The Neighborhood Pantry / Frank's / Tilly'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.
Monday, August 04, 2008