North End Memories is a series of essays written by Sam Viscione about Boston’s North End.
Shopping malls, supermarkets, internet shopping, box stores; what a transition from Arthur’s, Shuman’s, Sheldon’s, La Fauci’s, Moscardini’s, Resnick’s hardware, etc.
I never realized the large number of merchants and street vendors in addition to the services available to a population of up to thirty-eight thousand living in the North End in the 40’s & 50’s. What a tremendous concentration of commerce in an area less than a square mile. There was so much for sale, so much buying and so many to service in so little an area. The pushcarts and horse drawn produce carts hawking goods street by street made me wonder how long had man been peddling that way.
What a memorable time. There was the milkman, ice man, rag man, diaper man, oilman, crab man, pizza man (gowada, gowada) the insurance man and the other man collecting the daily investments.
I remember the weekends, especially the holidays and the abundance of food on display along with the rich aromas and the hordes of people streaming down the streets with their plastic coated or 5 cent brown paper shopping bags. Yes, those Italian people doing what no other ethnic group could equal, buying goods and food and later preparing them with the best ingredient love.
Much has changed now. Once a predominant Italian community, it is very much diversified today. The North End was the people. Some remain to witness the lost culture and solidarity that once existed there. It will always be the oldest neighborhood in the country but no longer the greatest. Nothing lasts forever. However, one thing our generation learned was that food and appearance was foremost then and remains with us today. Years of experience proved to us that nothing beat wearing a Castignetti suit while eating a dish of macaroni. Viva, the Nordend (our pronunciation)