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Back in 1987, I gave my dad, Danko, a mini-cassette recorder and told him to just talk into it and tell some stories.

After more than 15 years, 11 years after his death, I found them in a box when I was unpacking in Detroit.  There are over 4 hours of stories that have been transcribed — even more that haven’t.  My sister Patricia transcribed them verbatim.  I was pissed at the time because my dad’s grammar wasn’t all that good — now I can hear his voice in the type.  She was right to do it that way, and I can’t believe that she did so much.

Here’s one of the first stories.  It dates probably from the early 1920s.


“I remember one time, we had a teacher and we had a big stucy hall class and this study hall class had maybe 75/80 chairs in there the we sat in.  Little chairs and tables, you know the regular school desks — this, I can’t think of his name, this school teacher was a tough son-of-a-bitch and he wanted nothing but absolute quiet in it.
Well, right next to me was Nono Puente who was sitting there adn he took his pencil and laid it up on top of his desk, and it rolled off and hit the floor.  boy, this school teacher looked down and didn’t know exactly where it was at, but he knew it was in the area where Nono and I were sitting.  And he says, ‘I don’t want that pencil to drop again!’
Well, Nono was a tough little kid, too.  As soon as the teacher turned around the next thing you know, why, he just let that pencil roll off again.  Boy!  this school teacher came down and looks — he didn’t know where it was, but he knew it was with the four or five of us (The others were Joe Kiami, Albert Ragus and ‘Libo’), and he figured that it would either be Nono or me or somebody else there.  He said, ‘The next time that pencil drops, I’m going to really raise hell!’
Well, he started to go back to his desk and I just picked up the pencil and threw it on the floor.  Down he come, and he reached out and just knocked the hell out of Nono Puente; and Nono had nothing to do with it!  I was the one that had done it.
After school we waited for him, and Nono brought his big brother by the name of Manuel Puente.  Manuel was another tough kid.  So we went out, and when the teacher came out after school, we just beat the living hell out of him!
It was one of the times that I wasn’t too sorry for beating the hell out of someone, even if he was a teacher.  Well, we beat the hell out of him, and by God, believe this or not, he never came back to school.  He quit and where he went to we never knew.  But that’s the kind of kids we were.
We was — good or bad, I don’t know.  But that’s what life was like in those days…”

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