Working for Filiberto Sanitation, November 21, 2018
Back in the fall of 1973 I’d fallen on tough economic times in South
Dakota. Let’s just say that the crop failed.
So as a 21 year old hippie I moved back in with my folks in New
Jersey. Similar to what young men are doing today.
My parents had friends who’s son, Chaz, worked on the garbage
trucks for the Filiberto Sanitation Company.
Filiberto Sanitation also owned the only landfill in northern New
Jersey outside of Chester. My folks lived in a subdivision on a
wooded hillside outside of Mendham, NJ.
It was a great place to live. My Dad and I would trim the trees on the
property on the weekends and improve the land.
So I took the job at Filiberto Sanitation. We worked six days a week
in Madison, NJ picking up the trash. We had three routes that we did
twice a week.
Back then there were no wheelie bins. We literally picked up the
trash and threw it on our shoulders and thence into the green Mack
When I started out at Filiberto Sanitation I was put on truck #6 run
by an Irishman. Can’t remember his name. But I was a weak skinny
hippie kid and couldn’t lift the huge orange barrels of 75 pound
garbage. So he kicked me off of his crew.
I was then put on truck #3 which was Decker and Bummy’s truck.
Decker was a huge guy missing most of his front teeth. He couldn’t
read and it was hard for me to understand his words.
Bummy was 5’4” and wore a beanie cap like from “Our Gang”. He
couldn’t read either.
But they took me on their crew and I was grateful for it. I was 21 so I
muscled up quickly (thanks to my Mom’s excellent cooking), and
after two weeks I was throwing that 65 pound plastic orange tub of
garbage on my shoulder and running with it to the truck. (We were
paid by the day, so the sooner we finished our route, the sooner we
could go home. My right shoulder is an inch lower than my left to
this day from the experience.)
The Irishman on truck #6 tried to get me back on his crew, but
Decker said, “No way.” I agreed. The Irishman never got out of the
cab to help pick up the trash. Decker did.
I worked for 9 months with Decker and Bummy six days a week. I
got to know them pretty well. They would pick me up on the
highway below our home every morning at 5:30 AM.
We’d then go then go to the Mendham Diner for breakfast. I only
had coffee. I’d eaten at home. But Decker and Bummy had full
breakfasts of meat and eggs and potatoes and I got to smell their
farts all the way to Madison. A 45 minute drive on narrow winding
Decker drove. Bummy had the shotgun seat. And I sat on the hump
in the middle over the transmission. No seatbelts of course.
For hobbies, Decker and his wife watched 8mm porno movies and
Bummy went bowling. We only had Sundays off. We did get the
holidays off, but then had to do both routes the next day. That was
grueling at Xmas time.
One winter’s day at the Mendham Diner where the four green Mack
Filiberto Sanitation trucks gathered every morning for breakfast,
Chaz, the hotheaded Italian who had helped me get the job,
organized a wildcat strike.
We were supposed to get our annual raises a week before, and had
not. Chaz went out into the four garbage trucks and took the keys.
All hell broke loose in the diner. Decker started to cry. I mean this is
a HUGE guy with no teeth who can’t read. He can’t afford to lose this
job. Sure, he’s a Teamster, but his union card is in the Filiberto
office safe by the dump.
I also didn’t want to lose the job. I had nowhere else to go, to quote
the line from “Officer and a Gentleman.”
So I go up to Chaz and ask for the keys to truck #3.
Just then, Boom! The diner door opens with a crash.
In walks Joey Filiberto himself! I’d never seen him before. Joey was
all of 5’ 3” tall and wearing a full opera going outfit. He had the
tuxedo, the overcoat, the white scarf, the hat,… he even had a red
rose in his lapel.
“Strike over!” Joey shouts. And walks out the door.
Chaz gave me the keys to truck #3. I gave them to Decker and off we
went to Madison, New Jersey to pick up the trash.
We got our raises the next week.
I never saw Joey again.
The denouement is that Joey and his brother were sent to prison for
taking in dry cleaning waste at the dump. They also paid a large
fine. Some say they were mafia linked. All I know is that they paid
very well and were fair.
The dump is long closed down and the grass covered mountain of
trash is now used for harvesting methane