Think I’ll run down to the corner store and pick up a huge, tasty Mars bar – you know, the old-time version with a couple of in-your-face almonds on top – plus a copy of the New York Mirror so I can catch up on my big-city celebrity news.
Ah, in my dreams, in my dreams!
The Mars bar of today is OK, but strictly junior varsity with its chopped-up nuts. The Mirror, which once dazzled me with its tales of movie and stage celebs dining and dancing in famous Manhattan night spots, ended up years ago reporting on its own demise.
They’re just two of the treats you once could sashay into your neighborhood store and buy. Here are a few more old staples that now might as well date from the time of the pharaohs.
Individual Dixie cups: Yes, you can buy packs of these little ice cream treats (or one of their imitators) at the supermarket. But on hot days of yore, you could trot into the shop at the end of the block with a nickel and pick up a single serve for yourself, with — best of all — a neat photo of a sports or movie star inside the lid.
Cigarette loads: Oh boy, what fun it was to stuff one in your buddy’s smoke and watch in glee as he took a couple of puffs and his Old Gold blew up in his face. For just 5 or 10 cents, you could buy a tin and entertain yourself and friends for a week.
Stick pretzels: Whether you’re 5 or 55, sometimes a huge, salty log pretzel just hits the spot. They’re available in boxes and bags today, but nothing beats the aroma wafting from a tall jar as the storekeeper pulls one out, for the magnificent sum of one penny.
Rolls of caps: Who didn’t have an arsenal of cap guns as a kid? Noise, smoke, cries of “put ’em up, you dirty rat” — fun, fun! Of course, you also needed countless rolls of caps since you’d burn through so many in pursuit of justice. They came in boxes that cost a couple of pennies, tops.
A game of pinball: Some evil force has swept away all the pinball machines that used to stand in stores, and now — costing a fortune — are found only in yuppie basement rec rooms in upscale zip codes. A symphony of clanging and banging and ringing and flashing lights punctuated by the occasional swear word told the world you were having a good time.
Crime comics: Bearing titles like “True Crime” and “Crime Does Not Pay,” these 10-cent mags could be a bit violent and lurid, and eventually Congress forced the industry to tone them down. I still sorrow that I could not find one I heard about named “Crimes by Women.”
Dime headache remedies: The corner store always had near the cash register a pasteboard card with little two-pill packets of some sort of miracle cure for the throbbing pain you felt when you heard that your buddy vowed to pound you senseless because you loaded his cigarette or laughed when his pinball game tanked.
Discussion group: Store proprietors were never too busy to talk with your dad about how all the world’s problems, starting with Joe Stalin, could be solved if only … etc., etc. That freed you up to spot more stuff for dad to buy you.
By the way, whatever did happen to “Crimes by Women”?
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]