Apr 20, 2009
The Limey drove an old Plymouth to work. My friend Johnny walked 3 blocks to work. I rode the bus. We all slaved in the dye house at Third and Allen Streets in Allentown about a hundred years ago.
Danny Bokeko, Subby, Joe Alizirri Jr., Jimmy the numbers runner, and George ("me rent and me eats") were some more of us.
We were all pretending to be tough guys. But Johnny really was tough. It was the way he had been brought up. Yet, although he was a bruiser, he was amazingly tolerant and gentle (in contrast to his dad). He was actually John Eugene Vasilik, III. When you called him on the telephone, his father John, Jr., usually answered and you had better ask for John Eugene Vasilik, THE THIRD. The whole enchilada! "WHO do you want--the father or the son?" "Why don’t you ask RIGHT?"
Johnny’s father was shorter than his two sons, but a nasty SOB if there ever was one. He was continually belligerent and would never back down. He badmouthed a bartender at the Dial Inn down in the ward one night and got beat up. The very next day he was back at the Dial Inn tormenting the same guy, arguing, provoking, and cursing--just totally nuts!
The Limey would pick me up at night and we would hang on the corner at 3rd and Hamilton Streets with Johnny. There was always something happening. We got to know the cops fairly well. Sometimes we would sit in Jim The Greek's. The cockroaches were big as mice. Johnny was always hungry and ate with impunity. I would only have bottled soda.
I worked at the Allen Dye House for two and a half years and then my father died and my brother and I took over the business that my Dad had started from our home. So I sort of drifted away from the colorful life down in the ward. Two years later Harry Birch (The Limey) went back to England and Johnny left the dye house to work at Neuweiler’s Brewery with his Dad.
Johnny’s father had a round depression sunken into his forehead about the size of half a golf ball. Very noticeable. Johnny never knew the story behind it. Can you imagine even ASKING? Johnny worked in the brewery while his Dad drove a beer truck. So how did their coworkers differentiate between these two Johnnies? They called the FATHER, "John." And they called the SON, "Hole-In-The-Head," or just "Hole."
After Johnny needed to wear eyeglasses, however, they began calling him, "Four-Eyes." Some time later he thought he would outfox them by getting contact lenses. You guessed it. Johnny had earned the moniker, "Contact."
Everyone called me, "Clint," because I resembled a guy on a TV show, "Clint and Bullets." I had never seen the show. Maybe it is just as well.
Two days after the September 11th tragedies, a phone call from England came on my answering machine. It was The Limey, Harry Birch; after all of these years asking for Clint and wishing me well.
NARRATIVE BY WILLIAM WEBER, WEST PARK ICON, HISTORIAN AND REALTOR OF CHOICE (BONDED REALTY)