Hippety hop to the candy shop
To buy a stick of candy
One for you and one for me
And one for Uncle Andy.
When I lived in Columbia, Mo as a child I was only a block away from the little Lee St. Store dug under a hill where I could buy candy but since it was so hot I got a popsicle or bottle of pop from a cooler where I could reach down into the icy water and pull out a bottle of grape or orange. There were wire backed chairs with wooden seats and a little round table where I could sit and cool off with my pop. There was a kindly elderly couple who owned the store and it was only half a block away if I cut through the neighbors back yards and ducked under a little fence… sometimes I roller skated to the store. I bought Donald Duck and Little Lulu comic books there, but if I bought Wonder Woman I had to take it back because my mother deemed it too violent. Outside I could find mills in the grass worth less than a penny. World War II was raging and everything but fear was in short supply: sugar, shoes, gasoline, rubber.
Fear was in the air and sometimes I imagined there were monsters under the bed and in the dark closet in my room. I walked in my sleep. I dreamed of a ghost ship sailing around the seas with no one to steer it. When I was six I got double pneumonia right after Halloween. I had feverish nightmares and Popeye was chasing horrible monsters. Thanks to sulfa drugs I recovered but missed six weeks of first grade. Mother taught me how to read thankfully and fed me egg nogs to build up my strength as I recovered. In the winter the air was filled with soot that fell like snow since people burned soft coal. No wonder I had pneumonia.
When I was in third grade a boy my age would pedal me from school to the Lee St. store on the back fender of his bike. Then he would buy a Popsicle for both of us and split it down the middle. This did not last. One fine spring day he pushed me into the bushes when we got to the shop and he did not split a popsicle with me. Why I asked. He told me he was saving money for an electric train. That was that.
A year later we moved to Evergreen St. in East Lansing MI. On our drive from Missouri to Michigan we drove into a small town in our old Plymouth and there were horns honking. It was the end of WWII. Oh joy.
Few apartments were available at the end of the war so we lived in a shabby little upstairs apartment but there was a little candy shop down the hill and only two blocks away from where I lived and a very crabby old lady was behind the counter. There my neighborhood friends and I could buy wax lips, all day suckers, bubble gum and sometimes balloons. I loved balloons but they were in short supply right after WWII. If I heard a rumor about balloons, I would inquire and the old lady would tell me not to waste my shoe leather. There weren’t any. But the wax lips were fun. We put them on our faces—great big red wax lips and then we could chew on the wax for hours after we got tired of wearing them. The all day suckers took a long time to disappear—maybe three days.
Vivid memories of long ago linger: some sweet and some bitter sweet