October memories: from candy apples to college

Published 2:35 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

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Oh, the October memories. It all started with thinking about a candy apple. Mrs. Carrie Blount made the best candy apples in Washington. I think every kid I knew couldn’t wait until October came around and Mrs. Carrie started selling her delicious candy apples. She probably sold them year-round, but I mostly remember buying them in late October. I remember that because it wasn’t too long after buying her candy apples that I look forward to the Christmas candy that Mr. Ringgold and Gerrard’s Store (next to Bill’s Hotdogs) would start selling.

Mr. Ringgold at that time had a store on Gladden Street between Fourth (now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) and Third Street.  He would fill a small paper bag with Christmas candy, (the hard, colorful, all shapes and sizes kind of Christmas Candy) for a nickel.

Mr. Gerard’s store had all kinds of Christmas candies. To name a few of my favorites: milk chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, coconut bonbons, the cut rock Christmas candy, chocolate coated cherries, chocolate covered peanuts, peanut brittle and coconut Long Boys. You all may have different names for the candies but that’s how I remember them.

Then I got to thinking about Jane Parker’s Spanish Bar Cake that the A&P Store used to sell. Jane Parker was the ‘house brand’ for the A&P Store chain. The cake was a dark brown cake with raisins, and a thick, delicious, creamy white icing on the top.  My aunts would come down to Washington from Philadelphia in mid to late October to visit my mom.   My mom would send us kids to the A&P store (that is where Agape Health Center is today,) to buy the fresh grown coffee that the store would grind and bag it for you and the Spanish Bar Cake.  My aunts loved the coffee and cake, and we did too, except we didn’t get the coffee.

Then I got to thinking about my first October in New York City. I found an A&P Store in the neighborhood I lived in. I found the Spanish Bar Cake and it kept me good company when I started attending classes at the City University of New York. It reminded me of home.  I looked for candy apples that reminded me of Mrs. Carrie Blount’s, but I never found anything as good.  And the street I lived on, West 104th Street, which was four blocks from Broadway and three blocks from Central Park West had some really good stores that sold all kinds of Christmas candy but nothing that would ever compare with Mr. Ringgold’s or Mr. Gerard’s stores.

It’s amazing how thinking about a candy apple can bring up such warm and precious memories for me. I hope this story will remind you of precious tasty memories of candies and treats you enjoyed as a child that will keep you good company too.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.