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17 April 2005

Bringing Back Memories


W

alking through the Italian Market in South Philly on a Sunday morning. Back then things were different. The US was still getting over WWII, the job market was much better and Mario Lanza was working at his uncle's fish market and doing what he did best. Sing. Entertaining the early morning, pre-church crowd that would be walking through the market gathering supplies for Sunday dinner. Back then, people use to actually prepare dinner. Not throw stuff in a microwave and in 5 minutes, presto... dinner was served. Back then dinner actually took hours to prepare and cook. Meatballs were actually rolled and shaped and cooked in gravy (aka sauce). When I was grown I always made the meatballs for dinner, the old fashioned way... by hand. The gravy would cook, geez... 3 hours? Sausage was skinned and mixed in with the mixture to form the meatballs.

Fresh spices diced and mixed into the pot. Since there were no air conditioners in those days, kitchen windows were opened and the aroma wafting throughout the neighborhood was unmistakeable. And you would hear music all the time coming from those windows... usually Erico Caruso. Mario Lanza liked Caruso... he sang many of the Caruso arias that would eventually make Lanza the replacement for Caruso... but back then he didn't know it, but dreamed of it. I've had the ultimate pleasure of meeting Pavarotti at a private party and see him in concert. I also had the unbelievable opportunity to see Mario Lanza at his family's shop, cutting off fish heads while singing to appreciative customers. Little did we know...

Fresh baked bread was another staple. Hard crust... great for dipping into the gravy to periodically sample it to make sure it was just right. Times changed... Caruso was no longer on the machines... it was Mario Lanza's voice wafting across the streets and out of the windows. I knew I had arrived when I could take a date to Palumo's at 8th and Catherine. Frank Palumbo was the man. People like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme graced the stage at Palumbo's. Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell, all from South Philly performed at Palumbo's.

One day I stopped in at Palumbo's to say "hi" to Frank Palumbo. Before I left he had given me toys for each of my 3 kids... the man was generous and it all came from the heart. Palumbo's was expansive. As people moved or died, he would buy their house, knock out the walls and expand until Palumbo's took in the entire square block. Several years ago after Frank died, I was up to Philly from Texas and went down to see the old place. I was shocked... the whole thing was gone... in it's place was a chain drugstore. So sad... I wondered if the store manager or the owners even knew about the historic ground they were sitting on... Even today but in very, VERY limited areas you can now hear Pavarotti's voice, unfortunately it's not the same. Many of the younger generations of Italians have moved over to South Jersey, leaving South Philly to open it's arms to a new generation of ethnicity. But it's not the same... it will never be the same again.

i tempi buoni hanno tutto e morto: "...the good times have all died."

Burning Questions and Random Thoughts

Have you ever gone back to your old neighborhood? To the house where you grew up? Ever wish you could transport yourself back to those times? Sure childhood for many harbors terrible memories... but there had to be one thing that is a pleasant memory.

Today's Birthday

Today's birthday boy is a name from the past... Nikita S Khrushchev 1st Secretary USSR (1953-64) born in 1894. Now how many remember him? My favorite memory of Nikita was when he sat banging his shoe on the table at the UN. laugh

The 100 Things Countdown Continues

Continuing with my list:

23. Back in Philly I have tons of Mario Lanza albums, including one album, remastered from Enrico Caruso.

22. In some ways I believe Pavarotti is and will be the standard for aria's... and there are no replacements in sight right now.

21. People in Texas think the bag marked "Spicy" means real Italian meatballs. Shudder!

If you really want to see my uptodate 100 Things.

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