Saturday, October 10, 2009

Days Gone By

Today marked the celebration of the 175th anniversary of the town I live in. It wasn't much to look at. The town board didn't realize that we were due for a shindig until it was almost too late and they just threw something together. The 150th was way better, mostly because I was eight and there was a guy with a real... live... teepee.

The Town Hall is one of the oldest buildings in town. It's a three story cobble stone structure and it's just one house up the street from me. The third floor has a museum in it with as much historical junk as could be scraped together. It's actually pretty neat to see how much variety there is, considering that the only source of relics is the attics of a township that only covers thirty-five square miles. Civil war uniform, Edison wax cylinder player, WWI firearms. This is our stuff, kinda cool.

And along all the walls are photos of the town. Railroad bridges being built, train depots, and the coolest of all, aerial photos from several decades. The one from 1965 struck me as particularly cool because about half the town just isn't there! One thing that is on it though is the old three bay garage down on the corner. It was remodeled into a modern day convenience store when I was a kid but I can still remember it as an auto shop with a news stand out front.

That news stand was the reason I started writing tonight. Inside was nothing but a magazine rack, piles of newspapers, a black and white TV and a very bored clerk. But outside there was a Coke machine. A particular breed of Coke machine not often seen even way back in the dark ages of the late 1970's.

This Coke machine was of the beautiful design wherein a long rectangular door on the left side opened up, just like the fridge at home. Behind the glass were five or six holes from which peeped the caps of glass bottles of pop. (I'm from Western New York, it's my story and it's POP, all right?) Simplicity itself. You drop in two quarters, grab a frosty bottle and give it a yank. The metal jaws grasping the delicate hourglass let go and you have yourself a pop.

Simple, right? One payment, one pop. But no... a much older, much wiser cousin let me in on a little secret. This was the cousin that would later on know all sorts of things about computer hacking, he was almost dangerous. The secret was that the jaws didn't just let go of the pop that you paid for and latch on to the next one in line. They were on a timer!

So this meant that any industrious lad with a couple chums could treat the whole gang if they could scrape up four bits between them. One guy fed the coin slot and manned the door, one or more would squat and hold arms out underneath, and the guy with the fastest fists would be the puller.

Clink-a-chunk, clink-a-chunk, fwip.... deep breath.... yankyankyankyankyank!

The best of the best could get four or even five cold ones out before the jaws slammed shut. But even a pre-schooler could get one for himself and a friend.

Wrong! Stealing! Yes, I know. But how sweet it was. How utterly sweet to be the Orange Pop Bandits!



Irish Gumbo said...

bad boy, baaad boyyyyy...

I remember those machines. I can recall how cool and good those greenish glass bottles felt and looked after I pulled one out of the rack. Opening the door on a hot day after long hours in the car, a little slice o' heaven, that breath of cold air.

Plastic has nothing on the glass, plastic has no soul...

Thanks for that bit of memory candy!

The Eglin Clan said...

Don Charles place! I TOTALLY forgot about the Coke machine outside. I still think of that place every time I eat cashews because Dad would take me down there to hang out with Rick Morrison when he was working, and they'd smoke cigarettes and I'd sit on the side counter and sometimes get to eat jelly roll candy. HA! Thanks for the memory... sorry I missed the 175th!