The Volpes
The Center
of the

Alfred Coll

This photo has triggered a string of memories regarding the house I grew up in. María Teresa and Mr. Volpe are among my earliest memories in that house. I was told that it was he who taught me English. Mr. Volpe made his living as an inventor. They once gave me a key which would open the door if I would say abra cadabra. This worked until one day when it didn't. I guess the key was one of his inventions, not completely perfected. Mr. Volpe was one of my favorite people at the time. I really missed them when they left, but they didn't go far and I would go visit them at the apartment on Hillside Avenue, which they moved to. I slept in a crib in my parents room while the back room was inhabited by the Volpes. What was to become my room had at least two tenants prior to my moving in. One of these was an elderly Spanish or perhaps Argentine gentleman who had little patience with me. He often yelled at me for making too much noise, threatening to cut off my head (Te voy a cortar la cabeza). He was very scary to a little boy. He was followed by a Portuguese merchant sailor who ended up getting deported. I would often hear him making long distance calls to Mineola, Long Island, in what sounded like Spanish, but somehow I couldn't understand him.

When the Volpes moved out, Mr Moushardt moved in. He tended bar on Hillside Avenue not far from the house. He spoke with a German accent, had slicked back red hair, a ruddy complexion and a handlebar mustache. He was very mysterious and not very friendly. We never spoke. He must have drank most of the profits at the bar, because he always smelled like peach schnapps. He remained in that room until after Papá's death when Mamá took the room. His belongings were moved into the basement when he moved out, and he died before claiming them. David and I went through some of these things and found Luger bullets, Nazi paraphernalia, a black jack, and the stock of a gun which appeared to double as a case which when put together with the gun would form a rifle, like an assassin might use. The gun itself was not there. Long since pawned I presume. There were also many books and magazines. The books were heavy duty, the magazines True Detective. I was convinced he had been a German spy years earlier.

The attic apartment had many occupants. The first in my memory was a couple by the name of Sheridan with a son named Michael, who was my age. There was another young couple with a baby. There was a gentleman who was a retired subway motorman who I used to love to talk to. Sylvia Muxó's grandmother, Doña Gloria, lived there. Then there was an old Italian man, Mr. Bagnasco. He was short in stature and about as wide as he was tall. He would slowly move down the sidewalk with a cane, rocking from side to side without bending his knees in order to move forward. After him Aida [Muxó] lived there for a while until she joined her husband, Dan, in Japan. After that María Teresa moved back in after her husband died, and lived there until her death.

Victor [Vazquez] would come and visit Mamá every day, she would give him a banana and scold him for something or other, "Vitorio......!"

Uncle Ralph would sit with Papá by his bedside for hours, night after night, talking about his father's past.

Sunday's would bring visits from all sorts of family members, many of whom are in these pictures. It felt as if our house was the center of the universe.

Alfred Coll lived with his parents, Joseph Coll and Esther Muxó Coll, and grandparents Francisco Muxó and Dolores del Pilar Ríos Muxó in the house which Francisco purchased in Queens, New York.