There were three neighborhood stores. Miss Aida, Miss Robinson, and Miss Durka. Miss Aida was the most popular because she had the widest selection of candy. On top of that, she stayed open until ten in the summer. She got all of our money.
Miss Durka had a real story attached to a car repair garage. She was old even back then but she was nice. Shorty was cool but I always thought he looked rather strange. This biggest problem with Miss Durka is getting a pop was a test of manhood. The pop machine was in the back where she had her German Shepard tied. He wouldn’t bite but he’d jump out at you if you got too close. There were many days my mom didn’t get that bottle of Pepsi. Miss Durka was also next to Nikki’s hotdog stand and she would give us ten cents for each bottle we brought her. So, if you had a buck and a case of bottles, Miss Durka was the spot.
Miss Robinson was what we referred to as ‘on the end’. In reality it was only 1 ½ blocks but we only went past 76th avenue if we were going to Church or uptown, which was two blocks away. That’s Argo living for you, but I digress. Miss Robinson was all about the cakes and cookies. My cousin lived two houses down from her and when we went to the store for her she would let give us candy. Taking the trash out was the most lucrative because then you could a hostess cake.
I write this to paint a picture for you. To illustrate that candy is not just Corn Syrup, Sugar, Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors and Artificial Colors – but it is a way of LIFE for a child. Candy is a way of expressing one’s youth. It enhances our expression of the world. And with that, I give you my favorite candy from my youth.
1. Chico Sticks – If you’ve never had one of these brittle, peanut buttery flavored snacks, then you haven’t lived. This is the type of candy that you didn’t mind getting stuck in your teeth because even the residuals were good. Yeah, that sounds nasty but ya’ll know ya’ll use to do it.
2. Boston Bake Beans – Ten cent a box. I’m not sure what they are made of but they are good.
3. Grape Chews – I’m not sure if this is a regional candy but they were soft very flavorful. They came in all types of flavors but the first to hit the Penny Candy Sto’ were the grape flavored so now that’s what we call them.
4. Now or Later – Pronounced ‘Nowalata’ in the hood, they were a staple of every bag of snacks from the Penny Candy Sto’. The come in all assorted flavors and if you’re lucky you’d get a fresh pack that was easy to chew.
5. Cracker Jacks – There was a plant in Chicago that made these. On a good day you could drive by the plant and smell the caramel and imagine it oozing over the popcorn. The cheap toys inside the bag were what we wanted. A good bag contained a decent amount of peanuts.
6. Dip – This was a package containing two pouches of kool-aid and one candy dipper. Now that I think about it, they weren’t that good but they were popular.
7. Lemon Heads – Everybody should about Lemon Heads.
8. Bazooka Gum – The gum was nasty and the flavored lasted about two minutes. But the treat was the comic inside the wrapper. I collected them for about two years.
9. Alexander the Grape – No one outside of Chicago has heard of these but they were smaller than Lemon Heads and dark purple. Maybe about the size of Red Hots and by the time you finished the box your tongue would turn purple.
10. Caramel Pops – The test was, how long could you lick it without taking a bit. Because once you bit into it, that was it. These were 15 cents so they were a luxury item. Generally, you only got them if you had a dollar to spend. I usually had to wait until my father came by and gave me two dollars. When that happened, oh, it was on then. Those times I could actually afford to get a Honey Bun.