My birthday was on Tuesday–yes, the Fourth of July 🙂 It’s pretty cool. This year I entered my 8th decade–70 years old! I’m too young to be 70, but here it is anyway.
My sister is a couple of years older, and we share a lot of the same memories. So today I got a box in the mail, a birthday gift from Sandy.
Imagine my delight upon opening the box and finding a whole bunch of old-fashioned penny candy!
Now come along with me while we go to the store. We lived in a big apartment building on West 15th street in Minneapolis. It was between 1952 and1955. There was quite a crowd of us kids, ranging from kindergarten through maybe fifth grade or so. We played on the steps of our building. We slid down the metal handrails. We roller skated the old-fashioned way, with skates that clamped onto our sneakers and were tightened with a skate key.
We dug in the dirt along the side of our building and created towns with little cars and mud buildings. We went across the street to Loring Park and played on the swings and other playground equipment. Sometimes we got to splash around in the shallow pool that wasn’t much more than knee deep. Or we went a block away to the school yard and played on the equipment there. We were outdoors all day unless it was raining too hard. In the winter we built snow forts and had snowball fights.
Every now and then we would be given the largesse of a couple of pennies, or maybe even a nickel. Our next destination would be the little store in the basement of the building next to ours. It was a wonderful place, and the owner welcomed little kids who had five cents to spend in their sweaty little hands.
He never rushed us as we made our choices. You could get a lot of penny candy for five cents. Dots. Licorice. Jaw breakers. Wax lips, teeth, and mustaches. Little wax bottles with colored sugar water in them. Lick’M Aide. Candy cigarettes. Root beer barrels. Red Hots. More, so much more.
If it was a hot summer day, we’d get a Popsicle instead. Yes, for only five cents. Nothing felt so good or tasted any better than the fruity flavors of the Popsicles as they trickled down your throat. Our hands would be sticky, but who cared? We were already sweaty and dirty anyway 🙂
So when I opened my box today, along with all that wonderful candy I saw a host of childhood memories as well. I heard the skate wheels racing across the bump on the sidewalks; I heard the shouts and laughter as we splashed in the pool, or played tag, or hide and go seek. All those sounds, along with the smells of a hot city street in the summer, took me right back to 515 West 15th Street in Minneapolis.
I don’t know if the apartment building is still there. I searched, but couldn’t find the exact place. Things change, people change, life changes. I’m thankful for the memories of an era when little kids could still run free outside all day, and were safe and innocent. It was a good time to be a kid.
Thanks for the candy, Sandy. And thanks for the memories you knew you’d stir up.