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Friday, July 11, 2014

7-Eleven and Other Convenience Store Memories

All right.  It's time for another edition of the FOODIE FRIDAY post - only without a recipe this week.  Actually for that matter, there's not a whole lot of focus on food at all.  I mention some, but it's more of a place blog to be honest with you.

But that's okay with me.  And you know why it's okay with me?

Because it's July 11th, that's why.

Okay, you're probably thinking - what does that have to do with anything?  That just seems like one of the most random transitions in the whole world.

Or, is it?

Okay.  Try picturing the date today numerically.  Like this.  7-11.  And, yes, I know those of you in the United Kingdom would write it as 11-7, but that would be too confusing for this entry. 

Okay, now I want you to take one of the numbers and write it out in word form. 


Okay, maybe if we flip it and reverse it.

11-SEVEN know what I mean.


Say.  That's a perfect way to introduce today's topic.  After all, 7-ELEVEN is one of the places that I plan to talk about, as well as Canadian chains Mac's, Becker's, Quickie, and more.

Today's topic is all about the wonders of convenience...stores, that is. 

Now, I know that for some people, convenience stores get an insanely bad rap.  I hear people often say that a convenience store is the only place where you can buy a carton of milk for seven bucks that expired four weeks ago.  In any of the times that I've gone in a convenience store, I've never bought anything expired.  But, maybe I'm just lucky, I guess.

But that being said, I do have a lot of fond memories of spending a lot of time in neighbourhood corner stores and convenience marts, spending my hard earned allowance on comic books and whatever candy tickled my fancy that particular day.

In fact, I think I remember the very first memory that I have of a corner store.  In fact, it literally was on a corner of an intersection so it was an honest to goodness corner store.  One of my favourite things to eat as a child was ice cream, and back in the 1980s when the store was open, the owner of the store would have a lot of different flavours of ice cream that the four-year-old version of me absolutely wanted to try.  Of course there were the classic staples, such as chocolate and vanilla, but have any of you out there ever tried Grape Ice Cream?  Some of you might be cringing at the very thought of there being grape flavoured ice cream, but I can tell you that it was awesome.  If I remember correctly it kind of tasted like a grape freezie.  And, at the time, my favourite fruit flavour was grape, so I suppose it was predestined that I would like grape ice cream.

I'd probably still eat grape ice cream today - even though my current favourite fruit flavours are cherry and watermelon (try saying that sentence five times fast).  Actually, I wonder what watermelon ice cream would taste like?  I bet it'd be interesting.

Sadly that store closed up shop when I was around five or six...and it became a dilapidated eyesore for over two decades.  As of right now, there's crews fixing up the building.  Although I have my doubts that it'll ever be a convenience store again, I'll always have the memories of grape ice cream.

Back when my grandparents were still alive, they lived near a railroad track. And there were some circumstances in which my family had to move in with them on a temporary basis (what those circumstances are I'm not ready to talk about publicly right now).  But in some ways it was good because they lived right down the street from another convenience store of my youth.  This store was one in which I had my first taste of this kind of gum.

Thrills gum.  It's lavender coloured, it's been in Canada for years, and the best way to describe it is that it tastes like soap.

Not that I went around in my youth randomly going through the health and beauty section at a drug store taking bites out of Dove and Oil of Olay bars to satisfy a bizarre craving for body products to know what soap actually tasted like.  But if I did, I would guess that Thrills gum would be a reasonable facsimile of the flavour of lavender scented soap.

Of course, gum that tasted like soap would be a pretty lousy excuse to set foot inside of a convenience store, so I offer up the mystery of the surprise bag.  Yeah, back in the 1980s, surprise bags were only worth pennies (now they're worth dollars), and I think that the store next to Grandma and Grandpa's house was the only store at the time that sold them.  And you got a lot of bang for your buck.  Each surprise bag contained at least one piece of candy (usually a lollipop, a package of red licorice, or a Charleston Chew), but there was also a small toy as well.  You could get paper airplanes, you could get a pencil...I think one day I even got a miniature water pistol.  Yes, I remember that store very well.  Of course, the owner of that store retired a few years back, and I think a barber shop and/or a tattoo parlour has opened up in its place.  But again, I'll always have the memories.

Now, I've talked a bit about a couple of local stores that I used to haunt.  Now let's talk about a chain of stores.

Obviously I opened up this discussion by mentioning that it was July 11, which lead to the 7-ELEVEN connection.  Would you believe that I was nineteen years old before I even set foot inside of a 7-ELEVEN location?  I know some of you must be shocked because you've probably gone your whole lives not knowing a world without one.  Well, when I was in Ottawa, I saw that there was one on one of the main streets, and I decided to check it out.  To me, it was nice to go into, but it didn't really seem all that different from any other store of similarity.  I was almost disappointed.

Then I tried one of their world famous Slurpees, and I decided that the experience was worth it in the end.  Of course, I'm a fan of slushy drinks anyway, so they could have also sold Frosters, Icees, and Slush Puppies and I would have been just as happy.

(By the way, here's a bonus question for you.  Did any of you ever mix up several flavours of slushy drinks to come up with some new combinations?  If you ever get the chance to get a Slush Puppie, get they to put in two squirts of cherry, two squirts of blue raspberry, and one squirt of lime.  I don't know if you'd like that combo or not, but I promise you.  It's worth trying at least once.)

There was also a chain store called Mac's that I used to go to all the time.  It's since become a Becker's location, but I do have a fun story to tell.  Many many years ago when I was three years old, my parents entered me in a contest where the grand prize was a five foot tall stuffed mascot (at that time, the Mac's mascot was a giant red cat - it's now changed to an owl).  I ended up winning that contest, and I still have the red cat in my closet.  I'd take a picture for you, but my camera is currently charging.  You'll have to remind me to snap one whenever I get the chance.  Now that the mascot has changed, it's probably a collector's item now!

And now I turn the floor over to you.

What are some of your memories of convenience stores?

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