Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 4: Oranges to Aspirins


In my last post, I told you how my father tried to keep up with the supermarket that had opened its doors just a few blocks from us on Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia and how he used his two daughters as spies to scoop out the prices that the other grocery stores were charging for their products. 
This week’s post will be about the war my father started a war with the neighborhood pharmacy across the street. Everything that was needed from sniffles to a bruise was purchased from the family owned pharmacy across the street from our store. If we had a fever, my mother would cross the street and buy the needed aspirins, or because my brother was such an active little boy, bandages. If Mr. Shay, the pharmacist, needed a quart of milk, he would come to our store. Nice and simple and everyone got along fine, right? Wrong!
My mother was known all over South Philly for her bad driving, but on one particular day, while driving haphazardly through the neighborhood, she happened to spot Mrs. Shay coming out of a competitor’s grocery story. Lucy told Fred, who was already upset with the Shays because they had upped their prices on the St. Joseph's baby aspirins. With four kids, someone was always bound to be sick and my father bought lots of aspirins from the Shays.

What did Fred do? He began to sell aspirins, Milk of Magnesia, and boxes of Smith Brothers’ cough drops. The battle had begun! As soon as Mr. Shay learned about my father's venture into the pharmaceutical business, he went bananas, literally bananas. The next day, Mr. Shay was seen placing a small wooden table outside of his pharmacy. He then put a crate of oranges and apples on the table.  
The neighbors (customers) were now expected to choose sides. It was quite comical to watch the neighbors sneaking past the pharmacy to get to our store without upsetting the Shays. Mr. Shay was trying to coerce them into buying the fruit from his pharmacy while Fred stood outside his store shaking a bottle of aspirins and calling out, “Big sale, cheaper over here." Our poor neighbors were caught in between two mad men like deer in a car’s headlights.

This went on for several weeks with Mr. Shay adding vegetables to that wooden table and my father adding Band-Aids, Iodine wash, and Calamine lotion to his repertoire. It was so bad that the neighbors had to resort to wearing costumes just to sneak past our grocery store. It was a three ring circus with Fred and Mr. Shay, the ring leaders.                                                                                                                            
Finally, to keep peace in neighborhood and not to lose our loyal customers, Fred had a sit down with Mr. Shay. Think of the meeting between the Governor and Rick Grimes from “The Walking Dead.” Yep, just like that!

My father agreed to stop selling medicine and Mr. Shay got rid of his produce table. For a little while, peace had returned to Porter Street, but the war with the neighborhood hardware store was just around the corner.



  1. Thanks again for this episode. I'll stay tuned.

  2. I always love reading your Fred & Lucy stories!

    1. Thank you. I can't wait to start the book, because Fred & Lucy are even more crazy as ghosts