Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crows Campus Corner

Memory is an incredible thing. Sometimes an old song will take me back to a very detailed moment in my past when I was listening to it before. Other times a memory sense is triggered by the whiff of perfume or the scent of a flower. There is a flower smell that takes me right back to Maui every time. A certain rose smell takes me to the memory of a funeral I attended as a kid.   English Leather cologne takes me back to an Edwardian suit and a Houston apartment.
Yesterday it wasn't a smell or a song that took me back to my days as a grade school child. It was a candy bar. To be specific the Chase's Cherry Mash which is not so much of a candy bar as it is a chocolate lump.  In true FaceBook protocol here is a picture of it before I ate it.
Although it may not look as appealing to you as it did to a 7 year old Jay Johnson, I assure you it is the holy grail of candy treats.  This story is really about buying this treasure as a kid, but for you connoisseurs of fine chocolates here are the ingredients of Chase's Cherry Mash.
Ground roasted peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, chocolate liquor, dextrose, Cocoa powder, cornstarch, maraschino cherries, soybean oil, powered skimmed milk, palm kernel oil, lecithin, egg albumen, whey, invertase, salt, natural and artificial flavors, red#3.
I do not remember the ingredients being on the package when I was 7.  Even now years later I do not know what half of them are.  I am fairly certain that the ones I ate as a child contained red#2 instead of#3. Red dye number two was banned in the 70's when it was discovered to be a carcinogen.  Basically the Cherry Mash is a pink wad of cherry flavored nugget dipped in chocolate mixed with ground peanuts.
I went to grade school in a large two story iconic red brick school house in Abernathy, Texas. From the second story classroom window of Mrs. Wilson's class I could see Crows Campus Corner half a block away. It was a school supplies/candy store and as you might guess by the name, it was on the corner of the School Campus.  It was a small establishment owned by the Crow family. We simply called it "Crows".
With a dime you could buy most any kind of candy. Salted peanuts cost a nickel. The Chase's Cherry Mash was not always available at Crows (for reasons unknown - perhaps seasonal) I would buy one every time they had it.  The site of this Cherry Mash for sale at World Market took me immediately back to Crows.
I remember the glass counter where they kept the candy. My chin barely came to the top of it.  I was small for my age, perhaps a touch hyperactive and precocious. Waiting for my turn to buy the Cherry Mash and being over imaginatively stimulated, I would balance the coins on their edge. They floated beautifully on that old glass counter top.  It was my trademark, my personal MO.  Most of the kids and some of the ladies who worked behind the counter were impressed with my coin dexterity. In Abernathy a stunt like that was almost a magic trick. But... it was not a trick that Mrs. Crow seemed to appreciate.
Mrs. Crow was the wife of the owner of the store. She was the boss in charge. I have no idea how old she was. To me she was a Crone in a white apron and hair net, an old lady. Wrinkles were carved deeply into her face which was set in a permanent scowl. She was sort of an unhappy looking apple Face doll.   Mrs. Crow seemed to relish knocking over my standing coins before she swept them into the cash register drawer.  Eventually I began the practice placing my cupped hand over the balancing coins until I knew which of the candy ladies would be waiting on me. For anyone other than Mrs. Crow I would lift my hand off the standing coins presenting my payment with a flair.  If it happened to be Mrs. Crow, I would flatten my hand and slide the coins toward her.
There it is in a candy wrapper. It's not just a Chase's Cherry Mash... it is an entire flash of my former life.  Perhaps it really is my life flashing in front of my eyes from invetase and artificially flavor poisoning. I do miss the taste of Red Dye #2.
As you were,


Lee Cornell said...

Neat story Jay. I had a similar candy bar "love affair" with the original Bun Bar. It was a round candy bar like yours. Some kind of white sugar cream nougat filling, covered with peanuts and then dipped in milk chocolate. They added a maple flavor later, but the original was/is my favorite. And, still available in some stores. I'm as I was.

P. Grecian said...

We had Cherry Mash candy "bars" when I was a kid, but I was always a 5th Avenue fan. In those days they had two almonds on top. These days they've eliminated to almonds (an additional expense cutting into the profit margin, I suspect) and, except for the wrapper, a 5th Avenue is indistinguishable from a Butterfinger. That was a lovely story, Jay. I love stories like that...flashes back to childhood when the world was a mystery and adventure lurked just out of sight and around the corner. Thanks so much.

P. Grecian said...

Should read, "...they've eliminated the almonds..." I should proofread. :-)

Darrell Selke said...

Jay....more Crows memories

1. Racing down the street to be first in line at Crows
2. The round boxes of peanuts with coins inside
3. Frito Pies...I thought they were invented at Crows
4. The dreaded words..."Meet me behind Crows"... a challenge to fight one of the tough kids (names withheld to protect the innocent)

Mama Jeannie said...

I love hearing Abernathy memories. You are all blessed to have been raised together in a small Texas town. I did not have the pleasure of 'belonging' anywhere in particular, so to hear you recall your childhood memories with people you knew before grade school through your high school years is something books are made of; right up there with the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Mitford is a fictional village with many of the joys, antics, challenges and sorrows of small town America you Abernathy 'kids' call home.


You are right so many Crows memories. You know I never found a coin in that peanut box. I thought it was just a rumor to sell more peanuts. Nice to hear from you Darrell.