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The Bianco Lina Man

By Charles McGrath

        An Italian family in the 1940's and 1950's lived on the southwest corner of Brookdale Avenue and Abinger Place.  The husband was an older gent probably around 50 years old at that time.  He was a rather short man but what he lacked in height he made up in girth.  He was a balding man and by his accent it was obvious he was born in Italy.  In back of his house was a white ( 6'x8' ) concrete block building.  This building was an ice house.  The front of it had a small platform (loading dock ) facing Abinger Place.  One had to climb up four steps to get to the platform.  I remember my father buying a block of ice from him for a block party ( they were very common in the 1940's ).

        In addition to selling ice he also sold bleach.  He had a (3'x5') 4 wheel wooden push cart to transport his bleach.  The bleach was sold in glass gallon jugs.  The glass was clear not unlike the Carlo Rossi Pisano wine jugs of today.  But his product was generic.  There was no label.  He probably filled them from 55 gallon drums.

        On a routine basis he followed a scheduled route that only he was privy to.  But it would seem that he would visit our street a couple of times a month.  The used empty bottle of bleach had to be given to him in order to buy a new bottle of bleach.  I don't know how the first sale was consummated .  This was an ethnic thing. Maybe it was trust.

        He would walk through the streets on his stealth schedule yelling in broken Italian " Bianco Lina , Bianco Lina "

        Over all those years I always thought he was saying bleach in Italian.

        Guess what? He wasn't.

        He was saying " white linens , white linens ".

 

 

                    

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