Stewart's Candy Kitchen
By Russ Lancaster
with lots of help from: Doug Gray, Bruce Osburn, Jean Raby Nelson and Ashley Fetner
I started school (first grade) at Hamlet Avenue School in 1947. Back then, it housed all 12 grades including High School. All grades had one thing in common... an hour for lunch. That is what leads to the story of Stewart's Candy Kitchen.
Lunch was served in the school cafeteria for a small price (about 15 cents). I was one of many kids that just didn't care for the food they served so most of the time my mom packed a lunch for me. On those days she didn't, she gave me the few cents needed to eat at the cafeteria. Having those few cents in my pocket turned out to be the key to a new adventure, a trip to the Candy Kitchen.
The Candy Kitchen was located directly across the street (Hamlet Avenue) from the front entrance of the school. It was opened in 1945 by W.A. Stewart a retired road conductor from the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. The front part of the store was the Candy Kitchen operated by Mr. Stewart, the rear half was operated by a Mr. Fetner (Ross, I think) and was called Fetner's Cycle Center. He repaired bicycles, motorcycles and cars as a hobby (he worked for the railroad). Chances are pretty good that if you were a kid, he repaired your bike at least once.
The Candy Kitchen was as good as it gets for most of the kids at Hamlet Avenue School. It offered better prices than the school's lunch room and the wares were much more tempting. Some of my favorites were BB Bats, Kits and Squirrel Nut Zippers. All three of these items sold for a penny. The Kits were my absolute favorite. They came in individually wrapped single pieces (5 to a pack). They were a semi soft taffy like candy and the two most popular flavors were chocolate and strawberry. For a single penny, you had 5 pieces of candy. It was great.
Its a good thing we had nearly a full hour lunch period. The lines at the Candy Kitchen were always full of kids ready to spend their pennies, nickels and dimes. In addition to the items I listed as my favorites, there were the Mary Janes that went 2 for a penny. Bazooka bubble gum (complete with a cartoon strip inside) was a penny. There were lots of nickel candy bars (the same brands you pay 65 cents for today) and even smaller three cent versions of those. Do you remember the licorice ropes? He sold them too for a penny. It was great to buy one of those twisted black licorice ropes and make sure the mark of having one trailed from the corner of your lip to your chin. Three Musketeers were a big favorite. Back then, the nickel size version had three distinct breaking points defined on the bar. For a nickel, you could buy one of those and divide it three ways. It was a quick way to gain a friend... give him or her one of those sections.
The older kids had other items that were just as important as the candy to buy. Hot dogs were 10 cents or you could get 3 of them for a quarter. Soft drinks were a nickel. And, what candy store would be complete without selling good old Buttercup ice cream? (Bruce Osburn has written a good story on that place elsewhere on this site). Bruce also tells of being able to buy cigarettes for a penny each there. You could even get a milk shake or hamburger if you were willing to spring for an extra nickel or two.
This place was so popular during my favorite years ('47 - '53) that most of the time, and always at lunch, a traffic policeman stood in the middle of Hamlet Avenue and stopped cars for us kids to walk back and forth across the street. Mr. Stewart had only Ma Crofton's (another story on this site) and the school lunch room for competition back then. Of course Rea's Esso, Jim Samuel's Gulf and Bradshaw's grocery store got some kids too for lunch but they offered mainly soft drinks and more expensive sandwiches and treats.
Mr. Stewart had a good reputation among us kids. He always treated us fairly and gave us what we considered bargains on things we liked. He knew how to keep us coming back time and again. He ran the store superbly until he suffered a stroke in 1953. After that he rented the store (and name) out and it continued in business much the same until 1963. It was then sold to a Mr. Parsons who made Meta Nelson Mints.
I don't know if the store is still there today but in my memory it is there, just as clear as if I were a 7 year old kid with a nickel in my pocket burning to be spent. I never left there empty handed or unsatisfied. The treats and the service were both as good as it gets.
Yes, I remember the Candy Kitchen, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Fetner. I even remember the folks who contributed to this story as they were back then. We looked much like those kids you have seen on "The little rascals" and our fun was found in a lot of the same ways. We had our friends and we had our favorite places. Stewart's Candy Kitchen was at the very top of our list.
And, yes.... I remember Hamlet
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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