Back in the 1970s I went to work for America’s Litterbug King, the late Tom Constantino at The Noteworthy Company, which was still headquartered on Church Street in Amsterdam at the time. One afternoon he swept into my office and said, “Come with me I want to take you to one of my favorite spots in this city.”
We got in his Chrysler Imperial and knowing how Tom loved to eat, I was hoping we were going to a restaurant. Instead, we drove up to Market Street and pulled into the Shell Gas Station that used to be located on the same corner that now is home to the Fast Trak Mini Mart. I had never been there previously and before we opened our doors there were at least three guys surrounding Tom’s car. One was filling his gas tank, another was washing his windshield and a third was opening his hood to check the oil.
Tom took me inside the station and walked directly into one of the large service bays and directed me to “Look at this floor! Have you ever seen a gas station floor this clean in your life?” I had to admit, the floor was unbelievably clean, not an oil stain or dirty tire track to be found anywhere. The tool racks were just as neat and every wrench, screwdriver and vise grip looked like it had been waxed with polish. The place absolutely sparkled. Since I myself had worked in a West End gas station as a teenager for five years and that place constantly looked as if the Exxon Valdez tanker had cracked open inside it, I was absolutely amazed by the pristine cleanliness of this Market Street auto oasis.
By the time we returned to the station’s front room the three guys who had been working on Tom’s car were back inside. That’s when I found out they were brothers as Tom introduced me to Ralph, Carl and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Jim Iannotti. There were, I believe two other male siblings who worked at the station named Floyd and Jerry, neither of whom were there that day. It was evident to me on that visit just how much pride these guys took in their place of business and their treatment of their customers. The bell signaling another customer had pulled up to their pump just kept ringing pretty constantly during the 15 minutes we stood their talking and every time it did, Ralph and Carl sprang into action with bounces in their steps.
I did not find out till years later that Jim Iannotti’s real first name was Vincent. Unfortunately, since they leased the station from Shell, when that oil company pulled its gas out of the Amsterdam market another company stepped in and purchased the property out from under the Iannotti boys and the brothers were forced into retirement. Jim outlived Ralph, Carl and Floyd. He reached the age of 97, passing away in June of 2015.
Just before we pulled away from the pump, Tom opened his window and yelled “Hey Jimmy, where’s my free litterbag?” All the brothers started laughing at the man whose company made those popular ad specialties by the millions. But Jimmy ran behind the counter, reached down and came back out holding one in his hand.