Monday, August 04, 2008

Corner Stores

Doc's Delicatessen.

The Neighborhood Pantry / Frank's / Tilly's.

Cermak's Pharmacy.

Kuiper's.

Whitey's.

Elmley Ave. Deli.

The Honey Cone.

Donahue's (or, as my mom pronounced it, "Donahoo's.")

Those were just a few of the corner stores that I used to frequent in my East Baltimore neighborhood when I was a kid. When I was in elementary school, it was hard to go two or three blocks without encountering such a store.

When I was younger, I considered it a big deal to get sent to the store for lunchmeat or cheese, especially by my grandma to Donahue's or my folks to Neighborhood Pantry. The meat and cheese would get sliced right in front of you, and it always seemed to taste better. Of course, it wasn't cheap. The proprietor would weigh it on the scale, wrap it in butcher paper, and write the amount on the package with a pencil.

Neighborhood Pantry was right at the end of the street. The store had this tough-textured French penny bubble gum which I kind of liked buying, and it was also the place we went to if we needed an emergency bag of potato chips, hamburger rolls, or somesuch. It didn't have a wide selection of stuff, but hanging off the meat locker was one of those bar clocks that ran backwards.

One of the last of the old-time drugstores, Cermak's had an actual soda fountain counter. I loved the fact that I could still get Coke out of the fountain and served in one of those distinctive Coke glasses. I could also get an emergency birthday card there, although their supply was limited and even more schmaltzy than Helen Steiner Rice.

I always liked getting baseball cards and Wacky Packages at Kuiper's for some reason; it wasn't exactly right around the corner. I think I started going there when I found that a classmate who lived on that street had an arcade shuffleboard bowling game in her basement. (BTW, I resent the fact that gum no longer comes with baseball cards, not that I collect them anymore. I LIKED that gum!)

When I needed to pig out, Doc's had the best selection of snacks and candy. All these years later, my mouth is still paying for all those Now and Laters that stuck to my teeth. With me, there was no Later, only Now! I also liked Razzles, Spree, Lik-m-aid, Pixy Stix, and other candy I wrote about way back here. Doc's was also the place to get single serving bags of Doritos, and it had the only Coke machine sitting outside for after hours.

By the time I was in high school, video games became the newest attraction at the corner stores. Doc's had Zoo Keeper. The store at Kenyon and Kavon Aves. (the name eludes me; sibs?) had Wizard of Wor. Cermak's featured Scramble. Whitey's had Xevious. In addition, numerous corner store arcades opened up along Belair (buh-LAIR, you non-Balwamoreans) Road, but then closed just as quickly. I'll have to do a separate post sometime just on my enjoyment of arcade video games.

Even if I didn't know the proprietors or employees, it was still nice to go into a store where they actually cared whether you were there, even if you were just a kid buying some candy. Or buying cigarettes for some old folks in the neighborhood. =:-0

Last I checked, Doc's (or whatever it's called now) was still open. I can't say the same for the others; most of them are long gone, turned from storefronts into house fronts, although it's still quite obvious they were stores at one time. Yet another causalty of the move to suburbia and the increase in inner city crime, I guess; there's nothing of the sort where I live now.

9 comments:

Mom2BJM(Amy) said...

And you'll be even further away from them when you move to Reno..

Good job on the sentimentality. I think it's awesome to write down memories>

Silvergirl said...

I, like you, grew up in a small neighborhood in MD. We had a small general store just 1 block from our home called Beckers, plus a liquor store across the street. Denny Grace owned the liquor store, and most of Lansdowne (Town and Country Hall, where I went to a number of weddings). The liquor store is still there, but I don't konw much about it anymore.

We bought penny candy at the liquor store, and went to the store for neighbors - sometimes for the ciggies. We'd always get paid a little to buy candy. Back in the 60's when I was growing up, a nickel could buy you a whole bag of penny candy. A dime was even better.

Beckers store is now a dentist office. Old man Becker is long dead, I'm sure.

Now I want some coconut watermelon slices and a squirrel.

paramedicgirl said...

Neat post. Reminds me of my own growing up days when we used to spend the summers at the beach and walk almost 2 miles to the store around the bay just to get potato chips and Popsicles. It was a little too far to swim there, but we actually did do it on more than one occasion!

Tummy said...

In the little town I live in we still have a pharmacy that has an old time soda fountain/sandwich shoppe in it. I love it. They added Italian creme sodas last year to the menu, Yum.

Big Sis said...

I vaguely remember Kuipers (mom said it was at the corner of Kentucky Ave and Brehms La.)Where was Whitey's? And I have no recollection of Elmley Ave. Deli. Help! I'm old!

bigbro said...

Was the Elmley Ave Deli near Erdman Ave? Elmley and Brendan. Was Whitey's the one on Pelham and Findlay or was it the one on Kenyon and Kavon? Doc's was the best because of one thing, the girl behind the counter. Sue Reese I think it was. I remember going to Doc's after I got out of school to get sandwich meat and cheese and kaiser buns to eat while watching football on Sundays. Yum.

Cygnus said...

Big Sis: Whitey's was up on Cliftmont Ave at the corner of the alley behind Kentucky Ave. I think Kuiper's was actually at Brehms and Brendan.

Bigbro: I remember the one on Pelham and Findlay, but I can't remember for the life of me what it was called. The Little Flower kids used to hit the one at Brendan and Kavon pretty hard; can't remember that name either.

I wouldn't have known of Elmley Ave. Deli if I hadn't been collecting for Gene Slater. It was just off the corner of Elmley and Chesterfield, and was the only corner store that I can recall among those late 40s-early 50s homes between Cliftmont Ave and Sinclair Ln. I stopped there frequently to get a soda (often Briardale Cola; remember that?) while collecting.

I also remember closed corner stores at Kenyon just east of Belair, as well as Lake and Cardenas.

Anita Moore said...

When I was a kid in Reseda (suburb of Los Angeles) there was a little Italian grocery called Tom & Jerry's, on Reseda Boulevard. Everything from candied almonds to Italian wines to fresh-sliced Italian cold cuts. It was still there when I graduated from college a large number of years ago; if Reseda is really lucky, it should still be there.

craig kirchner said...

Kenyon and kavon was Stozek's.