Quite a few grocery stores in the neighborhood were scattered in the eastern part of Wooster – an area known as “Little Italy”. Years ago, Joyce (Rose) McClure remembered three of these institutions.
“After growing up on Pittsburgh Avenue and later on Catherine Street and attending Pittsburgh Avenue School,” wrote McClure, “we grew up in close proximity to Bonadio’s grocery store.
“When my mother, Mary (Moretti) Rose, needed something at the grocery store, she turned it into a game. She told my brothers Ronnie and Danny that she would ‘schedule’ them to see how fast they could get on the items Run to Bonadio and back I don’t know how old my brothers were until they finally understood.
“Bonadio,” she said, “was THE place to buy pencils, golden rod tablets, rulers, crayons and the like. Meat and cheese didn’t come in neat packages. Instead, they were wrapped in butcher paper and tied with string.” “”
Just a little background for ‘Little Italy’
(In a story of Little Italy and its buildings, Jon Ulbright wrote that the Bonadios owned the house next to their grocery store, which had huge barrels of bulk goods like pickles, olives, and cod outside. The grocery store also sold fresh meat and staples .)
Since her paternal grandmother, Mary (Massaro) Rose, lived next to Varassi’s grocery store on Palmer Street, McClure said she and her siblings were familiar with the store, too. She remembered that the building had wooden floors that creaked and creaked when people walked over them.
“Varassi’s spaghetti is not prepackaged,” she said. “I remember it was in big boxes and Mrs. Varassi measured it by the pound. Also, the spaghetti seemed very long compared to what we see in stores today.”
The 1959 graduate of Wooster High School recalled that there was another small shop on East Henry Street – “a few doors down to the left as you turn off Prospect Street.” The petite woman who ran the house , was Frances (Latona) Schaan.
“It was,” said McClure, “our go-to place for Penny Candy, Candy Dots Strips, Waxed Lips and Teeth, BB Bats, Sugar Daddies, Candy Cigarettes, Double Bubble Bubblegum, Those Little Wax Pop Bottles and Beemen’s, Black Jack and Clove Gum. “
McClure said her husband, Bob, used to be a seller for Friendly Wholesale, and he remembered that in the spring, Schaan would always order a generous supply of yo-yo, hat guns, kites, and an assortment of other toy treasures – enough to keep the neighborhood close the youngsters talked all summer long.
McClure also has vivid memories of Italian wedding receptions in the second floor hall above Weitzel Dry Cleaners (now the Murr Printing building on Buckeye Street and North Street).
“I remember,” she said, “the older Italian ladies who dance the polka together … plus, as kids, we ate all the cookies we wanted and we loved running up and down the stairs. Without air conditioning it was always hot and stuffy, but nobody seemed to mind. “
McClure also took tap lessons in the dance studio on the second floor. Although she loved dancing and was known for her dance moves in high school, she said she never fulfilled the class prophecy to become a choreographer in the Latin Quarter of New York City.
For your information
According to the Picturesque Wayne book, the first road to open in the county was from Massillon to Wooster in 1808.
I thought you should know
Columnist Ann Gasbarre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-345-6419.