A Penny For Your Thoughts

Candy 1I think it’s pretty unusual for children – at least children living in a metropolitan area – to walk home from school these days. Just too many crazies out there.

But I would bet many of the Baby Boomers reading this blog walked home from school. Perhaps some rode a school bus, but particularly in smaller communities, getting to and from anywhere was generally on foot. Bill always tells our grandkids he walked two miles to and from school each day and it was uphill both ways! He adds that he had to get there early to get the potbelly stove going. Seeings as he went to school on the south side of Chicago, they are appropriately suspicious on all accounts.

But the part where he tells them he stopped each day on his way home from school at a little grocery store to pick up a bottle of Pepsi Cola and a package of Hostess Cupcakes is true. Many of us had similar experiences.

For my siblings and me, our stop was at a little grocery store called Potter’s, just a couple of blocks from our school. I recall that there were several little grocery stores like Potter’s around Columbus. Potter’s just happened to be the one closest to us. And I’m not talking little as in Sprouts as compared to Safeway. I’m talking little – a couple of shelves for groceries and a couple of coolers for meats and cheeses. In Columbus, our little stores also had butcher shops.

There were a few exceptionally good things about Potter’s. One, it was close to school and somewhat on our way home. Two, it had a HUGE candy case full of penny candy. And three, our Aunt Cork worked there. Our happiness at the third fact is closely related to our happiness at the second fact. Aunt Cork was always generous at doling out the penny candy.

Remember penny candy? When it really cost a penny?

You had pixie stix…..

pixie sticks

And what about those horrendous wax lips…….

wax lips

I loved Slo Poke suckers……

slo pokes

And, oddly, I also loved the wax bottles. You would bite off the tip and drink the one-hundredth of an ounce of sugar water that was in there, and then chew the wax (which was disgusting)…..

wax bottles

And how can any of us possibly forget candy cigarettes…….

candy cigarettes

It’s absolutely bizarre to think about how we would put them in our mouth and then pretend to smoke them, blowing out air in a manner that we felt was highly sophisticated. Talk about an ingenious marketing scheme!

Candy 2There is a really good old-fashioned candy store in Estes Park that we make sure we visit any time we are in the vicinity. Bill loves the bullseye candy. I usually buy him bullseyes, Bit O’ Honey, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Snaps. Instead of a penny, I’m lucky if I can get out of the store for under $20, and that’s with just a small bag. Still, the candy cases are beautiful and remind me of the showcase full of candy at Potter’s.

I guess small grocery stores like Potter’s were the precursors for stores such as 7-11 and Circle K. Those stores are a bit more antiseptic and less interesting. The little stores had just about anything you might need, but much less of it. No big coolers full of soft drinks – or “pop” as we called it, but a showcase full of candy, a few fresh vegetables, a cooler that held cheese and lunch meat, counters with canned goods and Wonder Bread, and a little butcher shop.  One of my childhood friends and I would stop by Potter’s when we were out riding our bikes and buy a string of frankfurters. Remember when wieners were sold by the pound and were strung together? We would tear a couple apart and eat them right there, sans the bun, cold and delicious. At least we thought so.

The days of little grocery stores is over for the most part. I guess you have the bodegas in New York City, and even Denver has some small markets featuring Indian food or Pakistani food or African food. But no little general grocery stores like Potter’s.

But I have one question. Where-oh-where do people buy their Black Jack gum these days?

Black Jack Gum

Did you have a place where you stopped after school to get a snack?


10 thoughts on “A Penny For Your Thoughts

  1. I agree that the closest comparison these days is the little NYC delis on every corner. They are neighborhood stores that carry what their regular customers need and want. But no penny candy!

  2. Tom and I went to Swansons and the Coke factory for our treats. However, a generation later Dad took my kids to Potters in case there wasn’t already enough candy in his bottom desk drawer!

    • Elmer was the same kind of grandpa as Bill. Bill always sends the kids home with a handful of M&Ms from his dispenser, even if it’s dinnertime. The parents are always thrilled. It’s the grandparents’ perogative. Actually, now that you mention it, Bobbi Kresha and I got our frankfurters from Swanson’s and not Potter’s.

      • Swensons was alittle fancier than Potters. Fun memories. I loved it when I went in there and Cork was working.

  3. We went to the liquor store, which I mistakenly called the “licorice” store. It was not on our way home from school, because by the time I was in school we had no place to stop, but it was in the summer afternoons between Kindergarten and first grade when I would either find a penny in the house or bother someone enough that they would give me a penny to get rid of me.

    I used to love Necco’s because I could make them last a long time and there were so many flavors.

    • Gosh, I forgot about Neccos. I LOVED them. Especially the chocolate ones and the black ones (which I think were supposed to be licorice). BTW, it is hilarious that you called it the licorice store.

  4. Kris, the memories of growing up in Columbus really flood back to me as I read your tales. I love Neccos too. I don’t know if you’ve written about it already , but one of my fond memories are of the times Grammie would take you , Becky and me to the Glurs Tavern for ice cream . We would always get our favorite flavors ( mine was strawberry) then slowly saunter back to Grammie and Gramp’s house on the warm afternoon while taking care not to drip ice cream on ourselves . I can almost see the cracks in the old sidewalks, the birds on the phone wires, the summer clouds along the way as I ate the best ice cream cone I ever had. Grammie was always so excited and pleased to take us. But there was a caveat of course: we had to be good. Weren’t we always good if ice cream were the reward ?

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