This picture shows Salem St. at the intersection of Cross Street on a Saturday morning in the early to mid nineteen fifties. It was taken from the newly built Central Artery.
It is especially meaningful to me because I was living in the building at the corner of Salem and Cross at that time, 53 Salem St., and Joe Tecce was my landlord. Joe’s mother lived on the top floor, we were on the second and Joe’s sister Adaline was on the first. Adaline’s son Eugene, we called him Gene Boy, was my first and best friend. Angelo (Nano) Perrachi and his cousin Danny (Boone) Puopolo lived next door. The Piso family, Sam, Peter, Donny Boy, etc., lived a short distance away on Stillman St. An interesting crowd.
Joe and his brothers ran a number of businesses from that building. You can see the fruit displays extending into the street and they had a fish market and small restaurant for a while as well. If you look closely there is a sign on the outside of the building that says “Joes”.
At that time Salem St. was a busy mercantile area crowded with meat markets, fruit stands and Italian grocery stores. Anthony Martignetti had a big salumaria at the corner of Salem and Wiggit Sts. Beyond Parmenter St. there were more dry goods merchants, most of them Jewish, who were an important part of the North End Community. Etta’s House of Fashion, Meyer’s Bargain Center, Clayman’s and Resnick’s Hardware Store were local institutions.
Giuffre’s Fish Market was famous all over Boston. The fish was the freshest and in the entrance way was a large steel container filled with live snails. We used to steal them and take them home as pets.
In front of Giuffre’s were two old Italian men selling pizzas and boiled crabs from pushcarts. The pizza was a nickel a slice and the crabs were either five cents or ten cents depending on the size. He also occasionally sold periwinkles five cents a bag with a pin to extract the meat. At Christmas and New Years time eating eels was a Southern Italian tradition and Giuffre had tubs of live, slimy eels out on the sidewalk ready to be skinned.
On Friday and Saturday nights Giuffre’s would throw out the fish heads in wooden boxes filled with saw dust. Gene Boy and I loved throwing fish heads into the open windows of cars leaving the Sumner Tunnel. It was great fun growing up in the North End.
Nicholas Dello Russo is a lifelong North Ender and columnist. Often using vintage photographs, Nick tells the stories of growing up in the North End along with its culture and traditions. It was a time when the apartments were so small that residents were always on the streets enjoying “Life on the Corner.” Read more of Nick’s columns.