North End Memories: Ten Cents Each, Three for a Quarter

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)

4 Responses

  1. Joe Moscaritolo says:

    How well I remember the pizza man (gowada gowada) I also remember the crab man on the other corner at the intersection of Salem and Cross Streets. In the early 50’s I would go from Roslindale with my Nonni to shop in the North End. She would first buy me a piece of pizza and next a crab. So many times I would get my cheek pinched by friends that my Grandmother would meet. When my cousins and I would go with our Uncle, we would stop at Freda’s for a pizza. While with my grandmother we would see the overpass being built. Rats were very noticeable during construction. As the years pass, while taking my grandchildren to the North End, I have shown them the overpass being torn down and the Rose Kennedy Greenway being built. A complete circle of events. I made my Confirmation at St. Leonard’s Church.

    • Jeanne_Dasaro says:

      Joe, thanks for sharing your story. Do let us know if you’d want to do a more formal interview! – Jeanne

  2. Paul Moscardini says:

    Jeanne, My family had a grocery / butcher shop, Moscardini Brothers, at 170-172 Salem street for years. As a boy I carried groceries to many of the top floors of the North End’s buildings. My wife and i spend a week each year in Boston and revisiting the North End is a yearly ritual. I have a photo of what I believe to be my Uncles Benny [Benedetto] and Mike [Monsueto] in the store when it first opened perhaps 100 years ago. Let me know If you’d like a copy.

    • Jeanne_Dasaro says:

      Hi Paul, Thanks for sharing. I’d love to see the photo. Also, if you’d like to share any stories about your childhood, do let me know! – Jeanne

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