Recently I came across a couple pictures from December, 1944
when we had a really significant snowfall. We all remember the
big snow of 1950, but the one in 1944 was pretty big, too, as you can
see in the picture of Ruth Dodd's car on Fifth Street. As the
picture shows, the snow was still falling on Dec 12 when the picture
December 12, 1944 / Fifth Street, Aspinwall, PA
This next photo shows the picnic grove that was on the northeast corner
of the Playground. It was taken at the Fifth Street gate looking
toward Sixth Street. That is where young adults taught us
little kids how to do things like make Plaster of Paris castings of
Disney characters and painting them. As I recall, the older
sister of my classmate Ann Green Miller was one of the adults.
and Door-to-Door Service
far do you drive to get to church nowadays? Our church is 4 miles away.
Our nearest grocery is over a mile. My doctor is 4 miles away, and
Karen’s is 10 miles. We drive everywhere. It is expensive to maintain
our two cars and to buy gas for them. And when we drive, we pollute the
air we breathe. In the summers, Columbus has days when older people
(Who, me?) and people with asthma or other breathing problems are
advised to stay indoors. It would be nice if the stores were closer and
more people would walk instead of driving.
In the 1950s, our little town of
Aspinwall had just about everything we residents needed within walking
distance. Groceries, prescription and over the counter drugs,
hardware, doctors and dentists, barbers and hairdressers, automobile
dealers and mechanics, radio and TV repair – the list goes on.
Just think about it. All were right there. The town was
small enough that we could walk to all of these things in just a few
minutes. Well, it might have taken a little longer that that
since while we walked, we saw people we knew, and we often stopped to
talk to them.
In addition to the local stores, we
had vendors who brought their goods and services right into our
neighborhoods. Milk and bread were delivered to our homes, and
farmers and hucksters pulled into our streets and sold to us from the
back of their trucks.
I won’t try to describe all of the
stores we had, but maybe the following will bring back some memories of
good things that are long gone by.
Until the 1960s, Aspinwall had several
grocery stores and three drug stores. The bigger groceries were
the A&P at Freeport Road and Eastern Avenue, Zuccaro’s Brilliant
Market at Brilliant and First Street, and Beck’s/McCafferty’s on Center
Avenue. They were supplemented by several smaller “corner stores”
like Don Kahn’s at Center and Fifth, Lee Balsiger’s on Western Avenue,
and Fasone’s on Third Street. Prescription drugs were available
at Erwin’s Brilliant Pharmacy, and at Towne Drug and Fehrmann’s on
Commercial. In just a few minutes’ time, we could walk to a
store, buy groceries, and walk back home in time to prepare
dinner. We didn’t need to drive. We didn’t create
pollution, and we didn’t have to pay for gas.
With the exception of the A&P
store, the store owners/clerks served the customers. They would
ask what we wanted and would get it for us from the shelves. We
also could call ahead, and they would have our orders ready to pick up
when we came in. Some stores, like Beck’s even delivered to our
Fehrmann’s Drug Store featured an old
fashioned soda fountain. It was part of Aspinwall for 57 years.
Long after the store quit dispensing prescriptions, Art Fehrmann, son
of the man who founded the store, continued the soda fountain business
and also did watch repairs.
Art Fehrmann draws a soda at his store
The Herald, Apr 2, 1986
Several vendors came to our
homes. Three dairy companies, Sealtest, Meadow Gold, and Aupke’s,
delivered daily and picked up the empty bottles. At least one
bread company came around several times a week.
There were two hucksters who sold
fresh produce from the back of their trucks. One was the Fasone
family. The other was Zuccher from Sharpsburg. Tony and Jim
Zuccher came around twice a week. Jim was “semi-retired” but
still working the job in 1986.
The hucksters and the people with
markets had to get up at 3 a.m. and go to the Strip District to get
their supplies. The Strip was an area near the Pennsylvania
Railroad station downtown Pittsburgh where the trucks and rail cars
carrying farm products came into the city. The Pittsburgh video called
“The Strip Show” tells the story.
Jim Zuccher weighs purchase of Janet
Rohrer of Aspinwall
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug 23, 1986
Farmer Joseph King also came to town a
couple of times a week with chickens, farm-fresh eggs, and produce
grown on his farm. The King farm still produces some of the best
vegetables and does a brisk business at the Sunday “Flea Market” on
Commercial Avenue, but the truck no longer comes to the neighborhoods.
Mr. King and the hucksters would pull
onto our street and park their trucks. Then they would start
letting the neighbor women know they were there, and the women would go
to the trucks to get the products. Since they came on regular
schedules, we knew when to expect them.
In the 1940s, some people still had
“ice boxes,” rather than or in addition to electric
refrigerators. During WWII and for a short time thereafter the
“ice man” would deliver big blocks of ice to private homes. Frank
Rak delivered ice and did general hauling, and in the 1940’s before
everyone converted natural gas for heat, Frank delivered coal.
Nothing about the coal delivery was
automated. We would order a ton or so, and Frank would back his
truck toward the front of our house where there was a window into the
coal cellar. Frank and one or two men with shovels would shovel
the coal through the window into our coal cellar, the part of the house
foundation under the front porch. Of course, there was a door
between the main part of the basement and the coal cellar.
Further, we put boards across the door opening to hold the coal back
from the door itself. When we had used enough of the coal, we
would remove those boards. Nevertheless, the delivery of coal
made a lot of coal dust in our basement. Also, we had to collect
and somehow get rid of the ashes after the coal was burned.
Converting to a gas furnace in the 1950s was a big improvement.
Other vendors, such as the Jewel-T man
and the Fuller Brush Man, rounded out the list of door-to-door
vendors. Now and then the “Scissor Grinder” would come to Fifth
Street. He would set up somewhere on the street or sidewalk, and
the neighbors would take their scissors and knives
to him for sharpening. He also
would repair umbrellas.
In the 1940s when steel and many other
things were in short supply, a man would come around occasionally
calling out “Rags -- Old Iron.” He had a horse and cart and
slowly made his way across Sixth Street. I don’t know if he paid
for the rags and iron/steel or whether people just gave them to him.
Alas, the rag man, the hucksters, the
milk men, and the bread men are long gone. Zuccaro’s Brilliant Market
is the only grocery store still in town. No vendors come to call,
and no grocer delivers.
(submitted February 5, 2011)
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