Monday, September 24, 2007

Elvis pretzels

A digression in Proust's The Prisoner on street-vendors' cries brought to mind a cry I haven't heard — or thought of — for years:

Southern-fried Elvis pretzels,
They are fresh out of the oven.
Or to add the proper emphasis:
SOUTHern fried ELVIS PRETzels,
They are FRESH OUT of the OVen.
The Elvis pretzel man was a familiar figure during my years as an undergrad and grad student at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. He could be found on a short dead-end section of Belmont Avenue, a street that separated the gated campus from the classroom building Faculty Memorial Hall. The pretzel man stood in the middle of the street, which saw virtually no traffic aside from garbage trucks and an occasional university vehicle. In warm weather the pretzel man wore an apron, the kind that proprietors of newsstands wore. In the cold, a shiny ski jacket ("pewter green," I'd call it, if there is such a color). The pretzel man was rather short and fairly broad, with a huge head of hair (more or less the color of his ski jacket). A laundry basket held the pretzels, which, if memory serves, sold for 50¢. Were they really fresh out of the oven? And if so, where was the oven? I have no idea, but the pretzels were indeed warm. They were also salty and chewy. A complete food, sort of, at least to tide one over between classes. I must have eaten dozens.

This little stretch of Belmont Avenue saw at least one other commercial venture during my time at Fordham: a coffeestand, where one could get something more drinkable than what the machines in FMH dispensed. The coffeestand had a short lifespan: its proprietor was almost certainly selling more than caffeine.


April 26, 2012: Found online: a November 9, 1978 Fordham Ram article about Elvis Lamanna, the Elvis pretzel man, complete with grainy photo.

[The Elvis pretzel man bears no relation to the Elvis impersonator Elvis Pretzel.]

More Bronx tales
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Nick DeMaio and the Eldorado

comments: 16

Anonymous said...

The Elvis pretzel man was at Fordham for a long time. I went to school there from 78-82, and he was in the same place then. Prices were 15 cents and a quarter. I think he wore the same jacket when I was there.

His name was Elvis Lamanna, and I believe he brought the pretzels by subway from either Brooklyn or Queens. His chant back in my day was: "GET your ELvis pretzels. FIFTEEN, fifteen." Later, he added the quarter pretzels to his inventory.

Great memory. Everybody who went to class in Memorial was chewing on one of those things...

What years were you at Fordham?

Michael Leddy said...

I'm glad someone else remembers Elvis pretzels -- I have a friend whose years at Fordham overlapped mine, and he swears that he doesn't remember them. I was at Fordham from 1974 to 1980 (I stayed around for an MA).

And now I wonder whether my 50¢ is a misremembering of 15¢. 50¢ does seem a little steep for a pretzel.

His name was really Elvis?

Anonymous said...

the cant was

southern fried elvis pretzels
they are fresh out the oven
they are elvis pretzels

I spent 3 drunken years at fordham but I remember that destictively

Michael Leddy said...

I was missing that third line. Thanks, Anon., for bringing it back.

Fordhamites might also enjoy this post: Nick DeMaio and the Eldorado.

Beth Tarpey Evans said...

I was at Fordham from 1980-84. One of the Pretzel-Man's other cries was: "Southern Fried! 25 or 40!" To this day, I will never understand...

Michael Leddy said...

Me neither, Beth.

Anonymous said...

Fordham, Class of 83. "ELvis pretzels 25 or 40. Southern fried, 25 or 40!"

But some days, when I think the Elvis pretzel factory malfunctioned the chant was "ELvis pretzels 25 - these are slightly thin today - ELvis pretzels 25 - these are slightly thin today"

I could have sworn I remember a beat up old boat of a sedan that he used to bring the baskets in, but I may be wrong.

Not sure that I had more than 5 or 6 of them, but THOUSANDS of White Castles!

Michael Leddy said...

Greetings, Class of ’83. Thanks for sharing your memories here.

Anonymous said...

When I was there 85-89, the chant was "Twenty five, twenty five". I think that's all I ever heard the man say. I did manage to get it on tape once, eve.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing your Elvis memory here, Anon. I wish I could hear that chant again.

Anonymous said...

Nostalgically just searched for Elvis Pretzels and found this blog. Fordham College '76-'80 and can still picture him outside FMH saying "Elvis Pretzels, fresh-out-da-oven" (which sounded more like fresh out-ee-o)

Chris said...

Yes 1985 - 1989 here too. and it was 'Twenty-Five, Twenty-Five! Elvis Pretzels.' And Yes he had a large Battlewagon Car, and he pulled the Pretzels out of his Trunk, and his hair was white by then. I would get one on my way to French class, if I had any money which wasn't often.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, an old station wagon. Thanks for your recall, Chris.

I found an article about Elvis Lamanna in The Ram online and have added the grainy photo to the post.

Anonymous said...

YES ! I Graduated Fordham in 1981 and Elvis Pretzels was a regular outside of one of the buildings ! Loved his Pretzels ! Wow !

Anonymous said...

I was at Fordham '87 through '91. I recall Elvis every morning on my way into Faculty Memorial. I can't recall what year it stopped, but he wasn't around anymore by the time we graduated. I feared the worse for our Elvis, but legacy lives on.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Anons. I am happy to know that so many other people remember Elvis pretzels and are willing to share their memories here.