Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Main Street Sweets


To borrow a thought from old-time band leader Guy Lombardo, the Boston Candy Kitchen was the sweetest shop this side of heaven.  It was the place a lot of high school students went for lunch before the school had a cafeteria. More importantly, it was the gathering place for teenagers in the evening, especially on Saturday night. My group had a special booth, last one on the left alongside the big Wurlitzer juke box. Behind us, between the booths and the kitchen was a telephone which enabled us to coordinate our  carpool to the dance destination for the night. Beyond all of that, there was wonderful home made ice cream and  candy. Fact is, the Boston Candy Kitchen set records for  production of ribbon candy every year - miles and miles of it at Christmas time. And it was still considered a Christmas season, not downgraded to a holiday event.

This was a mellow place for youth, but it seems as though most towns had gathering places like this.
In nearby Pittsfield,  Massachusetts there was the Sugar Bowl, across a street from the YMCA. It's claim to fame was its variations of cola drinks. You could get lemon cokes, or other flavors, but the hallmark soda was called the "Awful Awful" which involved using a base of cola flavored with every other syrup in the fountain. It was, indeed, a horrible mixture but presented an opportunity for young and macho guys to prove their manhood - or  willingness to suffer dire digestive consequence.

However, the Candy Kitchen was more subdued featuring sensitive and flavorful treats serve up by Nick Demos and his wife. They earned a special place in the hearts of 1940 and 1950 teenagers.
Today there re hundreds - perhaps thousands - of men and women in their seventies or eighties who remember the Demos family as very special members of the Chatham community.

Harriet was a young lady with an eternal smile. Athena became a librarian, who found her way back to the Chatham Library. Chris became a doctor. He has held a special place in my heart having saved me from drowning at a nearby lake one time. But Nick and his wife were very special - partly because of community spirit the shared with their community, but even more, the lasting influence
on the teenagers of the time.

One last thought. I always thought the Boston Candy Kitchen was unique to the Chatham area. However, research has brought out another Boston Candy Kitchen in Glens Falls, and perhaps another Kitchen in Hudson Falls. Was there a tie between them? After all, their claim to fame, at least in part, was fabulous ribbon candy. But the one in Chatham remains the special one in my life -
after all, the Demos family has impacted many lives - particularly mine. And I continue to count my blessings.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


I don't remember the first time we went. Was it 1952? Or was it 1946? or as far  back as 1941? I just know it was a long time ago, and was  with my grandparents the first time.

It was a long time before Walt Disney introduced his first wonderful world of fun and games in California. In fact, there were a lot of amusement parks across
country in those days - not the fancy and glittering super theme parks we see that usually cost an arm and leg to get into these days. But they were wonderful just the same.

There was Playland in Rye, New York, and Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts; Lakeside Park in Denver (Elitches Garden was just down the road). Does any one remember the Walled Lake park outside Detroit? There's no forgetting Coney Island, and Palisades Park in the New York/New Jersey area. I remember an amusement park in Norfolk, Virginia that was the scene of a thriller movie centered on the destruction of a roller coaster when the park closed down. There were a lot of the old fashioned amusement parks. But
one of the very unique parks was Knott's Berry Farm which was just what the name implied - a berry farm.

But it was more than just a berry farm. It's theme was a ghost town complete with an old time western steam train. It had (and I think it still has) characters like Sad Eye Joe who occupied a cell in the ghost town jail. You'd also find residents like Handsome Brady and Whiskey occupying a bench not far from the hangin' tree. It was a low pressure experience in less complex lifestyle.

Well, it's still there. The ghost town. The wild west steam train. And the chicken dinner restaurant. The Farm has grown; There are a passel of rides and a big selection of attractions appealing to today's thrill seeker.

Today's blog relates mostly to the chicken dinner restaurant. It still serves up scrumptious dinners and it is till as popular as ever.  In one year (1937) a little over one hundred chicken dinners were served in a year. By 1952 over a million
dinners were served. And dinners are still served to this day.

I tried to find out what the current price is for a Knott's chicken dinner, but it was not available on my computer. But chicken dinners at Zehnders here in Michigan are approaching double digit-dollars. Turkeyville, near Marshall, Michigan has dinners at around seven dollars.

But can you beat the Knott's dinner price on yesterdays menu shown above? Not likely; times, they have changed.