Tag Archive | "growing up during the Great Depression"

Greek Hotdogs

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Growing up in South Philadelphia during the Great Depression was an experience I will never forget.  And, despite tough economic times and the winds of yet another war to end all wars looming in Europe, I still hold that era dear to my heart.


For kids, the South Philly of that time was a magical place to live.  I remember with great affection my family’s Holiday celebrations and the annual New Year’s Day Parade that originated on Second Street and wound its way to its conclusion on Broad Street.   Of course, South Philadelphia was also home to great food – both the food my mother made at home and the City’s many eateries.  The original Pat’s Steaks at 9th & Wharton Streets was and remains a landmark.


But, what I recall best are the colorful characters who inhabited the City.  Like the other major Northeastern metropolitan areas, Philadelphia exemplified the “melting pot” that was America.  People with funny names and habits added color to everyday life.  Every ethnic group added their own unique culture and food specialties to the cityscape.


Among my fondest memories, however, were what my family referred to as Greek Hotdogs.  We gave them that name, not because they were made in Greece, but because of the ethnicity of the family who ran the establishment in which they were made and sold.  Their store was at the intersection of Snyder Avenue and the Southwest corner of South Carlisle Street -  just a half city block from the Broadway Theater at Broad Street and Snyder Avenue.


No matter the time of day or night, you could always find a crowd of people enjoying with gusto a very special hotdog.  Anyone who ever tasted one will attest to that fact.  Like Lays Potato Chips, you “can’t eat just one.”


Although Greeks ran the business that made these taste treats, the unique flavor was really in the special sauce and fixings that accompanied the hot dogs – the exact ingredients of which were a closely-guarded secret.  In my opinion, you just haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a Greek Hotdog, as many members of our military who visited Philadelphia during World War ll learned.


After he was married and became a father, my older brother Rocco, who was born and died in South Philly, always dedicated one night of the week to the enjoyment of Greek Hotdogs.  He chose Thursday – perhaps, because of the Roman Catholic prohibition against eating meat on Fridays.


Since his passing, his daughter Donna has continued the tradition in his honor every Thursday night.  Recently, during a phone conversation with her, the subject of Greek Hotdogs arose, bringing with it fond memories of her Dad and those delicious hotdogs.  As we were ending our conversation, she said “Remember, Uncle Tom, when you order them, you cannot eat only one!”  As I hung up the phone, I smiled and reminisced of the taste of a lifetime, a taste I remember as vividly today as the day when I indulged in my first Greek Hotdog.


Walter Cronkite, the iconic news anchor for the CBS Evening News in the 60’s and 70’s ended each broadcast with the same refrain, “What kind of a day was it?  A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times.  And you were there.”  For me, Greek Hotdogs represented one of the simple pleasures of life, an anticipated change from the everyday.  And, like Cronkite’s audience, I was there.

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