Pooles Store: In New York City , a place like Poole's would be called a Mom and Pop store. We had a problem calling it
a Mom and Pop store for many reasons. Although there was a Mrs Poole we never saw her. She stayed upstairs in the living area of this
converted bungalow style house. And besides Old Man Poole was such a grouch nobody thought of him as a Pop.
The store wasn't in a crowded
city block but in the small town of Avon where the next door neighbor lived in a house separated by a field . A few yards away was
the Avon Gifford School, grades 1-12, a wise business location. To enter the store it was necessary to climb two granite block steps.
Once inside it was like a present day kid's emotion when he sees Disney World for the first time. On the left was a long glass case
with trays of candy. Some of these delights sold for a penny each and others could get you two or three for a penny. Beyond the candy
case was a counter with nickel candy bars and a little further a counter with pastry delights. On the right , the mundane items like
bread , sugar, and a few canned items could be found.
If you had a nickel, you could fill a small brown bag with five different items.
Some, at two or three for a penny, would help fill the bag. " I'll take one of these and two of those and......" while pointing a
grubby finger along the clean glass at:
Red and black licorice sticks
Mini marshmallow ice-cream cone
Rock candy on a string
Malted milk balls
Boston baked beans
Green spearmint leaves
Root beer barrels
with syrup inside
There were times when we were fortunate enough to have a dime, usually from the luck of finding two
tonic bottles and redeeming the deposit. Walking to the store was a practice in ultimate anxiety.Hamlet was never so troubled with
indecision as I was when knowing I would have to decide between two very favorite confections. Table Talk pies were available in a
little red box and Mr Poole always stocked the two flavors everybody liked, lemon and pineapple. Even today, what seems like a hundred
years later, I still struggle with this decision when we go shopping.
Mr and Mr Lewis ran a variety store in Avon Square.
We frequented the store for more grown-up items than Poole's because we were now old guys in high school. Pepsi and Royal Crown Colas
were popular. Coke was only six ounces and the others were twelve... " Pepsi Cola hits the spot, 12 full ounces that's a lot, twice
as much for a nickel too, Pepsi Cola is the drink for you...nickel, nickel, nickel."
Mr.Lewis was about five feet two and his wife
was about five feet ten. They knew everybody in town and were especially nice to the kids. My uncle Marco used to get his cigars there.
After paying for them he would go into the back room and put coins into a one-arm bandit. Sometimes, Ollie Graham, the police chief
would join him.
Doc Roberts Store
Doc Roberts was an elderly man who owned the only drug store in town. Whenever I got sick, my mother
diagnosed constipation which called for a dose of castor oil. My father would ask me if I wanted to go with him to the drug store.I
would anticipate a soda or ice cream cone. We would climb the granite steps ; he would surreptitiously order a dose of castor oil
which Doc Roberts masked with orangeade from the soda fountain and that was it. After the first swallow there was enough flavor from
the soda to make it recognizable, so things were not too bad.
Avon Square was the place to hang out. It was our version of the present
day hangouts at malls, which didn't exist then.On warm days and early evenings, the steps leading to Doc's drug store provided seating
and a good view of all the activity in the square. Doc and his customers didn't like stepping over and around a group of guys so they
could get into and out of his store. He used to open the door and tell us to leave. Since we only had one policeman in town and since
he would never interfere, Doc had a real problem. One day, he solved it. He got a bucket of dish water from his soda fountain , poured
it on the top step and let it trickle down. There were lots of wet seats to explain at home.
The phone booth was in the front of the
store and to the right. Friday and Saturday nights the booth got a lot of action as guys were calling girls for dates. We didn't believe
in long notices in those days. Every nickel was important. We found a way to make calls for one cent. We would place a penny in the
nickel slot as far down and to the left as possible without letting it drop. We would then place a key on the edge of the penny and
give it a quick snap to the left. If successful, the bell would ring and we would hear " Number Please. " The operator thought she
got a nickel and would place the call.
Every male carried a small red and white cardboard folder in his wallet, which he purchased
from Doc for fifty cents. The sale had to be well planned when no customers were in the store or in front of the store about to enter.
The purchase only had to be made once since the opportunity to retrieve it from the wallet never materialized. We learned the meaning
of" Hope springs eternal "
Doc had another problem. The same guys who loitered on his steps also frequented his soda fountain.He had
a lot of patience when it came to mixing up a coke. The coke came in a six ounce glass in which he pumped the coca cola syrup. But
he would not stop there. The customer might want another syrup added ,vanilla, cherry , orange , strawberry , raspberry , rootbeer
, chocolate ... you name it. Sometimes he would order a grave yard coke which was a little squirt of each. All for the price of five
In the forties, during the war , most of us were taking up smoking. If Joe DiMaggio can smoke why can't I ? The popular brands
were scarce, since the tobacco companies were hooking all the servicemen with free cigarettes in their rations. Lucky Strikes, which
came in a green package, changed to a white package and sold a lot more cigarettes with the patriotic slogan.. "Lucky Strike Green
Has Gone To War", ostensibly to color the khaki uniforms.
Regular brands sold for twenty cents. Cheaper brands became available for
15 cents. These were brands like Marvels , which had a picture of a rooster on the pack with the slogan, "Worth Crowing About "There
were also Wings, Rameses and Sensations which sold for two packs for 25 cents. One could save money by buying a pack of five Wings
which were marked to be cut into cigarette lengths. Wings also gave a free card on the back of the pack. The card was a picture and
description of a war plane. Raleighs had coupons on the back that one could save and redeem for gifts. To save money, Bugler tobacco
sold bulk cigarette tobacco and a small machine that could be used to roll your own. Those of us who never seemed to have enough money
to support our habits always avoided those people who smoke home-made cigarettes. It was best to wait for a real smoker before bumming