CHAKA FATTAH's favorite childhood memory of his mother has nothing to do with her nationally known work with troubled boys.

"On my graduation day from elementary school - I was the speaker - she took me for lunch on South Street," just the two of them.

Bob Brady's most vivid memory has something to do with food, too - sort of.

"Italians are famous for their wooden spoons, so I'd get whacked with a wooden spoon from time to time," he said with a laugh. "She didn't try to hurt me, she just got my attention."

Why bring it up, you ask?

By now you ought to know everything about the mayoral candidates' positions on issues. For God's sake, Fattah published a book of his position papers yesterday.

But with Mother's Day two days away, I wondered: What about their relationships with their mothers?

Do the candidates believe in stop-and-kiss? What did they learn from their earliest advisers?

Many of their answers were what you'd expect from high-profile overachievers with the guts and confidence to take on a grueling mayoral campaign.

They all said their mothers had taught them the critical virtues of honesty and hard work, and always supported their choices.

And most of the moms adhere to a policy their sons sometimes think would be advisable: not to talk with the media - in this case, me.

TOM KNOX lost his mother when he was 20. But he keeps a photograph of Margaret Knox in his dressing room and looks at it every day.

"We had a great relationship," he said.

"Since I was their first, I think she liked me the best. I was the only one who got to go to Catholic school. We couldn't afford much."

When Knox quit school and went into the Navy at 16 to help the struggling family, he got a letter from his mother every day for four years.

"It still chokes me up," he said, his voice cracking.

Knox said his mother "never would have suspected I'd obtain as much success as I have had."

"I know she'd have been proud of the fact that I'm running for mayor of Philadelphia."

Before he left home for college, MICHAEL NUTTER'S mother, Catalina, made sure he was prepared.

"She made sure I knew how to sew, she made sure I knew how to make breakfast, and all my life, dress and manners were just emphasized," he said.

Nutter said his tendency to be a workaholic came from his mother's fierce work ethic.

"And we also learned about sacrifice. It was never about expensive clothes or sneakers or going places or having things. You understood that whatever we had, it had a value and there was sacrifice that went into it."

She did create one problem for Nutter: He can't eat rice pudding without comparing it (unfavorably) to hers.

BOB BRADY'S mom, Enez, has dinner with him and his family every Sunday and spends summers with them at the Shore.

She always knew he'd be a politician, Brady said.

"I'd settle disputes in the neighborhood. I always ran the Little League, the softball teams. I was always the organizer, as far back as I can remember."

Brady said his mother was "the smartest and nicest lady I know. She never has a bad word to say about anybody." And the impact crime has had on her life infuses his campaign.

"She knows how I feel about people like herself who can't get out of the house at night."

CHAKA FATTAH is clear:

"All of what I'm involved in is in every respect directly related to my mom's work."

Falaka Fattah "is an extraordinary woman involved in raising thousands of young men in our city and saving and improving the lives of so many," he said of her work ending gang wars and turning her home into the House of Umoja for troubled youth.

"I got from my mother an understanding that service is the civic rent we pay for the space we occupy."

Fattah said he talks with his mother a few times a week. When they get together, which is regularly, he said, "the main thing I try to do is listen to her. She has a sense about achieving difficult things that's ever present."

DWIGHT EVANS spoke with deep affection about his mother, Jean, whom he talks with every day.

She's outspoken and opinionated and always taught him "to be forthright with people, even if they don't like it," he said. "That's a little trait I have."

Except where his mother is concerned, that is: He makes sure not to disagree with her.

"I just say yes. It makes it a lot easier, for survival's sake. "

Evans said his mom has always been supportive but "is not a big fan of politics."

"She thinks I'm too good for politics and I shouldn't do it," he said with a chuckle. "She doesn't think people appreciate me enough. "

Spoken like a true mom. *

E-mail porterj@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5850. For recent columns: