Friday, July 31, 2009

Where's the Tomato Pie?

I kept a diary in 1942,43,44 and 45 when I was in High School. As I looked through my diary recently, I noticed that our favorite snack after roller skating at Capital City Arena was a Tomato Pie. We usually stopped at Esposito's Tomato Pies located on the triangle where Lalor Street cut off from South Broad Street. We sometimes also stopped at Scotties at the White Horse corner for a soda but Tomato Pies seemed to have been the favorite.
I left high school in March of my senior year to enter the Navy. I was sent to boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Since I had enlisted as a radio technician recruit, I was sent to "Primary" radio school in the suburbs of Chicago after boot camp. The Navy had taken over Wright Junior College on Western Avenue. We slept in the gym, had meals in the cafeteria and attended classes in the class rooms. We were pretty much confined to that building for the 5 weeks or so that we were there. We only got off base on Saturdays and Sundays for a limited time.
It was during one of those off base sessions that I decided to get a Tomato Pie. I spent a good part of the day looking all over for a Tomato Pie place. I finally decided that the Tomato Pie had never made it to Chicago. After all one of the first Tomato Pie places in the whole country was established in the Chambersburg section of Trenton in 1910. I was stationed in Chicago for an additional 3 months and never found a Tomato Pie.
It was only years later that I discovered Pizza and made the connection. I had been looking for the wrong thing in Chicago. Technically there are some differences between a Tomato Pie and a Pizza but with so many variations of both it is hard to tell the difference.
If you go Trenton (and a few other places in the US) you will still see signs for "Tomato Pies" but probably not in Chicago.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Never steal Pumpkins

Mr brother Roger had an unforgetable experience when we lived in Yadville Heights. Here is his story in his own words:

The street we lived on in Yardville Heights formed one side of Mr. Reed's large truck farm. The farm was about half a mile wide and about as long-perhaps 200 acres in all. From my bedroom window, I could look out over the farm nearly to Yardville a mile away.

It was a lazy summer day in late July 1943 or 1944 when the three of us Billy, Sonny and I suddenly found ourselves lounging by the edge of Mr.Reed's pumpkin patch. The pumpkin patch was on the Yardville side of the farm. We had spent most of the day playing in the woods and swamps that bordered the farm on one side and, by late afternoon, we were bored and looking for something to do.

As the country was then in the midst of WWII, playing war was a natural for us boys. And we were in luck. The pumpkins at that stage of growth were just the size of hand grenades! We promptly became engaged at tossing the "grenades" first at nothing and later at each other. Suddenly, it was Billy and I against Sonny and this led to words. Sonny got mad, so Billy and I decided to split and started across the field toward home leaving Sonny behind.

We made our way across the pumpkin patch, then across the bean field into the tomato field. As we entered the rows and rows of tomatoes, we noticed down at one end of the field a group of migrant workers picking the tomatoes under the supervision of Al Reed, the farmer's son. When Al saw us, he called to us, "Come here". We knew we were too far away to be recognized and we had a pretty good idea why he wanted to talk to us, so instead of responding to his call, we ran across the rest of the tomato field and into the corn field. The corn was high enough to shield us from view as we headed safely home.

But it turned out we were not safe. When Sonny following us across the field received a similar call from Al Reed, he immediately went over to talk to him. He then revealed our identities to Al, but used a false name for himself. Sonny always was a little dumb.

Later that evening Mr.Reed confronted my father and Billy's father about the damage that had been done to his pumpkins. We, of course, confessed and implicated Sonny as well. I'm not sure what transpired between Mr. Reed and our fathers, but I understand it was my father that suggested to Mr. Reed that it would be better if the boys could work off the debt rather than have the parents simply remunerate him for the loss. Did he have some jobs around the farm that needed to be done? Well, yes, he did!

Mr. Reed had some chicken houses that needed to be cleaned before they could be used again. In fact, he had a row of 20 or so chicken houses, each 20 by 30 feet. Most of them needed cleaning and had not been used for a year or two. Typically the floor of each of these chicken houses was covered with a 6-8 inch layer of old wet rotting straw and rotten eggs capped by a two inch crust of hardened chicken manure that could only be broken with a pick. The roosting areas were also covered with hardened chicken manure that had to be scraped off.
It took us one full day to clean one house and to shovel the straw and manure into the back of a 3/4 ton truck so it could be spread on the fields. The work was hot, extremely dusty and smelly. I don't remember now just how many days we worked on this job, but I do know we worked through August and into September because we could only work Saturdays after school started.

When we finally finished the job, Mr. Reed made us promise that we would never destroy or steal (for Halloween) any of his pumpkins again. And you know, I never did.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Perry Hall

I was visiting my older brother last week and ran across a photo in his album of Perry Hall. Perry was two years older than my brother and was not one of my mother's favorites who saw him as a rough neck and a bad influence on my brother Harold. Perry did seem a bit undisciplined. He lived with his father and his father's girlfriend - a no-no in the 1930s in a ramshackled house on the hill overlooking South Borad Street at the entrance to Yardville Heights. At that time there was a dirt road that started at the entrance to the Heights, ran parallel to Broad Street and curved back to the Middleton homestead which stood above the lake. The Hall house stood on a ridge between the dirt road and Broad Street. See map below of "Who Lived Where". The Hall house was # 32.
Perry graduated from Hamilton High School in 1937. He entered the Navy in October 1937 - the photo I saw was of him in his boot camp uniform, He served on the battleship USS Pennsylvania until he entered the U S Naval Academy in 1939. After graduation he served on a destroyer in the Pacific taking part in landings at Guadalcanal and other operations in that area. His destroyer (USS Sterett) was damaged during the batle of Guadalcanal and received the Presidental Unit Citation. Perry was awarded the Bronze Star for his performance as damage control officer. In Dec 1943 he began seving on submarines and was aboard the USS Chopper at Pearl Harbor when the Pacific war ended. He continued to serve in submarines until the 1950's. He retired as a Lieutenant Commander. Not bad for a roughneck.
Perry died on Dec 23, 200 in Milford, DE at the age of 81.