Wow! Here’s a challenge for you. Trying
to recall events that happened over 60 years ago. Your request for
sharing stories and memories of our experiences with the Port Authority
came in the mail today. I was not an employee but was the wife of a PA
police sergeant, Chester (Chet) Yaszczemski. Sadly, he passed away in
2006 just before his 75th birthday.
Our PA experience began in 1955, soon
after he returned home from Korea. Chet served between 1952 and 1954
--six months at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then on to a troop ship out of
San Francisco to Korea. He saw action for most of 18 months. Arriving
back home, with $300.00 mustering out pay, decisions had to be made,
about work, returning to school, housing, where to live, etc. After high
school, Chet enrolled as a freshman at the University of Scranton on a
football scholarship before he was drafted.
Chet’s Uncle Ray was the first to see the
PA ad in a newspaper. Port Authority was looking for persons to be part
of a program which offered employment and schooling simultaneously. Work
consisted of 32 hours weekly and college courses toward an Associate
Degree in Police Science. Chet applied and was accepted. We lived in New
Jersey at the time and, of course, the interview was in New York.
The morning of the interview he asked me
if I wanted to go into the city with him. I agreed. We boarded a bus
which took us to the PA Bus Terminal. With just an address we began
walking. Neither one of us knew where we were going. Now we were both
young, so walking was no problem, except that we were expecting our
first child, our eldest son, Michael. In the heat of the summer of 1955,
I kept asking: “How much further?” His answer was always, “Should be
there soon.” Did I mention neither one of us knew where we were going?
That all changed, of course, because
during the course of his 22-year career with the Port Authority, he came
to learn the city like the back of his hand. There was no place he dared
not venture, and we did -- from enjoying cappuccino and pastry at
Ferarra’s to spending a Saturday afternoon at the South Street Seaport.
New York became our second home.
Chet’s employment with the Port Authority
was one of the best decisions he ever made. We were so fortunate. We
never missed a paycheck in 22 years. The early years were difficult. The
take-home pay was $88.00-every two weeks. Our rent was $80.00. It took
some balancing. But, that first group went on to eventually graduate
with their AA. Chet stuck with it and graduated with his BA from Seton
Hall and then went on to N.Y. Law School, passed the bar, and practiced
after his retirement from PA.
Chet worked many of the PA facilities. He
started at the Holland Tunnel where the police officers were the toll
collectors. At some point civilians were hired for toll collecting. The
police also walked the tunnels, then the little rail car was installed,
and eventually cameras did the work of watching traffic. Chet ended his
career at Port Newark where we were honored to meet Father Charles
McTague -- Father Charlie. He was everyone’s friend. One of the first
acquaintances Chet made on the job was a young man named Bob Marnane.
Other friends and partners were Frank Farfalla, Lou and Angelo Iorio,
and Gene Griffin (Hi Gene, I often see you mentioned in PARA. hope you
and yours are well.). He also came to know Rich Price (later Judge Price
of NYC, and Norman Sweeten, Hoboken PD. They often studied at the
Hoboken jail well into the night, if it was quiet, of course. If I have
either dates or events wrong, I apologize. It’s been a long time; memory
Thank you for this. It was nice going
down “memory lane.” I just wish Chet was still here to enjoy it with me.
– Pearl Yaszczemski