Uncle Pat and Fred
Owning a grocery story was a lot of hard work. My father and mother had to be up before six in the morning in order for the milk and bread delivery men to drop off the needed daily supplies. Our customers were at the door by seven.
We were busy with the morning rush hour as men stopped by for their lunch and pack of cigarettes or the mothers stopped in to buy lunchmeat, bread and milk for their children’s lunches. Back in the day, children came home for lunch. In South Philly, you went to the neighborhood school and everyone walked.
In the afternoon, after lunch and before dinner, my father and mother had a chance to unpack stock, eat lunch, prepare dinner, and get rested and ready for the dinner rush. The dinner rush lasted until after six in the evening and then my father had time to spend with his posse.
Yes, indeed, Fred had his own groupies! These men and young men were neighbors that took a liking to my father and they would hang around until closing time, which sometimes was close to ten at night. The posse would talk about everything from who was making money on the Vietnam War, to the Russian sputnik, to advances in science, world news, you name it and they conversed about it. These posse members were intelligent and well-read neighbors who brought my father a welcomed break from the monotony of the long hours he toiled in the store.
Joe Short was the mystery man of the group. No one knew his past, or what he did for a living, but he spent a lot of time at the library and was an expert on military information. I often wondered if he was a spy because he knew a lot about covert activities.
George was a young man who like Joe, kept well abreast of what was going on in the world, especially with the space program. George was in the Air Force and knew plenty about area 51 and the history of the United States involvement in Vietnam.
Uncle Pat was my father's childhood friend and even though he wasn't related, we called him uncle. We loved Uncle Pat because of his sense of humor and because he read newspapers from all over the world just like my dad, and was knowledgeable on all foreign affairs.The Fabulous Bob Charger of WOGL 98.1
Carmen was the youngest of the group, but he was Mr. Music to us and knew everything about the singers, record companies, latest dance craze; he was the music expert of the posse. He went on to become a well-known radio personality on WOGL 98.1 and is now known as Bob Charger.
When we four kids worked with my father in the store at night, we would listen to these guys talk and we learned a lot from them. Like I said they were smart and a lot of what they predicted has come to roost. Working those long hours in the store, made my siblings and me strong physically and emotionally, but being surrounded by my father’s posse; made us smart.
Sometimes, all four members of Fred’s posse were in the store at the same time. Those nights were a special treat for my father and whatever customer happened to be shopping at the store. Instead of rushing home with their bags of groceries, the customers would linger and join in the conversation.
There were times that my father didn’t lock the doors until way past closing time because the posse and fellow shoppers were deep in debate over whatever political, scientific, or world event topic was being discussed on that particular night. You can’t do that today, not in the supermarkets we now shop in for our food. Today if Fred and his posse gathered in a supermarket isle and debated over world events, they would be viewed as revolutionists or loiterers and thrown out.
Thankfully, we have coffee shops today and after I go to church with my sister Lucy on Sundays at St. Monica’s, we stop at the Dunkin Donut on 18th and Oregon Ave. There you will find people from all walks of life in deep debate over today’s world events. If I close my eyes, I can make believe that I’m back in Fred’s store with the posse.