Charlie's Dog House
She was the only girl friend I can remember having as a young child. I was 7 and Puddin’ was 5. She was petite with lovely chocolate skin, which is why her family named her after a famous chocolate pudding- Amazo Instant Pudding.
I never knew what her real name was, but who was I to talk about names.
We became friends immediately after her first day of summer vacation.
Puddin’ always had 5 or 6 braids sticking out all over her head with different colored barretts. She usually wore a little white shirt with a peter pan collar and dungaree shorts with little white sneakers.
I had your basic rice bowl # 10 haircut from Johnny the Barber, striped short sleeve shirt and shorts. My sneaks were blue Keds, so I could run faster and jump higher.
Puddin’ and I kept to ourselves most of the time. My brother and his friends would continually make us a target of their cruelty, name calling and jokes, none of which were funny. They would call us vanilla and chocolate pudding.
Puddin’ would sit in my red wagon while I pulled her around the neighborhood showing her all my favorite places, Beaver Pond Park, the back lot of Baldwin School where I would roller skate, and Kane’s drugstore where we would sit at the soda fountain and order ice cream sodas.
Around the corner from where we lived was a neighborhood legend called “Charlie’s Dog House.” This was a tiny shack located in the middle of a parking lot that accessed two streets, Orchard Street and Dixwell. Charlie’s Dog House sold hotdogs, hamburgers and french-fries. Only open in the summer, it was the place to get hotdogs.
Charlie the owner was a gruff kind of guy, who took your order as a cigarette dangled from his lips. He could be heard outside yelling orders, “Two dogs to travel,” “One Frenchie with them.”
When Charlie fell on hard times, the Dog House went up for sale. Neighbors were worried that their favorite hot dog haven would be silenced.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the Dog House was purchased by the Farrells, the family who owned the row house we lived in.
Rose Farrell’s brother, Uncle Nick and her son Raymond took over the operation of the Dog House. Raymond would take the orders and work the grill, Rose would take the money from the customers. Nick would work in the back peeling potatoes and preparing them for french fries. He would place the peeled potato, one by one in a “chopping” machine that looked like a slot machine. It had a space to place the potato standing on its end, a lever next to it that you would pull down, and presto, the whole potato was sliced into long giant pieces that would then be thrown into the vat of boiling hot oil. God, they were good.
More than once Nick sliced his fingers while attempting to hold the potato in place as the guillotine came crashing down on Mr. Potato head.
One summer day as Puddin’ and I were sitting on the front steps of 139, Raymond came out with a bag in his hand and asked if I could deliver it to Nick at the dog house. He offered a dime to the both of us for this errand.
Jumping at the chance to show Puddin’ the inner workings of the Dog House,and hopefully a hot dog, I took the brown bag, took Puddin’ by the hand and walked around the corner to the Dog House.
Just as we neared the Dog House, Puddin’s Aunt Pearl walked out of Willie Mae’s Beauty Parlor. Eyeing the bag she asked what we were doing. When I told her of the errand we were on, she took the bag and opened it.
The next thing I knew Puddin’ and I were being dragged to the Dog House. As we entered the front door Aunt Pearl started screaming at Uncle Nick:
“What is wrong with you people”?
“I’m going to call the police and have you arrested.”
"My neice could have been killed."
“We came up north to avoid this garbage.”
With that, Aunt Pearl took Puddin’ and told us we would never be allowed to play together again.
Little did I know that inside the paper bag was a loaded gun.
Raymond wanted Uncle Nick to have it at the Dog House for protection.