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18 3 Sunset Scavenger during the 1940s and 1950s When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States government declared that the services scavengers provided throughout the Bay Area were “essential services.” Scavengers were exempt from military service during the war. My research suggests that some scavengers opted to join the service during the war, but I can confirm only four cases. Eugene De Martini joined the United States Marines, fought in the Paci­ fic Theatre, and returned with Battle Combat Stars and a Purple Heart. Benny Anselmo Sr. had a similar record in the Pacific, participating in the invasion of Iwo Jima and its infamous battle on Mount Fujiyama. After the war, he returned to the garbage trucks, eventually taking over the P. G. Torre Company, the salvage arm of the Scavenger’s Protective Association/Golden Gate Disposal, and was eventually appointed to the board of directors. Emilio Rattaro, my wife’s grandfather, had four children: Jennie , Virginia (my mother-in-law), Serafino, and Giovanni “John” Rattaro. John opted to join the US Navy and was assigned to a destroyer called the USS Hull, one of the ships under the command of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey. This ship was involved in major sea battles but was unfortunately also caught up in a hurricane’s perfect storm when many ships in the fleet were sunk, including the USS Hull. John Rattaro was lost at sea and never heard from again. According to my motherin -law, Emilio never got over the loss. John’s brother, Sera­ fino “Fing,” became a scavenger. On the other side of the street, Uncle Freddy went to war, but under a somewhat different circumstance. Before I explain how that occurred, I should explain that Alfredo (or “Freddy”) was the youngest of five siblings: Dominic “Mingo” Pasquale, “Paul” Florence , Inez, and Alfredo. Uncle Freddy was the youngest of them and, as I was to learn in the years to come, the most unpredictable. He was a loose cannon, fun to be with, and someone who could “let the badger loose” at the drop of a hat. His brother-inlaw , Guillermo “Willie” Damonte, was as wild as Freddy. When 19 Sunset Scavenger during the 1940s and 1950s together, they were a “pair to draw to,” but that’s another story for a later day. At a Sunset Scavenger shareholders meeting, president Fontana (Freddy’s uncle) announced to the shareholders that the company was donating $2,500 to Italy for the war effort. According to Freddy, there was some grumbling, but he was the only one who openly opposed the decision. Freddy’s argument was simple and logical. “Let me ask a question, Mr. President, and tell me if I am wrong. The last time I checked, Italy had declared war against America; and if they did, why in the hell is the company sending money to the enemy?” That comment brought similar protests from many of the Boss Scavengers, resulting in a rare public disagreement from the floor, questioning a management decision. As noted, men working in the garbage business were provided deferments from military service because they provided an “essential service.” However, because Uncle Freddy challenged the decision and authority of the company president (and his blood uncle) and the board of directors in a public forum of the shareholders, he was called to duty. He was drafted into the United States Army less than a week after the challenge to his uncle. Giuseppe Fontana , president of Sunset Scavenger Company, was also a member of the draft board. Everyone knew that Freddy got called up because he pissed off his uncle. No one ever again mentioned the contribution to Italy’s war effort nor openly challenged any decision by the president or the board of directors. After boot camp, Uncle Freddy was trained in the Sherman Tank Corp and was eventually assigned to Italy because he spoke Italian. After the war, he returned to Dago Alley (Oakwood Street) to a huge reception as an Italian hero with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a boatload of stories expressing his experiences in vivid detail. Some stories were funny and others were about horrible incidents , like pulling the gold teeth out of German soldiers killed in action. I do not know whether there was any truth in these stories , but who was to know? During the years that followed, Freddy would get serious about his experiences, saying that he did not like the thought of...


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