Recollections of East Bradford by Anthony (Tony) Bottone
Hi everyone. My name is Anthony (Tony) Bottone. I am originally from Bradford and presently live in Yuma, Arizona where I am a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at a local community college. During the early 1950s, my family moved from Onofrio Street to South Kendall Avenue in East Bradford.
As I grew up there, East Bradford and this time period became a very memorial part of my life. I attended the Sixth Ward School for three years, went to some of the earliest masses held by Father Carlton Ritchie at Saint Francis church, and can remember when phone numbers were only four digits in the Bradford area. Except for infrequent short visits, I have not lived there since 1962.
For some time, I have always wanted to document my recollections of the East Bradford community, especially the various mom and pop businesses that were so well integrated into the local lifestyle of the early 1950s. I have done that in this article by taking a nostalgic trip first Northward then Southward on East Main Street. These recollections and descriptions are outlined below:
- Next to Bagley Avenue (often called Bagley Alley) was a busy shoe repair shop ran by John Romano. John took over the shoe repair business from my grandfather Frank Bottone many years prior. John was a shining example of a hard working first generation Italian immigrant who combined fine craftsmanship with a friendly smile.
- As we head North, next was Thessen's meat market. It was a large store with lots of space. Around 4:00 PM in the afternoon, card tables suddenly appeared near the entrance to the store, where a number of locals played cards until about 7:00 PM. I remember one of my neighbors; Dan Luke always participated in those card games.
- Next, Jack Wells had a sign shop that he ran out of his home. Jack was a very popular and friendly man who also played drums with a local band. In the early 50s, my mom went to a yard sale there. She bought a rocking chair (circa 1902) for $3.00 and I still have the chair in our home in Yuma, Arizona.
- There was a Sunoco gas station where Togiï¿½s is now located. They were always busy. They were likely the pioneers of todayï¿½s convenience stores since they also sold candy, chips and soft drinks. Gasoline was about 20 cents per gallon and they would also check your oil and clean your windshield.
- After that was Cropp's variety store. They sold magazines, newspapers, tobacco items, comic books, cards and similar items. Mr. Cropp smoked a cigar in there quite frequently. He was very outgoing but helpful and friendly.
- Next was Sweeleyï¿½s drug store. This was on the corner of East Main and Welch Avenue. They sold over the counter drugs, sundries, gifts and also had the only local Post Office in the East Bradford area. It was in the back of the store. There you could get money orders, mail small packages, get stamps and register letters.
- Then came the little park that is still there today. In the mid 50s however, it consisted of a large Gazebo with restrooms located downstairs. There were often band concerts that played there, attended by quite a few local citizens.
- Right on the corner of East Main and South Kendall was a small mom & pop grocery called Reading's. They were always very busy. I can remember bread at 16 cents a loaf, cigarettes were 23 cents a pack and my favorite, a small bottle of chocolate pop was 6 cents. We kids got these from an ice-filled Coca Cola chest located about half way back in the store.
- On the North side of South Kendall Avenue, Fairway Ford had their display lot all the way up the hill. Right next to that (on South Kendall) was another filling station ran by a gentleman named Bob. He sold gas/oil, installed and repaired tires and did light auto repairs. I knew him well because I always got my bicycle tires filled with air there. Bob later worked at the Bradford Airport.
- Also worth mentioning here is Ruth Brothers variety store located further North on East Main at Foster Brook. They sold toys, hardware and appliances. In the back they even had a bicycle repair shop. At Christmas time, Santa appeared there and the parking lot was always full of holiday shoppers.
- As we come back South to East Bradford (also commonly called Tarport in those days), there was Anderson's grocery store on the corner of East Main and North Kendall Avenue. In its time, this was a large full service grocery store in the local area.
- On the opposite corner was Anderson's Diner, ran by Ben Anderson, the brother of the adjacent grocery store proprietor. They were open from 7AM to 10 PM and until 12 midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. They had the full menu of typical Diner foods of the 1950s including meatloaf and a choice of fresh pies. One of my favorites was a take-out of three hamburgers and an order of fries, all for $1.16, including tax. There was an excellent waitress there named Grace who was a friend of the family and she worked there for over a decade as I recall.
- As we head South, there was the Keystone Hotel restaurant and bar. They served full service meals to include those famous Texas Hot Dogs and had quite an assortment of bar clientele in the evenings. The architecture of the building was and still is impressive, as it was built in the early 1900ï¿½s. There were hotel rooms available upstairs.
- Next to the Keystone was Seaward's variety store, ran by Mr. Seaward and his wife. Similar to Cropp's variety store across the street, they sold gifts, newspapers, comic books, variety items, tobacco products and cards. Mr. Seaward was a very nice man, but he couldnï¿½t hear well and had one of what was probably the first generation of hearing aids. In the evening, when the weather was nice, several local gents sat in chairs in front of the store to smoke and gossip about everything from the weather to politics. It was appropriate for Mr. Seaward to discuss politics, because he was unbelievably a Ronald Reagan look-alike.
- As we move on down the street there was Vic Digel's barber shop. The shop was actually located in the front of the home and he lived in the back. Vic was a short stout man but was very informative to talk to. He was very well versed on almost any topic including current events, sports or politics.
- Next was and still is the Sixth Ward fire station. This well constructed brick building has seemingly changed little in appearance or its use over the years.
- Then there was the Tarport restaurant and bar, located at what was then 407 East Main Street. This was an establishment originally ran by my grandparents, Frank and Julia Bottone for a number of years. They lived upstairs. In the late 1950s Julia and her 2nd husband Frank Wheeler owned the business. My dad was a bartender there and they served giant hamburgers for only $1.00. Sadly, the building was demolished in the early 1960s to make a parking lot.
- Next to the Tarport bar was the Culver-Roemer store. That was a business involved with commercial and residential heating and furnace systems. I believe they also sold and serviced electrical motors of various types.
- As we head South there was one of my favorite childhood hangouts. This was a combination soda fountain and drug/variety store operated by Frank and Mary White. They had a full service soda fountain complete with those classical red leather topped chromed stools. They made the best milkshakes and chocolate sodas on the Planet! They also had one of the first televisions in the town. Many evenings a lot of us kids gathered in booths to have a soda and watch I love Lucy or the William Bendix Life with Father series. There were three channels all from Buffalo (WBEN, WGR, and WKBW). Near the end of the day, Mr. White turned the TV off at 7 PM sharp and we had to go home. Those were truly "Malt Shop" memories.
- Lastly, there was a flower shop as one walked South on East Main Street toward the City of Bradford. As a kid, there wasnï¿½t any reason to visit that type of establishment, so I cannot tell you more. They were in business for quite some time however. (This is likely the N.D. Gibson Flower Shop at 399 East Main St. - Bradford Landmark)
That represents the end of a mid-1950s nostalgic visit though East Bradford. I hope readers enjoyed the recollections and maybe Iï¿½ve filled some gaps in the memories of others. If anyone wants to contact me further, my address is below. Let the memories live on!!!
December 11, 2007
Yuma, Arizona, 85366