Big Bubbles No Troubles
By Corinne Conover
HUNGA HUNGA. Uncle Gus always said as we turned down the corner to Amagansett.
As a kid I never knew how to pronounce Amagansett. So I always called it. Ema-said. Which made sense to me because I had an Aunt Emily and she practically said everything.
Uncle Gus was born in Pittsburgh LI. Moved to Levittown. And then, to Southampton where he created his home. A lot could be said for a guy that was born Richard and changed his name to Gus. Drafted at 17 years of age right after high school to the Vietnam War. He had no choice. He was poor. And, of age. Barely.
In high school he had a license like all the other Levittown locals. Except when he chose a car. He didn’t. He chose a hearse. I asked him as a kid why he chose a death trap. He told me. “All the more room to have the ladies in” .
his wife Janice at the time had a brother named Peter who saw potential in Gus and saw a beautiful car wash being destroyed. It was based in South Hampton. Only car wash in town. After, River head if you didn’t get your car washed. You wouldn’t get your car washed.
The people that owned it didn’t have the skill or money to fix it up and it just lay there and rotted. Parts missing. Vacs displaced. Customers never came back. And that too was history.
Gus having only had a highschool diploma from Island Trees in Levittown. And working at a gas station with two sons and a wife he was soon to divorce. Figured what the hell. HUNGA HUNGA.
He fixed up that car wash in Southampton. Replaced the parts. Took out a loan through my father, and the bank he worked at and worked 7 days a week 70 hours a week and thensome.
Pretty soon rich people were swarming the area. Getting their car washed and clean and pretty for the road and whatever else they desired.
My father worked there on weekends with his younger brother Jimmy. Aunt Emily also known as “amaganssett” couldn’t do much. But, creatively Gus gave her a job painting signs to keep her busy and in the loop.
After a year winter came. And we were’nt sure how this Southampton car wash would do. Now known, as Gus’s Car Wash. So Gus came up with a plan to buy Chilled SOCO. Lay it on ice and take shots every now and again. Kept the brothers as warm as they could be in 38 degree weather. Fixing frozen parts. Cleaning and drying salt down watered cars. And kept Emily in the heating lamp painting signs for ½ off winter prices.
By the second year my father invited me and the family down for summer. I was only 6 at the time and going through some hard times.(Yup, hard times I said it. They don’t just happen when your grown up. Some of us at 6 learn early)
So, drying cars in Southampton and hanging out at his house he he had out in southampton with water and a canoe sounded pretty damn good.
Gus always made thingsgood.
He also invited down his sons Keith and Jesse. Jesse came and worked with me drying the cars.He was two years older then me and let me know that every day.
Now, 15 years later. Not so much.
The place was packed. I never saw so many rich people. Come to think of it. I never saw rich people. I never saw so many people dressed so lovely and fashionable to get their car washed. I never saw so many flawless faces with not one drip of sweat stand in polished sandals and walk in a way that I looked up at and liked.
majority of them never tipped Jesse or I. And yet, I was just really glad to be there.
My sister had died that summer of Leukemia. and to be somewhere elese on the Island instead of a cape house on Tonopah Street where my parents made their bedroom out of an attic so my sister and myself could have our own bedrooms decorated the way we wanted (mine in purple, michelle’s in safari animals with lots of elephants). I wanted out.