J. Frank Kernan, Reminisences of the Old Fire Laddies and Volunteer
Fire Departments of New York and Brooklyn,1885:
"Catherine Lane was at one time a favorite resort for old colored 'aunties,'
who with their cedar-stave pails filled with smoking-hot ears of golden corn,
and dressed in a clean gown and apron, would nightly sit on the corner curbstone
and in a rich, melodious voice sing out:
'Hot corn, hot corn,
Here's your lily-white corn;
All you that's got money
(Poor me that's got none)
Come buy my lily hot corn,
And let me go home.'
I can still see the large gold hoop-rings that hung from their ears, far
below the yellow, blue, and red striped bandanna, so nicely plaited and folded
over their shiny, well-combed hair. It was often a question in the mind
of the old fire laddie on his way home nights whether to luxuriate upon
a lily-white corn or a nice baked pear, which the tidy 'aunties' carried
around in a deep glazed earthenware dish, floating deliciously in a warm
bath of home-made syrup. Who eats hot corn now, from a street peddler? Not
I, nor you. Water Street sailors, or those who have not as yet eaten their
peck of dirt, may do it."
"Speaking of Catherine Lane recalls the days when the 'mint girls' traveled
through this locality in particular, and others in general, selling their
mint from willow baskets that hung on a white spotted calico sleeve that covered
a white dainty arm. Well do I remember the sweet voices that sang out 'Red-dish-shees,'
'Mint and Strawberries,' and the pretty mouths and lips associated with those
Who has not heard the story of the old fire laddie who, in mischief, called
after one of these pretty peddlers, giving certain information as to her stockings,
but gave her credit for her smartness in reply? Things have changed, and
the sweet voice, sweet face, and sweeter gossip have been driven off, to
make way for brown-skinned Dutch girls, with dark-spotted calico frocks and
gay aprons, who, to your questions, make billingsgate replies, and think no
broad remark an insult, as they sell their goods."