by Ski Ingram

When I was about 10 years old our family moved to 2610 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Redondo Beach, California. Approximately two blocks east of my house was Inglewood Ave. At the corner of Manhattan Beach Blvd and Inglewood Ave was Banana Land.

Banana Land was a very small “Mom and Pop” grocery store that specialized in bananas. The entrance to the store was very large. It didn’t have a regular door; it was a big open area where a temporary wall was removed. This had the effect of making the small building look as if it was an open-air market. The first thing you saw as you looked into the market was a large multi-tiered display table with a lot of bananas on it. Hence the name of the store, Banana land.

This was the closest store to our house so when my mother needed me to go to the store for anything, I walked to Banana Land. The next closest store was Western Family Market. It was about six blocks away.

I didn’t go to Banana Land for the bananas, I went for the “penny candy.”  Yes, there were lots of bananas in the store, but there was even more candy. There is no such thing as “penny candy” these days, but in my day, it was the greatest. My mother would send me to Banana Land for milk or bread. As a reward, she would give me a few pennies from the change. It could be as much as four cents and with four cents you could get four pieces of candy.

The candy was stored in open bins, not individually wrapped in cellophane or paper like it is today. There was a large variety, much of it you cannot get today. Some of it was two for a penny candy. Some of it cost two cents instead of one cent. You could buy a Pearson sucker for two cents and if you opened the wrapper and found a little sticker that read “free” you got another sucker.

There was a five-year-old boy who was living next door named Bobby Schram. Sometimes his mother would ask me to take him to Banana Land to buy candy. She would give me ten to fifteen cents to do it. You can buy a lot of candy for ten cents.

A few years later, maybe 1961 or 1962, they began to build a small shopping center, what we now call Strip Malls, on the opposite corner of Manhattan Beach Blvd and Inglewood Ave. The anchor store was a Boy’s Market.

It took a few months for them to complete the shopping center, which included a dry cleaner, laundromat, a Winchell’s doughnut shop, and a few other stores that I don’t remember. There was also a gas station and a hamburger stand on the property. The construction workers who built the store drank a lot of soda. Every afternoon, for weeks, I would walk across the street and collect the empty soda bottles the construction workers left after going home for the day. I would take them to Banana Land and cash them in for three to five cents each, depending on the bottle. Of course, I used the money to buy “penny Candy.”  Life was good when I was a kid.