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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Corner Store Memories

Greetings, one and all!  And welcome to a special theme month in A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE!

Now, this doesn't really mean that I will be doing a blog every day this month.  But what it does mean is that most of these blogs will be based on a specific topic.

That topic is food.

I have to admit, I came up with the idea to do a month of food topics for a couple of reasons.  One, it will serve as a lead up to Thanksgiving (well, in Canada, anyway - since it's in October), and two, my blog entry on food disappointments generated a lot of positive feedback.  So, I thought I'd try doing food themed blogs for now and see how it goes.  As always, I'll be sharing some pop culture ties to each blog - and if possible, I'll try to make my Throwback Thursday posts food themed as well.  If not, so be it. 

Either way, I hope this will help me get my writing mojo back for September, and I think that we're going to have a lot of fun.  I may even share some recipes from the various cookbooks in my kitchen and the smorgasbord of food blogs all over the Internet.

For now, I thought that I would select a subject that I think all of us can relate to.

Neighbourhood Corner Stores.

You all know the ones that I mean.  The little Mom and Pop shops that appear in residential neighbourhoods that sell a little bit of everything.  For adults, it was a convenient place to grab a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter.  

And yes...I did make you remember!

But for kids, it was the perfect place to satisfy your sweet tooth and quench your thirst.  It was a place that served as a sort of hangout for preteens and little kids - a place where we could go and blow our entire allowances on penny candies, bubble gum, fruit drinks, and other confections.

(And yes...I am old enough to remember when there were still some candies that were worth one cent.)

Sadly in my hometown, some of my favourite places to go shopping for treats as a child are no longer open for business.  Some of them transitioned into other businesses, some of them closed up, and in some cases, they were even torn down.  But at least I have the memories of these places, and I hope that by sharing some of my own experiences, I will encourage all of you to share your own.

I'm in the business of building positive memories here.

My earliest memory of a neighbourhood convenience store was when I was three or four years old.  At that time, I lived really close to the downtown core of my hometown, and on the opposite corner of the street that I lived on was a place that was called the Old Fashioned Cornerstore.  It was a beautiful building that now houses a coffeehouse, but back in those days it was a genuine penny candy emporium and ice cream parlour.  I sampled loads of goodies there including sour keys, cinnamon gumballs, and I had my first ever taste of grape ice cream.  Interesting flavour, it was.

Down the street was another place called Hengeveld's, which at that time was located very close to where my grandparents lived.  I got to know everybody quite well at that store, and according to my parents, I became friends with the guy who used to deliver the bread to the store.  I wish I could say that I am still friends with him, but I haven't seen him since the 1980s ended.  Still, one thing I remember most about that store was that I always bought comic books there, and I would frequently grab a Surprise Bag once in a while.  Surprise Bags were cool because you never knew what you would get until you opened it up.  There was always some sort of candy or gum inside, a small toy, and maybe an activity book or a colouring book inside.  The fate of Hengeveld's now is that it has since closed up shop and has converted itself into a barber shop and tattoo parlour.  Quite the transition, isn't it?

As I grew older and became an elementary school student, I found out pretty quickly that there were three stores in the area that the kids in my school frequented.  There was the Quickie store - the only place that is still open - but it was way too far a walk for me.  There was a place called the Kozy Korner that many of the older kids liked to hang out at, and I admit that I went there a few times.  After all, they had some candies that no other store in the area had.

And then there was the third store.  A little store that was appropriately called "The Little Store".  It has since been torn down as a result of the hospital expansion, but back in the days in which it was open, it was a haven of all things that kids loved.  Perhaps the highlight of the store was the Slush Puppie machine which saw a LOT of action during the months of April and October.  The best part was that the owner didn't mind mixing up different flavours of the Slush Puppies.  If you wanted banana and lime mixed together, you got banana and lime mixed together.  Personally, I was more of a lime and grape guy, but that was just me, I suppose.

And I can't forget about a little corner store called Darling's.  It's now a hair salon, but when I was a kid it was the primary place where I rented video games and bought video game magazines.  Oh, and if they had Lifesavers lollipops, I bought like six of them at a time.  I loved those things.

Darling's is also the spot where I took on a bunch of high school students in a Bubble Bobble duel.  And it was where I came out victorious!  That was such a fun game to play too - I was sort of heartbroken when they replaced it with Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.

Finally, I can't close off this blog without making a very special mention to Mac's Convenience Stores.  Many of them are still around today, while some of them have transformed into Becker's stores.  But one memory that I have of that store comes from a particular contest that I won as a little three year old.  Apparently, I was also a very sick three year old, as my mom explained to me that I was battling a severe bacterial infection that lasted for a couple of months.  It was definitely not a great time.  But what helped me cope a little better was that I ended up winning this gigantic cat toy!

Seriously, this cat is like four feet tall.  I don't quite remember how I won it...I think my mom filled out a ballot for me.   But it was definitely a highlight and likely helped me along in my road to recovery.  This cat is also very special because it wasn't long after that when the company changed its mascot from a cat to an owl. 

So, those are some of my favourite convenience store memories.  Do you have any to share?  I'd love to hear all about them!

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