I grew up in the Marieville section of North Providence, RI. After delivering my paper route, I would always stop in at Doc’s PX, near the corner of Charles and Mineral Spring Avenues in North Providence.
Doc’s was a little red store; no more than 11’x17’. The store had everything – newspapers, cigarettes, soda, Italian bread, and of course, the famous candy counter offering every type of penny candy. When I was not inside, I hung around the corner with my friends.
Doc was a man that would literally give you the shirt off his back; a man everyone loved. He loved his customers. He would hold court behind the counter with a big cigar in his mouth… always with a quip and always razzing the kids coming in. Of course, when you are in your early teens you weren’t mature enough to wonder who that man really was or how he got to run Doc’s PX.
This is what we did not know. His name was Dante Nigris. He died in 2014 at the age of 93.
As with most men of that vintage he served in World War II. He never spoke of it, but we learned he was in battles in North Africa, Sicily, Belgium and D-Day at Normandy. He was awarded two Silver Stars for bravery and two Purple Hearts for action in central Europe. For a time, he was a German POW before escaping.
That was Doc, the hero who ran Doc’s PX and sold penny candy.