On a February evening 38 years ago this week, the possessions of a deceased 94-year-old restaurant owner lay strewn about a sidewalk on 11th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, in front of a group of row houses that now serve as a student center for The New School.
Though she left behind friends and surviving family, Josephine Paglieri’s furniture, clothing, books, photographs and letters waited for a city sanitation truck to haul them away. The New York Times described the scene in a Feb. 7, 1976, article.
Presently, a young hippie came by, grabbed one of her battered suitcases and began to stuff her old books into it. He hastily selected the few leather-bound ones…
Somebody else rummaged through Mrs. Paglieri’s worn dresses. “These are great for old clothes,” she said. Other people peered inside the drawers of Mrs. Paglieri’s plain wooden bureau.
That night a large sanitation truck rumbled up the street to pick up the goods. An old olive-green velvet couch crumbled under the tongs of the truck’s crusher.
The desk fell apart when the sanitationmen tried to pick it up. A lifetime of personal papers, letters, souvenirs and stationery swirled all over the sidewalk outside the restaurant that Mrs. Paglieri used to own.
The sanitationmen shoveled and swept, and threw them inside the truck. But one photograph remained on the street behind the vehicle. It was a picture of Mrs. Paglieri as a young girl, with her family.
The driver of the sanitation truck picked it up. He glanced at it while the desk was splintering under the weight of the garbage machine, and then tossed it inside with the other garbage. He hopped into the cab and roared off, leaving behind a few papers fluttering in the wind.
An old black-and-white postcard that I picked up at the Antiques Garage West 25th Street Market led me to this heartbreaking story. Continue reading