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Ed Ackerman Pittston Progresscv30ackermanp2Warren Ruda / The Citizens’ Voice

I apologize right up front for making Dick Yaniello blush this morning.

Richard Yaniello owns and operates Pittston Candy & Cigar on Broad Street in Pittston. Every time I see him I cannot help but think of how “in love” with him my sister Barbie was.

“In love” is in quotation marks because we were just kids at the time, elementary school kids. What did we know of love?

“Puppy love” is what it was. Puppy love in all its innocent glory.

Barbie thought Dick Yaniello, or “Dickie” as we called him back then, though a year younger, was a “dreamboat,” to use the parlance of the times.

Dickie, however, was just one of Barbie’s dreamboats. The other two were older men: Carmen LoBrutto, the bus driver who’d pick us up on the corner and take us to town, and Perry Como, who when I think of it, did not fit the dark hair, dark eye profile of the other two.

Didn’t matter. All three set Barbie’s heart aflutter.

Barbie, who was a year and a day older than I, passed away 14 years ago. She’d probably be mortified at seeing all of this in print. But she wouldn’t deny it.

I drop into Dick Yaniello’s store several times a year, particularly if I need a gift for one of my cigar-smoking friends, and always on parade days in Pittston. It’s customary for those walking in parades, as I’ve done the past few years with the Pittston Progress team, to toss candy to the children along the parade route. Since most everyone has that covered, I decided to focus my attention on the adults at the parade and I knew just how to do it.

Swedish Fish.

I buy them by the box (individually wrapped, of course) at Dick Yaniello’s and walk up to the grown-ups at the parade and place them right in their hands.

“Here,” I say, “parade candy for adults.” Or, “That’s right, Swedish Fish, the Cadillac of parade candy.”

The response I get is worth every penny.

I really sell the deal, too.

“Anyone can throw a Tootsie Roll on the street for the kids to grovel for,” I’ll say, “but a Swedish Fish must be hand delivered.”

I’ve even bounded up steps to front porches to make special deliveries. Grandma and grandpa deserve Swedish Fish, too.

P.T. Barnum has nothing on me.

Not that I want to disparage the Tootsie Roll throwers, by the way. I told my daughter what I say about Tootsie Rolls on the street and she said, “Dad, I’d grovel for a Tootsie Roll any time.”

For this year’s parade I added a new wrinkle. I provided the adults at the parade with not just candy but also a trip into their past. Remember those little “ice cream cones” they sold when we were kids? The ones with that stale piece of marshmallow imbedded with multi-colored sugar as the “ice cream” on top? Well, I discovered Dick Yaniello sells those too, also individually wrapped. I bought a few hundred.

“Remember these?” is all I had to say as I placed them in people’s hands. The look on their faces told me they sure did.

“I’m not eating this,” one guy said. “I’m displaying it on a shelf at home.”

I also added a couple of boxes of Cowtails, 60 in total. I love those myself. They were gone in no time.

One of the drawbacks with my delivery style is that I wind up several units behind my Progress colleagues and have to run to catch up. With almost a full block to make up at one point, I dropped a handful of candy in the lap of one mom and turned to trot off when I heard, “Sir. Sir.”

I turned and the woman pointed to her little girl and said, “She didn’t get a Cowtail.”

I ran back and handed her one and then took off.

I told that story later to a friend and he saw all the problems of a welfare society in that little encounter. I believe he even used the word “entitlement.”

I just figured I need to bring more Cowtails next time.

I must add that I am upstaged at every parade by my brother-in-law, my sister Sheila’s husband, Paul Kern. Paul rides in a pickup truck representing Greater Pittston Meals on Wheels. He takes the time to fill plastic bags with assorted candy but also buys dozens of boxes of Cracker Jack to distribute. Cracker Jack!

But, wait, there’s more.

For months prior to the parade Paul regularly stops in the Dollar Store and buys little plush animals to toss to the children. I have to admit a plush teddy bear trumps a Swedish Fish every time.

But they don’t taste as good.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com