Here is a short story written by our dear friend, David Leone, about an old photo that he found in our shop – enjoy!!
Old Times’ Tales (this is a work of fiction) “The Boy in the Uniform”
The photograph of the Jimmy Palucci was among a collection of personal pictures from some forgotten album. Forgotten by the seller, who had purchased it as part of a whole-hog estate sale, and unknown by the buyer, but it would’ve been missed by his nephew’s family had they known it existed.
The estate sale was for Jimmy’s mother, and the box was one of many. This one mostly contained clipped magazine articles from the 1980s and 90s, and scattered among them, loose photos of people no one remembered. Had Jimmy’s nephew, Louis, had had time to sort everything out after his mother’s sudden passing, he might’ve seen the photo. But she was one of many from her generation that saved everything, and she also collected obscurities no one else would ever find of value, so it was simpler for everyone to pick out the obvious treasures and auction the rest.
The picture shows Jimmy as a boy, around 10 years old, smiling while posing for a photograph while wearing a uniform denoting some authority. In fact, it was a crossing guard uniform; Jimmy was one of several boys at St. Joseph of the Oaks, a small Catholic school located across busy Pennsylvania roadway from where most of its boys families’ lived.
Jimmy’s position was of some importance, keeping vehicles at bay, especially when youngsters were crossing with their mothers, and when the nuns had to cross; their habits occasionally interfering with their line of sight. That year, 1957, Jimmy earned a badge of merit from the town of Framington’s common council for scooping a three-year-old out of the roadway and ushering her to safety after she ran into heavy traffic.
These experiences, along with the Eagle Scout badge he’d earned later, perhaps unsurprisingly led Jimmy to a life in law enforcement. He began as a constable, walking the beat back when that was still done. He spent some time in the Highway Patrol, making sergeant. Jimmy moved to New York to pursue a romantic liaison, which never quite worked out. He dated frequently enough, but never married, always taking the difficult shifts at work and never making enough time for personal relationships. He barely made time to go see his sister or her nephews; they had to come to the city to see him.
Eventually, he took to working double shifts, to both speed his retirement from the New York Port Authority, and bolster his pension when he did retire. In fact, Jimmy was 82 days from retirement when he died. He’d planned to invest some of the money he’d saved all his life, and live off the rest. He wanted to visit places he’d read about but never seen – St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Alhambra in Granada, the Great Wall of China, the great migration in Kenya.
But he never made it to any of those places. The last journey he made was up 11 flights of stairs in the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It is believed he was sent to assist firefighters evacuating the injured. No one remembers what was said to him that day, or how he reacted, but those who knew him best believe that Jimmy, who was always willing to help a friend, always looking to do the right thing, those guys would appreciate seeing the photo of him as a young boy the most. Because no matter how grim the situation, or how bad he was personally feeling, Jimmy J. Palucci always— always — had that smile at the ready for you.