how the fireman throw the coal, how they look interesting. Then after a while been chance I ask the boss, I like fireman head per man—headman run all the business and helper get busy, too, work to do. Then after while chance coming somebody quit, something like that, they give me job, helper. I started fireman, started fireman work for little while, I don't know how long, I can't explain, never keep track of maybe year or something like that they been fireman, head man quit. They give me job—head man. So I have to know what start water pump, fill those tanks have outside the hill—they got lots of things, you know. They got to take care of boiler, clean the boiler inside. Every Sunday, I take every second Sunday you got to got go inside the boiler, drain water out, coal out, put cold water something like that… I been thinking this way—Well little while—two guys they telling that paper mill over there—they been working there—they quit—work Bridgeport, Conn.—Bridgeport, Conn.—the shipyard work. They wrote the letter—I think so I going to try it—maybe I'll get a job. I quit over there and go to Bridgeport, Conn. Well, I find some Russian lady from Russia, they board over there—I find board. Next day so I go to shipyards, well, when I come over there, there is a line people that with the tools, everything, carpenter, short wait for the job. Boss coming in the line just take maybe one or two, call us— look what he got, this and that and after while said—no job no more. Everybody pick up tools, mad, swear like hell. (chuckle) Well, I go out—he never ask me even and I go home where I been boarding over there—I think so no use staying over here. Might as well go back to Dexter. When I come back I remember it was like Decoration Day, I see it in Bridgeport—make the parade on Decoration Day. See I don't know what it been, I just know it was Decoration Day. And I come back to Dexter—I ask for job—they give me job for the other boiler room. The company have lot of factory not so far—maybe good size—the block away. They make a clear type of paper—the other one they make a rough paper—something like that. They give me the job for the helper—they wheel coal, yes, that's right, wheel coal just the same thing like before and said you going to get chance you going to get that job. And so some guy somebody going to quit job, helper, been quit, he don't want to work or something I don't know—he put me like helper. That fireman I before work in coal little bit I have change fireman sitting I took the shovel and I throw it, coal, shut the doors, I train myself. He show me how. He like me and he do something so he talked to night watchman been German ‘cause change every week, different shift, one week daytime and one week night time. He told something against those helpers say he don't want to work don't care much to working so he put me on there. One time the helper no come no more, they get fired. I don't know anyhow he no come no more. Last time I work with the helper, last time I work with the helper then those firemen get sick or something, I get head fireman. I been work 2 years or something like that. One time I get argument with the boss with the boiler room, ah, Jessup on account of big pipe—lift those clinkers what they call them they get banded too much to explain—I have on my mind to quit. To come to Endicott—then I quit them over there—I came to Endicott. In Endicott I got work with that carpenter. I don't know his name forgot his name he used to build those Burt Building contractor. So before that he work on houses living by the river, Susquehanna, few houses. After while we started build house get contract to build Cibulsky on Rogers Ave. See The Endicott Lumber Box Co. Make the contract The Box Co. make the contract on Saturday and about middle week U.S. declare war for the Germany.

Nettie: What year was that?

John: Oh, old country, yeah, U.S. declare war and they just start war business. Then I get job right away with the Box Co. He give me work he give me job carpenter so I work with Cibulsky house, Shefchuk house, and Prosmans… Besides working on other houses way up on other houses where the park (possibly Rabble Ave) pausing—thinking….That all right all right—somebody start talking about IBM—IBM they had just only had one building from that time had little building—supposed to be call ITR. I just try for the luck, so might get it job there. I ask for carpenter job there because IBM make clocks there. I go to office ask them there said maybe you get job but boss on vacation. Come back. You take the job, take anything to get inside, before boss come maybe they could show you job you ask for. I take the job where some kind of parts on machine on little machine they bend it you know. Work a little while then move (spare)—so IBM soon gonna pretty soon close it you know—no business—IBM—no IBM but I—well—Think so like that so I go to EJ—tannery. Before that I worked in the tannery too—forgot to mention see. But I get back the same job in tannery. Little by little IBM started to build up—but that too late.

Nettie: Who was your boss in the Tannery?

John: Where, EJ? Griffis just name I forgot but been old man but his son been boss too, foreman Lee Griffis I guess, I think so Lee. I work little while there sometime dinnertime had chance to go to boiler room over there to look around—I interesting in the fireman—all the time. I go over there to look around—been short U.S. take all men then for the war. Already they have been short. Asked boss about the job. He said here take this job, maybe few days, maybe so wheel ashes and coal and then I put you for regular fireman—they fire by the shovel at the time then after while they those put automatically. Then I started to work later two days or few weeks I don't know in the boiler room, one time I get sick a little bit—this had flu—start people get the flu—

Nettie: Is that the influenza?

John: Yes influenza, yes. I don't come to work—nobody been tell the boss, so I no show up—I been living at that new houses on Rogers Ave. See he come in the house—boss engineer room engine and the boiler, forgot his name. And said what is the matter? You sick? Yeah, feel been sick little bit not much well feel little bit. He said please if you can come to work—ain't got no men—all men been over there they take in the army be working on that job. Next day I come back to work. I came to work. I come back back to work until war was over. War was over that man on his job come back and put that man on his job on my place. They put me wheeling coal. I don't want it. Wheeling coal, I quit. I quit and then after a while I did not know what I did.

Nettie: After the boys came back from service?

John: From service yeah, same fella, they got job back.

Nettie: So where did you work?

John: I can remember—I guess I work spare time, carpenter and you know lots of steam heat-plumbing but I know little bit. Then I forget the track where I work.

Nettie: Where did you live? Did you live with Cibulsky? 

John: Yeah, I boarded up to Cibulsky—yeah—then war over—about year or year a half something like that—I take my wife over here and I move it up stairs—remember?

Nettie: Yeah.

John: I renter up there.

Nettie: Your wife came from Europe. Did you get married here or over there?

John: Ha! I got married in the old country. In old country before they said maybe I come second time over here—I forgot to mention—see when I come at 22 years—happen have 3 classes to join the army—Austria—I come from Austria. But then, after a while Poland taken—taken that—wife come from Poland because they Polish people, their country. So, I suppose to come before draft, last time, third time, two time no pass but third time pass—if no pass—you can marry—been low all the time. I couldn't come before third—finish it. They draft me to Army—Austria—well no call me—well I come I have to report to village right away. Next day I wait for call—they call me next year for doctor's like that.

Nettie: You were in America when they called you?

John: Over there old country. When time times got letter to go to doctor—to visit—they draft me that time and in fall or beginning spring. In the Fall they call me to doctor—to army. I been in army 12 months, no 12 weeks—you know why—the other way be 3 years. I make claim exemption—what they call—I make support—mother—They had village secretary they have to care few villages like that—she got voice—"a pull"—yeah, a pull—you just have to go for the training—something if happen bad you have to go just the same. They gave me release. When I come back—I marry after. I leave wife 9 months.

Nettie: Then you came with Mrs. Warski to Endicott—is that right? Mrs. Warski and you came back to Endicott after married in Europe?

John: Come to Rogers Ave.

Nettie: How did you find the village there—not many houses in Endicott or buildings?

John: Well, Cibulsky’s—North Side—no be many.

Nettie: How about downtown, fire station—on Washington Ave.?

John: They have State Bank—fire station—Endicott Trust Co.—fireman—fire—

Nettie: Did they have many stores on Washington Ave.?

John: When I come from Binghamton on a train—come from old country second time—I be mention to go back to paper mill—remember—yeah, after while I have little little argument with boss so I quit. I have in mind to come over here—I came to Binghamton—from Binghamton take street car to Endicott to Cibulsky’s—living up there. The street car—I told you I go old country back. In street car nothing—just street car—farms, farms, nothing—Johnson City—just little bit houses. I come to Endicott some places—lots of many have sidewalks from the boards—some places have no sidewalks, at all—No (greens). Come to Cibulsky’s rented house on Odell Ave.—they use have Greek Ice cream parlor, Trubach—they make a suit. Cibulsky—I lived up there—kitchen upstairs and two small rooms—Schuler live been with wife, have kids already—John been already there. (Chuckling) They put couch in the kitchen by the stove—he sleeping there, Cibulsky. When I got job with carpenter—I make in few different places—you know, Burt Store—you know they started before I worked there. Then we start talking about houses—Cibulsky, she say, “John, please talking maybe built house because he go away and spend money all the time.” “All right, I gonna try.” One time I talk to him, I say you make house, that no good. Well, if you want I help you. I told him—maybe give him money—I did not mention I gonna borrow money—but I help you. Then we start talk ‘bout plans and houses and lot. No place to build house. He work in Calfskin Tannery that time—I work in boiler room—no, I don't yet—that all right—I don't work in EJ yet—I work in Box Co. building houses—he said he didn't want go go to Sales Building to lawyer asking about lot—give it free.

Nettie: Gave lots to workers free?

John: Yeah. Sure! Well he says he don't want to go—just told me—just go take a lot—ask for lot. I go and they never ask me, “you work over here or not?” No lawyer ask me. They give me lot by the lot by the Miszaks—Squires Ave… When we start making contract—Box Co. ask for the lot. We give them deed told them where that lot is—he go Sales Building—Box Co. after we come back—later we get letter that lot somebody use it—ain't got no lot. They make plans for house already—just to build the house. They go ask Sales Building to ask to give you another lot. I go Sales Building—I told him—I told him something like that—you give lot to somebody else. They give Rogers Ave—They say Warski, you want that—that is the only place on all Rogers Ave.—they have no sewer but pretty soon they have sewers. We take that where house stands and they start to build that house and I get that job over there—I ask them—I work over there on that house.

Nettie: When did you work in the tannery—after you built houses?

John: Yeah, after while when they finish the building—something—Box Co. don't have no job—stop the building—so I go to tannery. Then I get fireman that man after while that man come from—I take his place—here I mentioned before. Well I go take—he take—to my job on machine inside tannery. Well, I work until—all you know how it happened—cut out—closed—no more tannery, there.

Nettie: No more tannery? What?

John: IBM they got. 

Nettie: Now, but am I talking about before that? 

John: I working ‘til pretty soon near finish—I go to retire—before—

Nettie: Before you retired, you did not finish telling me about the time before you were building houses, all? When did your wife come—

John: After that? Came from Europe. 

Nettie: And you had your own home on Roosevelt Ave?

John: My wife come in Rogers Ave. We live it already there—I rent upstairs and I paid board downstairs. Then I tell been in the hall—my wife—we live during winter time, we don't want to move it—people, see, I gonna move it out in spring, this people move out and I move it upstairs.

Nettie: Did you have electricity, then, in the house?

John: In Rogers Ave.—yes and then when I live it with Cibulsky come late—this and this—I don't want to talk over there about it—you know how it is—decided might as well build own house, have lot already. I hire contractor, dig cellar, put concrete wall, (petition), everythings I do myself, not myself, Cibulsky help me. Somebody else, somebody—some friend help me, plasterman—I have electricity, too well, all finishing work inside I do myself. I work in tannery, night time. Spare time I work house myself. I have no electricity that time like Rogers Ave.

Nettie: What did you use for electricity?

John: I use, borrow Pizur lamp go fishing before I get my electric. Then I put plumbing heat myself, some little help, myself.

Nettie: What church did you attend?

John: Well when I comes over to Endicott they have no church, they have Roman Catholic, I been board with Slavic people and they belong that Slavic church and she started, the lady, “What doncha come—to one time—big bunch of men go Sunday church.” Well, we say we try the church—we understand nothing—I do what they do, that's all. We come to here in Binghamton we go to Baxter Street one time and then I come to Endicott—they have there Cibulsky, was there—I started to go Endicott church. 

Nettie: Many families or very few familes when you went there?

John: Those (Hrodenski) they no like - you know.

Nettie: Where they Carpo-Russians?

John: No—from Russia—those from Hrodenski gubernia—no can explain—they don't like to go church much and they—we—mostly mostly those (oohorski)—Carpo-Russians—they ruin that church that time—the be boss that church that time—they after while they split. They call meeting, lawyer come, they make a splitting, they have 4 or 5 lots where school is—front of church and half cemetery—they’re take those lots.

Nettie: Who took the lots?

John: The Carpatho-Russians. See, they have safe—the Carpatho-Russians—those oohorski—like this something—they, Russian put make red ink.

Nettie: When do they mean red mark?

John: They mark something difference—last heard that, I never see that—they no explain they go to court, supposed to be go to court. That time, Russian priest been Borisoff—he had safe, small safe, in church now. He knows lock in safe and book, Bible, book record, by law.

Nettie: Book of By-Laws?

John: Yes, he look everything been side—Carpatho-Russian this side no good. Something like that. Take that book—destroy it—that priest—put someplace in the fire. They changed lock in safe and when come open it—you want to open it—try open—they open—they can't open—the leaders—they take those safe to court and courtroom open safe to show proof who boss. (Chuckling) And when come to court, open safe—hire somebody—I never been there—I don't know—then open it, was been surprised—nothing there—they find no record—no record—given to Russian—got be Russian, go away somewhere. After a while got to take safe back to church—I got motorcycle, side car, I take the safe in sidecar.

Nettie: Did you put the safe in sidecar?

John: I put safe in sidecar and was so heavy that pressed down and take back house.

Nettie: Church was built—did they say—about monks built the church?

John: Build church, like mostly cheap way, like shack, plaster like that—they don't have nothing much—have have (prestol)—built from the boxes like that—(this part in Russian—translation) lector reads below—the priest Rashtakoff had a book on instructions—he read up on it which told how the altar table should be built. That is difficult—this way, this way, put the top on (ha! ha!) make something like this—then monks hire from monastery—they build the bell and iconostasis—the iconostasis they build but posts—suppose to be—they make different—they have saw and hammer they got—they hire 2 men from Binghamton to make—do that—iconostasis—they just make post—no tsarski dverior royal doors—just opening—then I—left—they left—no finish, complain, don't make no money. Then I think to myself—I make the tsarski dveri—royal doors in garage Rogers Ave.­ Those posts—come plaster paris—those posts come—they design—they have to make hollow—that caps—lots of work—bottom have to be filled—inside cap hollow—some kind fit to even up—take time. Then I look around—new church—not much old church—repairs—bell—leaking around closet—

Nettie: What year new church started?

John: I think 1914—1916 been already.

Nettie: When you talk of your house, how much to build your house fifty years ago?

John: I never keep track because I do work myself—somebody help me—little bit I make checks to pay for material—just like that—pay cash—never keep track—never bother to keep track. One time have time to figure how much cost—I lost and forgot about it.

Nettie: How many children did you have?

John: Three children. When retire from EJ—66 years—I work—wait when my wife get pension—65 years old.

Nettie: Did your wife work?

John: No, she work in house—she get half—I had 66 years—77—89 years now.

Nettie: After your wife died then you sold your home?

John: I live there pretty near 10 years alone—sold 2 years ago.

Nettie: Do you live with your son and daughter in law at present?

John: Yes.

Nettie: Were you glad you came here instead of living in Europe?

John: I was glad to be get here what I have there—I got to work for somebody else just like I get eat twice a day—and 30 and 40 cents a daytime. Just like I come first like come go back to old country before—I try it I make one of those carpenter job business, in the house. I figure I work on the land for somebody—I want to make some money.

Nettie: Where, here or there?

John: Here. And where (spotty) work—I make those furniture—somebody in village give me make table, bed anything like that. I had neighbor work wagon make wheel—wagon—they call it—he know I handy—he need help. He said learn those things. He been good mechanic—hell of lot better than I, needs work on wagon—business then make table something, like that. Better come to help me—3 years—learn make wheel.

Nettie: Like an apprentice?

John: Yeah. This is better—you make table—something like that—he had store—little store, too—had a farm—little big farm—he can get—take so many jobs—he good mechanic—want to push for that thing it away—people waiting for—You learn it. You have better trade. Then I get neighbor—about block away—when come to work, eat sleep that's all—all right. I have my own bench. When I come to this country—I have been—brothers—they have somebody use—they need repair I make them new one—make new one—sometimes old one they throw away—bench take his house—he got his own if he have time—he got to work on farm—I come—first he show me—he give me job with a knife—to make a spoke. First thing plane on one end—scrape—then round it—give me—came from the farm—he been working farm. Well how wheels you make it on farm—look it over—I just finish it—look it over—I just been finish and he look over and said, “By gosh, you been make than I.” Then—this, this. I stay 3 months—finish my job—times come—I learn my job—I had just time—times come in—I go this country—have no change to work. Besides here I travel, Bridgeport. I forgot to mention—I don't like that job—I can't get into shipyards. I forget—I take walk in street—see sign “Wheel Wright”—make wagon repair. Like that sometime horses pull wagon—wheel go broke—take shop and repair it. They was one German and one Irish. I look them over—there they make ‘em body, first body they see just body of bus—school drived kids—before like taxi—bodies make there—Slovak work there on this body—Body like bus—like delivery—bus big one. We started talking with Slovak we mention—he asked me who I am—explain—what I did old country—this—this we need men like you over here—other man fixed wheel—sometimes broken wheel—sometimes he come to work and sometimes not. Those boss want to push him out but he afraid to push him out because no replace it—used to be got different job—see—like a regular school bus. Say, “Who want to take that job?” Said different work like old country but I fix you up—I show you—it easy—all right—you got a job. Come tomorrow—I have no clothes for that job—I loan you—you buy some. When I came those men no show up—get drunk—they never come. l work about 1 month—have no place to board—sleep like dog—any place—I no like it—I quit. I don’t want—I can’t eat, got to restaurant—something like that went—so many people in Bridgeport because they shipyard—so many workers over there. They say—I tell Slovak—try again—make me restaurant—boarding house—something like that—I take the boarding house—I have nothing left for me. What have nothing pay? I quit. I tell the boss—and he say, “MMMMMMMMMMMM—if I knew—I fire those men—what am I going to do now?” (Chuckle) Then I quit, go back to paper mill.

Streaming Audio

Date of Interview



Politylo, Nettie


Warski, John


31:22 Minutes ; 26:42 Minutes ; 4:42 Minutes

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Broome County Oral History Project

Subject LCSH

Warski, John -- Interviews; Austria; Broome County (N.Y.) -- History; Jessup (Pa.); Endicott (N.Y.); Immigrants -- Interviews; Carpenters -- Interviews; Endicott Johnson Corporation -- Employees -- Interviews; House construction

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