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Growing up in Ducktown - Part 3
By Dave Roman

I remember one winter in the early 1950's when we had a huge snowstorm and we were all blocked in by the deep snow. The City of Cleveland snowplows were so busy that they couldn't make it to our neighborhood.

What did we do? On our street all the neighbors came out of their homes, with shovels, and we had a block party. I should say my parents did. I was in the 7th or 8th grade, so I just enjoyed the snow.

Everyone shoveled the street clear. Some neighbors made coffee for the workers. It was actually fun and we cleared the snow from our street.

That same winter, I caught a real bad cold. My mother made me stay in bed under the "pee zhina" (that's how it was pronounced) with a mustard plaster on my chest. My grandmother called it a "pee zhina", but it was a heavy goose down blanket.

Those of you who remember, mustard plaster was a mixture of mustard seed and flour and water, which turned into a paste. Then it was put between two pieces of flannel cloth and applied to your chest. It created great warmth and heat.

I don't recall too many "fat" kids in the neighborhood. At least not any who played "street sports". There were no fast foods. No McDonalds, no Wendys, no Burger King. It was all home cooked meals. Bakery was almost always made at home. Bread was bought in the store, but sometimes "GrandMa" baked a loaf of bread.

We always had dinner at the same time, when my father came home from work. I had to be home by that time, usually 5 or 5:30. There were no "fast food" restaurants and if I didn't like what was for supper, I didn't eat. I did have to ask permission to leave the table.

There was a guy that came around in a huge wagon with steel wheels, drawn by a horse. He would buy all your newspapers, rags and junk! He was called the paper/rag man or as we used to say the "payparex" man. He was called that because as he came down the street he would be chanting "papah regs".

He was Jewish and it sounded like payparex!

When I got older, I found that he took his horse and wagon downtown where he sold his goods. He then got into his Cadillac and went home to his house in Shaker Heights, which was a very affluent suburb of Cleveland.

There was no such thing as a Super K or even a super market. There was a corner grocery store called Fishers and next to that was Stewarts 5 and Dime. There were a couple of bakeries that baked their own goods on the premises. Sadosky was the name of the one closest to us.

There was a Milk store….. yes, a store that only sold dairy goods and bread. Next to that was a Hardware store and next to that was a restaurant called the Harvard Sweet Shop. It was like a diner and I worked there after school (in high school). I unloaded cartons, stocked them in the basement, mopped and dusted and washed windows.

After a while, George let me wait on customers. He did all the cooking. George and Eleanor Meise were the owners. God bless them. Everything was sparkling clean and nobody could come in dressed sloppy. They served great sundaes and sodas. Real milk shakes and Malted Milks were his specialty. There was no such thing as a McDonalds Shake.

Men took their hats off when eating and in the presence of ladies. It amazes me to see grown men today eating in a restaurant wearing baseball caps!

I delivered newspapers before I got my job at the Sweet Shop. I delivered the Cleveland Press (it went out of business long ago) My route was East 71st, Polonia and Harvard Avenue in Ducktown.

We paperboys delivered in summer and winter, just like the mailmen. Yes, the people who delivered the mail were called mailmen and I was a paperboy. I guess we weren't politically correct. (Thank goodness)

I delivered the Press door to door, where ever the customer wanted it delivered. It could be the back porch, the side door or in front of their inside door. Today the papers are tossed in the driveway by someone driving down the street in a car. I think a chimpanzee could be trained to do that.

Saturday morning, I went house to house to collect payment for the paper. It was really fun the week before Christmas, because that's when people gave me the biggest tip of the year. Nowadays, bills are sent to the customers of the Plain Dealer and they mail their payments in.

When my mother took me shopping for shoes, we didn't go to a huge super store like Wal-Mart, because they didn't exist! We went to a local shoe store that carried Buster Brown shoes. There was an X-ray like machine that we put our feet into (with the new shoes on) and it showed how much room was in the shoes for my toes.

We traveled to the department stores in downtown Cleveland on "streetcars" . There were railroad tracks down the center of all main streets with electrical wires above them strung from the utility poles on the side of the street. The street car had a metal "antenna" that ran along one of the electric wires on a pulley wheel attached to the antenna. They didn't travel as fast as busses do today, but they were fun to ride.

Back then all our cars were American made. These cars were very distinctive. You could tell the difference between models and model years very easily. Today, almost all cars look alike.

We had the regular brands made by Ford, Chrysler and G.M., but we also had cars like Hudsons and Studebakers. My father even owned an Edsel once and guess what, we had no seat belts or air bags!

Gas was between 25 cents to 35 cents a gallon. I used to work in a gas station and we pumped all the gas for our customers. We also washed the windows while the gas was being pumped. We even checked the tires for air!

After I graduated from High School, I worked a while, then enlisted in the Army. Back then I could travel anywhere in the USA by "hitch hiking", as long as I wore my uniform. Americans loved a soldier.

I remember hitching a ride home for Christmas one year and everyone who picked me up gave me money for Christmas. What a country, what great people.

When I got back after serving three years, I met a wonderful girl and got married. Then life started to change in America. It was the 60's and 70's.

God, I wish I could go back to that era again. Like Jimmy Stewart said in his classic movie, "What a wonderful life!" That was my Ducktown.



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