Remember how the corner store had that magical smell of red licorice and malt balls?
Yes, you could actually smell it when you walked through the door. All the neighborhood stores had the same sweet inviting aroma of chewy goodness and chocolatey bliss. It was a sweet mixture that greeted you as you stepped inside and the little bell jingled behind you. Hardly a day went by when we weren't passing by the corner store, stopping in, or dreaming of it.
Delicacies such as "Necco wafers" , or red licorice whips , or even those wonderful chewy "Kits" taffys cost only a penny, or three cents (in the case of Neccos). Some eventually rose to a nickel. There was such a wide variety to choose from it made it difficult to choose at times. I usually had my favorites that I always relied on, but there also, was another type I'd try that became a new favorite.
What a Variety!
Aside from my favorites of red licorice and most everything chewy or chocolatey, the selection of penny candy was tremendous. Storekeepers, I'm sure, grew bored at watching me trying to decide on what to spend my eleven cents on. The one-cent assortment featured tasty delights that remain sticky gooey classics stuck in the recesses of our brains:
Bazooka Gum Kits Taffys Licorice Pipes Zotz BB Bats
Licorice Shoelaces Wax Lips Dum Dums Tootsie Pops
Chocolatey & Chewy
Remember how great it was to open a fresh box of Pom-Poms, pop a big malt ball in your mouth or unwrap a Tootsie Roll? And though I loved the likes of Black Cow, Milk Duds or the caramel ecstasy of Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddys, the one-cent candy still offered a great value. It was often fun for us to load up with twenty cents worth of penny candy, then save it for the midnight monster movie that was always featured by channels 2 and 12. Eventually, when more money was available, a guy could spend the grandiose sum required to buy a large carton of Whoppers. I used to eat these things til the roof of my mouth was raw, but Whoppers were worth every bit of it. Some of the neighborhood stores actually had the large whoppers in their candy bins, or boxed on the shelves. They were known to us then as "Malt Balls", and I always loved how chewy and chocolatey they became after crunching the the shell.
The Corner Store
Many a time my friends and I chewed taffy, pulled licorice, and winced at atomic fireballs while watching a multitude of marvelous films such as "The Invisible Man" or "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein", or "The Werewolf of London." Red Hots, Cinnamon Hearts and Hot Tamales were my favorites when I was in the mood for a little nuclear meltdown in my mouth. Hot Tamales were the most tame of the three, and offered a nice after taste once the burning stopped.
There were candy bars that only cost a nickel apiece.
Among the giants, were all sorts of less popular bars like BIG TIME, ZERO, HOLLYWOOD and MILK SHAKE. I recall that MILK SHAKE bars later gained notoriety as being the ultimate freezer candy bar. I also loved Idaho Spud, Rocky Road, Big Hunk, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Nestle's Crunch, Hershey's and Mountain Bars.
For quite a few years, many great candy bars stayed the cost of a nickel for smaller sizes, then eventually grew to ten cents for the full size bars. The 5-cent candy bars eventually disappeared altogether, but quite fortunately, the box candy sold for a nickel, and stayed around for a long time.
The Candy Shelves at the Corner Store
Let's face it; penny candy was the real way to go when spending our dimes and pennies simply because of the bargains. You could get so much for your money (quite unlike today). Penny candy also lasted much longer than a candy bar. Candy bars were great, but only when I had more money in my pocket, and could afford to indulge.
My friends and Iloaded up those little brown bags with chewy and savory delights that might last the duration of a good TV show or two, a long talk with friends, or just something to chomp on our way home from school.
The Bounty on Bottles
Now, everybody has returned bottles to the store; it was the all-American sport. It was also a guaranteed way to have money to spend at the store. If I was resourceful enough, I could make my fortune along the gutters, garages, and forgotten fields of the neighborhood.
The old "stubby" beer bottles were only worth a penny, but they were everywhere. Pop bottles were worth 3 cents apiece as were the quart beer bottles. Quart pop bottles were the biggies; they started off at a nickel, then rose to a dime, but when the strange phenomenon known as "recyling" fell upon us, they soon rose to a quarter!