The Wheaton News Stand-where Chum Gum was king.

Wheaton Maryland

The Wheaton News Stand was located on University Boulevard.

Anyone remember the Wheaton News Stand? It was located on University Blvd. in downtown Wheaton Maryland just a couple of blocks down from Georgia Avenue as you headed to Four Corners. Back in the mid 1960’s when we lived near Glenmont Elementary School our dad would give us $1.50 with instructions to walk to the Wheaton Barber Shop for a haircut. The barber shop is still there located close to where the old Baskin Robbins store was on Georgia Avenue. Enzo the barber was our man and he usually gave us our “regular boys” cut. A regular boy’s cut in the sixties consisted of removing the bulk of the hair from a kid’s head while leaving a tuft of hair in the front that could be flipped up and held in place with a little Vitalis Hair Tonic. We liked  for  Enzo to cut our hair, not because he was an especially talented stylist but simply because we thought he had a seriously fine and to us hilarious name. My brother Kinne who was always working a scam (usually to mixed results) one day discovered that there was  a barber school located in the bottom floor of the office building at the corner of Georgia and Blueridge Avenue. Granted that using a student barber pretty much assured that we were not going to get the best haircut in the world but at that age who actually cared much about how our hair looked? After all, was there really much noticeable difference between a bad regular boy’s cut and a good one?  Here is where my brother’s genius came into play. The barber school only cost sixty cents and the resulting ninety cents left over to us was a serious amount of disposable income for a nine year old to have back in the day.  If you consider that your average box of Lemon Heads or Red Hots cost a nickle then ninety cents gave you 18 units of pure candy pleasure. Candy being the only real economic unit that we kids understood back then.  Now you might think that “good kids” would have been considerate and returned the extra money to their hard working dad but I doubt that notion ever came into either my brother’s or my mind.

Wheaton Barber Shop.

A little dab of Vitalis Hair Tonic would dry your flip rock solid and you were good to go.

The Wheaton News Stand was conveniently only a block away from the barber school. There was a front entrance but we liked to enter from the rear door which faced the parking lot located behind the strip of stores where the news stand was  located.  Aside from carrying a ton of reading material the news stand had a large and eclectic array of candy and toys that easily tested the buying power of our new found wealth. There was a lot more candy than you would find at the supermarket or say at Peoples Drug, and the stand carried a lot of stuff that you would never see in the chain stores. Aside from candy, you could get small toys such as water rockets and sling shots. A box of “Loads”  was one of  the best things you could hope to purchase. Loads were tiny explosive devices that came in a small metal tin. You could insert one into a friend’s cigarette as a practical joke-assuming that you actually had a friend who smoked and could  afford to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Loads explosive cigarettes

A tin of loads cost about a quarter and held about about a dozen small explosive devices.

However, the best possible deal at the Wheaton News Stand was a two piece package of Chum Gum for only one cent. Yes, you heard right. For just a penny you actually got two pieces of gum. Even in the mid 1960’s two sticks of gum for that price was an amazing deal. And it was the best tasting gum as far as we were concerned. Although it came in stick form Chum Gum was actually bubble gum. It had a great sugary fruit taste that seemed to linger a lot longer that other types of gum. For a dime you could pretty much set yourself up in gum for the next couple of days.  We also liked Clark’s Teaberry Gum (remember the Teaberry shuffle) which much to my regret was discontinued just recently. It had an unusual flavor and was one of the few chewing gums that still actually used refined sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. You can still buy Clark’s Teaberry on Ebay but somehow the thought of chewing two year old gum just no longer gets me excited.  My younger brother Eric being the slave to Sunday morning cartoon advertising that he was, preferred Beechnut Fruit Stripe Gum.  He could not resist the appeal of the colorful fruit stripes but to Kinne and I the taste of the gum just did not hold water.

Wheaton News Stand Wheaton Maryland

You got two sticks of Chum Gum in this wrapper.

The other amazing thing about the Wheaton News Stand was that it was the only place that we knew of in our limited world that sold adult magazines. The owners would never let a kid touch one of them but as long you were spending money in the store you could linger a bit and peep at the suggestive allure of the front covers. However, we really were just two young to give the magazines much more than a second thought and it was the candy that makes the Wheaton News Stand linger in mind to this day.  Changing times and the Internet have pretty much killed the storefront news stand in the US. It is a bit sad to see them gone. But of all of them that I have been into in my long life, none stands out so fondly in my memory as the Wheaton News Stand. Come to think of it, the Wheaton Barber Shop is still there in it’s original location. I wonder if Enzo still works there?

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