Interview with Emidio "Junior" and Barbara Frezzo

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  • Family History; Arrival in Toughkenamon; Father's introduction to Mushroom work.
    Partial Transcript: "Okay so this is an oral history interview with, um, Emidio--"
    Synopsis: Frezzo discusses his family background and how his family entered into the mushroom business. His father came to America from Abruzzi, Italy where he had worked in a stone quarry, and his mother descended from the same region. He found out about Kennett Square and the bustling mushroom business through a cousin. The Frezzo family moved to Toughkenamen,Pennsylvania and had five sons and two daughters, one of which died in childbirth.
    Keywords: Abruzzo, Italy; Alfonzo Alonzo; Annville, Pennsylvania; Italian Immigrants; Italy; Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; Mushroom Grower; Stone Quarry; Summit Hill,Pennsylvania; Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania
  • Childhood Work on the Mushroom Farm; Expansion of Family Business.
    Partial Transcript: "Maybe you can talk a little about all your brothers. How many there were and what you did."
    Synopsis: Throughout his childhood and teenage years, Frezzo and his siblings worked on the family mushroom farm. As children, they usually did small tasks like papering baskets and stamping lids. Boys were additionally responsible for picking mushrooms. Later they worked in the mushroom houses and took on important jobs. Frezzo was the mechanic and he kept all of the machines running. He explains that the mushroom houses were referred to as "doubles" because of their double doors. The family farm grew from three doubles to ten during this time.
    Keywords: Alonzo Family; Childhood; Composter; Doubles; Flushes; Manure Turner; Mushroom House
  • The Advancement of Refrigeration And The End Of Seasonal Mushroom Growth, The invention of the Compost Turner; Frezzo's Father Loses His Arm.
    Partial Transcript: "It sounds-- It sounds like your father invested in equipment though--"
    Synopsis: E. Frezzo & Sons were always looking to adopt new technology. During the 1940's and 1950's refrigeration became popular and allowed the mushroom houses to remain cool in the hotter months. This new technology enabled the year round growing of mushrooms. His father also helped invent the compost turner, which removed the need to turn the compost by hand in order to aerate it. Frezzo's father lost his arm while trying to unjam a compost turner, which deeply effected his life.
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  • Father's Depression; Three Month Family Trip to Italy; Father's Generosity to Friends and Family.
    Partial Transcript: "But your dad had a difficult time adjusting then. Didn't you say he had a lot of emotional problems?"
    Synopsis: After the loss of his arm, Frezzo's father fell into a depression. In order to help him out of this depression, the Frezzo family went on a three month trip to Italy. They met up with family members and saw many famous cities. Frezzo looks fondly upon his father's generosity to his friends and family, specifically referencing the help he provided to an Aunt and his father.
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  • Being Pushed Out Of The Family Business; Establishing Emidio Frezzo Jr Inc.; Other Business Endeavors.
    Partial Transcript: "So--So tell me about your efforts to get on your own footing in the mushroom business. It sounds like from what you have said so far that you started off working with your brothers on the family farm and sort of running that. Especially after your father had his accident. How long did you do that for before you decided to go and start your own growing operation?"
    Synopsis: Frezzo explains how one of his brothers forced him out of the family business and paid him his portion of what his father had paid when he first bought the business. Soon after, his father gave him one of the farms and Frezzo started Emidio Frezzo Jr Inc. Workers from Mountain City, Tennessee helped him to work his ten doubles originally. He later hired workers from Southern Mexico, who he believes worked harder than those from Northern Mexico. Besides mushroom growing, Frezzo also sold peat moss and managed a filling gang and cleanup crew.
    Keywords: Clean-out Crew; Doubles; Emidio Frezzo Jr Inc.; Filling Gang; Mexico; Mountain City, Tennessee; Mushroom Farm; Peat Moss; Southern Mexico; Toughkenamon,Pennsylvania
  • Working With Local Banks As A Consultant for the Mushroom Industry.
    Partial Transcript: "How did you come up with these ideas to sort of move the business in that direction."
    Synopsis: Due to Frezzo's experience with mushroom growing, banks sought him out as a consultant. He served on the board of a few local banks and offered advice on loan applications concerning mushroom growers. He believes the community was happy to have a well-respected grower on the board of a bank.
    Keywords: American Bank; Consultant; Financing; Investment; Kennett Square Bank; Mushroom Growers; Oxford,Pennsylvania
  • Innovation in Emidio Frezzo Jr Inc.; Using And Selling Peat Moss.
    Partial Transcript: "Um--Is there something that has sort of distinguished your operation in the Frezzo Company or Emidio Frezzo Jr. Incorporated or within the mushroom growing community, is there something that you're sort of known for?"
    Synopsis: Following his father's example Frezzo was very innovative. He was among the first of the mushroom growers to use peat moss over top soil. Peat moss required less storage space than top soil and produced more mushrooms. Frezzo began selling peat moss to other growers and transported it using independent truckers.
    Keywords: Emilio Frezzo Jr Inc.; Mushroom Distribution; Peat Moss; Top Soil
  • How Mushrooms Were Sold; Which Companies Frezzo Sold Mushrooms To; Information on Employees And Spanish-Speaking Migrant Workers.
    Partial Transcript: "When you were growing mushrooms, where did you sell them and how did that change overtime? Or where and how did you sell them."
    Synopsis: Emidio Frezzo Jr inc. first sold to canneries and later sold fresh mushrooms as well. Frezzo sold to the Mushroom Growers Association and the Wilson Mushroom Company. His company had a total of thirty five employees, who were mostly Mexican.
    Keywords: Canned Mushrooms; Cannery; Fresh Mushrooms; Mexican Immigrants; Mushroom Growers Association; Mushroom Growers Cooperative; New York; Wilson Mushroom Company
  • Assisting Illegal Workers In Obtaining Citizenship.
    Partial Transcript: "...And did you have sort of a consistent workforce or were you hiring different people all the time? Were you involved in that process at all? Or was that something that your picker manager would take care of for you?"
    Synopsis: Frezzo relied on Mexican workers to work his farm.To hire workers, Frezzo usually used the picker manger and the workers' family connections. Frezzo's wife Barbara assisted their workers with obtaining citizenship and covered some of the cost because of their value to the company. Frezzo reflects on the current labor shortage due to reduced levels of illegal immigration.
    Keywords: Citizenship; Illegal Immigrants; Immigration Lawyer; Mexican Immigrants
  • Barbara's Upbringing Around Mushrooms; Frezzo's First Memory of Mushrooms; Mother's Homemade Meals.
    Partial Transcript: "Were there other ways in which you-- I mean I'm Kind of curious, are you also from this area Barbara?"
    Synopsis: Mrs. Frezzo details her upbringing around mushrooms. Her father owned four doubles and did not achieve the success Frezzo did. Similar to her husband, Mrs. Frezzo as a child papered baskets and stamped lids. Frezzo also reflects on his earliest childhood memory involving mushrooms. Mrs. Frezzo recollects how her mother in law home cooked every meal with fresh ingredients.
    Keywords: Childhood; Doubles; Joseph Mason; Mushroom Grower; Mushroom House
  • Mr. and Mrs. Frezzo's Support of the American Mushroom Institute; Attending International and Domestic Mushroom Festivals.
    Partial Transcript: "Well if you had a question--I was just going to say-- that he didn't talk too much-- he was a strong backer of the American Mushroom Institute. He felt very strong about that group and he served as chairman two different terms. I mean years apart, one of them was in the 70's and one was in the 60's or something--"
    Synopsis: Mrs. Frezzo recounts her husband's support of the the American Mushroom Institute (AMI), serving as its chairman twice, and how they attended every mushroom conference. Mushroom conferences occurred within the US and internationally. Frezzo also discusses the limited advertisement capabilities of the AMI.
    Keywords: Advertisement; American Mushroom Institute; Australia; Canada; Fiji; Kennett Travel Agency; Mushroom Conference; New Zealand
  • How The Mushroom Growing Industry Has Changed Overtime; Corporate Involvement In Mushroom Growing.
    Partial Transcript: "Um--I have asked a lot of the questions I have wanted to ask and there have been so many wonderful bonuses I think in this interview. Things that you have surprised me with that have been really wonderful. As we sort of draw to a close here, I was wondering if you had-- if you could say a little bit about, and this is a question for each of you really, over your lifetimes, what do you think the biggest changes have been in the mushroom growing industries? The biggest changes that you have seen."
    Synopsis: The Frezzo's discuss how the mushroom industry has changed. They believe that the industry has gotten larger but it now involves fewer people. Cost, efficiency, and consolidation have driven change within the industry. Corporations attempted to grow mushrooms more efficiently, which hurt the local mushroom farmers.Eventually they withdrew from mushroom growing, enabling family owned farms to grow. Frezzo believes farmers will always know more about growing than any corporation.
    Keywords: Campbell's Soup; Clorox; Corporations; Mushroom Farmers; Mushroom Growing Industry; Ralston Purina