When I was a child, the Swift was only a commuting line that ran limited hours from Skokie to the Howard "L" station during the week. Today, it runs every fifteen minutes (or so) seven days a week. As a child, we played in the empty station on weekends and *cough* my sister might have let me "drive" her car around the abandoned lot on a Sunday afternoon (I sat on her lap and steered as she controlled the pedals) but these days children have to find other ways to get into mischief. The newsagent's next to the station that had pinball machines in back is gone, with a Target store standing in its place. The Greyhound bus station is now a Starbucks sharing the space with some sort of exotic massage parlour. The Yardstick fabric store, with their giant yardstick sign in front is gone as well, replaced by a sandwich shop. The clothing store, Just Pants (a name my mother found hilarious ,"It's Just Pants. Get it?!") is a currency exchange, and the beauty shop, Shear Genius in the beautiful Bronx building sits abandoned. The garage where my dad kept his truck is now an upscale ice cream shop, and the drugstore across the street is a matress showroom. One constant though, has been Kaufman's delicatessen and bakery. The original building burned a few years back, but they rebuilt in a way that kept the spirit of the original place alive while incorporating modern improvements such as seating and a public restroom.
|Kichels (puffy egg biscuits) from Kauffman's|
Living just a short walk from Kaufman's meant I spent a good chunk of my young life there, mostly taking a number and waiting to be served. The old store had a bench on the bakery side where you could wait (and it was always crowded, so wait you did) and some charity had a metal rack of paperback books they sold for a quarter. I bought a copy of Future Shock once, but it was boring, so I gave it to a friend😀.
My sister wasn't sent to Kaufman's much after she misunderstood my dad's joke of, "Tell the counterman to keep his finger off the scale", and she duitifully repeated the message. "My father says you should keep your finger off the scale...and can we please have a pound of roast beef also?" After that, it was my job to buy the cold cuts and bread.
|Mr. ETB had a sandwich called, Moshe's Pupik. Or was it Zaydie's Heartburn? I can't keep track of the novelty names.|
When we stopped in, the Eastern European woman working at the counter who probably had a real job wherever she came from but was now reduced to slicing bread for suburban idiots like myself, kindly offered me a sample of something. Perhaps overwhelmed by my first visit to my old neighbourhood in years, or more likely because I have a terrible habit of over-sharing not terribly interesting stories about myself, I blurted out, "That's how I found out I was allergic to cashews! The old woman behind the counter gave me a cookie and I got two steps outside on the sidewalk before grabbing my throat and throwing up. My sister was mad when she found out because the old woman never gave her a cookie." The woman, let's call her Masha because she looked like a Masha, nodded without expression and replied, "That is very interesting. Do you want bread with or without seeds?"
One day in the mid-70's, I walked into Kaufman's to find several people talking excitedly. "The king is dead" a woman told me. It took me a minute to figure out she meant Elvis, but I was struck by how upset people were. It occured to me that the last time someone important had died (Mayor Daley), I was also standing in line at Kaufman's waiting to buy a ryebread.
"Do you want bread with or without seeds?" Masha asked, jolting me back to the present. Wondering who might die as I stood in line ordering my bread, I replied, "With, please" before my mouth got ahead of my brain again and I cheerfully joked, "You guys make killer bread." Fastening the twist-tie with a flourish, Masha nodded, "Very nice bread. Pay at front."