Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fourth and Central

In Runnemede, at the NW corner of 4th and Central there used to be a store. It's a house now. It was a house then, actually, but it had an outside entrance to it's basement, wherein lay the store.

It was not your usual store. I actually think it was a front for some mafia activity, but I'm just thinking that like people in my community think I'm in the Federal witness protection program.

This store had very FEW items for sale (see why I think it was a front for the mafia) and there was never anyone in it but the Drexler kids (see why I think it was a front for the mafia). There was obviously no means for support for this "store." I mean the Drexler kids might have spent $1 total on a good week!

My brother Mark liked the place because the man carried baseball cards. Not that 15 other stores in town didn't, but he had to get all the packs he could, because he never knew when that ONE card would pop up in a pack, so he shopped all over town buying baseball cards.

The man -- whose name my sister and I cannot remember -- who ran the joint had penny candy -- of all kinds, nickle candy bars -- of all kinds, but the supplies never seemed to be any different from week to week. We'd buy our stash (a dime each, usually) and the next week, there would be the same number of candy bars and penny candy items as when we left the week before (see why I think it was a front for the mafia?).

Monday was allowance day, so Monday was probably the day we walked the three blocks to the store.

The man also carried some of the items you would find in the Oriental Trading Company catalog. Rings that turned your finger green after five minutes, yo-yos (the cheap kind, not any brand name), pencils with pictures on them (not naughty pictures), comics, and magazines. Since at that point in my life I wouldn't have recognized an off-color magazine, I can't say that he carried anything like that.

But this was a different store from Jake's 5 & 10, or Binkley's 5 & 10, or Pitt's Drugstore, or Dink's news-stand.

I don't know how else to describe it except a 15x15 corner of this home's basement had been rounded out with shelves on all walls. There was a glass case in the center of the store with the cash register on it, and all the products lined the walls. It was a dinky little store, which I didn't frequent very often -- it frankly gave me the creeps, but apparently my sister and brothers liked it.

But then, they also liked the hoagie shop at 6th and the pike, whereas I preferred the deli on the Pike near Clements Bridge Road. It was all a matter of taste.


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