Our neighboorhood candy store, run by Fred and his wife, Maria was an amazing place. They were an older, German couple (anything from 40 to 70 from my viewpoint) and they kept what seemed like, and still does, a killing schedule. They were open 16 hours a day – 6 A.M. to 10 P.M., Monday through Saturday. Sunday was a short day – only 10 hours. They closed at 4 P.M. Before you start counting on your fingers – it was 106 hours a week.
This was a real old-style candy store. Fred had comic books, magazines, cigarettes, loose tobacco, and cigarette papers. Many people still rolled their own cigarettes, and pot referred to a container. You would also see people buying “loosies”, or individual cigarettes when they couldn’t afford to buy a whole pack.
There were two refrigerated coolers where the bottles of soda and ice cream products were kept. The central feature of the store was a long display case with a glass front. All of the candy in this case was loose candy. Candy was sold a penny at a time – three of those for a penny, a handful of these, four of those, two of these.The candy itself was different. There were watermelon slices; sugar that was shaped and colored to resemble watermelon slices which were then covered with sugar crystals. There were also paper strips covered with little multi-colored dots of sugar, malted milk balls, licorice sticks, licorice whips, sour balls, and so on. There was some wrapped candy, such as lollipops, Tootsie Rolls, Cracker Jacks, Hershey bars, Baby Ruth bars, Mars bars and Milky Ways. We also had an item made of Tootsie Roll-like candy, with a softer consistency, shaped like little kewpie dolls. Looking back, I can’t believe what we called these candies. With a total lack of both sensitivity and any understanding that we might be offending or hurting anyone, we called the candies ni–er babies.
As children, we purchased candy by asking Fred for two cents worth of those, one penny of these. “No, wait. I want a penny’s worth of the other ones.” and so on. It could take half an hour trying to decide how to spend a nickel, and you would walk out of Fred’s with a small paper bag full of candy.
There was a gumball machine in the store, up in front, near the door. You put your penny in the machine, turned the handle and you got a gumball. If you were lucky, you got a gumball with a stripe around it. That gumball would be brought to Fred and you got ten cents credit. There were several striped balls in the dome, and one ball that was silver or gold. That one was the jackpot, worth twenty-five cents.
The candy store is memorable for another reason. Fred extended credit to the neighborhood children. I could walk in and buy a bottle of soda and a comic book and ask Fred to put it on my tab. Fred would take out a marble notebook, open it to my page and add the twenty cents; ten for the soda and ten for the comic book. He allowed us to run the tabs up to one dollar. After that, he would want some payment before extending any additional credit. This was a novel concept for the time, but Fred felt it kept the neighborhood kids coming back. Besides, he knew all of our parents, so there was little risk of getting stuck for a tab.