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Chapter 19 (Part 2) - Nicks Custom '49 Chevy


.........'49 Custom Chevy.....All photos were taken under the Tribourgh Bridge parking lot in Astoria Park.........

~ William Wallace RIP retired as a Staten Island NYPD Commissioner and was also a car lover as I saw him at the Jacob Javis Auto car show ~ Since he was enjoying the show I did not interrupt him and let him be lol ~

~ My NYPD Badge ~

~ I also worked with the NYPD and retired in 2003 ~

Front View

Back View

Quarter Panel with the famous 'blue dot' rear light of the 50's.....Only old timers would remember the blue dot look that created a purple look from a distance when one stepped on the brake peddle.......




( to see and read PART 1 click on this link ) ~


DECEMBER 1953 to JUNE 1955

Tom Canetta the foreman that would fire me in June 1955 would later be found dead in the automobile dealership parking lot !!!!!!!!! ........

While working at this Chevy Dealership I learned from a friend named Artie and co-worker in '53 not to talk Religion and Politics otherwise there would be trouble ~

It was December of 1953 when I met John, a young man that came from Italy and had a job working in the body and fender department of this dealership located on Steinway Street in Astoria, NY.......I met John only because he had just purchased a 1949 Chevrolet from Bob who would many times park his car in Astoria Park and I would always see and admire this car as it was the same year as my dad's car, a 1949 torpedo back Chevy that had the same Cadillac rear fenders installed by its owner Bob.......It was by chance that I would meet John in the streets of Astoria that night, while I was driving by this Caddy fendered Chevy that John now owned and I wanted to talk to the owner.......John was doing some work on this car at the time and that would give me the opportunity to stop and speak with him as this was the same car that I always admired in the past in Astoria Park........

John saw the interest that I had in his car and the general interest that I had in automobiles so that he then offered to speak with his foreman Larry to see if I could be hired at this dealership to work in the body and fender department......I agreed, as I was recently laid off from another body and fender shop due to my having to take time off to help my dad on his job, as he had lost his finger in a truck tailgate accident.......[but that's another story]..........When I went to see Larry [foreman] at this body and fender shop he hired me immediately as he was the kind of tough cigar smoking character that enjoyed helping young people in need of work........

One of the first cars I worked on was the new 1953 Corvette that was introduced to the public in late 1953........The body of the Corvette was not made of steel like most cars were of that time, but instead was made of some sort of plastic resin [new] that required a different type of repair process after being in an accident.......At only age 18 years and an apprentice at this dealership I was the guy that would dismantle damaged automobiles and then the body and fender master would actually do the repair work involved..........If I purhased one of these Corvette cars back in 1953 and kept it in a garage I can't imagine the value of it today.......[wishful thinking].........

See "The Graduate" video below concerning plastics as the FUTURE

1953 Chevy Corvette

At the dealership, I wanted to learn the trade so badly that at lunch time I would go into the the paint shop and use their equipment to learn that end of the business rather than have lunch.......Larry the foreman noticed my enthusiasm and one day when Tom Petrie the paint department foreman was out, Larry would put me in this part of the shop to head up the business while also giving me a raise in pay..........When Tom Petrie came back to work we hit it off great and I was kept in this department........Tom Petrie was a World War Two hero/veteran and he showed me the many scars on his legs, upper body and arms to prove his combat wounds....He would also later bring in a newspaper clipping that would highlight one of his hero experiences during the war..........

I would spray paint many new '54 and '55 Chevy two tone paint jobs during those years.........When I at age 18 years old worked in this body and fender shop one of the guys I worked with (Tom Petrie) that was about 35 years old was eating cherry peppers right out of a jar like they were candy...I said they looked good and could I try one....Without hesitation he gave me one and after just one bite I had my head under the water faucet for what seemed like forever to remove the burning taste from my mouth....Worst thing I ever did in my lifetime, I kid you not.!!!!!!!!

About a year or two ago (2015) a young man came into the wonderful Porta Bella Restaurant that we go to on a weekly bases and sat at table 44 while my wife and I sat at table 41 ~ He looked a lot like Tom Petrie's son and I was tempted to ask him if his fathers name was Tom Petrie but I never did get to ask him and I always keep thinking and wishing that I should have asked him tho ~ I did tell my wife about this young fella and she said that everybody that I see appears to look like someone lol ~

~ I also saw the wife of Police Commissioner William Wallace RIP about a year ago sitting with a friend at Porta Bella ~ Today on May 3, 2017 I entered an obituary and signed a registrar on line that had the following comment, " ~ I worked with Mr William Wallace at MetLife for the little time that he and his spouse were at that company and than both of them left for equal pastures with Bill entering the New York Police Department ~ I never knew a better couple during the time that we were together as he was a true 'Gentleman' ~ I would later see both of them at various locations in Staten Island and always received a friendly hello ~ May he Rest in Pease and God Bless ~ I later retired from MetLife and took a job with The Board of Education and than with the New York Police Department ~ "

Getting back to the Dealership story I can also recall that at one incident I was asked by Larry the forman to drive an elderly senior citizen to her home as she apparently was having a senior moment due to her age...I was given a fairly new car to tranport her and after dropping her off at her home a new song by Tony Bennett came on the car radio called "Stranger in Paradise"......Tony Bennett grew up in Astoria not too far from where I lived with my folks......Just before recording this song Tony worked as a waiter in a restaurant that I believe was called "Riccardo's" located near Astoria Park.....Between this 1953 song and the new loan car I was driving, I felt like I was on top of the world......

Another Tony Bennet song that I heard on the dealership radio was "Smile" and it was Tom Petrie that told me that this song was written by Charlie Chaplin who also sang it too, many years ago ~ I recall that when I heard it for the first time it bought tears to my eyes ~

......Tony Bennett being the great guy and singer that he is, never forgot his roots or the town of Astoria where he grew up and started his singing career as a singing waiter at Riccardo's.....Please see "Tony's Roots video" following this paragraph...... ...Tony Bennett ...4:34 minutes

While I'm at naming celebrities from Astoria I might also mention Christopher Walken's family owned and operated Walkens Bakery off 31st street on Broadway just around the corner from where my dad and mom owned their home on 31st street....Although I don't recall ever meeting Mr. Walken, he was a part of Joe Spinnel's life just as Sylvester Stallone also was, as they were all young actors all waiting for the right opportunity to fall upon them.....

~ For 10 Christopher Walken Great Impersonations click on this link ~ ...10 Walken films...6.26 minutes ...Also see Chapters 17 and 20 for further details concerning Joe Spinell in "The Godfather" Film as the character actor 'Willie Cici'...

I recently recalled an incident for this dealership that occurred in 1955 when Chevrolet designed their completely new 1955 Chevy (see photo below)....Their promotional plan to sell many Chevys that year was to have one of these model '55s on a flatbed high off the ground while they added many speakers on Steinway street where the dealership was located and continuously play the popular recording of that time period of "Mr. Sandman Send Me A Dream".....I believe this promotion really worked for this dealership as I can recall spray painting many '55 Chevy roof tops in order to co-ordinate two tones Colors for that year....Below in the video section of this Chapter you will find this "Mr. Sandman" song for your listening pleasure.....

I enjoyed working at this dealership as it was close to home in Astoria, I enjoyed the artistic work, and most of the guys were all friendly and eager to help one another out when ever it was required......I can recall an instance when I was changing my dads '49 Chevy into the custom car (See pictures above) that it became in 1955..... I was installing spot lights on the column next to the windshield on both sides of the car and it was necessary to drill holes in the windshield columns, but I was not aware that the column contained wiring for the many options in the car and one of the workers [Frank] would come to my aid........I can also recall some of the mishaps that would or might occur to a customers car and it would be repaired immediately before the customer would come back to pick up his/her car.......In one instance a car was being removed and driven from the mechanics shop that was on the other side of the street and some one accidentally pushed the down button for the garage door that ripped into the cars top.......That car had to be repaired and painted before the customer returned to pick up his car......Unfortunately these accidents occur quite frequently as some one working at a Ford Dealership recently confided in me, when I bought my Ford in for repairs several years ago, and he told me of a car falling off a lift while it was being repaired in their dealership (see photo below).......Murphy's Law will time and time again prove that accidents do happen even in this business.......

With all the good perks that this job had, vacation, free Turkey at Thanksgiving, good salary etc, there would always be some one who was not happy on the job and they would go to the union [that we did not have] and try to get them into this non-union shop.......The AFL Union was called by some one [don't know who] and the AFL would come to our side of the street to get their foot in the door while the mechanics side of the street would call the CIO Union to get this union into the mechanics side of the street.......At the time these unions were separate independent unions and they would fight each other to get into this dealership.......This would be when the trouble would start at this location.....Meetings were held and a vote was requested to see which union would get into the dealership.......I voted neutral and my friend John refused to speak with me any longer as he had his own agenda.....Tough Larry [shop foreman] got fired and Tom Canetta would replace Larry as foreman.........Later Tom Canetta would fire/layoff several employees including me in June 1955.......[It is very possible that Tom really did me a favor without my even realizing it].........

I would go to work for another small body and fender shop where I only worked for several days........Apparently on my first day of work in that shop a car was spray painted with enamel paint [lacquer paint was usually used on cars as it dryed faster and had a nicer looking finish].......Enamel paint does not dry as fast as lacquer paint and cars painted with enamel should be spray painted in a segregated area with operating fans that remove the paint fumes from the rest of the shop.......Since the car had been painted with enamel in this shop with the rest of the cars present, the enamel over spray fumes would settle on all the cars in the shop and stick to all the car finishes........The orders given by the shop boss on my first day at work in this shop and to all the other employees was to cipher gasoline from any car in the shop and use it to remove the over spray on all the rest of the cars......

When trying to cipher the gasoline out of an automobile near by and not knowing the correct procedure I swallowed some of this nasty stuff and that would lead to be the end of my career as a painter.......Needless to say gasoline is extremely toxic (worst than cherry peppers) and its a wonder that I am still here on earth typing this biography segment ~ Manny many years later when I was having trouble with my kidney's due to kidney stone's I would ask my Staten Island Dr. Pepe if the trouble with my kidney's might be related to the gasoline that I swallowed and the doctor replied ' negative ' ~

I had obtained an office job several months later [Nov 1955] at a reputable Insurance Company in Manhattan........Approximately twenty years later [1975] when driving home from work in Staten Island on a Friday evening I suddenly had thoughts of Tom Petrie the paint shop foreman at this dealership........Ironically, the very next morning on Saturday while walking through a shopping mini mall in Staten Island, I thought I recognized Tom speaking to a young man......[psychic ?].......I approached Tom and after speaking to him it was in fact him........He now lived in Florida and had come up to Staten Island to visit his son, who had recently moved to this location.......[I remembered his son who had just been born while I worked at the Astoria dealership back in 1954].......

It was at this current coincidental and strange meeting [1975] that Tom Petrie told me of Tom Canetta being found dead in the parking lot of the Astoria Automobile Dealership........The implication appeared to be that it was not of natural causes..........I have googled Tom Canetta's full name with incident/dealership and came up with nothing..........It just may be that the story is too old to find any local news story on this incident.....?....... Nick ......9/15/11

Tom Petrie - friend or foe....?.....To be continued in Chapter 32 (part 3) .....Click on the following link to read further details of this story......

Newly designed photo of 1955 Chevy Bel Aire that was on display at Steinway Street Dealership, while background song 'Mr. Sandman send Me A Dream' was constantly recorded for the publics listening pleasure......

...This is a photo of that car that fell off of the lift...(contributed by Vito)

Video and audio clips


For your listening pleasure the popular 1955 version of "Mr. Sandman Send Me A Dream".....Keep the '55 Chevy pictured in your mind when playing and listening to this recording.....

" Gotta have more cowbell "

~ What are we waiting for ???

~ "Smile" by Tony Bennet was the first time that I heard this song at the Chevy Dealership ~


Profile of nickmon4321
More Cars of the 1950s
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azmusclecar on Feb 18, 2015 said:

I did'nt realize you are quite the historian........I saw your profile and there are a lot of very interesting reads. I'm guilty of enjoying much of my memories playing doo-wop and watching old black and white TV and old classic shows. Your attachments of music, like my doo wop, sets the mood as you read and your mind can propel yourself back to times when car dealerships would white out windows before their big premier of the newest models. And kids like me would get a plastic model if I looked sad anough. Riding in huge back seats as a kid as you slid from side to side laughing like I'd lost my mind. My grandfather short of stature but huge in heart always carried his driving cushion as he switched cars. My grandfather was my biggest influence and I wish he would have told me stories like these but my grandfather was a quiet man. I'm looking forward to reading all the chapters. I grew up in Pennsylvania, not too far from New York. I think the 50's and 60's were the best time in my life. Bless you Nick for your sharing parts of your life. Your chapters contain all the things needed for a story. Your writing skills show through.

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nickmon4321 on Feb 18, 2015 said:

Thanks again Rob for your very kind words...Most people that are not members to this automobile car club do not realize that a mere click on a "profile" will get them to see much, much, more of all sorts of things whether they may be more automobiles or short stories...Hope you enjoy reading this material as much as I enjoyed writing them...It was both of my daughters who requested that I put these thoughts into print...I too was a part of the doo-wop era and am a grandfather to two grandsons that enjoy reading some of this enjoy them, give me some more of your thoughts and 'likes' if you do also like them...Again thanks much for your interest....Nick

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ghpcnm on Apr 4, 2015 said:

Great reading, pics and video clips that conjure up a lot of fond memories. Big Thumbs Up !!!

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nickmon4321 on Apr 6, 2015 said:

...Thanks for your kind thoughts my friend as I really appreciate your very kind words..."Big Thumbs Up" too for yours, and A Happy Easter to you and yours.!!!...

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nickmon4321 on Jun 25, 2015 said:

Tonight I viewed the film "Brainstorm" on TCM starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood that was released in 1983...Ironically, a few days ago I also checked out my old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens on V Pike and noticed that the Walken Bakery on Broadway was no longer there...I also noticed that my Parents rental home near the corner of 31 street and 31 ave was no longer there nor was the Bar on the corner there any longer either...After viewing the film "Brainstorm" on TCM I goggled the story surrounding this film and the circumstances concerning Natalie Wood's death and the following story was found on Wikipedia/daily mail...

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nickmon4321 on Aug 8, 2015 said:

...The following comment was placed on the "ClassicCar" website a few months ago when they made reference to a '47 mercury convertible and my brother ~ in ~ law Max (RIP) owned a '47 Chevy Convertible ~~~ "Nice, nice car that '46 Mercury Convertible with the wood trim I do say.!!!...I just Luv it...Looks a lot like the '47 convertible Chevy my brother ~ in ~ law (RIP) left in my care when he went off to Korea to fight them there bad guys...If you had your photo machine set-up I would have included his Military Photo too...While he survived Korea, even after a Locomotor Train mangled the Duce and a Half Truck that he was driving, he later passed at a young age while on the job back in the States...Thanks very much for posting the Merc and the wonderful Memories it has created for me.!!!..."

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nickmon4321 on Dec 6, 2017 said:

on Oct 23, 2017 said: on Aug 2, 2017 thru Jul 22, 2017, Nick said: ~ "So that I have a memory of who I sent this chapter to I am going to keep the name and date of each recipient in this comment, but if any one wishes that I not mention their name in this area just let me know and it shall be removed without any hard feelings" ~

Donny J Walden - Hollywood Website - 7/5/17 ~ Scott Isert Huffman and Missy Kendrick - Christopher Walden Private Group - 7/22/17 ~ Esther Davis - Old Hollywood - 8/2/17 ~ Barbara Barkhouse - Old Hollywood - 8/2/17 ~ Irene Roighton - Old Hollywood - 8/9/17 ~ Patricia Bannister - Song that I forgot - 8/11/17 ~ Kim Darling and Ron Waterman - Walden Website - 10/11/17 ~ Dan Cambell - Things I remember Website - 10/23/17 ~ Jack Ricardo - Christopher Walken Website - 11/15/17 ~ Diane Moden - FB Friend - 11/16/17 ~ Andre Engelbrecht - Vintage Website - 12/6/17 ~

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