Foe Dee Fo Cent

Hays Corner store was a fixture in our Southwest Baltimore neighborhood for many years. The store was operated by Mr. Hays and his wife Francis and was situated at the corner of Dulany Street and East Lynn Avenue, they also lived over top of the store.

Location of the old neighborhood store.

Mr. Hays was a no nonsense kind of guy with a gruff voice and an accent that even now is hard to describe. It was sort of a hybrid Southern accent merged with something else, but he did speak slow and forceful. I don’t know how it happened but a couple of us picked up on his unique way of pronouncing some words and especially the forty four cents, which sounded more like Foe Dee Fo cents. We would go into the store and ask him, “how much would it be if we got one of these, one of those, and two of these”, trying to get as close to Foe Dee Fo cents as we could. He would say something like “Foe Dee two cents”. “Hmmm”, one of us would say, “well how about if we got a couple of these candies”. “Foe Dee five cents”. “Hmmm, well if we put one of those back, how much”? And finally we would get to hear “Foe Dee Fo cent”. Mr. Hays probably wondered what they were teaching us kids in school, either that, or we had to be some of the dumbest White Boys in the neighborhood, not being able to add Foe Dee two and two.

Hays liked to spend time across the street at Adam’s bar in the evenings playing cards with some of the other locals, while his wife Francis often entertained some of the neighbors. I can also attest to how neighborly and generous they were beyond the business dealings as there were several times that my mother would take my brother Rick and I down to their apartment above the store, and while there, Mr. Hays or his wife would take us down to the store and let us have whatever we wanted. I can also recall that they would also allow some of the neighbors to run tabs when the money ended before the week did, as there were times that I went down to the store with note in hand, and they would usually always give me what my mother asked for.

Looking back, I can only remember those times with great fondness as I remember when we would go into the store with a little change and go over to the large ice cream freezer and grab a ‘pop up’ or ice cream or walk up to the large glass enclosed counter where it seemed as if they had every kind of candy ever made. There was no glass that Hays or his wife had to stand behind. No need to buzz someone into the store. You just walked on in, grabbed whatever sweets struck your fancy, and hoped that you would get to hear “that’s Foe Dee Fo cent”.

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