Years ago I worked for a post-card publisher in Jamaica Plain (Boston). It was an old family business and it was still run that way. There was a certain loyalty to the worker bees, though of the plantation type. Alan Tichnor, the long time President of the company (Colourpicture Publishers) was referred to (at his pleasure) as Mr. Alan. Yassuh, boss. At some point the family had split apart. When I joined them, the two brothers were merging back together. Families – and brothers – do that. Bob and his Tichnor Brothers Postcards had just agreed to fold itself back into the Colourpicture Publishers umbrella.
The old Tichnor Brothers building was located on the corner of Brookline Ave and Van Ness Street. Now a prime spot. Back then it was an old run-down warehouse with rotted wooden floors and an old freight elevator from before the war. Which war is open to debate. The elevator was used to move stuff between the three floors. A few of us were sent over to clean it out. Throw away what was useless and move anything of value to the Jamaica Plain print warehouse. There was one employee left (besides Bob Tichnor himself). Pasquale,
Pasquale was a grizzled old townie from Somerville. Big bulbous nose, in the winter time usually running. His wife – as most Somerville working wives did in those days – worked at the old Schraffts candy factory. Pasquale called it Shuh-Rafts. Just seemed like two syllables was required. Pat.
Pat ran the freight elevator. Had run it his whole life it seems. After the disembowelment of the old Fenway space, Pat came on over to JP. To run the freight elevator there. Thing about Pasquale was he had this pair of old eyeglasses that were the thickest things you ever saw. Coke-bottle glasses is one name they give ’em. But these were thicker than that. And Pat must have been less than 5 feet tall. As thick as his glasses were, his legs were that stubby. And that ubiquitous flannel shirt . I think he had three. And the watch cap pulled down low over his rather prominent forehead. Pat loved to tell us stories about how he would be sitting at a bar and he’d be the same height as anyone else. Caused people quite a shock when he’d get up from the stool…Get up…well, more like hop down.
Pasquale humped that elevator all day. Packed postcards down to the basement shipping floor (my area). Printed sheets of post cards and greeting cards to the cutting room, or to the various machines: flocking, die-stamping, embossing. Up and down. Up and down. For nearly ten years I worked there, and Pasquale probably never missed a day of work.Up and down. Up and down. With his familiar weeble-wobble, Pasquale was always there.
One day it was announced that the building would close. All printing and the entire business would move to Pennsylvania. A place called Paper Magic. Headquarters in Scranton. It was only recently that I learned that the building in Scranton, the home of PaperMagic, is where The Office is filmed. There’s a story there somewhere. Just not sure where. I went elsewhere, despite an offer to move to Scranton. One might call it a generous offer,except that it involved living in Scranton. Other people drifted off to greener pastures. Pasquale retired. Pat had long since reached retirement’ age, though there was no such thing as retirement in his culture. Pasquale was damned if he was going to let that freight elevator outlast him. He didn’t.
Whether Pasquale Ciardi outlasted his infinitely more famous cousin, John Ciardi I couldn’t say. One would like to imagine that he did, but it is no matter. Pat lived his own Divine Comedy with good humor and equanimity. Certainly that freight elevator is no more.