One family.. One heart...One mind

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

"it's not's digiorno!"

"It's Not Delivery...It's DiGiorno!"

How often have we all seen that commercial on our television screen at one time or another?

I was reminiscing about a time before we had frozen pizzas and microwave meals. Billy Ramsay was an overweight teenager with parttime employment at a local pizza shop that never had the best pizza, but it was better than any penny arcade.

If you lived in Davidson Heights "The Hill" you knew the building I'm referring to. It was Cook's Store when I was a wee boy and later Cratz's then finally Gino's Pizzeria. Home of the Hill Boys..

Gino's being at the top of Maine Avenue and Maratta Road, across from Margret Ross Elementry was a natural destination for me to get an after school and weekend job.

The owner Gino Simoni was a nice guy who could be a little rough if you took advantage of him. About once a month he would finally get fed up with the gang hanging out inside and evict the whole bunch.

On any given day you would find at least 10 kids hogging the booths, playing the jukebox and not buying any pizza. I made 90 cents an hour and back in the day it was a decent wage for a sixteen-year-old. Like the old television show "Naked City" there were a thousand stories in Gino's Pizzeria.

Here is a couple of tales that I pulled out of my memory vault.

"The Winter Odd Couple..."

The snow was just starting to dust Maratta Road on a cold December night. I was on duty pulling the 6 to 11 pizza shift.

Having already downed a big slice of Gino's Supreme, I settled behind the counter to do my homework. I found the only way to pass Mr. Joseph's history test was to write out the chapter, committing it to memory. The creaking of the heavy door, followed by a gust of snowy air made me lookup.

Usually, on a weekday evening, I was lucky to have one customer and here shuffling in was an elderly couple that reminded me of everyone's grandparents.

Gram's was all of 5 feet tall...Maybe five foot one with the red babushka. She leaned with a limp on a wood cane, her shoulders hunched under her heavy coat.

Pop's only an inch or two taller than his mate, supported his thin frame on a metal walker minus the tennis balls. I thought his heavy blue Pea Coat would lay him flat on Gino's floor.

"Good evening you handsome young man." Gram's smiled at me her dentures like ivory Chiclets. "It's a cold evening isn't it?"

Handsome young man! Wow, she had my number. Blushing my cheeks burning red with embarrassment. I flipped my history book closed and watched as Pops took his place at her side in an almost guarding stance, his weathered hand cupping her elbow.

"What could I get you tonight?" I asked them, feeling a little sorry they were out on a cold night like this. "Mother." the old fellow motioned for his wife to answer. "Could we get a small pizza?" she asked taking an old leather change purse from her pocket. She gave me a smile like my Grandma Hobb's used to give me when I was a youngster. "Of course...What would you like on your pizza?" I asked my surrogate grandma. "Does it come with sauce and cheese? Oh yes sweetie how much is it?" she smiled at me with a sad look in her eyes. She took a wrinkled dollar bill out of her purse and a few coins.

"Of course sauce and cheese. A small is $2.50," I answered her, an idea forming in my head. "That's wonderful!" Gram's beamed fishing out another George Washington from the old purse. I hurried in the back and decided right then and there, these two old folks were going to get a treat. The biggest pizza Gino's had. I made that pie with gusto and pride. Pepperoni, sausage, olives, and peppers were piled high on that round pizza dough.

The delicious smell of that pizza filled the shop and I couldn't wait to see their faces when I surprized them. I came through the bakery door carrying the big pizza box, a Billy Boy grin on my youthful face. "Guess what?" I told the old couple as I set the steaming box on the glass counter.

"Someone ordered this large pizza, then canceled the order, so you can have it free of charge." Well, my friends let me tell you the smiles on their faces would warm your hearts as it did mine. I added two ice-cold bottles of Pepsi to the feast.

Gram's touched her small hand to my cheek, "Bless you. Thank you."

I watched them turn and make their way out the door as I followed bringing the bounty of Gino's kitchen, my heart full of pride at doing such a good deed for these elderly citizens of my town...Hopewell Pride..Quip Pride...Ramsay Proud. About a week later still feeling good about myself, I met a guy who also worked at a pizza shop in the area. I mentioned the couple and proceeded to brag about my good deed.

The more I related the story the bigger the smile grew on his face. I looked at him and asked. "Why the big grin?"

"Walker..Cane...Heavy coats and old leather change purse?" he replied shaking his head, "Asked if they could have cheese and sauce on it.?"

I had a sinking feeling as I whispered, "Yes!" "They work all the pizza shops getting free pizza." he started laughing. "Been doing it for months." I felt the heat in my cheeks, as I realized I'd been had. But then I figured, what the heck, my heart was in the right place.

"Two Weeks Later..."

I was back at my stool in Gino's copying another chapter of "Joseph's History" when the door opened and low and behold, but what to my wondering eyes should appear, but my elderly couple with cane and walker. "Well look, father, it's our handsome young pizza maker." purred Gram's her voice sweet and thick as honey as she leaned on her cane.

The old codger with his walker just gave me his Chiclet grin. I swore they now resembled a Death's Head skull... LOL. I flipped my history book closed and gave the old couple my best Don Corleone Godfather stare and blurted.

"A small pie is $2.50...It comes with sauce and cheese and before you ask, no one ordered one and didn't pick it up." My friends, I swear I never saw two grins disappear that fast. It was like two window blinds slamming closed. Gram's change purse disappeared into her coat and Pop's had his walker moving, the worn wheels not touching the floor.

"Come on, let's get the hell out of here!" he snarled turning on me and moved toward the door. Gram's added something that sounded like "F__k you! and followed her husband, moving like Tony Dorsett in his prime.

The door slammed, glass rattling and then the smooth-talking customers were gone. At first, I felt proud that I showed them and put them in their place, but after the glow wore off I felt small and shallow for being hard on them, after all giving them the pizza was my idea and yes... She did remind me of my grandma... I have never forgotten that couple...Even after all these years..

"Hot Rods and Long Legs"

It was a warm spring afternoon and I was slaving over a 3-pound wedge of Mozzarella cheese, grinding it with a metal hand grater. I had just started work and getting the cheese ready was my first chore. I heard Gino yell from the open door, "Hey Preach, come here and take a look at this!"

I made my way to the front of the shop and saw Gino smiling, standing next to the sweetest 55" Chevy Convertable you ever saw. Blue metal flake paint gleamed like blue sapphire and the white convertible top matched the white leather rolled and pleated interior.

The Chevy hotrod sat on sparkling chrome reversed wheels, the beauty looked like it just came off the car show circuit "327 cubic inch motor, 300 horses under the hood!" beamed my boss running his hand along the blue fender, "Nice wheels, huh Preach?"

The blue car was every kid's dream. I'd built model cars that looked like this car sitting here and I was pulling down 90 cents an hour and hopes of ever having a car like that were only in my dreams.

The following Friday afternoon I was behind the counter waiting for my first customers. Gino came in and tossed the Chevy's keys on the counter, his square tin J&L badge catching my attention when it hit the glass countertop.

"Here Preach take the car downtown and pick up my wife. She'll meet you at the public parking lot near the Wye." I couldn't believe my ears, driving the 55' Chevy and picking up Gino's wife. Were the gods looking down on me.. Now let me explain about Gino's wife, she was in my eyes a combination of Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. Monroe's beauty and hair and Raquel's shape and legs.

I'm not saying the boss's wife made me nervous, but the few times she stopped by the pizza shop I had a rough time concentrating on making pizza.

"No side trips, " he laughed, probably thinking I would take a quick run past the high school. I shook my head and aimed out the door to the chariot waiting in the gravel lot. The dual glass pack mufflers purred as I wheeled onto the Maratta, the temptation to peel rubber was there, but I knew better. I was early as I sat in the public parking lot, the ragtop down and music playing on the radio. I was Jan and Dean, the Beach Boy's and Johnny Cash all in one, sitting there with my arm propped on the window edge.

The men from the mill were rushing by and nearly everyone checked me out in the blue ride. I was getting cocky in my white t-shirt, wishing I had some cool sunglasses.

Then there she was...The boss's wife coming down the sidewalk. All of a sudden I wasn't cool...Wasn't Johnny Cash, just a nervous high school kid with a bead of sweat on his forehead.

I thought to get out and open the door, but she already had the door halfway open when the idea caught up with my brain.

"Hi, Billy take me to the pizza shop!" she was all smiles and her perfume floated through the whole car. I think I just choked, "Okay!" My mind was in a fog and I backed the Chevy out of my parking spot. I was sixteen and had two things on my mind, cars, and legs and here I was driving one and sitting next to the other. Now, my friends, this was the era of mini skirts and the boss's wife was fashionable. Her miniskirt rode up those Raquel Welch legs and I looked down at them.

I gave the gas pedal a goose and the Chevy motor revved with a roar. My eyes still on her legs. WHAM!!!! I ran the Chevy into the metal light pole right at the corner of the parking lot. Steam spewed out of the crushed front end, chrome and blue metal flake bent beyond repair... My whole life passed before my eyes, sinking lower than the Chevy's crushed hood and bumper. "I think I better call Gino." his wife said in a quiet voice, "Boy, he really loved that car."

Well, I thought there goes my life as I know it. No job, No money. No life. I could see Marylin Monroe in the phone booth, her finger-pointing from me to the wrecked car, like Gino, could see her hand language.

Mill workers and Franklin Avenue strollers were looking at the wreck, craning their necks to see the idiot who would smash up a sweet car like this. I sunk a little lower in the seat waiting for Gino and the police.

My boss showed up about the same time as the Aliquippa Police and Tom's Towing. There was nowhere to go except face my problem head-on...

Oh boy, that was a poor choice of words. Before I could apologize Gino came up to me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. "Are you okay Preach? Did you get hurt? " he asked a tear in his eye. I just mumbled, "No, I'm sorry."

"Thank God no one was hurt!" Gino said looking toward the heavens, just then his wife came up to us. "Gino, I think the gas pedal stuck. It just took off, " she added to our conversation, giving me a forgiving nod of her head.

We all just stood there as Tom put the hook on the wreck, watching the metal flake beauty roll away to the wrecking yard.

"Let's not think about it anymore...The car was insured anyway!" So, my dear friends, I didn't lose my job, there were no hard feelings and I'm sorry to say Gino's wife never visited the pizza parlor again.

A few months went by and the health department paid us a surprise visit and as they say in most science fiction movies

"It was the beginning of the end!"

I graduated from high school and most of the Hill Boy's migrated to the new Hopewell Shopping Center to a place called Bard's Dairyland, which is another chapter in my life.

Every time I eat a piece of pizza, I think of Gino, his wife, and his car..and every walker with no tennis balls on it, I'll think of Gram's and Pop's the old couple.

So my friends in this time of uncertainty and fear, let's remember we are all One Family..One Heart...One Mind and we will come out of this stronger..

Let's love one another as our Lord loves us..

Happy Trails to you, Until we meet again...Happy Trails to you..Keep smil'n on till then...

Submitted: September 23, 2022

© Copyright 2022 William Ramsay. All rights reserved.

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I love the story about the old couple. So unassuming and free pizza from every pizza place around. Lol

Fri, September 23rd, 2022 4:22pm

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