(Vanilla of String To Short To Tie prompted this little reminiscence.)
Back in the day, in New York City, Queens specifically (tho of course they had them in the other boroughs), we had candy stores. Some of you might know these establishments as “soda fountains” but they were more than just a place to get soda and ice cream and other confections. Our candy stores also carried school supplies and a host of other sundry items – the list is too long to even try to itemize here.
In my neighborhood there were two – Jack’s, which was on the corner of Hollis Avenue and 211th Street and Ruby’s, which was just off the corner of Hollis Avenue and Colfax Street. An interesting side note, Ruby was a rather large man. Jack was a short skinny guy with a fat wife named Rose – I really liked Jack, Rose, not so much. I had no opinion about Ruby since I rarely went in his store even tho it was just a teeny tad closer to my house. And that’s the thing…
Different groups of kids patronized different candy stores. Now Ruby’s was on the way home from school for me but Jack’s was right across the street from my church. I probably spent almost as much time in church as I did in school.
When I say hanging out – I mean kids would gather at the candy store, take up all the stools at the counter, order a coke and basically act like fools. Which teenagers do. Periodically there would be a brou-ha-ha and all the kids would get thrown out and possibly banned for a few days. In which case they would migrate to the other candy store – but this was not always a good solution because Jack and Ruby always knew which kids they had thrown out – so if you got banned from Jack’s, Ruby would know and he wouldn’t let you in, in which case your social life was screwed until you apologized.
Jack was much stricter than Ruby and he actually banned a few kids for life – and boy did that create a war. Parent’s got involved. Friendships were strained because the banned-from Jack’s kids didn’t want their un-banned friends to go to Jack’s any more but the Jack’s crowd was loyal to Jack and really didn’t like Ruby much. (Are you following all this?) And besides, the regular crowd at Ruby’s were a whole different bunch of kids than those of us who hung out at Jack’s – we were from different sides of the neighborhood. Even tho we pretty much went to the same schools (public vs. Catholic) some how there was a social/cultural divide. I can’t exactly define the dividing line, maybe Colfax Street(?). Both groups were a mix of blue collar/white collar tho my side of the dividing line was more white collar than blue (my family was blue bordering on whatever color comes below blue).
There’s lots of stories about Jack and his store and the part it played in my life. Not the part that concerned other kids but the part that concerned me and Jack and how he was one of the few people who was allowed to call me “Gracie”. Jack and I talked about the big issues of life – can you imagine a middle aged man talking important stuff with a 13 year old? He also made me think well of myself when no one else did.
And then there was the time when all the kids in my confirmation class were banned from Jack’s for 2 weeks because in between Senior Sunday School and the regular church service, a snowball fight got carried over into Jack’s and boy was he pissed. He reported everyone to Pastor, so we got yelled at twice – by Jack and by Pastor. Funny to think all those kids were “grounded” by a shopkeeper and a minister.
Actually not everyone was banned – one kid wasn’t part of the snowball fight, or really part of the social group – I suppose you can guess which kid that was…