Note: A recent Carter County Post article and photos about “old-timey” candies from Upper Tygart Mini Mart spurred memories among many, including veteran journalist Ken Welborn, who recalled an entirely different taste from Christmas long ago.
I got a phone call some time ago from Jerry Eller of Melsa, Virginia.
Jerry is a Purlear native who has lived in Northern Virginia for most of his life.
I met Jerry during a random visit to The Record over 12 years ago, and, while it is a long story, we have been in touch a few times since, and I know him to be a great guy with heart of gold.
His call from out of the blue that day reminded me of a Christmastime treat I hadn’t enjoyed in well over 50 years, one which was truly wonderful, and one which I cannot believe I had not even thought about in, well, forever.
Jerry began to tell me how as a young boy he would come to North Wilkesboro with his father. They would often go down to what was then A Street (now the CBD Loop) to a wholesale grocery store for supplies and, at Christmastime, his father would buy them some peppermint candy sticks.
Now these were not hard peppermint like you buy now as candy canes to put on the Christmas tree, but were about twice as big around and were somewhat porous.
Once back home in Purlear, his dad would take oranges and roll them firmly on the kitchen table, cut a hole in the top and insert a stick of peppermint candy in each orange and pass them out to the children. They would then suck on the peppermint like a straw and pull the orange/peppermint juice into their mouth for a wonderful tart/sweet treat.
I could hardly wait for him to finish his last sentence, so I could tell him my story about getting a treat bag each year at church on the evening of the Christmas pageant. The bag always included oranges, apples, raisins, nuts (yes, those wonderful Brazil nuts), and four or five sticks of peppermint candy – and how Pa and his sharp as a razor pocketknife would make us the same treat as soon as we got home.
It was a taste like no other.
Jerry went on to ask me to find him some peppermint sticks and send them to Melsa, and I assured him I would be glad to do so, and knew exactly where to start looking – Robert Rizoti.
Shortly after my lunch-time nap that day, I drove out to Oakwood’s Grocery, fully confident I could find sticks of peppermint candy galore, but, after a warm hello and an apology from Robert for not having his sweet wife, Sue, there to greet me, Robert told me he had sold out of peppermint candy during the holidays. But, in typical Robert Rizoti fashion, he told me to not be faint of heart and immediately set about making phone calls until he located me exactly what I was looking for, which happened to be at David’s Market in Cricket.
In no time, I was in Downtown Cricket parking next to the store, and, lo and behold, there was David Adams himself driving up. I don’t see David very often, but have known him all my life and he is one truly great human being. We visited for a few minutes and then I went inside and, sure enough, there was the candy needed to make Jerry Eller’s grandchildren the treat of their life.
Jerry says they were thrilled, and he assures me he will stop in and visit the next time he makes it to Wilkes County. When he comes, I am going to make it a point to take him to Oakwood’s Grocery and to David’s Market. Somehow I feel as though after meeting these two great guys, he might get just a tad bit homesick – even if he has been “up nawth” for well over 50 years.
As Bob Hope would say, “Thanks (Jerry) for the memories.”
Ken Welborn,Publisher of The Record of Wilkes in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina appreciates old things, sharing stories and collecting unusual items to display in his office. Known to combine Chuck Taylor sneakers with formal menswear, he once gave Alys Preston a delicate-looking walking stick with a sword concealed inside.
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