While it’s possible I’m not the first to point it out (though I probably am), it seems like no matter how far we advance on a technological level, our lives just seem to get more and more hectic and harried. Whether you’re some Wall Street tycoon doing whatever you do to steal the life savings of poor people or your common everyday moron with one hand down your pants and the other stuck halfway up your nose, life can sometimes be pretty tough. Which is why I know as a nation we’re glad that one thing has never changed: your local, independently run Cherbergh’s. Until now.
Founded in 1868 in the tiny town of Effingham, Illinois, Cherbergh’s had a whopping 247 locations from coast to coast at its peak, and yet somehow managed to never lose that small town Mom & Pop appeal. Back when I was a boy living in a small town named Willoughby, my friends and I would start and finish nearly every day with a visit to the corner Cherbergh’s. We couldn’t get enough of their penny candies and handmade malteds, and old Ma and Pa Cherbergh always treated all us kids like their own grandchildren.
You know the layout of the store. They were all the same. Big awning outside with CHERBERGH’S displayed in that really old font. They’d have produce out front and it was generally agreed that the kids could take an apple or peach or two and the Cherberghs would just put it on their parents’ account. At least, that’s what they should have done. They might still be in business today.
Inside was a simple wood-plank floor with various bins and aisles filled with off-brand groceries. The counter was to your right when you entered, behind the counter taken up with cigarettes, booze, and assorted adult items.
They say that certain smells can trigger the strongest, most vivid memories. That’s definitely true, because whenever I leave milk in the fridge for like two years after its expiration date, I’m taken back to Cherbergh’s. But you didn’t go there for smells. You went there for candy.
I vividly remember my friends and I, The Lil’ Association, after a day spent fishin’ in the crick and kicking around old tin cans, riding our kickass old timey bikes to Cherbergh’s. Sure, they didn’t have any of your fancy “name brand” candies. Heck, none of their candies had those pesky, hard to open “wrappers”. You just grabbed what you could fit in two fists, and trust that each item would be more delicious than the last. That was just the magic of Cherbergh’s.
Many’s the time that Mother would ask me to run to Cherbergh’s for some last-minute ingredients for that night’s sensible (bland) supper. Cherbergh’s somehow always had the freshest produce and dairy products. Father would often speculate that Cherbergh’s had their own dairy farm back in the walk-in freezer and then laugh. Father was never all that great at thinking, but he could brutalize an ass with the best of ‘em.
As my friends and I got older, we didn’t stop going to Cherbergh’s, but we no longer went for just candy and malteds. Like any good grandparents, Cherbergh’s had a truly awe-inspiring pornography selection. At first, it was a bit odd buying items like “Swank”, “Cheri”, and “Big Black Butt” from Ma and Pa Cherbergh, but we soon got over our shyness as they slipped each hardcore title neatly inside the latest issue of MAD Magazine. They truly cared.
Around the same time we started buying porn and cigarettes (I’d say when we were all around 12), we started “experimenting” with beer. I swear to Xenu, that was the coldest, crispest beer I’ve ever tasted. To this day, whenever someone makes a comment like, “This beer is cold,” or, “That lake we fell into when the ice broke and Little Jimmy was killed sure was cold,” we’ll laugh and say, “That’s not ‘Cherbergh’s Cold’.” It hurt your teeth to drink beer from Cherbergh’s, but I guess in light of recent legal developments, that could have been the arsenic.
I’m not going to bore you with the hundreds of personal memories I have of Cherbergh’s. I’m sure they’re a lot like your own. I mean, everybody has that defining Cherbergh’s memory forever emblazoned in an easily accessible part of their brain. They might as well just rename nostalgia Cherberghsia, am I right?
I recently read in a borderline reputable periodical that the last Cherbergh’s has closed its doors. I guess there’s no room for unwrapped candies, Chef Bay-Mo-Dee, or Camle Cigarettes in today’s high-tech, refrigerated-meats world. Less and less people are smoking sub-generic cigarettes and with the invention of the porn box, only the Amish buy porno mags. But we’ve lost more than antiquated masturbation materials. We’ve lost that manufactured small town feel. Ma and Pa Cherbergh may be hiding away in a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, but their crimes against humanity are relatively small when you think about all the smiles they handed out for something like a hundred and fifty-twelve years.