The Corner Forum
Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003
Issue #58

There Was an A&P Next to the Safeway

By Chester W. Hunter, 1310 Emerald St. NE

Mr. Hunter called the Corner Forum last week to expand on some of the local history related by Herman Brown in the Dec. 1 issue. His comments during a conversation with Marc Borbely, 536 13th St. NE, follow.

Where N-A Minit is now — it used to be an A&P. And next door, where the liquor store is, it used to be Safeway.

Safeway moved around D Street NE, where the playground is now. That used to be a Safeway. A&P moved down to 18th and Benning Road. But now it's an apartment house there. I just wanted to get that straightened out.

He mentioned a store — didn't you work at that store?

Right here on the corner. At 517 [13th]. It was a Jewish store.

Oh, and he was talking about apartments. That apartment building across the street — I used to take orders up there. It was all white. I must have been in the service when black people moved in! I went in the service in 1950, and there wasn't any black people living in there.

Was that just because whoever owned it didn't rent out to black people?

That's what it was.

And when you worked at the store — how old were you?

I went there when I was 12 years old, and I worked until I was 17.

He was talking about the sodas, how it used to be these cases where you put your hand in the ice and pulled out the sodas. Is that how you remember it?

Yeah. Old Coca-Cola box. It have ice in it, and your sodas in it.

And he mentioned the horses. Do you remember that too — people going up and down the streets with the horse and buggies, selling things?

Mmm hmm. As a matter of fact, I saw on 13th Street, when a horse came by, pulling a wagon, but coming down the hill, the horse was sliding on the asphalt — it was amazing! It was on a hill — you know that hill coming down.

And they had troughs for the horses?

That was on H Street, for the horses. I didn't see any on this side. In Northwest by the old library, they used to have troughs — and some other places.

Did you hear that story from anyone else too, about the grenades? He said he heard that they found some grenades in the garden area? It must have been a long time ago.

I don't know anything about that.

There was a bakery [by the Safeway and A&P] too, I think?

In the back. Ottenburg Bakery. That's part of the playground now, too.

Did they all shut down during the riots?

No. Safeway built another Safeway where the playground is now, on D Street. And I told you A&P moved. Safeway, after the riots, the Safeway on D Street closed up, because they took everything out of it.

I'm still having a hard time picturing A&P or Safeway in such a little —

It was small!

There were a lot of stores around here, back then.

Mmm hmm. Those two, and Milton — he was on the corner of 13th and E. And also on 13th and E across the street was Benders. He had a store. And where I worked, the name was Simon. That was on the corner of 13th and Emerald. And 13th and F had a store down there.

When you worked at Simon's, what kind of work would you do? Were you at the cash register, or —

Heh. He didn't trust black people with the cash register. No, I used to take out orders and stuff, clean up. You know, general cleaning and stuff.

And who did you work for?

Mr. Simon. He had a heart attack in 1945, and he died, and then she had [the store]. She and Mr. Milton — they got married. The one on 13th & E Street, on the west side. He married her. I was in the service then. Did you ever know that on 12th & H Street, they had a big old, tin, modern-looking structure down there. It was an open-air market! It's one of those quick cash places now. All that was an open-air supermarket.

I remember there were two-man streetcars, and one-man streetcars.

Two-man streetcars, that's with two drivers?

Mmm hmm. See, they couldn't back up, at that time. One driver would drive forward, and the other one would drive back.

And around here, where were the streetcars?

They came all the way down to 13th and D. Then they turned around at 13th and D and went back out C Street. As a matter of fact, that old power plant at 13th & D — if they had to go to the bathroom or something, they used to drive there and they had a little rail go inside of it. They would back up on out, and go down C Street.

Around here, it got nice history.

On this street, if somebody catch me doing something wrong, I'd get a whipping. And when my mother find out, I'd get another. You'd better not hit anybody's kids now — they'll get you! You can't chastise kids any more, like when I was growing up. How about you?

I grew up in an apartment building, and it was just mostly my parents. My parents were split up, but I was just one kid, and they watched me pretty carefully.

Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. You need more of that now. Right now, you can see a kid doing something wrong, and you walk on by, like you don't even see him, because you're afraid to get involved in something.

Sometimes when I see kids, I'm thinking maybe they don't have anything else to — if there's no jobs, for instance — maybe there's no better alternative.

But what they're doing now — making all these parks around here. How do you like Sherwood?

I haven't been inside. Have you been inside?

No, I'm going in. But I had talked to some people who work there, and they said they got something for everyone — even senior citizens. So I got to go in there one day and look around.

When I was small, where you got Kingsman, after school they had a counselor up there, and he would have basketball and stuff with the kids. But black kids couldn't participate in it until later on. They would tell us, "You can't come over here." We used to go down there with the white boys, but they would tell the black boys, "You can't come here." They said, "Go over to Lovejoy" — that was for black kids. Later on, they would let us in. Then, money must have gotten tight, and they stopped that. But what I'm trying to say is, in the afternoon, kids had somewhere to go, or something to do. Of course, Lovejoy didn't have a counselor. The black school didn't have one. White kids had it.

Now what about jobs? You worked at the store — I guess that paid you a little bit.

Well, I would get about $10 a week.

I guess you used that to buy little things here and there?

Yeah, little things. And I gave Momma about half of it — helped them out. And my father, at that time, he worked two jobs. And sometime he worked overtime on one job — didn't see him that much back in those days, because he was out working! Trying to make ends meet.

People wasn't making any money, and what little you make, you had to spend — especially if you had kids. I didn't understand it back then, but it was kind of rough. But I can say, Marc, I never been hungry (except maybe in Korea, but that don't count) around here. We were poor, and I didn't even know it! You know what I mean? 'Cause my mother always had a lot of food. Back in them days, kids would go to each other's house, all down the street. We'd go to each other's house and eat, and have fun.

Okay, Mr. Hunter. Thank you.

You're welcome, and nice seeing you again! §