Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online

June 11 , 2002

This morning I set out on my Tuesday walk without the company of the neighbor who is my usual partner. He was again off in Palm Springs, California. Although it's pretty darn hot in Palm Springs these days, he still leaves our wonderful city to go there because he has a beautiful lady friend whose attractions are greater even than Santa Fe's.

Because I was by myself today, I decided to deviate from my usual route. Instead I took a stroll down Memory Lane.

The path I chose came to mind because of the recent wedding of two of my former Santa Fe classmates, an event I attended with several other old friends. During the reception we began reminiscing about our school days. I asked if anyone remembered an old green shack called “Della's,” which was right next to the playground at our Wood-Gormley Elementary School. From that shack a woman named Della sold kids hot dogs and various other things not necessarily good for us to eat. All my friends remembered Della's and the wonderful and funny things that happened at that old green shack.

Della was a portly lady with carrot-red hair and enough matching rouge to pull her cheeks down to her chin. She wore what I called “widow shoes”—severe black things with short, stubby heels, a style often chosen by elderly women in those days.


With Della's on my mind this morning, I walked over to the Wood-Gormley school, not too far from my current home in the South Capitol neighborhood. I meandered through the old neighborhood until I got to Booth Street, where the school still operates. I'm not sure when the school was built, but probably in the late 20's or early 30's. Della's came to be not too many years later. But now that old food stand is long, long gone.

Across Booth Street from Wood-Gormley back then was Harrington Junior High, for grades seven through nine. Harrington is no longer there, replaced by a big playground.

Kids from both the elementary school and the junior high were frequent customers of Della's. Wood-Gormley had its own cafeteria for lunch, which cost 25 cents in those days; but it was more fun to eat a hot dog on a dry bun at Della's than a balanced meal at the school. Della’s hot dogs were 15 cents—but if you had only a dime, you could get the weenie without the bum.

Della bought mustard in gallon jars, and if you got a weenie only, you could dunk it in the mustard jar yourself. We would dunk the end of the weenie by hand, then bite off the end, then stick the remainder of the weenie back for more mustard after each bite. Heck, everybody did it, with never a worry about sanitation.

Not only that, but the boys played marbles and the girls played jacks, and with the same unwashed hands that scraped up the marbles and the jacks off the ground, we dunked the weenies. As the mustard got low we had to push our whole hand into the jar; usually brushing the rim. By the time the jar was empty, the rim was adobe brown. We didn't care.

Della was quite an entrepreneur. She would soak toothpicks overnight in cinnamon oil and sell them to us the next day for a penny apiece. We thought they were terrific. We kept a toothpick in our mouth all day, by the end of which our lips would be purple, and burning like crazy from the cinnamon oil.

Della's shack remained on the edge of the playground for several years after I graduated from Harrington Junior High. But like most things it finally went away, never to return.

As I walked by Wood-Gormley school this morning I wondered what Della did with all those quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. I'm sure Uncle Sam never saw any of that money. But I don't begrudge Della one cent of it. Not only did she sell what we thought was the best food in town, but she also was a surrogate mother to all us kids who were learning to be away from home for the first time.

She was the one we ran to when we fell and scraped our knees. She would hold us while we cried the pain away, and when we felt better, she would send us back to the playground to test ourselves again. Most parents who sent their kids to Wood-Gormley did not realize that Della was our mother-away-from-home. Had they known, maybe they would each have given her a quarter a day for helping raise their children.


As I walked along Booth Street this morning I could almost see that green shack at the edge of the playground, with Della standing outside in her apron and her black stubby- heel shoes, checking on her surrogate children, making sure we all were OK.

Have a great day.

Stan

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