Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 26: Grandmom's Exploding Chicken


     Aunt Anna,                                Grandmom Marie                                              Lucy
I loved my maternal grandmother. She was a loving, funny, generous woman who made each of her grandchildren feel special. My mother was not allowed to hit us if Grandmom was around, and when we were very young, Grandmom was at our house a lot.

My mom was not your Betty Crocker type of housewife and had no interest in cooking, so while my dad worked at as a conductor on the old Trolleys, Grandmom would come over and help my mother prepare the meals. Sometimes she would bring her dog, Blackie and sometimes she would bring her pet chickens. She traveled by taxi. She was afraid that Grandpop Chiusolo would kill the chickens and eat them while she was away. The chickens had Italian names, but I don’t remember what they were.                                                                            
I’ve always thought it strange how nice the taxi driver was with Grandmom, helping her out of the cab as she clutched both birds in her arms. She paid him from her black change purse. Do you remember those change purses? Every Italian grandmother had one.                                                
Once inside our house, Grandmom put the chickens in our yard and began helping mom with dinner while Jane and I played with the chickens. The chickens were not at all happy with Jane and me dressing them in doll’s clothes. 
These chicken visits went on for a while, until one of the chickens got hurt in Grandmom’s yard. It became Sunday dinner….well it would have been dinner if it wasn’t for the explosion. Grandmom had an old kitchen. Her stove looked just like the one on the Honeymooners.
 She had to light a match and ignite the oven, which she did after she put the roasting pan and chicken in the oven. Grandmom’s kitchen was small. All the houses on Ellsworth Street in South Philly were small. Grandmom had two windows in her kitchen. The one directly across from the oven faced her neighbor’s kitchen window. The distance between houses maybe six feet, so by now I think you know where this story is going, right?

Somehow, the flame went out in the oven while the chicken was cooking and Grandmom, for some strange reason, took too long striking the match to re-ignite the oven. There was a loud blast and the door of the oven flew open, knocking grandmother to the floor.  The roasting pan with chicken flew through the closed window and continued through the neighbor’s window to land on their table.
My mother got the call and packed Jane and I into the car and rushed over to help Grandmom. The Fire Department was there because of the gas explosion, as were all the neighbors. My poor Grandmom was a bit shaken and covered in soot, but otherwise, okay. The neighbors returned the roasting pot with a chicken that was burnt and covered in glass. Later that year, they build a concrete block wall. I wonder why?
After we helped Grandmom clean up the mess, my mom ordered cheese steaks from the famous Pat’s Steaks on 9th street and we ate in the yard because the kitchen still smelled like smoke. They had to get a new range.

Grandmom continued to visit with her dog or chicken even after we moved into the grocery store. I still remember the expressions on our customers’ faces whenever Grandmom walked into our store, clutching the chicken tightly in her arm.

Love you, Grandmom.


  1. This reminds me when Tony Soprano's mother almost set her kitchen on fire. I think that was one of the early episodes of The Sopranos. I'll never forget that. We, too, almost set our own kitchen on fire two years ago. Thankfully, for my wife's quick reaction, we saved the stove, but there was white powder everywhere. That's something they don't tell you when you finally use a fire extinguisher!

    1. Kitchen fires are scary and I'm glad your wife was quick to put it out. My husband was a Philadelphia Fire Fighter for 43 years, you would not believe his stories on kitchen fires gone bad.

  2. This is a strange and awesome story. :-)

    1. And it's all true. There was never a dull moment in our family. Thank you so much for visiting my blog

  3. This is a strange and awesome story. :-)

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