Writer’s Block: Eva’s Popcorn Stand
A summer stay with Grandma taught this teenager the value of patience, hard work— and having fun
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. ■