This little memory is about two friends whose joint efforts made many little boys and girls around Big Bottom and the areas in between very happy.My Dad, Howard, was one and the other was Jimmy Mongiardo. Daddy lived in Hazard and Jimmy ran a store and theater down in Duane. He, his Mom, Katarina and Dad lived above the store. It was there that Katarina taught my Dad the culinary art of making Italian dishes. They ordered supplies from New York I think it was and Dad always put his order in of things he could not get locally so he could make his dishes extra tasty. I remember Daddy bringing home some escargot and when I found out what it was, I almost fainted. His parents were cooks beyond compare, believe me.
His Dad could sit down at the piano and play like a pro, but never, as I recall him saying, never had a lesson in his life. He could beat the ivories with one of his favorites, RED WING, and made a feller tap his toes. I remember Jimmy and his parents with awe and a lot of laughter when you were with them.
Well, Jimmy ran the little theater there in Duane and the movies were on big reels. Dad did not own a car so he got a taxi and he and I would ride down to Duane almost every weekend during the summer months for a very special reason. Jimmy would tell Dad, “come on down, Howard, and pick up a reel or two late this evening.” Jimmy would lend the reels to my Dad without pay and Dad would bring the reels home to Liberty Street where we had a big “play yard”. Daddy owned a nice 16 mm Bell & Howell sound projector and he would get the movies ready to show when it got dark enough to see them. In between time, he and my Mom would stretch one of Mom’s big white sheets on poles Dad had put up for that purpose. Mom and Dad would then pop corn and make kool-aid by the bucket, and put big chunks of ice so it was cool. Very tasty because the sun would be going down and a good cold drink of kool-aid was something a lot of the kids never got. The kids started coming from all directions and the only rule my Dad had was that they would not be rowdy, sit and watch the movie and not cause a big disturbance. Looking back, I know they knew my Dad well enough not to disobey him.
Darkness would settle in and Dad would turn the Bell & Howell on, attach a reel, most of the time it was Westerns, and the sound went out over the street, and the picture appeared on the sheet. It was a time when movies did not cost much but there were so many that never darkened the lobby of a theater, so Dad tried to make sure these were the kids that he played to. If he had time, he would play the second reel, but sometimes it was too late. They were so engrossed in the “shoot em up and bang bangs” and drinking kool-aid and eating popcorn , and happiness abounded there in our yard almost every weekend.
The smiles on the faces of the kids was enough reward, and “thank you, Mr. Howard”, made Daddy so happy. He would say “you were good, so maybe we will have another one next weekend.” And for many weekends they did.
When Jimmy’s son, Daniel, won his election, I called Jimmy and after all these years, he remembered me and we talked about those days and he told me that he still missed my Dad. Two men from different backgrounds but they had one big thing in common, it’s called FRIENDSHIP, sometimes a very rare commodity..