Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ed's Quality Market

Lawrence – My Hometown

Eddie Solomon’s Market

By Richard E. Noble

I was working part time at Eddie’s Market on Broadway. It was a mid-sized supermarket. Bigger than a corner store but smaller than a First National or a Stop & Shop.
Eddie Solomon was the owner and he was running the place alone. Eddie, like many of the ethnic shops in Lawrence had his nucleus of loyal customers and then branched out into the general populous.
Eddie’s thriving little corner supermarket had devolved as the neighborhood deteriorated over the years and by this time most of Eddie’s branches had broken off. He was now down to his treasured nucleus once again.
The bulk of his business was via the telephone and he delivered. He had a high school kid who delivered the boxes of groceries to people’s doorsteps – first, second and third floor doorsteps. I know my friend Peter Shaheen worked as a delivery boy for Eddie while in high school. My experiences at Eddie’s Market came some years later.
The orders started rolling in on Wednesdays and Thursdays and by Saturday Eddie had a few loads all boxed up and ready for the old station wagon/panel truck. Eddie was hanging in there, scratching by, but the handwriting was on the wall.
Eddie was running the place alone because his “associate” butcher of many, many years had died or retired. Eddie made a deal with me to help him out on weekends.
I had developed my own home delivery business. It all started because Steve Brennan the owner of the meat packing house where I worked gave us workers a break on our groceries. We got whatever we wanted wholesale instead of retail. I noticed that most of the married guys were buying two or three times the meat and cold cut groceries as I was. I started taking orders from some of my buddies. Then I started selling it in wholesale quantities to friends and acquaintances. Very soon I had my own little wholesale business. I was buying and cutting up large chunks or sections of meat for friends and relatives during my lunch hour, after work and on Saturdays. Eventually I had too much business and I had to hunt a new alternative. That’s when I got introduced to Eddie Solomon.
Poor Eddie was now chained to the family market. He offered me the use of his market and facilities to order, store, and package meat for my customers in return for helping him out and watching his business with him a couple of days a week. Now he could run out for an hour or two once and awhile or take care of family business while I watched the shop. He insisted on paying me something which is one indication of the kind of person he was – and still is, I’m sure. I didn’t need it. I was doing well enough on my own. I had one fulltime job, a part time job and my home meat business on the side. Eddie’s would be my second part time job. Not to mention, I was single and still living at home. The arrangement was working out great for me and Eddie was happy too.
This short period that I worked at Eddie’s Market for Eddie Solomon surprisingly holds a lot of good memories for me. I learned to admire Eddie. Number 1, he was a great boss. Well, he wasn’t a boss at all. He was a friend.
He didn’t need me for anything. He just wanted a little company and a tiny bit of freedom. All his store work he could do himself. He watched what I was up to and I watched him.
I had the best of this deal. I had free access to Eddie’s walk-in cooler, his band saw, his cutting blocks, his hamburger grinder, his cold cut slicer, his cubing machine even his knives. I told him he didn’t have to pay me anything for helping him out. The use of his facilities was more than payment enough on his part – but he insisted. I think he paid me 30 bucks for Friday evening and all day Saturday.
I was making pretty good money for a young guy back in those days. I remember one day a customer of Eddie’s came in and wanted to cash his Social Security check. Eddie’s asked how much it was. It was close to 300 bucks.
“Can’t help you, Pal,” Eddie said. “I haven’t taken in 300 dollars today my friend.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I’ll cash that for you.” I carried hundreds of dollars in my wallet, sometimes even a thousand or two. I paid cash for everything. Paying cash got me discounts at the wholesale house. Everybody liked cash back in those days. A thousand dollars cash was a thousand dollars cash – no taxes, no bookkeeping, and no check bouncing. I bought when I got a bargain and then I called my customers and sold what I had just bought. It was a good deal for me and a great deal for my customers. Not that good for the Internal Revenue Service but I felt they were doing very well without me – at least not all of me.
Eddie was rather surprised but he didn’t say anything. From then on when any of his customers came in with checks larger than he could cash, he would look at me and ask, “Dick, can you do $400?”
I didn’t think much about it but Eddie would shake his head in disbelief.
When I decided to open up my own shop Eddie asked me, “Tell me Dick, how much are you making here a week doing this business of yours?” I didn’t really want to say because I didn’t know where this was going.
“I’m doing all right,” I said.
“You making more than a 100 a week?” he asked. I laughed.
“You making more than 200 a week?” I smiled. Eddie shook his head. “You making more than 300 a week?”
“Dick, let me tell you something. I ain’t making that much a week running this whole place. You don’t want to open your own business. You want to come with me. I’m going to close this place down and open up a delicatessen on Lawrence St. I’m going to sell cooked food ready to take home and eat – spinach pies, kebbe, gourmet take out. I teach cooking classes over at the high school in the evenings. Everybody loves my stuff. It’s the future. Nobody has the time to cook anymore. The money is in prepared foods. I’ll teach you how to cook. You can run your little business on the side. You’ll have all the money you want.”
In retrospect, I always regretted not taking that offer. I really liked working with Eddie. As it turned out I did become a “chef,” but I think I would have enjoyed preparing Eddie’s cuisine rather than the French crème sauces that I learned. I still get hungry for stuffed grape leaves or a kebbe sandwich but I never get hungry for a bowl of shrimp and scallop bisque, or hollandaise sauce on my sautéed Sea Bass or Black Grouper. I have yet to prepare myself a Salmon fillet with a caper sauce or Blackened Redfish topped with sweet cream basil butter at home. I don’t care about Beurre Blank, Béarnaise, Béchamel, Bordelaise, Meuniere, Mirepoix, or even monosodium glutamate but I still get hungry for a Syrian salad with that unique and distinctive lemon dressing Eddie’s mom used to make for us.
His mother would cook at the market for us. I think she cooked for Eddie every day – maybe every day of his life. I was invited to eat whenever I was there. She wouldn’t tell me what she was making our supper from until after I ate it. Everything was wonderful. I ate tripe and lamb brains and stuffed intestines and hearts and every kind of crazy thing. Eddie even got me to start eating hamburger and steak … raw – a practice not recommended in today’s world. I never tried the lamb’s eyeballs – that was a bridge a little too far. My parents being a combination of Irish and Polish, I got a thousand and one ways to cook cabbage at home. Eating at Eddie’s with his mom as our cook was like dining out for lunch at some exotic restaurant. She was a little Bishop’s restaurant all by herself.
I also liked the way Eddie dealt with “family.” Here he was a businessman but it was family before business. My dad was just a laborer but it was always job before family. I had never seen a family like Eddie’s. There was more touching, hugging, kissing and laughing than I had ever seen in my life. They even seemed to enjoy their relatives.
As a businessman Eddie knew all the jokes and all the little tricks. One idea I never forgot was the “Sweetheart” roast beef. Eddie had a Sweetheart roast beef, a Honeymoon special, a Mother-in-law’s delight and a host of other unique specials.
The first time I heard him explaining his Sweetheart Special to a young woman, I couldn’t believe it. After the young woman bought her Sweetheart Special roast beef, I asked Eddie, “What the hell is a Sweetheart roast beef? I’ve been working as a butcher now for several years; I got all the information from the USDA; I know the name and section of every slice of steak and cut of beef on a steer but I have never heard of a Sweetheart Special.”
“No you haven’t. But if you buy one you will love it and you will want to get another one. When you go to the big supermarket or to that other butcher shop and ask for it, they won’t have it. So then what?”
“I go back to Eddie’s.”
“That’s right. And you will not be comparing the price of Eddie’s Sweetheart roast and buying a cheaper one anywhere else because they won’t know what you are talking about.”
The young lady who bought the Sweetheart roast was back a few weeks later. She said, “You know, I can not buy this Sweetheart roast anywhere. I live across town and I’ve gone to all the butcher shops in my area and none of them have a Sweetheart roast beef.” Eddie looked over at me and winked.
“Really, I’m surprised. It’s a favorite with all my customers.”
“Do they have another name for it that other butchers would recognize?”
“Well, in some sections of the country it is called a Honeymoon roast but I really don’t know why any butcher worth his salt wouldn’t know what a Sweetheart roast is. What do you think about that Dick?”
“I can’t imagine. These guys must be from another planet. Sweetheart roast … that’s the favorite of 7 out of every 10 butchers I know.”
She left with a Sweetheart roast and a pair of His and Her Sirloins and a Works-in-any-pot pot-roast.
“Those His and Her Sirloins are cut from a muscle never used by the steer, hidden under the spline and the Works-in-any-pot pot-roast comes from the hintermost section of the animal. If you can’t get over here next time, just ask the guy at the big supermarket about the spline or the hintermost and he should fix you right up.”
“Oh great. Thank-you so much. The spline and the hintermost, I’ll remember that.”
The next time she came in she ordered her Eddie favorites, humbly, and with no silly questions.

Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on Amazon.com. Contact richardedwardnoble@gtcom.net for bookstore discounts and volume sales.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Summer with Charlie

Book Review

By Persis Granger

Reviewer Persis ("Perky") Granger: Perky is an avid reader and a writer of fiction and nonfiction, including Adirondack Gold, A Summer of Strangers and Shared Stories from Daughters of Alzheimer's: Writing a path to peace. She studied at the College of Wooster (OH) and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), earning a BA at the latter. She later completed her Master of Science in Teaching at SUNY Plattsburgh.
She presents programs to adults and youth, and hosts writers’ retreats in New York and Florida. Learn more at www.PersisGranger.com

What do you have when you take a bunch of guys in their late teens and early twenties in the early 1960s, who pride themselves on just “hanging out” on whatever corner they aren’t chased off of in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the hometown of Richard Edward Noble? You’ve got a colorful slice of poor New England mill town Americana—the banter and blue collars, slang and girl-watching, cop-taunting, delis and diners. You have a nostalgic memoir.
Daub onto this palette a splash of craziness, as the gang – sometimes upward of twenty guys—rents a beachside cottage for the summer, with loud parties, lobster bakes, and beer, kitchen sink “fruit punch” and a back porch toilet, something akin to “Animal House.” Then you have a nostalgic, humorous memoir.
Now add in Charlie, an older pal just returned from service in the Navy. Charlie, the boys learn, has come home to die, thanks to extreme radiation exposure. Can you figure out how this affects the story? Neither could the gang. They just kept on keeping on. They pulled Charlie into the fold – the parties, the wild raunchiness, the disrespect, the laughter and crazy fun. The memoir became “A Summer with Charlie,” a nostalgic, humorous and deeply moving story of growing up.
Charlie, in his sweet, innocent way, confided to the guys that he didn’t know how to die. But during the summer he spent at the cottage with them, he showed that he knew, not only how to die, and to do so with grace and courage, but also how to live. He quietly enriched the lives of the boys who shared that time with him and taught them lessons about life and death never to be forgotten.
Noble’s writing is fresh and true. His characters and their dialogue are alive with reality. He resists the temptation to pretty things up, to trim away the ugly parts, and in so doing, creates an unforgettable story about the innocence of youth, about growing up, and about death. The author promises, “A Summer with Charlie will make you laugh. A Summer with Charlie will make you cry.” It does all of that. Moreover, A Summer with Charlie will make you remember. And think.

Other works by Richard Edward Noble include: Hobo-ing America: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother: The Eastpointer: A Little Something: Noble Notes on Famous Folks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Eastpointer

Your Health Care Story

By Richard E. Noble

I was "surfing" the web the other day and I hit onto this site that was asking people to tell them their health care story. I felt that I didn't really have a health care story, so I moved on. But since that time I can't stop thinking about my health care story.
When I was just eight or ten years old my favorite uncle, Uncle Joe, died. He had to have his appendix removed. It was supposed to be a routine operation. My Uncle Joe was a World War II veteran and he served in the Pacific. He came down with malaria when he was in the jungles over there and as a consequence they discovered or he became allergic to penicillin. For some reason the folks at the hospital where he was having his appendix removed, missed that detail. A week later he was dead.
A few years after my Uncle Joe passed, my dad complained one evening of having chest pains. He was very worried. His father had the same problem and died before he reached the age of fifty. It seems that he was complaining about chest pains also. They found him laying dead in the doorway of a storefront that he ducked into on his way home from work at the mill.
My dad called the local Doctor. The Doctor came to your home in those days. He told my dad it was probably just indigestion. My dad bought some Rolaids but they didn't help. Finally he walked up to the local hospital. But, they weren't as knowledgeable about heart problems back in those days. They gave him a quick once over and he picked up another package of Rolaids on his walk home.
That evening I heard my dad talking with my older brother at the kitchen table. He felt that he was probably going to die and he was giving my older brother advice on what to do when he was gone. The next morning all us kids woke up to the screaming panic of my mother. We all got to watch my father take his last breathes before the Doctor and the priest arrived.
My mother was doing pretty well until she got into her sixties. She started to have some sort of heart valve problem. All us grown kids had a family meeting. My older brother had spoken to the Doctor. The Doctor told him that my mother would need a heart valve replacement operation or she would be dead within six months. My mother had no insurance and none of her kids could afford to pay for such an operation. We told my mother what the Doctor had said and she said that she would just have to take her chances. She didn't have the operation.
My mother was very lucky. The Doctor's prognosis did not come true. She took some kind of heart pill for the rest of her life but she lived well into her seventies.
My older brother was a unique case. He had plenty of insurance – maybe too much insurance. It seemed that he was having some new procedure done every year. Finally he had a heart problem. He had bad valves just like my mother. He managed to survive the heart operation, but like 94,000 other Americans, he caught something while in the hospital. He got an infection – septicemia. He died a few years back. He was sixty-six when he died.
My sister is still alive but she has had some big problems. She has always worked in the medical field and lucky for her she has always been insured by her employers. A number of years ago she had a brain tumor. They had to cut a section of her skull out. She survived and only ended up losing her sense of smell.
Next, her Doctor prescribed some type of cholesterol medicine. Suddenly she was a cripple in a wheel chair. There was a large class action suit against the drug company who manufactured the cholesterol medicine that she had been taking. My sister would not join the suit. She had worked all her life in the medical field for doctors and in hospitals. She felt that it would be immoral to sue the people who had provided her with a living all of her life.
A few years have now gone by and she is walking again and getting herself around. She just turned seventy-two.
At 65, I finally qualified for Medicare. I never had any kind of health care. No employer who I ever worked for provided insurance and I never earned enough to buy it for myself. I avoided doctors and hospitals all my life
I went for my Medicare one time, free physical. The doctor found blood in my stool. I was sent for a colonoscopy. I had cancer of the colon. I went for surgery. I had a heart attack while recuperating from the colon cancer operation. They wanted to rush me into a triple by-pass, heart surgery. I had three areas seriously blocked, I was told. I refused.
I was too weak. I knew that I would never survive a second major operation without being given the time to regain my strength from the first major operation.
They allowed me to go home but I was advised to return as soon as possible for open heart surgery.
As I regained my strength I went for a second opinion. I found a local cardiologist who was prepared to treat me by non-surgical methods – External Pulsation Therapy. I am alive and feeling very good.
My wife turned 65 and she too was now qualified for Medicare. She was frightened because of my experiences to go to any doctor and take any test. With pressure from our local GP and from me she finally went for her necessary tests. Thank heavens everything seems to be OK.
I now need to have all my teeth pulled. My wife got hers pulled before my operation started when we still had extra money. The bulk of our discretionary income now goes to insurance premiums and medicine.
My wife and I are both aspiring Wall-mart employees. Neither of us has ever made $10 per hour in our lives.
And that’s my health care story … so far.

Richard E. Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for over thirty years. He has published 6 books and they are now available on Amazon.com. If you would like to stock my books in your store or business, contact Noble Publishing at richardedwardnoble@fairpoint.net for discount purchases.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge

(President from 1923-1929, 30th)

By Richard E. Noble
"Silent" Calvin Coolidge had the reputation of being quiet, but firm. He was nothing like Mr., 'Slap 'em on the back', Warren Harding. By the time Warren died and Calvin his vice-president had taken over, the poop of the Tea Pot Dome business was hitting the fan. But Calvin's quiet, steady, apparent honesty ruled the day.
Calvin defended his lack of verbosity with statements to the effect that if a person never spoke, it would be difficult to misquote him. Actually Calvin seems to have had a pretty good sense of humor, even if a bit subdued and dry. Supposedly a hostess came up to him at a party and said, "You must talk to me. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you." Calvin said, "You lose."
Calvin was not much of a student. He failed the entrance examination for Amherst and was forced to take preparatory instruction to be accepted. He eventually became a lawyer. But he knew his own mind – for whatever that was worth.
His proposal to his future bride Grace Anna Goodhue was an ultimatum; "I am going to be married to you," he told her.
Calvin was not a military man.
It is curious to me that with all of the corruption of the Harding administration, the people actually retained Mr. Coolidge, Harding's vice president.
Since the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, the country had been pretty much ruled by notably corrupt Republican/Conservative administrations. There are only two Democrats between the Civil War and World War II, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson said that Cleveland was no Democrat, and, by present day standards, I think very few would consider Wilson much of a Democrat either. So, from Abe to F.D.R. we had 'Conservative' government which seemed to be synonymous with big-business support and corruption.
Certainly one would think that after Harding and reaching what seemed to be the bottom of the Republican barrel, as after Nixon, the American people would have voted for a Democrat; any Democrat. But they didn't. Why not? Well, either Coolidge was more dynamic than the history books lead us to believe, or the Democratic Party had big problems. The Democratic Party was really the party of the "slavers." In the North we had the appeasers and compromisers, the wishy-washy; and in the South we had the Klu Klux Klan, white racists and extremists. Even the Progressive Party, which had been gaining ground, was Republican. So I guess the choice was that you could vote for a bunch of wishy-washy, wackoes, or silent, Republican Cal.
Cal was for no nonsense. As Governor of Massachusetts he had called in the Federal Troops when the Boston police went on strike. Nobody has the right to strike against the public safety, he had declared. Of course, Cal was not talking about the safety of the Boston Policemen who were occupying rat infested, roach filled, dilapidated police stations and working 80 to 100 hours a week. They weren't paid to go to court. They were often asked to sleep at the police station just in case somebody didn't show up – also with no additional pay.
They had inadequate toilet facilities and basically all they were asking was that their pay be adjusted to compensate for the War time inflation. Inflation had gone up 79% while their paychecks had gone up a modest 15 to 20 percent. Calvin fired the whole lot of them and refused to hire them back. Somehow Calvin Coolidge became an American hero over this incident - and even got himself elected president.
He was said to be Ronald Reagan presidential hero. "You hear a lot of jokes every once in awhile about Silent Cal Coolidge," said Mr. Reagan. "The joke is on the people who make the jokes. Look at his record. He cut the taxes four times. We had probably the greatest growth and prosperity that we've ever known. I have taken heed of that because if he did that by doing nothing, maybe that is the answer."
And then, of course, with all that extra money and speculative spending we have the great stock market "trickle down" of 1929. Interesting to note we had a similar trickle down of the S&L and the Commercial banking industry after Reagan's Coolidge inspired tax cuts.
The Red Scare was on the rise in the “Colonies.” The Workers of the World were acting up. The Bolsheviks had taken over in Russia. Simply put, the Reds wanted to take from the rich and give it to the poor. Many Americans were very much in favor of this notion. Many Americans were adamantly opposed. In Europe Aldolf Hitler was the champion of the rich and powerful battling the rank and file terrorism of the Red Bolshevik Workers of the World. The battle lines of the coming century were being defined.
This period, between the wars, I consider crucial to understanding this past century. It was during this period that all of the concepts that would rule our century were taking on reality; Socialism, Unionism, Communism, Fascism, Feminism, Racism, Fundamentalism, Darwinism, Anarchism, Intellectualism, Alcoholism, Gangsterism, Civil rights, Human Rights, Modern Science and the Depression. And in 1929 came a loss of faith in “the system” due to the deflation and manipulation of Capitalism.
It seems ironic that this placid figure of Calvin Coolidge is the man to lead us into and through most of the Roaring Twenties. Coolidge chose, wisely, not to run in 1928, fearing a depression as prophesied to him by his dad.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Will Durant


By Richard E. Noble

I just finished reading Transition, a mental Autobiography, by Will Durant. I've also read his History of Philosophy, and I have the last three volumes of his History of Civilization which I have yet to get into.
Will Durant is not a philosopher. He is an Historian who chose to research Philosophy. He writes about philosophy, philosophers and philosophical ideas from an historical perspective as well as content and interpretation of philosophical concepts. Transition is a partially fictionalized story of his life up until about the age of forty. He lived into his nineties. The book ends with his marriage to Ariel, a fifteen year old student of his and the nearly tragic birth of their daughter Ethel. The marriage which was frowned upon socially (causing him to resign from his teaching position) and by Ariel's dad (who refused permission) seems to have been successful. The last note that I have found in my library confirms that Will and Ariel were still married at his ninetieth birthday.
Will was born a Roman Catholic up in Massachusetts. He is of French Canadian parentage. He was an ardent student. He mentions that during one two year period in his life he read over nine hundred volumes. He was selected from his parish to be educated into the priesthood. He studies for two years at a seminary only to discover, via Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, that not only isn't he a Christian but that he doesn't believe in God. Upon confession of this realization, he is asked, understandably, to leave the seminary. He then goes to his home town, and unbelievably, starts giving lectures propagating his new found heretical views.
His devout parents and family are informed of his behavior and preaching by a local parish priest. His poor mother nearly has a nervous breakdown and his dad gives him twenty four hours to blow Dodge. He then goes on to teach at a school operated by anarchists. He meets Anna Goldman, the infamous anarchist, and convicted would be assassin, Alexander Berkman.
From Anarchism he goes to Europe via an all expense paid trip by someone named Henry Alden. I don't know who this Henry Alden guy is but when the trip to Europe is over, he then proceeds to pay Will's passage through Columbia University. I must say I don't get it.
By now Will is a thirty year old, well educated atheist teaching philosophy to a bunch of grade-schoolers. One, named Ariel, who he must have met when she was thirteen or fourteen, he falls in love with. She is fifteen by the time they decide to run off and get married.
At thirty five Will convinces Ariel that they should become pregnant and have a baby. She agrees and nearly dies in the process. The experience of "family," the "miracle" of birth and his unexplainable brush with good fortune somehow convince Will that all is right with the world. I don't know if at this point he finds that God is, once again, in His heaven, but somehow the birth of Ethel is reassuring and mystically inspirational to him. I can only imagine how his philosophy would have faired if Ariel had died and Ethel had been born with multiple sclerosis.
I presume that it is this attitude that makes Will Durant an Historian and student of Philosophy as opposed to a Philosopher and a student of History.