Don’t Live Next to a Candy Store
James L. Casale
On October 31, 1998, my grandson, Christian James Casale, was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. Happy birthday to the so-far-tallest Casale. I used to be the titleholder of the tallest Casale at a towering 5’9”. This was considered tall if you lived in the 1950s Brentwood section of Harrison, New York, where most adults were under six feet tall. Both of my grandfathers were about 5’5’’ with their hands raised.
I grew up on Nelson Avenue, about 75 yards from Joe’s candy store, a palace of sweet temptations near the corner of Nelson and Calvert Street. As a regular customer at Joe’s, I spent a significant portion of my childhood devouring toxic sweet things that, I’m convinced, along with those Lucky Strikes, stunted my growth. I should have been 6’2”, or at least as tall as my grammar school and high school coach, Fred Fiore. I think he was a six-footer.
My town had several other outstanding candy stores that no longer exist in the 21st century. Unfortunately, they were replaced by the confectioners who arrived in our modern malls. These imposters are boring, lack variety, and don’t offer penny candies. Have you ever found Devil Dogs, fudge pops, Bazooka gum, cream sickles, or Ring Dings in those stores? Don’t look.
Godiva stores? Forget it. Supermarkets? Don’t ask? The only place that sells anything remotely 1950ish is Cracker Barrel. At least there I can buy and drool over Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Clark Bars, and Chunky Bars, among other delectables. When I travel, I always visit a Cracker Barrel for their blueberry pancakes and candy.
But even Cracker Barrel cannot compare to the variety of sweets that contributed mightily to a 14-year-old showing up at the local dentist, Dr. Olmstead, with 16 cavities. The culprits, which had been bought with the spare change I’d found around the house, under couch cushions, and in my dad’s pants and jacket pockets, included all manner of penny candy, the bubble gum that came with baseball cards (I wasn’t smart enough to keep the cards), double-stick ice pops, fudge pops, cream sickles, Zero Bars, root beer barrels, wax lips, Mars Bars, Bit of Honey, Sugar Daddies, licorice, pies, Yoo-hoos (still my all-time favorite), and a variety sodas and fountain drinks never to be seen again.
Should I even mention that I chased the Good Humor man down the street each day to get my strawberry shortcake ice cream? My two career choices in those days consisted of becoming a Good Humor man or a baseball player. Sadly, I didn’t fulfill my dream for either one. I’m a failure.
I guess I’m lucky to be 5’9”, but at my age, I am shrinking. I’m considering inserts or wearing my old motorcycle boots to make me look taller. Or maybe I should just stay home and dream of my sweet childhood in Harrison, New York.