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Deja Vu Depression Blues

By       Message Philip Farruggio       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Deja Vu Depression Blues

Today is an anniversary of sorts for me. With my dad recently passed on, I alone
shall remember this date. For it was 65 years ago, to the day, that my
grandfather, a man I never would meet, took his life. Now suicide is a terrible
and a lonely act, no matter what the cause. Economic induced suicide is so much
more powerful. What does that mean? How deep can such an act linger in the
hearts and minds of those left behind?

Folks forget that on December 1st, 1941, our nation was still in the depths of a
major economic Depression. " Brother Can Ya Spare a Dime" was the anthem
whistling through the ears of most of our citizens. More were out of work than
in work. Food lines were not for folks looking for bargains, rather to make it
just another day. Things were bleak indeed across this great nation of ours.
December 1st was also the last day Peter Farruggio breathed his immigrant
breath- taking a college degree in Engineering from a Tunisian University to his grave with him. He never did get to properly use that degree in America. The
best he could do with it was find work as a trade union machinist. You see, in
those days, prior to the great Depression, many working folks were still members
of unions.

The union movement was strong in this country during the 30's. Trouble was, the
fat cats abused the system so much, with easy credit for all and stock market
manipulation and speculation ( sound familiar? ) that the unions could do just
so much. When there is little hope for viable work, doesn't matter much about
having a union. No work is no work, period. Yet, the alternative of having no
unions would have been far worse for America. Thus, to be a union man ( or
woman) was a proud thing indeed- a slight yet flickering hope to lead the path
out of harms way. Peter Farruggio believed in this. He put his beliefs into
action and joined the great strikes and protests of the 30's. He got himself
arrested ( and probably beaten up ) and jailed- couldn't make bail. His wife and only child, my father, scrounged around the neighborhoods begging up
money to get him out. They finally succeeded and home he came.

For months, then for years, my grandfather could not find sustainable work. My
grandmother found menial jobs, and my dad quit Brooklyn College ( much to the
chagrin of the dean, who pleaded with him to reconsider ) to find work. They all
ate banana sandwiches and lots of pasta and greens- having meat and potatoes was
not in their budget. Still, my grandfather could not earn enough with the work
he found.... oh yes, forgot to tell you.... the craft he was in had made it
clear that Peter Farruggio was blacklisted from his trade. They even called him
a subversive and a Commie for his part in the strikes and demonstrations. His
fate was sealed. Peter Farruggio, who some said helped invent the double bolt
lock, would never find the kind of paying job to support his wife and son (
prior to the Depression, families actually only needed one breadwinner). So, he
trudged along, from one dead end job to another, and watched his family suffer the most
heinous indignity: poverty.

December 1st must have been a gray day, for is it not on such days that bleak
acts seem to occur? Having realized, months earlier, that he could not even
receive Relief ( what we today call unemployment benefits ), Peter Farruggio
sealed his fate with a pistol to the brain. My grandmother, tired and exhausted
from her day of factory work, reached the bathroom and found the love of her
life, the only man she had ever biblically knew, sprawled out in the tub. His
last act of kindness ( if there is such a thing for so terrible an act ) was not
to allow any blood on the floor- she would wash him away down the bathtub drain.

As a child, then a young man, I would accompany my father to the graveyard each
December 1st, never being told the real story. When I reached manhood, he sat me
down, and so now you know it too. Question is: how many Peter Farruggios are out
there, buried in the cemeteries of America? How many dreams died during those years? How many wives and sons and
daughters and kinfolk were forced to carry such memories along with their paper
bag lunches? More importantly, can we learn from history, as it now seems
obvious to be repeating itself in America 2006 and 2007 and......? To answer the
editor of my local paper, when he calls my columns about our street protests
self promotional : " I have scar tissue on my soul and in my DNA." Wake up
America!

P A Farruggio

December 1, 2006

( philip a farruggio is a small business owner, an activist organizer and free
lance columnist. he can be reached at paf1222@bellsouth.net )

 

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Philip A Farruggio is an activist leader, free lance columnist and small businessman. He is blue collar from birth, as both his dad and grandad were Brooklyn , NYC longshoremen. Philip has a BA from Brooklyn College ( class of ' 74 ) in Speech (more...)
 

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