Random Thoughts

Phillips Chicken House 

... The art of buying chickens 60 years ago

Ella Letterie

When I was a little girl, I would walk with my mother from Lexington Street, East Boston, Ma. to Maverick Square East Boston, to a place called Phillips Chicken House. It was approximately 2 miles, but we passed through Central Square where there was a multitude of stores to gawk at. It was then that I learned to go window shopping.

When we arrived at Phillips, you could smell it before you saw the chicken house. The live chickens were kept in a cage, and mama would select one. She then felt the breast to check the amount of meat and to be sure that the chicken was healthy. She also felt at the base of the neck where there is a bag containing grain. When mama decided on a chicken, it was weighed and paid for. We were given the chicken to take downstairs.

Downstairs there was a row of boxes that had holes and covers. There were men who wore rubber boots and rubber aprons. We would give our chicken to one of the men and he would pull the chicken's head back and with a very sharp knife, slit its throat. He would then toss the chicken into Box #1. We heard the chicken fluttering around until it died. It would then be taken out of the box and dunked into a vat of hot water. There were ropes hanging from the ceiling, and the chickens were hung by their feet, and the feathers would be pulled off. The feet would be skinned and the chicken would then get another wash in cold water. At that point, we were given our chicken and we walked home.

The chicken was not dressed of course, so mama had to be sure that all the feathers were off. She plucked any that she could see. Mama chopped off the head and feet and then cleaned out the inside. She took out the intestines, the heart, gizzard, liver, being very careful not to break the "green bag" which is supposed to be poison. At the neck end of the chicken is a bag which contains grain. That is discarded. The innards are boiled to make stock.

In that particular area, we had 2 chicken houses, a corn broom factory, and a store that made Italian Stogies. known as Parodi. We had a grain mill, and a woolen mill, and best of all, we had a ferry. For one penny, a passenger could board the ferry and ride over the creek to Boston. For five cents, you could drive your car on. More about the East Boston Ferry in a later article.

I'm walking down memory lane. One may speak about the "good old days", but I believe we're in the "good new days"

October 1, 1999

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