Anthony G. (just call me Tony ) Wargo a self-styled businessman and civic leader in Coaldale is an Army veteran who is probably Navy’s greatest football fan. Wargo, 44, heads a thriving business which contracts with firms in the New York City area to manufacture dresses for young girls in his adopted Schuylkill County community.
He moved to Coaldale from nearby Lansford after separation from overseas military service at the end of World War II with a rank of Army first sergeant. He served in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
Realizing that a wealth of football material wasn’t being tapped because of financial reasons in the coal regions, Wargo went to work after his business venture began to pay off. Since then, he’s been the “man in the background” who has negotiated for boys in that area with scholastic and athletic ability to apply for admission to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His efforts have provided educations for young men who might never have been able to go to college. Also, he has gained friendship and admiration of Naval Academy personnel, especially the football coaching staff for the caliber of boys he has cha nneled to them.
Wargo has seen the last 49 Navy games and plans to see the 10 booked this year against such powerhouses as Michigan at Ann Arbor, Southern Methodist University at Dallas, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind.; Duke at Durham, N.C., and, of course, the traditional clash with Army on Nov. 30 at Philadelphia.
He’s usually seated on or very near the Navy bench. “This way, I can really root for the team and be close to the boys who I know personally,” Wargo said.
Since he began following the team, Wargo has traveled well over 60,000 miles during 11 grid seasons. “When the Midshipmen are playing at Annapolis, I drive down; when they’re on the road, I usually drive to New York City to transact business and then fly to the site of the game,” he commented. Sometimes, his wife, Elizabeth, accompanies him to Annapolis, but she usually stays in Coaldale on the away games and works in the office of the dress firm.
But, being an avid football fan is just one phase of Tony Wargo’s busy life. He is president of the Coaldale Volunteer Fire Co., president of the relief association of the fire company, past president of the Coaldale Lions Club, Coaldale Civil Defense director, vice president of the community’s school board and serves as president of the ambulance association.
This latter venture keeps him on the go at all hours. When an ambulance is needed, the telephone calls come to his business place or home. If he’s available, Wargo drives the ambulance; if he’s not available, an assistant driver who is employed in the plant takes over.
Wargo is also active in youth work of SS. Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic Church, Coaldale.
The road to what appears to be financial success wasn’t smooth for Wargo. “When I got out of the Army, I started to work in another dress factory for $20 a week, and a work week then covered seven days,” he said.
He learned the business from the ground up while planning to plunge into the field on his own.
“I would look across from my home (160 E. Phillips St.) and picture a vacant elementary school building as the headquarters for my firm. Finally, I decided to try for financial backing and was successful,” he remarked.
Therein lies another phase of Wargo’s life. While in the Army, Wargo saved his money while his wife worked. When he finally arrived home, at that time in Lansford, he purchased a new costly automobile. “I guess when the people who loaned me the money to get started saw me in this car they felt that if I had the nerve to drive it on only $20 a week they would go along with me, “ he said.
The first two loans were paid off in less than three years. Part of the money went for the purchase of the former school building, which has since been modernized. Machinery and equipment is housed in what were once classrooms. “I started out with 35 people on the payroll and now employ 110, mostly women,” he said.
Anyone entering Wargo’s home soon recognizes the Navy touch. His souvenirs include autographed footballs from some of the academy’s greatest games, including a 43-12 win over Army in 1959. There are also trophies, blankets and “thank you” notes from the Navy coaching staff, headed by Wayne Hardin. After one battle against William and Mary, Hardin penned: “To Tony, Navy’s greatest football fan.”
When Wargo was in high school in the mid-1930s at Lansford, he captained the football team during his senior year and is proud of the fact that he played on teams there that lost only two games in two years.
“But I didn’t get the chance to go on to college because I had to find work to provide money for my family,” he said. Wargo later played with a semi-professional football team in a league in that section.
He’s been instrumental in getting the famed Navy quarterback George Welsh and other coal region boys into Annapolis. And, Wargo says they have been grateful. “I get notes and little remembrances from all over the world where these boys are serving,” he disclosed.
Wargo has two things working for him this year: The nucleus of another top-notch Navy football team and prospects for an expansion in his business.