Things Remembered

November 18, 2015

Memory Lane

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For quite some time I tried unsuccessfully to remember the name of the little country store up the road from our house on Mo. Bottom Rd. It was there before the subdivision. Sometimes mom would stop there for something, sometimes send me to get a quart of milk or loaf of bread. Mostly, I remember the candy counter with all the great stuff a kid could want. Jaw breakers, gum, bubble gum, candy bars if you had enough money. Sometimes I had enough to buy one of those Hostess cherry pies. Back then they had more filling than crust. When you pulled in the driveway there’d be chickens running around to get out of the way of the car. There was a teenage girl named Sherry who worked there that even prepubescent boys fell in love with. Her brother, Steve Gunkel, would come roaring in with his car raising a cloud of dust and gravel flying. You didn’t mess with Steve. He worked all day throwing hay bales and had muscles like, well, impressive. My buddy Tommy Manker and I honked his horn one time and he came running and chased us down Mo. Bottom Rd. and I was sure I was going to die. Tommy and I jumped the fence into the woods and split up in different directions and I guess Steve couldn’t decide which of us to kill so he stopped and went back to the store. Another time at the store he was sitting in the chair behind the counter and Sherry was standing there and he said to her, “Hey, why don’t you set on my lap and we’ll talk about whatever comes up.” I don’t know why that stuck in my head. At the time, I was too young to get it but, years later, it dawned on me. Maybe she wasn’t really his sister. The place didn’t look like much. As I picture it in my head now, if I saw a place like that today I’d be disinclined to buy anything like milk or eggs there; or even stop there in the first place. But, for a long time, I couldn’t remember the name of it. I remembered our babysitter, Mrs. DeHater, who lived next door to it. A couple days ago, “Butler’s Market” simply surfaced without fanfare from the ancient history section of my memory cells. As did the name “Burke’s Market” (pronounced berk-eez) which was farther away, on Lindbergh Blvd., right next to what some people called “Niggertown”. I didn’t know why at the time. It was where the Negroes lived, I thought maybe they meant Negro Town. Mom bought meat there. I remember the meat counter in the back with the butcher who had the blackest slicked back hair I think I ever saw until Elvis came along, with a butcher’s hat on top. If my brother and I were good, we got popsicles (root beer was my favorite) there, maybe even soda pop (orange was my favorite) which was just outside the entrance of the store in one of those old coolers that you raised up the entire lid, and slid the bottle down the rails to the end where you pulled it out. There was a bottle cap remover on the side, when the cap popped off it was caught in the container below. When there were a lot of groceries to buy, we went to the Schnuck’s store. I don’t remember where it was, but I remember the trip in the 1951 (1952?) Ford Ranch Wagon, returning home with sacks of groceries in the back. I don’t remember ever going in Schnuck’s; seems like mom generally left us in the car while she shopped there. Heh, I reckon these days she’d get arrested for that. I don’t remember which of those stores the packets of Kool-Aid came from, but it seems like in the summer there was always a pitcher of Kool-Aid in the fridge.

After they built the subdivision across the street from our house, they built another one (Villa Marie) a little farther up Mo. Bottom, with a 7-ll, and that was pretty much the end of Butler’s.

Now trying to remember last name of Ernie, the farmer up the way who plowed his land with mules and you could hear him cussing them damned beasts clear down to our house where I’d sit outside on the porch in wonderment of such language. Wanting to say Sheaffer, but that doesn’t seem quite right. On Halloween I’d go up to their house dressed as a cowboy and for my “trick” I’d perform my “fast draw” with my shiny silver six-gun. In those days, a kid had to perform a “trick” in order to get a “treat”. I remember another time reciting a joke, or maybe a poem. For treats we’d get either a popcorn ball or caramel apple that Ernie’s wife made herself. I’d be disappointed. I wanted candy bars. Especially Butterfingers.

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