Where do city kids hang out now?
Since they’re all under strict parent and nanny supervision, I guess at home, or those Kumon homework help places, or maybe some franchised indoor bouncy castle center where they jump around while parents sit in a viewing skybox, critiquing their kids’ bounce form and sipping kale smoothies.
They don’t have what we had: freedom to wander on our own starting at age 9 or so, and a place to go like Baronette’s.
I’d like to post a picture of Baronette’s, or Harvey’s, as we alternately called it. (Its real name was Baronette Card Shoppe, but no one thought of it as a Card Shoppe.) It was on Broadway at 82nd Street, where Barnes and Noble is now.
There are no pictures, not even in the NYC government tax records online. No evidence of this magical place existing, so I guess history is choosing to treat it like it was just a Card Shoppe. That’s not what it was.
It was a small, magical kid land run by a mustachioed grump.
Let’s walk through.
Front register Candy, baby. My go-tos were Chunky (plain, not with raisins), Three Musketeers, Choco-Lite, and the Reggie Bar. You’re a real 70s kid if you ate Reggie Bars, named for Yankees heavy hitter Reggie Jackson. I would’ve preferred a Bucky Dent bar, which could’ve been a white chocolate bar with two half-moon smears of dark chocolate on it. And, of course, a dent in the middle. I should design candy.
Above the front counter hung a row of sample T-shirts you could have custom-made. You could get an iron-on of The Muppets, or your name in big, puffy letters. This may not sound special, but there was a time when custom-ordering a T-shirt with your name on it was as revolutionary as space travel.
These were great for me, since all pre-made merchandise with kids’ names, like bedroom door plaques that said “KEEP OUT! _____’S ROOM”, included Laurie and Lauren and even Loren, but never Laura. I often berated my parents for giving me a name that wasn’t available on any of the spinning racks, and, because I was spoiled and scary, they apologized.
Behind the counter was Harvey, who I remember as old, but was probably 30.
Harvey hated and yelled at kids, but loved their money…
Hence the extensive sticker selection and the homemade sign on the door that said, “YES, WE HAVE PUFFIES!” That sign was probably not so much to lure business as it was to keep bratty kids from asking, “Do you have puffies?”
Harvey had a big porn mustache, which is really a misnomer since in the 70s and 80s that mustache was just as suitable for running a family card shoppe as for starring in or directing x-rated movies.
Across from the front counter, with a service window to the street, was an ice cream counter. Harvey, always the trend-savvy marketer, added a Dannon frozen yogurt machine in the mid 80s.
In the aisles were all the essentials: namely, the aforementioned stickers. Other important items displayed there included:
Day-glo posterboard AKA oaktag for science projects; dolls, which were more my sister’s thing; yo-yos; the Yo-Ball, which was like a yo-yo with training wheels (it snapped back automatically); Kerbangers, which someone said were lethal, so after I bought them with my own allowance, my mom put them on top of the refrigerator where she thought I couldn’t reach them; Slime, which my mom also tried to confiscate. Thanks a lot, Slime manufacturers, for that “MAY STAIN FURNITURE” warning. Real helpful.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: VIDEO GAMES
Upstairs was the most important part of Harveys. This mezzanine that overlooked the store housed a row of video games. Tempest, Jungle Boy, Pacman, Ms. Pacman, and Donkey Kong.
If there were a soundtrack to the mezzanine, it’d be the waka-waka of Pacman and the theme song to the movie Arthur (“When you’re caught between the moon and New York Ciiiiity…“). Harvey piped Lite FM through the speakers.
The stud of our middle school, Jason, who was a year older and went out with our grade’s hot girl, Carney, hung out at Baronette’s with his friends. They favored Ms. Pacman. I think they wanted to have sex with her. They didn’t notice me, so they freely had conversations like:
“Yo Jason, how come you aren’t at Carney’s house?”
“What’s the point? She’s got her period.”
A hardcore Tempest addict, I’d play from after school till dinner, when Harvey would yell from downstairs, in an “I can’t believe this is my fucking life” tone of voice, “LAURA BELGRAY, YOUR MOTHER ALICE IS ON THE PHONE, SHE SAYS THE CHINESE FOOD JUST GOT THERE.”
See what I mean? It was a special place.
Or maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was just a Card Shoppe. But if anyone has a picture, please let me know.
Where did you hang out when you were first allowed to go out on your own?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS