This may startle some of you, but there were no Walmart Supercenters, Best Buys or GameStops when I was a kid.
''But where,'' some of you may ask, ''did you buy your DVDs and iPods and laptops?''
Well, park your lollipops and let Uncle Burtie tell you about corner stores.
The corner store of my childhood was a magical place where much could be had for a quarter. Rubber bugs went especially well with 15-cent glass bottles of RC Cola.
Within a half mile of our farmhouse were two corner stores, though one technically wasn't on a corner.
Bennett's Grocery was a quarter mile walk away, and Paul and Lucile's General Store was a half-mile bike ride. Mom would send us to the stores for canning lids and parafin or, for a special occasion, store-bought green beans.
The families lived in the backs and the stores nested where living rooms should have been.
Mrs. Bennett was a very old woman, nearly 40. She was the neighborhood grandma - a grandma with a freezer full of ice pops and ice cream bars right at the front counter.
The wooden floorboards of the store were bare and buckled, but clean. I suspect that her kids, Grant and Denise, were chased out of the back on a regular basis to sweep.
Denise was a dream. Sometimes it was she who rang up my order on that relic of an iron cash register. I only mumbled to Denise. She was an older woman, a full grade ahead of me at the elementary school, and therefore beyond my social standing.
Grant probably was handsome. I'd have to ask someone. I never took much notice when I asked him where his sister was.
Past the rows of bread, cereals, soaps and sponges were shelves of baseball cards, root beer mix, 10-cent balsa wood airplanes, plastic lips and even artist's penholders that I found one day way in the back. I still have the penholders.
There was sticky, rolled flypaper, which was great for wrapping around your kid brother. The theory was that if he wouldn't tear off the rolls, enough flies would get their feet caught in the goo that the combined buzzing of their wings could lift him off the ground. I never had a brother who would cooperate long enough to find out.
A little farther down the road was Paul & Lucile's, where we'd go to reload on rubber baseballs after Gordon, the big kid who lived across the road, smacked more homeruns into the high weeds.
Lucile had a hanging basket weight in which she would weigh neighborhood babies while giving the big brothers or sisters peppermint sticks.
Once, their kid Larry blew up my bicycle tire. Literally. It was his family's store and he said he guessed he knew how to run the air hose by the gas pumps. He guessed wrong about my tire. It was a sad walk home while Larry looked for his patch kit.
Both corner stores closed a quarter century ago.
Today, supercenters gleam with impersonal dazzle. But they lack the neighborhood camaraderie and homemade charm. Snack bars aren't as captivating as soda fountains. Store owners live a half-dozen states away. Not a one of them has given me a peppermint stick.
Kidlings, listen to your Uncle Burtie. Take a day off from the mall and shop for memories at your corner store - if you can find one.
---- Write the ol' codger at firstname.lastname@example.org.