(WARNING: reading this blog could give you hypoglycemia)
I honestly don’t know why Mr. Uhles put up with us.
He ran the neighborhood store that was exactly 79 steps from my best friend Steve Madden’s front door on Nebraska Street.
We went there so often we wore a trail along Berry Road to Mr. Uhles’ store.
We loved his store, but we hated his old, asphalt parking lot.
It would heat up to about a billion degrees in Oklahoma summer.
Since we were always barefoot, we’d have to hot-foot it across the “lava”, trying not to get a stubbed toe or cut on glass or concussed by our buddy (because boys are always smashing each other just for fun).
Mrs. Uhles had let it be know that we had to smarten up before coming into her store.
That meant wiping the small stones and tar and glass and goatheads from our feet.
Once accomplished, we’d then storm into the store like the U.S. Marines.
At least 900 times every single summer day.
Bazooka bubblegum, Sour Grapes and the long, thin Tootsie-Rolls were a penny.
Tootsie Roll Pops were two cents.
I think Pixie Stix (straws filled with fruit-flavored sugar) were maybe two cents.
Baseball cards, packed with terrible bubble gum, and the big Tootsie Rolls, which I could seldom afford, were a nickel.
I’m pretty sure banana popsicles were 7 cents, and Cokes were maybe a dime.
But you had to have them or you’d die of dehydration on the 30-second walk back to Steve’s house.
Pretty much ever summer day of our lives, unless Steve or I had been grounded on some trumped-up charge, like breaking somebody’s stupid window, we’d spend 20 cents or more at Mr. Uhles, which seemed like a fortune at the time.
We made our summer money by collecting Coke bottles that had been chucked out of cars going down Berry Road or discarded along the bike paths going up to Cleveland Elementary School.
I think Mr. Uhles gave us two cents credit per bottle.
We found a LOT of bottles, so it wasn’t that hard to keep a good sugar high going most of the summer.
Another revenue stream presented itself a couple of years later when my hot older sister was in high school.
Her boyfriend was absolutely thrilled to give me a quarter so I’d get OUT of the house and let them *study.
Man, armed with a quarter, Steve and I would blast up to Uhles on our Stingray bikes, throw them down in the parking lot, and battle each other to be first in the door.
And then we’d usually be ordered right back out by Mrs. Uhles to move our bikes off to the side, next to the ice machine.
Then we’d get all likkered up on Sweat Tarts and Sugar Babies and Dr Peppers and Fudgecycles and Pixie Sticks and Salt Water Taffy and big ol’ Bubble Gum ceegars and Candy Cigarettes.
It’s a wonder we didn’t come down with juvenile diabetes.
Even though we had to be awfully annoying, in and out of the store all the time, at least Mr. Uhles was making a little money off us.
Then somebody gave me a coin collecting book, and I became an unprofitable plague upon the Uhles.
At first, I think Mrs. Uhles tried to set aside any Mercury Head dimes for my collection.
But after maybe my 9,000th visit of the week asking for Mercury Heads, not actually buying anything, I probably wore out my welcome, which ended the coin collecting phase.
Looking back, Mr. Uhles’ store was really a huge and positive part of our lives growing up on Nebraska Street in the Sixties.
I have so many great memories of the place. And got so many cavities there.
I really, really hated it when 7-Eleven bought Mr. Uhles’ old store.
When I get back to Norman ever decade or so, and we drive around the old neighborhood, I just cannot bring myself to go inside that 7-Eleven.
It’s just not the same.
And you cannot buy jack for two cents.
*Dear Sis. Study? Exactly how stupid did you think I was?