Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It Wasn't Just the Bread

My Grandpa was a church organist for many years in a suburb of one of the bigger valley cities, and not having a driver's license he relied on my Dad to get him to church and back on Sunday mornings when I was growing up in the early 60's.  Many times I would accompany them on the ride, now and again having to stop at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Market Street to wait for a train to go by.  This was back in the days when railroad crossings were often manned by a guy who sat in a tower alongside the tracks and lowered the gates across the roadway so cars would stop for the approaching locomotives.  It's difficult to remember these times without longing to be back in them. I couldn't pretend without lying to myself that life wasn't a whole lot better back then at a time when we lived in a world in which most persons had at least the sense to act in accordance with the customs, mores, and laws that fairly well governed how civilized humans should behave in most given situations.

If I didn't score a dirty, noisy, awe inspiring freight train on the way to St. Joseph's, I knew I could count on a hunk of warm, rye bread on the way back home after we dropped Gramps off at church and stopped at the bakery smack dab in the middle of the big hill we had to descend on the way home.  I can't remember the name of the place, but I think one of the daughters of the owners then, Ruth, and her husband, Hymie, operated the Pierce St. Bakery well into my adult years.  I recall having the feeling like I'd just done something naughty when my Dad would open that wax paper bag on the way home and hand me a piece of rye still warm from the oven.  With a wink and a big twinkle in his eye he'd help himself to a slice as well and make me feel like we were partners in crime in ravaging the loaf without even the benefit of butter while we were still in the car as the others were stuck at home and having to wait for the spoils.

It's not uncommon these days for me to be seen on a Saturday morning heading to the Owen St. Bakery on the scooter to score some pretzel doughnuts and whatever else might make me drool while I'm there.  Like the bakery of my youth, it's a family business run by Bob and MaryAnn, a husband and wife team around my age who just happened to go to a school like my own where they were taught by the same order of nuns as I was.  There is something particularly nostalgic in meeting up with people like these who could read some of the things I bang out here and nod their heads in knowing agreement with many of the sentiments I express.

I have to hope that Gramps, Dad, and Ruth and Hymie are together in that blissful state I call heaven, laughing and reminiscing together in the presence of the Bread of Angels.  And maybe Grandma is there too still giving Gramps a little bit of a hard time for stopping at Uncle Andy's bar on the way back from church while she was waiting to serve him his before-lunch bowl of chicken soup as was tradition.  At this point in my life, I need to believe that there's a heaven to get me from one day to the next, and there will need to be some chicken soup and fresh, rye bread there for it to be heaven at all.

1 comment:

Robert Wilson said...

This brought me back. Not so much to my childhood but to my working life in the city of Pittsburgh. There was a place called Mancini's. They had the best bread and I would often stop for lunch to have a hot and fresh pepperoni roll.

I long for one of those now.