Like most cities of any size each neighborhood
had a street where most of the retail stores were located. The one
in my area ran for about ten blocks and was all hill. In one five
block stretch it was one store after another.
The fish store had a large tank in the display window with live
fish swimming about. Customers pointed to the fish they wanted and
the clerk would net the fish. There was a thick block of wood to
place the fish on and a heavy club. Two, or three whacks on the
head and the fish was ready to be cleaned.
Retail bakeries usually did the baking in a section to the rear
of the store. It was tough to walk past a bakery, smell the goodies
and not take a peek in the window to see what the days special was.
Sunday was the big day in the bakery business. From the morning
till late afternoon all bakeries were crowded. Most bakeries got
a jump on things by starting to sell about 11 P.M. Saturday night
when the baked goods would start coming out of the ovens. The stores
were not open so the customers went to the rear and waited in an
alley outside the baking area. You couldn't buy fresher goods than
that, out of the oven into your bag.
The drug stores in the neighborhood displayed large glass globes
in the display window. There was no particular size and shape that
the globes had to be, the only requirement was that they be filled
with an exotic colored water. The colors were changed every so often
so people always had a reason to look into the drugstore window.
We had shoe repair shops, dry cleaners, tailors, and even small
repair shops where it cost .50¢ to have a toaster repaired.
When leaving something at one of these shops the customer never
got a claim check. The shopkeeper trusted to memory as to what belonged
to who. Sometimes the shopkeeper would write a note to slip into
a garment, a shoe, or another item. The note held the briefest of
description of the person it belonged to. A description was usually
four words tall man with glasses, for example would suffice.
No shopping street was complete unless it had at least two candy
stores. A candy store sold newspapers, magazines, tobacco items,
a few sundry items, had a soda fountain but most of all sold those
wondrous penny candies.
Most customers were young children that had a penny to spend.
Sometimes a big spender would come in that had as much as .05¢
to spend. Most selections were based on which you got the most of
for a cent. One of my favorites was Collins Walnettos, they came
in a package of seven for .01¢. The shopkeeper seem to spend
most of his time behind the candy counter.
You may wonder how the candy store survived doing a business in
pennies, the answer was not too difficult to come by. All candy
stores had pinball machines. Most required a nickel to operate and
some a penny. There were cash prizes, not advertised but you could
In addition to the pinball machines many candy store owners booked
numbers. I don't know if that goes on today. A person picked three
numbers and could bet an amount from one cent up. If your number
"came in" you won $5.50 for each penny bet. It was illegal
but the law winked at the whole business.
At the bottom of the Hawthorne Avenue hill was a White Castle
hamburger stand. In some cities today there are still White Castles.
I also see White Castle products for sale in the frozen food section
of some supermarkets.
I don't know why but the prices are much higher today than they
were in the 1930's. I can't recall ever paying more than .05¢
for anything in a White Castle. After the war, in the 1940's the
White Castle would have a coupon in the newspaper every so often
that entitled a customer to ten hamburgers for .25¢
Come on White Castle, bring back those prices.