Friday, September 6, 2013

Stuckey's: A Childhood Dream Shattered

Last weekend, my wife and I were out of town driving across the vast wastelands of Missouri. Off the highway and nestled between "Pyro City (Just take a right at "Decapitation Station," then it's right next to "Klepto Caverns." Ya' can't miss it.)" and more adult mega-stores than you can shake a stick at, sat a "Stuckey's."

Ah, Stuckey's. For those unfamiliar with the glories of Stuckey's, please let me elaborate. As a child, Stuckey's held a nearly Christmas morning-like magic aura about it. They were giant, junky stores packed with all sorts of tourist trap crap (although, at the time, that "crap" seemed like hidden treasures to my wide eyes). The stores were sprinkled across Midwestern highways, a beacon of wonderfulness to break up the monotony of long, boring highway trips. It was a joy when my parents would pull into Stuckey's. Such golden memories!

There was a vending machine where you cram your money in and, before your eyes, a plastic molded dinosaur would form! Awesome! There was another vending machine dedicated solely to practical jokes and impractical stuff all of which I just had to have! Mexican jumping beans, itching powder (which turned out to be tiny metal shavings! Cool!), black and white schnauzer-shaped magnets (the kids at school wouldn't believe it!), and more stuff that was absolutely worthless and totally priceless! There was even a mysterious, forbidden machine in the bathroom that sold cards of naked women! Viva La Stuckey's! Disneyland on a budget!

But best of all? The allure of the sweet-looking, ginormous Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll. Yet my parents never let me have one. The log was one of life's mysteries that would remain just that, a sugary concoction to be dreamed of, never tasted.

Taking pity on me, my wife pulled into Stuckey's and said, "Let's get you a Pecan Log Roll."

Huzzah!

And then it all went to Hell. The first thing I noticed upon entering Stuckey's was, um, the odor drifting out of the bathroom. Rank, very much at odds with how I expected the elusive log roll would smell. And where was all the cool crap? Sure, there was a John Wayne bobblehead, but that was about it. Gone were all the toys, magic tricks and must-have items. In their place? Cigarettes, energy drinks, lousy C.D.'s and just about everything else you could find at a typical road-stop. And the store looked different, too. The aisles were all slanted as is today's norm, with boring pre-fab, mass manufactured candy crammed in them.

As my soul sank, I grabbed a log roll, whispered to my wife, "I think I've had enough."

And the log roll itself? Wasn't worth the thirty-five year long wait.

5 comments:

  1. I had those black and white schnauzers!

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  2. I'm trying to imagine the dinosaur growing vending machine and am a bit flummoxed, though the old version of the place sounds fun! Sorry to hear the wait wasn't worth it :/

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    1. Meradeth, it was admittedly strange. But they dropped hot, melted wax (okay, not plastic) into a mold. Churned it out like a cotton-candy machine. Crazy. Don't know why those machines didn't take off like Dillinger.

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  3. At Storybook Gardens in the Wisconsin Dells when I was ten years old (Summer 1966) They had a wax figure machine that gave me a mauve statue of Jiminey Crickett for 50 cents. I had not been to Disneyland back then. It was, like your memories of Stuckey's, a childhood memory of enchantment. I took my own kids to Storybook Gardens four years ago. Run down... broken down... a shattering of old dreams.

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  4. Oh, Michael, I share your pain. Except, um, of course Storybook Gardens sounds a little better than Stuckey's. Even with dumb rose-colored childhood blinders on.

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