THE LUNCHEON COMMITTEE
The Luncheon Committee has added three new members. They are John Strickland, Don Trokey, and Joyce Ralston (pictured below). We are happy to have them! The committee is also open to volunteers who can serve as Checker-Inners at some of our luncheons and/or who would be willing to help on the days when the newsletter is assembled and mailed. If you are interested in helping in either of these capacities, contact Sue Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org. As the Secretary, she maintains the list of people who are willing to be volunteers.
Friday night, September 20 was the date of the Fall McKinley Goldbug Dinner/Dance. There was not a huge turnout, but there was a good time had by those who were there! Mel Tockstein from the McKinley class of 1961 was the DJ and everyone seemed to enjoy the music he played. Classmates from 1964 and 1969 were there celebrating reunions and having a great time visiting with each other. Sue Coleman won the 50/50 drawing which was roundly applauded. It was very enjoyable, even for those of us who did not dance but who were happy to sit and watch and to have the opportunity to catch up with old friends. This is an annual event and we encourage everyone to watch for the date of next year's dance and plan to join in!
Unforgettable Delivery Men and Street Vendors
by Spiro Athanas
Not long ago I was driving near Indiana University's main power plant and I was somewhat surprised to see a coal truck pull into the entrance. Although coal is being phased out on campus and is almost non-existent in households, Indiana and Missouri are still in the top ten of states using coal fired plants to generate electricity. Seeing that coal truck reminded me of the many times I used to watch coal being delivered to the house I grew up in at 2641 Russell in St. Louis. The coal was dumped near the curb between two Chinese Ginkgo trees on the grass berm in front of our house. It was then shoveled into a wheelbarrow and dumped through a window into our basement coal bin by a wiry, soot-covered Albanian friend of my father's. It was soft bituminous coal and raised a cloud of dust in our furnace room which took a while to disperse. I well remember watching my father shoveling coal into the maw of the great iron beast of a furnace that roared and belched to provide our family's steam heat.
I was always fascinated by the many delivery drivers who came to our house. Late in his life my father worked as a maintenance man at PP&G and one of his fellow workers would deliver scraps of wood to our house every so often which was used as kindling to start our coal fires. I think this was a favor, and was rewarded with a tip from my mother. That tip was a shot of whiskey. I remember my mother would stand on a chair to retrieve the whiskey bottle which was stashed on the top shelf of one of our closets --though I never knew why. As I recall, several delivery drivers received a similar "tip." It's a good thing we didn't have a paper boy, because he may well have been started on the road to alcoholism at an early age.
When I was very young, we still had an ice box and the ice man would trudge up the stairs to our kitchen on the second floor with a shimmering block of ice held between fierce looking metal tongs slung over his shoulder. I recall this guy wore a long leather apron. My sister says it was the same guy who delivered our coal. Then, of course, there was the milk man who was dressed in a crisp white uniform with a Meadow Gold patch above the brim his hat. I only saw him a couple of times because he usually came just after dawn. It was curious that those milk bottles were fitted with thin cardboard caps. Those flimsy caps were soon replaced by my mother with tin foil after first use.
I was also enthralled by the many street vendors who trudged up and down the avenues of our neighborhood or who set up shop on a corner of two busy intersecting streets, such as Jefferson and Russell. The knife sharpener was of particular interest not least because his push cart made a distinctive sound as the wheels turned, "Ding ding-ding Ding" over and over. I watched him sharpen a set of kitchen knives on a grinding wheel operated by a foot pump. That wheel was periodically wetted with a stream of water the origin of which was a mystery to me.
We had two "rag men" who frequented our neighborhood. One was a swarthy fellow with a constant gray stubble on his chin who pushed a hand cart filled with oddities; including bottles of all sorts, pieces of leather and cloth of varying shapes, colors, patterns and sizes, and all manner of metal pieces and obscure parts. Winter and summer he was dressed in a filthy, tattered tweed three-piece suit with a battered floppy hat on his head. The other rag man road a horse driven cart up and down the alleys. He was a black man who shouted "rags and old iron" clearly and distinctly in a deep bass voice every twenty yards or so. His wagon had rickety, wooden spoke rubber clad wheels and was constructed of wood slats nailed to the sides in a slap dash manner. Nevertheless, that wagon was often filled with substantial items such as old ice boxes, rusted metal implements, and, once, even an old car engine block. I always felt pity for his horse -- a stoic, sway-backed, nag who did her business without slowing her lumbering stride up the alley. We had to wait for that substantial, fly-invested horse dung to dry before we could resume our alley games.
My favorite food vendor was the "Hot Tamale" man. His call was "RED HOTS" and his soft shell, delicious tamales were indeed steaming hot, but not too spicy for me. Yet another mystery was how he kept those tamales so hot in his metal push cart even on chilly autumn evenings. The tamale man I remember was a Mexican immigrant who stood about five four and spoke little English. The Snow Cone man was another welcome visitor to our neighborhood. The paper cones weren't very sturdy and the sticky syrup he would pour over the scoop of ice would inevitably soak through making my hands as sticky as my lips and chin. Flavors included lemon, lime, orange, cherry and a blue syrup containing an unknown flavor I never sampled.
Finally, there was the open- sided fruit and vegetable truck manned by an Italian immigrant who had a black mustache as thick as his accent. He was a jovial guy who displayed his colorful, tasty wares in artistically designed rows, pyramids, and overflowing bushel baskets. My mother once give me money to buy a bag of apples which I ate one after the other in one sitting, much to her disbelief and dismay.
It's funny how seeing a coal truck pull into a power plant can trigger childhood memories in this way. The thing about these memories is that everything was so personal, diverse and interesting. Those delivery men and street vendors were characters with distinct personalities. There was no welfare, of course, so those guys trudged up and down the streets of south St. Louis every day doing their best to earn a living for themselves and their families. You might say they were characters with character. They added color and in a strange way a kind of charm to our lives without even trying. Lucky us.
The next McKinley Goldbug luncheon will (hopefully) be Wednesday, June 17th 2020. It is necessary to make a reservation to attend the great gathering of Goldbugs.
To learn more about our Luncheons, including directions to the Royale Orleans Banquet Center, please click "Luncheons" on our menu above. To print the required reservation form, please click on the photo to the right.