Olivia Scholz – Pizza Party

My Grandpa spoiled me. When I was 13 years old I wanted to have a “boy-girl” pizza dance party, but there was one big problem. We didn’t have a place in our house to hold such an event. Most houses in Duluth had a living room and dining room, but nothing that even resembled a family or rec room.

If you were lucky enough to own a TV set it was usually in the living room and that’s where your parents would be. My best friend, and I came up with the grand idea of using Grandpa’s basement as he lived next door. He had a full basement under his house, but ours was only a partial basement that had originally been used for coal storage for winter heating. After first obtaining permission from Mom & Dad to have the party in the first place (that included having to “invite my 10-year old brother, Jim) I had to convince Grandpa that this would be a good thing for him. What he would get out of the deal was a cleaned up basement. After a little persuading I talked him into it.

His basement was under the entire house, but it was NOT what you would call a finished basement. There was no sheetrock on the walls and it was pretty dark with only a few overhead bare light bulbs. It was separated into a couple rooms. When you first came down the stairs there was a root cellar where canned goods from the garden were stored along with potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and other root vegetables.

The basement then opened up to a laundry room that held the wringer washer, and a metal laundry sink. I remember Grandpa shaving Fels Naptha soap with his paring knife into the washing machine. I enjoyed helping pull the clothes through the wringer being careful not to get my fingers caught. First the clothes were washed and put through the wringer (they were actually two rollers that squeezed the water out of the clothes). Then refilling the washer for a rinse and putting the clothes through the wringer again repeated the whole process. The wringers would be like today’s spin-cycle in an automatic washer.

However, I have gotten off the subject of my pizza party. After the laundry room there was a fairly large open area that was mainly used for storage and that was our target. First we had to either remove items or somehow camouflage them with tarps or sheets. We swept and cleaned for a week. We put lampshades on the bare bulbs for atmosphere, found empty wooden crates at the grocery store for tables, dragged chairs down the stairs, and Mom contributed red & white checked tablecloths. By the time we were finished it looked like an Italian bistro, sort of. We hauled in our little record player so we could play dance music like “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly. That was a very big hit. We made invitations and delivered them to our guests, decorated, then waited for the “big night”.

I have to explain the pizza. That would be baked at our house next door so Grandpa would not have to be involved with that work. He could enjoy his evening while we were partying downstairs. The year was 1958 and pizza was just beginning to gain a foothold in the American conscience. In Duluth we did not have pizza parlors or pizzerias as we now think of them. What we did have was “pizza in a box” by Appian Way. Not frozen pizza in a box, but a box that contained a dry mix that you made into dough for your crust by adding water. It also contained a can of pizza sauce (tomato sauce with maybe some oregano thrown in) and a small can of grated Parmesan cheese. If you wanted salami or some other ingredient on your pizza you had to add it. We couldn’t afford that since Sissy and I were paying for the pizza so we just had cheese. My Mom agreed to make the pizzas, bake them, and then we would bring them over to Grandpa’s basement.

It was a big success. We had fun dancing to the music, eating “awful” pizza, and enjoying being with our friends. The next day wasn’t so much fun because we had to undo all of our hard work and put Grandpa’s basement back in order. The anticipation was gone so now it was just “work”. It was a valuable experience in my life and my first attempt at entertaining. I’ve enjoyed many more years of giving dinner, birthday, and anniversary parties. As usual Grandpa was there for me allowing me to grow.

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