Gathering Place – Brooklyn, New York

Corner Candy Store

“As I grew up in Brooklyn, the corner candy store was our gathering place. Penny candy was sold and it was a place talk and laugh on the sidewalk outside it and to catch up on the gossip.”

Different neighborhoods have certain “hang out spots”, to which children and adolescents can publically meet up and chat. Picturing my grandmother hanging out at a corner store in Brooklyn is funny because of how I see modern Brooklyn corner stores portrayed in moves. My grandmother is a conservative white woman who, while growing up not so much, is now extremely wealthy. This is not the image that I picture when I think of Brooklyn corner stores. I picture African American gangsters, thugs, and drug dealers doing “business” on the corner. I picture drive by shootings and frequent robberies. However, when I research about Brooklyn, I learn about its diversity. There are a large amount of African Americans, but there are many Italian-Americans, Chinese, Mexican, Russian Americans, and low and behold, Orthodox Jews. There are indeed about 41% whites and about 36% blacks, 20% Hispanic and 22% of the population of Brooklyn is foreign born. It is in fact, a melting pot of cultures. I remember learning about immigration through Ellis Island and how millions of immigrants settled in New York’s boroughs. The picture that Hollywood usually paints, however, is Brooklyn as a popular place for gang activity and indeed many gang and mafia movies take place in Brooklyn. This folklore research has taught me that Brooklyn is much more multi-faceted.

The other interesting point about my grandmother’s recollection of her childhood is the presence of penny candy. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, prices were obviously a lot lower. The dollar could buy you a lot more than what it could today. Today, a penny will not buy anything. However, I think the only time I have come in contact with anything that costs a penny is at Ruby’s Diner, where gumballs cost a penny.  The last time I checked was a few years ago, though, so they might not even be as low as a penny anymore. While not the most apparent of cultural identifiers, prices can be an indication of life in the “good old days” and can actually define a time period.