Saturday Night at the Whelan's
by Richard Diem
The year was 1952 and I was a delivery boy and sometime clerk working the cigarette counter in the drug store. I also washed floors and simonized the boss’s car on a slow Saturday or Sunday afternoon. This corner drug store was part of our six story apartment house and I had to go into the basement laundry room to get pails of water to do my mopping. Saturday night was the floor wash time. This would usually occur around 10:00 p.m. The store closed at 11:00 p.m.
Now to get to the basement I had to walk outside the store along the street and back into the building. Looking back I wonder if Mrs. B. watched for this. She could have seen me from windows in her house across the street. When I got back to the drug store, she’d soon after followed me in. Then my boss, Jack would tell me to take care of any customers that came in, and the two of them went into the back room. Few customers ever came in by then because it was late and the floor was wet from my mopping to the background music from the radio.
Now I must say I did enjoy the radio music Jack played and I particularly remember he liked Jo Stafford singing, “You Belong to Me.” I also remember Mr. B. and what a nice guy he was. I waited on him often at the cigarette counter. I’d see him and then reach for two packs of Pall Mall. At some point I got to wondering, “Who did Mrs. B. belong to?” I knew what the sound of music from the back room meant. I never peeked. After a half hour or so, Mrs. B. walked out and said goodnight, and then out came Jack who may have been a good druggist but sure was clumsy at wiping off the lipstick. Funny coincidence or not but Jack and Mr. B were both short and bald.
Even today some sixty plus years later on the rare occasion when I hear Jo Stafford sing this song, I immediately see in my mind’s eye Jack wearing lipstick and then a fast goodnight from Mrs. B. and she’s out into the night and I would guess home to Mr. B. “What did you buy, dear?” I always wondered about this as this was not a onetime visit. Jack always praised me for mopping the floor so well and taking care of the counter when maybe he should have said, “Great lookout job,” and paid me a little extra...Poor Mr. B.
Richard Diem came to Sunnyside early in life, attended PS 150 and JHS 125. and L.I.C. H.S., after which he entered the Marine Corps. He went on to become the franchised manager of a newspaper home delivery service and later, a Postal Service mail carrier. He is a minister to the homebound through his church and a professional caregiver forced into retirement by Covid-19. He loves writing about his childhood memories