Sal Polisi, wood carver of the South St Seaport Museum

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2015/02/19

chezSalOnce upon a time, by Pier 16, behind a collection of bollards, cleats and a giant anchor (and underneath the FDR drive,) there were two containers that housed the open studio of a wood carver by the name of Sal Polisi. TiconderogaFlat He was a navy man, served on the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) , and when he retired, he was one of the anchors of the South Street Seaport Museum. People would wander into his wood shop, and he would talk about the museum, the ships, and the history while he carved. He offered free lessons to anyone interested, and his shelves were full of wood chunks in various stages of becoming whales, fish or mermaids (including one never-finished block hacked at by the author, an abandoned whale-wanna-be.)

One day, a big, strong man walked into Sal’s woodshop. “He didn’t look right, he was looking without seeing, asking without listening…” Sal didn’t have a good feeling. Suddenly the man grabbed a large piece of wood, and walked out. “Hey! come back here!” yelled Sal. The wood piece was solid and very heavy, but the man made off as if it was hollow.

Sal called the police, then followed the man as he walked north of Pier 17, and watched in disbelief as the man threw Sal’s wood into the East River, jumped in, mounted the wood, and began to paddle towards the west anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge.

bridgeswim This was pre-9/11, there was no harbor police stationed at the spot where the man paddled through. It took a while before the police came. The harbor police eventually appeared in their boat, and they pulled the fellow off the log and hauled him off to —? we do not know where. The shoreside police watched, laughed and got into their cars to leave.

“Hey!” said Sal, “What about my wood? I want that wood back!” The cops shrugged and left.

“I was so mad,” he told me later. “That was a good piece of wood! Black Walnut!”

Sal worked in his wood shop for many years until the current regime was given the public land to develop. They assured him he would not be moved, but moved him they did. His shop was razed, and it did break his heart. salwoodshop Fair winds, Sal. We miss you. sal&kids2   USS TICONDEROGA (CV-14)

Name: Ticonderoga
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding, VA
Laid down: 1 February 1943
Launched: 7 February 1944
Class & type: Essex-class aircraft carrier
Length: 888 feet (271 m) overall
Beam: 93 feet (28 m)
Draft: 28 feet 7 inches (8.71 m) light
Propulsion: 8 × boilers 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines 4 × shafts 150,000 shp (110 MW)
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h)
Complement: 3448 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 × twin 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns 4 × single 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns 8 × quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns 46 × single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons
Aircraft carried: 90–100 aircraft

6 Responses

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  1. Rembert said, on 2015/02/20 at 05:32

    As a European you are sometimes a little bit reluctant, to use english words, whose counterparts in your own language carry an enthusiasm, that’s so typical for America and would be called inadequate here. “Wundervoll” sounds on most occasions as exaggerated as “lieblich”, although they are siblings of “wonderful” and “lovely” and don´t mean anything other by definition. But there aren´t better words for that rather touching Good-bye.

    I have to say so, because I imagine, that the deceased played an important role in creating a location, that hopefully will not become a late victim of International Style and continue to be what it is. An American Place.

  2. tugster said, on 2015/02/20 at 08:19

    that piece of black walnut . . . what could it have been? and sal’s container wood carving shop . . . who could that have convinced to stop by for a chat? and the “current regime was given the public land to develop” that would be the CRGPLD or some other such acronymy, what uniqueness atrophies as the expense of their uniformity? Sal . .. you are missed. And bowsprite, thanks for telling this new story about sal and his magical container workshop on the edge of the land.

  3. eastriver said, on 2015/02/20 at 08:50

    Beauty of a Sal story… thanks so much. He is indeed missed.

  4. Rigmor Lisbeth said, on 2015/02/20 at 11:33

    Oh what a story ! Black walnut ….a beutifull word.
    Sad to hear that Sal had to leave….. and I Wonder what happened to the Little Mermaid on the shelf behind him ?

  5. Bonnie K. Frogma said, on 2015/02/20 at 15:44

    I looked in the windows so many times – he was never there when I was, though. I wish I’d been able to get in there at least once!

  6. said, on 2015/02/21 at 09:51

    Evocative memory! I never saw Sal’s shop but wish I could have.

    Wood carving does not seem to be widely practiced – I’ve only known one, a man named “Pepper” Langley here in Solomons, who passed on a few years ago. I have an example of his work, carved in honor of the tugs that “saved” Solomons with their firefighting equipment during the Solomons Fire of 2006, which threatened to destroy the town. Pepper’s plaque represents a tug in profile with her FiFi-1 water cannon going – not the easiest concept to express! I’ll always treasure it.

    We’re all unique, but some folks like Sal and Pepper and (dare I say it?) you, Bowsprite, make the rest of us more aware of our humanity in this seemingly lockstep world!

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