Joe D'Onofrio

August 5, 2013

Providence Hall, Hudson, NY


John Craig

John Craig
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Joseph was born in 1942 in Hudson, NY. He has lived his whole life in Hudson except for a period of about 10 years. During the interview he discusses his childhood growing up in Hudson. He details his progress from elementary at Saint Mary’s School to Marist College, as well as the years and various places of employment in Columbia County and Albany, NY. He worked at V & O Press, the Nash Commercial Bank in Albany, taught at the Saint James Institute in Albany for 9 years, Columbia Auto Parts owned by Irving and Harry Diamond, The Columbia County CourtHouse, The Fireman’s Home and retired from Columbia Memorial Hospital after almost 20 years. Since 1998 in retirement he has been engaged in researching family history beginning in 1897.

Joseph is the grandson of immigrants and discusses the origin of his maternal and paternal family from both Italy and Lithuania. He describes their move to Hudson, their work and skills, and the building of property and family. Paternal Grandfather Genarino came to the US in 1898 from Italy, initially settling in NYC as a shoemaker. After about one year he came to Hudson. In 1905 he purchased 225 Warren St. Genarino courted his bride, Marianna De Robertos, [who was] in Italy, from New York. She emigrated from Italy in July 1905 to the US. He met her ship at Ellis Island and married her right there in a chapel by an Italian priest. He and his wife lived upstairs at 225 Warren St. and his shop was located downstairs. 

After Prohibition ended about 1933 or 1935 Genarino closed two of the three shoe maker shops and instead opened a saloon called Gen’s Restaurant. After their parents’ deaths, their children ran the business, including Joseph’s father.  

Maternal Grandfather Joe Contratavitch arrived in the US from Lithuania in April 1912. He grew up on a large farm with 13 siblings. His parents gave him their savings, packed up some food and told him to run away because the Russians were coming to commandeer young men into the Russian Army. This was equal to a death sentence. He went to Germany to work to earn enough money, and then booked passage leaving from Bremen, Germany on the George Washington. He was an eye-witness to the sinking of the Titanic. In Hudson he worked at Hudson Portland and Gypsum that later became Universal Atlas Cement Plant.

As a child Joseph’s father would bring his father lunch at his shoe shop by trolley car. But as an adult he worked full-time at the Universal Match Company for a few years. He took and passed a Civil Service exam in order to secure a position as custodian at The Department of Social Services. First the department was located above Pierro’s Grocery Store, then The Robert Evans Building, then to the Sixth St. School and then permanently into the Concra building on Railroad Avenue. Joseph recounts that many years before it was a part of the Robert Evans Estate, Robert Evans was sold to the Jewish Community, becoming the Hebrew Academy. The Hebrew Academy eventually bought the C.H. Evans Building on the 400 block of Warren St. which later became the Jewish Community Center. 

Joseph detailed many of the old businesses and factories that had one time been active employers for Hudson residents. There was the Lincoln Hotel where the prostitutes worked, but burned in 1954. Joseph described the Bakers News Stand, Mulhern Coal, Ginsberg’s Market, and John’s Fish Market that he thinks today is the Red Dot Bar. Once, he stated, there were at least half a dozen barber shops. In 1955 Harry Pisa built a gas station in addition to owning the bus line that went to Albany. The Hathaway House became a garage.  There was Sam’s market that offered delivery service, an A&P on North 7th, and First National Market. Hudson had many Mom & Pop bakeries through the decades. There was the Hudson City Bakery; Marmelstein’s, a Russian Jewish Bakery; Grossman’s, a commercial baker; and the Jersey Bakery. The Jersey burned down in the Good Friday Fire of 1965, but was rebuilt. There were also a couple of businesses that made homemade ice-cream and candies, like Vasilow’s and The Greeks. At one time 237 Warren Street was Clancy’s Oyster Bar before it became a dress shop. Above the General Worth Hotel there was the Ritz Pool Hall. Joseph’s family moved in 1950 or 1951 to 122 Warren Street and lived above the Paramount Grill that previously had been James Fox Liquor and Wine. 

One of Joseph’s fond childhood memories was of his father taking them for car rides to the railroad to watch the steam engine locomotives and wave to the engineers while eating hot roasted peanuts in the shell from Sudi’s on Warren St. He and his brother Gen helped their father on Saturdays by cleaning both the Bar and DSS to earn their allowance.

The D’Onofrios were also involved in the numbers business. Joseph’s father occasionally did some work making pick-up and deliveries. On the corner of Prison Alley and North 2nd Street was Edward Dylan’s Bar. Upstairs was the Wire Room/The Horse Room for betting. 

Interviewer Bio:

John Craig

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