Here is the column that will run in tomorrow's Chronicle (1/25/2012) entitled The Merc:
Another fond memory of growing up in Hinckley was visiting Morris Mercantile on Main Street. The 'Merc' was one of very few Hinckley businesses in operation while I was growing up. Another was the Sinclair station at the corner of Main and the highway, which was referred to as the 'Hinckley Second Ward' due to a number of Aaronic priesthood holders who would congregate there on Sundays to drink pop and visit during church.
My mom would send me to buy lunch or dinner fixings at the Merc and would tell me to say, "Put it on our account." and Mr. or Mrs. Morris would write up the order in a little book, I would sign it, and the yellow carbon copy would go into the bag with the purchase. I loved when Mr. Morris would slice long, red paper-wrapped bolognas. When I close my eyes, I can still smell fresh bologna slices with the red strips of paper peeling from the edges. I recall the ancient cash register that sat high in the center of the store surrounded by the refrigerator cases. It probably weighed a couple of hundred pounds and it rang cheerily every time the cash drawer opened. You could spend hours exploring the soft goods, school supplies, toy rack, greeting card drawers, and the shoe and clothing shelves in the back of the store, but my favorite thing in the whole place was the candy counter.
The Morris' candy counter was a glass case about five feet wide and four feet high with sliding glass panels in the back for access. The well-stocked case had glass shelves. The top shelf was divided into compartments which held the penny candy like Smarties; Pixie Sticks; Swedish Fish; Tootsie Rolls; Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum; and my favorite: thick, stubby black licorice sticks that turned your whole mouth black.
The next shelf down held nickel candies which included packages of Pop Rocks and small boxes of Lemon Heads, Boston Baked Beans, and Alexander the Grape. Those thin taffy slabs and the flat Jolly Rancher sticks, which you could lick into a candy dagger, were also five cents each.
Ten cent candy was kept on the shelf just below the nickel stuff. A dime would buy a roll of Necco wafers; a thick, crunchy Chick-o-Stick; a bag of red or black Twizzler bites; or a box of Good and Plenty, Mike and Ike, or Hot Tamales. Those long, red licorice ropes; the packets of powdered candy with the edible dipping stick called Lik-M-Aid; and the soda-flavored Bottle Caps also resided on the dime shelf.
The lowest shelf in the case held the items that went for a quarter--candy bars and rolls of Life Savers were the things I remember down there. The candy bars were bigger and Life Saver rolls were longer back then, but I rarely spent an entire quarter on one item. I felt I got more value from my twenty-five cents when I purchased a bag of penny, nickel and dime candies.
The Merc's clerks took candy orders from kids with faces pressed against the glass front of the counter. Sometimes they spent long periods of time with a single indecisive child as he tried to select from the array of scrumptious options. Once chosen, the medley of sweets were dropped into a small, flat, paper sack, the coins or old pop bottles would be collected and counted before the bag was handed over to complete the transaction. After school and throughout any given summer day, a line of children was usually waiting for their turn to push themselves against the front of the case. Mr. Morris was constantly saying, "Don't lean on the glass." When I was young, there were a myriad of hair-line cracks along the front of the case, as time went by, the cracks increased in number and size and on my last visit to Morris Mercantile as an adult, the case had so many pieces of cardboard and tape holding the glass together, you could hardly see through it anymore.
When I was young, a visit to the Morris Merc candy case rivaled a Willie Wonka golden ticket. Every kid in Hinckley had a life-time supply of every candy we wanted (except for the Everlasting Gobstopper; that's what we were leaning against the glass looking for). I wonder if Dr. Cox, the only dentist in Delta at the time, realized why the kids in Hinckley had the worst teeth in the whole county?
Do you share some of Georgia's childhood memories? Please send comments to her by email or phone: email@example.com / 801-737-4787.