I grew up a few houses from Al’s …. the local grocery store in my neighborhood. The special thing about Al’s was the candy counter, which became the repository for every neighborhood kids bottle return, allowance, birthday and chore money. Behind that glass counter lived a wondrous assortment of delicious cavity promoting, sticky pleasure.
My generation had no need to make space for new teeth using a Palate Expander like kids do today …. We made space the old fashion way by rotting out our 1st set.
Anytime a kid got some spare change it became a major event at Al’s. Sharing was a custom among us… but you had to be happy with what you got…no whining.. it was going to be some of the second tier stuff… or maybe even something with a bite out of it already. …unless it was a best friend passing out the goodies. But something was better than nothing.
Kids seem to have a song in their voice as they chose each individual piece of penny candy. Picture …Old Al (Grumpy would be a kind description) ……holding the little brown paper bag in his hand as kids ran their sweaty fingers down his spotless penny candy glass case…
Annnnnnd one of those……annnnnnd one of those…….annnnnd one of those…… a quarters worth could take a lifetime but… we knew not to take a break or a breath in the ordering process because Al’s lack of patience was legendary.
If your time at the counter ran out the patience clock, Al would grab up whatever crap candy within reach stuff it into the bag and your done….Get Lost Kid!
So why did we put ourselves through all of that? Candy ….Kids love candy!
I think at the time I’d run through a playground of broken glass for some of my childhood candy treats. I can remember my 1st pretend (reverse) smoking with a pack of candy Kings cigarettes… the powered sugar made a smoke like puff with each exhale. Candy necklaces made a cool colorful ring around your neck after about 5 minutes…. and eating a sugar daddy would be like having lock jaw because your teeth would stick shut after a big deep bite. Fun times…
Remember Dots? …those long adding machine paper tapes with multicolored dots on them? Or how about the mini wax sticks or bottles with the syrup in them? I must have been slow as a kid because someone actually had to tell me not to eat the paper or the wax….
Then there are the old standby’s root beer barrels, Mary Janes, tootsie rolls, bullseyes, squirrel nut bars, red and black licorice whips, orange slices, nonpareils, pixie sticks, smarties, sugar daddy’s, wax lips and fangs, fudge, mint julips… I could go on, but that’s enough to fill a candy bag… seems like a quarter went a lot further in those days.
To be honest looking back the sweetest thing of all was not in those little brown candy bags….My memories of being a part of a neighborhood that cared for and shared with each other… Those to me are the sweetest…..