I've been around the world twice. In 1944 I volunteered and joined the Marines. It was World War Two, and I was 16 years old. I remember I went to the office in Manhattan and because I was 16 I had to have my parents permission. So I went and filed papers to go to a training school. After three months I graduated, and they put me on my first ship, and the name of the ship was the Louisa May Alcott. I was a deckhand, and we left Newport to queue up with a convoy. When we set out, we were lined up in a 250 ship convoy, and then when we arrived in Gibraltar, all the ships went separate directions. And we went into the Mediterranean, and our first round took us to French territory in North Africa. And that's how we started, just boys sailing out into the Mediterranean, we were dodging enemy submarines and planes. Eventually, we made it around past France and Italy. And we spent four months in the war zone in Italy and then one day we received the letter to come back home. So we returned to the United States with a 125 ship convoy and docked in Brooklyn, and we all went our separate ways. I have a letter from Harry Truman, president of the United States, thanking me for my courage.
So now, I'm 17 and I’m back in New York, but I’m not sure what to do. I have no trade. I have nowhere to go. And after a few months, I decided I’m going back to work on the ships. So I did that, and for the next 24 years, I was traveling around the world by ship.
I didn't come back again until 1966 when I decided to quit sailing. But after that, I thought, “Where do I go now?”. And so I went to work for my Union as an officer of the Union for 24 years. So between 24 years of time at sea and 24 years with the Union, that's 44 years or so of my life. So I retired.
But then I said, “Where do I go now?” And I couldn't sit still, so I answered an ad in the New York Times for a job at the World Trade Center. And I got the job, and I was working in the mail room as a messenger. And I worked there for a while until the company decided to close the office.
I said from there, “Where do I go now?” And a friend of mine said, “Joe, go to the Rockefeller Center they’re hiring” so I had a job at Rockefeller Center for a while. But then that company was sold, and we all lost our employment.
So now it’s 1995, and I’m at a bar on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, and I see a guy wearing a work shirt from a fancy apartment complex. So I ask if they’ve got a job for me there. And of course I was only kidding, but he took my name and my telephone number and the next day I get a call from them offering me a job.
I worked at that establishment for 15 years until one day they told me my job was going to be terminated. They said it was for reduction of force but out of the team of 35 people I was the only one that was let go and I was only working 4 hours a day. I was 77 years-old at the time, but I was great at my job, and I think their firing of me was ageism. I was discriminated against. I lost my pension; I lost my benefits, I lost my pay. And my job has always been everything to me. I have to have something to do.
So now I've filed a grievance against them, and I bought these shoes for my very first court case. But now it’s been caught up in the legal system for ten years. I keep hiring new lawyers and working to push it along but the process is slow. I’m 90 years old now! But I never give up; I always have hope because I know that I'm right. And in the meantime, I’ve been painting.
I started painting at 80 because I’ve always wanted to try it and honestly I just needed something to do. So I’ve been walking around Manhattan, meeting new people, and then painting to keep me busy whenever I'm at home. But one thing to remember is I never give up.