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Know Yourself. I Do.

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The Sixties

In 1960 Gordon was asked to manage a Horse Ranch in West Milford, New Jersey. It was surrounded by water-shed property owned by the city of Newark.

You could ride horses for many miles behind the Ranch and it was a great place to go to rent horses. Gordon also put on rodeos and horse shows that went over quite well. While there he met his former wife Gracie and they married and had two children. Joseph Louis Banta was born on 12-13-1961 and a year later his sister Teresa Rosa Banta was born on 11-24-1962. 

During this period he decided to ride Brahma Bulls in the rodeo. He only rode three times.  It was not what he wanted and it was comical to see him being bucked off.

He then tried roping and was not good at that either.  He did rope his first calf the first time but knew he would have to devote all of his time practicing and he did not have time for that. An old lady came to him one day and asked if she could board some horses there. He said "Yes, how many do you have?" She said, "I have about 200 head". Gordon almost fell over backwards. He thought he really struck it rich with her. What he did not know was that she was very rich and would go to the horse killers and horse sales and buy stock that was either ill or half dead. Her daughters soon had her committed because she was spending all of their inheritance money.

One day before this happened she brought a horse that was so skinny it could hardly stand up. Soon after Gordon unloaded the horse from the truck it fell down. He told her that the horse was to weak to survive. She told him she would pay a huge bonus if he could help the horse survive.

So Gordon went out, bought a sling, and hoist and jacked the horse up off of the ground. He tied the horse's head gently because the the horse could not hold his head up. Then he went and bought bran and gave the horse warm bran, very moist, and nursed the horse back to health. The horse had no teeth left so Gordon had to do this every day. The horse actually lived for another two years. Gordon soon built a reputation of being able to heal horses, but he gives most of the credit to his brother Dave.

Dave was a real cowboy and went to Florida, Texas and Oklahoma to rodeos. He was a great roper and a farrier (shoed horses). Dave taught his older brother to ride horses and was responsible for him getting involved in managing the ranch.

Dave is Gordon's younger brother and the twin of Marsha their sister.

In 1964 Gordon left the Ranch and began a driving career with Charter Bulk Service in Newark New Jersey.

He started out driving a straight truck and one day the foreman asked him if he could drive eighteen wheelers. He smiled and said he could drive anything.

He said "Good, hook up to that trailer using this tractor" (a brand new one) "and take it to Philadelphia."

So Gordon proceeded to hook up to the trailer, and when he began to pull away it started to come undone. He immediately hit the brakes and began to back up and re-hook the trailer.  It worked. When he was on the Turnpike he stopped the truck to read any instructions about shifting the gears. He never drove anything like this in his life. He finally figured it out and went on to Philadelphia.

When he arrived they told him to back it in at the warehouse. He did but thought, "This would never work." When he started to back up, he did so in slow motion and to his surprise, he backed it in on the first try. He was now a bonafide trucker.

Gordon had three accidents while pumping off the tankers. None of them were his fault but each time someone had closed the valve and the hose exploded, and he was hit with deadly chemicals. Actually, the first one was not so deadly.  It was chloroform and it put him to sleep.

The second accident happened when he was pumping off Methyl-Formcel, (Methanol and Formaldehyde) One little drop of it would burn your eyes and not allow you to sit inside of the truck. He was soaked in it and did not breathe or open his eyes until he felt for the hose on the ground and turned the water all over himself. If he breathed the deadly fumes they would have burned his lungs and perhaps killed him. Also if he opened his eyes, he would have been instantly blinded.

The third accident was when he was picking up a tanker at the piers. They would check all seals, batten down the hatches, and throw their tool, from one truck to the other truck. This day, it missed the other truck and went over to the other side and came down hitting Gordon on the head. Knocking him unconscious and putting him in the hospital with a concussion.

He clocked in close to a million miles in twelve years as a trucker and did not have one highway accident. It looks like his karma was with other people hurting him.

 

1966 -- Trouble with the Union.

Then to make things worse, while working for CBS, he noticed a lot of the drivers complaining about their pay checks. The company was cheating them out of money. Gordon never thought to much about it until they started to tap his pay-check. He complained each week to the shop steward. Each week the steward would say he was taking care of it.

After several months went by, Gordon told the Steward that if he did not do something about it soon, he would go over his head. That night, Gordon stopped into a bar where most of the drivers hung out and cashed their checks. He was standing by the bar when the shop steward approached him. He told him that he had to stop complaining and mind his own business from now on, or he would be in big trouble.

This is the worse thing to say to Gordon because he was a fighter all of his life and was not afraid of George. (George was 6'4" and weighed 100 lbs. more than Gordon). All of a sudden, another large man (a goon of George's), George Curran,  grabbed Gordon from behind, and George punched him squarely in the face. Gordon broke free and grabbed George by the neck. He was bleeding profusely but became enraged. Gordon is short and stocky and extremely strong. The other big man could not get Gordon off of George so he picked up a bar stool and hit Gordon on the head. Knocking him unconscious.

Some of the other drivers then came over to Gordon to help him to come too and to get up. Gordon was unable to fight, but he told George that he was only beginning to fight. The next day, he organized all of the drivers together and called a wild cat strike against the union.

Soon the union representatives arrived on the scene, but the drivers would not go back to work. They remained blocking the gates with their cars and trucks. Around four o'clock in the afternoon a car pulled up. Six large men got out of the car with bats and clubs. Gordon recognized the leader. He was Hugo Colisanti, a professional strike breaker. Gordon had worked with him driving before Hugo went to prison. He was in prison for about three years. Hugo recognized Gordon and came over to him. He asked him what was going on, and Gordon told him that it was a wild cat strike. Hugo said "Not to worry.  They would have to pay him a lot of money to go up against his friend." For some reason he did not want to go against Gordon. He went inside to talk to the owners to see what they would pay him to break up the strike and Hugh came out and told Gordon not to worry.  He was going home. It seemed very strange that here was a man, big and burly, twice the size of Gordon, yet he seemed a little afraid of him.

About ten at night, Gordon got out of his car and walked down the street and sat in a friends car. He did not know it at the time but he was being protected by Lone Wolf.  Around ten thirty, George pulled up with a couple of goons, walked over to Gordon's car, and pulled out a gun. The three men still sitting in Gordon's car started to yell out in terror that George was going to shoot Gordon. So he hid down in the car and George could not find him and left.

The next day they went and hired a lawyer to stick up for them. But within the hour, the lawyer called them up, sounding frightened and told them he quit. So each day that went by, the Union lawyers would write letters and threaten the men to go back to work or they would all lose their jobs. Gordon would sit down and for hours would go over the letters and then would answer them himself. Each letter he found out later was iron clad. They eventually went to court. It was postponed when Gordon wrote the judge complaining that they were threatening the lawyers they were trying to hire. Gordon took a trip to Washington to speak to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). They said they would hear the case. In a month they went to the hearing where they settled the strike.  At 2am in the morning, Gordon was wakened by a loud knock on his door. He grabbed his gun and looked through the peep hole. His life was already threatened, and they tried to run over him the week before. So Gordon was very nervous when the door was being pounded on at 2am.

The man said he was with Western Union and to open the door he had a message to deliver.

Gordon very nervously opened the door and was handed the message. It read "Strike over, your job has been reinstated, return to work at 5am. Your regular load is waiting for you to pick up at Dow Chemical in Bayonne, NJ to go to Pottstown Pa. All loads out of Dow in Bayonne were Vinyl Acetate and could blow up at 60 degrees.

Gordon felt terror once again. He did not have a regular load. He was a swing driver and only took out loads that could not be filled by the regular drivers. So, he took this as a warning. He told his wife he was not going back which ended up being lucky for him.  When Gordon did not come in at five am, one of the drivers, a man that had five kids, felt that he should go over and pick up Gordon's load for him because he did not want him to get fired. .

While he was loading Gordon's truck in Bayonne, it suddenly blew up, killing him. They thought they had killed Gordon but he was saved. Yet five kids lost their father, it was a great shame.

For two years, he was on a blacklist and could not get a job even pumping gas. The teamsters were strong. One time while working in a gas station pumping gas (he was there for about one hour) when the owner received a phone call. He called Gordon in and gave him an extra hundred dollars and let him go. Gordon was not the least bit surprised.

1968 -- 

Met Mickey Ryder and subsequently reinstated in the Teamsters Union

One day, Gordon saw an ad in the paper, Wanted, 60 drivers non union. So Gordon went an applied. He went to a house in Montclair, NJ and there he met Mickey Ryder, who later became the best friend he ever had. After the interview, Mickey asked Gordon if he would stay for supper. He felt compelled to. For here is a man hiring him without even knowing who he was.

He introduced him to his father and mother. Mickey's father, (Frank Ryder) was a burly man and strong as a bull. Gordon instantly liked him. In fact, after he got done eating, he started to feel that these people were too nice, so he would tell them the truth and not waste their time anymore. As he started to explain that he couldn't work for them and told them the reason why, Frank said, "Well, if you are afraid to work for us, we understand." Gordon said, "No, I am not afraid to work for you but I do not want to bring trouble on you." Then Mickey said that they were already having trouble with the same union and did not want to see Gordon get hurt.

So this is how Gordon started back to work again hauling steel from Bethlehem Steel Mills in Elizabeth NJ to NYC. The first day he was on the job, a union representative came over to his truck and asked Gordon for his union card. He told him he did not have one. The man went over to the booth and called the union hall. He came back and said he had clearance. Gordon was shocked. The Union man asked him to back his truck down into the cellar of this building. It was six floors deep. He thought that this was the way they were going to get him, but nothing happened and from that day on the Union did not bother him anymore and he later rejoined it.

One day when he and Mickey went in different directions, Gordon bought his own truck with Mickey's help and hired on to a company now owned by Hugo Colasanti. Hugo was the man that was the strike breaker for the Union. He worked for him for six months and did not like what he was seeing, and left. He and Mickey got back  together hauling soda for White Rock Beverages in Boston.

Sometimes they would ride together when they were slow in order to keep each other going financially. Being an owner-operator was not all that easy. They would sit in the truck and for hours would talk about psychics. A subject Gordon did not really like at the time.

 

  Gordon Banta. All rights reserved.

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