Shelby Ohio USA: Hometown Nostalgia

Memories of growing up in "The Heart of it All" in small town Shelby, Ohio, USA in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s and what's happened since then.

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Name: BarcelonaMan
Location: Spain

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Candy! Ben Franklin, Five and Dime

Living so close to downtown Shelby Ohio I took every opportunity to spend what little money I had on CANDY - an important staple of a growing child's diet.

My favorite childhood candies were the NECCO wafers - the black licorice ones were the best and quickly turned your entire mouth BLACK.

Other pure-sugar-goodies high on my want-list included Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip. This is a packet of flavored sugars in different compartments. You take the pure, hardened stick of sugar, lick it, and stick it down into the fine-grained sugars, pull out with the sugar-covered-sugar-stick, and lick it! PURE SUGAR EXCITEMENT!

For more substantial "food candy" I'd often choose the wonderfully peanut-buttery-coconut-crunchy Zagnut candybar. Mmmm... If I didn't have enough for the Zagnut I'd get the cheaper Chick-O-Stick which was the same thing only in stick form and, no doubt, made by a different candy company.

Oh, and another all-time favorite candy were the Bottle Caps candy. The candies were round, and ridged at at the edges, looking like real bottle caps but they came in various flavors like Cola, Root beer, Cherry, and Lemon-Lime. So tasty!

Another good, cheap sugar fix was achieved by the Jaw Breakers - which would last a good 30 minutes, depending on their size, and could shatter your teeth into shards if attempting to chew them. And they were cheap too, maybe 2 or 5 cents each. Other cheap candies found at the check out counters were the yummy Root Beer Barrels, mini Tootsie Rolls, Smarties, and those WONDERFUL Red Hot Atomic Fire Balls - which were sweet cinnamon jawbreakers which would nearly literally set your mouth on fire! You could buy them buy the box but also individually wrapped.

Other goodies included the ZOTS, which had a sour explosion in their centers, Pixie Stix, Pop Rocks - which mythically killed Mikey (photo), the Life Cereal kid from the 1972 commercial where Mikey's brothers test the cereal on their little brother and then exclaim, "He likes it! Hey Mikey!" (see YouTube video of the commercial HERE) by mixing Pop Rocks with Coca Cola, Sweetarts and Spree, and of course those syrup filled wax bottles and big wax lips for a laugh. I usually went in for the sugar candies as opposed to the candy bars. Candy bars and M&Ms (peanut) were preferred by many but they were more expensive too, always at least 25 cents and a little kid isn't usually carrying around that kind of loot - in the early 1970s!

You could get candy in a number of places but the best were Main Street's Ben Franklin store, down the hill a little at the Five and Dime, and just a little further down at Stevenson's Pharmacy and soda shoppe.

Ben Franklin, a small town, midwestern chain of stores which carried a little of everything - like of like an Old Time, small-town version of Wal-Mart. The Ben Franklin Stores always had the best and largest selection so I did most of my "shopping" there. I'd carefully count my coins and then make the necessary calculations to see how much STUFF I could buy. There were rarely any lines at the cash register and if there was it'd give me more time to see how much change I'd be given back and buy the penny candy at the counter. YES, there REALLY WAS PENNY CANDY back then!

The Five and Dime I don't remember as well as, I believe, Ben Franklin finally put them out of business with competition, but they were good too.

Stevenson's Pharmacy was a fantastic place "back-in-the-day". Not only was it a pharmacy but they also sold a large variety of greeting cards, a good selection of candy, and even had a real life Soda Fountain with spinning stools at its counter, serving not only milk shakes but also ice cream and root beer floats. Mmmm... They finally went out of business too but don't recall why. Possibly due to the competition of the Struble Drug Store across the street - where I got my FIRST JOB as a 14-year old (or 15). Man, I hated that job and the boss/pharmacist certainly didn't go out of his way to make life easy for me - just the opposite. But maybe it was because I was just a kid and not used to standing on my feet for hours or taking orders from a grouch with more four-letter-words in his vocabulary than I had. But again, I was young and since have met hundreds of these kinds of people. I think I lasted 5 or 6 months at that job, often getting to work by bicycle after school or on the weekends. Sometimes Mom would drop me off and I'd walk home, exhausted, afterwards. But maybe all this is better left for a later posting.

Check out a FANtastic website about historical American candies and their wrappers at . Another good one is at - "Candy You Ate as a Kid".

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Blogger EricWitchey said...

Stephenson's closed because Mr. Stephenson retired. Also, they hung on to the soda fountain pharmacy market model long after places like Paul's, D-Q, and McDonalds had moved into Shelby to pick up the ice cream confection trade. Since they had to compete with Fisher Big Wheel and other chains moving in at the same time the steel mills were closing down, the $ per sq. foot floor space for the soda fountain didn't make sense. Of course, that's what is wonderful about a small town. The owner kept it because he liked it. Strubles is another story. They made the transition from the soda fountain model to the sundries model in the late sixties. If you worked there, perhaps you remember seeing some of that old soda fountain equipment in the dungeon of a basement that place had. Even so, after the steel mills closed, they had trouble making ends meet. They struggled along in the black until the middle of the eighties. After that, my father, one of the owners, sold his interest to the guy you probably worked for. I'm guessing you worked for a man whose life dreams were slowly circling the drain. In more robust times, I remember him as a kind, generous man who occasionally had a fit of temper. Failing health and difficult financial times combined with the perspective of a 14 year old likely made him into the foul-mouthed coot you describe. I'm sorry for your experience in the store. Over the years between 1960 and the late 80s, that place helped many people maintain lives and grow into new pursuits. Luck and skill to you in all things.

Me Alegro Conocerte, amigo. Via con Dios.

Eric M. Witchey

May 15, 2008 12:23 PM  
Blogger BarcelonaMan said...

I remember your dad at Strubles too. I was SO thankful he worked some days while the man to whom he sold the place took a day off. Your dad was a kind, fair man. Very even tempered and so friendly, even to me, a 14-year old. He an my dad were very good friends too, as I recall.

But you're right, the man to whom your dad sold the place did have fits of temper but could be so incredibly kind to the customers, patient with the talkative older folk, and always wore a smile. With me and the other workers there, he wasn't so kind. I don't recall seeing the Struble's basement at all. The boss probably didn't let me/is go down there. After Strubles Drugstore closed it was empty for some years, I think, and then a Chinese Restaurant went in there. Not sure if it still exists, however.

Thanks for the deeper insight about these locations. Truth is, I haven't thought too much about Shelby in the past 24 years since leaving for Ohio State but now, you know, with age and time and, maybe even because I'm living on another continent, I sometimes think about the "simple life" I lived in Shelby. But probably more than everything above, it's probably more because I've started this blog and am now trying to job my memory which causes me to remember things I'd forgotten.

Shelby, Ohio was the perfect small town in which to grow up. Of that I'm convinced.

May 17, 2008 7:39 AM  
Blogger dcolbert21 said...

I often think about Sheby. I grew up there, but left when we moved to New Mexico when I was 13. That was in 1947. I remember the ice cream store called Isley's and the Castamba theater where I went on Saturday afternoons. My Dad worked at the Light Plant for many years and my aunt and uncle and a few friends still live there. It's always nice to go back and visit once in awhile.

Beverly (Vaughn) Colbert

April 19, 2009 6:47 PM  

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