Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sammy T

Back in the late 70's and early 80's gasoline was rarely a self service gig. During my high school days I earned my spending money by pumping gas at an ARCO on Lancaster avenue. After school and weekends I would be on the macadam in the ARCO blue pants and shirt pumping gas into the Fords and Mercedes of Main Line motorists. I sometimes think many of my important life lessons were learned in the garage bays sneaking 7 oz Rolling Rocks with the mechanics. One of the guys I met in those days was a "made" guy in the Riccobene family.

The owner of the station hired Sammy as a manager of sorts. When the owner bought other out-of-business stations, Sammy and I would take a U-Haul and clean out all the tires and batteries and oil and belts and other merchandise and take it to a warehouse. Sammy took me under his wing in a way. We stopped for cheesesteaks at Chink's in South Philly and had a cold beer or two on Oregon avenue at the Fireside tavern.  We worked together many long nights at the station and he told me stories of fixed horse races and how the street "number" worked and how to watch for signs a poker dealer was cheating when dealing in a neighborhood game...stuff a kid from the Main Line had no access to.

One day at work I got a call from a girl I was dating. 10th grade...early Spring. She had been arrested for shoplifting at a local department store and needed to be bailed out. I was visibly upset when I hung up the phone in the gas station office. Sammy asked: "Hey kid, what's eating you?"  I confided in my older buddy that my girlfriend had been "pinched" and he smiled when I used the wise-guy vernacular. "How much?" asked  Sammy. "I need five hundred." Sammy reached into his oil stained blue khaki uniform pants and pulled out a massive roll of bills. He shucked off five one hundred dollar bills and said: " Go spring your squeeze."

Not long after that Sammy stopped coming around the station. The owner said he found a better position at a Sunoco in the City. Sammy still called me once in a while and I saw him at the casino not long before I left for college.

In the Fall of my Junior year at Lehigh I was walking back to our off-campus house. I would routinely stop in at Pat's News stand to get the Philadelphia papers. As I stood at the rack of papers, I leafed through The Daily News. There on the page was a story recounting how Salvatore "Sammy" Tamburrino had been murdered by members of the Scarfo mob. Little Nicky, the ultra-violent head of the Philly Mafia is pictured above. He had sent Nick Milano and Phil Narducci in search of members of the Riccobene family to hunt them and kill them.Sammy was gunned down in a candy store he owned while his horrified mother watched.The account in the paper read as follows:

Tamburrino, 35, a member of the Riccobene faction, was shot to death in his variety store in Southwest Philadelphia. According to informant DelGiorno, the murder was committed by Frank Iannarella, Philip Narducci and Nicholas Milano on orders from Philip Leonetti.

I was stunned. I stood there with my text book under my arm and nearly got choked up. I paid for the papers and walked out, heading for Adams street on the South side of Bethlehem. I remembered his offer of the bail money and how I felt mature and tough having cold beers in South Philly with Sammy as a 10th grade kid. Sammy was gambler and loved to bet on nearly anything. As I turned right off  New street, I thought to myself: "It's a safe bet nobody else at Lehigh has had a buddy clipped in a Mob feud."  Sammy would have made book on that bet.


Brian said...

Growing up outside Philly, you always got a taste of that underbelly, but never a full meal. I feel like everyone from in and around the area has a similar story. I'll tell you mine sometime.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Brian, Did not know you were from the area...and I would love to hear the story.

tintin said...

This is a movie. And I mean that in a good way. Closest I ever got to these kind of people was in Phila when a guy I worked with suggested I "Go to the street" for rent money. When he explained how it worked I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Anonymous said...

My first job out of college, sales kid in pharma. Attempted to enter the store owned by Frankie "Flowers" D'Alfonso in South Philadelphia to buy Valentines Flowers for my girlfriend. "Kid, they don't sell flowers there." Later that afternoon I asked a newstand agent on Oregon Avenue why he had so many telephone lines entering his tiny booth. "I get a lot of calls" he scowled. I am not measurably smarter all these years later.

Anonymous said...

I am Sammy's daughter,Diona, and it is nice to hear stories about him. If u ever to talk i woukd love to being that i was 1 when he was killed. I love hearing stories about him n thinking on how much i am like.him in alot of ways.