YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Between 1953 and 1963, there were 80 bombings in Youngstown, and among them was the Cavallaro bombing of November 1962. Now, 61 years after the bombing, the lone survivor of that tragic day talks publicly for the first time about what happened that day and the aftermath.
“I can remember just a regular morning, having breakfast,” says Charlie Cavallaro Jr. of the day.
Charlie Cavallaro Jr. is now 73 years old and lives in St. Charles, Missouri, near St. Louis. He sat down with First News reporter Stan Boney last week and First News producer Johnny Chechitelli, also producer of Youngstown Mob Talk.
On Nov. 23, 1962, then-12-year-old Charlie Cavallaro Jr. was lying on a stretcher after a bomb exploded in the car he was getting into that was parked in the family’s garage. Instead of his father taking him to play football, Cavallaro was headed to the hospital.
“I ran back into the house to get something, and my father and brother were getting into the car. When I got back into the garage, got the car door open, was about to get in and that’s when he turned the key,” recalls Charlie Cavallaro.
The turning of the key ignited a bomb planted the family car — a 1956 Ford Fairlane. The bomb was meant for Charlie’s father — Mob figure Charlie “Cadillac” Cavallaro Sr., who was killed. Also killed was his son 11-year-old Tommy Cavallaro. Charlie Cavallaro Jr. was injured.
“After the explosion, I can remember the fireman digging me out, talking to me, asking me if I liked football, and what was my name, how am I doing? And I think I passed out again. Woke up for a brief period in the ambulance, and they were talking to me. I don’t remember what they were saying,” Charlie Cavallaro Jr. said. “Then, the next thing I can remember is maybe a day or so later waking up in the hospital.”
His injuries were serious.
“My hip was blown out. I had two fingers severed. I had a lot of cuts on my head, face and my legs,” Charlie Cavallaro Jr. said.
He spent a few months at St. Elizabeth Hospital. Doctors thought he’d never walk. But he had a hip replacement — unheard of 1962 — and walked again, though two other hip replacements have been needed.
Today he walks with a cane, the repercussions of the bombing having followed him throughout his life.
Even after the bombing, Charlie Cavallaro Jr. and what was left of his family continued to live at the house on Roslyn Drive on Youngstown’s North Side. The house would remain in the family for 59 years, having been sold just two years ago.
“At the end of the driveway, there was a detached garage, and that’s where the car was parked when it blew up. The garage was never rebuilt,” Cavallaro Jr. said.
He would eventually graduate from Rayen High School. And even though the house on Roslyn Avenue became known as the “Mob House,” he was never known as “the kid hurt by the bomb.”
“I don’t think anybody associated me with that, never had any questions about it. Kids back in the ’60s — you didn’t think about stuff like that,” he said.
Charlie Cavallaro Jr. would stay around Youngtown until 1999, when he left for a job in Missouri, where he’s lived ever since.
No one has ever been arrested for the bombing. In fact, Charlie Cavallaro Jr. says he only thinks about it when someone asks. He also doesn’t blame his father for what happened. There’s no animosity.
“My father was the best father to me he could be. He was great to my mother. He was great to all of us kids,” Charlie Cavallaro Jr. said. “As far as the life he had outside of being in the Mafia, he was a great person. People loved him, enjoyed talking to him.”
This was the first time he has talked at length about the bombing and his life afterwards. So why go public with it now?
“I think it’s a good time [to]. I think it has historical value,” he said. “It’s something that probably something that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Youngstown Mob Talk will present CAVBOMB at 7 p.m. Nov. 10, at Stambaugh Auditorium. During the presentation, they will discuss their theory of who was responsible for the Cavallaro bombing. Charlie Cavallaro Jr. will be there in-person as well.