Sunday, December 16, 2007

Margie's Luncheonette

Downtown Wenonah didn't have much in the way of shopping. There was a BP gas station on the corner of West & Mantua. Across the street was Bowker's grocery store and in the rear of Bowker's was Tony Sacca's meat market. Next to Bowker's was G. Wayne Post and a woman's hair salon. There was a bank further up North West Ave., the Farmer's and Mechanic's National Bank and next to the bank was a building that was first a police station and then a small store run by Mrs. Fleming and Alice Brangan, the Village Shoppe. Across the street on E. Mantua Ave. was another building that housed various businesses and a second where Margie's Luncheonette was located.
Margie's was the center of Wenonah. It was directly across from the park and almost dead center in town. It had a lunch counter, a magazine rack, several booths, school supplies, and a candy counter. It could be said to be almost heaven. In 5th Grade I was finally allowed to eat lunch at Margie's on rare occasions rather than returning home. This meant a grilled cheese or hamburger and a chocolate shake. It was also mega intimidating since all the "cool" kids ate and hung at Margie's. The counter was generally filled with local businessmen and the booths in the back with teenagers and 6th, 7th, & 8th graders. Most of my time in Margie's was spent not in the booths but at the candy counter or magazine rack. Comics and candy. A dual addiction. There was also a cooler filled with sodas on ice. Cokes and vanilla soda and grape and pineapple. You'd stick your hand deep into the cold water and pull out what you wanted. All for a dime.
Candy was still penny candy, which was good if your allowance was .25 cents. My particular favorites were jawbreakers and a sour english candy whose name escapes me. While staring at the counter and making your selection you would steal glances at the kids in the booths. Girls in cashmere sweaters and guys with leather jackets and pompadours. Cool kids cracking wise and all no doubt laughing at me in my cowlicked glory. The Gernaga brothers, the older DeHarts, the Brangans, Bobby McQuaide, and a dozen other kids all too cool for school were back in the booths blowing straws at each other and sucking down fountain drinks. Hanging out.
I was forbidden to hang out. I'm not exactly sure why but I do know that Earl Rowland was one of the kids in the back and he was a real bad egg. Ralph Parkinson and his crew were there as well. Some girls my age were there, Dolores Lorenz, Sandy Fay, Jane Shiflet. All fast girls. Way too fast for me who know idea what any of this meant.
So I'd get my two comics and five pieces of candy and walk slowly home through the gathering dark. Inventing fantasies where the girls would dig me and I'd save them from evil. Then I'd be the cool cat. Then they'd see. They'd know who I really was inside. The fantasies of young boys are deeply disturbing and I'll leave you now to contemplate my terrible revenge. If Bobby McQuaide and Stewart DeHart could hang me in a closet by a fan belt, well, fine. But soon they'd know who they were messing with. I was smart. I was brave. I weighed 65 pounds soaking wet. My hair stuck up in the back and my shoes were scuffed and worn. My shirts screamed loser. My pants had flannel lining in the winter. Oh they'd soon see who they were messing with, yes, indeed.

5 comments:

Bob Thomas said...

Jack,

Great description of Margie's. The entrance to Margie's was interesting - two or three steps on an angle and then (as I recall) a wooden door with many glass windows and you were onto a black and white floor right by a counter with about 8 or 10 red topped stools. Definitely Norman Rockwell material. When I first went in there a Tastykake pie was a nickel and so was a fountain Coke.

Some kids used to like "dishwater" which was Coke with milk in it.

Didn't they have a screen door in summer for a number of years - before the world became air conditioned? The screen door "push plate" was a cigarette ad - perhaps for Kools? I remember adults smoking a lot of Pall Mall and Winston cigarettes. Of course anyone was welcome to smoke wherever and whenever they pleased.

I remember going to see Dr. Wolfe in Woodbury Heights and he put a cigarette down to do an exam on me.

Steve Smith said...

And don't forget directly across the street... Hanging out at "Wenonah Park".

Claudia Hayes Hagar said...

i think I had my first "suicide" there...

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