To this day, we still keep scratching our heads and wonder why our old folks called this short street “crooked road” which actually was the end part of Ponciano Reyes St. that merged with San Pedro St across City Hall. The famous Lolengs, Davao’s celebrated eatery in the 50s, specializing in bibingka and native delicacies did good business right on this very corner.
Take a few steps towards the back side of the eatery and you will find a shoe shine alley which strung up several shoeshine stands flushed to the side of a wall. In the 50s, gamblers, thugs and shady characters would hang out at this not-so-pleasant, menacing and shoddy part of downtown. Folks conveniently avoid treading on this despicable area by fleeing to the other side of the street for safety and peace of mind.
Goon-faced bootblacks, who were in their late 20s and early 30s usually charged twice the regular shine tab due to their special customized service of ensuring a sharp, glossy finish on each pair of dress shoes. Other teenage shoe shiners of lesser calibre, usually worked Osmeña and Rizal parks during summer school break for their pocket money.
Discriminating clients preferred the “Loleng’s shiners” to work a good shine on their fancy leather footwear. Most customers were the prominent city politicians, lawyers and businessmen. Further back was one of the biggest, cavernous pool halls in the city called the Sportsman Billiards Hall, a clammy, sweltering place, populated by rowdy pool- crazed youngsters, students and bums. Every day, pool sharks hang around the damp and musty hall, patiently scouring like vultures ready to swoop down on an easy prey for a fast buck pool match.
The 3 Sisters snack center in downtown San Pedro St. had truly left a lasting and delicious legacy to so many Davaweños. Even those who had left the city in the 50s and 60s kept pushing the question whether the famous food paradise was still out there. (The early morning big fire of 1964 incinerated and wiped out all stores and shops along San Pedro and Magallanes Sts).
Before it moved over to Claveria St., not far from Juberz Tailoring and Tabora Funeral Home, the original Biema Shoe Shop was the next door neighbor of 3 Sisters, followed by Botica Pascual, Ang Mahunit Dept Store and Filidian Bazar. Across Giftmart on the other side of the street was Raymundo’s Tailoring and Aroma’s Bakery. Every afternoon, Aroma, as the name connotes, emitted an appetizing whiff of fresh oven-baked bread and pastries that wafted outwards to the sidewalk catching the attention of people in the vicinity. The popular “open top” loaf bread was a favorite item in the bake shop.
A young, skinny, paraplegic, Pepito Manriquez, deceased, turned this spot into a shoe shine turf for his own livelihood. He earnestly worked his way to become a lawyer and later reached his shining moment by becoming the Dean in the College of Law of the University of Mindanao. A chinese eatery called Chicago Restaurant showed a dour-faced, emaciated Chinese behind the cash register at the main entrance, with eyes probing on people ambling along the sidewalk.
To be continued.
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