2020: G – April A to Z… Family Stories
I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…
Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!
From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat resembled Coney Island… but was even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories… remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!
My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:
- 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
- 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
- 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
- 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
Come sit a spell and enjoy!
Grocery Shopping… and more
About the only memory I have of grocery shopping with my mom is remembering the groceries loaded in a metal basket and pushed out on a conveyor belt… at least I think I remember! My husband on the other hand has many memories of grocery shopping with his mother and aunts at the Food Basket. This post reflects his words… written from his memories.
“My mother’s grocery shopping was usually on Friday nights… but sometimes she waited for Saturday afternoons. It really didn’t matter which day… she only waited for Friday, because that was the day father was paid. Back then, you paid for everything in cash, so you waited for “payday” for most things. It was the standard then, more or less, that families shopped on Friday nights. I never tried to sneak anything in the basket when shopping with her, because usually if I asked for something, she bought it. My father never went with us to the grocery store… he only stopped at West End Market on Fridays to pick up his meat order he had left earlier during the week.”
“The A & P (The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company) grocery store was on Campbell Avenue across from the Green. It later moved during the early 1960’s to Elm st. across from Armstrong Rubber… and was still operating when I married in 1971. Today in that very site is the current Stop & Shop, who built their new store on the site over ten years ago; a roller skating rink originally took the A&P’s place when it first closed.”
“Friday nights were always my favorite night – the best TV shows were on that night. It was also the night my mother sometimes went grocery shopping when I was young… and I often tagged along. She sometimes went to Atlantic Grocery store on Jones Hill Road (in shopping center in front of Randall’s bar). I liked to go there, as I’d see other kids my own age there. When you loaded the groceries on the belt at checkout, there was no running belt like today to bring the groceries forward… there were boards you used to push your items forward like what we used at West End Market.”
“Atlantic Supermarket also gave out green stamps… and my mother saved them. She redeemed them somewhere in Hamden, and even redeemed books one summer for a wood picnic table… and later a round metal outside table with an umbrella… which lasted forever! It was still there when we cleaned out the house in 2015. That was before the era of when everything was made in China… it was when most of our things were made in the USA… made to last!
“First National Grocery was where Mantilla Motors later built on Campbell Ave… another store who gave out S&H green stamps; they closed on Mar. 15, 1973″
“The Food Basket was in the center of town… located in the basement of where Horwitz was later on; I don’t remember what was there originally. We parked in the back parking lot and walked down a few stairs to the lower level. Grocery stores weren’t big like they are today… they carried just what you needed… today they carry way more than you need and way too big. As the Food Basket outgrew that location, they moved further down Campbell Avenue. I remember how your groceries were loaded onto a metal roller conveyor belt in a square metal basket. You pulled your car up and gave the kid the matching no. tag, – which matched up with the basket tag… he then loaded your “paper bags” into your car.”
“Stop and Shop later opened in the same location where the Food Basket had operated. After Stop and Shop finally closed in that location, it moved to Orange to operate side by side with Bradlees… a department store that was a branch of the company. You could shop in both stores… never exiting outside… as there was an archway opening inside which connected both stores. Stop & Shop later built a brand new store around the corner and remained there from the mid 1970’s through 2013… they then relocated back to West Haven, building a new building… across from the Armstrong Rubber building on Elm St..”
“The Grand Union Supermarket was in the Baybrook area, but I don’t remember my mother every shopping there. West Haven had many small grocery stores, but most people only shopped in the ones closest to their home.”
“Saturday’s were a busy day around Grandma and Grandpa Cambino’s house. Aunt Nancy (Cambino-Cavallaro) always swept the backyard early in the morning; it was a hard-packed dirt yard and she swept it to clear out the pebbles and small sticks. The other weekly chores on Saturday was grocery shopping. Nancy did the family shopping at The Food Basket, located on Campbell Avenue, in the center of West Haven… located in the basement level. Often Dolly and I tagged along, if we had nothing else to do. It was all paper bags back then, no such thing as plastic bags… and it was mostly kids stocking shelves and bagging groceries, not like today… where it’s a career job.”
All my mother’s early dish sets were made from the free weekly pieces given out at the grocery stores – probably from the Food Basket.”
My father bought Italian bread on Legion Ave in New Haven on Sundays. There was a market, I think called Jerry’s Market Grocer (191 Campbell Avenue where I went often with him to buy hard rolls on Sunday. It was still open after I married and we used to go there sometimes, but now it’s a liquor store called the Wine Press.”
“There weren’t many stores to choose from like today… but there were many “mom and pop” stores on every corner back then. My grandfather often stopped daily on his way home for a fresh loaf of Italian bread. We had milk, eggs, and even potato chips, (Charles Chips) delivered… there was also an egg man out of North Haven. The milkman delivered Sealtest milk, leaving it in the aluminum box… kept on the side porch by the garage. The milk man came daily, but often my father had to bring home milk… I drank a lot of milk! I ate cereal usually every morning… eating it out of mama’s large yellow mixing bowl… and that took a lot of milk! Sometimes dad called from Armstrong or even West End Market to see what else she needed on his way home… having had to call from the store phone… no cell phones back then!”
“Although I lived in town, I always felt like I lived in the country. I seldom went to the center of West Haven unless I went grocery shopping with one of my aunts or mother when I was young. I had no extra money for me to spend in town… so no need to go there. I did have an allowance, but I spent it wisely on things – and usually never on candy. That was a luxury for me a young boy.”
Shopping years ago, meant no plastic bags… paper only. Your meats were wrapped in white butcher paper, no plastic covered your deli meats… you didn’t bring recycling bags to carry your groceries home in!
“When you went to town it was only for the necessities of shopping for food or paying bills; no one had checking accounts. You paid all your bills in the center of town – you paid the telephone bill at Southern New England Telephone on Center Street – you paid your electric and water bill at the jewelry store and you could also pay bills at Silver’s Drugstore on the corner. Most everyone paid their basic bills of telephone, electric and water in town. There was no cable, every house had an antenna for their TV reception. It was basic bills when I was a boy – no cable, no cell phone, no internet. It was a happier time and a safer world! Everyone paid cash or they used lay-a-way. There were very little charge accounts, except for a few local stores. I remember when the MasterCard Logo began appearing on the doors, but I never knew what it meant, and very few people at that time even had a charge-card in their wallet; it was a cash and carry world!”
“A treat was going to the Rivioli Theater (584 Campbell Ave.)… which was quite often with my mother when they gave away free item; she made the large dictionaries there that she used for scrabble. All her dish sets came from the free weekly pieces at the grocery store – and most came from The Food Basket. It was a gimmick that the grocery stores ran to get you there every week… and it worked.”
“I remember Uncle Mikie “O’Toole” DeTulio rising early on Sunday mornings to go to the bakery in New Haven for fresh Italian bread… and delivered fresh bread to his sisters every Sunday. He usually went to Aunt Minnie’s (Cambino) first and Aunt Mary’s (Pompone) last… that’s where he’d enjoy his cup of morning expresso.”
“Once in awhile mama bought me my favorite chocolate cream pie at West End Market… it was freshly baked and delivered from Peschell’s Bakery on Campbell Avenue. The owner delivered them fresh every morning… they were baked in a metal tin where you had to pay a 5-cent deposit… just so you would return the tin. We weren’t a throw-away society back then… we recycled more than they do today… although no one talked about recycling back then. I always noticed how things that came from China and Japan recycled… they took their boxes and turned them inside out… to reuse.
Wolfe’s Bakery was on the corner on Campbell Avenue – Ronnie Kessler and I bought pastry there sometimes.
“Pegnataro’s Supermarket came from New Haven to the West Haven Savin Rock Parcade in the 1970’s.. my mother never shopped there. The big food eatery that was popular there was Danny’s Espresso pizza restaurant. It was the first place I took Jeanne when she came to Connecticut as my wife.”
“Crown Supermarket (Jewish Market) was in the Westville part of New Haven on Whalley Ave – Jeanne and I went there on Sundays as it was the only place open for hard rolls and lunch meat. They had large brass cash registers at the checkout. It used to feel like such a long ride there, but now it’s just another ride as we travel it often.”
“Every Friday a friend of Grandpa’s came to the house selling fresh fish. He would pull his old truck into the driveway and you’d hear him call out, “pesce – pesce.” The truck had been converted into an open back with an overhang. The fish were laid on top of ice – all whole and fresh; probably caught locally that morning. He had flat, black and bluefish in the summer, and being from a Catholic family, fish was served every Friday.”
“York St. Market was another corner market where mama sent me if she needed something before my father came home. I didn’t mind walking anywhere as a kid… I liked going to the markets, as I could pick out something also for myself.”
“Even when I was at my grandmothers, I often walked to one of the local mom and pop’s markets to buy what she needed. Usually there was a small pharmacy nearby that had a soda fountain… and if you were lucky there would be enough change to treat you to an ice cream.”
“Besides shopping in a market, many businesses came directly to your house… the fish man, ice man, milk man, egg man, rag man.”
“The best place in town for atmosphere was Zuppardi’s Pizza… even though it wasn’t a corner market… you could buy pizza dough. It was always a little dark inside… I loved their tall wooden booths… the floor was nice and worn from dancing and even more worn at the cash register where you stood waiting to pay. My favorite spot inside was perusing the jukebox that played the old 78 records.”
“The original Zuppardi’s was their back building… they built a new building in the front when they remodeled. We seldom went after that, it was too much lighting… and never the same… just higher pricing. My father sometimes went on Saturday to buy dough at Zuppardi’s though – my mom liked it for pepperoni bread. The guy behind the counter would pull off a piece of dough, throw a little flour in the brown paper bag and plop the dough inside… the dough never stuck in the bag either. Imagine today, someone giving you dough just inside a brown bag?”
“Later, we began going to Pat’s Pizza – across from Duchess Diner. It still had the look of the old-style pizza parlor… which everyone enjoyed eating in. When I think about it now, it reminds me of the pizza place from the Goodfellas movie with the dark lighting. Pat’s kept their back door open for you to enter in from their rear parking lot. My hometown had more pizza places than grocery stores… almost every neighborhood had their own special one. Pizza was and still is very popular here with a few of our locals like Pepe’s, Modern and Sally’s being well known across the country.”
© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved