Then and Now

Corryville in the 1940's and early 50's was a great place to live. Dad had a Bakery at 2615 Vine Street in the building presently occupied by a music store and next door to the Cupboard, which in my day was a five and dime store. There were five bakeries within four blocks of each other and numerous small businesses selling produce, meats, groceries, hardware and many other merchandise categories. I suppose there were at least ten bars, many of them family-oriented (TV, which caused families to stay at home, didn’t appear until the 50's).

Corryville in this new century is much different. A decade earlier, students from UC dominated the business area. More recently, the area has a more diverse population. Noticeably, a number of tattoo and piercing shops have sprung up in the stores that formerly held restaurants catering to students and professionals. I would say that the East (UC) side of Vine is occupied by a dwindling number of students, while the West side is mainly occupied by black, working-class families.

A lot of people in the neighborhood appear to be transient. There have been problems with loitering and, in an attempt to reduce the number of people hanging out on the street, speakers playing classical music were attached to the tall lampposts that line Vine Street. It does seem to reduce the numbers. On the nights when Bogarts hosts live bands, groups of young people appear in strange hairdos and clothes (strange to an older guy like me). Edith and I have eaten at Martino's Italian restaurant across the street on a Saturday night, and enjoyed watching the young people gathered for the concert.

A number of years ago, Vine street was reconstructed to end at Corry and provides limited access at Eden (now named ML King). This section is now called Short Vine and traffic coming up the hill on Vine Street continues onto Jefferson and picks up traditional Vine Street several blocks later. A small shopping center was built at Vine and Corry, and the water tower on the hill was torn down (it took a long time to do the demolition because of how strongly the structure had been built).

Many of the original buildings along Vine Street are still there. Compared to 50 years ago, at least half of the buildings remain, including the firehouse and library. The firehouse at Charlton and Vine was remodeled into a very nice restaurant (Zino's) 25 years ago. Now it houses a tattoo-piercing shop. It’s encouraging that laRosas just reopened in a new and larger building.

Dad’s pal Otto Seckinger first owned a produce market on Vine St., just about where Larosas presently stands. He later bought out the next-door butcher shop and ran a single large food store. Otto had a unique grocery delivery business where most of his customers were wealthy Clifton residents. I loved to listen to his stories when our families got together on Christmas, especially the ones where he talked about negotiating the prices on Christmas trees. 

There was not only competition among bakeries, but butcher shops and produce stores also. Across the street from Otto’s store (called Rieg’s through the years) was Lasitas produce. I went to school with one of the daughters. In almost all cases the kids helped with the business. Dad also bought his meat from Decks, right across from the bakery. Mr. Deck would save the suet and Dad would render it into  lard to use in the bakery (there was rationing of fat during the War). 

My pal Jim Lotz worked on the weekends on a produce truck. His boss drove the truck stopping on many streets in the neighborhood and Jim would help sell produce out of the back of the truck. Pounds were counted on the hanging scale, but a small pail referred to as a peck was also used as way of measuring things such as potatoes.  Bakery goods were also “peddled” from trucks, Rubels being the big gorilla in this business. 

As they say, “times sure have changed”. As I recall, there were few restaurants in the neighborhood (I honestly can’t remember any except for the ice cream shops and sandwiches made at the delis). The small businesses have been  replaced by supermarkets, convenience stores and large chain drugstores. Mom was certainly in the minority when she worked at our bakery store; most women were stay-at-home moms. It was a great time to be a kid and it’s fun to recall those good times every once in a while.