Easter Season, 1978.
I was a stockboy at the Woolco in Orange. Woolco was the low-rent version of Woolworth's, I think. Back then we were considered number 3 in the Big Three of discount stores: Caldor's, Bradlee's and Woolco.
We had a real a-hole as an assistant manager, but he was the guy in charge of us kids, and we basically got away with murder when he wasn't watching.
Working in a discount store wasn't very interesting, but we had fun. My buddy Rich was a real troublemaker, who for some reason never got fired for anything he did.
Which was a lot.
For instance, whenever he got yelled at by the boss, he got even by sneaking into the Pet Department and opening all the bird and hamster cages. You can always tell when Rich was pissed, because there'd be birds chirping up in the flourescent light fixtures, and you'd hear the occasional scream from an innocent female shopper who came face to face with a terrified gerbil.
The big shipment of Easter candy would usually arrive right after Christmas, and we'd have to store the confections until it was time to put them on display. That's where I first learned about Peeps. Those awful little marshmellow chicks. Occasionally we'd grab a case of them and bite all their heads off. I still don't know why we did it, except it would make us guffaw like lunatics.
Woolco had a locked storage room, basically a chicken wire cage, where they stored the regular stock of candy; to prevent us from eating ourselves into a diabetic coma, I think. But there was so much Easter candy that we had to store them out in the back hallway. The assistant manager, Mr. Maligudi, told us to put them there.
I noticed the hall was heated by these huge industrial gas heaters that would click on and blow superheated air down the entire length. I mentioned that to Mr. Maligudi, but of course he refused to listen to a lowly stockboy, so we stacked up case after case of chocolate bunnys in the hallway. As ordered.
Then we went and bit the heads off more Peeps.
A month or so later it was time to open the cases and put the bunnies on display. We started at the far end of the hall. They were fine. As we progessed towards the middle of the hall, I noticed some of the bunnies looking distinctly unwell in their little cardboard and cellophane boxes. The bunny ears drooped a little bit and the yellow and blue candy mint eyes hung a bit low in their faces. Rich and I looked at each other and grinned.
Continuing along the hall, we found more bunnies that were seriously hurting. Ears and heads melted down into their hollow torsos; mint eyes and carrots fallen off; a puddle of melted chocolate was forming at the bottom of the bunny's tomb. We began laughing hysterically. So much so that Mr. Maligudi heard us and stormed into the hallway, wanting to know what was so damned funny.
We showed him the deformed bunnies. His face fell. We grinned. He tore open a new case, this one only about ten feet from the heater. When he pulled out a box it contained nothing but a congealed puddle of milk chocolate about 1/2" deep, with two candy eyes looking up at him.
We died laughing. I know it's bad form to laugh hysterically at the boss, but it was too funny to contain. Everybody in the store came back there to see the dead bunnies. Mr. Maligudi was extremely pissed but couldn't fire us, because I reminded him that I mentioned the heaters back in January. He stormed out to a chorus of laughter.
Then me and Rich killed us some more Peeps.
So, to this day, I can't walk down the candy aisle of a department store in March without a grin.
That's my Easter story.
I miss Woolco.