In my previous column I wrote about Carbondale grocery stores of a bygone era.
The ink wasn’t dry on the newsprint before I had an e-mail from Marianne Falvo Maglio voicing her disappointment over the fact that I hadn’t mentioned the various businesses operated by her relatives, the Zazzeras.
“How did you forget us?” she asked.
I didn’t forget the Zazzeras I just hadn’t set out to mention all of the 40 groceries that operated in Carbondale when I was a youngster.
However, Marianne’s message was a perfect segue into a subject I had been considering — the Dundaff Street Viaduct at the top of which was a grocery and a tavern both operated by Zazzeras.
The viaduct, which spanned the tracks of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad’s Carbondale Yard, had “legs” connecting it with Dundaff and Fallbrook Streets.
According to L.F. Loree’s D&H centennial history, it was built by the railroad beginning in 1922 to alleviate grade crossing problems caused by heavy rail traffic.
The Zazzera grocery and the Viaduct Café were in a three or four story building at the top of the viaduct. It must have been built after the bridge, but after a whole day’s research I haven’t found out when.
Apparently the store was established by James and Mary Cassaro Zazzera whose daughter, Benedetta, and her husband, Marino Zazzera, established the Ben-Mar Restaurant in 1963. (They were from two different Zazzera families.)
The 1967 Carbondale City Directory, checked for me by Dr. S. Robert Powell of the Carbondale Historical Society, says the adjoining beer garden — the Viaduct Café — was owned by Anthony and Sandra Zazzera.
Members of several of the extended Zazzera families worked in the grocery store before moving on to other pursuits.
Chauncey operated a supermarket in Forest City for nearly 44 years before retiring. Marianne Maglio, his cousin, worked there for 25 years.
Frank, Chauncey’s uncle, went on to operate a large market on Church Street in Carbondale.
Marino, after a stint in minor league baseball, ran a sweet shop at North Church Street and Lincoln Avenue before he and Benedetta established the Ben-Mar in a former D&H division office on Main Street.
There undoubtedly were more Zazzeras who cut their teeth in the grocery business at the store atop the viaduct.
The big bridge and the building that housed the grocery and saloon today are nothing more than a memory. They were razed in 1983 shortly after the D&H switched its traffic to the former Lackawanna Railroad between Binghamton and Scranton.
When the thriving D&H built the viaduct there were at least 24 one-hundred-car trains a day running up and down the Penn Division between Wilkes-Barre and Oneonta, N.Y. The northbound ones stopped in the Carbondale yards to add pusher locomotives that were needed to attack the fabled Ararat hill.
The Erie, which shared the route, added another four or five.
Added to these were “mine runs” that gathered coal from breakers along the line. The Dundaff Street crossing was blocked much of the time.
My mother, who lived on Green Street and walked to high school classes on the other side of the tracks, often told how she had a perfect excuse if she was late: “There was a train on the crossing.”
At the time the D&H was flush with money and could afford to build the bridge. The situation changed as the anthracite industry faded into near oblivion, taking the coal traffic with it.
When the opportunity arose, the D&H bought the former Lackawanna mainline from Binghamton to Scranton and abandoned its Carbondale operations. The viaduct has been replaced with a grade crossing that is sometimes blocked by trains carrying sand for the area’s natural gas drilling industry.
Things have changed in nearly a hundred years: The D&H has been replaced by the Delaware-Lackawanna; the viaduct has given way to a grade crossing; the waybills that once said “coal” now list “sand” as cargo in the hoppers; the restaurant and bars that have been “under the viaduct” are out in the open again.
Ed E Rogers is a Carbondale native who spent 70 years as a reporter and editor for regional newspapers. He frequently shares his memories of his home town with Advantage readers. He can be reached at EdERogers@aol.com.