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Halloween in Wilmer

Boyhood memories of Halloween



I grew up in Wilmer, a small village at the corner of Pothouse road and West Bridge Street about a mile West of Phoenixville.  I was an overweight youngster.  I do believe fat was the word most generally used in the endearing titles that were directed towards me.

It didn't help my situation much living next to the neighborhood candy store.  In fact it was connected to the front of our house.  At one time this mom & pop store had gas pumps, a barber shop and an ice cream parlor.  By the time I was born Mrs. Raser was widowed and only operated the candy store. She sold ice cream, soda and penny candy.  She had one penny pretzel sticks in a big container and 5 cent bubble gum cards on top of the glass cases. 

It was a one stop shopping center for me and I hardly ever missed a day stopping by the store. I only needed a penny to make the trip as she had three cases full of one penny candy.  I would get money from my mom and dad.  Being an only child didn't hurt and having Grandmom and Grandpop next door was another added source of pennies.  

The soda was kept cold in a large double door metal cooler that had a big block of ice in the center.  The soda was all in glass bottles and tasted so good.  It had real sugar as diet soda did not exist to my knowledge in 1950. 

Mrs. Raser's soda sold for 5 cents a bottle and there was a 2 cents deposit.   I usually stayed in the store while drinking my soda to  look over the other treats and avoid paying the deposit.

I used to go out and collect bottles to turn them in for that 2 cent deposit.  She hated to give up the 2 cents on a bottle if she didn't think she had sold it. If I found a dirty bottle I had to take it home and wash it out and swear I had got
it from her store. You had to work for the 2 cents. 

There were three metal stands each containing a penny gum ball machine.  I was totally fascinated with these machines of chance. You see charms would randomly fall out with the gum so every penny brought the chance of getting a prize.  The prizes were mostly little plastic charms and baseballs mixed with other little odd treats.

I also collected trading cards. I guess this was my first serious collecting experience.  I had Davy Crockett cards, baseball cards, war cards and the last cards that I remember collecting were the Elvis cards around 1956.  There were also dixie cup lids. Imagine that, buy ice cream in a cup and lick off the lid to reveal your favorite movie star or baseball player. 

Being an only child I was able to save (hoard might be a better word) all of my cards and have them well into my adulthood.  I still have my Elvis cards and some of the other series but I must confess that after I retired and before I started receiving social security I supplemented my income by selling some of these treasured cards on e-Bay.

It was like eating your cake and having it too.  I would scan both sides of a card
and save the images into files on my computer. I can look at them or print out one at anytime as the digital image is saved while I can sell the original card. 

Some of these items I sold went for large sums of money.  I had one dixie cup lid sell for $135.00.  These were Nelson's dixie cups and the lids were actually printed in Easton. The average amount received was $25.00 to $35.00. Prices today are down so I have no idea of today's market.  The Davy Crockett cards did well and I sold every card I had.

Halloween was not as big a holiday then as it seems to be now but we did go out trick or treating. My cousin Paul was 4 years older  and I was allowed to tag along
with him until I got older and could go out alone.  We went to every house in the little village and everyone knew us. We would be welcomed inside and they would take a big delight in identifying us.

One place I always stopped was the Rhoad's house.  Mr. Rhoads would come over to me and grab my arm and squeeze it.  Then he would grab my leg and want to guess my weight. Of course Mrs. Rhoads guessed who I was but I felt it rather weird that Mr. Rhoads was guessing my weight.  When I got home I told my mom that Mr. Rhoades justs wants to guess my weight and she found it quite amusing. I did not find her explanation quite as funny. 

It seems Mr. Rhoades was a farmer in his younger days and he boasted to everyone that when he took his hogs to market he could tell how much they weighed by squeezing them.  Well when I went there he was sizing me up for market as if I were one of his pigs.  I will also say that he usually guessed my
weight to within 5 pounds.  He knew his pigs I guess.

My Aunt Dot lived on the back street, now known as Rutledge Avenue, and  every year she had a big platter filled with good and plenty candy.  These were white and pink coated licorice treats and underneath these candies were an assortment of dimes, nickels and quarters. She would tell you to reach in and take a handful and if you were lucky you might end up with a coin. 

When I went with my cousin Paul he always asked Aunt Dot to get a drink of water for me.  Then while she was out in the kitchen getting me the water he would brush aside the candy and take all the money he could get before she returned.  I wasn't thirsty and I seldom drank water but I wouldn't say anything and Paul gave me a dime for keeping my mouth shut.

We went over to Mrs Caine's house.  It was a large impressive victorian house and the inside was just filled with the finest of everything from drapes and furniture to the finest wallpaper. She was very old but when you are seven everyone one is old.  She was friendly and happy to see us.  There was a large lazy susan in the center of the dinning room table. It was just filled with candy and big candy bars. She said to take whatever you want but I knew I couldn't really do that. We would take one of the big candy bars and thank her and be on our way to Raser's store. 

Raser's store was always my last stop on the Halloween route.  Mrs. Raser would give out candy or if you would rather have a soda or ice cream she would offer that
instead.  I always got a soda and sat down at one of the small tables to inspect my recently collected bag of treats. The couple of tables and wireback chairs were left over from the days when this place was an actual ice cream parlor. I never saw them being used during the eight years I frequented the store and the only time I ever sat in one was on Halloween night.

I don't go out trick or treating these days but every once and a while that night in Wilmer when I visited our neighbors plays back in my mind like an old familiar tune. I can close my eyes and hear the sound of a voice saying come on it and let me guess who's here. 

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Joseph Forrest October 06, 2011 at 01:02 PM
A timely,fun story and a clever ending without finality!
Brad Gubanich April 02, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Where is this candy store now located?
Brad Gubanich April 02, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Nevermind, I found it. Never knew it was a candy store.
Peter C. Brown November 13, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Nice story Bill. I will forward it to the Historical Society and Commission here in Schuylkill. We all share your passion for penny candy and bottle recycling!
Philip J. Flor March 09, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Phil Flor My family were Johnny come latelys in '67. I knew a lot of people in Wilmer. The walters lived on the corner of Livingston and Charlestown. They told me the house was a former Meeting house. Would like to know more history of the area. Still remember cabins at Cain's Creek.
BHN March 15, 2013 at 01:15 AM
I was born and raised in wilmer next door to the bruners ! Elmer and Oscar brunner ! Walters was my uncle Fred owned the bar and my Grammy walters lived next to the Hink and Janet McCann , mrs. wilmont on cornor of charlestown road and rutledge ave . The village of Wilmer and Wilmer Chapel was named after my Grandmoms brother who was the first local boy killed in world war one ! Wilmer Harris ! I can name everyone that lived up and down all the streets so ask me anything ! Mr aand Mrs Bergermen farmers that lived across from the bar andnex to Mr Borton who's house is no longer there ! Mr and mrs Harry and Effie Fitzcharles and we my parents Joe and Jenny Hughes lived on the other side . My grammy Mabel and Harry Walters across from McCanns trailer park , Baders market was ran by Dick and Pauline Bader , and no longer there was Lena McCann who woned the house on cornor next to railroad tracks she owned the trailer park etc . My uncle Joe McCann was her son ! I can go on and on Mr Lutz was in house across from church and Mr and Mrs Croyle , next door to mr and mrs samantis later the Flores . Mr and Mrs Rhoades on the lower end of livingston ave they owned the auction house ! Dick Rhoades lived in house next to them . The Laurers lived across on pothouse
BHN March 15, 2013 at 01:15 AM
and next to them was May and Lou Bierbach then The house my patents bought later from Harry Butz , Brunners were next door and the there was the Harns and Spikie Family next to mrs Rasers who was my Aunt Alice grandmom ! Sooooo there is a little history for you ! Barbara Hughes Nelson at reds20@aol.com

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