Of Mustard and Hot Dogs

This Won a Rebuke for Me from the Hot Dog Vendor

This Won a Rebuke for Me from the Hot Dog Vendor

When I was a grade school student at Saint Henry in Cleveland, I started getting straight A’s after fourth grade. At that time, the Cleveland Press had a program to reward kids like me by giving straight A students seven pairs of baseball tickets for Indians games during the summer. Most of them were for weekday daytime games, so I usually wound up going by myself or with one of my friends.

I remember the first time I ordered a hot dog at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The vendor immediately smeared the dog with mustard, and I blanched. “Could I have one without mustard, please?” I begged. The vendor was plainly irritated. “Kid,” he told me. “There must’ve been something wrong about the way you was raised.”

Well, I certainly had a weak stomach; and, for some reason, I had a particular antipathy to mustard.

Around then, I made an abortive attempt to get into the Boy Scouts. I say abortive because I knew I could never advance to First Class because (1) I did not know how to swim at that time and (2) I had problems memorizing the Morse Code. But I did spend a weekend at Hiram House Camp with the Scouts.

It was not one of the high points of my youth. The weather was cold, so we had the fireplace going all night; and no one knew how to operate the flue. Consequently, we were gagging from the smoke all night. Then—horrors—the next day at lunchtime I had to help wash the dishes, which were liberally slathered with mustard.

Shortly after then, I dropped out of scouting.