Author’s note: I had planned to write something about the horrors of Oct. 25 this week, but somehow it seems distasteful for me to come in at the end of a two-week vacation and start rambling on about a collective nightmare from which so many people are trying to move on. I will at some point have something to say about the events of that sad night, but for the time being, I’ll stick to my usual topics. Pure nonsense, in other words.

 

I once confessed to hating Sundays in this column space and my, how the hate came forth.  

“I always thought you were a ‘murica-hating communist,” went the typical response, “but now I know for sure. Anyone who hates Sundays must also hate football, beer and dawgs!” 

And yet to this day, Sundays still fill me with a kind of enervating dread, and it’s been that way ever since they took “The Six Million Dollar Man” out of the TV lineup. To me, the final day of the weekend cannot be thoroughly enjoyed because you know that right behind it looms the stupefying doldrums of school. Of work. Of laboring through hours that are not your own like they were on Saturday. 

And furthermore, since I seem to be committed to this rant now, Sundays don’t even feel in any way distinct anymore. There’s still just as much traffic on the roads. The stores are still jam packed with shoulder-to-shoulder shoppers and just how long am I supposed to wait for a shot at the self-checkout counter just to buy these gross Vienna sausages? 

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Back when Sundays were quiet by law, they were a little bit better. Not very much better, mind you, but a smidge. 

On the Sundays of the good old days, all the big stores were closed. Take that, Mammoth Mart! Enjoy the darkness, Grant’s, Ames and Rich’s! With all those big chain stores out of the way, the little guy had a chance to thrive. 

And by “little guy” I mean LaVerdiere’s, which on Sundays of those halcyon times, was the only game in town. 

It was just a kind of glorified five-and-dime shop, it’s true, but if it was Sunday and if you needed a loaf of bread, a pack of D batteries or some calamine lotion for that weird rash you probably should have looked at by a professional, then brother, you’re only hope was to go to LaVerdiere’s and pray that they had what you need. 

Which was no problem for me because I flat out loved LaVerdiere’s. I didn’t love it for the bread, batteries and calamine lotion, either, but for the other treasures jammed into that glorious space. 

I’m talking Mexican jumping beans, which they kept right on the checkout counter. Whenever you were cashing out with your less exotic items, you’d hear the little tick tick tick of those little beans tapping against the plastic box they come in and what are you going to do? NOT buy the Mexican jumping beans? Get real, bro! Those beans were like magic! To this day, nobody in the world knows what makes those beans jump and don’t you go Googling that, either. Just take my word for it. 

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LaVerdiere’s was also my go-to place for Slinky (it truly IS fun for a girl and a boy!) for Sea Monkeys (to this day, nobody knows what Sea Monkeys actually are,) for Silly String, Clackers, Etch-a-Sketch (bet you know what I mostly drew on there,) Nerf balls in various shapes and sizes, G.I. Joe accessories, a Magic 8-Ball to replace the one you broke over your brother’s head, Stretch Armstrong, View Master, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and, if you were really desperate for entertainment, Spirograph. 

Not that I could afford many of those things, mind you, but that was the joy of LaVerdiere’s. Who needed to buy anything when you could just go into the store and spend all day playing with various toys or trying to get peeks at adult magazines? The old man behind the counter would try to shoo you out of the place now and then, but he was ancient and easy to outrun and he often got distracted by other customers who needed things like corn pads and Preparation H, whatever that is. 

If it happened to be October when you were loitering about in there, you’d find LaVerdiere’s had mushroomed from mere​ super drug store into super DUPER drug store, because man, the Halloween masks and decorations in that place were unsurpassed. On Sunday, anyway. 

At LaVerdiere’s, starting shortly after Thanksgiving, you could get any Halloween costume you wanted as long as it was Mickey Mouse, a clown, an astronaut, Wonder Woman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, a skeleton, Frankenstein or the Devil.

At some point, the store began offering rubberized masks, but I have especially fond memories of those hard plastic ones, which were held on by thin rubber bands and which squeezed so tightly upon your head they would make your whole face sweat, even in 30-degree weather. 

It was hard to see out of those masks because the eyes were just little slits. It was hard to breath, too, which worked out OK because all the gasping and wheezing would make you sound like a real live monster, right up until the moment you passed out in the Vigues’ shrubs. 

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If the breathing issue didn’t get you first, it was a sure bet that the rubber band would snap and then that mask would hang at a weird angle on your face for the rest of the night. The mask would bend and crack and dent in all sorts of ways as you tried to jam Halloween candy into that tiny slit of a mouth. That was OK too, though. Nobody ever reused a Halloween mask from LaVerdiere’s. Those costumes were a one-shot deal and the more trashed yours got over the course of the night, the more fun you had. 

I remember when the blue laws went away and all the big stores started staying open seven days a week, at which point Sunday should have been renamed Saturday Part II because it was just another day of hustle and bustle, and LaVerdiere’s became just another store in a city that teemed with them. 

Then Rite Aid came along and bumped LaVerdiere’s out of the landscape altogether and I’ll tell you; Rite Aid might be fine for picking up those aforementioned corn pads, lotions and batteries, but no fun-loving kid is going to spend all day in there getting chased around by a cranky store clerk. To the best of my knowledge, Rite Aid never dabbled in Mexican jumping beans so you just KNOW they’re no fun. 

I might go on and tell you about my adventures at McLellan’s, Deorsey’s record store and the Fayva, too, but I wouldn’t want to give anyone the idea that I’m older than 35 so I’m just going to shut up. 

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