by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Suckers were silvery fish which came up the streams in the springtime. Fishing for suckers meant putting on your boots to wade Field's Brook, carrying your seven foot spear. It was 1944 and Lefty was ten, one of a big Italian family on East 16th Street, where Field's Brook enters the harbor the day he encountered a Northern Pike, over three feet long. Thinking it was a railroad tie, he touched it with his spear. Erupting in motion, the fish was gone, and so was Lefty, each shocked by their encounter.
Telling his uncle about it later Dr. Harry Cabissero, exclaimed he had never seen a fish that size when fishing in Canada.
The Iroquois called it, “River of Many Fishes,” and so it was.
Carmen Cabissero, always known as Lefty, grew up to serve in the U. S. Army during Korea, coming home to work for the railroads and play baseball. Along with raising a family, public service was also important to him, then, and still today as he serves as secretary for the Port Authority.
Not so much concerned about a person's party, Lefty voted for the man or woman he believed understood and supported the people. This was one of the reasons he became a supporter, and delegate, for a presidential candidate who felt the same.
On April 29, 1972 Lefty organized a reception for U. S. Senator Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson's primary run against George McGovern at the Ashtabula Hotel on Main Avenue. About Jackson Lefty said, “He was the best president we never had – a strong clean air and water man, a strong law-and-order man.” Speaking of the Senator Reagan said , “Scoop Jackson was convinced there's no place for partisanship in foreign and defense policy.” Given his straight from the shoulder attitudes, Jackson would probably broaden his statement today.
The reception was standing room only, inspiring excitement and hope. When Jackson was forced to drop out many in Ashtabula were disappointed.
In 1972 the long downward slide of the town had already begun. Industries were pumping toxic waste into land and water and the migration of kids to places offering more opportunity had started.
Lefty smiles when he remembers the Italian community here and how people pulled together, caring for each other. It was different, he says, and he knows together we can renew the community which was once so filled with potential.