When I was growing up, there was a store on the corner of Delano Street. It was called J & J’s. It was run by Asian immigrants, Daniel and Irene. To this day, I have no idea what the J & J stood for.
The store wasn’t very big. When you came in the door (which was really a regular ol’ screen door), the candy counter with cash register was right there. If you walked to the left, you walked passed the ice cream and school supplies. If you kept going, you ended up at the back of the store and the deli where we sometimes bought sandwiches. Take a turn right and you were in the aisles. There were probably about four of them. I remember that the last aisle against the wall had cereal.
My fondest memories are of filling my pockets with quarters, then walking to the store with a friend or sibling. Out front were gum ball and prize machines. The gum ball machine had a yellow and red striped gum ball hidden within. If you got it, it was your lucky day because it meant you got a free candy bar. We always hit the gum ball machine first. I remember getting the striped gum ball once.
Then we’d head inside to buy whatever my Mom had to have for dinner. We’d always be sure to circle around the store and hit the candy counter. This was a child’s dream. The candy counter was filled with about 50 different candy bars and snacks. I always loved the Ghirardelli Flick’s, Wacky Packs, Pixie Stix, Almond Joy’s, Wax bottles, and Junior Mints. For 50 cents a kid could get enough candy to last the week. We usually grabbed a bottle of coke to wash down all the sugar. It’s a wonder our bodies didn’t go into some sort of shock!
Sometimes my Dad would go over to J & J’s in the evening to pick up cigarettes or some small item. He’d come home with either a bag full of candy bars or ice creams. He knew how to make our day!
J & J’s was the only store in town that sold Frosty O’s cereal. I can still remember the box with Dudley Do Right on the front. Sometimes I could beg my Dad into buying a box, though we already had a cupboard filled with cereal boxes at home.
The store is still there, but Daniel and Irene no longer own it. It looks shabby and run down. There are bars on the door and windows. Cigarette and beer posters serve as wall paper. I haven’t been in the store in years. It’s lost it’s charm and I sort of dread peering inside to see what it’s become.
The corner store played such an important part of our daily lives. Today you have to jump in your car to drive over to the grocery store. But, back then, the corner store was essential to survival. It was within walking distance and usually had just enough essentials to hold you over until shopping day. For us kids, it was our first taste of independence. We pretending we hated to be asked to walk to the store, but we loved the freedom of setting out on our own. It would have been difficult back then during the days of gas rationing in the early 1970s for a family to survive without the corner store.