Mr. Dunn knows a bargain for sure

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By W.B. Evans

My sweet tooth was aching. Bless Pete, a big, old Buffalo nickel-sized Baby Ruth candy bar would surely ease the pain.

I wasn’t financially embarrassed, but I was short on funds. All I had jingling in my pocket was three or four brownies.

I couldn’t fight off the urge any longer. Mr. James Hinson’s store was up the street past Mr. Hubbard’s place, right across the street from Marion Tennant’s.

I guess I had to settle for some penny candy bars.

Lacing up my high-top tennis shoes, I dashed out the front door and out to the sidewalk.

Before I could make that right turn, two boys were running my direction.  One of them shouted, “Hey, you ain’t never gonna believe what we just found up-town.”

Now, I knew those fellas pretty good. They were known for stretching the truth past the breaking point with a made-up story or two. And they could do it quicker than you could melt a snail with a salt shaker.

I was crossing paths with them at a most unfortunate time, too. If they found out I was going to the store for candy, they would be tagging along so I’d have to share with them.

For some reason, they always wanted a share, but I couldn’t recall them sharing back.

Oh well, I reckon them about to share some good news over something they found uptown might tip the scales in their favor.

Notice, I said might.

Problem was, both of them were talking at the same time.

I sorta deciphered it to mean that Collins-Dunn Department Store had added a special counter to the middle of the store.

“It’s loaded down with a bunch of nickel stuff selling for three cents,” one of ’em said.

They had my undivided attention.

If there was ever somebody in need of a 3 cents bargain at that moment in time, it was me.

I had finally reached the age where Mama was trusting enough to send me to Mr. Simiril’s grocery and market on Gay Street by myself. That also  meant I had permission to pretty much walk uptown almost any time, within reason, of course.

Uncle Harry had told me it was exactly a mile from our Chesterfield Avenue driveway to the courthouse.

Hey, Mr. John Dunn’s store was a little ways short of the courthouse. It was near the recently-moved Cox’s Dime Store on the corner of Gay and Main Streets, across from the Bank of Lancaster. It always pays to know where you are going on Main Street with so many stores on both sides of the street.

But those four pennies were about to burn a hole in my britches. The new dime store would have to wait.

As soon as I entered Collins-Dunn, I was greeted by a smiling sales lady who politely asked if she could help me.

You know, she acted just like I was a regular customer.

After a long, hot afternoon walk, all I could blurt out was, “Lady, where’s the 3 cent counter?”

She pointed to a big counter in the middle of the store. I made a beeline for it, too. Those coins were weighing me down and I needed to get shut of ’em.

You would’ve thought I was staring at a pirate’s chest loaded with plunder.

Gosh, there was all kinds of stuff from jew’s harps, tops and jack stones, to yo-yos and puzzles.

Why they even had some girlie things like little hair combs and hair pins.

I gave all of it a thorough going over, until some nickel candy bars stopped my wandering eyes.

Fumbling through my right pocket, I pulled those four red-hot pennies out.

I grabbed a big old Baby Ruth, gave the sales lady 3 cents and headed for the door. For once those two fellas weren’t snookering me.

There was plenty to do when I got back home that day. I was on a mission to find as many forgotten pennies as I could.

I found a couple in the mantle clock case. Jerking up the cushions on the living room settee and rambling down in the cracks would surely fetch some loose change. I was right.

After searching the entire house from pillar to post, I ended up with about 14 cents. I was independently wealthy when it came to the bargains at Mr. Dunn’s 3 cents counter. I really did become a regular customer that summer, too.

But just like all good things, the 3 cent counter came to an end, just before school started back.

Now, remembering when, it’s easy to see that Walmart didn’t have anything on Collins-Dunn, especially when it came to selling stuff cheap. I always got my three cents worth at Mr. Dunn’s.

Sam Walton probably got his plans from Mr. Dunn, anyway.