Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Old Timer

In the city in which I live, there is a party store owned and operated by an elderly man who was a teen-ager during the "Roaring Twenties" and, being the spry old gentleman that he is, he refuses to retire.

"I wouldn't know what to do with myself."

I don't drink a lot (neither does he anymore) and alcohol is a rare treat for me, maybe 3 or 4 times a year I'll have a drink. I still go in and buy pop ["soda" for you people who talk funny ;-) ] and snacks from him and always wind up talking to him for longer than I plan on.

Tonight we stood in the entrance of his store and he pointed to this and that building, or parking lot, or vacant lot and told me what was there when he was a boy. He showed where there were 3 speakeasies within site of what is now his store. He told me that the local police knew where the speakeasies were, but only raided if they created a problem. State cops had different ideas and would raid them as soon as they found out about them and then demand to know how the local police force failed to notice that "club".

He pointed to a vacant lot and told me of a building that used to be there. He asked his mother why men were always going up the stairs there because that many people couldn't live there. His mother told him never to go near that building. He later found out what a cat house was.

In the past he has told me about working for 10ยข an hour and how much that seemed like when he was a young man and what he could do with it. He told of how come he was one of the seeming few who didn't wind up in WWII (luck).

As I went home I looked over the city and realized how much it had changed, and yet hadn't changed, since I was a youngster and realized that man is part of generation that is just about gone. I just hope when I am pushing 90 or more that I am anywhere near as alive as this guy is.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Al Czervic said...

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The town I grew up in, 50 miles from NYC but still in the shadow of Gotham, had a vibrant downtown Main Street, with 4 classy 'men's stores', a classy classy chic uppper end all around clothing emporium, 2 hardware stores, 3 drugstores (with operating soda fountains), several record stores, luncheonettes, bars, and so forth.

In the 60's, the strip mall opened on the east end of town, and downtown started it's downtown slide to what it is today --crumbling boarded up pigeon-stained hulks owned by the city for taxes and waiting to be razed, cluttered with trash and graffiti and littered with castoff needles of addicts.

Surrounding the core, in what used to be some of the best dairyland in the state, is the sea of plywood, where people are hocking their eyeteeth for 400 Grand for a bath and a half crackerbox so they can commute 2-3 hours into "THE CITY".

I have pleasant memories of hunting pheasant and grouse in what's now some rich guys backyard, but it pains me to go back to the home stomping grounds and see how it's deteriorated into an urban ghetto high crime downtown and gated community surround.

So it goes in New York, Land of the Fee, Home of the Slave.

Al C.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

They didn't get tagged "The Greatest Generation" for nothing. A few more years and there will be nothing of them left. My father will be 87 this Friday and I wonder how many more days I shall have him on this planet.

BZ

11:20 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

I love talking to the elderly. They have such interesting stories to tell. There is a couple in our church who are in their late eightys. They are so well-mannered (something we are losing touch with), and so absolutely sweet. They've been married over fifty years and it's going to be horrible when one loses the other, and equally horrible when we lose them.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

I love local history, especially when its told by someone who was there.

6:20 PM  
Blogger jack rensimer said...

On occasion I reminisce about what I call the 'black and white' days. This is in reference to the days before color TV.
Now I am still too young to remember much of those days, but I do like to think of them. Seemingly simpler times...

JR

1:30 PM  
Blogger jack rensimer said...

BTW, I've blogrolled you. I enjoy your site shoprat.

JR

1:32 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

jr I have blogrolled you as well. Thanks.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Lone Pony said...

Cool story Shoprat. I love to talk to people like this, not only for what they remember, but for their attitude.

6:46 AM  

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