The Amsterdam Birthday Blog is pleased to present the following Birthday tribute to “Bim” Greco and the wonderful Greco family that was such a huge and important part of this City’s West End neighborhood. We would like to thank Bim’s son Gary Greco for authoring and contributing the following post:
Everyone familiar with Amsterdam’s “West End” during the 1930’s through the 1980’s knew what a close knit family fabric existed in the neighborhood. The retail stores located in this section of town were not run by mega corporations, but instead were Mom ‘n Pop owned businesses. Hard work and family pride was the mission. Unfortunately, our kids today will never experience these wonderful times in today’s commercialized, high-stress society. There were establishments like Pepe’s Italian Restaurant (a landmark), Turo’s (full) Service Station (Vince Turo and son Tom Turo), Sansalone’s Market (“nobody makes Italian sausage like Sansalone’s”), Isabel’s Restaurant (best-grilled chops around), Minitti’s Bar & Grill (famous thin pizza), and (Joe) Monturo’s (full serve) Gas Station.
Another of those stores was Greco’s Grocery Store, circa 1930 (owned and operated by Saverio & Maria Greco, 208 W. Main St., and later in the ‘50s and ‘60s, housed Maqua Bar & Restaurant Supplies, famous for its homemade horseradish, pickled kielbasa and dill pickles, and owned by son Daniel D. Greco). Next door in the 50’s was Auggie’s Auto Parts (“House of a million parts”), run by son Augustine Greco. During the same period, a third son, Frank A. Greco with wife Jennie, owned and operated Greco’s Market, 313 Division St. No time to stop by to shop? No problem just call in your order, and your groceries were delivered to your doorstep (probably by young Jerry Argersinger).
However, the good-life came to an abrupt halt for Saverio and Maria Greco, parents of 5 boys and 2 girls during the World War II era from ’39 to ’45 when the nation called on them to send 4 of their sons into service at once. What a trying time it must have been for these parents, who successfully fled Italy and its evil dictator, Benito Mussolini, to plant their roots in a nice big, two-story brick home by the river at 208 W. Main St. in Amsterdam so they could start and safely raise their family.
One of the Greco boys that served their nation was born today, January 28th (1919). He was Vito F. Greco. Most West Enders at that time were assigned nicknames by their friends. Vito’s was “Bim” (He had a cousin in the West End, nicknamed “Bam”! Go figure?). Vito enlisted in the US Navy and served aboard the USS Tappahannock (AO-43), a Kennebec-class oiler and supply ship to other US vessels. This big floating diesel oil tank was naturally a target for the dangerous Japanese Air Force. The USS Tappahannock fought off many dive bomber attacks with several bombs almost hitting her deck as they exploded just feet away in the water. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Tappahannock_(AO-43). Vito sailed in such areas as Auckland, New Zealand, Guadalcanal, Pago Pago, the Fiji Islands, Pearl Harbor and the Aleutian Islands. His uniform and artifacts have been donated to the US Naval Museums in New Orleans and Long Island. Vito retired after working 35 years for Schenectady Chemicals Inc. (originally Schenectady Varnish Co., then Schenectady International, now SI Group) at the Rotterdam Junction Site as a steam-fitter/maintenance mechanic.
A second son also enlisted in the US Navy. He was Anthony A. (Tony) Greco. For obvious reasons, Tony was not assigned to the same vessel in the Pacific theater, although the brothers’ ships did manage to meet once while at sea. Many of you may know Tony by his West End assigned nickname, “Hot Stuff.” He went on to be Amsterdam High School’s Physical Education/Health/Driver Education instructor during the ‘60s and ‘70s, as well as Varsity Basketball coach. He retired in the ‘80s as the district’s Athletic Director.
Brother Auggie served in the US Army’s 13th Armored Division and saw action in Africa, the Mideast and in Europe, where he participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He opened his auto parts center in the 1950’s and originally did automotive repair work too. But it was the auto parts business for which he became best known. He closed his West End center in the 1970’s and retired for good in the 80’s.
Daniel D. Greco was the 4th son to serve in the military, enlisting in the US Army. After completing his training, Dan later injured an arm while in maneuvers stateside as a Private First Class officer. Upon return from the war, and after years of being a sole proprietor locally in the restaurant/bar supply distribution business, Dan retired after working the ‘70s and ‘80s as a liquor sales representative for Graves & Rogers, Inc., Albany, NY.
Yes, unfortunately, the once prosperous and proud West End has now turned to shambles. Most likely, the West End is too far gone to repair and return to those days when home owners and business owners had pride.
Thank God, memories last forever.