Early in the 20th Century, and until the 1950s, the oil industry as we know it today did not exist. Homes were heated with coal, and some readers who wish to date themselves may still remember cleaning the ashes and soot out of a furnace or seeing someone else do so.
It was during the heyday of coal, the late 1920s, that a young man named Mauro Romita, an immigrant from a region in Italy called Bari who had arrived in America in 1916 and had worked for the New York-New Haven Railroad for a few years, started an ice and coal delivery business in the very small Castle Hill/Parkchester area of the Bronx. With the beginning of wide-spread home refrigeration, Romita stopped delivering ice, rented a small office on Westchester Square, purchased a six-ton capacity truck, and formed the Pelham Parkway Coal Company in 1928. This company delivered coal to local businesses and homes.
According to Louis Romano, senior vice president of Castle Oil, many people who came to the United States in the early 20th Century from Bari, Italy became involved in the oil industry, and many Italians in the industry today can trace their roots to this region.
Growing with the Industry
In 1930, the business grew to include a secretary and bookkeeper who handled the invoicing and also served as a weighmaster. The company soon included a large room for the sales and accounting departments, a small private office, a scale house, and an old wooden hopper that stored about 100 tons of coal. In 1933 to ‘34, during the height of the Great Depression, the business suffered but Romita managed to avoid bankruptcy and made it through the tough times.