Buying Penny Candy with Pop Bottles


We didn't see a bunch of empty bottles - we saw 24c in Indiana!

We didn’t see a bunch of empty bottles – we saw 24c in Indiana!

When I was a kid, aluminum cans had not yet become very popular for sodas or beer.  Most everything was bottled and when you purchased a carton of sodas, (we called them “pops” in Ohio), you would have to pay a two cent deposit for every bottle.  When you finished drinking all of the pops, you’d put the bottles back into the carton and carry them back to the grocery store or quick mart.  You would receive two cents for each bottle or even-credit if you were purchasing more pops.  The bottles would get picked up by the delivery drivers and carried back to the bottling plants where they would be sanitized and reused for new product.

Two cents was nothing for adults, but there was a lot of penny candy when I was growing up as a child so each bottle that we could find discarded meant 2-4 pieces of candy (i.e. instant kid adrenalin rush).  Certain candy like Chum Gum came as 2 pieces for a penny and it was one of my favorites, not only for the value, but also for its great flavor.  So, often we kids would go out on our bottle scavenger hunts and zap up every bottle we could – and then there were the ‘special’ expeditions….

It was also good for fishing out coins at the bottom of sewers

It was also good for fishing out coins at the bottom of sewers

All of our vacations as children were spent in Vincennes, Indiana where both of my parents were born and raised.  In addition to getting to see and play with all of our relatives, there was one more exciting feature of Indiana – the 3 cent bottle deposit!  That’s right; we kids were getting our first early training in the currency markets.  Forget trading Dollars for Deutschmarks or Yen, we kids yielded 50% return on every bottle we could find and smuggle across the Ohio/Indiana border!

My brothers and I would smuggle our bottles into the car, tucking them under the seats of Mom and Dad, trying to be careful to position them such that they didn’t jiggle too much.  If they clinked around too much, we might suffer the wrath of Dad who might complain of the noise.  Speaking for myself, I did everything I could to avoid getting on Dad’s bad side, (read me) though in his defense I can recall only once his complaining about the clinking.

When Mom and Dad were married, we always stayed at Grandma Wyatt’s house.  How can I possibly forget the address; it was 1427 McKinley Ave. Vincennes, IN.  Just down the street about 3 city blocks was the local family-owned grocery store owned by a lady we knew only by her first name – Audie.  Audie knew Grandma and Granddad for years.  She had told me that she had seen me as a baby and always seemed happy to see our check-in.  I think the last time I saw her was when I was about 20 years old.

I don't know who owns this lot now, but glad to see it is empty

I don’t know who owns this lot now, but glad to see it is empty

As soon as Dad would park the car, we boys would be anticipating the moment he would allow us to shoot down the street, carrying our bottles in a bag or carton, being ever so careful not to break one of our precious cargo.  At 3 cents per bottle, we had become the Donald Trumps of the Indiana penny candy market and we were ready to make a deal!  Ten bottles would buy a lot of candy.

Oh those loser Ohio bottle collectors – how we felt sorry for those poor little bastards.

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17 comments on “Buying Penny Candy with Pop Bottles

  1. howard troutman says:

    I loved this story ! We to collected pop bottles , Our Uncle Robert Watson was the caretaker (he ran) a dairy farm just over the Ohio – Indiana line on 252 at drewersburg road . Our cousins and my brothers would walk from the dairy barn to Mount Carmel appx. 2.5 – 3 miles picking up bottles in burlap feed sacks cash our bottles in at Ross’s grocery and buy a hord of candy. We would then walk back to the farm. Today our children and grand children set behind computer screens and we complain about a society of obese Americans. I enjoy your storys ! my name is Howard Troutman and I grew up out off off stahlheber rd. on McWhorter dr. I graduated from Taft High School 1973. and have very simular experiences growing up.

  2. The Waiting says:

    Those sucker Ohioans!

  3. You gotta love little boys who know how to get a bang for their buck. And considering the “throw-away” society we live in today, this story was all the more charming. I miss penny candy. There was an ice cream shop near my school that we would always stop at whenever we walked or rode bikes home. They had a corner of penny candy that we often raided. That stuff doesn’t really exist anymore. There is one place that still sells it around here, but it isn’t that close to our house. Bummer for my kids.

  4. […] year it was acorns and of course we were always on the lookout for pop bottles since they could be cashed in for Chum Gum.(read […]

  5. […] remarried), almost every Thanksgiving we would pack the station wagon up with clothes and kids, (and maybe bottles – read me), and head west from Hamilton, Ohio towards Vincennes, Indiana on good old US Route […]

  6. Beverly (Beaman) Teising says:

    I graduated high school with your Mother and was a neighbor and friend of your Dad. I lived at 1207 State Street, next street over from McKinley. I remember your grandmother Wyatt, a wonderful lady and very hard worker. The grocery store you are talking about was Litherland’s. Her name was Audy (that’s how we spelled it) Litherland. Her grandson Jimmy Litherland still lives in the house on the corner of 12th & McKinley. Look forward reading more.

  7. […] and school had ended a week earlier.  We traveled to Indiana almost every summer for a vacation after school let out (read me).  I loved going to Indiana to see all my relatives there.  My Grandma had a great sense […]

  8. […] for a night.  I believe it was a Hamilton Mini Circus trip.  I don’t think it was for an Indiana vacation, (read me), because I’m pretty certain this was only a one night deal.  Regardless, Kim and […]

  9. […] reward us with a small bag of candy, each pop bottle being equivalent to two cents worth of candy (read me).  Oh, and I do apologize for those of you not familiar with the term ‘pop’.  Pop is […]

  10. […] to perform for money.  Our only source of money for penny candy in those days were pop bottles (written about in this story) and there were only just so many pop bottles lying around…I mean we weren’t the only […]

  11. Michelle says:

    My grandmother and uncle lived on the corner of 12th and McKinley. I loved going to Audie’s, it was the first thing I wanted to do when we arrived! And I always wanted to go out back and see her fish pond! So many memories. Looking at the house on Google Earth, I can’t imagine why I was so scared to jump off the concrete failing on the front porch that my brother always tried to get me to do. Burger Barn, Charlie’s Candy. Wow. I suddenly feel about eight years old again.

  12. […] families lived, (and of course we kids had our pop bottles jingling in the car with us – story link). Kim’s family, contrarily, had taken lots of vacations.  To me, they were like a rich […]

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