3.2 Looking Backward-4

More memories of Levenson’s market.

Early oleomargarine was a pretty close substitute for butter.   It had the consistency of butter except that it was white.   It came with a red dot in a cellophane packet that you mixed in until the spread was the familiar yellow color of butter.  A few companies mixed it for you and wrapped it in four quarter-pound sticks.  Something demonic happened at that point because it no longer tasted as good. Maybe something was in that red dot they forgot.Even more mysterious, it was no longer oleomargarine.    And something happened to the name.   It was margarine or it was oleo but not both.

Postum was a beverage that people tried to drink during WWII when coffee was not available.  It was made of wheat and molasses.  It was so bad people gave it up and coffee as well.  But Postum did develop a following among people with defective taste buds.  The product persisted until 2007 which proves that countries should not pick fights with other countries with insufficient coffee reserves.

A pot of coffee was brewed in Levenson’s market every morning.  To have with their coffee, Pop and Harry the butcher would break open a package of Tastykakes–bakery snacks that you may have never heard of if you have not been within field goal range of Philadelphia.

Better than Tastykakes with morning coffee were Hennie McKee’s cinnamon buns.  We almost never got to have them with coffee because we sold all of Hennie’s six-packs of sticky buns every day.  Most cinnamon bun variations don’t deserve to use the name.  In a lifetime of searching I have found but two excellent pretenders.   One I found in a small bakery in the town of Alma near the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, the other a small bakery near the entrance to Stone Mountain In Georgia.  I haven’t been to either place for over 25 years but they are on my route for as soon as I can get close.

During the years when I worked in Pop’s store, the mailman was Howard Conklin.  Conky would often give himself a coffee break with Pop and Harry when he dropped off the mail.  Conky was so likeable that after I went off to college, I would send post cards to Pop and Harry and the message would include, “Hi, Conky.”

The front door to Levenson’s Market was a single heavy glass door.  You had to step up about ten inches to enter the store.

Clara was a regular customer who weighed 300 pounds.  I have a clear memory of her holding open the door, turning sideways and lifting one foot to the stoop.  She’d step up quickly and bring her other foot up for balance and went about her shopping.

One day I reported for duty after school and some cement had been added to the sidewalk for a six-foot radius  from the door.  In a smooth taper the sidewalk had been elevated six inches.

When Clara came to the store that afternoon, she opened the door and stepped straight in.  She had the biggest grin when she said, “Mr. Levenson, I love the new step.”

With the tiniest of smiles Pop said, “I did it for you.”

Decades later, Random Act of Kindness made bumper sticker status.

5 Responses to 3.2 Looking Backward-4

  1. Gene says:

    Al,
    Your stories brought back many memories of childhood and teenage years. I remember the margarine with the red dot. The dairy folks made you do that because they didn’t want the competition from the margarine market. Here’s a story of my Dad. He like to squeeze every cent he had. A farmer would drop by about once a week and sold Dad cracked eggs. They were cheap. Before the days of Salmonella. Never got sick. Still tasted like eggs. I love the way you write. It’s fun to read. Keep them coming.
    Gene

  2. john miller says:

    When I was 11 or 12 (child labor today) i would get up at 2am at Saturday morning and join our bakery truck neighbor, Willie Idell and go to the small delivery shop when we would pickup our days supplies, Early sexuality emerged as Willie called his buns request out by female buns (no nuts) and the dominant male buns. No emphasis on the buns. My favorite breakfast with him was grilled cinnamon buns at some nameless but iconic DINER in South Joisey. About 3pm i would arrive home with some 2 dollars in pay, a leftovers which had not been sold for my large family. Long before Entemanns had their stores in PA. I also remember squealing the margarine as an arduous task, hardly pleasurable. Thank you again for the memories. Never heard of Hennies! Joohn

  3. Dave L says:

    “Hennie McKee” – circumcized Scotsman out of a lassie from Israel.

  4. tanya grove says:

    The part about your dad building a step just for Clara brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

  5. Colleen Rae says:

    I too, was tickled by your father’s reply to Clara. Thanks for the memories, Al.

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