Letting the good times roll in Hazleton
One of the g reat things about writing this column is all the people who write to me. I mention this because many folks ask me where I get my ideas from. Grinning, I always tell them it’s from people like you.
Case in point. Tom Bellizia writes, “After I read your food column today I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that many memories are made with good food and friends. It’s like a double dip.
“Anyway, I remember my wife saying that when she was an office helper at the high school how they regularly got pierogis from St. Stan’s Church. It made me think of all the wonderful local ethnic food made at local churches and organizations on a set schedule.
“I still enjoy occasionally getting pasties from a church on Poplar Street that has been making them my whole lifetime. We had them on the first Tuesday of the month I think. My sister picks them up for me now and freezes them until we meet.
“Sometimes we would get them and eat them the same day. They were delivered by our neighbor‘ Fritz’ Polmounter, who was a member of the church. By the way, his wife’s mother was Mrs. Maduro, who ran the Maduro’s mentioned by Debbie Roman Swink in your last column.”
I recall before Christmas Ray Cook wrote to tell me that when he was a kid at holiday time he’d be dispatched by his mom to go to the convent of St. Joseph’s Slovak Church at Fifth and Laurel streets to buy oplatky, traditional wafers, from the sisters which they enjoyed with honey on Christmas Eve.
Me? I went to Mother of Grace School, but I can’t say I recall the nuns making food for the community, though they may have. I lived way across town on West Fourth Street and Wilbur Court, too far away to know what went on at North Vine and West 12th streets after school. But I bet my pal Mary Jo Cheslock Barrett could tell me. Does anyone else have a similar memory?
In my end of town, I often got food handouts from Mrs. Morris Chenetz. My first job at age 11 was shoveling coal into her basement hopper on Diamond Avenue for a $1.50 a week, good money for a kid in those days. Over 50 years later, I still smell the scent of burning anthracite and ash.
Many’s the time Mrs. Chenetz would have a plate of baked chicken or a slice of homemade apple pie for me when she handed over the crisp yellow People’s First National Bank and Trust Co. pay envelope with my weekly salary in it.
My old pal Vince Fayock wrote, too. “Nice article in today’s Standard-Speaker, but you forgot to mention one of the best! Jimmy’s Quick Lunch. Has to be one of the longest open in the Hazleton area.
“Started by Jimmy George who emigrated from Greece, now run by his g randson, Jimmy Grohol. After Friday night Canteen at the YM/ YWCA, that was the place to be! And of course, the Rodino’s Colonial on Wyoming Street, Mrs. Pete’s on the Heights. Come on Heights people, how could we forget?! Maybe you can work the missing ones in a future article.”
Thanks Vince. I’ll always recall the time a waitress in the Colonial gave me a free plate of spaghetti when I was in between jobs and doing pick-up labor in town. I still can see the look of concern in her dark eyes. Does that happen anywhere else but Hazleton?
From Facebook I have the following. Elaine Vito says, “Great article Mike, I don’t believe Fedullo’s Italian Restaurant was mentioned as it was famous up in the Northeast side of town, lol!” Cathy DeAng elo Gasper a g rees. “Delicious ravioli and meatballs!”
Gina Donahue-Connors says, “I wish Ferdinand’s on 15th was still open. We loved that place. Had many specialoccasion celebrations there with my kids. Clean, and the food was terrific, and a huge selection.”
Others wrote to comment on Ferdinand’s food. Lou’s head must be expanding, as this isn’t the first time he’s been applauded in this column. See what happens when you live a decent life and reach out to help others, Lou?
Alice Kender chimes in. “Two of our children were fortunate to work for the Byorek’s at the Knotty Pines during their high school and college years.”
Int he’ 60s,Iwai ted curbservice for By ore k and bussed tables. Dave Quinn worked there, too. Chances are scores of others worked for the Byorek family at one time or other. We ought to start a club.
I’m grateful for the risk these businessmen and women took on behalf of the folks of the greater Hazleton area who needed jobs. But Hazleton-area folks also go the extra mile in helping charities.
My friend Lori Kemp says her charity of choice recently hit a $100,000 milestone in support of first responders fighting cancer since 2005. “This past year was a landmark year for Foundation 58 as the all-volunteer organization reached its highest totals in fundraising, number of grants awarded, and dollars granted.”
I’ll say without fear of contradiction as long as we continue producing folks unafraid of reaching out to others in love, there’s no need in looking backwards for our good times. From where I’m sitting, it looks like the best years lie ahead for the Hazleton area thanks to its good people.