In case you were wondering, like I did in my last column, whatever happened to the busts of Albert Lindsey Lee and his wife and the grandfather clock that used to keep us company when we sat in the lobby of our old Lee Memorial Hospital, well they were donated by the hospital auxiliary to the Friends of History of Fulton and are now on display at the Pratt House. Thanks to Sue Brown for sharing this good information via a phone call.
Sam Vescio is one of the most likeable people you could ever know. If you happen to meet him out and about he’ll give you a hearty handshake and search his quick mind for something special about you to greet you with. He has a remarkable memory and gift of gab.
My friend Marlene he greets with “June 18” as he recalls her birthday. With my husband Ed it’s “EJK-407” — Ed’s initials and former address on Walradt Street.
Some people, I’ve been told, he even greets with the last three digits of their Social Security which he memorized a long time ago. Hello, “Hillary,” he greets me, with a big grin, because he says I remind him of you know who!
Sam is one of 12 children of Angelo and Rozina Vescio. They were Italian immigrants. His father came over first and when he decided he needed a wife “Uncle Joe” became a matchmaker and told Angelo if he’d pay her way over, Rozina would marry him.
“My poor mother,” Sam said. She didn’t know anything but work and pregnancy. His oldest brother Carm was born in 1916, followed by Frankie, Tony, Angie (Talamo), Pete, Phil, Ace, Joe, Sam, Rose (Clark), Eleanor (McGraw), and June (Johnson). Rozina’s last child died with her in childbirth in 1936. She was only forty-two. Today only Angie, Joe, Eleanor, June, and of course Sam, remain.
Sam said his father was a muck farmer but did not own the land they worked. “We were sharecroppers,” working muck out Maple Avenue, toward Hannibal, Bowens Corners, Sharp’s Road, depending wherever land was vacant and available, he said.
Land owners supplied the equipment and seed and the Vescio clan did the rest. “I know what it’s like to be barefoot and barebacked out in the hot sun,” he said, “working on the muck when I was a kid…and I got an allowance of 15 cents a week, to buy candy, an ice cream cone, or even go to the movies.”
Sam said they split the profit from their harvest with the landowners. They’d ship lettuce to New York City and hope buyers would pay $1.25 cents a crate. Sometimes it didn’t work out and they never got paid at all. It was better later on when buyers came on the field, he said.
When the Korean War broke out in the early 1950s, Sam got drafted into the Army. He was spared going into battle, however, when his group was “split into two” and he was sent to “leadership school” and ended up in Germany. Sam made First Sergeant in only 16 months. But he didn’t care for Army life and when his two years were up he left the service, and came back to Fulton and civilian life.
Sam got a job in the Sealright Machine Shop, where for several years he felt content and productive, that is until his leadership abilities kicked in and he was elected union president. That endeavor did not have a happy ending. There was talk of a strike among other employees, which Sam didn’t endorse. Even so, the strike happened anyway, Sam got the blame and he quit his job.
Sam went into politics in 1966 when he was appointed alderman of the Second Ward to replace Dominick Munger who left to become Fulton’s Postmaster, and he successfully ran twice more.