Tag Archives: candy store

Childhood Events Definitely Impact My Adult Choices

5 Dec

When I was a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ cousin’s candy store on Bergen Boulevard near Journal Square in Jersey City.  My brother and I have discussed their names, as it is a memory from long ago, over 50 years.  He remembers the wife as Anna, and I remember the husband, as Morris.  We will go with these two names.

Like my grandparents, they were from Europe.  I believe that Morris was my grandfather’s second cousin.  That is a connection I have yet to finalize.  But I am pretty sure he was not a first cousin.  However, in the area they came from in Galicia, Mielec, my grandfather’s family was large and very intermingled.

The best part of going to the candy store, of course, was the candy.  We could eat whatever we wanted, within the reasonable constraints of my mother. The other part was seeing Morris and Anna, who were always excited to see us.  They never had children of their own, but they loved us.

Sometimes, my Mom would drive my grandmother, my brother and I to visit them in the candy store.  I have good memories of being there. My grandmother and Anna always had a good time visiting.  So even though it was my grandfather’s cousin, my grandmother often went to visit without him.  And since she never learned to drive, my Mom had that job and we got to tag along.

Morris always sat behind the counter and ran the cash register. He sat there because he no longer had legs, he lost them to diabetes.   Anna ran the store.  She was tiny and very energetic.  That is why what happened is so sad.

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Morris’ rocking chair. Now owned by my brother.

Anna died first.  I don’t think she was that old.  But when she died, Morris could no longer stay alone. The store was closed; their belongings were sold or given away, and Morris went into a nursing home.  I remember my parents speaking about it, because we were gifted his rocking chair.  It did not go to the nursing home with him.  My brother still has the rocking chair in his home.  The tangible evidence that Morris and Ann were part of our world.

The nursing home Morris lived in for the rest of his life was in Bayonne, New Jersey, close to where our family dentist had his office.  Usually we all went to get our teeth done at one time.

But on this day, it was just my Mom and me.  As we drove away from the dentist office, she turned to me and said, “I want to go visit Morris.  I know he lives near here.”I don’t remember how old I was, somewhere between 10 and 12.  To be honest, I thought we were going to the candy store.  But I was in for an unpleasant and emotional surprise.

When we arrived at a large one-story building, my mother and I entered and went to the desk, where Mom announced that she wanted to see Morris.  The woman stopped what she was doing and called to someone, a nurse/supervisor/care giver came out.   Both were so surprised that we were there to see him.  The supervisor said, ‘Oh my, who are you? You are the first people who have ever come to visit him.”

My Mom was stunned.  “Are you kidding me.  He has nieces and nephews.”  But she was not joking.  No one had visited Morris in the year or so he had been living there.

The nurse walked us to his room.  In fact, by the time we got there, I think three or four nurses or caregivers were following us.  Mom walked in first and knelt down beside Morris.  “Morris, It’s me Frances, Nat and Thelma’s daughter.” She said in Yiddish as she reached out to him.

Morris started cry.  He put his hands on either side of Mom’s face and sobbed, “Frances Frances.” Her name was like a chant.   While Mom hugged him with one arm, she put out her other arm, I knew that meant I needed to come over.

“Here is Ellen,” she said.  My face was now embraced by his hands as he cried into my hair and stroked my face.  I was crying by then as well, as were Mom and the nurses/caretakers.  We stayed and talked to him for about an hour.  It felt longer.  He spent most of the time crying and hugging us. And asking about all the family. I have never forgotten.

As we went to leave, the supervisor asked Mom for her address and phone number in case they needed to reach someone.  They had no contacts for him.

We went and sat in the car.  My Mom cried for an additional half hour or so.  Just sobbing, with her arms crossed on the steering wheel and her face down in her arms.  I cried with her.  It was one of my saddest moments as a child.  When we got home, my Mom called her parents.

I never went back to the nursing home.  I think because every time I thought of him, I started to cry.   But I know my Mom and my grandparents went.  To be honest he did not live long after our visit.   My sister, who is four years younger than me, does not remember Morris or Anna. But what she does remember is my grandparents and my mom talking about him.  And my mother always talking about what happens to someone when they are all alone in the world.

For the past ten months I have been a Spiritual Care Volunteer at an elder care facility.   Over and over again people have asked me:  How can you do that?  Doesn’t it bother you? Isn’t too difficult when someone dies?

The answer to all these questions is an emphatic NO.  Each week when I go, I am greeted by smiles and joy.  I speak to each one of them.  Some days I give them hugs.  Sometimes someone cries, especially if they have recently lost a loved one.  Most of them have family members who often come to see them.  Most important to me is that I know that I am going every week.  I am giving them the attention that Morris so deserved and did not receive.

This childhood event definitely impacted my adult choices. Each time I go, I feel a little lift to my heart, knowing that I have helped to brighten someone’s day.  It is the best feeling, because each time I go, a little of the sadness that has followed me for over 50 years, whenever I think about Morris, dissipates.

Remember The Corner Candy Store; It Was Not Just for Candy

30 Aug

Children of today are missing out on so much fun due to parental fears and lack of neighborhood stores. But one of the most important things they are missing is the corner candy store!

From the time I was 3 until fourth grade, I lived in a three-family home on Third Avenue in North Bergen. It was great living there, but most important the owners of the house also owned the candy store on 85th Street that I passed every day one the way to and from school.

I lived on the second floor.  The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

I lived on the second floor. The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

Every afternoon I stopped into the store with my treat money. You could get many different penny candies: candy buttons on a paper strip, licorice, sugar water in waxed bottles, candy necklaces and so much more.

These candies bring back so many good and gooey memories. The candy necklaces would get wet and slimy around your neck as you ate off pieces of candy. The button candy on the paper was difficult to eat without eating some of the paper. One of my childhood friends remembers being yelled at by her mom for eating too much paper.   Pixie Stix were a favorite. They were straws filled with flavored sugar. I delighted in eating those!! The little mini bottles of wax with the sugar water came in many colors. I liked to mush the wax into balls after drinking the water. My sister remembers eating the wax and getting into trouble for that action. She also squashed the used bottles into shapes. We had hours of fun with penny candy!

An extra special part of going to that candy store was that the owners knew us so well that often they would give us some extra candy to eat on the way home. Some times they had candy behind the counter for us: items that came in with a broken wrapper or some little flaw. My sister would stand on the step stool, an old wooden milk carton, sometimes to look over the counter to see if anything was there! We would chose our candy and the store owner would put the prices on a brown paper bag and add them up to tell us what we owed.  Then we would put the candy in little brown bags and snack on the rest of the walk home. We usually had enough to eat that we had some left even when we got home.

When I was in third grade, I started going to religious school in the afternoons after finishing Horace Mann. Before going to the synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham, for religious school, we found the candy store a very popular spot. I always would first go to the candy store for a snack and would meet many of my friends in there also getting something to eat. We always needed a snack between school and religious school!

Besides the candy, the most important part of the candy store for me was the comic books. I think every candy store had a comic book section. Each week new comic books would come out, the cost five or ten cents each. And sometimes there was a special one that cost a quarter. I loved getting the comic books. I loved browsing through them. Some of the boys loved to buy the baseball cards as well.

When we moved away from Third Avenue to 78th Street, I was desolate, partly because of the lost of the candy store. But I found out I really had no worries. Even though I did not know the owner at first, I did find another corner candy store to walk pass on my way home from school. It was on either on 77 or 76 and Broadway, if I remember correctly. It also had all the penny candy and the comic books. The only thing missing was the free candy I used to get.

But I did not totally miss out on free candy. My grandparents owned a bakery on Palisades Avenue in West New York. A few doors down from them was a corner candy store. Sometimes when I spent the weekend, my grandma would give me a dime and send me to the candy store….not for food. We had lots of candy and bakery goods at the bakery. But I could go buy a comic book. Yay Grandma! She knew I loved to read them.

There was no candy store within easy walking to our summer home in the Catskills. Oh, wait, I take that back, when I was really little there was a small store that sold candy and ice cream across from the lake on the way to town on the corner of West Shore Road and 55. It closed when I was very young. Now there is a private home where the store used to be.

But we had substitutes. We could walk into the town of Kauneonga Lake, to a small grocery store, Vassmer’s; or to the pharmacy, Newman’s. In one of those stores we could either get candy and comics, or go to the fountain at Newman’s and get ice cream or a soda. It was fun! I remember when I was a teen, I walked into Newman’s one day and there was my brother with his girlfriend having a milk shake…if I remember correctly there was one shake and two straws.

Next to the Ritz Movie Theater in White Lake was a candy store as well. Before we would go into the movie, we would go to the candy store to pick out our treats. How wonderful was that? Very wonderful!

Children today do not have the joy of going into a little corner store by themselves and choosing any little candy or comic. Now you have to drive to the supermarket or a convenience store. The neighborhood candy store seems to be gone forever. And I miss it! Going to a corner candy store every day was a part of the daily routine. And forget penny candy! I do not believe it exists anymore!

I thnk going to the corner candy store also taught us about money. There was only so much you could spend. Would it be a comic book or candy? How much did you need to save from your allowance to get exactly what you wanted? You could plan. The candy store owners knew you! They would hold back your favorite comic, knowing what you wanted to read each week. And if you did not have enough money, they would wait till you came back.

The corner candy store was a gathering place for children and adults. It was a community space, a place for neighbors to visit.  Penny candy and comics gave us so much joy.  I think that is why the corner candy store was so important in my life.

There actually is still a store there: https://www.google.com/maps/place/North+Bergen,+NJ/@40.806574,-74.007579,3a,75y,199.76h,96.03t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s0C9V1gOMRYvBYne8nYQNwg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c25804d4293b57:0x5efe2629bb9f9381