Pop Shoppe and Penny Candy

July 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am doing nothing on this hot and lazy summer day. It is almost too hot. I don’t handle the heat well. Even as a child, I had a tendency to faint if I were out in the sun too long. Thus, I’ve always tried to spend the hottest part of the day inside. This is not always fun. My one wish, right now, is access to a vehicle so that I could spend part of the day on a beach. Though, truth be told, I like the beach best in the Spring and Fall when it is calm and quiet.

How is a lazy summer’s day different than a lazy winter’s day? I tolerate the coldest days better than the hottest days. What I miss in the winter is the hours and hours of sunshine. Sunshine makes me smile.

Hot Summer Days remind me of my childhood.

Time was endless and encompassing.

We were poor but very seldom felt really poor.

Perhaps because everyone had less than they have now and my best friend’s house was not that different than mine.

There were subtle differences.

They had brand name soda pop, for one.

We had Pop Shoppe pop.

Pop Shoppe came in a case of 24 with thirty or so flavours that we could mix and match. There was orange, lime, cream soda, root beer and black cherry.

Mix and match was good; it meant that all four of us kids could get our favourite without over spending the bank. I liked Black Cherry.

Rusty’s butcher shop was our local supplier. When I had cash (carefully brokered from my grandmother or other sources), I could go in and buy a Black Cherry soda and a stick of pepperoni for a dollar which I selfishly wouldn’t share.

I wasn’t always so selfish. Mostly, I was too giving and too generous. But this treat was mine alone.

I liked going to the butcher shop. It was across the alley from the Hahn house and Rusty (& his wife Ruth) had their house attached to the shop. They were a religious family, well versed in charity – making sure my mother had work and we kids had strawberries, as well as other luxuries, at Christmas.

They had boys; all much older than me. Their grandchildren would spent part of the summer playing with us – there were twin girls and a girl who was a leap year baby. That means she was born on February 29th. That means that she was exotic.

They also had an all white basement room. It was cement and deliciously cool in the summer I remember no windows. The room, in my memory, is an all encompassing white cave, cool and silent. It was a perfect summer haven for one intolerant to the heat. I wanted a room like that to spend the day reading in. I wanted to be rich enough to have a room like that.

I remember my childhood, – before high school, before I was thirteen and working – as endless, sunny, summer days.

My best friend had roller skates. She lived at the bottom of Main Street. I lived one block up and half a block over. We would go to the top of main and take turns skating d———-own. They were her skates. She got more turns and I didn’t mind. When we were tried of skating, and avoiding our younger brothers, we would go help her mom load up the pop cooler in the cafe and get paid in penny candy. My best friend’s family owned the local Chinese cafe and lived above it. She moved the summer I turned thirteen.

Penny Candy; so named because each piece was just a penny. There were red hot lips, tasting vaguely of cinnamon. There were bright blue whales and emerald green spearmint leaves. There were licorice shoelaces. I liked to buy all three colours (red, green, purple) and braid them together. This is how I learnt to braid. I’m not a fan of sour but sour is a newer flavour. My childhood candy was mostly sugar sweet.

Penny candy now costs a nickel. How do I know this? Every once in a while, I get a craving for straight sugar and I go down to the local connection and buy a dollar or two worth. I like the chocolate caramels best but they only ever seem to have the individual caramel ones.

I love the tangy taste of green spearmint and the way the whales turn my tongue blue. The red hot lips remind me of my childhood and warm, summer nights playing in the back alley.

I remember endless summer days, roller skating, playing hopscotch and Mother May I with summer friends and pesky baby brothers, our big sisters avoiding us.

I remember warm summer nights, staying up past dark, in a time and place when I could look up and see the stars. I remember playing hide and seek in the dark.

I remember mosquitoes and dragonflies sparkling in the waning sunlight.

I don’t miss mosquitoes. Hard to miss what is still so prevalent.

On my walks lately, I am escorted by sparkly blue dragonflies which, this year, are as prevalent as the mosquitoes that they feast on.

In other news, Pop Shoppe has its own Facebook page!!

I miss endless time and playing hide and seek in the dark. I miss staring up at an endless, starry sky.

Have I been too long in the city?

Is it time to seek another cave?

What I need is a Black Cherry soda, penny candy, some pepperoni sticks and endless time to stare at the stars as I muse.



  1. mysticaldodo said,

    Ahhh….childhood love. Unfortunately when I became a diabetic…my sweet affair was put to an end, well…nearly. I don’t miss the sweetness anymore, but i miss the happy feelings associated with eating sweets 🙂

    • gigi said,

      Don’t eat as much sugar as I use to and I try to create the happy feelings elsewhere (like spoiling great-nieces and nephews with books rather than candy). So I can spoil them and help create good habits!

  2. Kathy said,

    You’ve shared some good memories, Gigi. Interesting that you say that it is more sunny is winter than summer? It’s the opposite around here. I hope you have cool weather soon.

  3. suzanne said,

    I loved the Pop Shoppe! It was the highlight of my Saturday trips into “town” with my parents. I think Lime Rickey was my favourite. 🙂

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