It was a long weekend that started with our marble game Saturday morning and then that same day I went to my new job at Nick’s sandwich shop at noon. When I got to my job Mr. Nick called to me and waved me around the counter where he was serving customers. I was never behind the counter before and it felt strange. I was now part of Mr. Nick’s crew. Mr. Nick noticed that I was very nervous being there. He started to laugh and put his arm around my shoulder to calm me down. He said “Okay Pepino, what would you like for lunch? You have to eat before I show you how to make and assemble the football wedding sandwiches.” I was still shaking a little when I said, “okay Mr. Nick, whenever I have some money I come here and order a quarter of a loaf with fried egg plant, roast pork and your famous hot salad put right in the sandwich.” He then cut the Italian bread, sliced it open and put in the stuff I asked for. He looked at me and said “there; here’s your sandwich and what would you like to drink?”
“Can I have a Manhattan Special soda?” “You sure can.” I collected my sandwich and soda and followed Mr. Nick to the back of a large counter where he made me sit on a stool and said. “Pepino this is your work area. Have your lunch and when you finish eating I will show you what I would like you to do.” “Okay Mr. Nick, thank you for the sandwich and soda.” When I finished eating I cleaned my spot and stood up waiting for Mr. Nick. He noticed me standing and came over to the large counter. He showed me six large boxes at the end of the counter which were filled with freshly baked sandwich rolls. There must be 100 rolls in each box. He then said “do you know what an Italian football wedding is?” “Yes Sir Mr. Nick, my parents took me to one about a year ago. Everybody was invited, family, relatives, friends, kids, and anybody who lived on the block. There must have been over 300 people in the Church hall. It was so much fun being there. We had loads of sandwiches to eat that were dumped on the middle of the table we were sitting at.
Everyone would throw a sandwich at each other across the table if they wanted a certain cold cut sandwich that was at the other end of the table. My Sister told me that a long time ago someone made a joke that this looked like an American football game. And like everything else in Brooklyn the name stuck. She said that anytime there’s a wedding with sandwiches they call it a “Football Wedding.”
My parents had homemade wine and beer to drink and the kids had soda from large bottles. Everybody was dancing to Italian music. The band never stopped playing. I hooked up with a bunch of kids and we ran all around the Church hall. We sometimes ducked under a table to eat our sandwiches, sugar coated almonds called Confetti, assorted cookies and wedding cake it was like we had our very own club house.” At this point Mr. Nick put up his hand to stop me because I would have spent the whole afternoon talking about the football wedding.
Then Mr. Nick said “I could not have described it any better. Sound like you and your family had a lot of fun there. Now you have to wash your hands, then open the first box of rolls and lay out the bottom part of the roll on this large counter. I will bring you a large tray with different cold cuts for you to put on each roll. After you put the meat and cheese is on each roll you have to put the top of the roll on each sandwich. Over here you will find Defonte business cards and paper already cut into sandwich size squares. You are now ready to assemble the sandwiches. Place a business card upside down on the paper, then place a sandwich upside down on the business card and rap the whole thing like so. It will take time and practice for you to do this, don’t feel bad if you’re moving slow at first. Just keep doing it, Okay?” All the time Mr. Nick was talking I just stood there with my mouth open.
“Holy Shit!” What did I get myself into? It took me a while but I snapped out of it and started assembling. Much to my surprise, Mr. Nick was right; I started really moving faster and faster. By the time I looked up and noticed the clock it was 5 o’clock. I packed five boxes loaded with 400 assembled sandwiches. I finished the first wedding and I went back to work the next day and assembled another 500 sandwiches. Mr. Nick was very happy with my work and gave me $20.00 for working the weekend. I was so happy, I ran up the stairs to show my mother my first paycheck. She was so happy to see me so excited about working for Mr. Nick. The weekend just flew by. I slept like a rock that night.
It’s Monday, I have big money in my pocket. My mom urged me to put half of my pay away for another day. So I did, I kept $10.00 for myself and stashed the other $10.00 in my secret hiding place. It just felt so good to have walking around money in your pocket. I had a quick breakfast and ran down the steps to greet the world. I walked around the corner to Luquer Street and I see Joanie playing a box ball game with her friend Jenny on the other side of the street.
I walk over to watch the game and notice that Joanie has a great eye for this game. She just looks up for a second and then hits the ice cream stick with the ball for another point. When it’s Jenny’s turn she missed the target. The game went on for a few minutes and it doesn’t look like Jenny can hit the side of a barn. It didn’t take long for Joanie to reach fifteen points and win the game. Box ball is a great game for girls to play. You don’t have to pitch a ball at 90 miles an hour or hit a ball with a bat for a home run. All you need is a ball, a penny or a flat ice-cream stick and a smooth sidewalk to play this game. Most of the time there are only two players but sometime you can play this game with four players.
You put a penny or ice-cream stick on the line in the center of the two boxes. Each player stands in front of their box, the player with a ball in their hand is ready to throw it at the target first. If you hit the stick you get one point. Each player gets a turn to throw the ball and so on. The player that reaches 15 points first wins the game.
When the game was over Joanie came over to me and said, “hey Pepino why do you have this big smile on your face?” “Huh, big smile, I didn’t notice. Maybe it’s because I have ten bucks in my pocket.” She starts to laugh and says “yeah, I know the whole story. My aunt Marylyn went to Defonte’s to buy some cold cuts Saturday afternoon and saw you working there assembling sandwiches for a football wedding. She then stopped over my house and told my mother what she saw. So now you’re a big shot?” “No, I guess I’m just happy about getting my first real job. It feels good and my face shows it.” Joanie and then looks right into my face and says “I think that’s great Mr. Big Shot. So maybe now you can buy me an ice cream?” My face turned beet red and I mumbled nervously “ah, okay let’s go to the candy store.” Meanwhile, Jenny was laughing so hard she was crying