A penny saved is a penny earned. But a penny well spent can be heaven on earth, or at least it was in the penny candy section of the local grocery stores back in the 1950s, when I was growing up around the Forks in the Road.
Fortunately for us, those types of stores were bountiful in every neighborhood. It was long before the mega supermarket days of food buying. Many stores had their own meat department and butcher and canned goods, bread, milk and beer. The staples.
Near the cash register was an assortment of penny candy. There was bazooka bubble gum, licorice swizzlers, wax lips, atomic fireballs, tootsie rolls, colored sugar pills, Mary Janes, Black taffey, and for a nickel, Necco wafers. For a dime, you could even get a giant Baby Ruth candy bar. For a whole quarter, you could get a peewee pop, giant Baby Ruth bar, and three comic books with their covers torn off.
That was the specialty at Cam Driscoll’s market on West Bridge St. near the current site of Friendly Ice Cream. You could sit on the concrete stoop and swing around on the iron railings and have contests as to who could blow the biggest bubble from their mouth wads of gum. At Cam’s we spent many hours browsing the coverless comics, many of which encapsulated major classic books, like Lorna Doone or Dickens’ Oliver Twist. In addition, there was the Scrooge McDuck comic series, one of my favorites, as well as Marvel’s Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern. All for 2 cents, sans cover. I am not sure why no cover. They might have even been black market but they made classic comics affordable.
Other notable Forks in the road area corner stores were Donohue’s in the flatiron building, and Guy Jones store at West Seneca and Liberty Streets, and Scaglione’s market across the street. Guy Jones Store was dank and dreary and featured a big cheese block next to the cash register. A little further up the street toward the College was Dashner’s store and soda fountain, on Washington Boulevard. Also Stone’s Candy store on West Bridge Street, where we used to ride our bikes to buy a delicious frozen vanilla custard.
The neighborhood grocery store was as much an institution as the neighborhood “beer joint”, and there were plenty of those as well.
Pre-eminent among Forks pubs were Wood’s, Pullen’s , and Buzzy Thompson’s (later Buckland's). Add in Amedio’s and Jack’s (later the Shacki Patch) and you have the flavor of the working class neighborhood pubs. These were after work “shot and a beer” type places. Ralph’s advertised “Tables for ladies” and these kind of bars featured Slim Jim’s, pickled eggs, potato chips and pork rinds for snack sustenance. Ten and fifteen cent drafts of Genesee, Utica Club and Old Topper beer were plentiful as were shots of Seagram’s and Corby’s. Martinis were unheard of. Wine was a rarity. The proverbial jukebox and bowling machines were the entertainment attractions.
Those were the halcyon carefree days of “I like Ike”, Packard police cars, and milkmen who delivered to your door. We spent our days wandering the neighborhood on red Schwann bikes, or bouncing on pogo sticks and walking on wooden stilts, and rushing back home to join in the peanut gallery to watch Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob on small black screen TVs . They were the days of Finius T. Bluster, Clarabelle the clown, Princess SummerFallWinterSpring, and Chief Thunderthud. “Cowabunga” was the universal greeting. Oh, for those carefree happy days again.