During the final few years of my grandfather’s life my brother Chris (a plumber living in New Jersey) spent several days a week with him. Their regular meetings included eating meals (Chris liked to bring over a pizza on Sunday nights), watching old movies, listening to old music, and talking about life. Occasionally Chris would turn on his cell phone and record parts of the conversation.
My grandfather came to the United States from Italy in 1913 at the age of three. He spent most of his adult life delivering beer for two Newark breweries: Krueger and Pabst Blue Ribbon. He spent most of his life driving a beer truck on three different one-day routes: Newark to Albany, Newark to Wilmington, Delaware, and Newark to Riverhead, Long Island.
I wrote about doing an oral history interview with my grandfather here.
In this video, my grandfather (who passed away earlier this year at the age of 103) discusses his lack of formal education. I have done my best to transcribe it below. (At times his voice is hard to make out because one of his favorite songs, “The Old Lamplighter” is playing in the background).
Chris: “I am not as smart as you.”
Grandpa: “That’s not true, You’re a hell of a lot smarter than I ever was.”
Grandpa: “I was probably smarter in terms of strength, but as far as mentality, I didn’t have any. But I did a lot driving. I picked up a lot of stuff on the road–different distributors driving from Albany down to Wilmington, Delaware, out to Long Island. I picked up a lot of stuff. It’s nothing like you going to school or college, nothing like that. Plus the fact: what am I going to do with the added knowledge? I have no use for it. If it comes to me, I’ll accept it, but I’m not going out seeking it.”
Chris: “I got ya.”
Grandpa: “I hope you understand what I am trying to say. I know I sound really old.”
Chris: “I understand what you’re saying.”
Chris: “You let your life experience dictate what you learned and what you didn’t.”
Granpda: “That’s what I have, I have the experiences, I got out there, I make a living.”
Chris: Sure, yea.