The Granby Grocery


Across from my high school was a little grocery store that was a favorite for those who would skip class in order to go across the street to smoke and play pin-ball.  The proprietor was a kindly but tough man by the name of Sam Aftel. We called  him Sam Ass-Titty out of affection.

I met Sam as soon as I was old enough to walk to the store by myself, mostly to buy my mom cigarettes.   Mom would give me a little extra money for whatever and so I could get a snack and play pin-ball.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time there.  So much so, that Sam had a  nick-name for me.  I was Kalvo Columbo (because  my brother was Christopher).  You never wanted to rub Sam the wrong way.  One guy who tried to swipe something and run  was hit squarely in the head by a potato that Sam threw.  After that we tried to get Sam to  play baseball for the team.

13 Responses to “The Granby Grocery”

  1. J Moser Says:

    This sure beats the Grove Avenue Pharmacy, which would be my equivalent at that age.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    There was a cool old drugstore a block up from my house called Doc’s, at the corner of Belmont and Kensington, but it closed before i was old enough to get my mother cigarettes. Then it
    became the John Birch Society bookstore. Ask Roto about it sometime.

  3. I don’t remember Doc’s and I’m not sure why anyone would ask me about the John Birch Society bookstore although I remember it. I guess Tommy B. and I used to like to “pop in” on the John Birch Society from time to time so that Tommy could ask questions pretending he was a supporter even though in truth he represented much of what the Birchers were fighting against. Maybe “Anonymous” (Jude) can refresh my memory if I related to her some specific Tommy inspired madcap mayhem that we perpetrated on those strange dudes. I know she remembers the time, as kids, her mom took us to the D.C. Zoo and I placed the hard boiled egg from my lunch sack under some foliage in the aviary and then had some other tourists alert the staff. I am probably not alone in being thankful that in my youth there were few “Big Brother Eyes in the Sky”
    As for little stores or pharmacies near schools here are a couple I can still recall; The one that was across the street from Albert H.Hill Junior High was a classic. It had one bay to pump gas and a wide variety of treats for kids to waste their lunch money on. The staff of the school tried unsuccessfully to ban kids from the place but this was a doomed plan because you could scoot in from the school grounds only 50ft. away and when the store owner saw the vice principle scooting after you he let you out the back. One can only guess about the chat that may have taken place between these two adult men over their cat and mouse game. The store owner coveting his best customers (the kids) and the vice principle coveting his job by following the edict from the principle. My favorite pharmacy/lunch counter was near the little triangle park where Hanover meets Park. It was here that I first sat at a lunch counter alone and ordered a BLT, a minor epiphany for me at age 12. The BLT was a masterpiece of understatement, proving the old adage that less is more at least when it comes to BLTs. I also suddenly realized that I could do a lot of the things that adults could do since there was no minimum age on spending cash. (1.15$) This point was further driven home when at the same age I began to deliver papers at 430 AM in the Fan District and often shared breakfast with Richmond’s Finest at the White Tower on Broad. In those days, paperboys also had to “collect” and behind some of those doors on Floyd, Grove and Hanover were some seriously twisted freaks. Ahh, sweet bird of youth!

  4. corndoggie Says:

    Your favorite little lunch-counter pharmacy is now Richmond’s favorite Cuban restaurant, still with a lunch counter:

    Picture of exterior and a bit about Lombardy Park:

    Picture of entrance, still the same but for the name:

  5. corndoggie Says:

    My favorite literature from the JBS bookstore was a small b+w pamphlet with an illustration of of the Beatles sporting Revolver-era haircuts: “The Beatles — A Communist Plot?”

    Sure wish I’d bought one…

  6. J.Edgar was sure that these lovable mop topped lads from Liverpool would spark a revolution in America and he was right, just not the way he thought. Many years later, Her Majesty, the Queen offered John a knighthood but unlike Sir Paul he declined the honor, his rationale being that he could not now accept such recognition from the very same government who wanted to throw him into jail just a few years before. My question is….does Ringo feel ignored?

  7. jude3obscured Says:

    Roto, I seem to remember something you and my brother cooked up with walkie-talkies and the name “Vladimir.”

  8. Wow! It is starting to ring a memory bell. As young as we were we still understood that these Birch people were seriously paranoid about the Commies in our midst. I guess we thought it might be a gas to send one of us into the bookstore to look around and report to our “comrades” on the walkie talkies using our best “Boris Badonoff” voices. The poor man in the book store did seem a little agitated. At that age I suppose we thought we could get away with such pranks. I know better now than to fuel the paranoid fears of delusional and probably heavily armed extreme right wingers. A trick like that today around some “secure” site would have landed us in Juvey for the duration or shot during a “misunderstanding” but those were more innocent days, or were they?

  9. corndoggie Says:

    Definitely more innocent, normal and in accord with traditional American values: in your own words, Roto, “In those days, paperboys also had to “collect”.

    Think about that — the independence, the important mission of delivering the Press upon which a functioning democracy depends, the responsibility for handling and safeguarding an employer’s money, the challenge of interacting with the citizenry unescorted, the awesome power to grant a customer an extension when he couldn’t pay… great for a 12-year old.

    Gone now, with so much else… forever? Is there a path back to normalcy?

    So many American kids today know only structured activities and scheduled playdates. Not many are free to roam around unescorted inventing unstructured activities such as the Boris Badanoff caper.

    We’re so far gone now that mothers routinely tether their teens by requiring them carry cell phones and answer their calls, wherever, whenever. If the phone is on vibrate and in the kid’s pocket, Mommy can give a little tickle-tickle at her whim. Reach out and touch someone, indeed!

    And don’t get me started about (attempted) helicopter parenting of college students, such as trying to get instructors to (illegally) reveal their kids’ grades when the kids won’t tell them or they suspect the kids are lying!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    And you kids get off corndoggie’s lawn!

  11. corndoggie Says:

    Well, speaking of kids on the lawn, the doorbell in our nice-neighborhood-next-to-a-dicey-neighborhood home rang the other day: It was a very sweet 12-year old girl who lives a few blocks down the street, marketing her dog-walking service door to door — with no helicopter parent idling at the curb!

    She regularly walks her own dog from here to Laburnum and back, quite a hike, and way too much for our pint-sized pooch.

    I took her flyer and told her that if we ever needed a dog-walker, she’d be the one. Thinking of days of yore and my paperboy past, I was charmed. But given today’s environment, also a little concerned for her… I hope her dog looks more formidable than ours!

  12. Thanks for the laugh Anonymous! Damned kids today! Ever since Eve asked Cain if he had seen Abel lately the older generation has questioned the lifestyle of the young. Yet somehow the human race manages to endure. Cains reply? ” Am I my brothers’s keeper?” A question I often ask myself.

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