The City of Owen Sound is located on the southern shores of Georgian Bay in a valley below the sheer rock cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Owen Sound is characterized by a magnificent harbour and bay, two winding rivers, tree-lined streets, an extensive parks system, and tree-covered hillsides and ravines, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Owen Sound is the largest urban community in Grey and Bruce Counties, which combined represent a primary commercial market of 158,000. Owen Sound is the seat of the County of Grey government, and is the location for a number of regional, provincial and federal government offices. There are twelve elementary schools, three secondary schools, and six private schools in addition to a Georgian College campus.
The downtown, recently refurbished and reminiscent of the 1900s, offers an economy that is balanced and diversified. The Heritage Place Shopping Centre on the east side complements the vibrant, scenic downtown core and other arterial shopping areas.
By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
“Here you go, Emily.” Granny handed me a dime. “That should buy you some candy. Would you like to run down to the corner store and help yourself to some treats?”
“Sure. Thanks Granny.”
“Now, just go to the store down the road. I’m going to sit on the front porch and watch you.”
While Granny made herself comfortable on the front porch, I fisted my hand around my precious dime and headed to the corner.
“Be careful crossing the road,” Granny called out.
“I will, Granny.” I looked both ways and crossed one way, before turning and crossing the other. The corner store was only a block away. I wasn’t sure how well Granny could see me once I was under the tunnel of trees, but it was reassuring that she was watching anyway. There wasn’t any crime in Simcoe. Granny knew everyone along the road and I wouldn’t have been surprised if she hadn’t called each of her neighbors to have them watch me as I made my first solo shopping trip down the road. I was only ten. Young enough to still be nervous out in the world on my own, but also old enough to want to experiment with a little bit of independence.
Granny seemed to understand. After helping with the weekly cleaning, Granny decided I deserved a treat and she was puckered out from the cleaning. Giving me a dime was like giving me a fortune. It was the 1960s, after all, and a dime was worth a lot. Or, at least it was to ten-year-old. And, the shinier the dime, the better. This one was definitely very shiny. Almost a shame to spend it. However, I now had my heart set on some of the best penny candy available.
I entered the corner store, allowing the screen door to snap shut behind me. “Good morning, Emily,” the woman at the counter called out. Everyone knew Granny, and, consequently, everyone knew her grandchildren, especially me because I spent so much time at Granny’s. “Can I help you with anything,” she asked.
“No. Thank you.” I wrinkled my brow trying to remember the woman’s name. Remembering names was something that would plague me well into adulthood. I know Granny had introduced us, but I just couldn’t remember her name. Granny had too many friends. And their names were a blur in my mind.
“I’m going to pick out some penny candy. Granny gave me a dime.”
“Well, then, you’ll need a bag for your selection, won’t you?” I nodded and she handed me a small paper bag.
I walked the length of the far end of the store, studying the open boxes full of different types of candy, mostly without wrappings. Not something you’d see today, sixty years later. In the 1960s, no one worried about open bins of food and sticky fingers reaching in to help themselves. The mere thought of someone with dirty hands touching what I would place in my bag and eventually eat, didn’t bother me. After all, Granny frequently said, “You’ll eat more than a peck of dirt in your life.” I wasn’t sure what she meant by a ‘peck’.
I took my time and made my selections: three gummies for a penny, two sticks of red licorice (my favorite), for a penny, and so on, usually two or three sweet treats for a penny. I came across the final bin: mini chocolate Hershey bars (these were actually wrapped), another favorite: two pennies each. I wanted to share my treats with Granny and I knew she loved the Hershey chocolates as much as I did. But, if I bought two, I would only have six pennies to spare for the rest of my choices. I quickly added up the cost of my selection. I could do it, but I wouldn’t be able to choose anything else.
I pondered briefly and decided to choose two mini Hershey bars. I knew Granny would appreciate my sharing. Besides, I could always come back to the store another day for another selection of penny candy. It wasn’t about buying hoards of sweets all in one go; it was the adventure of making the choice and then have the bragging rights of what I bought for pennies. A novelty we can no longer enjoy.
I completed my transaction and carefully held the bag of treats as I exited the store. “Goodbye, Emily. See you again soon,” the woman at the counter called out. “Goodbye,” I replied. “And thank you.” I remembered my manners. Granny would be pleased. After all, my visit to the store would be all over the neighborhood before I even made it back to Granny’s. Of that I was sure. Sadly, the corner store of my childhood ventures for penny candies is no longer there. But my memories are as rich as if they just happened yesterday. What fun we had plunging our sticky hands into cardboard boxes full of unwrapped goodies and then paying for the purchase with mere pennies. Those were the days
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca