Monday, April 03, 2006

The Duck Lady

There may be a million and one ways to mingle with people and not feel lonely in life. Everything from churches for Christian folk to clubs for the hedonistic and bingo for older folks who need something to do. And now in the electronic age, even online chat rooms of every kind.

There was an elderly lady in the neighbohood who would use the funeral homes along south Broad Street either to socialize, just have something to do, or both. We called her Duck Lady. All you had to do is hear her speak once and you understood why. She had a voice like Donald Duck in the old Disney cartoons, and she spoke loudly so you heard her at the other end of the block. You knew when the Duck Lady was around.

We would see her many times a week, yet there were only two memories I have of her. One is that she would often pull a shopping cart down the street on the way to the store. She would also visit the funeral homes each night to pay respects to each person. From Stolfo, to Monte, to Grasso, to Gangemi, to Leonetti, she had them all covered. If Carto was there at the time, she would have been visiting there too.

I could see if there was food or drink served, there would be something to draw her to those funeral homes. Or if she was a very sociable lady and had lots of friends passing away. But the Duck Lady would simply walk in, stay a few moments after "paying respects", and off she'd go to the next one. I don't believe she attended the morning viewings just before departing for the cemetaries, only the evening viewings. Still, there are wakes every night but I think on Saturday at those places, so she always had somewhere to go.

The Duck Lady is long gone. I think she disappeared sometime in the early 1980s, most likely going the same route we all do in life. One has to wonder if her own viewing was well-attended. With all the wakes she walked into, had she gotten to know the families, it would have been standing room only at her own viewing. I'd believe that she would have had only maybe a few family members or neighbors though. With her being such a figure on Broad Street, one of the funeral directors should have held her funeral at little or no cost. Well, that may be a stretch being funerals are so expensive. Okay, they could have at least laid a plaque in the concrete sort of like they did around Broad & Spruce to honor Philly-area recording artists. There they have the names in stars embedded into the sidewalk. What could they use for this lady to remember her? A bronze plaque shaped like a tombstone or a coffin?

Where have all the characters gone? Walk down South Broad today and you'll see the same old faces over and over, but they're characters aren't as defined as those we knew in our youth. We need more Duck Ladies to keep things interesting.

Appparently this isn't a local phenomenon. I saw a rerun lately of an old Good Times show on TV Land. It was the episode where James Evans passed away. Near the end of the program, I can't remember if it were the preacher or funeral director, but someone had said good bye to an older woman and said they'd see her tomorrow - at yet another funeral. She was a regular just like Duck Lady? Could it be the writer of that episode spent some time on Broad Street?

Going to confession at St. Monica's on a Saturday afternoon and raising the priest's ire. Rather than the usual standard "Bless me father for I have sinned, it's been 1,472 days since my last confession...", many of us who hung together took a shot at approaching and saying "
Bless me father for I have sinned, I peeled a potato and ate the skin" and then ran out of the confessional. Some of the priests ran out after us, some never did, I guess they just sat there and shook their heads. What does this have to do with Duck Lady or funerals? Absolutely nothing. It's too short for it's own article and I wanted to post it before I forgot about it.

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