Sometimes, on one of these too-warm evenings, I dream of lifting the lid of a big old-fashioned cooler and pulling out a 5-cent soda.
Yeah, I said “a 5-cent soda.” Root beer maybe, or lime; perhaps a cola. Orange, grape, birch!
In our East Market Street store back in the 1950s, we sold lots of different soft drinks – national brands, local brands, brands that are history today.
One of my favorites was the Acme soft drink – eight ounces in a glass bottle for just a nickel. That’s a nickel, folks — a nickel. Pop the cap on the side of the cooler, watch the mist waft up and away, then taste that rush of cold, cold flavor.
Well, we can’t do that these days. In fact, there are a lot of old tasty treats you just can’t get any more. Here are some of them.
Laddies chips: A local competitor to the name brands, Laddies was a fairly thick chip that I recall as a tad greasier (and therefore better tasting) than anything on the market in today’s health-conscious times. The 10-cent bag was a generous one for the price, which is why I suppose it bore a stereotypical Scottish motif.
Blue Ribbon cupcakes: These delightful treats were made in Kingston. The company had incredibly good stuff, but my favorite was the moist chocolate cake with coconut cream icing, which I recall as costing a dime.
Empress ice cream: This was the premium line from Golden Quality, a Plymouth company. Most ice cream manufacturers back in the day had their regular brand plus a fancy brand, which cost a bit more and had a glitzier name. You can still see some of the company’s old signs hanging in front of long-shuttered stores.
East Market Street rye bread: We had two unbelievable bakeries in the neighborhood — in fact, right across from us. Keystate and Kornblatt’s were loaded with fresh treats baked daily on site. You could buy sticky buns, coffee cakes, just about anything. But the rye was … I can’t go on.
Chocolate popcorn: Yes, there was such a thing. In fact, there were lots of different flavors made in a Kingston factory. Tasty, aromatic, and a precursor to the gourmet styles for which today you can pay dollars per bag.
A Woolworth’s sandwich: I don’t know why exactly, but the lunch counter at a Woolworth’s had some sort of magic with sandwiches. A simple tuna on white with a side of fries could keep you fueled for the afternoon push at work without setting you back more than 35 cents or so.
Extra-rich milk: As with ice cream, the milk companies scoffed at concepts like skim or two-percent and instead paired their regular with a special high-butterfat alternative. You paid a cent or two more for it, but you believed it was somehow healthier for you because it was “richer.”
Ten-cent pizza: A nice fellow named Tony supplied our store daily with trays of pizza, at a dime a slice, that you could take home and heat up in your oven. That’s 10 cuts for a George, folks. And it was loaded with tomato and cheese.
A big bag of hot, mixed nuts from the peanut store downtown: The aroma itself was worth the trip.
Great old tastes to die for, right?
I have this fantasy that up in heaven I’ll be told I’ve earned a day or two back in my old gustatory haunts.
That, my friends, is something to live for.
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]