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Full Circle: Kid in a Candy Store
I scream, you scream, we all scream

There was cherry Coke and chocolate Coke and chocolate cherry Coke. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. When I was 8 years old, maybe 9, my favorite place in the whole wide world was my Uncle Harry’s candy store, deep in the heart of Brooklyn.

A red vinyl and rusty chrome pleasure palace that housed three booths, six stools and a million dreams, it was a store where milkshakes were magic, pretzel sticks and licorice whips were a foot long. It was, for a kid who got his ice cream from a Jack & Jill truck, heaven on earth.

My Uncle Harry was a tough man, a no-nonsense man, a man who spoke out of the corner of his mouth. “Mawt-nn,” he would yell to my cousin Morton, “Get Maury another stick pretzel.”

I had the run of the place. All the free candy I wanted. Got to mix every soda in creation. And nobody yelled at me or made me clean up my room. I loved Brooklyn. The three-hour drive up Route 1 to the Lincoln Tunnel and over the Brooklyn Bridge, with my cousin Roselle in the back seat barfing, was worth every minute.

And so, that summer, when my Aunt Sadie asked me if I wanted to stay with them in the apartment on Amboy Street, I jumped at the chance. A whole week at the candy store. Visions of licorice whips danced though my head.

The apartment was small, but it had its own smell. An aromatic blend of camphor and kugel. My two older cousins, Eddie and Arthur, the smartest of all our relatives, shared a room. I would bunk with Morton.

The first day was great. Morton and I took three trolleys to Ebbets Field, where we watched Peewee Reese and the Bums beat the Cincinnati Redlegs. You weren’t allowed to call them the Reds back then because the Joe McCarthy hearings had made the country very nervous.

On the way back, we stopped at the candy store. Uncle Harry made me a vanilla malted – thick and sweet and icy cold. “Remember,” he told me, “a milkshake is not a malted. Only a malted is a malted.” I understood. It was a Brooklyn thing. Only a malted was a malted. Only Duke Snider was Duke Snider.

When I finished, Uncle Harry let me get behind the counter. In those days, not all sodas came in bottles or cans. They were made while you watched. First the gooey flavoring was extracted from pumps, then sprayed with a seltzer gun. There was cherry Coke and chocolate Coke and chocolate cherry Coke. It was endless. It was great.

“Geez,” I said to Morton, “how come you don’t spend more time in the store?” He just laughed.

By day two, my stomach was at capacity. Three malteds and seven sodas will do that to a kid. I had a bad bellyache. I realized later that it wasn’t just from the ice cream. I’d slept in a strange bed, I’d eaten liver and boiled beef for dinner. And Morton’s friends made fun of me, of my Philadelphia accent. They didn’t like the way I said “vanella.” They kept calling step ball stoop ball. I had no idea what they meant. “Where are you from,” they said, “outer space?”

I had just about had enough. I told my aunt and uncle that I wanted to go home. “Come on,” Uncle Harry said, “I’ll make you another malted.” No, I had my fill of malteds for that summer. I just wanted to go home.

Like many people in Brooklyn, my aunt and uncle didn’t own a car. So my father had to drive 100 miles on a weeknight to get me. He didn’t look happy.

With a tear in my eye and an ache in my gut, I said my goodbyes. “Maybe someday I could stay at your house,” Morton said.

“Why would you want to do that?” I asked.

“Because your father runs a toy store,” he said. “You’re the luckiest kid on earth.”

April 2012
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