Writer’s Block: Eva’s Pop­corn Stand

A sum­mer stay with Grandma taught this teenager the value of pa­tience, hard work— and hav­ing fun

More of Our Canada - - Contents - by Holly Howat, Saska­toon

For one teenager, two weeks with Grandma in a small Prairie town sounded dull—it was any­thing but!

The lit­tle red car ca­reens down the back lane, a cyclone of dust is left in our wake. “Crazy driver, Grandma!“I ex­claim, with my hands on the dash and a teenage smirk on my face. We are rac­ing to open the pop­corn stand for the evening. It’s a sum­mer­time tra­di­tion in this pic­turesque Prairie town.

Radville is lo­cated in the ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Lau­rier, nes­tled in the scenic Missouri Coteau re­gion of south­east­ern Saskatchewan. Rising like an oa­sis out of rugged rolling Prairie land, Radville’s abundant tree-lined streets arch over you like a warm Prairie hug. It’s a vi­brant com­mu­nity of proud Prairie peo­ple, and this is where you will find Eva’s pop­corn stand.

I’m 15 years old, just spent an en­tire day on the bus, shipped down to Grandma’s for two weeks. I was not a will­ing par­tic­i­pant in this de­ci­sion, leav­ing my friends and horses be­hind.

It’s 5 p. m., the heat of the day is sti­fling; the sound of soda bot­tles clink as we pull them from the trunk of the car.

Grandma in­structs me to open the pad­lock on the candy-red wooden door. “Prop it open, get some air mov­ing in here.”

First, you load up the Coke cooler with pop, to en­sure they are frosty cold for the night. Ice-cold wa­ter await­ing, Fanta, Orange Crush, Cherry Soda, Moun­tain Dew—all pop­u­lar drinks with the candy crowd. Cus­tomers al­ready pa­tiently mill around, with their bikes propped up on the pic­nic ta­ble out­side.

Arthritic fin­gers prime the can­is­ter of white gas on the Cole­man camp stove. One full scoop of co­conut oil goes into the pop­corn pop­per, fash­ioned out of an old pres­sure cooker by my grand­fa­ther back in 1947. A tin pitcher of a mix­ture of but­ter and co­conut warms on the op­po­site burner for the top­ping. The pop­corn is not con­sid­ered ready un­til two batches go into the hop­per. Next, a flurry of un­cov­er­ing card­board candy boxes propped up on dis­play for all the lit­tle faces peer­ing through the slid­ing win­dow. Blue Whales, Red Hots, Cherry Twists, Strawberries, Mo­jos, jaw break­ers, candy neck­laces, liquor­ish cigars and moon rocks are all pop­u­lar sell­ers.

Fi­nally, the slid­ing win­dow is flung open. The nos­tal­gic fra­grance of pop­corn, white gas and co­conut waft down main street, en­tic­ing young and old to linger in the resid­ual warmth of the day.

Lit­tle feet are perched on the old wooden Coke crate with a fist full of change, peer­ing over the ledge through the slid­ing win­dow. Ex­cited hands point out the cho­sen se­lec­tions, while prac­tic­ing their math skills. The can­dies are counted out and put on a dish, wait­ing to be placed in a lit­tle brown paper bag.

A deeply grooved wooden drawer holds the money—coins slide ef­fort­lessly along the grooves from years of trans­ac­tions. All cal­cu­la­tions must be per­formed in your head. Grandma in­sisted on it, but a pad of paper and a pen­cil were avail­able if you needed res­cu­ing.

The night is a flurry of pop­ping corn, tak­ing or­ders and re­stock­ing candy boxes. A well-de­served break was granted around 9 p.m. out­side on the pic­nic ta­ble, with a soda of your choice and a much an­tic­i­pated bag of pop­corn. It’s the lull ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter the pool crowd has con­verged on the stand, bi­cy­cles and wet tow­els slung over the bike seats, pic­nic ta­bles full of ex­hil­a­rated chil­dren, all re­freshed af­ter the heat of the day.

Next, the older gen­er­a­tion pa­rades down main street in their clas­sic cars. All the hid­den gems of gen­er­a­tions past park on a di­ag­o­nal in front of the pop­corn stand. With treats in hand, they watch the hus­tle and bus­tle of their small town— a gath­er­ing place for many.

Early the next morn­ing, Grandma is al­ready load­ing up the car with pop crates hold­ing empty bot­tles. “Mak­ing a sup­ply run to West­ern Whole­salers in Wey­burn,” she ex­claims.

It’s an ex­pan­sive and dimly lit ware­house. The aisles of candy boxes are five feet tall, all stacked neatly in clear plas­tic wrap. Grandma walks the aisles with list in hand, fill­ing her or­der with the ware­house per­son­nel. I run to keep up, think­ing that this is not work, this is a candy par­adise. We leave the sweet­smelling ware­house, load up the lit­tle red car and are off again, speed­ing back to Radville to meet the Coca-cola man.

Af­ter ar­riv­ing home, Grandma gives me spe­cific in­struc­tions to carry all the can­dies into the house and down into the cel­lar cold room, then through the trap door into her pantry. Some go into the freezer—they stay fresh that way. Oth­ers go on the shelves in the cold room. Mean­while, a large semi-trailer truck is ma­neu­ver­ing in the back lane, ready to re­plen­ish the car­riage-house garage with full soda bot­tles.

We now have a few hours be­fore it all starts again. I go for a swim at the town pool, where a cute boy asks me if I’m the pop­corn-stand lady’s grand­daugh­ter.

I will never for­get that first sum­mer I spent with Grandma. She taught me the value of hard work, how to deal with the pub­lic and how to possess an in­fi­nite amount of pa­tience— all while hav­ing oo­dles of fun do­ing it. ■

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