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South City's Sidewalk Vendors

Today everybody drives everywhere, and when the Jehovah's Witnesses come, they ring doorbell after doorbell in vain. But 50 years ago, when only a third of the block even owned a finned Chrysler or Ford, there was street life, and nowhere was it livelier than in South City. The Irish cops walked their beats, and old German guys took the bus to the brewery, and the moms pushed baby carriages up and down the narrow sidewalks, and Tony pushed his red-and-green painted pushcart alongside them, calling out for people to bring him their knives and scissors for sharpening. Then "the fruit guy" rolled by in his truck, hollering "straw-ber-ries, fresh wa-ter mel-on," and the rag man trudged the street calling for people to bring out their rags. Every morning, the paper boy hollered an indistinguishable "Morning Globe-Democrat," reduced to a reassuring three-note series that sounded a little like Miss Othmar in Peanuts cartoons. Summers brought the Mr. Softee truck and the mosquito sprayers, the faded gray men with sweet smiles urging brooms and brushes door-to-door, and the hale fellows selling encyclopedias to people who'd never gone to college, because their kids would.

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