“I Go Pumpa Da Gas”
by Neil Clement
“I go pumpa da gas...” these words conjure up all kinds of pleasant, nostalgic, warm feelings and memories from my childhood “in beautiful downtown Carneys
Not too long ago, I road my bike to the bank and took a swing through Dunne’s Park on my way back. When I saw Aaron Collins, “The Walker With The Big
Stick,” sitting at a picnic table, I joined him and we chewed the fat awhile.
As I glanced at Pagano’s old store, a flood of memories rolled over me.
Why not plan to take a walk or a ride sometime soon and enjoy the beauty and quiet of Dunn’s Park?
For those of you who are shut-ins, like Bud Rhoads, Reba Ryder and many others, why not kick your brain out of television mode and slip it into imagination
mode? Okay, are you ready? Picture in your mind’s eye the “old” Lafayette school on the south side of the fountain and on the north side, Pagano’s store,
then Mike Crauley’s store and finally Simpson’s Garage.
Zero in on Mike’s store for a minute. Remember it’s size and structure? I once heard someone describe it as “four walls made up of Nehi soda and Mail
Pouch tobacco signs what held up the tar paper roof.” Did it have a dirt floor?
Simpson’s Garage, by comparison, was very big.
Well folks, back to reality.
As I sat there that day, looking at the boarded up windows of Pagano’s store, reminiscing about the 30's and the 40's, a familiar voice from the past rang out.
The voice sais, “I go pumpa da gas.”
When Frank Pagano used to say these words, he would remove his apron, hang it on a hook and remove his black visored cap from a nearby hook. Then he
would head for the door.
As a kid, I always thought his hat was called a “gas cap.”
After more than fifty years, I have come to realize that Frank Pagano’s little saying and his apron/cap ritual, repeated so many times a day, embody the real
meaning of the phrase “the work ethic.”
You talk long hours and low pay!
If you want to see a modern day counterpart of Frank in action, just sit down at the table in Pfeffer’s Market for a coffee and /or sandwich. You’ll see Anna and
Gus Fessaras there everyday and almost every hour.
So have Marie (Pagano) Leuzzi and Tony Leuzzi followed Rose and Frank Pagano’s footsteps in their shoe business which they built by themselves.
The pattern of immigrants arriving in America, learning a new language well enough to earn a living with it and working as hard as they do is woven through
the cloth of America’s dream and helps hold us together.
My own great grandparents, on both sides, were immigrants to America from Germany and from Sweden. They were all farmers in Minnesota. One Journal
translated from German to English that was written by my great, great grandmother tells of living in a wagon while they cut trees to build a cabin in the
I can appreciate how all these immigrants conquered the language obstacle because I tried twice to learn a language in night school and was unsuccessful.
Marie Pagano Leuzzi told me how Frank came to Penns Grove with Ruth in 1928 and that they were flooded out on South Broad Street and had to leave in a
Listen to this: When friends loaned them money to build in Carneys Point, the site of our little story, it was 1935 (the Depression years)! We lived in a
company house on the corner of Bay and G Street for $16 per month and it was rough. How Frank and Rose managed to build their place is a testament to
hard work and fortitude for sure.
Speaking of hard work and fortitude with a capital F; Mike Crauley? Crowley? Crawley? Does anyone know the correct spelling? If so, please write me! As a
kid, I saw Mike as an old, poor, sad and lonely man. Folks told me a son graduated with a doctorate in chemistry and worked for DuPont. I never met Dr. C.
but Mike and his wife epitomized the phrase, “the work ethic”! Mike and Frank had a lot in common there.
America today is in dire need of folks like Rose and Frank Pagano who, like Frank, can CHEERFULY smile and switch from the slicer to the gas pump, day
after day, in honest labor.
Vol. 1 No 1