U.S. Army – Europe
A bit more than fifty years ago, a man named David Campbell wrote a book for high school graduates just starting life’s journey. It is titled If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else.
I never read the book, probably because my gut level response was, “Tell me something I don’t already know.” (And just maybe because I graduated from high school 16 years before it was written.) What most high school graduates don’t know is that even if they think they know where they’re going, they’ll probably end up somewhere else. What they really need to know is how to deal with the detours when the road they are on suddenly washes out.
It also helps to know that detours, if you’re willing to go the extra mile, can lead to destinations at least as good as your original one.
Take Tony Liscio, for example. When he graduated from Farrell High School in 1959, he set out on a road that, in retrospect, should have been a great one.
“When I graduated, I didn’t really have a job,” he said. “I worked part time at the Farrell Library because my mother worked there, too. I heard about a class in New Castle called data processing. That was before anybody really knew about computers. I went down there for a couple of weeks, and I liked it very much. Then heard about the United States Army offering you to join up and get an education. So that’s what I did. I qualified to go to data processing school.”
After basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Tony was assigned to 5th Army Headquarters in Chicago.
“There was no barracks, so I got per diem to live off post,” he said. “Five other army personnel lived in that same house, so we all paid an equal part of the rent.”
Tony was sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, for four weeks of data processing training, which at that time was done through punch cards.
“The IBM cards were just paper. I could pick up 1000 cards with one hand. You had a punch card machine that you used to punch in the data,” Tony said, “then the cards went to a sorter, then a collator, then to a printer. The machines were huge. They would fill the house I live in today. I had to know all of those jobs.”
It was a lot to learn, but Tony managed to have a good time anyway.
“There were WACS on the same base,” Tony said. “I don’t remember staying in the barracks and studying one night, but I graduated third in the class. I had three dates each night. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. One of the dates was the granddaughter of one of the Supreme Court Justices. She couldn’t be controlled at home so they sent her into the service.”
But it was a date back home that eventually became the most important one.
“I would take the train home to Sharon from Chicago on weekends,” he said. “I would leave Chicago around five or six o’clock in the morning and arrive here between seven and eight in the evening. One time when I came home in December of 1960, a friend we called Bucky said, ‘Let’s go meet some girls.’ I’m still in my uniform because I didn’t have a suit. We got in his car and went to this house. He walks in first. I was standing in the doorway and this girl comes up and gives me a kiss. On the radio came ‘When I Fall in Love,’ by The Lettermen. I asked her to dance, and we danced. Then I found out she was Bucky’s girlfriend. I kept in touch with her while I was in Chicago, and we got married two years after I got back.”
After a year in Chicago, Tony was assigned to USAREUR (United States Army Europe) Headquarters, near Heidelberg, Germany.
“I never dated a Fraulein,” he said, “because there were enough WACs on post.”
He had a confidential assignment as transceiver operator dealing with troop movements to and from the United States.
Thanks to his talent for singing, Tony got to see a lot of Europe.
“The US Army formed a men’s choir to represent USAREUR,” To said. “I auditioned for it and was accepted. We traveled many places, including a monastery where they had never seen an American. We sang in German and English.”
In October, 1962, he took advantage of leave time to travel through Europe and visit his family’s ancestral home in Italy.
“I toured for fifteen days by train,” Tony said, “from Heidelberg to Frankfurt, Geneva, and Rome. After a few days seeing the sights in Rome, I took train to Foggia.”
From Foggia he took a 45 minute bus ride up to mountain to Bovina.
“My relatives had a house in the city and house in the country,” he said. “I stayed in the city for a while and spent one night at house in the country. It was made of cement with an opening but no door, and window cut outs but no windows. I slept on hay.”
Tony took the train to Venice, then to Munich.
“I was walking around near the train station,” he said. “A man comes up to me and says you should get back to your post. I got on the train right away.”
When he got back to his post, he learned that the United States Armed Forces were on full alert because of the Cuban Missiles crisis.
After Tony was discharged in March, 1963, he came back to Sharon and took advantage of what he had learned in the army. He got a job with an accounting firm, Magner Black, in data processing, in a building where Penn State is now.
On July 10, 1965, he married his girlfriend, Mary Elizabeth _______.
Mary went to business school to be a secretary and worked until their first child, Mary Rebecca (Becky) was born. Becky was followed by Anthony Michael, and Christopher John, Sr.
“I worked with Magner Black for a while,” Tony said. “Then I got a job with a company in Cuyahoga Falls. I stayed there for five days each week, then drove home. It didn’t work because my parents were both ill, and my sisters lived distances from here, so I was the only one to take care of them.”
That led to a permanent career detour away from data processing. He got a job in general maintenance at National Castings. After a couple of years, he learned how to weld and got a job at General American, where he worked for seven years.
“Then, in October, 1971, 500 of us were laid off,” he said. “And there was no assistance to get you another job. They couldn’t possibly handle 500, or even 200, around here.”
About June of 1972, a New York Life Insurance agent visited him.
“I said to him, how tough is it to become an insurance agent? He said that you have to go to Erie and take a test. If you pass it, they will take you on. So I did, and I started working for New York Life. It was quite different from working in the mill.”
Tony worked with New York Life for ___ years, qualifying for several honor clubs with them. But there was a problem with representing New York Life: there were three other agents in the Valley.
“So I decided to look for another insurance company that had no agent here, but had a big name. That’s really pushing it. Well, in Erie, Mutual of Omaha had an agency. I went there and told them who I worked for, and why I wanted to get out of that company. They hired me. I made honor club every year.”
Mutual of Omaha sponsored a well-known TV show, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, with Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo director Marlin Perkins. The original series became very popular, running from 1963 to 1988.
“I met Marlin seven years in a row,” Tony said. “I have pictures of us and handwritten notes that said he knew me personally.”
Tony came up with an idea for using Marlin to promote his own agency.
“I took a tape recorder and asked him to record a phone greeting so that when people called my agency, he answers the phone. A year later he told me that he had to record 300 more. ”
In 20 years with Mutual of Omaha, Tony made every honor club. He was a member of the Chairman’s Club for ten years, which got him on trips to San Francisco and Hawaii. He took his family with him on the first trip to San Francisco.
“In my office I had 72 small plaques and silver cups,” he said.
Outside of work, Tony was active in several community organizations. He became the head of the Shenango Valley Catholic War Veterans and was the financial secretary of the North Sharon Volunteer Fire Department for 17 years. He went to Penn State to study the use of computers in business.
After his wife died in ____, Tony married ________. They are living happily in Sharon.