Old ladies and dumpsters
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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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Old ladies and dumpsters


Our discussions about dumpster diving is cause for reflection.  Cause to reflect back to the 1950’s, when I was a boy.  How times have changed.

I remember when I was a child, my mother’s Aunt Ann was in her fifties when her husband died.  They had no children.  Aunt Ann was that slobbery mouth old woman who thought each of us boys should give her a kiss every time we saw her.  Repulsed, we would turn away with looks of horror.  To our dismay, Mom would always say, “Now Ohg, kiss your Aunt Ann.”  Yuk! I am cringing as I write this sentence.

But Aunt Ann had bigger problems than getting weary nephews to kiss her.  She had never worked and had no job skills and was widowed.  Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society entitlement programs were nonexistent.  The local factories would not hire an ‘old woman.’  It would be ten years before she could collect Social Security.  Access to health care would not be available in her lifetime.

We would visit her occasionally, probably a couple of times a month.  She lived in poverty in the 1300 block of Boyd Street.  Her home was half of a double-tenement, the 1950 version of a duplex.  I seem to recall three small crowded rooms with a space heater.  I remember Mom telling me that Aunt Ann made about $8.00 a week by ‘taking in sewing and laundry.’  But this was not enough.

My parents bought groceries at Mendel’s Grocery, around the corner at 13th and Grand Avenue.  The Mendel brothers ran that neighborhood grocery store for about fifty years.  I remember them for a couple of reasons – they let my parents run a tab – that was important to me because it meant we would always have food.  And they gave their old produce to Aunt Ann.  They were also my first experience with ‘Jewish people.’

Aunt Ann would walk to the store and the Mendel brothers would have saved some produce, they might even have their ‘boy’ carry the salvaged produce home for Ann.  An evening meal for Aunt Ann was boiled turnips or cabbage.

I remember the Mendel brothers were wise and charitable businessmen.  I never heard what would happen if someone did not pay their tab.  But I do know that they probably saved Aunt Ann from starvation.  I suspect they helped others in the neighborhood also.

But times have changed.


See also: Freegans and Hippies 

There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. This article refers to my father(Max Mendell) and my uncle (Reuben Mendell). I grew up working at the store, untill I got married and Moved to Kansas City.

    I remember the credit extended to people that had difficulty paying.

    Of course, I am a bit biased, but I thought they were to of nicest, kindest people I have known. It is gratifying to see that some one else holds my family in the same esteem.

    Jerry Mendell

  2. Mr. Mendell,

    Your family is held in high esteem. I was born at 15th and Grand, my parents met at the ball field at 11th and Grand in 1939. My father worked as a boy in Mort Capp’s junk yard across the street from Mendell’s Grocery.

    That grocery store was the life blood of the neighborhood.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Ohg Tone

  3. I remember Mendell’s store. It was shortly before my fifth birthday and Aunt Esther’s girls along with my sister and myself were playing at the two story house, next to Grandma Bessie’s house on N. 12th. I don’t remember the why of it, but Mary and Gypsy gave me some change to hold for them. I knew how to get to Mendells and I knew they had all kind of penny candy. I don’t recall how long I was gone, I did go the long way around by going up 12th and then on 13th and back to Grand, instead of the shorter way of Grand to 13th. When I returned it was to a very angry Aunt Esther and worried as well. My cousins were soon unhappy when I had no change to give back to them. That problem was settled soon enough with the good sized brown paper sack full of goodies. One of a couple of times I frightened my Mom and the family.

    I had no idea that you all lived anywhere other than Felix and then to Jules. Were you born at home? Goodness, your Dad was all of 16 or 17 when he met your Mom.

    Answering your inquiry about Mom and us girls. When she first got back from Montana she had enough insurance money and a collection the men Dad worked with had taken up. She bought a house in the south end on E. Valley and had married again sometime around 51 or 52. That resulted in him (name still unknown)leaving because Mom wouldn’t give him money for a dump truck. She lost a baby boy soon after and the divorce was final all in a little over one year. Uncle Robert and Aunt Mary lived with us a while. I can’t remember if it was before or after Roger was born. The funny thing there is I remember Roger as a baby but I don’t remember Cynthia at all. The two story house next to Grandma was owned and lived in by two negro spinster ladies. When I stayed with Grandma she sent me over to fetch the newspaper from them if they were finished reading. They were so nice to me and always had a little treat as well. I’m not sure of the details but the house did catch fire. Mom was able to buy it real cheap and we moved in with Uncle Bill, Aunt Esther and their kids. Mom had enough money from the insurance and was getting Social Security on us and herself so she was able to fix the house and that is how she met Cal our Step Dad. She did take on a job at Swift I believe and that’s why Aunt Esther or Grandma was watching us. Cal didn’t want to live there after they married and he didn’t want Mom to work. According to Mom he made around $700 a month when he was working. Winters were difficult and we too had a tab at Guetleys Mkt. on Main and Chestnut. That’s still a lot of money for the 50’s and it really confuses me that we didn’t get to do anything or go anywhere because it cost too much. Mom’s financial problems started when she left Cal with seven kids and one on the way. This was after the Kennedy era just beginning Lyndon Johnson’s reign. The young people today who can blink and get pregnant would not have had a chance back then. If there was any hint at all that the husband was supporting, even just a few loaves of bread here and there, then welfare services refused to help. Mom depended on Commodities. I can remember Mom pushing a baby buggy and the rest of following single file Indian style with a wagon, paper sacks and baskets. Off we went to the health department where government commodities were handed out each month. It did seem like a free for all and getting there early meant a better choice of items. As for medical, well thank God for Dr. Scott C. Benson. Mom probably owed that man a couple of her children. He would see us every time we needed and never did hound Mom for money and I guess over the years she would pay something against the bill when she felt she could spare it. Goodness, I’m caught up in emotions right now, but I guess you can see the picture.

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