Monday, August 19, 2013

Walking the Sweet Streets

One-a-Day Redux
Day Nineteen:  Sweet

When I was a child, I lived for candy. Well, for comic books and candy, but mostly it was candy that came to mind first when I found myself in possession of a nickel. There was a drugstore on the corner a block away from our house that had a good selection of candy bars, but for serious candy shopping, I had to walk farther: a block west of our house on Madison Street, then two blocks south on Dollison.

M. L. Hunter's 5¢ to $1 Store, on the corner of Dollison and Lombard in Springfield, Missouri, had candy bars, of course, but they also had a huge, U-shaped counter of glass-encased bins that held loose candy, the kind sold by weight. I'd like to know how many total hours of my childhood I spent walking the perimeter of that candy counter, trying to make a decision. Once I'd made my selection, I'd point to it and ask the clerk for "a nickel's worth," and she (it was always a she) would dip her shiny scoop into the candy, pour it into a small white bag, weigh the bag on the big scale on top of the counter, then pour a few pieces out or put a couple more pieces in and weigh it again until she got it right.

Most of the time, the candy didn't make it all the way home.

As sweet as that candy was, the memories of those walks are sweeter. Last night, mentally retracing my steps to the dime store, I had a clear picture in my mind of everything I passed along the way, but I could no longer remember the name of that particular store. It bugged me enough that I logged on to and took another walk, this time through the pages of a 1950s-era Springfield city directory, where I found Hunter's store fairly quickly. I remembered that there was another five-and-ten directly across the street from Hunter's, a store called Brown-something, and there, in the city directory, was Brownfield's (which was a nice store but did not have a good candy selection).

My grandmother usually bought groceries at the Monroe Street Market, on the block behind our house, but I remembered that she occasionally shopped at another small grocery store near Hunter's, about half a block farther south on Dollison. I looked at addresses in that block in the city directory and found Julian's Market. That's the store Mammaw was in when she discovered that my little sister had eaten all the grapes out of the grocery cart. Mammaw put the empty stems on the counter, apologized, and offered to let them weigh Judy.

Back at the corner of Lombard and Dollison, I turned east in the city directory and walked half a block to the Classic Shoe Shop, where I used to sit in my stocking feet at least once a year while my school shoes were being reheeled. If Mother thought the heels had worn down too quickly, beyond normal wear and tear, I'd show up at the shoe shop with instructions to have taps put on the new heels. I liked taps.

All those places are gone now, encompassed by the expanding university campus in the early 1960s. Madison Street still exists, but it isn't nearly as beautiful as it was back then. What used to be Dollison has been widened and renamed; it's the John Q. Hammons Parkway now. I think there's still a piece of Lombard Street in Springfield, but not the part of it that was in our neighborhood.

It's all changed so much, except in my mind and my heart. I feel so lucky that I can still see it the way it used to be. It kind of feels like a superpower.


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