Sunday, April 27, 2014

Louie's Candy Store

If you grew up in the fifties, you probably spent a lot of time hanging around the local candy store. Every block or two had a candy store on the corner. Our candy store was Louie’s on Fulton Street under the el (translation: elevated train). These neighborhood institutions were places where people came in to buy candy, place a bet on the daily number with the local bookie, make a phone call (in the days when not everyone had a phone) or even buy a replacement tube for your television set, after using the tube testing machine to see which one was burned out. (Yes, I am that old.) There must have been a school of some kind where future candy store owners trained, because they all looked and acted the same...non-descript and cranky

Before refrigeration was so commonplace, candy stores kept their bottled sodas in a red ice chest like the one pictured. Soda that had been sitting in this box for a couple of days would cause an instant “brain freeze” when the first frosty gulp hit the back of your throat. I can still taste it. Besides Cokes, Pepsis and Seven-Ups there was the Mission brand line of flavors....pineapple, cream, sasparilla, lemon-lime and fruit punch. All sodas cost a dime and there were no diet sodas...not invented yet. The first one I remember is Tab.

Penny candies were kept behind a sliding glass counter and included peanut-shaped smarshmallows, wax lips, licorice pipes, Mary Janes and those colored sugar dots on the long paper strip. Before water was fluoridated, every kid had a mouth full of cavities. The better candies were kept on the counter where Louie could keep an eye on them. If we were broke, we were not above liberating a Three Musketeers, Clark Bar, Snickers or Chunky Bar. A while back I sent a friend who loves Chunkys a box of them to surprise him. They were about half the size we remembered and just didn't taste the same.

Louie also sold ice cream...either by the pint which was hand packed into a cardboard container, or such specialty items as Mello-Rolls (a cylinder-shaped ice cream you put in a specially shaped cone, and even Dixie Cups, small containers of ice cream with pictures of celebrities in the lids. We traded these among ourselves. (This was way before video games.) We all had a crush on Flo, the older woman (probably in her thirties) who worked behind the counter. Flo was always nicely dressed, wore "fallen woman" make-up, and sensing our schoolboy crushes on her, strung us along to break the monotony of making egg creams all day.

Louie's had a soda fountain where we bought ice cream sodas, lime rickeys, and of course egg creams. Interestingly, this delicious soda fountain drink contains neither egg nor cream, just Fox’s u-bet syrup, seltzer and a splash of milk. (If the candy store guy ever tries to serve it to you in one of those cone-shaped paper cups instead of a real glass, just turn around and run.) Louie's also served amazing sundaes and ice cream sodas, two scoops.
Louie and his wife slaved in the candy store day and night to put their son through medical school. After he became a doctor, the son stopped coming to the store because he felt embarrassed by his parents.

One of life's cruel ironies in the old neighborhood.

(Originally published August 25, 2008)

LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

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