Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life with Lucy and Fred


                                                    Lucy and Fred
I’ve been posting old photos of my family for the past month or so. The pictures, some taken before 1956, are of my family’s grocery store that was located on 15th and Porter Street in South Philadelphia.
My father learned all about running a store from his father, who had a grocery store at 17th and Moore.  My father had been working as a trolley driver with the PTC, and I loved riding on the trolley. I especially enjoyed the times my father would clang the bell at each street corner. But, my father wanted to own his own business and one day, he took me to check out a property that was for sale. 

          Dad cleaning the ham before selling it. Uncle Pat in the background
This was a family business, and back in those days, the government looked the other way about children working, especially if it was a family business. Not only was I helping out in the store at the age of eight, but so were my sister Jane and my cousins, Jerry and Anthony. As soon as my brother Mike and baby sister Lucy were old enough, they also joined the work force.  Growing up in the family business was an education. We not only worked long hours, seven days a week, but we had to keep up our grades in school.
          The Maratea kids take a break from the store and visit Atlantic City
It was a learning experience that I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world. I learned so many things. I could slice luncheon meat without losing my fingers and I could do my homework sitting on the edge of the onion bin without falling in.

Working in that store is what made me so people friendly, open minded and compassionate, today. My father would often give credit to people who didn’t have enough money for food, saying to them, “Pay me when you have it.” And bless their hearts, every one of them did pay their bill, once they were back on their feet.
                                              Dad, Mom and me

Now, let me tell you about Lucy and Fred. My father was a hard worker, very strict, but he was also a practical joker. One year, he had my Aunt Louise believing that he had a pigeon coup on the roof of our two story building. Why, you ask? He needed an excuse for her husband to join the secret card game. My father had a bum leg and he told Aunt Louise that Uncle Jack would need to climb the ladder and feed the pigeons. After several months,  Aunt Louise found out about the card game and she went ballistic. But no one ever stayed angry with my father for too long. He was too funny.
My mother Lucy was a diva who was stuck in South Philly. She was into women's liberation before the first bra was ever burnt. But, like Lucy Ricardo, my mother was also a disaster waiting to happen. Her driving skills were horrid and, our neighbors would call their children home whenever my mom  would head for her car. As a frequent passenger in the car, I didn't blame them.
The picture at the top of the blog shows the most common expression my parents wore when dealing with their four overly active children. We were bad. My father often held his hand over his heart, yelling, “What the hell are you goofballs doing now?”

We feared my mother more that we did our dad. My mom was able to throw a shoe at us and that sucker could turn corners. She never missed her target (us). If I’m not mistaken, even the heat seeking missiles that the military uses today, couldn't match my mother’s record of direct hits.
Next week, I’ll tell you how we protected ourselves from thieves


  1. LOL! I loved going along with you on your trip down memory lane! Great Blog! Did any of you take over the store after your parents retired? Or have they retired, yet? I look forward to heading more of your childhood adventures!

    1. Hi Janette! Thank you for visiting my blog. None of us wanted to take over the store, but there is a back story about this that I'll post later on. I've sometimes regretted not taking it over, but you'll understand why, we didn't later on in the tale.

  2. Love it! Glad I finally got a chance to sit down and read these. keep going!

    1. Thank you Janice. I'm glad you are enjoying these stories

  3. Love it! I'm glad I finally got a chance to sit down and read these! Keep going!

  4. I love stories of family and childhood. The recollections are priceless. I will enjoy reading them all.