On the Kindness of Strangers

My brother directed me to a piece last night featuring a boyhood friend of Joe Biden. The piece opened in front of a place called Hank’s Hoagies. That image brought back a flood of memories of what used to be what you would now call an independent grocery store. In those days, it was known as Hank and Myra’s.

When you hear old people like me wax poetic about the good old days, we may be thinking of places such as Hank and Myra’s. Their store was a block and a half from our home. It was a grocery store but it was also an after-school hangout, a refuge for girls from Marywood, the local women’s college, and, above all, the source of memorable hoagies.

I remember Hank and Myra also for their kindness and trust. Some days I would be walking home from school and Myra would stick her head out and say “Here Rich. Your Mom wants a quart of milk.” My Mom would pay for it the next time she came down.

I remember stories of local college girls who were short on money and hungry. Hank and Myra would spot them with a hoagie and soda, telling them they could pay when their parents’ check arrived. Myra would let the girls talk about loneliness, boyfriend problems etc. while Hank might be outside breaking up a fight.

I remember their penny candy case where wonderful treasures such as spearmint leaves and candy cigarettes and chewy squirrels would be found. Hank and Myra would let me make my own selections out of the case.

I remember delivering their mail once and Myra asking me if I wanted a soda — free!

Hank and Myra were not Catholic but when they retired my home church St. Clare’s honored them with a banquet in thanks for many years of service and kindness in a heavily Catholic neighborhood. They also were honored one year in the Marywood Yearbook.

Their store is no longer a grocery store but still sells hoagies and has maintained a bit of connection as it is named Hank’s Hoagies. I kind of wish they’d named it Hank and Myra’s.

Reflection: Do you have memories of being touched by the kindness of down-to-earth folks such as Hank and Myra?