I came to New York from Panama City in April 1957, the month I turned 18, with my little sister to join our family who’d already moved here. I started working at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center after about three weeks in the United States, and have been here ever since.
I’m surprised 65 years came up on me like that. I’ve done a lot of different jobs, more than I can count, but my first position at the hospital was running ice cream cups from the kitchen to patient rooms, floors 12 through 17. I’d take my tray with about 10 or 15 cups on it, go up to the 12th floor, make my deliveries, and then go back downstairs to restock. I couldn’t use the elevator because if I had to wait, the ice cream would melt. So, I ran up and down those stairs with my tray, bringing desserts to the patients. We made the ice cream here, two and a half gallons at a time — chocolate, vanilla, peppermint, sherbet. They called me “Ice Cream Man,” but I was the ice cream boy, really, I was so young.
I like what I do now, which is making sandwiches for the patients. I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years straight. We make about 3,500 meals a day.
Years ago, we made everything fresh, from scratch. Mayonnaise from scratch, French dressing, lasagna, rolls — everything. Produce would come in, meats would come in, dairy would come in, potatoes would come in by the bushel, and the kitchen would cook everything from scratch.
The bakery would bake cakes, cinnamon buns, and all that. We had the salad room, where we made salads from scratch. My friend Frankie, when he started working here, would do the Under the Sea Salad — half a pear with a maraschino cherry and green Jell-O, and when you served it, you’d put it on a piece of lettuce. We’d serve meals to the patients on china, with silverware, not like we do now. They stopped all that in the late 1970s or so. I could sit down and talk for years about this place, but it happened so fast. When I had my 50 years anniversary I couldn’t believe it, and that was already 15 years ago.