2013-06-07 / Columnists

Boyleing Points

By Kevin Boyle

Last week’s column about the names of old places triggered a trip down memory lane for lots of old timers. Some people called it Dirty Earl’s but we have to go with the guy who actually lived above the store – Joe Kenel, not the oldest looking guy in the Grayriders – he says the candy store on Beach 129th Street was Dirty Irv’s. There was more confusion about soda shops, delis, and candy stores but you had to love the story about an enormous guy who worked behind the counter in one of the stores. Sometimes you’d go in and say I’ll have an eggcream and a donut and he’d say “Sounds good. I’ll have that, too” and he’d help himself to his fifth or sixth dessert of the day.

I’m guessing a lot of neighborhoods had their version of Dirty Irv’s. Candy stores and sweet shops would be magnets for kids lucky enough to have some spare change. Of course, these shops were also the places where many engaged in criminal activity for the first time. That’s right, fess up, the statute of limitations has run out.

You might not have had the spare change but you did have a hankering for a Nestle Crunch or a Charleston Chew. You, your friend, sometimes a whole pack of kids, would enter the store without a penny but with full intentions of taking advantage of a five finger discount. I can’t speak for the girls. As a member of the he-man’s women hater club, I didn’t know girls back then. But boys? Every last one of ‘em was a potential lifer at Sing-Sing.

The poor storeowners had to be hawks. They’d often come from around the counter to stare at you. But if he was staring at you, you could bet some other kid was sliding a Starburst or

$100,000 Bar into his pocket.

It was more sport than crime. Some kids lifted stuff they didn’t even like. They just wanted to see if it could be slipped up a sleeve or slid into a pocket with skill. Five finger discounts occurred every day at lunchtime or after school — which is probably why the line for confession was so long on Friday afternoons.

In Brooklyn, there was Dirty Sam’s on Flatbush Avenue. The owner was an eyebulging, cigar chomping, crotchety old guy who also happened to have two or three fingers missing. When you were a kid you’d almost rather steal than put change in the guy’s hand with a couple of stumps.

The store was so legendary it inspired a song and sometimes kids would stand outside and belt out the lyrics:

When you open the door, and you fall through the floor

You’re in Sam’s, Dirty Sam’s

When you ask for blue ice and you get some dead mice

You’re in Sam’s, Dirty Sam’s

When you sip on your coke, and you start to choke

You’re in Sam’s, Dirty Sam’s

Most of the kids went on the straight and narrow and gave up the life of a crime after a few visits to the dentist but nothing like a name to conjure up memories, old friends, and sometimes even a song. I can’t get it out of my head…When you open the door and you fall through the floor…. You’re in Sam’s, Dirty Sam’s.

Those were the days. Kids might have been criminals but at least they could sing some classic songs.

Boyleing Points: What flood, what fire? Some of the 116th characters are more resilient than piping plovers. The nice weather returns and there they are again. You gotta wonder if some are flesh-eaters.

**Got a question for Pat Brady. What are you selling beers for? Readers want to know.

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