Mark Belko's article on the Strip District terminal's wholesale produce business ("Why Did It Fail?" Sept. 8) brings back memories -- some sweet, some bitter. A teenager in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I accompanied my father to market. My father owned B. Olender's Market in McKeesport until the late 1950s. He sold a lot of fruits and vegetables to retail customers and wholesale to a hospital, restaurants, school, etc. He did not have the volume to buy at auction in the upper level of the terminal.
Merchants on the terminal platform sold mostly fruit, as I recall. Vegetables were sold mainly by commission merchants in surrounding stores. Merchants were predominantly first- and second-generation European immigrants. On the terminal platform, mostly African-American men loaded customers' trucks. These men were called "mules" by some of the merchants. One African-American gentleman usually helped us load.
One morning, our citrus merchant blamed some error on "the boy." "The boy done it." When the merchant walked away, the chastised gentleman softly told us "the boy done it, the boy. I just learned that my son was killed in action and I'm still 'the boy.' " This racism and injustice mentality was probably a factor in my deciding to become a lawyer.
A revival of produce at the terminal is unlikely because the market for merchants has faded away with the small grocer. Huge supermarket and merchandising chains have eliminated their value.
Thanks for the memories, I guess.
JACK H. OLENDER