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I forget who wrote it but there was a post recently about eating pizza and it took me back to 1956!

I had just hitchhiked from Hollywood, California, to Miami Beach, Florida--it was a different world then! My aunt managed an apartment building on Washington Avenue just below 5th street and she also worked as a waitress at an Italian restaurant across the street. She got me set up in an apartment, let me enjoy a week as a tourist going to the beach, movies, bars, etc., and then walked into my apartment to tell me my vacation was over that it was time to get to work.

She took me shopping to get black trousers, socks and shoes and a white shirt. At first she put me to work as a waiter teaching me how to carry 5-6 plates at a time and have fun while I was working. After a week the boss came up to me and asked me if I would like to learn how to make pizza and I jumped at the chance.

The pizza making room had a large oven to bake the pies in, a counter to make the pizza and a tray of all the toppings--life was simple then as you didn’t have all the ‘fancy’ toppings you have now. The room faced the street and had a big window in front that would allow people to see you making the pizza. I thought I would hop in and start flipping, twirling and tossing the pizza crust to rousing applause. It didn’t happen that way!

The first week I had to learn how to make the dough from scratch in a huge mixer using a large scoop for the ingredients. Then I had to practice stretching the dough into a circle making sure the outside was higher and thicker than the inside and how to repair a hole in the center if I made one--and I did that first week! I learned about scooping the sauce--also home made--spreading it around with the back of the scoop and then measuring the cheese with my eye and spreading a certain amount evenly over the sauce. After that is was putting the toppings on, again just using a certain amount though with things like pepperoni it could be weighed on a small scale. After a week of flipping the soon to be pizza crust in the air, learning how to almost reach the ceiling and then have it land right on my fingertips and all in all, as the boss said, putting on a show, I was ready for the front window. (By the way back then we didn’t wear gloves putting the mushrooms, onions, salami, etc., on the pies and, as far as we know, no one got sick!)

I loved that job, the attention I got, the applause after I finished getting the pie ready and then putting it in the oven with a big flat ‘shovel’ not moving the pie but removing the shovel without tearing the crust or messing up the toppings.

At that time in South Florida most of Miami Beach closed down from Memorial Day to the week before Thanksgiving because of the heat, humidity and lack of tourists so I found myself out of a job but did work as a bellhop at the Sea Isle until November when I got a job as a waiter at Piccolo’s, one of the best restaurant jobs I ever had, but that’s another story!
Because of the training at the other restaurant I was able to help the cook here make the garlic rolls and once in awhile toss up a pizza--but it was back in te kitchen not where the public could see you.

To this day I can toss a mean pizza!

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