The news lately has been so disturbing and distressing it’s only natural to retreat into reveries of a more innocent time. At least that’s what I’m doing.
Eureka in the ‘Fifties was very different in feeling than it is now. Going down town to do Christmas shopping was exciting because you could discover what new stores had opened, not just what was the latest to close down. There was a feeling of prosperity in the air and the trains still rumbled along the waterfront, not that we went down there. The Bank of America was the edge of the known world to a kid in those days because we weren’t allowed to go any further toward the Bay, not without an adult. Anyone remember the Sportsmen’s Cafe? The burgers were flavored with the excitement of being close to the Unknown, just catty-corner from Daly’s.
Daly’s could always be counted on for lots of holiday decor, as could the other stores: Bistrin’s, McGaraghan’s, Lerner’s, the Mode O’Day. I loved Sears’ Cafeteria on Fifth Street where Millie Sears dished up chicken pot pie, the all-time comfort food. I remember being with my grandmother and my Aunt Evelyn Olander in a diner called Tiny’s that was on or near the corner of 5th and F. The place was packed with shoppers and the windows steamed against the darkness. We ate spaghetti, which we never got at home, and all was well with the world.
On Fridays there would always be a reason to go to Lazio’s. Friday lunchtime it seemed the whole town was there, including the priests from St. Bernard’s. We watched the ladies slinging crabs and picked up chowder to take home. Eureka was a great place to grow up in. Let’s hope the New Year brings back some of the comfort and joy we knew in days past. Happy Holidays to all!
Photo from Village Voice
I recently returned from a month-long road trip. It was supposed to be even longer but we exhausted ourselves trying to cover too much ground and dodging those big rigs on I-40 took its toll also. For my first, and maybe only, trip to New York City I booked us into a Hassidic hotel in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn because of price (hotels about half the Manhattan rate), proximity (20-minute subway ride to Midtown) and the lowest crime rate in NYC. If you don’t mind being the only person on the street not dressed in traditional Jewish clothes, it’s like a trip to Europe where everyone speaks English. Did I mention you can actually find street parking?
The shopping area is Thirteenth Avenue, full of small groceries , bakeries, felafel joints, a jeweler who replaced my watch battery and men in long black coats who marched along with cellphones clapped to their ears. It dawned on me eventually that there were no Dunkin Donuts, no Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no Kohl’s. There were dress shops, shoe stores, toy stores but not one chain store. The only corporate presence in the whole ten-block stretch was – wait for it- a Curves! tucked away on a side street. It is the kind of business climate that I believe the good people of Arcata had in mind when they enacted their limit on fast-food palaces. This chainstore-free neighborhood in Brooklyn had apparently developed organically, because of a community of interest in the neighborhood, not because of any laws or zoning codes.
Thirteenth Avenue, Borough Park
And business was booming. Trucks crowded onto the sidewalks to make their deliveries and women with shopping carts and baby strollers – lots of strollers- herded their children and purchases through the chaos. It was just a glimpse of what shopping was like before the corporatization of America. I’m very glad I saw it. Later, in Manhattan, we passed by Guy Fieri’s new restaurant near Times Square. Didn’t even bother to go in.