A video game or one of those rides at the entrance to grocery stores easily costs 50 cents these days. But not at Harolds IGA. The two mechanical horses near the checkout stands are the cheapest thrills in town. A 30-second ride on either Sandy or Blackie costs just 10 cents, exactly the same as when the original owner of Harolds bought them in 1954.
Harold Marley moved the store to its present location on Fifth Avenue in 1944. Twice it has burned, in 1959 and 1969. But the mechanical horses with their real leather saddles, die-cast metal bodies, heads and front legs survived. Of course, back then they lived outside, according to Ralph Bloom, the current owner and manager at Harolds who has worked at the store continuously since 1958.
Nobody bothered anything in those days, Bloom said. Today, theyd be in somebodys back yard.
Instead, Sandy and Blackie were stabled some time in the 1970s, continuing to entertain youngsters at IGA, except for a while in 1990 when they were refurbished. Bloom wouldnt think of sending them out to pasture.
Theyve been in the family forever, he said.
Besides, the average 2,000 rides they give each month bring in about $200 for the store. Not even a selling price tag that could possibly be as high as $6,000 apiece for the antique steeds would tempt Bloom to part with the galloping pair.
Billie Jean Plaster