Mr. Tony Mazza
Although my father’s huge family lived in an Iowa town, my father was transferred with his company to Pierre, South Dakota in the early ‘50s, where I spent ten years of my life, growing up.
In the 50s, discrimination and prejudice had not yet been held accountable and the local Indians were not allowed to drink or buy alcohol in Pierre. This fact will become more relevant, later.
My grandfather, for reasons I won’t discuss now, settled in Iowa, changed his name, and he and grandmother had a large truck-farm, a bakery and a grocery store. With all the kids they had, they had plenty of help to run their businesses. They had come from Pennsylvania, where they had settled after coming over from Italy.
Due to a situation that developed in Pennsylvania, it was necessary for my grandfather to relocate faraway and Iowa was chosen to become his new home. From that time forward, my grandfather had three bodyguards who protected him and his family. And of course, they became “family” also, present in all the pictures, etc. One of the bodyguards was Tony Mazza.
Now as bodyguards go, Tony didn’t fit the description; at least not as we think of bodyguards today – burly, tall, robust, serious, tough and tough-looking. I’ll give you burly and serious and probably, tough, but he certainly wasn’t tall and robust. But, in all fairness, that was through my eyes as a kid.
He was not much taller than me, sporting no…absolutely no teeth, always chomping down on a huge cigar, while holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that he always got from the grocery store my dad and two of my uncles co-owned there in town. He always wore a brown suit, white shirt and black tie and he wore it in the dead of winter and in the heat of the summer…..I never saw him dressed any other way and was always told that he owned no other accessories. I had to believe that. He never was unclean however, if you know what I mean. He was a dapper zapper.
The grocery store was down from where my Uncle Bill lived on 3rd Avenue in an Italian neighborhood and quite often our family would be at Uncle Bill’s house where we had four cousins to play with. I, however, liked being down at the grocery store, in the backroom where the meat was cut and the guys would sit on wooden stools and chairs, sloshing their shiny black shoes in the sawdust, that heavily covered the cement floor, telling countless stories of who knows what, always cussing, laughing, joking and sometimes, crying. It was a good life. It’s all gone now………it’s all gone now.
The thing about it was that no one cared that I was around; I was sort of respected and ‘part of’ the group….well, that’s the feeling I had, anyway. Please understand, I didn’t talk….I just sat on a little stool and listened and played in the sawdust, that did draw some reprimanding remarks from ‘all my fathers,’ at times.
copyright © 2012 T.J. Gargano