Mario Materazzo is a name I will never forget. Mario was my best friend when we lived in Woodstock. He lived a couple of houses down from us on Fleming Road. His house was on the corner of Fleming and Route 120. It was a fairly big house with a working farm and barn. They used to have quite a few animals around. I remember being impressed with the peacocks since it was the first time I ever saw someone own them and keep them on the property.
Mario was at the same school and the same grade as me. We rarely had classes together based on different levels of study. I can’t remember how we met, but knowing Mario it was probably with him coming over to our house and introducing himself. He was never shy and I certainly envied him that.
Mario was an only child at the time and wanted someone to play with. I don’t think he would have really minded who he played with but from his perspective I was a pretty good mate. We used to get into all kinds of trouble together. He always had such a depth of ideas about what could be done. We would sometimes play with my sister and her friend. We would have all the military toys (tanks, soldiers, planes) and they would have the Barbies and the accessories. Typically it would go well for a few minutes but before long the tormenting would begin. I would pretend to attack Ken and Barbie with the tanks and planes. It was escalate to popping off the Barbie heads (which could be fixed). Mario, from memory, took it too far once and managed to break off a leg. I remember us laughing at the time. Unfortunately this could not be fixed and I did feel bad for my sister. She still sometimes remembers this event. It was just Mario. He meant well and sometimes the fun just went too far.
Another classic example is when we used to take field trips into their distant backyard. I don’t know how many acres it was but I would guess at least 100. Either Mario was telling me stories about owning this property or it really was theirs. I would tend to believe that they owned it. One day we ventured far into the back. Mario and I found a small bomb. It looked like the kind of bomb that you would find after being dropped from a plane. It had the fins and the round aerodynamic shape. It was real and obviously forgotten in a field. We decided that it was a good idea to take it with us. So, we started walking back to the house with this unexploded bomb. Mario had the clever idea of passing the time by tossing the bomb to me. I wasn’t going to catch it so I remember it landing nearby. Me, equally being clever, tossed it back. I don’t know how long this went on for but I do remember that we added sound effects and acted like the bomb worked from time to time. Once past the first throw, it was incredibly fun.
We got back to the house after quite a walk and showed the bomb to Mario’s mom. She freaked out instantly. She rightly was worried that it could explode at any time. She laid out a towel on the kitchen counter and put the bomb gingerly on the towel. Within minutes she was calling some unknown authority about what to do about the bomb.
She was told that the backyard had once been used as a training ground for military exercises and that the bomb should be treated as live. Someone would be there to collect it within the next few hours.
I don’t know about Mario, but it certainly left a big impression on me. Not that I have seen any bombs since then but I can easily say that I would not pick up a bomb again. Perhaps Mario felt the same way since we never went looking for more of them.
We used to walk to each other’s houses quite often. We always had great times and thinking back, he was an instant and lasting friend.
We dug snow caves in winter. We cannonballed in summer. We walked around both of our properties and always imagined new things to do. Mario was always willing to try things I thought might be dangerous. We made a good team since we lived on different sides of caution.
I used to go over to his house to hang out. There always seemed like something new going on. His family was quite wealthy and Mario told me that his Dad was in the meat packing business in Chicago. He also had told me that his family had originally come from Mexico. Much later, I wondered if there was a chance that organized crime was involved. It used to be a joke in the house but later I concluded that perhaps it was not a joke. His father was rarely around. His mother was so nice and was always looking out for us. Later his father would come down with a tumor in his stomach and his belly grew quite large. It was unclear if it was cancer or not but I don’t think it ended well.
I remember they had bought and caged a dangerous dog. Mario had said it was for protection and that it was half wolf. To me it looked like something that should never be let out of its cage.
Mario was such a cool friend and I was said to leave him when we moved away in 1978. About the same time, he moved to Mexico with his family. In 1979 I heard from him the last time with a letter that came to me in Tucson. It was not well written but the message was clear. Mario was in Mexico and had gotten involved with drugs. He advised me to stay away from them. It was sad news and it always made me wonder what happened after that. I’m hoping that he is still alive and well and doing business in Mexico or America. There is little hope now of knowing what happened.
I’ve included the only picture that I have of Mario. It was taken in 1976 and in Acapulco. Mario had caught this massive swordfish and got his picture in the local Woodstock newspaper. He was so proud of this and I remember him telling me that he really was the one that caught it. Click on the picture to see the large version.
Mario made living in Woodstock so fun. He was certainly the best childhood friend I had. It’s been great remembering him.