Chapter 6: Penny Candy

Samuel Milton Bushman was restless. School was out, Pa was working, and Ma had kept him occupied with morning chores. They lived on Baltimore Street near the base of Cemetery Hill. They had a few chickens that Ma made him feed and cleanup after. He also had to help sweep the kitchen, the front room, and the hall. Eddie was always under foot, and Ma was always telling Samuel to take Eddie out back and play or up to Rock Creek, but mind that he doesn’t go in the deep water, or maybe hike out to the woods and spot some birds and come tell her what kind they were.

What three-year-old could tell you what sort of bird he had seen? He’d be lucky to say that the bird was blue or red. And Eddie didn’t do much talking—tended to let Samuel and John Henry talk for him. When Samuel tried to tell Ma all this, she looked cross at him, baby Sadie in her arms, and said, “I don’t care what you do. Play stickball. Make a slingshot. Build a raft. Do something. Anything. But take your brother and get out of this house for a few hours.”

“But Ma,” he said, “I thought I wasn’t to shoot slingshots with Eddie lest I put out his eye.”

“If you do not take him right now, I’ll put one of your eyes out for you,” Ma said.

So out the front door they went, Samuel in his white shirt and roughed-up knickers and Eddie in a pair of pants that dragged along the ground. Samuel held Eddie’s hand to get him across the street—Ma would be awful cross if Samuel let Eddie get run down by a horse or a carriage. Once they got across safely, they tromped north toward Fahnestock & Sons near the diamond at the heart of town. When they got to the store, Samuel stopped to look at the display window and case: FALL FASHIONS FROM PHILLY AND NEW YORK! There were blouses, shirts, trousers, suspenders, shoes, and dresses in various arrangements in the display.

Samuel tried to imagine Philadelphia and New York. Buildings taller than mountains, some folks said. People of all colors and languages so that you might not understand anyone all day long. Horses and buggies everywhere and the smell of food being cooked on the street corners by hucksters who pressed passers-by to stop. Foods that folks maybe hadn’t even heard of before. He had heard that kids sold newspapers and that a kid could work up a little savings account by being good at it.

He wanted badly to see Philadelphia and New York, to go down to the docks and watch the goods come in and newly loaded ships flow out, to see the immigrants getting off and finding their way to the streets. It would be so much better than this boring old horse and farm town with its stodgy old people and school and music lessons and chores all the time!

“Candy!” Eddie bellowed suddenly. Of course. Candy. Eddie thought about one thing and one thing only.

“Come on, Eddie,” said Samuel. “Let’s go inside.”

He led Eddie in, and as soon as they got through the door, Eddie pulled on him to get to a big barrel where they kept the rock candy.

“Leave it,” said Samuel. “I don’t got money to be buying you candy.”

John Henry was at the other end of the store. He was dressed like Samuel but also wore a big apron around him, and he held a basket of dry goods. He kept reaching into it and pulling out smaller boxes of oats and flour to put on the shelves just off to the side of the counter. Of course, Eddie fussing got John Henry’s attention.

“Ah, Sam,” said John Henry, turning to see his brothers, “what’d you do that for?”

“Do what?” said Samuel.

“You brung Eddie in. You’re gonna get me in trouble.”

“Eddie ain’t done nothin wrong, John Henry. We was just lookin.”

The back door opened with a clanging of bells, and in came the oldest Mr. Fahnestock, the man who had started the business. He had a dark mustache and salt and pepper hair up top. He was taller than most, and sweat beaded on his forehead.

“Ah, look who’s here!” he exclaimed. “Why, if it isn’t my own namesake! Hello, Samuel.”

“I tole you before,” said Samuel. “Ma says I’m named after the Samuel in the Bible. The fellow that anointed Saul and David.”

“And I told you before,” said Mr. Fahnestock, “so am I! And I came before you, so you must be named after me!”

Samuel creased his forehead. “No offense, Mr. Fahnestock, but I don’t think that’s how it works.”

And with that, Samuel Fahnestock let out a hearty laugh. As he did, the back door clanged open again, and in came one of Fahnestock’s sons, James. He had a huge bag of flour over one shoulder and carried a covered bucket with his other arm. “Coming through!” he called without looking up, and his father hopped out of his way as he finally dropped the wares behind the counter.

“I’m sorry, sirs,” John Henry said. “My brothers are being impertinent, and they were about to leave.”

“Now, now,” said older Mr. Fahnestock, “these here are potential customers. Were you boys looking for something?”

“Candy!” Eddie bellowed.

Samuel rolled his eyes. “He always wants candy, sir. We don’t got no money with us today.”

“I see,” Mr. Fahnestock said. He walked over to the barrel. “Is it rock candy you like, Eddie?”

Eddie pointed at the barrel and yelled, “Candy!”

Mr. Fahnestock picked up a piece of rock candy, and as he did, the front door opened with a clang. Samuel glanced and saw Mr. Hoffman, the cross old German fellow the older Skelly boys worked with.

“Mr. Hoffman, I will be right with you,” said Samuel.

“I can take you over here,” said James from the front counter.

Samuel watched the carriage maker lumber to the front and heard him mumble, “I wanted to pick up that saw, sledgehammer, and nails I ordered a fortnight ago.”

Mr. Fahnestock brought Samuel back toward him by saying, “Now see here, Eddie. A pound of rock candy costs ten cents. Now, a single piece of rock candy is only a small fraction of a pound, so I can’t sell it for ten cents. But I can’t make change either for any coins you have. So I guess you’ll just have to take it without charge this time.”

“Candy!” Eddie bellowed and stretched for it.

“We don’t mean to take handouts,” said John Henry.

“Of course not,” said Mr. Fahnestock. “We’ll put it on the Bushman account. I will write up a receipt.”

Mr. Fahnestock handed the candy to Eddie who immediately popped it in his mouth, sucked hard on it, then pulled it out of his mouth, pointed it at Mr. Fahnestock and said again, “Candy!”

Mr. Fahnestock laughed and turned to the counter. Samuel followed him over, and as he did, he heard James say in a low voice, “Mr. Hoffman has about a third of the money for his delivery.”

“How much?” the older man whispered back.

“He has about two dollars out of six. Shall I just give him one of the pieces?”

“If he can’t work, he can’t pay the rest,” the older man said back quietly.

“I am making weekly payments,” Charles Hoffman said clearly.

“You are falling behind,” said James. “You order more than what you pay weekly.”

“It is the volume of business,” said Charles. “When I deliver on it, I will pay more.”

James looked at his father. Young Samuel Bushman watched the older man carefully. The older man said, “Take the two. Give him all the tools. Add the difference to his account.”

James shook his head with a sigh and said, “Yes, sir.” He then pulled out a pad to write on, as did the older man.

Finally, Mr. Fahnestock handed the slip to Samuel. “There you go. Now, if you look, you can see that the price of that particular piece of candy is one-tenth of a cent. There are no coins below a half-cent piece. So I can’t take any money until your tab is up to half a cent because I can’t make change for it.”

“Okay,” said Samuel not quite understanding. “I think I probably need to be like John Henry and start doing some work if I’m going to have an account here.”

Mr. Fahnestock nodded thoughtfully, then said, “Tell you what. If you are available tomorrow, you could come back to the store and join James on his business trip to the bank. He can explain some of the errands that we run and if you think you are up to it, we could have you do some errand-boy work. Would you like that?”

“I think so, sir,” said Samuel.

Samuel glanced at John Henry who was now sweeping the floor but looking over expectantly, and Samuel knew that it was time to get along.

“I will return tomorrow at the same time,” said Samuel. “Thank you, Mr. Fahnestock.”

Mr. Fahnestock stepped back behind the counter. Samuel looked over at John Henry and nodded. As he started for the door, Samuel heard James say, “Hoffman is digging a hole too deep to get out of. You’re never going to see that money, Pop.”

As Samuel started to press the door open, he heard Mr. Fahnestock say, “Have you counted up how much property he owns? We will be repaid one way or another.”

As Samuel stepped into the street, he thought, Now what does that mean?


After reading Chapter 6, teachers, parents, or learners may want to dive into more historical sources by visiting the Chapter 6 resources page. Resources for all chapters can be found at the book’s resources page.

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