I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago -- near 60th Street and Western Avenue. About five blocks away was an old candy store with a long glass case near the front window -- one of those old, plate glass windows that never stayed clean. When I was a kid, we used to walk to the candy store and pick out the sweetest, hardest, chewiest candies, all for a nickel or a dime each. "In my day," my dad said, "it really was a penny. And you could get it fresh, all for a penny."
That's inflation for you. My favorites were the little wax bottles filled with purple, red, yellow, or green liquid. It was sweet water or something like it -- really disgusting and good for the neighborhood dentists. (I must have had a cavity in every molar.) You bit off the top (looked like a Coke cap) and squirted the liquid down your throat. You could chug it or enjoy it drop by drop. Then you'd finish off the treat with something called a snowball -- a powder blue candy with a malted-milk center, covered with sugary, white coconut sprinkles. Those were so beautiful -- as dreamy as the wax bottles were south side.
The candy shop also sold multicolored sugar buttons on long strips of paper (5 cents a tear), whips (red and black Twizzlers), packaged sweets like Junior Mints, Milk Duds, Charleston Chews, and individual candies. Besides the Coke bottles, there were fireballs, chocolate drops, lemon drops covered with powdered sugar, twists of powdered stuff wrapped in white paper that tasted like Sweet-Tarts but different. That long glass case was full of every treat imaginable.
The rest of the store was so empty. The old owner put our purchases into white bags and rang up the sale on an old black cash register, where the numbers popped up on little tags in the window. He sold newspapers, magazines, coffee, sandwiches. I think he lived in the back, behind a thin, flowered curtain. He sold cigarettes to the retirees and I remember that they used to sit around and read the paper and smoke all afternoon.
Did the shop have a name? Don't know. It was just the candy store on 55th. Don't know how long it lasted -- certainly, it must have closed up long before I moved to New York. I'd love to find out what happened to it and what is there now.