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Seeds of Wisdom Stories
>White Bread
>Know Your Future?
>Crossroads of Life
>Small Potatoes
>World's Greatest Go-Kart
>50 cent ad into a....
>Remember Needles!
>Mary Campbell's Cave
>Stealing the Snickers
>Larry and Tom
>The Cuckoo Clock....
>The Queen of Hearts
>Starting with Little
>Millionaire Mentality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEALING THE SNICKERS

By Gordon Jay Alexander

I celebrated the last day of school, 1963, by stealing a Snickers candy bar. I don’t know why, I just stuck it in my pocket and walked out of the Sparkle store.

I was shocked and excited. I had never stolen before. And I only had to make it the 40 yards down and across the parking lot to the safety of my house.

As I hit the steps the wrapper was gone and the first delicious bite was being chewed. I walked into the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator and gulped straight from the milk carton. Two sins in two minutes, I was exhilarated.

Then I looked out the kitchen window, and milk and candy bar came spewing disgustingly from my mouth and nose. Mr. Morris, the Sparkle Supermarket manager was entering the ABC Barber Shop.

ABC, Alex, Bill & Chuck. Clever I always thought. Alex was my dad. And he had two rules, never steal and never lie.

I think those were the first words I ever uttered, no lies, no theft. And there I stood, school shirt splattered with half eaten nuts and chocolate, which I had stolen.

My heart was racing, and I watched Mr. Morris, Mo to his friends, emerge from the barber shop wearing a smirk.

The phone rang, I almost peed my pants. It was my dad.

"Son," he said, "come over to the shop, right now." He didn’t wait for a response, there was a click.

I ran into my room and quickly changed shirts, went to the bathroom and in one single motion I flushed the remains of the evidence down the toilet and rubbed toothpaste from my finger across the front of my teeth. Like some drunk driver, trying to avoid detection from a sniffing cop, I didn’t want to smell of crime.

The barber shop was busy, a guy in each chair, a couple of more waiting. My dad was a quiet man, few words, so he always made each one count, never sugar coating or mincing those seldom but precious utterances.

"Son, Mr. Morris says you stole a candy bar, that so?"

I should have recognized the trap, but committing my third crime in just a few minutes(although drinking straight from the milk carton was a minor misdemeanor charge) I said, "No sir."

He snapped off the clippers, and said, "Well either you or Mr. Morris is a liar, so lets go up and you can call him one and then I’ll take care of him."

I began to tremble. I had no idea what he meant by taking care of Mr. Morris, but I knew deep within my being that if we left that barber shop and did indeed confront Mo, that I would probably never be heard from again. So I proffered an immediate confession.

"No Dad, I took the candy bar."

"So, you are a thief and a liar. Go home, sit in a chair and come back over at 5:15." he said.

With the possible exception of sitting silently on the bottom of Haiphong Harbor, aboard a "sitting duck" submarine; during the late days of the Vietnam war, this waiting period was the most excruciating of my life.

Seventy five minutes of tortuous silence, as I sat in a chair staring at the clock.

Then it was time. I walked slowly across the parking lot, Bill & Chuck were leaving, both looked at me sympathetically, shaking their heads. That only added to my nervousness.

As soon as I walked through the door, my father was getting ready, he was taking the leather straps off the side of his chair.

In those days the barbers kept these long leather straps attached to the chair to keep the straight razors sharpened. I had heard about getting "strapped" from my older brother, who was always in trouble. I was the goody one.

My father spoke: "Son, it is my job to punish you for the crimes, for stealing the candy bar and then for lying to me about doing it. Today I am going to strap you for the theft. But first you are going to go up and pay for the candy bar, apologize to Mr. Morris, and tell him you are going to sweep out the store every morning before it opens, and you are going to sweep the parking lot every evening after the store closes."

On the way to the apology, I momentarily considered flight, but instantly realized that was not an option. I also understood that my father had effectively grounded me.

I wouldn’t be able to stay at the baseball field at night, and I would have to get up just as early as I did for school. Some summer break this was going to be, stealing the candy bar was a bad idea.

I paid Mr. Morris the dime, gave my apology in front of several people and headed back to the barber shop. And it was only after I left the store that I realized what was ahead. Did my dad say strap?

The sharpening straps were about 3" wide and about 30" long.

He made me drop my trousers and grab onto the barber chair and then he said those words that kids can never understand until they actually become parents:

"Son this hurts me more than it is going to hurt you."

I didn’t feel anything after the third whack, I don’t know how many times he laid the strap onto my bottom. But he drew blood, and raised many a welt.

When he was done, he told me to pull up my pants, and to sit down in the chair.

"It is a father’s duty to punish his children when they have committed a sin (crime and sin were the same to dad).

It will make you stop the next time, at the moment your mind tells you to go ahead and do it, you know, right before you took that candy bar, a little voice in your mind told you to do it."

He was right, I remember having a short debate whether or not to pocket the candy, the devil won the debate this day I thought. Telling dad the devil made me do it would only be redundant, he already knew that.

"Now this was for the theft, I owe you for the lie. I’ll make sure you get that before too much of the summer goes by. Now go home, wash your underwear by hand and put some salve on your butt."

I don’t need to tell you that there were of course, tears streaming down my cheeks, and blood on my butt. I could barely walk. Getting strapped was everything my brother said it was and more.

I couldn’t sit down for about a week, and even then I used a pillow. But I started my summer routine, up at 6:00 and in the store at 6:30 when Ray the butcher showed up to begin his day of carving beef.

It took me all the way to 9 when it opened to sweep and mop that store. The floor was wood slats and held dirt like a white shag carpet.

I had to be back at 7 PM to sweep up the parking lot, that only took about an hour. Although I had plenty of free time to play ball, it just wasn’t the same.

About a month went by and my father called me over to the shop at closing, I knew it was time to pay the price for lying, I knew because my butt was almost healed, and could probably withstand another assault from the strap.

"Son," he began, strap in hand, "its time".

I dropped my pants, grabbed tightly onto the barber chair arm rests, and began to shake like a leaf. It seemed like minutes went by and the expectation was unbearable as I began to tear.

"Son, pull your pants up and sit down." I obeyed.

"Just as it is a father’s right and duty to punish his children, it is also a right to show mercy."

"Have you learned your lesson?"

I assumed he was talking about stealing and lying and how if I ever got caught again, there would be no such mercy, and with that thought in mind, I replied, "Yes sir."

I was never strapped again. That summer began with the first and only time my father ever laid a hand on me, and indeed it took me many years later to understand his lament,

after I had children of my own, "this hurts me more than it is going to hurt you."

And long after the sting of the strap faded, and the welts went away, I still can feel the father’s forgiveness

and remember his mercy. Although he could have, he didn’t .

That is how the summer of 1963 began. I stole a Snickers candy bar, and I was punished for it.

I switched to Milky Way, and began the summer at the center of the universe.

 

BARNEY’S BUSY CORNERS

THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

It was called Barney’s Busy Corners, an intersection where the cities of Akron, Tallmadge, and Cuyahoga Falls all met. And in those remnant happy days of the early sixties, it was the center of my universe.

Within an easy mile of the corners was everything a 13 year old kid could want.

South down Tallmadge road, about a half a mile, were the swimming holes, Baker’s Acres and Tallmadge Springs. They were right across the street from each other. Tallmadge Springs also had a miniature golf course and trampolines. And both swimming holes attracted their share of 15-16 year old bathing beauties.

North up Tallmadge road, about a half a mile, was Preston school, where new tennis courts, and baseball diamonds, and basketball courts and a playground with swings where the 15 year old girls used to hang out when they weren’t swimming.

East up Howe Road, about a half a mile, was my friend Carl’s house. And through his back yard I gained access to Breathnach Country Club, emerging on the third tee, which enabled me to play golfer free, although somewhat hurried. It was also where I made ball traps for stray golf shots. I made some nice change selling used golf balls.

West down Howe Road, which was dirt and pot holed, was the pond. Howe road was probably the worst road in the county at that time and it got very little traffic. We fished the pond in the summer, and it was our hockey rink in winter. The neighborhood boys built a tree house on the north side of the pond that summer. Even then, it was awesome.

Across from the pond was an abandoned farm house and barn. It was also a way to sneak into Baker’s Acres and go swimming for free. The long and tree covered drive to the old farmhouse was the favorite parking spot for the older teens.

And we youngins would occasionally sneak up for a peak or to flash a light into the steam covered windows.

A mile up Brittain Road, a brick covered road, was Midway Plaza, a strip shopping center.

And a quarter of a mile up Bailey Road, was Indian Mountain, where new basketball courts went in across the street from Arnold’s farm, which was next to Brookledge Golf.

I spent a lot of time sneaking onto the golf courses and perfecting my "quick swing".

Less than a half mile from Indian Mountain was Stutzmans’ market, a bakery, a pharmacy with soda fountain,

shoe repair, Laundromat, and other stores. I considered this an adjoining universe.

And then there was the corner itself. Barney’s Busy Corners.

The Sparkle Supermarket building(a glorified mom & pop grocery store that boasted a butcher shop) was also home to a gas station, the ABC Barber Shop, an insurance agent and a bike store.

Across Tallmadge Road was a doctor, a beauty shop, Joe’s Barber shop, and Papa Felice’s Pizza shop.

On the Akron corner was a frozen custard stand, and across the street from that, on the Tallmadge side was a dry cleaners.

My house, dubbed the Alexander Mansion, because it was thought to be the smallest house in the Falls with that many people living in it (6-Mom & Dad, an older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister), sat facing Bailey road, with parking lot surrounding it. Within a few minutes of my home was everything a 13 year old boy could possibly want. Did I mention the new housing allotments that were teeming with kids, and loaded with 15 year old girls? Like I said, everything a 13 year old boy could dream of.

That was the Center of the Universe. At least geographically. I knew almost everyone that lived within that square mile. I was already known for my entrepreneurial spirit, having started selling seeds door to door when I was 8. I also sold Grit magazine, greeting cards, and magazines. I loved selling door to door, you never knew when you might get lucky and have one of those older girls answer.

I remember 13 as a time of changing focuses. Hmm.

It was a different time, kids could safely ride their bikes up and down the streets, and most would at some time of the day or another make a pit stop at Barney’s. It was indeed a very busy corners.

It is this kind of a neighborhood that many of my fellow Baby Boomers recall with affection and sorrow when they talk about the good old days. The Summer of ‘63 was the beginning of the end of the good old days. Before Thanksgiving, our President would be killed, and the whole world turned upside down. But these memories are what was happening, way back then.

 

Mr. Morris, the manager of the Sparkle store, did not agree with my father’s punishment, but did not intervene. He did however offer me a job, trimming the fruits and vegetables in the morning, and packing and bagging in the busy evening hours. He paid well, in cash, and allowed me to sit and read as many comic books as I could. That was a perk.

I also got the job of cleaning the ABC Barber Shop, in exchange for an account. The barber shop had a pop machine, and a rack of chips and pretzels. Many men would sit and munch on a snack and have a drink while pretending not to look at the pictures in the Playboy magazine they were reading.

I would sweep and mop and once a week even wax the floor, clean the mirrors, fill up the shaving cream machines, clean the bathrooms, etc. For this I got 50 cents. Pop was a dime and bags of chips were a dime. So I accumulated an account, which permitted me to invite friends over for the evening.

That was the summer my friend Dan and I would spend gulping chocolas and watching Alfred Hitchcock while pumping ourselves up in the barber chairs and talking about all the cute girls in the universe we were soon going to be dating.

 

Copyright 2000 Gordon J. Alexander and Seeds of Wisdom Publishing, All Rights Reserved