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506Re: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up [1 Attachment]

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  • Pete Hunter
    Feb 19, 2010
      Hi! Hep;
      This is rather ironic, I had my first taste of beer and got drunk when I was seven years old. We had just moved back to Philly from Runnemede, NJ to a house on Keyser Street. It was right around the corner from the Happy Hollow Play ground on Wayne Avenue, 
      Within two months, DeLuca's Italian Bakery, at the end of the our street celebrated the Christening of their three new ovens. It was open house to the entire neighborhood and the festivities went on for three days. Everything they baked, cooked or otherwise made was free. including the kegs of beer and wine.
      It was evening and just starting to get dark. I stepped inside the bakery and sat on a stool near the ovens to sniff the wonderful aroma that filled the room every time one of the oven doors was opened. I helped myself to just about everything that was on the tables or that someone brought to me.
      In the midst of the Great Depression, this was fantastic. My father was raised on English cooking. When his Mother made spaghetti, she must have used Campbell's Tomato Soup for her sauce because the spaghetti pasta entered your mouth snow white...not a drop of sauce on it. My Grandmother taught my Mother to cook them the same way. 
      With a tall glass of beer in his hand, the owner, eighty-one year old Poppi DeLuca, parked himself on a stool next to me. Together, we savored each tantalizing smell as they waifed across our noses. He left for a moment to refill his glass at one of the kegs. When he returned a few minutes later, he had a glass of beer in each hand. He sat down then turned to me and said, "Here, when you eat Italian food made by the ovens, you must show your respect and honor them with a toast. Raise your glass and say 'Salu-tae,' then you drink." 
      After 12 or 14 or maybe 18 toasts...about four glasses...I fell off the stool just as my older sister, Helen, appeared in the doorway. I looked up at her from the floor as I smiled and waved, then crawled back to the stool. Poppi DeLuca arrived with two more glasses of beer, saw my sister and said, "Helena!!! welcome to the celebration of my new ovens, here, take this. We drink a toast. Wait, I don't have beer to toast with. I get 'nother one. I be right back. Don't drink." With that he tottered away toward the kegs to get one more beer.
      Helen, squinted her eyes and said, "OOH!! I'm going to tell Mom." and she disappeared.    
      It took me several minutes to climb back on the tall stool just, but I finally made it, Several minutes more and Poppi DeLuca came back and handed me one of the three beers. But before I could take it, I was grabbed by my left ear and yanked off the stool...It was my Mother. Shaking her finger viciously and vigorously in Poppi's face while she loudly read him the riot between slaps to my head, she ranted non-stop for six or seven minutes. The only thing Poppi was able to say was, "But...but...but...but...but...but...but,,,but...but." 
      Unable to stop smiling, she slapped me on the head every time she looked at me. Still holding on to my ear, she marched me out the door and up the street toward our house. Still smiling, the head slaps didn't seem to bother me any more, in fact, she became predictable. She fell into a rhythm, she'd rant for six steps and then slap me on the head. Six more steps and another slap. She broke her cadence when we got to our porch steps, then I got a slap as we ascended each step. Five steps, five slaps, it was almost neat. In my mottled state I had a weird thought, was it possible that my Mother was gear driven...like a machine. Was I in a Flash Gordon movie, was I dreaming, or was I drunk?
      Through the fog, her loud voice answered my question, "Joe!!! Come down here, you have to see this........OUR SON IS DRUNK." 
      The last thing I heard before I fell asleep, with a smile still on my face, was the sound of a crazed elephant stumping down the stairs trumpeting a string of slured words that I was never allowed to say.  
      Hep. your memoir activated a long ago memory of my own. Mine was more brief than yours but still just as important to both of us....Thanks.  
      Sorry I missed another meeting...all kinds of problems these last couple of months...but we're hangin in. Hope to see you at the next one.
      ....PETE HUNTER

      From: Thomas E. Hepler <teh.himself@...>
      To: Senior Memoirs <Seniormemoirs@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thu, February 18, 2010 9:53:16 AM
      Subject: [Seniormemoirs] Growing up [1 Attachment]


      This is a vignette of my never ending task -- growing up. As Bernie said
      when he adjourned the rather small February gathering, "Growing up could
      be a monthly assignment." I thought, "he's right, that is what we are

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