Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shopping on the Cheap

Bubba and Zayda lived at Linden Blvd and E. 93rd Street in Brooklyn.  Zayda and Mr. Thompson built the adjoining three flats themselves, each family taking one apartment in one three flat and renting out the others.  I spent every Sunday of my childhood on their front porch, watching the city go by.  

It was a different world fifty years ago.  Children could walk safely around the corner to the deli, buying knishes and french fries and Specials, giant hot dogs in fluffy buns.  Brother and I would store the money deep down in our pockets and cross the street in the middle, right in front of G'ma's watchful eyes.  Turning left onto Linden Blvd we'd pass two or three stores, go into the deli, and hope that the counterman would notice our small selves in front of the case.

Three doors down from the deli was the bakery, where Bubba would buy me a charlotte russe. Sponge cake and strawberries and whipped cream with a cherry on top set in a giant, pleated paper, cupcake wrapper.  It was heaven in my hand. 

But the most wonderful part of visiting my grandparents was across the street and down a way. There, in the middle of the block, was the source of all things wonderful and inexpensive - John's Bargain Store.

A little bit of internet research told me that the chain was started in 1927 by David Cohen.  His idea was to locate his stores where there were few automobiles and lots of baby strollers.  That was my Bubba.  Mr. Cohen took overstock items and marked them down and for less than one dollar we could fill one of Bubba's grocery sacks.  

There were long, flat tables with large white signs and even larger red lettering.  The tables were laden with fabulousness - colorful plastic toys and dolls and clothes and kitchen gadgets.  When I was five, Zayda went with us, because you were only allowed to buy one hula hoop per person, and we needed three.  The possibilities were endless, the price was right.

I'd receive a one dollar bill before we opened the door.  It was mine to spend as I liked, and Bubba had nothing but time and patience.  We could while away an afternoon, cruising the wood plank floors, peering into the merchandise, choosing, rejecting, selecting.  

It was perfect.

And now, decades later, armed with stacks of coupons which reduce the price of the sale items to a mere pittance, I wander through Buy Buy Baby, delighted by the colors and the textures and the memories of holding my Bubba's hand, a dollar burning a hole in my pocket.  

Some memories are made to last. 

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