FISH TALES

Posted on 6/6/2015 by Daddy Will in New Castle PA
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This is a bit of a departure from the type of content I generally tend to feature on my blog. I wrote this little piece for a Facebook group that I belong to that is comprised of folks from my hometown and more specifically, the neighborhood where I grew up. I've been compiling some little stories in hopes of compiling them into a collection of memoirs and hopefully publishing it at some point. There is nothing profound or eloquent here, just a little meandering of the mind regarding a kid from Croton Avenue that grew up in New Castle, PA.

Those of us that are of the generation considered Baby Boomers certainly had a rather unique experience growing up in New Castle. We sort of fell through the cracks of greatness and decline, and I say that with no judgment towards any person that still calls New Castle home.

 From time to time I catch my mind wandering down the streets of that long ago and faraway place.  We came to be during the mid-century when New Castle was no longer in its glory days, but it was still thriving and bustling with activity, torn between being a big town and a small city.

I can remember streets and details.. Like old Neshannock Ave, the area along the river from Rural Ave to the North Street Bridge. How dark and spooky it was at night, rows of old Victorian homes and mansions, the streets lined with catalpa trees that stifled the glow of the street lights.  My father born in 1906 used to speak of the days when that was the most exclusive part of town.  He'd talk about a hotel called the Loxley Hall where actors or performers would stay when they came to town to appear in vaudeville shows.  Then the avenue extended on along the river, beyond where it branched off to become North Street. It went on down to the Penny Bridge on East Washing Street.  At the corner by the river was the Thomson Building, a collection of doctors'  and professional offices. The building had a stone façade, with a sort of medieval tower and turret at the corner. Butz Flowers on the ground floor with a wrought iron balcony that jutted out over the river.  Along the rear side of the building was a Maytag Appliance store as I recall.  I remember the curb there was at least knee high, don't think you could have parallel parked your car and have opened the passenger door.  Across the street was a bar, above which on the second floor was Francis Bilyk's Dance Studio.  The bar was considered disreputable during the light of day,  but at night it was strictly off limits..lol

As a toddler of about 5yo, my old man Wilbur would take me out for a ride from time to time in the evening,  at least that's what he told my mother, Edith.  We'd generally leave the house between 10 -11pm and be gone a couple hours,  I never did have an actual bedtime as a child. He was actually using me as an excuse to go hit a few bars.  I can remember going to the Croton Cafe' or Pisto's (pronounced pee-stoe's)as we called it, and of course the Joy Garden  which I could walk home from if I got too bored.. I was a regular at the Black Whale in the alley between Castle Stationary and the Camera Shop, around the corner from Figuly's Meats.

One hot summer night he went to the bar on Neshannock Avenue, below he dance studio. I guess he didn't deem it fit to take me into, so he left me in the car.  I was unbothered. Can you imagine doing that today?

He brought  me out a "Blind Robin" which was a little salted and dried Herring, like a very fishy piece of fish jerky.  I loved those things.  I must have been about 6 or 7yo cause it was his '63 Chevy Bel Air station wagon.

Anyway, I pealed back the cellophane wrapper and nibbled on the Blind Robin, got bored with it and stuck it under the car seat.

When he came back out to the car he asked me about the fish and I told hi I ate it.   When we got home he left the car sitting out, probably too in the bag to get it in the garage. The sun beat down on the car all day and when he went to get in the car later, the stench of fish almost knocked him dead when he opened the car door. 

He was so incredibly pissed off at me, but for some reason he didn't punish me or even yell too loud.  I couldn't figured out why I had been spared his usual rage and wrath.  It didn't occur to me until years later that his hands were tied. Had he made a stink about the stink, Edith would have found out where he had taken me and left me sitting in the car at midnight and he'd have had his ass on a platter.   LOL


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