Manny Diaz (MD)
MD: We lived at 37 west 114th street in a 5-story tenement house each story had 2 apartments. So there was like 10 families in that building. And that building had Italian families, had one black family, had Jewish families, had Puerto Rican families. This was during the depression time. There was no surplus food program in those days but somehow the army used to send in trucks now and then and dump food on the street or on the sidewalk under the culvert. And people would come, you know, pick up apples or corn or whatever. And then the day that we all looked forward to was the day when the trucks came in and dumped grapes. Oye! Oye! The grapes are here! The grapes are here! everybody used to run with baby carriages with pushcarts with pillow cases to pick up the grapes that were dumped by the US Army trucks. And then we would bring those grapes home. And this was during prohibition, mind you, and we would put the grapes in the bathtub, crush them, and then go to Woolworth’s on 116th street where you could pick up the burlap bag to cover the grapes, the yeast, the sugar. So we would cover this bathtub and let it sit for about a month, which is what it takes to ferment. You know? And then, oh you wonder what happens to people that wanna take a bath. Well, in this building theres a kind of a mutual assistance society. Everybody helped everybody else so you just. If your bathtub is incapacitated for whatever reason you just go to your neighbor and say, Can I use your bathtub and sure.
This was uh I mean we produced wine in the middle of the depression and we would sell a quart of wine for 25 cents and we would give wine to our neighbors. In exchange we would get other things from them. For instance, there was an Italian seaman I think on the 3rd floor who used to be gone for a month or so and he’d come back with a wad of money. Instead of just buying pork chops for his family he would buy a whole pig. And then we’d go up to the rooftop and roast that pig. And everybody ate from that building with that pig so everybody ate the pig from the Italian guy and everybody drank the wine from the Diaz family. In a sense thats how you survive through a depression, you know, when… when everybody’s poor but nobody feels poor.