By Herb Peppard
The year was 1934. I was 14 years of age. We lived on Alice Street in Truro. Mom and Dad had eight children, because that was before my brother Bill was born. After that my parents were blessed with a healthy family of nine children.
My sister Louise was a little older than me and I had a very ambitious and daring adventure planned. This courageous act we tried to accomplish every few weeks. This great and unusual adventure took us to the huge city of Halifax.
The only thing that could prevent this marvelous trip was cash. We needed 25 cents to make this incredible dream come true. Today, 25 cents is a pittance. Not so 80 years ago. That was when bread was seven cents a loaf, milk was 10 cents a quart, a can of corned beef was 10 cents and movies were 10 cents a ticket.
Louise worked at any little job she could get - she scrubbed floors. She worked part-time at the Metropolitan Store. That was a big store, like Woolworth, the store we used to call the five and 10. She worked hard to get that quarter because that was very important to us.
I sold newspapers, though truthfully, I wasn't very good at it. I remember they had two newspaper competitors in Halifax. They sent their papers to Truro. Each had a little office of their own in Truro. Each would have a paper in the morning, and also one in the evening. One of these sold the Halifax Chronicle and Herald and the other sold the Halifax Mail and the Star.
Each of these papers sold for three cents with the exception of the Star. This evening paper sold for two cents. I think I would have achieved my 25-cent goal sooner but for one reason - my craving for sweets. There was a little store on the corner of Brunswick and Lyman streets that sold these succulent goodies.
This store was run by two elderly sisters - we called them each Miss Smith. There were two special candies we kids loved, the names we gave them were jaw breakers and honeymoons. They were each two for one cent. The jaw breakers, were as the name implies, very hard but delicious. They were a licorice candy, but as long as they were candy that's all we cared. The honeymoons were my favourite. They were round and covered with delicious chocolate. When you got through the chocolate the next part was a generous portion of sweets that tasted like molasses candy. So, you can imagine why this candy was my favourite.
However, my urge to go to Halifax won over my sweet tooth and finally I had a quarter clutched in my hand. I then asked Louise how she was doing financially. She said she'd been ready for days but she had to wait for me to satisfy my sweet tooth.
So, with money in hand, we rushed for the railway station. Halifax was 60 miles away but we were blessed with an ace in the hole. Our dad worked on the railroad. Because of this we could ride on the train free with a pass. So we got a free pass to visit the beautiful city of Halifax.
Soon, with eyes as big as saucers, we pulled into the huge railway station in Halifax. Without wasting any time we headed for our destination along Barrington Street. We had been here a few times before but the size and grandeur of this amazing city still fascinated us. Maybe one of the things that amazed me was the streetcars. They whizzed around the city on railway tracks. I marvelled how advanced and modern they were. I felt no matter how far science progressed it would never surpass the magic of the streetcar.
Of course Louise and I were walking. We had no intention of spending any portion of that precious quarter. At last we came to our destination. This was the reason we'd scrimped and saved. It was a beautiful restaurant - one we'll never forget. This was our reason for saving, for planning, for fulfilling our dream. The restaurant was on the second floor of this huge building. The name of this magical building was prominently displayed. That name has always lingered in my memory, even after 80 years. The name of this sumptuous eating establishment was the Bon Ton Restaurant.
Louise and I rushed in and sat down at one of the tables. It was then we had some big decisions to make. What delicious three-course meal would we choose? After much discussion and much argument we both made the same choice; we ordered vegetable soup, roast chicken and coconut cream pie. We were then in heaven as we gorged ourselves with this delicious food. After we'd eaten the waitress brought us the bill. Of course we knew what the amount of the bill would be, for we had worked and slaved and suffered for weeks to accumulate that precious amount. The charge for this beautiful, satisfying meal was 25 cents for each one of us.
This was the reason we'd worked so hard, saved so much and denied so many pleasures, just to get that precious quarter and enjoy this succulent meal.
Did we give the waitress a tip? We couldn't. We didn't have a penny to our name.
Herb Peppard is a longtime Truro resident. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.