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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    The Good Old Days: Club 41 and the thief

    The old Club 41 restaurant in Norwich. Photo submitted

    Once upon a time, the city of Norwich was the center of activity, bustling with fine stores and restaurants. Those of us who lived during this era will understand why the 1960s were called the “Golden Age” for Norwich.

    For a teenager like me, there was an abundance of opportunity, and jobs were plentiful. I remember one year I worked at Burger Chef, Genovese Drug and Beebe’s Dairy. One job I did keep was a summer job at the Norwich Motel as a chambermaid that continued all though my high school and college years.

    Growing up in Norwich would not have been such an adventure if not for my cousin Bobby. My cousin was two years older than me, big and rough around the edges. But when it came to work, my cousin was ambitious.

    He worked at Teppers, Sheraton Motor Inn, Kelly Junior High School and Burger Chef. The job I remembered most was when he was a dishwasher at Club 41 and responsible for cleaning the restaurant after it closed.

    Bobby was honest. He was someone you could trust with your life. However, this story is about the time he was accused of a terrible crime: stealing.

    Our family was related to the owners of Club 41. After school, I would often meet Bobby for dinner. One afternoon we were enjoying dinner together when the manager stood at our table, his face red.

    “Bobby, last night you ate all the leftover pizza in the fridge! And the cook said his Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is missing.”

    No matter how much Bobby tried, the manager would not believe him.

    He stood for a moment observing Bobby.

    “I see you are a big boy. You cannot help but eat. But I tell you this, you will steal no more.”

    The next day, the manager was livid with anger.

    “Last warning, Bobby. And you know what comes next.”

    Bobby did what he always did when he had trouble. He called Nunzio Falcone, our grandfather.

    At midnight, Nonno arrived in his black Cadillac. He parked near the restaurant while Bobby and I sat in the back seat.

    He chuckled and lit a cigarette. “Now, we wait until the thief comes.”

    Hours later, Nonno woke us from our sleep.

    “Look who just arrived.”

    We looked outside and saw a man wearing a black hoodie. He went to the side of the building, pried open a window and climbed inside.

    “Should we call the police Nonno?” I asked.

    “No. We handle ourselves. When a man steals food, his family is hungry.”

    We went outside, and Nonno told us to hide. He stood by the building, just close enough to reach the man when he came out. Soon the window opened, and a pillowcase stuffed with food was thrown outside.

    As soon as the man climbed out, Nonno grasped his arm.

    “Please,” said the man, “My kids are hungry,” and began to sob. “I had no choice. We are living in a tent by the railroad tracks.”

    After a few minutes Nonno handed him a card.

    “You call this number. Tell him, Nunzio sent you. He will give you work and a place to live.”

    On the way home, Nonno looked at me with eyes of mercy and love.

    “Nipote. We are lucky. Always remember, there are people living in this world with less and we must help them. Si, capisci?”

    I smiled, feeling proud of my grandfather. “Si, Nonno, capisci.”

    Concetta Falcone-Codding is the author of “The Lonely Nest.” To contact: concettafalconecodding1@gmail.com

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