Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn, NY had a lot of great stores and places to hang out when we were kids, I don’t mean as teens but as kids. The best place on Brighton 6th street was a candy store right across the street of my apartment building, It wasn’t large, in fact it was fairly narrow.
As you walked in, on the left were some booths, maybe three or four. Each booth sat four people, five or six if the kids were thin. My booth sat four because I took up my share of the seat room and maybe a little extra of the person sitting next to me. What can I say?
On the right side was the soda fountain. There were six or seven stools along the counter where people would order egg creams, lime Rickeys, and seltzer water. Funny thing about seltzer, I always found it hard to swallow.
My favorite was, of course, the egg cream. Come to think of it, lime Rickys were good too. Ah, let’s face it, my favorites usually had some calories in it not like that bland hard to swallow seltzer water.
There was also big jars full of long stick pretzels with lots of salt on them running along the counter. It cost three cents for two pretzels. A bargain!
Right in front of the store all the candy was displayed: Nestles Crunch Bars and candy necklaces. Imagine wearing a thin white rubber band with candy on it around your neck. When you wanted a nosh you just stretched the rubber band and bite off a candy. Yeah, your neck got sticky but what’s a little stickiness when it came to convenience? The candy was never far from your mouth.
The store also had licorice twists (cherry and black), all day suckers, jaw breakers, the kind that changed colors as you sucked them. Every ten seconds you’d take the candy out of your mouth to see if the round ball turned from yellow to red. They cost a nickel each.
There was also chocolate babies. These were little chocolate fudge candies shaped like, well, babies. You ate them by biting off the feet first, then the head, and then ate the body.
Of course there were Tootsie Rolls. Not the little guys but the poppa sized ones. They were huge.
The store also had wax lips and wax teeth to chew on; the little wax bottles with some kind of sweet kind of liquid in it; there were Buttons which were strips of paper with blots of round candy hardened on the paper; Krackle bars; candy cigarettes so the kids could “smoke” like their parents; bubble gum cigars because some of our dads smoked cigars; paper tubes filled with some kind of powder that you were supposed to pour into water to make a drink but we poured the powder into our mouths straight from the paper tube. There were so many other kinds of candy as well.
The candy store seats and stools had that cheap red leather on them. Probably wasn’t even leather. The seats were always torn and when you sat on one the torn leather would scratch your legs and stick to your butte. It was torture sitting there during the summer months.
But the bestest, bestest part of the candy store was the soda machine in the back. The soda machine only had the usual kind of soda in there. Some kind of orange flavored stuff, some kind of cola, and something else, maybe Tab. Don’t remember Tab young folks? Tab was the first diet soda of the time. It tasted horrible but it was sugar free.
Right next to the soda machine was a huge ice freezer filled with sodas that the machine didn’t have like root beer, lime soda, grape soda, lemon soda. The freezer was around three feet long and two feet wide, and was as high as my knees. During the summer it was filled with ice and soda.
Back in the late 1950’s air conditioning was nothing more than two words. No one had an air conditioner, fans, yeah, but an air conditioner? No way. What I’m trying to say that it was hot and humid in Brooklyn so the kids would go into the candy store to buy some soda. We’d all go to the freezer and dig your hands in trying to find the soda that was hidden under all the ice.
Really, we didn’t care what we drank, it was all the same crap, we just wanted an excuse to put our arms, elbow deep, into that icy wonderland to cool off. The owner of the store knew what the kids were doing because it took us 10 minute to find the kind of soda we wanted.
But back to the soda machine. Soda bottles did not have twist off caps. You needed a bottle opener to get the caps off. The soda machine had an opener in it. There was a little hole in the machine. You’d put the top of the soda bottle in the hole where there was a hook that would snap the cap off and you’d end up with an open bottle of soda.
The cap fell inside a well in the machine. All the kids collected the bottle caps. The caps were different colors from the different kinds of sodas. We would stick out hands inside the well, stretch out our chubby little fingers and grab the bottle caps. Adults would never be able to stick their hands in that well but our hands were small enough to fit right. Oh sure, every so often a kid got his hand stuck in the well. That was always good for a laugh.
All the kids had a collection of the caps that we would share and trade, like bubble gum trading cards but we didn’t have to pay for the bottle caps. What we also did with the caps was to sink them into our sneakers and pretend that we were wearing tap shoes. We’d walk outside and hear the clicks on the pavement and then we’d start tap dancing. Fred Astaire would have been so jealous if he ever saw our routines. If he ever came to Brighton we’d show him how tap dancing was really done.
We’d hang out at the candy store for a couple of hours with our hands in the icy water and in the soda machine fishing for bottle caps. If we each bought a nickel’s worth of candy the owner was happy.
Eventually we’d tap out of the store and go on the playground on second street but that’s another tale.
I mentioned Lime Rickey and Egg Cream at the beginning of this story. I’m sure lots of people know what they are but I doubt if everyone does so here’s a recipe for each:
Lime juice – from 8 limes or so
Chilled seltzer (The recipe calls for club soda. Club soda? No good Jew worth his mettle would ever use club soda. You have to use seltzer from the big bottle with the spritzer on top)
Fill a large pitcher with ice
Pour in the raspberry syrup and pour the lime juice over ice, and then the seltzer
Stir it up. I mean really stir it up. As my dad used to say, “Keep on stirring, I don’t mind the noise.”
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE EGG CREAM
Just in case you’re from outer space, there are no eggs in an egg cream. Jews just like to trick up people with the name just for the fun of it.
Whole milk (No skim milk, or low fat milk, or anything the slightest bit healthy allowed)
Chocolate Syrup (Lots of it)
Pour the milk into a very cold glass. Put in your chocolate syrup, then spritz in the seltzer. Using a big spoon beat that concoction until it’s all mixed well. This takes a lot of stirring and beating. “Keep on stirring, I don’t mind the noise.”
If you have recipes from your childhood days or if your egg cream and lime Rickey recipe is different please post and share.
To see more of my childhood memories go to S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.