Growing Up in Frankford Part 6

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:

The Ice Man

The iceman was also a very important part of our life, for ice was the only refrigerant at this time. He too would come up to each house with his horse and wagon which contained huge blocks of ice, I‟m sure they were well over one hundred pounds each. He would take an ice pick and very skillfully carve out a piece just the right size for each house. He would then hoist it onto the large leather shoulder pad he wore for protection with a large pair of tongs, and make his delivery. During the summer, it was great to follow the iceman around, for he would hand out small chunks of ice to the kids and we would suck on them like they were popcycles.

Oleo  Margarine

Who in the world ever thought this one up? It came in a pound bar wrapped in wax paper. It looked like a cake of lard with one exception; this package came complete  with one small packet of a very orange liquid. When you opened the package of margarine you were also supposed to open this packet of liquid and mix it into the bar of margarine. This was one of my least favorite chores, I hated to get this stuff between my fingers but the only way to mix it was to squeeze it through your hands until it was all one color, yellow. The next task was to re-shape it into a reasonable looking oblong block, which would later make it to the kitchen or dining room table. YUK!

Diners

Diners were a big part of the Frankford social scene. From teenagers to adults, they could always meet at the diner. Most had an outside skin of stainless steel making them bright and shiny Inside a friendly waitress with a crisp starched uniform complete with apron greeted you. The first thing you heard from her was, “What can I get ya hon?” The tables on the window side of the diner were usually covered with white Formica, and had a chrome mini jukebox mounted within reach. You could get five plays for a quarter. B.L.Ts were a popular item to order, which got you a sandwich consisting of bacon, lettuce & tomato. In the center of the diner was a long  counter with various colors of sparkling naugahide-covered stools. The last diner I can recall was located across from the Penn Fruit supermarket on Pratt St. and         Frankford Ave. (Important Note) The diners with the best food, always had the most trucks and tractor trailers parked outside.

Grocery Stores

Most of the stores during these days were “Mom & Pop” stores, privately owned and operated. Unlike the Supermarkets of today, these stores were rather small in size. Upon entering one of these little gems, your nostrils were immediately awakened by the many different pleasant aromas! The wooden floors were always  immaculately clean. There were no wide isles with huge stacks of merchandise. There were simply many shelves behind the counter against the walls; from floor to  ceiling, stacked with can goods and boxes that were out of reach of the customer. The clerk would either have a ladder (on wheels) that slid from one end to the other or, he would use a device that was simply a long pole. That had a mechanical rubber tipped gripper on one end and a handle at the other that allowed him to reach and grab whatever item you wanted.

The Butcher always wore a white bib style apron and took great pride in his display case. Keeping the glass sparkling clean. All the different lunch meats were carefully arranged with little white tags on the end showing you the price per pound. There seemed to be no end to the supply of fresh parsley, which was used to separate the various pork, chops, fresh steaks, chicken etc. There was every kind of sausage imaginable hanging from a rack, which was suspended from the ceiling just above the meat counter. After making your selection, he expertly cut, weighed and wrapped it in white waxed paper and with his red or green grease pencil mark the price on the side of your package. Behind the butcher counter was a walkway of wooden 1x2s made up in sections about four feet long and three feet wide with cross boards holding them together. They were fashioned in such a way that they raised the floor by about three inches with a fresh supply of  sawdust beneath them to catch any dropping from the fresh killed chickens which were kept in pens usually just outside the store. You can rest assured that the floor  was swept and disinfected at the end of each workday.

During World War II, the grocery stores would accept all excess fat from their customers. This fat was rendered into soap and was used for many things in the war effort, lubricants, etc. In return for your efforts you would receive red ration stamps, which were good for meat products, in return. Friday seemed like it was the day to buy fish, for at that time the people who were of the Catholic faith were told by the Church that they were supposed to give up eating meat one day a week and Friday was the selected day. So it seemed the whole neighborhood decided that since they were sure the fish was  super fresh on Friday that would be their fish day also. After you finished picking your selection you went to the front counter where the grocer was adding up your total purchases. He didn‟t have a scanner or a calculator, the grocer was adding up your purchases by hand with a pencil and did the math the hard way. He listed  each item on the paper bag he was going to pack all your groceries in.

There was always a young boy working in these stores and he would be happy to carry all you  groceries home for you using his “Red Flier” wagon to assist him for many times he would have to walk for blocks with a weeks worth of groceries in tow. He would be  happy to get a whole quarter for his efforts. I imagine this was the first form of employment for many young lads.

Oh yes, I mustn‟t forget the “Pickle Barrel.” Almost every store had a barrel located within easy reach so the customer could make their own selection from the many Jewish Pickles (they call them Kosher now.) floating  n the wonderfully spiced brine that gave off an aroma, which filled the store. There was always a pair of wooden tongs and some waxed paper bags nearby so you could package your treasure for the trip home. Some of the things I have a hard time finding today are Large boxes of “Blue Tip” safety matches, Powdered cod  fish, Ladyfingers, Junket custard pudding & Macaroons.

To be continued…