Arthur Guarino

Arthur Guarino's father, Arthur, moved to Paterson because his sister already lived there. He came after World War Two in 1947. He got a good job as a bank teller at a bank that catered to the Italian-American community, Linaris Bank. In 1957, he returned to Italy to visit with his family. There he met the woman, Palma, who would become his wife, and by the end of that year, she immigrated to American.

Surrounded by Italians, Art grew up speaking Italian. He attended PS 5 and his teacher thought something was wrong with him, because he couldn't understand what she was saying. The problem was simple: he could not speak English. With the help of Americanized cousins and cartoon programs, he eventually got the hang of it.

Art lived on Totowa Avenue in a largely Italian-American neighborhood. Art was a voracious reader and borrowed books from the Union Avenue branch, across the street from St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, which the family attended. His mother took him and his younger brother to the library, where he'd borrow children's books. When he was done with those, he moved on to read sports books and then we was allowed into the adult section to satisfy his intellectual curiosity.

He attended Don Bosco Tech and later Seton Hall, where he majored in political science. He credits Don Bosco, and in particular, Brother Tony, with teaching him many skills he needed to succeed in college and in life.

Art also learned his lessons from his days working at a Paterson coat factory. His mother took a job sewing at Baron Fashions in 1969 to bring more money into the family economy. One day in 1976, she called Art to come over and that began his five-year stint working at this coat factory. With the money he earned, he was able to buy his first car.

Art and his friends played football by the Great Falls and watched Philippe Petit walk the tightrope across the falls.

When he was a student at PS 5, Art would look at the window at the New York City skyline and tell himself that's where he would work. After graduating from Seton Hall, he worked in Manhattan's financial industry.

Art lived in Paterson for 28 years.


 
 

Interview Transcript

Interviewer:

Okay, today is Thursday, November 13, 2014 and it is about 10:20. This is Barbara Krasner, Oral History Intern at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park and on behalf of the Park Service I am interviewing Arthur Guarino. How are you?

Guarino:

Good, fine!

Interviewer:

Good, I will transfer your name, address, telephone number, and email to my forms, so you don’t have to worry about that. We’ve taken care of the Deed of Gift and the release…

Guarino:

Yes.

Interviewer:

So, we’re good there. So, you agree to donate this recording to the park…

Guarino:

Yes.

Interviewer:

Super. So we’ll be using this information for scholarly and educational purposes.

Guarino:

Fine.

Interviewer:

All right. So just briefly, describe your connection to Paterson.

Guarino:

I was born and raised in Paterson. I was born in Paterson January 20, 1959. I was born in the General Hospital, Paterson General Hospital, in obviously Paterson. The hospital no longer exists; it was torn down some years ago. I lived in Paterson up to the age of 29. I lived there all that time except for one year, where I went to graduate school out in the Midwest, but I spent 28 years, if you want to use it, in Paterson. I’ve seen all the changes that have occurred within the city, good and bad. And gone to public school and high school, Catholic high school, in Paterson and lived literally in an urban environment. Gone to work also in Paterson, having worked in a coat factory, in Paterson. Knew a lot of people who worked in the coat factories, garment factories in Paterson and familiar as far as how the whole factory system works, so I’m pretty well familiar with what has happened in Paterson, how it’s structured, and how everything is.

Interviewer:

Let’s start in the beginning. You were born in 1959. Tell me about your parents, where they came from, and what they did.

Guarino:

Both my parents came from Europe. My father came to the United States from Italy, from southern Italy, in 1947, after the war. Italy had been not just a defeated country but a destroyed nation because of World War Two. There was starvation, it was in a bad situation, and he felt it was best to escape to the United States. He already had a sister in Paterson and he stayed with his sister in Paterson. He took some English courses, he took some accounting courses and business courses, and he was able to get a job as a bank teller in a bank in Paterson. It was called Linaris Bank, it was a bank owned by an Italian and it was mainly geared toward the Italian-American community in Paterson. And he got the job because he knew English, he knew Italian, he knew something about as far as accounting was concerned, to be a teller, and either customers that came in that were speaking Italian, couldn’t speak very much English, he’d take care of them, he would handle them.

Interviewer:

So what was the name of the bank?

Guarino:

Linares, I think L-I-N-A-R-E-S.

Interviewer:

Okay.

Guarino:

It later got taken over by First National Bank of Paterson which later became First National Bank of Passaic County, and it went through some subsequent takeovers after that. So my mom also came from southern Italy but she came to the States in 1957, and this is the odd thing. What happened was that in April of 1957, my father took a trip back to Italy to see his mom, his family, and this was the beginning of April of 1957 and while he was there, he met somebody, fell madly in love with her, married her and a couple of days, a couple of weeks later, came back to the United States and then she, my mom, came to the United States in December of 1957. That’s how it was done back then. My mom was a housewife, she stayed at home, raised three boys and she started working in a factory, in a coat factory, in 1969 to try and bring in some extra money.

Interviewer:

And by then what was your father doing?

Guarino:

He was still working at the bank. He worked at the bank for close to 40 years. He was still working for the bank for close to 40 years. He retired from the bank at age 65. So, he pretty much knew as far as banking in Paterson inside and out. The office that he was located in was in downtown Paterson on Market Street, and at that point in time in Paterson, I mean, that was it. Market Street was it. The downtown area was it. It was kind of like the county seat, and you’re talking about the idea that a lot of business people who had accounts there would go to that branch on Market Street and he got to know them all, especially the Italian-American business people. And he got to know a lot of lawyers, judges, business owners, they would all gravitate to him. He would talk to them, he’d, you know, get to know them really well, and at night he’d tell stories, oh, I saw such and such today or I saw such and such today. I guess he got a lot of inside scoops on what was going on in Paterson and Passaic County at that point in time.

Interviewer:

Did he rise up the ranks in the bank?

Guarino:

Not very much. I think the highest he got to be was unit clerk. The problem with my father was that he wasn’t a company man. He was more the type of person who wanted to just do his job. And he really didn’t want to play the game and because of that he hit a ceiling. It was a very low ceiling but he hit that ceiling. That’s the price you pay.

Interviewer:

Would you consider him a family man?

Guarino:

Pretty much, yeah, I mean, we heard of other fathers and other families that would come home at night from work, have dinner, and then go out for a couple of hours. No, my father was home every night and he was at home on the weekends and he kept an eye on us. And he helped my mom when he could as far as what he had to do around the house, but yes, very much so, I mean, my parents had their moments, but he was very much as far as a family man was concerned. I give him credit for that.

Interviewer:

Where are you in the birth order?

Guarino:

I’m the oldest. I had a brother named Steve. He was born in 1961. He passed away in 1973…

Interviewer:

Oh…

Guarino:

And then I had another younger brother, named Mike, he’s still alive. He’s a pharmacist. And there was just the three of us.

Interviewer:

Where did you live?

Guarino:

Totowa Avenue, it was 369 Totowa Avenue in Paterson, it was near the corner, it was at the corner of, near the corner of Totowa and Wayne.

Interviewer:

And was that an apartment? A house?

Guarino:

What happened was that, at that point in time, when people bought a home, nobody bought a one-family house. The idea was that you’d buy a two- family house, at least a two-family house, or maybe a three-family house, because you’d live on the first floor, maybe the second floor, you’d live on one of the floors and then the other two floors, let’s say, or the other floor, you’d rent it out. So that that rent would help you pay for the mortgage on the house. Nobody in the neighborhood that I grew up in or in the surrounding area that I grew up in, none that we knew of had a one-family house. I mean, if you had a one-family house, you were considered rich. It’s just not how it worked at that point in time. It was also that point in time when my parents bought their house that my father was the only one working, and even though he worked for the bank, and he got the mortgage through the bank, that’s how things have changed. He was able to get a mortgage only after he put a down payment of one-third. So the house cost him $15,000. He had to come up with the $5,000 down payment. And for somebody who was making less than $5,000 a year, that was a tough nut to crack. With a wife at home and three young children to support, that was a really tough nut to crack.

Interviewer:

And did you have a lot of interaction with your aunt and her family?

Guarino:

Yeah. Oh yeah, they lived just a couple of blocks down from us. And so we got to see them quite a bit. And she became kind of like a surrogate grandmother for me. Because my real grandmother, both of them, were on the other side of the world, so she became a surrogate grandmother for me. So I got to see my cousins, I got to see my aunt, and, you know, just got exposed to what they were doing, because they were more Americanized, if I can use the term, than we were. As far as, I mean, when I got, when I went to school, I had a hard time in kindergarten because I didn’t speak English. When I was born, when I was growing up, I only spoke Italian. My parents only spoke Italian at home. My mom only spoke Italian at home, so she’d say something to us, it was Italian. When I went to kindergarten at School No. 5, the teacher would start talking to me in English and I had no idea what the woman was saying. I just stared at her sometimes. At first they thought I was deaf. They thought I was really slow. But I just didn’t understand because she was speaking English. I heard some English on television. I was watching, you know, cartoon programs and kid programs on television, but I had no idea as far as speaking English was concerned. It wasn’t until after a while that I was able to start speaking English. It was tough, I mean, it was really, really tough. Because you grow up, you grow up in an environment in which your parents, your parents’ friends, everybody was speaking one language and then you go into school, and now you got to start speaking English. That’s why to this day I can empathize with children of Hispanic parents. Because I see that they’re in that type of environment that I was in, except they’re speaking Spanish and my parents were talking, my family and friends, were talking Italian. So I understand what those kids were going through.

Interviewer:

Did you live in an Italian neighborhood?

Guarino:

It was largely Italian. I mean, there were some other, you know, other ethnic groups in there, there was some Irish and whatnot, but it was largely, I would say about 90 percent Italian. The odds were pretty good that, you know, you’re going to meet other individuals whose parents were in the same situation; they were also from Europe and they also worked in factories and largely held blue-collar jobs, so yes, it was a largely Italian neighborhood.

Interviewer:

Did your parents belong to any cultural organizations?

Guarino:

My mom, no. My father, he belonged to one group that was trying to help the Italian American community, he belonged to that for a while, but that was about it. But largely as far as cultural organizations, not really.

Interviewer:

Okay. So you mentioned PS # 5, where’d you go after that?

Guarino:

I went to a nearby high school, Don Bosco Tech. Don Bosco Technical High School. It was an all-boys Catholic high school and it gave you not only, you had a choice, either college prep or technical and vocational education. I chose college prep. I, you know, had this possibility, I was thinking about going to college, but I also had to take technical courses. I geared myself taking college prep courses but also technical courses, specifically architectural drafting for three years.

Interviewer:

And how did your parents feel about your desire to go to college?

Guarino:

Well, deep down inside they wanted me to go, but I really doubted they thought I was going to finish because I wasn’t the greatest student in grade school. I wasn’t the greatest student in high school. They really had to push me, so I guess they were kind of worried. They weren’t exhibiting it, but they were kind of worried, you know, I just wasn’t going to finish college. But when I got to college, I went to Seton Hall, undergrad, I guess it was the influence more so of my classmates and the environment that I was in at Don Bosco Tech to push me to go to Seton Hall, to go to Seton Hall, and to do as best as I possibly could at Seton Hall. But my parents were surprised as the beans, as hell, if I can use the term, that I even finished college. They were really shocked. I surprised them. I surprised myself.

Interviewer:

But then you went on for some advanced degrees, so at what point did getting pushed change into drive?

Guarino:

I think it was in college, I think it was in my freshman year of college, because I had no life. I just had work, I was working in the factory, I was going to school, and that was my life. If it wasn’t one place, it was the other. It was either work or school or home. That was it. I had no life. It was my freshman year at college.

Interviewer:

Did you commute?

Guarino:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

What coat factory was it?

Guarino:

It was called Baron Fashions. B-A-R-O-N Fashions.

Interviewer:

And where was it located?

Guarino:

It was at 13 ½ Van Houten Street. The building still exists. The name, there were two brothers who owned the factory. Joe Barone and Tom Barone, they’re still alive today, still know them, still see them when I can.

Interviewer:

And how did you get the job?

Guarino:

Well, my mom worked in Barone Fashions and in between, I finished my sophomore year in high school, one morning I got a call at home, my mom says, they need somebody else here to work, can you come over? So I just dropped everything I was doing at home and I went, and that’s how I got the job. My job that first year was that the coats would be finished, they’d be, you know, they’d be pressed, and they’d be cleaned and all that kind of stuff, my job was to put the plastic bags over them and to make sure there were so many to a rack. And when the ship, when the order was done, they would off to the side so that the delivery people could come, pick it up, and take it away. And that’s all I did for that first year. Then also my boss gave me other jobs to do, steam presser, you know, the big steam presser, iron. Some of the coats had fur on the wrists and I had to brush the fur. Had to do that. Gosh, there was one part where the lining of the coat had to be matched up with the coat so it had to be given to the women who had to sew the lining into the coat, that was part of my job. I pretty much went wherever they told me to go. And they would show me: You do this this way, you do this this way, and you do this this way. I thought it was because they thought I wasn’t doing a good job. No, the idea was that…

Interviewer:

They’re training you.

Guarino:

Yeah, you knew how to do this, fine. Now we’re going to teach you how to do something completely different. Today, you call it cross-training. Back then it was you do what I say because I’m the boss. And you do it this particular way. There was one point in time, I mean, I had the job of, where okay, you have the coats, you match it up with the lining, and then you gave it to the women who are sewing the lining into the coats and I was doing exactly as my boss had told me and those women who were doing the sewing, they got peeved off, they got really angry at me. You know, you got to calm it down, you don’t have to be over-enthusiastic. You don’t have to pile that many coats. But I was saying, this was how I was taught. And then I told my boss, look, those women are really peeved off at me and he said, I’ll take care of it. So for a couple of hours, he did it, and he piled the coats even higher than before. Then I went back the next day and I started piling on the coats and doing what I was supposed to, and they never complained again. I learned a lot of different things and it was a combination of what I had learned with how I am as a person, I’m fairly neat as a person, and for example, the sleeves of the coats, the contractor, because my boss was the subcontractor, the contractor had certain specifications about how the coats were going to be made. The lining, as far as the seams for the coats are concerned, as far as the sleeves were concerned, they had to be ironed, they had to be flat. And so he said, well, you should iron the sleeves, all right, fine, I ironed the sleeves and put it really neat as far as stacking them up is concerned, I tied them really neat as far as that’s concerned and then the four men came by, he’d pick them up and he’d drop off another set and I go ahead and do it and so forth and so on. I figured, what’s the big deal? It’s not rocket science. You should be able to do it. It wasn’t till about a month later that I found out from the women who actually did the sleeves, somebody asked me, what have you been ironing, I said, I’ve just been ironing the seams as far as the sleeves are concerned. Oh, so you’re the one who’s doing such a great, neat job makes it easier for us to do our job and for us to do our job a lot faster. So it, from a business perspective, it taught me that one part as far as the assembly process is going to affect another part no matter how distanced in the assembly process. Even if it’s coats, because they were saying, now we can tell the difference when you do it as opposed to when somebody else has been doing it and, doing, you know, a much better job.

Interviewer:

Well good, that must have made you feel good.

Guarino:

But later on, but at that point in time, I was just worried about getting the thing right.

Interviewer:

You were a kid.

Guarino:

Yeah, I was like 16 years old, getting it done right. And not getting into any trouble.

Interviewer:

How long did you work there?

Guarino:

I worked there from about 1976 till 1981. 1975, let’s say ‘76 to 1981. My first paycheck was for $74.50. Don’t forget, I can’t forget that. You know, I was making money, for me, it was pretty good money. And I used that money to buy my first car.

Interviewer:

Oh, cool.

Guarino:

So that was my, I used that money to buy my first car, and I bought my first car on my own.

Interviewer:

So were your friends doing similar things, working in the factories?

Guarino:

Not necessarily working in the factories. My brother and I worked in the factories. Because a year or so after I started working in the factory, my mom brought my younger brother to work in the factory and he started at even a younger age than me. My other buddies, everybody had a job. Moment you turned about 14, it was the idea you got to get a job. Who delivered papers, who had like three or four routes, as far as delivery and papers are concerned, who worked in the gas station, who did odd jobs, but you had the whole basic idea was to be working. And that was the whole idea. You got to go to work, you got to put money in the bank, got to save your money…

Interviewer:

So it wasn’t to contribute to the family economy, it was for yourself?

Guarino:

For me, it was for myself. My parents were in a better financial position so that I could take that money, I could put it aside. There were some other families that I knew of that that money was controlled by their parents and, you know, some would be put aside in the bank, but the balance would be used to take care of the family. So, I mean, this is the 1970s, so the economy was better than what was going on in the 1930s, or even in the 1950s, so there was a lot more as far as freedom and flexibility in that respect is concerned.

Interviewer:

Did you have to pay for college yourself?

Guarino:

Yeah. My parents gave me some money, but what I did was, in my senior year, I had my own separate course that I set up called Getting Money 101. What happened was that in my senior year of high school, I had, there was a senior, a person who had graduated the year before from Don Bosco, and he talked to us about the idea of loans and grants and stuff like that. So I figured, what the heck? If I just got to fill out a bunch of forms, let me try it. So that’s all I did in my senior year. I just started filling out every form I could find. I’d go to the guidance counselor, I’d meet with the secretary, I schmoozed with her, and I said, what forms you got for me, what is out there to help me pay for college and she started working with me. I filled out all the forms, I made copies of everything, I sent out tons and tons as far as forms are concerned. The only thing I ever asked my parents was, sign here and let me see your tax returns so I could take that information and put in onto the forms, because that’s what they were looking for. When I got to college, I had enough through grant money and through loan money, that I figured out, I actually made a profit. I actually made a profit.

Interviewer:

And is this when your interest in finance wass sparked?

Guarino:

It was survival. You see, when I went to high school at Seton Hall, and I tell this to my undergrads

Interviewer:

College at Seton Hall

Guarino:

College at Seton Hall, yeah. What did I say?

Interviewer:

High school.

Guarino:

When I went to college at Seton Hall, tuition at Seton Hall in September 1977 was $85 a credit. I had friends of mine who went to Montclair State, William Paterson, Rutgers, tuition for them was $15 a credit. I was out of my mind and out of my league about going to Seton Hall. That’s why I didn’t have a life, because I was paying for college, my parents helped me some, and I was going to work, I didn’t want to, what was this expression, I didn’t want to screw this one up, because it was costing me a hell of a lot of money. So I actually figured out how much the tuition was, I figured out how much my books were, and gasoline, the whole nine yards, and I figured out how much money I was getting in grants and loans and stuff like that and I did the calculation between the two and I made a profit off the deal, only because of the fact of what I did my senior year of high school, by filling out forms, that helped.

Interviewer:

What did you major in in college?

Guarino:

I was a poli sci major. I majored in political science, specifically in the field of international relations.

Interviewer:

Okay, and what did you hope to do with that?

Guarino:

Go to eventually as far as law school…

Interviewer:

Which you did…

Guarino:

Which I did, eventually, yeah, I also picked up minors in English and legal history.

Interviewer:

Oh.

Guarino:

When I was in college, I was just, you see the thing is this, the guys that I hung out with in high school, these were all National Honor Society people, these were guys who were really, really smart. The salutatorian, the valedictorian, these are guys who were really, really smart. I wasn’t smart. I never considered myself a genius. I didn’t consider myself even half smart. There was one of my classmates, we were good buddies, his name was Steven Jackson, and one day in our senior year of high school, he was saying to me all the things he was going to be doing after college: I’m going to do this, that, and the other thing, after I get my biology degree, where he was going to go to school. I’m standing there and I’m listening, all that’s fine, well, and good, and he asked me, well, what are you going to do after college, Art? And I looked at him, G-d’s honest truth, I looked at him and I said, Steve, if I can make it to the first day of college, I’ll be happy. If I can make it through my first day, and survive my first day of college, I’ll be a happy camper. I survived my first day, I survived four years going there, got my major and my two minors. The thing is, when I got my degree, and I didn’t change my major when I was at Seton Hall, that guy Steve that I was telling you about? He changed his major four times. He had like an emotional breakdown. He couldn’t handle going to college.

Interviewer:

Where did he go?

Guarino:

Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Interviewer:

Yeah, yeah.

Guarino:

But he couldn’t handle it. And then I remember I seeing him, I saw him again when I was in my senior year of college, he said, what are you doing, and I told him, told him everything, and he said, you turned out better than I did. And he was the class salutatorian, he was number two in our graduating class. The guys that I grew up with in my neighborhood were entirely different than the guys I went to high school with. The guys that I grew up with in my neighborhood, of all of us, only two of us went to college and finished college. Maybe three, I should say. My brother and myself finished college, went on to professional school, graduate school, and became white-collar professionals. The third guy I know that got a college degree, if I could tell you the name, he went to William Paterson, he got a degree in education, he was a teacher for a year, there’s no money in it, he went off to become a mailman. And for 20-some odd, 30-some odd years, he was a mailman. I know this is on tape, I’m not going to mention his name, but it was a hell of a waste of a college degree. But we were the only three. Everybody else, blue-collar jobs. Everybody else, all that kind of type of stuff as far as the environment is concerned.

Interviewer:

In your neighborhood, what high school did most of the…

Guarino:

John F. Kennedy High School down the block on Totowa Ave. Either that or it was Passaic County Tech. But it was mainly John F. Kennedy High School. And the thing is this, that one day online, I was able to look at John F. Kennedy’s high school yearbooks for the class of 1977, and about 75 percent of the students that were in the pictures there, were people I had gone to grade school with.

Interviewer:

Yeah, yeah.

Guarino:

So, they went to high school over there. Some turned out okay, but a lot of them just took on blue-collar jobs.

Interviewer:

Were there any teachers who were particularly impactful in your life?

Guarino:

High school or…

Interviewer:

Either one, or grammar school.

Guarino:

In grammar school I had really good teachers like Mrs. Thomas in the first grade, Mrs. Kostin in the third grade, Mr. Burke was pretty good in the fifth grade, Mr. Cabana in the seventh grade. I had some pretty good grade school teachers that you looked up to, and you thought to yourself, you know, these are really pretty good people, and they’re pretty good teachers. When I got to high school, that’s when I felt I had more teachers that were making much more of an impact on me, much more demanding, and at the same time, opening up new worlds to us. That really, really helped a lot. And it helped me prepare as far as for college is concerned, but it wasn’t until college that I started to have, taking these courses that I never thought I could ever take that were like, wow, we’re talking about international relations and literature and things of that nature, that really, really helped. I mean, I had to take a course in high school my junior year with Brother Tony, who was a really tough teacher, he was our English teacher, and we were studying English literature that whole year. I was saying, because in my junior year, we had this course in English and we were studying English literature for the whole year and it was that teacher that taught us how to do analysis.

Interviewer:

M-mm.

Guarino:

We had to read a novel of different English periods every month and then we had to do an analysis on it. That year was tough, because I had never done anything like that, and I didn’t know what to do. When I got to college and I’d taken an English course, and the professor said, we want you to read this novel, and do an analysis on it, I was like, yeah. I’d already done this! I did it for a whole year. I had classmates, and this was when I was in my, was it junior year or sophomore year, sophomore year of college, I had classmates of mine that were totally lost. They had no idea what the heck he was talking about.

Interviewer:

Yeah, yeah.

Guarino:

And I went, I did it, I got an A on the paper. I was like, yeah, so? So, I had, I had really good teachers, I had some good teachers in grade school, I had some really good teachers in high school, and I had some really good professors. I mean in high school, also I learned as far as how to build a house.

Interviewer:

Right, right.

Guarino:

I learned how to design a house, I learned as far as what things had to be done within a house to fix up a house. When I was in grade school the boys had to take four years of wood shop.

Interviewer:

M-mm.

Guarino:

And everything I learned then I still retain now, so if you were to tell me, okay you’re going to have to fix up this room, I have a pretty good idea what to do. When I got to college, I had classmates were lost. So I was lucky. I didn’t have an Ivy League education, but I thought I had a pretty good education and, it was like I said, it was my freshman year of college that really, the push gave way to the drive, because...

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Guarino:

Because I saw like, oh my god, what the hell did I get myself into?

Interviewer:

So, even though you were working at a fairly young age, did you do anything for recreation, for leisure?

Guarino:

Oh, sports. It was sports. We all played sports. I was the one that would, a lot of times either me or my buddy Ralph would go get the other kids in the neighborhood and would play baseball, it would depend on the season—baseball, football, basketball, hockey—we played sports.

Interviewer:

And where did you do that?

Guarino:

If it wasn’t in the street, we’d play street football, telephone pole to telephone pole. We’d play basketball, because somebody had a hoop in their yard or their or in the park, Westside Park, there’d be a hoop, we’d play there. Baseball, we’d play whiffleball, but we’d doctor up the ball. We’d modify the ball, the bat, we’d play hardball, whatever we could find in open spaces where we played. Somebody had a football or a basketball, whatever it is, we would play. It was sports that really was a driving factor for us, I think, about keeping us out of trouble, keeping us as far as, keeping our minds off other things, and at the same time, you know, that was our leisure, it was playing sports.

Interviewer:

Did you ever go to Hinchliffe?

Guarino:

Yeah, we went there, you’d go, we went there a number of times, I remember, when I was a kid. My father at one time had brought me and somebody else to Hinchcliffe [sic] stadium, because Soupy Sales…

Interviewer:

Oh, yeah, yeah.

Guarino:

You got to remember Soupy Sales, he had a concert that he was giving over there, it was like a half hour or 45-minute concert that was given there. We went to Hinchcliffe Stadium to see the football games, the high school football games over there. They used to have midget car races in Hinchcliffe Stadium because of the track that was around there. Very, very familiar as far as Hinchcliffe stadium, Don Bosco Tech would participate in track meets that would occur in Hinchcliffe Stadium, so I was very, very familiar as far as Hinchcliffe Stadium and School 5 was here, Hinchcliffe Stadium was right across the street. It was next, literally right next door to us, so I was very familiar with as far as what was going on at Hinchcliffe Stadium. And how big it was, and it was a pretty neat place to be. Sorry that it’s declined, they want to fix it up, I know, but that’s another story unto itself.

Interviewer:

When your father was working at the bank, and when your mother was working at the coat factory, did they walk to work?

Guarino:

My father walked to work, yes. It was the idea, he left at, he left in the morning, he could walk to downtown, or if the weather was not the greatest, he’d go to the bus stop at the corner, grab the bus, go to work, and then grab the bus to come back. With my mom, it was sometimes she’d get a ride in the morning from my dad, or she’d get a ride from a friend, a co-worker, or she would walk to the factory.

Interviewer:

So by then he had a car?

Guarino:

Oh, yeah, my parents, my father always had a car. He always had an automobile. And we were lucky, because there were some families who didn’t. But my father always had a car, and so, you know, transportation, he didn’t really use it to go work. Wasn’t until some years later, but, as he got older, but it was the idea that you walked to work, or you had to take the bus, because the bus or walking would do it for you.

Interviewer:

And you didn’t have to worry about parking.

Guarino:

No, no, as far as parking is concerned, maybe in the street or maybe in the parking garage, but no, you know, he didn’t have to worry about parking because he left the car at home. So you got a lot more wear and tear out of the car, a lot of mileage on the car, you kept it for a longer period of time, because the car was home.

Interviewer:

So, what were your parents’ names?

Guarino:

My father’s name was Arthur, just like me. And my mom’s name was Palma, P-A-L-M-A.

Interviewer:

Okay. I’m just checking my questions here. Is there anything particular you remember about your street and your neighbors?

Guarino:

There were a lot of kids. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood.

Interviewer:

This was the Sixties.

Guarino:

Yeah, there were a lot of kids, Sixties and the Seventies. There were a lot of kids. And there were different kinds of kids, and it was nice, because there was always kids around. So in the neighborhood, and if it wasn’t on your block, it was a couple blocks down, the next block over, or the next block after that, there were always a bunch of kids. And you always heard kids outside. And that was the nice thing about a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday afternoon, there were always kids outside playing. So that was the good part about it and the variety as far as the people, we had a lot of different characters that existed within the different neighborhoods, and you got to know each one as far as those characters are concerned. Some pretty decent, some not so decent. But it was the variety as far as the people, that I think was the most important thing, the variety as far as the people is concerned, because when I grew up, like even now, you run, I run into different individuals, what’s the big deal. You should see what I grew up with. So that was the nice thing about it.

Interviewer:

Were there any downsides?

Guarino:

It wasn’t all that great in the sense that, one of the downsides was that sometimes as far as, like I said, those bad people that you met. Sometimes kids who came from broken homes, that were having a bad home life, and they take it out on you. They take it out on other kids, and it wasn’t till I got older that I realized and playing amateur psychologist, why they were acting the way they did. And realizing in retrospect, you know, Freud would have a field day over here, trying to analyze as far as why these kids are acting the way they do. And that was kind of like on the downside, because you had some individuals that, talking about as far as the kids, that were in messed-up situations, messed-up family environments, messed-up lives as far as families are concerned, it reflected as far as their grades are concerned, their behavior in school, and their behavior when you saw them coming down the street, you just knew how to act and what to do, and you tried to really try and avoid them. That I think was one of the downsides. Sometimes we had crime. And that was something you had to deal with and that was just reality of the environment that we were in.

Interviewer:

What church did you go to?

Guarino:

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Union Avenue.

Interviewer:

And tell me about your experiences with the church.

Guarino:

Well, it was pretty good. It wasn’t bad, I mean, I had, I didn’t mind going to church. It was just, you know, something to do, it was how I was raised as a Roman Catholic, did I…there was like one priest that was there in that church, that was, I just didn’t agree, but you sat there, you’re just like, all right, fine. All right, say what you will. Nobody lives forever. And it wasn’t a bad type of environment in that respect. It was an old church. It was a church that was always full. It wasn’t until I got to Don Bosco that I started seeing religion in a different light, it’s the way the priests and brothers were presenting to us. It wasn’t in the traditional sense. But as far as other ways of thinking is concerned, we studied other religions, so what was going on at St. Mary’s with that particular priest who ran it for many, many years, he got up there and he talked from his pulpit, his own little pulpit up there. You, so yeah, all right fine, in one ear and out the other.

Interviewer:

So you didn’t have to be an altar boy or anything like that?

Guarino:

No. Unless you volunteered.

Interviewer:

Okay. Or parents pushed?

Guarino:

Or parents pushed. But I was like, I was very shy. At that point of my life, I was a very, very shy person, I was like how the heck am I going to get up there? So, it really wasn’t an alternative for me, an option for me, because I was like, I don’t like the priest, so if I have to be an altar boy for that priest, forget it. I’ll spill the wine on him. Or something along those lines.

Interviewer:

So when you were in grammar school, what did you do after school?

Guarino:

Play outside with my brothers. There was after, you know, read, or doing something, my mom would be home, asking us how our day went, homework, whatever it was, but it was mainly as far as staying within the home environment.

Interviewer:

Were you a library family?

Guarino:

My parents, especially my mom, pushed us to go to the library. There was the library on Union Avenue that was directly across the street from St. Mary’s church, and we’d go there. My mom would bring the three of us, and we’d go there and we’d pick out books from the children’s section. As I got older, I got tired of the books from the children’s section, so I started going to the books on the sports section, where the children’s section was, and I got hooked on it, and I read every one of those books. I was done, I said, and well, I asked the librarian one day, don’t you have any other sports books? Yes, but it’s up on the second floor. So I went up to the second floor and I started reading all those sports books. And once I got done with all those sports books, I said, well, what else was I going to do? I reached, I think the magic age of 14 so I could start reading novels and fiction from the adult section, so I started going through those books. But going to the library in the town, in the neighborhood over there, that helped a lot, because it got me started as far as reading is concerned. And me compared to my buddies, I was the bookworm. I was the person who was reading a lot and still do a lot today. But that helped. That library really, really helped.

Interviewer:

What did the family do for recreation? Did you go on picnics, did you go to the park? Did you go to the Falls?

Guarino:

For recreation, we went to see other families, friends of my parents. They had kids, so we’d play with their kids. We would go visiting other families, that was mainly it. There were times that my parents took us into New York City on a Sunday afternoon, especially in the winter and around Christmas time, so we got a chance to go into New York City. That helped because for us, for me and my brothers growing up, we got used to the idea of New York City. I can tell you that I have friends of mine today who I grew up with, that they won’t dare go into New York City. They’re scared out of their wits. I’d look at them and say, well, what’s the big deal? My parents introduced us to the idea of walking in Manhattan, in Manhattan itself, and seeing different parts of New York City. So we didn’t get scared, we weren’t intimidated by what was going on over there. We actually looked forward to going over there. That helped, that helped a great, great deal.

Interviewer:

Did you ever go to the Falls?

Guarino:

Yes. A lot of times. We’d play ball over there. We’d play football over there. There was a particular area of the Falls that after the park had been developed that we would go play football there on a Saturday afternoon. We’d get all bundled up and we’d be playing football for four, five hours. And it was great, because you had like a couple dozen kids, literally, that were playing on this open field, and we’d be playing football, and we’d have a great time as far as playing ball was concerned. You know, yeah, we took a walk around, as far as the Falls, that area around there, as far as the Falls are concerned, but you got used to seeing that. You got used to seeing the water falling. It was mainly the idea, the opportunity to go play ball over there. So that was the fun part for us.

Interviewer:

Did you ever see the tightrope walkers?

Guarino:

Yes. I saw him the first time that he went. He was the same guy who did the World Trade Centers.

Interviewer:

The twin towers. Philippe Petit.

Guarino:

Philippe Petit, yeah. I remember because he first crossed to the World Trade Center, he did the tightrope act over there and then it was a couple months later that he did the Falls and walked around over there. It was interesting, it was like, all right, fine, he’s walking back and forth, you know, oh, it’s Philippe Petit, he did the World Trade Center. Comparing the World Trade Center to the Falls, believe me, it’s like night and day. But we, I got to see him. My brother and I both got to see him. And we got to see as far as when they the Falls Festivals over there…

Interviewer:

Okay.

Guarino:

That was fun. It was a lot of fun.

Interviewer:

So you said that lived here in Paterson until you were 29…

Guarino:

Yeah.

Iinterviewer:

With the exception of one year…

Guarino:

Right.

Interviewer:

And were you working by then?

Guarino:

Oh, yeah.

Interviewer:

Full-time?

Guarino:

I was, my real first full-time job, I was working for an investment firm in New York City. But the origins of that went back to fifth grade. See when I was in fifth grade, at School Number 5, where my desk was, it was by the window. And where the school was, was kind of like on a little bit of a hill, let’s say, elevated area, and I could look out the window and I could see the skyline of Manhattan. And I remember it was a clear day, I was in the fifth grade, it was April, and I saw the skyline of Manhattan, and I said to myself, someday I want to work there. I want to work there. I want to work in Manhattan. I want to see what it’s like to work in Manhattan. As I grew up, my parents thought I was nuts, my friends thought I was nuts, why do you want to go work in New York City, so far away, you get a job close to home. No, I want to work in New York City. I want to see what it’s like to work in New York City. When I reached about 23, I got a job with an investment firm in New York City. It was a tough job, I start out literally at the bottom, I worked myself up to becoming the manager of the training and development department. I had securities licenses. I was part of the managers that ran the office. But I was working in Manhattan and my office was at Two Penn Plaza, which is directly across…

Interviewer:

I know where it is…

Guarino:

Yeah, so from the office, I could look at the window and I could see the roof of Madison Square Garden and I could walk around Manhattan and know where everything was and if I had to go to such-and-such place in Manhattan, not a problem. The thing is that it helped me in the long run, because if I ever had to go to Manhattan, because we had friends coming over from Europe, or family coming over from Europe, my mom, who was against me working in Manhattan, somebody came over from Europe, because they wanted to see New York City, my mom didn’t turn to my brother. She turned to me. Can you take them into the city? Yeah, what do you want to see? I want to see such-and-such. Not a problem. And when we would come back from that, you know, venture, my mom would say, how did everything go? She’d say to the friends, how did everything go? Oh, yeah, we got to see this, that, and the other thing. You didn’t get lost? No, Art knew where every place was. It was beneficial for me, because it opened up new worlds being in Manhattan, because you start off in Manhattan, you go to Brooklyn, Queens, sometimes Staten Island, the Bronx. I got to see other parts of New York City that I generally wouldn’t get if I lived in New Jersey. I would have had a safe job in New Jersey, working in an office some place, and just know office parks in New Jersey, and so forth and so on, suburban areas in New Jersey. I wanted something different. And that opened up new worlds for me.

Interviewer:

So when you lived in Paterson, were you living with your parents?

Guarino:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

All that time?

Guarino:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

What made you leave?

Guarino:

I wanted to be on my own. I just got tired as far as living with my parents, and I wanted to be on my own, and, I’m a very independent type of person. My mom once said about me: You’re too independent. She looked at me one time and said, you’re too independent. Well, compared to my brother, it’s a hell of a lot better, because my brother’s too dependent. I said, you know, fine, too independent, well, that’s me. The idea basically was, I wanted to get out on my own. I had friends of mine that were still living with their parents, because they were too cheap to move out on their own, scared to move out on their own. And I said, no, I wanted to do something different, so I moved to West Orange and I did something different. And I thought it was the best thing for me. It taught me how to be on my own two feet. It taught me how to be even more independent than I was.

Interviewer:

So when you were an adult living in your parents’ house, did you have to contribute to the family economy?

Guarino:

To a certain degree, yes, by chores and things that I did around the house, yes. But as far as actually physically giving money, it’s only because I wanted to, not because I had to.

Interviewer:

Okay.

Guarino:

That was it.

Interviewer:

Tell me about shopping and the stores in Paterson.

Guarino:

It depends upon where you wanted to go, I mean, if you wanted to go really close, you could go to Union Avenue from where we lived and there was stores there, like there was an A&P and A&P had, compared to now, had a relatively really small store. There were other stores located on Union Avenue in which you could do all your family shopping. People were, you know, cars were in existence but it doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of people had cars. So you could do your grocery shopping, if you needed to get as far as canned goods are concerned, you could go to the nearby A&P, there was a fish store on Union Ave., there was a bakery there on Union Ave., there was a post office on Union Ave. It was like the small town as far as shopping area is concerned. It was really within a relatively three, four, block area.

Interviewer:

And did they know your name when you came in?

Guarino:

Some of them did, because a lot of them were just like family-owned and it just went from one generation to another generation. If you wanted to do some more shopping, you could go to downtown Paterson, and there was a section of downtown Paterson that you could go to off Broadway, let’s say, that you could do shopping as far as you wanted fresh-killed chickens. There was one store that had fresh-killed chickens. You’d pick out the hen and they’d take care of it for you there and they had other animals that were there, too. There was another store, Belmonte, yeah, Belmont, they had coffee, they had spices, they had a variety of things. It was like a deli, but they had a variety as far as things that they would sell that you would just pick out what you want, they’d put it in a bag, they’d weigh it, they’d sell it to you, and you went on your merry way. Then there was the farmer’s market on the other side of Paterson. And that was great, because certain times of year, you know where you could get fresh fruits and vegetables. And even if it was this time of year, there were enclosed stores that were in the farmer’s market, you could get fruits and vegetables from the area or from out of state. But if you knew where to go, you could go to different places as far as getting goods and what you needed.

Interviewer:

Did your mother ever send you out as a kid to run errands for her?

Guarino:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

Where did you go?

Guarino:

Gosh, there’s the corner grocer I went to, there were stores on Union Avenue that I would go to. Once I had my own car and could drive, she’d send me to the farmer’s markets, this is what I want you to get. There was a place in Wayne that was a chicken ranch and all they sold was eggs and you’d literally go in there and say, I want a dozen eggs, so forth and so on. You didn’t have to go into a supermarket to get them. You could get them right there. So, I, my mom always liked sending me as opposed to sending my brothers, because I used it as an opportunity to run to the store and run back to get some exercise. My brothers always walked. So she knew with me, there and back. But, yeah, it wasn’t a problem at all. You just learned as far as going to the stores was concerned, what you had to do.

Interviewer:

Okay. Let’s see. Did you ever go on picnics or swimming or fishing?

Guarino:

Picnics is only, not family picnics, it’s like extended family, yeah, but swimming, no, not really, I mean, we didn’t go swimming. Nobody went swimming in the area, in the neighborhood. Fishing, nobody, nobody would fish out of the Passaic River. The main reason was that if you fell into the river, you wouldn’t drown, you’d decay.

Interviewer:

Yeah, yeah.

Guarino:

It was bad.

Interviewer:

So before we started this, you started to talk about changes that you’ve seen…

Guarino:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

In Paterson. So can you talk about that?

Guarino:

I think some of the important changes we started seeing is in the downtown. That stores that we had been used to seeing as we were growing up started disappearing. There was Quackenbush, a large, a fairly large department store. There was the Woolworth Five-and-Dime. There was Meyer Brothers. There was also the smaller stores that were there. There was a photo studio, a photographer studio called Lorstan…

Interviewer:

Oh, I remember them.

Guarino:

Yeah. We’re talking about the idea that they started disappearing, one by one, they started disappearing, and that was kind of a shame, because those stores were kind of the roots, the anchors, the foundation as far as the economic and financial concentration in, regarding downtown Paterson is concerned. There was Fava Jewelers, and it was a really nice jewelry store. But once they started going, once they started leaving, then you had a problem. There were a lot more banks then. These were neighborhood banks. These were nearby banks. But once they started leaving, you know, you started seeing an emptiness. There was the Fabian Theater. There was the hotel that was there by the Fabian Theater. But once you started seeing them close, it was like, you know, people didn’t want to be in downtown Paterson anymore. They saw how it started decaying, how it went down, and that was the sad part. That was the really, really sad part, because you had these stores that had been there for decades…

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Guarino:

That weren’t there anymore, and people couldn’t call that their anchor anymore. They couldn’t call that their foundation anymore. And people started going to other places like the mall, but now we see what’s going on with the malls.

Interviewer:

Well, we’ll talk about that later, because I don’t know what’s happening with the malls.

Guarino:

Oh, I’ll tell you about that later. Go ahead.

Interviewer:

So, downtown Paterson is still thronged with people.

Guarino:

Yes. And that’s the positive. Because now you have a different group of people. You have different minority groups that are setting up stores that is ultimately keeping the foundation alive, but you’re talking about as far as a different group of people and different types of stores. If there’s one positive that has existed for Paterson now, is that you still have a lot of store fronts that are filled. If you go to Pompton Lakes, and you go to Wanaque Avenue, which is the main business district for Pompton Lakes, there’s a lot of empty store fronts. I live in Pompton Lakes and when I saw this, I saw Wanaque Ave., I go, I say, I said to my wife, I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but Wanaque Avenue is where businesses go to die.

Interviewer:

Uh huh.

Guarino:

Because you had a lot of these small businesses that are closed up, you got empty store fronts. Paterson, to give it credit, has store fronts that are still filled. And that’s a big, big benefit for them, even more so than what you see in other towns, such as Newark. So, yeah, it’s still a thriving downtown and that’s what keeping that area, it’s still pretty, it’s still pretty much going, excuse me.

Interviewer:

You mentioned that you attended the festivals at the Great Falls.

Guarino:

Right.

Interviewer:

Can you say more about that?

Guarino:

What it basically was is that you had the City of Paterson trying to highlight as far as the Falls itself is concerned, so they would close off areas, and they would have rides, they’d have food carts put up, they’d have fireworks for those two or three nights that the festival would be going on. They’d have Philippe Petit come over and walk over the Falls on a tightrope. The whole idea was to get outside people interested in getting back into Paterson. To highlight the Falls. To see the Falls. We even had a chance, an opportunity, one year, that power plant that’s by the water over there, to walk through there…

Interviewer:

Okay.

Guarino:

And there’s that tower. You were able to walk from the top of the tower all the way down and got to see as far as how the power plant worked, and they gave tours back then. So that was the nice part, because you actually got to see as far as places that you could only see from the outside and never from the inside.

Interviewer:

Um-mm.

Guarino:

And it was just another perspective. It was like an inside view as far as what was going on in there and that was the nice part about it, because finally, finally somebody was trying to say, hey, we’ve got something here. It’s noteworthy, it’s worth looking at, and come and take a look.

Interviewer:

Were you aware of Paterson’s founding history growing up?

Guarino:

In grade, because of grade school. Because of what they taught us in grade school and stuff that I learned on my own. But it was mainly as far as what was going on in grade school that they would teach us about as far as, you know, how Paterson literally got started, its foundations, its roots, its origins, and it was mainly in grade school that they were teaching us this stuff.

Interviewer:

How did you get involved with the American Labor Museum?

Guarino:

Well, when I was in law school, I took a course, I was going to law school on a part-time basis, you know, working during the day, I was going to law school at night. In my junior year of law school, I was taking a course that dealt with labor law, and we were required to do a project, and the professor said, why don’t you try the American Labor Museum. I never heard of it. I said, okay, but can you tell me where it is? He looked it up online, he got the address for me, I called up, when can I come over, I’m doing some research. And the person on the other side said, you can come over such-and-such hours, this is where we’re located. Parked my car outside, walked up to the front door, rang the doorbell, and I thought to myself, this looks like an old creepy house. I wouldn’t be surprised if a little old lady with a hatchet, and while I’m looking at books, chops my head off. A hatchet murderer, I mean, you grow up in Paterson, you had that kind of mentality. It would be a hatchet murderer over here and that’s it, I’m dead man walking. Ring the doorbell again. Door opens, the front door opens, and there’s this woman who answers the door. I wasn’t married at the time, I thought to myself, what have we got here? So I tell her about my situation, walk in, tell her about my situation, and she starts, she gives me a tour of the place, helps me as far as looking up the books are concerned. We even played some bocce, we took a tour outside, took a tour outside, and played bocce a little bit, and I shook her hand. I was like, wow, she’s got a nice, really soft hand. And me being the stinker, we talked a little bit more, shook her hand again and I said, look, I need these books for a couple weeks, and you know, when I’m done with them, can I come back and I’ll return them to you. She said yes, sure, that’s fine. So after about three weeks, I did my project, I return the books to her and I asked her, I said, is it okay if I take you out for a cup of coffee or even dinner? She said, okay, fine. After they had like a dinner here, she said, okay, fine, so in December of that year we went out to dinner, one thing led to another, we started going out, and one thing led to another, and I married her. So, did I plan on it, no. But it just happened the way it happened. I’ll show you later outside the brick that commemorates as far as the two of us meeting here.

Interviewer:

That’s funny.

Guarino:

I mean, she’ll be in later today, she works in the afternoon, but her name is Evelyn Hershey, she’s the education director here, and I ended up marrying her. So, one thing leads to another.

Interviewer:

I guess so.

Guarino:

Yeah, so.

Interviewer:

So, I have one last question.

Guarino:

Shoot.

Interviewer:

What do you want today’s generation to know about Paterson?

Guarino:

I’d like them to know that is has really important roots, very important as far as what they, what Paterson was able to contribute to the economic and financial history and the foundations and the founding of this country. That from a business perspective, from an economics perspective, this city has been very, very important for a good number of years. That the jobs that were here were able to not only feed people, but put roofs over the kids’ heads and provide people with an opportunity to save, to build for the future. Unfortunately, a lot of people just scooted out at the first opportunity they could. The important part was that you were able to make a living, people were able to make a living, whether it was working in the factory, doing something, but able to sustain themselves. And it still has an opportunity to provide financial growth for the area. It still does. I think that Paterson, just like Newark, has a lot of economic resources. It’s just a matter as far as using those resources are concerned, and using those resources to provide jobs, to build jobs, manufacturing jobs. I think it still could do that. I think that it really has an opportunity to do very well as far as a city is concerned. It just needs a lot more direction than it’s been getting from the past couple of mayors. It’s just my opinion, whatever it’s worth. I tend to look at things from an economic perspective…

Interviewer:

Right.

Guarino:

And I tend to look at the idea that there’s a lot of potential, economic potential that’s in Paterson. It’s just a matter as far as using it is concerned. Take it from there.

Interviewer:

I want to reserve the right to ask you more questions as I process your information…

Guarino:

Yeah.

Interviewer:

And I want to thank you for your time today.

Guarino:

No problem.

Interviewer:

It is now about 11:30, so I’m going to close this up…

Guarino:

Okay.

Interviewer:

And we can chat some more.

Guarino:

Sure.

Interviewer:

Thanks.

END

Last updated: June 19, 2019

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