Monday, November 5, 2007

Kennys Toy Store


Long before Park Slope was pretty and “Little Things” was cute, we had Kensington, Church Avenue and Kennys toy store. Kennys toy store sat on the corner of East 3rd street and Church avenue. Just about where you would open the door to enter RiteAid, back in 1963 you would be walking into Kennys. And you would usually have a dollar in your pocket.

As you walked in the first thing you would notice is how dark it was. Mr. Kenny who looked something like Albert Einstein sat behind a small counter on the left as soon as you walked in. He had wavy grey hair and a thick mustache. He was short and stubby with a large stomach. “Good morning to you young man”. The wood floors would start squeaking uncontrollably as soon as you started walking around in Kennys. And the floors were dark and dull and looked like they were there forever. Mr. Kenny usually worked with Mrs. Kenny, she too was short like Mr. Kenny and had long grey wavy hair. The squeaking floor was probably a way the Kennys kept tabs on their customers, because no matter where you were in the store Mrs. Kenny always seemed to be watching you.

The aisles of Kennys were very narrow and the toys always seemed to be covered with dust. And as far as the selection, it seemed that the Kennys sold toys that were popular in the 50’s rather than the 60’s. But still when you were granted the opportunity to go to Kennys with a dollar in your pocket you never said no.

“Oh, do I have something for you” said Mrs. Kenny. “This is something that just arrived” Mrs. Kenny held up a cardboard package with something that looked like a red egg in it. It said “Silly Putty”. Now when you find a toy in Kennys without a layer of dust on it you knew it had to be something special. “Would you like this” said Mrs. Kenny holding the strange looking package with the red egg. I nodded my head in agreement as I walked to the counter. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my dollar bill, I handed it to Mr. Kenny.

Mr. Kenny had this thing for Scotch taping ripped dollar bills, even if they had the slightest tear in them Mr. Kenny would tape them in what seemed like slow motion. Today would be no exception. “Oh, we have a tear, so we must fix” Mr. Kenny usually looked at me as he said this, I guess he thought I ripped them for a hobby. His fixing of dollar bills was a surgical procedure, and his process was slow, deliberate and exact, every time. First, came the close examination of the dollar and the tear. Mr. Kenny would always pull down his eyeglasses at this point. Second, he would lay the dollar bill on the counter and hold it with one hand. Now ever so slowly he would reach towards the scotch tape dispenser pulling off the length he needed and gently tape the bill. And when he was finished with one side this whole routine would start all over again for the other side of the dollar. When it was over he would put the dollar in the register and hand you your change. But the torture was still not over. The toy was then put into a small brown paper bag, the bag was layed on the counter, the top was folded over twice, the receipt (usually hand written) was attached to the bag and then stapled. All this within what seemed like hours to the mind of a little boy. “Thank you young man” said Mr. Kenny.

As you opened the heavy wooden door the cowbell on the door would cling and the sunlight usually blinded you from being in the darkness of Kennys so long as the bill was being taped. But as you walked home along Church Avenue you knew it would not be long before you would be at home playing with a new toy from Kennys and also taping all your mother's dollar bills before you go there again.

Ron Lopez

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1 comment:

Pete Liria said...

Kenney's was a magical place.....all that shadow and dust and yet the little treasures were there, partially hidden in the gloom waiting to be found by little hands. I remember the two aisles and the fact that as in many old stores, the owners needed to climb a ladder on casters to get to some of the stored items high above our arms' reach.
I have 3 very vivid memories - the first is that Kenney's was the only place where we could but rubber book straps - no one had backpacks then. 2nd was my memory of you and me going to Kenney’s when we were about 11 and 12 - too old to play with toy soldiers and such, yet we bought some and went home and played with them anyway - but didn't tell any of our friends. And last - but not least - how when we went to Kenney's to buy the pink balls we knew as "Spaldeens" and Kenney's son being oblivious. "Spallldeeeeenz??" he said, and we all cracked up...from then on, whenever he walked down our block, holding his cigarette and his navel, we'd call out "Spallldeeeenz" and laugh hysterically. He never acknowledged our presence although he walked down our block every day for years afterward since the Kenney's lived one block down past us. Even long after the store was but a memory, the word “Spallllldeeeenz” always brought us a smile.