Rags to Riches - In the mid ‘50s,
I was working as an adjuster for the Home Insurance Company in downtown
Manhattan, when I was drafted into the Army. Upon returning from Germany
after two years, I went back to the Home and was promoted to Claims
Examiner. However, within nine months, I knew this wasn’t the career I
I put in an application for the Port
Authority and was hired as a “temp” in Maintenance at N.Y. International
Airport, commonly referred to as Idlewild and today known as JFK. I was
assigned to the Gardening Department and given a green uniform. For the
next six months, I dug more holes planting pine trees along the Van Wyck
entranceway than foxholes in my years of Army service! I was made a
“permanent” and given a “Cadillac” (a garbage pail on wheels with a
broom and shovel). I was assigned to keep the floors clean in the old
Temporary Terminal Building, which was used by almost all the domestic
airlines at the time. In those years, you started at the bottom.
“Good Lord…What was I thinking when I
left the insurance company?”
I remember putting on a fake mustache and an Elmer Fudd hat pulled down
over my ears so that no one I knew would recognize me. Finally, I got a
promotion into the Operations Unit as a Sound Monitor. It seemed that
whenever the P.M.S. (Permanent Monitoring System) went down and I had to
go mobile in an airport van to a remote site, it was always to Howard
Beach (John Gotti territory) on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon! We were
pelted with cans and bottles and cursed at: “You’re ruining our lives!
We can’t watch soccer or ballgames on TV or have barbecues. Change that
runway or else!”
Again, what was I thinking?
Well, the years went on and my career
evolved. Many promotions and different jobs, until I finally left JFK in
1970 for LGA. I spent the next 25 years in Operations and the last eight
years as Operations’ Chief. During this time, I was fortunately able to
meet presidents, movie stars, sports celebrities and a POPE! What a
But I saved the best for last.
My future wife was returning home from a vacation in Hilton Head, S.C.
and was having a drink in one of the airport lounges, waiting for her
family to pick her up. Well, she got picked up…by ME! We were married
three months later!
So, thank you LGA, for everything. And
thank you “Mother PONYA” for a great and rewarding 37-year career, a
terrific retirement and an incredible medical plan.
Best decision I ever made.
Former Chief of Operations (1987-1995)