My mother and two sisters used to tell a story from my childhood in the mid 1960s that I don’t remember too well. It’s all very fuzzy in my brain.
There was a five-and-dime close to where we live that our family used to frequent. It was run by an older couple. We called them Mr. and Mrs. Paul. I can remember to this day exactly what they looked like— his white wavy hair and ruddy complexion and her dark rimmed pointy glasses and dark gray beauty parlor-styled hair. I remember how she moved ever so slowly when she was checking us out and how her lips seemed to always be in a permanent pout. I don’t remember this couple ever smiling, so as a child I was a little fearful of them.
One day while out running errands, my mother needed to run into the five-and-dime. So she took her three young daughters with her. I’m thinking I was about 4 which would have made my sisters about 5 and 7. We stuck close to each other as our mother checked out.
This is the part I remember.
At the end of that checkout line and right next to the exit door was a huge wooden barrel filled to the brim with Dum-Dum lollipops. It was as tall as I was. I’m sure our eyes were wide with desire.
My mother thanked Mrs. Paul for her purchase and then walked out the door. We followed on her heels, my oldest sister leading the way and me, bringing up the rear.
My oldest sister, on her way out, grabbed a Dum-Dum right out of that barrel. Because her little brain reasoned that since they were in a barrel beyond the check-out and right by the exit door, that they surely must be free. (You have to admit, that’s a strange place to have Dum-Dums). After that it was monkey see, monkey do, and in the blink of an eye, my sisters and I each held a Dum-Dum in our tiny hands. I don’t remember us taking the Dum-Dums, but I do remember that colorful barrel filled with them.
My mother didn’t notice the newfound treasures we held as she opened the back door to the station wagon to let us climb into the back seat. It wasn’t until she had situated herself in the front seat and was starting the car, that she heard us ripping the wrapper off of our “free gifts” and smelled the sweet fruity smell wafting in her direction. She turned around to see three happy little girls licking away on lollipops. She said in her serious but calm voice, “GIRLS WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE LOLLIPOPS?” To which my oldest sister nonchalantly replied, “in the barrel by the door mommy.”
My mother made us all get out of the car and marched us back into the store. She told Mrs. Paul how we had taken the Dum-Dums believing that they were free. She paid the money owed for them and then asked Mrs. Paul for a trash can where she made us throw all three of our prized Dum-Dums away. Mrs. Paul had smiled and told her we could just keep them but my mother said, “OH, NO,NO,NO— they need to learn that we don’t take things without first paying for them.”
Good lesson mom.