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A Working Class Hero Is Something To Be...

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When I was just a kid I wanted to make money and I didn't mind working hard for it. Like a lot of kids in the '60s, I sold seeds door-to-door. I requested pamphlets from seed distributors and when they arrived I went through the neighborhood selling seeds for carrots, radishes, peppers, all kinds of vegetables. After I sent in the money I collected, the company sent me small packets of seeds, which I hand-delivered. I made a few bucks for myself and I wasn't even 10-years-old.

In the winter months, I'd sling a snow shovel over my shoulder and look for driveways to shovel, mostly for older people who couldn't do it themselves. And in the summer months, I'd mow their lawns using my father's 21" walk behind. I charged $3.00 (negotiable) to shovel or mow, didn't matter which.

Later, in 1968, while in Junior High, I got a job in the school kitchen where I worked as a dishwasher during lunch period. I got to see the inside of a commercial kitchen and all the Hobart stainless steel equipment, which was actually pretty cool stuff. I made about $8 a week.

That same year, I got a paper route and delivered the Quincy Patriot Ledger after school, something that taught me responsibility and respect for other people's property. I delivered on time, secured the newspapers inside storm doors, and received great tips as a result.

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Before the internet, people couldn't wait to read the newspaper. I'm pretty sure she was a good tipper…

I moved to Connecticut in the middle of eighth grade (1969-'70) and became friendly with Roger, a kid whose father owned Atlas Pool. One Saturday morning, Roger and I rode our bicycles over to Norwich Tech to peak in the windows of the shops. Roger wanted to be an electrician so he could wire the pools his father installed, and he said if I was a plumber we could work together and "make big bucks". I was excited about learning a trade…

When I mentioned to my father that I wanted to go to Norwich Tech for plumbing, he quickly shut down the idea. My parents wanted me to take college prep courses at Norwich Free Academy, go to college, and become a white-collar worker. My grandmother set the bar even higher, she wanted me to become a doctor…

That summer I got a job on a berry farm where I worked my way up and became the supervisor of a group of kids picking berries. I rode my bicycle there at 4:30 every morning and worked from 5:00-9:00. Baseball practice was at 10:00.

After we moved back to Massachusetts in '72, I got my motorcycle permit which allowed me to get a summer job in Brockton, "City of Champions", where I worked for Corolla Furniture on Montello Ave. I unpacked new furniture, kept the showroom looking good, and delivered furniture with a guy named Jimmy who taught me the ins and outs of carrying heavy stuff up narrow stairways, sometimes three flights.  

After the summer ended I worked in the high school kitchen where I took home $13 a week. Student kitchen workers took a lot of shit and there were always food fights at the tray drop-off window. Me and the other guys working there held our ground, sometimes with force… I used the money I earned to buy my first roadworthy car, a beige '66 Chevelle 4-door sedan my best friend Michael's father rebuilt and sold to me for $300.

Once I had my driver's license and the Chevelle was on the road, I got a job working the grill and the fryolator at Gino's Hamburgers in Stoughton. After getting into a dispute with the manager, I left and got a job pumping gas at Cook Brothers Getty on Route One in Walpole. I worked nights and weekends during the school year and when the summer came I put in 50+ hours a week. In addition to pumping gas and renting U-Hauls, I did grease, oil, and filters, repaired and mounted new tires, put cars up on lifts and pulled spark plugs, carburetors, and intake manifolds. I even learned how to drop and replace transmissions. It was a great place to work and my boss, Ronnie Cook, was an incredibly nice guy. I was 17 at the time (1973).

After the football season ended my senior year in high school ('73-'74), I got a job pumping gas after school and Saturdays at Sam Smith's Exxon on Pond St. in Sharon. It was during the gas crisis when there was mandatory rationing. I was the kid who put up the "Last Car" sign and I got a lot of shit from passersby for doing it.

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License plates ending in an odd number or a letter or other character could buy fuel on odd-numbered days. Those whose plates ended in an even number or zero, on even-numbered days. The maximum purchase per vehicle was 10 gallons. Once we pumped our limit we shut down. Other times we ran out of gas & closed the pumps…

After graduating high school, I got a job working at Reliable Fence in Walpole where I learned how to drill out fence posts, cut dimension lumber for sheds, load and install the sheds, and install greenhouses in the hot sun. I worked hard and made decent money before I left for college…

I attended three colleges, majoring in Physical Education, but I never felt comfortable in an academic environment; all I really wanted was to go to work and make money. After I left school in 1976, I spent some time living in Miramar, Florida working for my father in his clothing factory's shipping department in Hialeah. I left Florida and moved to Manomet, MA where I leased an ice cream truck from Dainty Maid in Wareham. When that wasn't working out, I moved into my Uncle's basement and got a job as a body shop apprentice at Muzi Motors in Needham. I left there and started reconditioning cars at Bonded Dodge in Canton, where I learned from some of the best. I got the contract to do the reconditioning at Blue Hill Lincoln-Mercury and from there I opened my own recondition shop. For a while, I was making more money than I ever had before. Car reconditioning is hard work and when the first winter came and I had to turn on the heat in the 14' high truck garage I rented in Walpole behind a bar called Pete's Dream, I was going broke. My father pushed me to close the shop, sell my equipment, and take a job selling men's shoes at a Filene's department store in Braintree. My Uncle Mike was a Buyer for Filene's for years and had connections. 

It was 1978, the year of The Blizzard, and my take-home pay for 40 hours was only $93. I was not a commissioned salesman. Although I worked hard, set sales records, and had a bright future as a department manager, selling men's shoes wasn't for me…

If I had sold woman's shoes I might've ended up like Al Bundy, the most famous shoe man of all time…

After I left Filene's, I went to work for my friend's father installing septic systems in warm weather and French drains in the winter, all very labor-intensive. I left there after 4 months to work for my friend Steve who owned and operated a landscape construction company. We cut beds, spread mulch and stone, downed trees, cleared house lots, built stone walls, and planted shrubs. In the winter we split firewood by hand, delivered cordwood, plowed driveways, and shoveled walkways.

After that summer, I decided to go back to school in Boston at Northeastern University and I rented a studio apartment on Beacon Street by Kenmore Square. I became a bouncer and then a bartender at Father's Fore in Cambridge. I needed money and it was the perfect job.

Then I got engaged, left Northeastern after two semesters, and went back into landscape construction with Steve (1979). He gave me a dump truck with a crew and we worked hard by day and drank beer all night…

After I got married in August of '79, I spent some time in New York City working in a showroom for Pandora Industries (Manshester, NH), selling clothes to mom & pop stores, something my father pushed me into. The guys I worked with wore expensive suits and fancy shoes and got weekly manicures… I ended up becoming the road salesman in the New Jersey territory, but living in Fords, NJ wasn't for me or my wife, who absolutely hated living there…

We left NY and headed back to Massachusetts where I took a job selling life insurance for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company. But, making cold calls and misleading people into thinking I was an experienced financial advisor who worked for free, simply to get into their homes where I eventually admitted to being an insurance salesman and then tried to ram insurance policies down their throats, left me feeling empty, deceptive, and not very productive…

I left the insurance business to help out a friend of mine who bought Esposito Moving, an older, well-established rigging company located in South Boston. Tommy told me, "When things get really heavy we use our brains and not our backs" and that, "Most people get hurt lifting lighter things by themselves". I've never forgotten those lessons… I left Esposito when I landed a temporary job with UPS during the Christmas rush. I was hoping it would turn into a full-time position and when it didn't, I took a job driving a canteen truck (roach coach) out of Union Canteen in Stoughton and I did that for almost a year. 

When UPS needed help during the next Christmas rush, I quit my job driving the roach coach and tried to impress UPS again, hoping to land a full-time position. When that ended and no full-time drivers were hired, I began working for my father-in-law as his apprentice plumber. The pay wasn't great, only $8.00 an hour, so I worked one night a week for a friend of mine's father who owned Sunset Cleaners. I cleaned the offices at Galaxy Carpet on Route 1 in Sharon and I took home $17 for a couple of hours work. My friend Bobby Z taught me how to rotate specific tasks bi-weekly so I didn't have to do everything, every week. The place always looked immaculate when I was done.

Eight months into my apprenticeship my father-in-law had surgery to remove a tumor in his colon… After he passed away six months later from cancer (1983), I went to work for another plumber but had trouble making ends meet. My father stepped in and arranged an interview in NY with his boss. I was hired as a showroom salesperson for Little Topsy, an upscale children's clothing manufacturer. We moved back to New Jersey, this time Bogota, a small town that occupies just one square mile in north Jersey…

I stayed at Topsy for almost a year, becoming the lead salesman and merchandiser for the company's pre-teen division, until my wife and I made a decision to move back to Massachusetts. Before we did, I called my contact at UPS who offered me a full-time temp position. It paid $11.04 an hour and I worked hard and I thought for sure my third tour of duty would be a charm. When I was only offered another full-time temp position after busting my butt for almost a year, I decided to leave and work for an independent plumber full-time, and work towards becoming a licensed plumber with the long-term goal of opening my own plumbing and heating business.

I apprenticed for five different plumbers and with each job change I got more money and learned different skills. My fellow plumbers and I were proud of our blue-collars and we wore them like a badge of honor. We entered the trades to continue the work our fathers and grandfathers had started. We were helping to build America. 

In 1987, I got my journeyman's license and opened my own business. After two incredible years, construction slowed almost to a halt in 1990-'91. With one kid and another on the way, I took a part-time job selling bathtub liners for Bath Magic, driving all over the state following up on leads they provided me. I got $50 for each unit I sold. I was a Master Plumber by then and a pretty convincing tub salesman. I did that nights and weekends until work picked up.  

This Plumber's ready to ride! (2002 Ford E250/2008 H-D XL1200C Sportster)

In 2005, after running my own plumbing and heating business for 18 years, and at 49, I got my first teaching job, working as a plumbing Instructor at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton, MA. I maintained my plumbing business, working nights, weekends, and summers to make ends meet. I worked as a teacher for close to 15 years, even built a shop and created a plumbing program at Attleboro High School. I worked there for seven years until Dave Portnoy saw the video "My Dad, the Facebook Addict" and hired me to be his memelord in January of 2020. I was 63.

When my son Dylan & his fiancé Lexi created this video no one expected that it would go viral & change the direction of my life, but it did…

I've worked hard at every job I took along the way and not all my co-workers were thrilled with my effort or my enthusiasm. In some cases, they thought I was trying to make them look bad, but I was just doing the job the way I thought it should be done…

Over the years I worked with a lot of people, some who worked hard and others who constantly complained and tried to do as little as possible. It never mattered who I worked with, I continued working hard despite all the slackers around me. I always believed in the old adage, "An honest day's work for an honest day's pay".

I believe "work ethic" is something that can't be taught, each individual must decide for themselves what kind of effort they're willing to put in. When I was a teacher, some kids embraced each and every project while others were lazy and when they were part of a work team and didn't pull their weight, they heard about it, not from me, from their teammates. 

I'll be 66 in June and after all the years working as a plumber I've got shoulder, knee, and spine issues, some of which can be painful at times. Over the last couple of months, I've had to get cortisone shots in both knees… 

You might think my body's beaten up and that working long and hard wasn't a great decision, but I have no regrets. I always went balls to the wall and if I could go back in time I wouldn't change a thing.

Despite all the years of hard work, I never got rich but my three kids never went hungry, and that's what mattered most to me. I never pushed them into any profession/career; leaving those decisions up to them and they've all done very well. None are plumbers.

My advice to young people searching for careers is to be patient, set goals, try different things until you find something that feels right, and then work hard to become the best you can be. Don't be afraid to take chances either, learn to accept disappointment as part of life, and don't be a slacker! If you're willing to put in the time, learn a skill, and work hard, you'll do alright…

They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool

Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules 

A working-class hero is something to be   

If you want to be a hero, well just follow me…                                                                                                                                                     

***In the comments, let me know how many jobs you've had…