Page 45 - Pat's Tavern
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Pat’s Tavern by Thomas J. CraneJoe’s DeliAlthough I could range far and wide in the neighborhood of Woodlawn in Chicago, where I grew up, I need go no father than a half block from where I lived on Ingleside Avenue to 66th and Greenwood to find Joe’s basement Delicatessen or Deli as some might have it. Every neighborhood had its own deli and they were located in an apartment building and usually in the basement. This was in the age before supermarkets or shopping malls. Most deli’s carried their customers “on the cuff”, that is credit, as these weren’t prosperous times either. When I first met Joe, he was not an imposing figure. The fact is he was rather small in stature with curly dark hair, but he stood straight he told me that he moved his store from the West Side. As I got to know him better, he told me that he served in the First World War and showed me a newspaper clipping where he once shot a would be robber in the leg at his previous location. Still he did not impress me as being very tough. Since this was also in an age where fast food restaurants were rare, Joe served the purpose of providing me with sandwiches sliced fresh from the meat counter. Like any other deli, he had an assortment of canned goods, an ice cooler for pop and a refrigerator for either ice cream cones or hand packed pints. A fresh made sandwich, a package of shoe string potatoes, and a bottle of pop and a cupcake ran me about 30 cents. A complete meal in itself. I would often sit on his pop cooler and devour my food and talk. I usually did this in late afternoon or early evening after the rush was over when I would not be in the way. It was relaxing to spend time with a man who I considered my friend.One evening, I turned the corner and skipped down the stairs and flung open the door while a man in an overcoat was blocking the way. He suddenly turned and as he did, he pointed a revolver right at my stomach. Once I got past the shock and realized that he did not shoot me, I glanced over his shoulder and saw Joe in the corner talking to two other men in overcoats. I then quickly took in the scene. The glass meat cooler had bullet holes in it and a block of cheese had a hole and was splattered all over. Joe nodded at me as if I should go, which I quickly did.The next day I returned and Joe told me what happened. Two robbers came in with guns and Joe did not flinch. He quickly moved around the store and drew guns that he had placed at strategic locations. He laughed as he told me while they fired at him, he had them crawling out on their hands and knees while the bullets whizzed by. After that, Joe took on a new persona as far as I was concerned. I not only saw him as a man of steel,45

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