December 29, 2009
Galante, ‘Juvenile Joe,’ to mark 91 years
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Joe Galante of Cortland is a retired Cortland police officer who is turning 91 in January. Known as “Juvenile Joe,” Galante retired after 32 years as the juvenile officer.
Joe Galante remembers the time money came up missing at Cortland High School and he got a call to take care of it.
Galante, known as “Juvenile Joe” from his years as a policeman working the Juvenile Bureau, said he knew who did it. He told the kids this is the way it’s going to be: “Down in the kitchen of the high school ... each one of you are going to go down there and one of you will put that money back on the counter,” he said.
Each kid in the class filed in, filed out, and somebody dutifully put that money back.
“They all liked me. They all thought I was the best. I kept them out of trouble,” said the retired Cortland City Police sergeant.
Galante, of Cortland, will be 91 on Jan. 11. He is active and healthy.
“I walk every day. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I watch what I eat. I cook my own food.”
In his home, he has a waffle iron, George Foreman grill, toaster oven and coffee maker all lined up. A microwave oven is also a regular tool, but he avoids the stove and oven.
Galante plays playing pinochle at the Elks Club, is a regular with his buddies at McDonald’s in the morning, and golfs when he gets the chance. His wife of 61 years, Ida Canastero Galante, died two years ago. He has a daughter, Tiffany, of Hawaii, and three grandchildren.
Galante said he doesn’t have any special plans for celebrating his 91 years. He graduated from Central High School in Syracuse in 1937 and went to Iowa State College. He served in the Navy in World War II.
“We were in the Okinawa Invasion. They were shooting at us, they were shooting at us, shooting at us ... We picked up Marines and their equipment at the Salmon Islands. “We said, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Then they found themselves, and their ship, battling a typhoon.
After he got out of the service, he worked at Brockway Motors, on the electrician, maintenance crew for three years. “Then there was a big lay off. We all took Civil Service exams for police officers. In ’49, I went on the City of Cortland police force.”
Galante retired as a sergeant from the Cortland Police Department in 1981.
“I was there 32 years. I have been retired for 29.”
There wasn’t much for kids to do in Cortland in the 50s, Galante said. That’s why they had gangs. The groups weren’t thugs, but groups of teens that banded together. “We had three or four gangs: The Angels, The Comandos, Basil’s Troopers, Comando’s Hideout and the Angelletes, with the girls.”
Gary Wood, the NFL football player and Ronnie Dio, Cortland’s most famous musician, were in the Angels, he said.
“They would hang out. They would go to Basil’s (and) Comando’s, a restaurant they used to hang around.”
Kids used to play behind Pomeroy School, he said. And some used to shoot craps on the corner of Scammell and South Main.
“I’d come in in the patrol car and they would scatter. All that would be left is the money and the dice ...The chief would say, give them back the money and keep the dice.”
There was no money back then. The kids would take their lunch money down to the Varsity Soda Bar and play pinball with it, rather than buying a meal.
The police station was a wood house next to the fire station, Galante remembers. “We had three cells downstairs.”
Galante worked 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week and had the weekends off. He would make speeches at the high school, to different organizations, parent teacher associations, and at all the schools. He also was a coach of small fry football.
An example of the trouble he’d deal with:
“This one guy went to Pickert’s Grill. He had four bottles of beer, five shots of whiskey and went back to school. Cortland High School was on Central Avenue. Principal Doran called me up.”
Dr. Doran went down to the wood shop to get a paddle for the 14-year-old’s bottom, which he then promptly spanked. Then they called the father.
“Because that guy was drinking, the guy at Pickert’s Grill lost his license for two months,” Galante said.
“I had a black unmarked car. I am going past the high school and guys out for lunch they said, “Hey, Juvenile Joe.” Galante put the car in reverse and swung back to the kids. “What did you call me?” “Mr. Galante.”
Kids typically got in trouble once. Galante got the parents involved, and that was it.
“I saved a lot of kids from going to jail, keeping them out of trouble.”
“If you don’t stay out of trouble, I am going to lock you up,” he would tell them. “A lot of them turned out to be good,” he said.
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