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Kensington’s Joshua the Pretzel Boy

Graphic of a pretzel with Allegheny Station at the corner of Kensington and Allegheny Avenues in the background. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio, Photo illustration by Zari Tarazona)

Truth be told, “Joshua the Pretzel Boy” was inspired by the song, “Eli, the Barrow Boy” by the rock band The Decemberists

If you grew up in Kensington during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, selling pretzels may have been one of your major sources of income, along with shining shoes and collecting papers and rags. 

Let’s do the math. With just two trips to the pretzel bakery, you can turn a dollar into $4. To put that into perspective, $4 in 1968 has the purchasing power of $34.39 in 2023, per the inflation calculator. Picture yourself as a 10-year-old during this time. A 3 Musketeers candy bar was a nickel. As the kids would say, you were living large.  

Now with the exception of selling their goods, walking up and down the street, and having a passion for corduroy, Eli and Josh had very little in common. Eli’s wheelbarrow was filled with coal and marigolds, while Josh’s empty beer box was filled with pretzels, a dish towel, a butter knife, and mustard. Eli was trying to earn money to buy a fine robe made of silk and Arabian thread to bury his lover in. Joshua just wanted what all the other kids had. 

Joshua the pretzel boy

Wakes up before the rooster

Sells his pretzels every day

Wants to buy his first computer

Mommy’s mustard and a butter knife

A kitchen towel when it’s done right

Keeps the pretzels nice and warm

When you tuck it nice and tight

Josh is wearing corduroy

Even though it’s summer time

Says it’s clean, it fits, I’m wearing it

What’s the difference anyway?

In the battle with our poverty

Josh walks tall and proud

That’s the Irish Catholic way

A Kenzo takes a vow

Computers came for Christmas

For most of Josh’s friends

But Josh’s dad was short this year

You know how it is

The morning brings the dawn

The dawn summons the soul

Throughout the streets of Kensington

Josh will sing his song

It’s music to our ears

A symphony for some

When you’re really hungry

Josh can be a godsend

Joshua the pretzel boy

Wakes up before the rooster

Sells his pretzels every day

Wants to buy his first computer

Editors: Siani Colón, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Siani Colón

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