The American Dream
I was witness to this and a part of this American dream. Before my time, let us start at the beginning of this dream. Like so many like Mr. Antico came to America from Italy. He more than likely was a common laborer doing pick and shovel work. I would guess during the 1920s when house cellars were dug out by pick and shovel. People worked from sunup to sundown. They lived on very little and saved every spare penny to invest in real estate and things of value.
I imagine Mr. Antico always had mechanical interest. In the 1930s and the 1940s machinery began to replace a lot of work that was done by hand. Anyone like Mr. Antico put his savings in a dump truck and a bulldozer. Soon he was digging and clearing land hauling dirt and stone. With heavy equipment you need a helper they call an “oiler” who maintains and keeps the oil level and grease fittings satisfied. Mr. Antico had to do this work at night, sometimes welding when needed.
Waltham, Massachusetts had a big population of people from Italy. They all had dreams of building a home for themselves. Mr. Antico soon needed more than one truck and heavy equipment, so he had to hire a truck and driver from other companies for a given job.
He excavated mountains of soil, which required an area to store the large equipment and fill dirt of all sorts such as loam, gravel, pea stone, etc.
Now we come to the dream. Mr. Antico needed to locate a area of unbuildable condition that might be swamp, too steep, too sloped, too much ledge, whatever the reason that was the business he was in. If he needed more fill dirt to make land buildable, other companies were glad to truck it in to save mileage or just as a convenience.
About 40 years later on the land that was made buildable Mr. Antico and his two sons, Louie & Tony, got permits to build apartment buildings. The buildings consisted of six two-bedroom apartments with two stories and a basement unit.
The buildings were solid block and brick with metal window frames. Typical in those days, apartment buildings were framed and closed in with plywood then the brick masons would install brick siding.
The carpenters framed the basement unit and the 1st floor. Then the masons would block up to the 2nd floor, then the framers would build all the partitions and the 2nd floor, and repeated the same procedure on the 3rd floor.
Then the masons bricked the rest of the outside of the buildings and two block firewalls between the units.
How did I witness this dream? A teenage friend of mine Norman Cormier played a fiddle like his father Henry. We played music quite often. They also were plastering lathers. Louie Antico was in charge of the project and Tony controlled the excavation business. When Louie called in an order of rock lath at Waltham Lime and Cement, they recommend Henry Cormier to install the rock lath. Henry told me that few plastering contractors were bidding for the plastering so I put my bid in and got the job on my reputation (I found out later).
The project was the largest project I ever had. I was nervous at the time even though I had 4 other jobs going with two crews, each consisting of two plasterers and a tender.
When I started the first building the men who bid on the project showed up for a job. They said to me they were depending on getting the project because they were out of work, so I put them to work. I completed three buildings, in about a month each, with three coats of plaster. When the fourth building was ready I came to start and I see they switched from wood frame door openings to metal door jams. I told Louie the price had to be changed and didn’t understand why.
I explained how the units were framed with metal door jams, that it didn’t change the square footage but made a big difference in labor.
As we were discussing the situation, Mr. Antico walked in. He had arrived the day before from Florida where he retired. He understood immediately and said to pay whatever I asked for. I continued plastering the next six apartment buildings while having to do jobs for other builders that I was committed to.
I was careful of the work I did and kept my word. As a result it seemed I was awarded all the projects that I bid for. Soon I was unable to keep up with the project as started to build hundreds of units.
I asked him how much he was charging for rent. He said $90 for a one-bedroom and $135 for the two-bedrooms per month. I told him he would never get that much. By the time I stopped plastering about 10 buildings he said the first four buildings were fully occupied and paid for.
They started the project with financing from Waltham Citizens Bank until Met Life took over and renamed it ”Charles Bank Apartments”.
Mr. Antic is truly the American dream. I would guess today the rents are $800 to $1200 with no banks involved.
Today is 11/15/2019 I am 90 years old and decided to record this short story of which I was a part of and witness to most of it. The grandchildren reap the rewards of this American dream.
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Happy 91st Birthday Dad!!!!
I can see how you were a success, as you always worked hard and made sure the job got done as promised. Your children all carry these wonderful work ethics, that you inspired in them. Those gifts are worth more than gold! I'm so happy I got to see these work ethics first hand and have learned them too. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story. Oh to be young again and imagine how much work and living, you could fit into a single day, amazing!!!!!
Love you Dad, Chris
What an amazing story and I am so glad you shared it. Got to see a little bit of yesteryear.
Thanks & love to you Rosemary