The Autobiography Project

Your Autobiographies

Raymond J. Horton's Autobiography (submitted 5/11/06)

My grandfather was a well-known fishmonger in North Philadelphia in the 1950s. When I was still young, he brought me into the business.

At 4 a.m. I'd wake, hearing the crickets talk and smelling my stepfather's fresh-brewed coffee. I'd ride my van down 2nd Street to Spring Garden and stop at a breakfast place on 4th. Since my grandfather first took me, I'd been stopping there every morning. Everyone knew me. The cook, waiter, and checkout lady had worked there since I was a child.

"Hi, Mr. Horton," they'd say, "Two hot cakes and chipped beef with home fries and eggs?"

After breakfast, we drove down Delaware to Packer and turned on Lawrence. When I caught the smell of fresh fish, I'd always say, "Time to make money."

Go first to see Max, Billy Bad Ass, and Jimmy the Fish, who owned Acme Seafood and Son. Moving from business to business, bidding on the fish: silver trout, ling, croaker, perch, butter, and shrimp, crab, seasoned crab legs. The prices were random.

Once I'd priced all the fish and paid, I'd start icing them down. First, I grab a shovel and dig into the ice barrow. Shovel after shovel and the boxes are filled. One by one I lay the fish in our cooler. A saying ran through my mind as I worked: "I jump in the sea; I told the fish to follow me. I'm the fish man; I'll be coming round."

Back at home I'd arrange my wares and make it all look so good that the customers would ask me to stop.

I'll forever remember selling fish in the neighborhood fondly, and I thank my grandfather. In my heart I will always sell fish there, even if I cannot go back.

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