This is a story about thievery. And conspiracy. It is a saga of yesterday in Carbondale. The culprits were Allan Durst, Stan Noviskey, Bill Galavitz and me.
This is a story about thievery. And conspiracy. It is a saga of yesterday in Carbondale.
The culprits were Allan Durst, Stan Noviskey, Bill Galavitz and me.
The victim in this little melodrama was an Italian gentleman named Vito Bonacci, who lived on Pike St. with his wife and daughter.
Atop the mountain north of Carbondale sat a pond which was ideal for fishing and swimming. It was called Mud Pond. Years later, the county would buy it and call it Merli-Sarnoski Park.
Way back when, there were two principal ways to get to Mud Pond. You could hitchhike to Greenfield Twp. and try to go through land owned by a guy named Kawash, who also owned part of the Mud Pond. But he did not take kindly to interlopers. So you had to take the other route, through the mine-fire ravaged West Side and up the mountainside, a long and grueling trek.
If you went to Mud Pond on Sunday, you returned home the same day. But if you went on Friday or Saturday, sometimes you camped overnight, which meant you had to be equipped with provisions. Thus, you toted soda, chips, a couple of bologna sandwiches, a knife, a hatchet, fishing gear, a pup tent, matches, and other paraphrenalia necessary to survive a night in the wilderness.
On the way was Vito Bonacci's garden.
It was a huge, green paradise, running from behind his Pike St. house all the way down to the bank of the Lackawanna River, full of fruit trees (plum, peach, cherry, apple), grape vines, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, endive, eggplant, onions (spanish, white, red, scallions), garlic, squash, carrots, spinach, potatoes, beans, rhubarb, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, peppers, rutabagas....
Obviously, a group on an expedition to the Mud Pond needed more than TastyKakes and soda. So we would raid Vito Bonacci's garden, which took skill and guile.
Behind his house was a locked gate. Running the length of one side of the garden was a high fence and along the other side Art Lazur's garages. There were only two ways for theives to gain access - under the fence, or along the river bank at the far end.
The river bank was incredibly steep. A slip and you went tumbling 40 ft. or so into the running sewer that was the Lackawanna River. The river bank itself was strewn with gargbage of every description.
And even if you successully crossed the river bank and made it into Vito's garden, there was another danger: if he spotted you and gave chase, you could not escape along the bank fast enough to avoid his clutches.
Of course, none of that kept us away from those tomatoes and other goodies. We’d crawl among the plethora of vegetables, our ears always alert to "You [GD] little....! I killa you! I calla da cops and have you arrested!"
When we were successful, we’d continue our long trek to Mud Pond, munching on Vito’s tomatoes or scallions.
In looking back on this theivery, it strikes me Vito could have nabbed us whenever he wanted. All he had to do was walk down and wait on the river bank. But he never did. It’s obivious now that he had no intention of catching us. He let us steal his vegetables and cursed when he saw us just to make our adventure more real. Vito was a good guy who often shared his bounty with what was often a poor neighborhood.
There was no vandalism - we wouldn't tear off tomatoes; we'd carefully pick them. We didn't stray off the paths, nor step on any of Vito's plants. We respected his garden and the work he put into it. We were never greedy. We only took a little bit and it never went to waste. And I think he knew that.
Vito died a long time ago. A while back his old house burned down, victim of an arsonist. Now, if you pass by what was once his pride and joy - the most magnificent garden along Pike St. - all you see is a weed-covered, garbage-strewn empty lot.
If you feel a dampness on your head as you're walking by, it's Vito's tears.