Back in the early ’70s, I lived with my dad and two older sisters in Inglewood, CA in a little 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom house. My dad had the big front bedroom and my sisters and I were squeezed into the smaller back bedroom. The house was right under the flight path for LAX, and boy those jet planes were loud going overhead.
On the other side of our street, half a block down, was a little corner grocery store. A family of Mexican heritage owned the store and they made these fantastic tamales that we’d sometimes pick up for dinner. My dad loved tamales.
The store also sold the usual small grocery stuff, including soda, candy, and bubblegum. I certainly ate my share of candy (3 Musketeers was a favorite), but I was more often down there for a bottle of Crush and a supply of bubblegum.
Rather than the typical Bazooka Joe flat rectangle, I bought Double Bubble bubblegum, which was cylindrical and wrapped in brightly colored waxed paper that was twisted on the two flat ends. They sold for a penny apiece, and I would always buy 10 of them at a time.
As to the Crush, I was a real connoisseur. This was back when soda came in glass bottles. The Crush bottles were very tall and slender, clear glass so it was easy to tell one flavor from another. The corner store sold Crush in the familiar orange, of course, but also grape, strawberry, and my personal favorite, pineapple. Pineapple wasn’t always available, but if it was, I snapped it up. Second choice was strawberry, third was the classic orange, and I generally avoided the grape.
I’d take my sugary stash of bubblegum and soda back home, then I’d hang out in the living room reading (some Ray Bradbury short stories or maybe a comic book that I’d also picked up at the store). I’d chew one piece of bubblegum after the other, abandoning each one the moment it lost its sweet flavor. I washed all that sugar down with the additional sugar of the Crush. My jaws would ache by the time I’d finished all that gum.
Even though I paid for all that indulgence with cavities and some TMJ issues, it’s such a fond memory. Not just the sugary treats, but the convenience and pleasure of little corner grocery stores like that, set right into the neighborhoods they served. We could walk right to it, get our sugar rush or the night’s dinner, without ever having to climb into a car.
I do miss pineapple Crush and bubblegum, although I don’t dare indulge in either anymore. But maybe it’s not the soda and gum I’m nostalgic for. Maybe it’s the laziness of summer, the wonderful convenience of a corner store, and the joy of finding exactly the flavor I wanted most in the cooler.