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Eating Lemons at the Library

August 23, 2017

 

Tastes of Summer in the 1950s:

 

Eating Lemons at the Library and

 

Comba Bread in the Car

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

During the mid to late 1950s, the long summer days for my cousin Carole and me were punctuated by car rides to Clinton, Indiana–the town located seven miles from our Blanford hometown.  Carole’s dad, my Uncle Pete, was in the driver’s seat; Carole and I were in the back seat with a total of ten library books which we had borrowed the previous day from the Clinton Public Library.  For the summer reading program at the library, we checked out the maximum number of books allowed in the Children’s Section–five for each of us–each time we had a chance to go to the library.    As you may imagine, my parents–unlike most parents–often discouraged me from reading so much, due to my diminishing vision.  However, the larger print of the books for the earlier grades was easier to read; so I continued to relish reading the print books from our nearby library.

 

Five months younger than I, Carole and I were in the same grade in school; and we had similar library numbers.  JR 1109 and JR1119 were on our treasured library cards.  (I assume that the “JR” represented either “Junior Reader” or “Juvenile Reader.”)  When Uncle Pete dropped us off in front of the impressive building, which was catty-corner from Clinton High School, we, holding tightly to our borrowed books, ran into the lower level where the children’s books adorned many shelves.  Seemingly always there to greet us with welcoming and patient smiles were the silver-haired librarians Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. Munsen (who was the taller of the two ladies).  What wonderful jobs they had!

 

Having determined that both Carole and I liked lemon slices while drinking iced tea at our Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant, my cousin and I progressed to sharing an entire lemon.  Of course, she took one half while I took the other.  On one of our seven-mile journeys to Clinton’s “Bookland,” we had not yet finished eating our lemon halves when Uncle Pete arrived at the library.  Unconcerned, we hurried into the library in search of a few particular books.  As we asked Mrs. Richardson’s help, we nonchalantly continued eating our lemons in the library!  Mrs. Richardson guided us to a middle area of the stacks to find the books we were seeking.  Watching us eat our lemons, the calm librarian did not grimace nor otherwise indicate her displeasure.  However, after pointing out the shelves where we could find the requested books, Mrs. Richardson  carefully asked, “How can you stand to eat those lemons?”  The librarian never reprimanded us:  she was just amazed that we enjoyed eating lemons in the library.

 

Wasn’t Mrs. Richardson too kind and understanding?  Of course, my cousin and I really should not have been eating or drinking anything in the cool and very quiet library.  Fortunately, we were using napkins to hold the lemons; and I believe my then young cousin and I avoided sticky fingerprints on the selected books.  I think the one lemon event was the only time when we did eat something in the Clinton Public Library–a very special place to me through my childhood and high school years, as well as during early college years.

 

The reason that my Uncle Pete made a trip each weekday to Clinton was for purchasing absolutely delicious Italian bread from our cousins’ bakery on Ninth Street.  At Comba Bakery, cousin Martin made what we called “long bread” or “Comba bread” in his large brick oven.  Cousin Dina made the wonderful breadsticks.  The aroma alone of the Italian bakery was a treat.  A rare and very special treat was the torchetti  (Italian pastry “torcetti”) which we often called “Horseshoes” because the torchetti were a sweetened breadstick shaped like horseshoes and were topped with a glazed sugar coating.  Nevertheless, what most often was placed on the front seat was one large box containing twenty-four loaves of the most crusty, perfect Italian bread imaginable.  The loaves were placed vertically into the box so that one well-crafted, rounded heel of each loaf pointed outward from the box.  As in the bakery, the aroma of the bread too often tempted my cousin and me until we asked Carole’s dad if we could have some bread as we were riding back home to Blanford.  Uncle Pete always gave us his nod of approval.  Somehow, our little fingers were able to poke through the hard crust of one heel of the bread and pull off a piece of the crust with the soft, delicate, even airy inner portion of Comba bread.  As our borrowed books were stacked up between us, Carole and I enjoyed the superb Italian bread–no jelly, no peanut butter, no butter–just fresh Comba bread.  The other loaves of bread were sold at the grocery store of my uncle and maternal grandmother.

 

Lemons, long bread, and library books–what more could Carole and I have wanted on a long summer day in the 1950s?

 

Enjoy the waning days of summer!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

August 23, 2017, Wednesday

 

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8 Comments
  1. I love my bread too. Crusty bread doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I enjoy the contrast between the crust and the soft bread within.

    I also think you meant “Kitty corner” in your post.

    • Hi, Bruce–Thanks for your comment.  If you do a search, I think you will find that there are three acceptable ways to express the diagonal corner:  “catty-corner” (which is most often listed first), “kitty-corner,” and even “cater-corner”–all of which come from the Middle English “catre-corner” referring to four corners. Thus, the meaning has nothing to do with cats, but with the number four.  Although I am familiar with both “catty-corner” and “kitty-corner,” the use is regional.  Now, I know which word is used in your area of Canada.

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. Oh Alice, for me, there is no better aroma than that of fresh baked bread, no matter what kind. Break me off a piece please. Grin Now I’m hungry! Smile Have a fresh baked day. dp Sent from my breaded Windows 10 Creators machine

    • Hi, Deon–Yes, your comment made me smile.

      Have an aromatic and creative day!  Alice and Willow

  3. mfanyo permalink

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful summer memories, Alice! The library’s Summer Reading Program was a highlight of that hot and humid time of year. In my mind I can picture those lovely librarians who were always kind and helpful, and I will never forget another lovely lady who took me to that library to get my library card at the end of the school year in her class–Mrs. Lelia Pickard, my first grade teacher.
    Wishing I had a delicious loaf of Comba Italian bread for our dinner tonight!
    Love, Mary

  4. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    How exciting that your beloved Clinton Public Library will soon have a special display of your book, “The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season,” to recognize you as a hometown author and to sell your book at the Little Italy Festival held during Labor Day weekend! I’m sure that if Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. Munsen were still at the library, they would be serving ice cold lemonade and crusty Italian bread to honor the achievement of their talented patron! I’m so happy for you!
    With congratulations and love,
    Mary

    • Mary–Thanks so much for your additions to this post.  Although I knew, years ago, that I would never be a Queen of Grapes nor a Grape Princess, nor later a Regina of the festival, having my book at the Clinton Public Library and at three festival locations is a dream-come-true for me.  What a special time!

      Grazie–Alice and Willow

  5. Carole permalink

    Thanks, Alice, for the honor to again appear in your blog! You have the best memory about our childhood, so I appreciate your sharing those special stories. I totally don’t remember the lemons in the library, but will long savor those car rides with the delicious Italian bread.

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