By Chris Simones
I was texting with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago when she mentioned sardines. I hadn’t thought of sardines in years.
I visualized a tin of Possum Brand Sardines on a dusty shelf in a little store as I drifted back in time to the 5-year-old me I was in 1969. Chances are good I was wearing worn out Converse tennis shoes, a pair of cut-off blue jean shorts, and a hand-me-down T-shirt my older brother had outgrown but now fit me just right.
My big brother was 5 years older than me and I looked up to him. He’d let me play baseball and football with him and his friends if I wouldn’t cry when I got hurt. It hurt a lot more to get left behind next time when they were getting a game together than it did to take a baseball to the chin or to get the wind knocked out of me when one of the big kids tackled me, so I learned not to cry.
I grew up in Forest Park and that neighborhood was about as close to heaven for a growing boy as there was on Earth. We had a shallow creek that ran behind our house and woods that went on forever. The creek wasn’t deep enough to fish in but you could catch as many crawdads as you cared to hunt. One day my friend Buddy and I caught a crawdad so big we were sure it was actually a small lobster. We put it back in the hole in the creek floor where we found it so we could catch it another day when it was even bigger.
There was a little store at the edge of our neighborhood that was only ever referred to as The Little Store. I used to linger in there on hot summer days after I’d waded through the heat up Parkview Drive and down Old Shelbyville Road. I loved looking at the items on the shelves. Vienna (Vi-inny) Sausages. Potted meat. Possum Brand Sardines. I never bought any of that stuff, though. I was there for Tootsie Pops.
This old woman always sat behind the faded counter beside a big, white scale and watched me as I wandered around The Little Store. She used to get mad at me because I figured out that I could by three Tootsie Pops for 6 cents if I bought them one at a time, but they were 7 cents if I bought them all together.
I always bought them one at a time, of course. The old woman scolded me one day and told me that I couldn’t buy them like that anymore. It was against the law, she said. I went back the next day and bought three Tootsie Pops separately for 6 cents. She frowned a little but she didn’t say anything about it being against the law. I pretty much never had more than 6 cents at a time back then and I loved Tootsie Pops, so I’d go to The Little Store about every time I’d saved 6 cents and buy three Tootsie Pops. One at a time, of course.
The old woman sold out to the Tanners eventually but it was still The Little Store to me. I drive past that building every day and it’s not even a store anymore, and it’s still The Little Store to me.
Standard reporter Chris Simones can be reached at 473-2191.