Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sentimental Sunday: Penny Candy and Blacksmiths

Site of "Jock's" Penny Candy Store, Cranston, RI, 2014

This gas station is at the corner of Brayton Ave. and Oaklawn Ave. in Cranston, RI where there once was a variety store I called Jock's. Places like this sold newspapers, magazines and tobacco products. Called a "variety" or "spa" they were the precursor of today's convenience stores. Many were owned by a single person. Most towns had one as there were no really big grocery stores.

They had penny candy and novelties like candy cigarettes, small waxed bottles with sweet liquid in them and of course, the waxed lips that all the kids loved, especially at Halloween time. 

I begged my father to take me there so I could spend my allowance on such junk that now makes for wonderful childhood memories. But, the real reason my dad took me was so that he could buy his favorite gum and get a local newspaper. Tom's favorite gum shown below:

It only took me a few minutes to research this location. A man named John Callery and his son owned this lot and the one next to it for many years and the earliest city directory where I can find it is the 1903 Cranston City Directory which tells me that it was considered Oaklawn and that Mr. Callery was also a blacksmith. (1921 Cranston City Directory) Later, his son (John Callery, Jr.) turned part of the property into a garage.

1921 City Directory Clip
Now that I have found his name, the name of his son and first name of his wife, the location of the house and business, it was easy to find him in the 1900 census. He was born January 1858 in Ireland and came to America in 1862. His son was born in 1897 so he is the man who sold me the candy. He was also a policeman. (1935 RI State Census)

 Update: A faithful reader of my blog tells me Jock is a nickname for John. I'd bet it was the son's name since he is the Junior.

Second update from a friend who grew up in Oaklawn: 

"The best I can remember is that it was at least a two story old house on the corner. The store part was a room in the front and seemed relativity small. When one would walk in the front door it would ring a bell and someone would eventually come down the stairs. I think there must have been hundreds (?) of kinds of penny or two for a penny candies. I enjoyed them all. Ten cents could provided enough candy to make a dentist cringe. They also had a cold drink chest type dispenser. Cokes were five cents. We called it Callery's..... Bought my fair share of baseball cards there also. I'm sure they sold bread and some staples but the candy is what lingers in my mind."

So, I conclude that I called it Jock's because my dad asked the man what his name was and when I heard that I remembered it and in my mind, it must have been called that! Isn't it fun what we remember?

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