I was reminiscing with a friend about Morelli’s. Back in the day, before Walmart, this land was populated by mom-and-pop shops.
I loved the mom and pops. I remember going to one in Beechview, up the road from my nana’s house. It’s where I bought some of my first comic books and baseball cards, Adam Warlock and Manny Sanguillen, respectively. I even had a collection of Battlestar Galactica cards, back when Starbuck was a boy.
Lillian and Lou Morelli were the affable owners of Morelli’s, literally a mom and a pop of the shop. I guess they didn’t call them mom-and-pops for nothing. Morelli’s was at the junction between Lindsay and Victory, a stone’s throw from the Scott Township Municipal Building and police station (kids, don’t throw stones at the police, I'm just saying).
I think every child on Lindsay Road has fond memories of riding their bikes to Morelli’s and grabbing some penny candy (it was never a penny, but that’s what we called it for some reason).
My friend’s Sheri and Gail were partial to French onion dip more than candy, but we all went down there for something. My mom always went for the extra-lean ground beef or the Parma sausage. Morelli’s saved us from driving to the strip on more than one occasion.
Lou was a fine, old, Italian gentleman; his wife, Lillian, was more interesting. It seemed to me that she was always dressed in a white and blue floral housecoat, like one of the Flintstone’s or Jetson’s she always wore the same clothes. At least, it seemed that way to me.
Lillian had an odd affectation. She used to sneak small bites of the chipped ham. It wasn’t that she used to sneak the ham shavings, it was the way she did it. She would stare at the ceiling, unhinge her jaw like some voracious snake, and power it down her gullet, wiggling her neck as if she were some great unimaginable beast swallowing a live animal.
It was disturbing to watch, and, like a car crash, we were unable to look away. Oh you’d pretend to be looking at a can of LaSueur peas (ridiculously overpriced French peas, especially at Morelli’s), but you were secretly getting some visceral thrill from watching Lil gobble the finely sliced ham bits, like the Kraken about to swallow Andromeda in “Clash of the Titans (the original, not the stupid remake).”
The chipped ham never stood a chance.
While reminiscing, I realized I may not have gotten all of the details right. I’m sure Lillian Morelli had more than one outfit. Also, for the sake of full disclosure, “Clash of the Titan’s” came out in 1981, long after I had seen Lillian devour her prey.
But this story has a sad ending. Mr. Morelli passed ten years ago 10 years ago today (July 6, 2001). Though, Mrs. Morelli is still with us. Hide your chipped ham.