Emanuel Santos and Isabelle Ramos were immigrants from Spain who met and married in Saratoga Springs, NY and then came to Amsterdam’s South Side, where they moved into a house on Jewett Street. “Manny” eventually started a construction business with partners Sam Sgalio and Louis Spagnola called the American Construction Corporation. The couple also started a family, filling their home with six boys and a girl.
The June 29 Amsterdam Birthday celebrant was the youngest Santos child. William “Bill” Santos (standing on far left in above photo) was born on June 29, 1930. He wasn’t old enough to join his brothers who all served in WWII. Fortunately all five would return home safely. In 1946, their father sold his share of the American Construction Corporation to his partners and joined three of his boys, Ben, Peter, and Frank and his daughter Matilda in the new Santos Construction Company. Another brother, Emanuel (nicknamed Moose) remained in the service as a crackerjack mechanic until the late 1950’s and then would also come into the firm. This new business would become one of this area’s greatest family-run success stories.
The Santos brothers would not be the only Amsterdam siblings to join together to start post WWII construction companies specializing in grading and excavation. There was also the Vertucci’s, the Persico’s and the Sollecito’s.
Billy Santos got his opportunity to serve his country after he graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1948. He joined the US Army and went to Korea, where he drove a truck in that war ravaged East Asian country, delivering supplies to the front lines and making the rank of Sergeant.
Shortly after returning from service, he married his beloved wife Nora and joined the family business. He would spend the next forty years operating every type and piece of heavy equipment thrown at him as required by the jobs the firm was able to take on. As the years passed, a whole new generation of the family would report for work at the company’s Gilliland Avenue headquarters, including both of Billy’s boys. He’d teach them all how to operate the heavy stuff.
The only Santos sibling who was not connected to the family business was Sylvester, who went by the nickname “Bebb”. After serving in both WWII and Korea, he had become a state trooper for a while and then began a career in banking with the State Bank of Albany. He was living in Canajoharie and had been married for just two months when in March of 1958, while driving south on Route 30, Bebb’s car was sideswiped by a northbound truck and he was killed.
Bill Santos worked hard his entire life. In his spare time, he liked to play a little bocce, take an occasional ride to Turning Stone and spend some August afternoons up at the Flat Track in Saratoga. But most of all, when Bill wasn’t working he was enjoying being with his family. He retired in 1996 and died much too young, at the age of 72 in 2003.
(Bill Santos shares his June 29 birthday with this former executive of an Amsterdam carpet-maker)