In the spring of 1975 I was almost 16 and looking for a summer job in the usual places like McDonald's (where a manager told me my hair was too long and my scraggly new beard had to go: "This is a family place!"). Without my knowing it, my father asked if there was anything I could do at the Chicago Daily News, where he wrote a column. "Sure," said the man in Human Resources, "he can be a gofer in the office," to which Dad said, "Don't you have anything dirtier and sweatier?" Directed to Harry Nakis, boss of the circulation truck drivers, he was told, "Well, we don't have anything unless he wants to work for minimum wage as a helper on a truck." Perfect!
Assigned to driver Tony Genna, whose territory covered part of the loop and near north, I filled newspaper boxes and ran bundles of papers to newstands on the street and in office buildings and down into subway stations. In between runs, I'd hang around with the other helpers, who, like me, received $2.10 an hour. As my father had hoped, it was dirty and sweaty, but my messy hair and scraggly beard passed unnoticed, and I kept the job through the remainder of high school.
My father also loved the fact that Tony was a direct descendant of the "Terrible Genna Brothers," among the most famous and notorious Chicago mob clans of the prohibition era. The one time I asked Tony about it (against my father's advice), he said, "I don't know what you're talking about," his tone of voice making clear that the discussion was closed.
My mother, a photographer, had built a small black & white darkroom in our basement and taught me how to use it. In the summer of 1977, I snapped some shots of life in the Daily News garage during my last week there. The paper and the building itself are long gone--Trump Tower now rests on the site--as are Tony Genna and Harry Nakis, but I remember them with affection and plenty of humor. These are a few of the pictures I took.
And very special thanks to Tony LaMantia (Sun-Times driver, 1979-2009) and Gary Johnson (Daily News, 1975-1978 and still with the Sun-Times as of October, 2010) for getting in touch and identifying the drivers whose names had escaped me. (The Sun-Times, a morning paper, and Daily News, an afternoon paper, shared the same building back then, and many Daily News employees, including Harry Nakis, went to work for the Sun-Times in 1978 after the Daily News folded.)
A few hands of cards while waiting
The truck is backed up to a chute, ready for the bundles to tumble, literally hot (or at least warm) off the presses.
L-R: Stanley Sasak ["a Sun-Times bulldog boss," Gary Johnson], Stanley Watson [profile], Earl Montgomery, Dominic Sarlo
(Thanks to Tony LaMantia and Gary Johnson)
A couple of drivers settling up
"Bill MacNeil (Mac) is facing the camera" (Tony LaMantia), Tony DeLeonardis (back)
Before the next run
Waiting for the next edition to come down the chute, the drivers hang around outside the garage. Tony Genna, my driver, has the white hair.
L-R: Joe Pisciola [back], Don Cavalier [moving], Tony Genna, Tony DeLeonardis, Julio Lucotti
(Thanks to Gary Johnson)
The boss and his men
Harry Nakis, boss of the circulation truck drivers, is in the middle. The office, from which the garage was visible through a window, is behind them.
"The last picture with Harry Nakis is Joey Pisciolla and Joe Coriglione." (Tony LaMantia)