The Truth About NATLFED


This is probably worth a mention if you were someone who worked out of the National Office, either on permanent  or temporary assignment.  There was a time when cadres were pulled into NOC as couriers and ended up being placed on the staff.  We talked on other blog pages about the famous C-Sheet, the listing of cadres by numbers and those numbers used to identify the cadre over the CB radio.  I do not know what the official “highest” number was but certainly in the eighties.

The National Procurement System was needed to bring in large amounts of resources to support such a staff.  The open organizing cover it used was Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals based out of Suffolk County, New York.  The metropolitan area was close enough that businesses could relate to the situation yet far enough that a donor running out to visit the local was unlikely.  There were four runs altogether each week, visiting the Bronx and Manhattan on Thursdays, Brooklyn and Queens on Fridays.

As a Suffolk cadre, I had a slight advantage.  I knew the arena, was very intimate with the local fights, knew the local politicians and the lay of the land.  I could talk about grading potatoes because I had seen members do it.  I could talk about the tuberculosis epidemic because that was an important event at the time.  It did not matter that I was an EFWA cadre so I was a little hazy on the CCMP line because the NPRO personnel knew the CCMP line intimately (even though they had never set foot inside of Suffolk County).

The Hunts Point Market was a great location.  I forget which business donated the entry pass for CCMP to use or maybe it was several over the course of the years, it does not really matter.  What did matter was having a large enough vehicle to hit all the stalls that regularly provided fresh produce and vegetables.  Vans and trucks were a necessity.  In the summer months, a visit to the ice house was also a necessity to keep the materials as fresh as possible.

Back in the days, the work of the NPRO system was conducted primarily out of Metro I, a small cramped apartment that somehow managed to house seven or eight people at a time.  It was also jokingly referred to as Ray’s apartment.

Hundreds of businesses routinely donated.  Some donated so often a phone call was not even needed.  At Hunts Point, if someone did not have something for us you moved on to the next stall.  I do not remember a time leaving that market without the truck already pretty much full.

NPRO would base phoning on lists provided by the various systems at NOC.  Meal Plan of course had the largest listings (feeding an army is no mean feat you see).  Gansevoort Meat Market also served an important role.  I had never seen cows hanging off of hooks before my first Manhattan PRO run.  Sometimes they even still had the skins on them.

Other supplies were regularly needed in addition to food.  Let us talk about paper, the stuff you used to write on…okay, enough of poking fun.  Office supplies were needed including paper, white out, carbon paper (remember that stuff?), typewriter ribbons, pens, pencils, paper clips, etc.

You need something to wipe your bottom with too so let’s not forget about the MNT System.  Cleaning supplies were needed regularly.  The fact is that NOC could not afford to suffer widespread illnesses caused by lack of cleanliness.  There is a difference between toilet paper and facial tissue — TP is for your ass and tissue is for your face.

If NOC had to purchase all of the supplies needed to maintain its cadre population, it never would have developed into such a large community.

Sometimes there were special requests that required contacting irregular donors or even expanding the current donor pool.  Being the building superintendents required resources too.  I remember when the roof was undergoing re-roofing.  Tar paper, tar, the other stuff you need to do it correctly, all of those resources were donated and earmarked for CCMP but never left the city.  They actually ran into a problem with this when they started getting a little too greedy, trying to stock up as part of expanding the SHK operation.  The goal was to secure superintendent contracts for 1103 and 1119 (they used to have the contract for 1119 but lost it).  The construction industry is somewhat tight and contractors were “buzzing” about all the supplies needed for one office out in Riverhead.

You could get just about anything donated if you sat down and phoned long enough until you got it.  Cigarettes had to be purchased, no way around that until Wati arranged for weekly purchases off of the reservation, which proved to be a good cost savings considering the number of smokers.

After phoning for three days, the PRO runs were ready to proceed.  The Suffolk Liaison would be consulted for the latest information on what was happening on the island and then pitches finalized.  You got to go to bed around midnight.

PRO runs were not for the feint of heart.  Okay, so a tiny little thing like me could usually get some big gorilla to help load the truck at our stops.  Chivalry wasn’t dead back then but organizing is organizing and not flaunting your boobs.  You started the day around five or six in the morning and drove around for ten or twelve hours.  If the truck was not full, you made stops on the way back to NOC to do some cold canvassing.

You certainly never starved on a PRO run.  There was lots of food to nosh on during the run.  You followed a simple rule: do not eat something just donated in front of the establishment.  Aside from that, you had pretty much free reign.  There were even several McDonald’s that donated lunches for the organizers, you just should not go during their rush hours.

There were lots of treats to be had as well.  Anyone out there remember the lard cakes?  Bear in mind that NOC prepared two meals a day, breakfast and dinner.  Breakfast was to get the day going.  Dinner was a major operation.  There was not time to do a big thing for lunch but snacks were constant.  Fresh fruits were often put out along with cakes and pastries.  There was always coffee in the Plant Room and the bug juice machine (orange or some other flavor of drink like you find at a fast food place — I think Nelle is credited with calling it bug juice).

Despite collecting hundreds of pounds of food a week, there were still occasions to do once a week shopping runs.  Again, this was during the heydays with eighty plus cadres at NOC.  When the numbers dwindled down to around forty, NPRO was able to generate enough to prevent weekly shopping trips.

This does not preclude FC Shopping.  If PRO couldn’t get it, the FC Staff would run to get special things for Oldie.  Twining’s Tea was a favorite especially English Breakfast.  He also liked canned hash.

I remember one time when NPRO ended up with a rather large donation of carrots.  I forget the name of the two Runkle horses that were stabled in Nassau but Beth made sure to take a bunch of carrots with her on one of her regular visits.

When the PRO runs came in, it was all hands on deck for the PRO Schlepps.  Males on the street for security (no one wanted those pesky Johnson Boys stealing our goods) and everyone else lined up inside the breezeways to the 1107 basement.  Things were rarely brought directly inside the 1107 front door.

Everyone has PRO run stories, some particular coup d’etat of an organizing feat or some strange run of luck like a key breaking in an ignition.  I was with Van (not the artist) when the old Harvester broke down on the FDR, and luck would have it that another old Harvester came along and stopped to help.

There was one time I was stranded in Queens, the cadre went to cash a personal check and simply took off.  Fortunately she had left the keys in the ignition but I did not know how to drive back then.  I was still a probational member so I did not get in too much trouble but I sure was very upset about the whole thing.  I was terrified being in a strange city neighborhood with all that stuff by myself and bawled like a baby when rescue finally arrived.

Little “side trips” became almost a legend, such as Cathy or Lori stopping at the beach to sun tan for a while before heading back to NOC.  Side trips were not authorized, even if a cadre told you it was.  That lesson was imparted on me after being stranded.  Check cashing was the usual reason for cadres making side trips.  Clare’s parents lived in the city and she sometimes stopped by to make a quick visit.

It was preferred to send out teams of the same sex.  People like Jim could be trusted with female cadres but that was not true with other male cadres.  Yet sometimes the women could be naughty, such as the girls who went sun tanning.

If you were not very “worldly” you could end up as the butt of some kind of joke.  I went into one place at Gansevoort with a male cadre and the manager said something like it sure was cold in there.  I did not get it but everyone else did.  It was one of the few markets I went to where I was not to carry a clipboard.  Women with clipboards usually meant a meat inspector, which could freak out the managers and workers.  So I usually carried in the latest flier.

Wear a dress?  As much as I believed that was the proper thing to do, remember that my mom was a strict Catholic and pants were considered “men’s” clothing, I quickly learned wearing a dress to Hunts Point was completely inappropriate.  It is dirty, there is always water on the floors from keeping produce rinsed or iced, and perverts like to wolf whistle.

These were the largest tactics conducted out of NOC.  The Laundry Tactic was large but of necessity for clean clothes.  You went in with the stuff, you came out with the same stuff except now it was clean.  With the PRO runs, you brought in hundreds of pounds of resources worth thousands of dollars every week.  It was about feeding and equipping an army.  On some occasions, there was just too much perishable food to store and Suffolk would be contacted to send in a courier to take away the excess, usually Robert T was up to the task.

The expenses associated with maintaining the health and welfare of so many persons would have been exorbitant if NPRO did not conduct these activities.  Cash was needed for other things, the stuff you can not buy using a check or credit card.

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