Marcucci's and the Revere were rivals in attracting the teen-age crowd in the 30's and 40's. Both were popular hangouts. Amos "Curly" Pollastrini ran the Revere Candy Store, and Pete Rastrelli took over its candy kitchen around the mid 1930's. When the Revere Hotel was torn down about 1950, Pete moved up to Main Avenue. Curly Pollastrini was bald and his son Herbert, due to his association with candy, was always called "Hershey." Once I asked "Hersh" what his real name was, and he answered in a thick brogue, "Ah, Mr. Herrity, me name is Hair-burt!" I fired back questioning why he, who was a __ (inappropriate ethnic slang for Italian), and was speaking with an Irish accent?! In those days, the town was filled with varying degrees of native speech dialects, so everyone imitated each other's ethnic roots for good-natured aggravation.
This spot, at the NW corner of South 2nd Street and 4th Avenue South, was very busy because of the Revere, McFadden's Cafe to the right in the picture, and Sino's Grocery market across the alley. We lived nearby and I regularly traversed the neighborhood on my tricycle, gathering information along the way. Across 4th Avenue was the Maid Rite, Firestone's, Beier’s Bakery, and Clarence Bach's gas station. Ah, Smell that newly-baked bread in the air!
Down the block lived the Jack Warnock family. Beyond them, the Wooster Building, where the pool hall was. Next to it was Campie's Shoe Repair. Tooling down the block, I'd often stop at the Revere's back door and knock on the door until a guy who "didn't speak no English" opened it and gave me soft ice cream in a cardboard dish. It was Pete Rastrelli, and he always knew exactly what I wanted. Then it was on to Second Street and, although Mother drummed into my head to, "never, never ever go near the river," no one minded my navigating busy Second Street on my trike! One of my sisters was probably with me, maybe. How fortunate to be the eighth child! My parents, exhausted from raising the others, more or less left the eighth to chance.
Now, I head north toward Sino's. Obie and Heinie had seven stores around town. -- I loved their names! Heinie Sino lived near Sino Park and he donated the land for Horace Mann School, another important place in my life. Stan Reeves was to tell me years later that it was nearly called Sino School. I wish it had been! Stan moved from Old South School to Mann in 1952 as its first principal. He said Heinie didn't want five houses on the south end of the lot demolished, because "there’s plenty of room!"
At Sino's 2nd Street store, patrons enter a maze of fruit bins and neatly-stacked cans. In the back, near the cash register, was a crank-type wall phone, perhaps the only one I’ve ever seen. That’s the phone in my mind's eye as Ed Gardiner answers it on the radio program, "Duffy's Tavern, Archie speaking; no Duffy isn't here. Oh, Hi, Duff, ... I didn't recognize your voice!"… DIDN'T RECOGNIZE HIS VOICE?! Even a four year old wonders how that’s possible! Another mental image I recall was of the closet in "Fibber McGee & Molly's" hallway. For sure, it was our entry-way closet on 4th Avenue, when Fibber cons Mayor LaTrivia into opening the door, and a thirty-second eternity of crashing contents greets the poor mayor! After perhaps 30 seconds, the frustrated mayor exclaimed, “MaaaaaGeeeee!”
Telephones can conjure up great memories for anyone over 60. Did you experience the "party lines" of bygone days? Some people stayed on the line all day, just for entertainment! Back then, an operator would say, "NUMBER PLEASE!", and you would respond 318R and she’d answer, "THANK YOU, PLEASE WAIT" in a nasal tone. Later, the dial system evolved. However, that first prefix "CHapel" still goes through many of our minds as we make calls today.
Yes, this block had a treasure-trove of memories. The earthy goodness of those who peopled the neighborhood back then will always be remembered. The brick streets still rumble in the mind's ear, and it's easy to envision Curly, Pete, Heinie, and Mary Lou Iverson "doing their thing" in our brain just as vividly as if we were watching an old-time movie.
Up the street to the West was St. John’s Episcopal Church and Father Horton was the pastor. Next door to our house was the O’Neil house and Ellen was their only child and a good friend of our family. To the east was Mrs. Huffman’s very old house, and it is still there and is perhaps one of the oldest homes in Clinton, dating from the time the first street was cut from the prairie grass down by the Iowa Central House on 1st Street.
I remember when Junior Iverson’s dog bit Mary Jo Bach so badly that it scared me and scarred her. Her mother, Florence, couldn’t remember the incident years later. The trauma must have been too great.
This was my first neighborhood, downtown, near Second Street. Why were we there? Well, my dad had to walk to work, as his family had always done when they lived down by South 4th Street. He wouldn’t drive the Hupmobile to work, that was for “rides.”