People bought them, and I still have no idea what

Making sure the store was stocked

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Uh oh! We almost out of those pencils with red lead on one end and blue lead on the other. Better put them on my order list.

There really were such pencils at one time. People bought them, and I still have no idea what for. But, if the public wanted them, that was all I needed to know.

In my high school and college years of the 1950s and 1960s, one of my duties in my parents Heights variety store was ordering stuff. I guess you would have called me an inventory manager.

## ## Hidden away on a bottom shelf I kept a couple of notebooks, one for each of our suppliers, most of them down on East Northampton Street. If I noticed that we were running low on packets of bobby pins, into the appropriate book pins would go. When a salesman on his monthly visit had finished chatting with my parents, I hand him my book.

Those order books, if they still existed, would be time capsules today with their products from a vanished way of life.

Flash Cubes: In the days before digital, families took pictures with box like cameras. The cameras needed film (I ordered that too) and to provide enough light for picture taking I ordered the little shiny cubes that attached to the camera and burned for a second or two.

Plug Tobacco: At one time, walking around with a chaw in your mouth and occasionally spitting a horrible brown wad onto the sidewalk was considered acceptable. Plugs had faded by the fifties, but I was not about to disappoint their remaining devotees.

Men Hair Prep: Oh, you can still find the occasional pomade or whatever today. But the early 20th century was the high summer of gents slopping with names like Vitalis and Wildroot Cream Oil onto their scalps so that, like the dapper fellows in the ads, they would not risk girls scorning them as blowsy haired barbarians.

Cigarette Loads: For maybe five cents you could buy a tin of tiny explosive charges to stuff into a cigarette you would then hand to your buddy. Great conversation starter!

School Tablets: Yes, there was an era when a was made of paper, cost five cents and you hauled it to school to write lessons on with a pencil, staying carefully between the lines.

Balsa Wood Gliders: For a dime you get a fuselage and a wing in a plastic cover. You assemble them and contrary to the promises on the packet what it was really guaranteed to do was crash back to earth and break or lodge in a tree too high up for your father ladder.

Christmas Tape: Traditional transparent sticky tape took on snowman and other holiday hues and designs every December. I like to see it come back. So colorful was the stuff that you could wrap it around your gifts instead of buying spools of ribbon.

Old Time Ice Cream Sandwich: This was a thick slice of ice cream from a square, pint package held between two crisp and sweet waffles. The store would make them fresh. Its variant was a thick slice of ice cream held in a special type of cone with a rectangular top.

To this day, though, I can get those two color pencils out of my mind. Obviously, I should have asked some customer why he wanted one. That solved, I could have moved on to the mystery of what people really did with those little packets of rubber insects.

Uh oh! We almost out of those pencils with red lead on one end and blue lead on the other. Better put them on my order list.

There really were such pencils at one time. People bought them, and I still have no idea what for. But, if the public wanted them, that was all I needed to know.

In my high school and college years of the 1950s and 1960s, one of my duties in my parents Heights variety store was ordering stuff. I guess you would have called me an inventory manager.

Hidden away on a bottom shelf I kept a couple of notebooks, one for each of our suppliers, most of them down on East Northampton Street. If I noticed that we were running low on packets of bobby pins, into the appropriate book pins would go. When a salesman on his monthly visit had finished chatting with my parents, I hand him my book.

Those order books, if they still existed, would be time capsules today with their products from a vanished way of life.

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