Sam, like his brothers, cousins and uncles, worked for the patriarch of the family,
Jasper Tramonte. Mr. Jasper had a meat-packing business on Broadway, near 61st
Street. It was called the High Grade Packing Co.
“We useah so muchah cereal
in our Boohkanear weenies, the Pope eatsah them on Fridays,” was Mr. Jasper’s
favorite self-deprecating joke.
And, even though we had heard him say
it a thousand times, we’d still break up in almost uncontrollable laughter every
Mr. Jasper had left Sicily without much of an education when he
came to America, but he made sure that all of his children got college degrees.
Mr. Sam got his from Texas A&M.
When one of his boys did something that
displeased Mr. Jasper, the first words out of his mouth were predictable. “Don’tcha
makeah me angry.”
Then, making a large sweeping stroke with his arm, he
would continue: “If you behavah yourself, someah day thisah could allah belongah
Every now and then, when Mr. Jasper was especially upset with
one of his boys, he’d say to him: “You gonna workah in the abattoir for a while.”
abattoir is the polite name for a slaughterhouse. And I’m not going to go into
the specifics of why that was almost inhumane punishment.
One time, when
Mr. Jasper was on a rampage against Mr. Sam, he screamed: “Samah, my boy, you’re
gonna workah in the abattoir until nextah Christ-mas! You understandah me?”
Sam said: “Pappa, I quit.” And, with Mr. Jasper screaming in the background, “Disah
never gonna belongah to you,” Mr. Sam got in his car and went directly to a friend’s
used-car lot on Tremont Street and bought it.
Sam Tramonte with his Chris Craft
Courtesy of J.E. Tramonte
Mr. Sam had always
been a good trader and he had lots of friends and everyone liked him. I remember
we all thought he was a natural for his new enterprise.
A few months later,
one of his friends came by the car lot with his wife and they had a beautiful,
shiny, mahogany Chris-Craft Sportsman boat on a trailer behind their truck.
“Sam, the wife needs a car,” said the friend.
“We haven’t got any money
to buy one but, since you like to fish and all, I thought maybe you’d trade us
that ’51 Olds over there for my solid mahogany Chris-Craft Sports-man.”
Sam’s defenses went down in a nanosecond. He wanted that beautiful, shiny, solid-mahogany
Chris-Craft more than he wanted to make a sane decision — one he’d be able to
explain later to Miss Ernestine, his wife; the mother of his four boys, J.E.,
Sammy, Val and Darryl.
Within moments, the shiny solid-mahogany Chris-Craft
on the trailer was unhitched from the truck, the wife was behind the wheel of
the ’51 Olds and she and Mr. Sam’s friend were driving off, Mr. Sam’s friend driving
the truck they had come in.
In moments, reality set in for Mr. Sam. How
was he going to explain the shiny, solid-mahogany Chris-Craft to Miss Ernestine?
He decided he’d better hide the boat somewhere until he had time to come
up with an excuse. He hitched it up to his truck and pulled it over to his friend’s
house and asked if he could leave it there for a day or two.
know that, the very next day, and before Mr. Sam had gotten up his nerve to tell
Miss Ernestine what he had done, and before he could move the shiny, solid-mahogany
Chris-Craft from his friend’s house to another hiding place, Miss Ernestine stopped
by to play bridge.
“That’s some fancy boat your husband’s got there in
the driveway,” Miss Ernestine said to his wife, basically just for something to
say to pass the time.
“That’s Sam’s boat,” her friend replied.
Sam’s friend was in the kitchen nearby, overheard the conversation and almost
had a heart attack. He pulled the receiver from the red phone hanging on the kitchen
wall and spun the dial to call Mr. Sam to let him know there was trouble brewing
in River City.
Quick as a flash, it came to Mr. Sam. He knew what he had
to do. He called his friend Maurice Hennessy, the sign painter.
I need you now. Drop everything, bring your paint and brushes and come running.”
Within an hour, Mr. Sam had the shiny, mahogany Chris-Craft hooked up
to the back of his truck and he was on his way home with it.
When he got
there, he started beating out a tune on the truck’s horn. Miss Ernestine came
out to see the big toothy grin of Mr. Sam as he was pointing to the stern of the
shiny, solid-mahogany Chris-Craft.
“Miss Ernestine” painted in still wet,
beautiful gold-leaf letters, was there for her to see.
“Let me go get
the bottle of Gallo from the kitchen pantry so you can christen the Miss Ernestine,”
he said to her.
October 13, 2010 column
Copyright 2010 – William S. Cherry
Cherry's Galveston Memories