What 25 Cents Could Buy

Excerpt from my book The Magic Barn, volume two. Help fight poverty in the rural south-buy my book. 🙂

Candy Run painting by Je' Czaja
Candy Run
painting by Je’ Czaja

No one had very much money, but then things were so much cheaper you wouldn’t believe it. I remember gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. The only reason I remember this is my mom got just one gallon once and she was a little embarrassed about it.

The Big Kids got cigarettes out of a vending machine for 25 cents and sneaked into the woods and smoked the whole pack, trying to look cool with eyes watering and coughing like horses with hay fever. For 50 cents you could go to the movies all day. First they had a cartoon, then a crummy movie, then the movie you actually wanted to see. If you had a whole dollar, you could go to the movies all day and buy quite a lot of junk food to eat while there.

The Big Kids went up into the balcony so they could toss their 20 cent popcorn on the viewers below. A movie man with a flashlight (I thought for years this man was called a husher) came up to the balcony looking for them, but by the time he got there they were acting like angels. As soon as the husher showed up downstairs again, they flicked more popcorn down on him.

If we could get hold of a quarter, we would walk three miles to the store and buy a bag of candy. A coke cost 10 cents, Sugar Daddys cost 5 cents, which was a good deal, because they would last almost until you walked the three miles back home again. Fizzies were expensive-50 cents for several-but they were worth it. You could put them in a glass of water and the Fizzy turned it turned it into grape or rootbeer soda; or you could put a Fizzy in your mouth, drink some water and be a kid with purple rabies.

Bazooka Bubble Gum was a penny a piece and came with a comic inside the wax wrapper with jokes so corny they made us groan.

We once bought a ton of Bazooka, gnoshed it up and blew big bubbles that popped all over our face. Then we blew little hard bubbles, stretched out the gum so we had a bubble on a rope and had bubble fights. The last unpopped bubble was the winner and was retired to a place of honor on the mantle. Until some grownup found it.

“What the heck is this?”

“The world champion bubble.”

“It’s disgusting.”

Sometimes, when people grow up they lose their sense of wonder. Be careful you don’t lose yours.

World Champion Bubble painting by Je' Czaja
World Champion Bubble
painting by Je’ Czaja

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