IT WAS 1956 and as a nine-year-old boy I was enjoying the freedom that living in a small Iowa town provided.
I had activities, both in town and in the country. Relatives on my dad’s side of the family were business owners while family on my mother’s side were farmers. I had a brother, eight years older than myself, and a good friend who lived just one house to the north of us.
When not in school, my friend and I would play army and ride our bikes, as well as find a way to get into trouble every now and then. Saturday afternoons we would pay the fifty-cent admission fee and spend the afternoon in the movie theater. The aroma of popcorn filled the air. We would see such movies as; Francis the Talking Mule, and The Long, Long Trailer. I would always buy a cherry Coke from the Coca-Cola® machine in the lobby. I would place a dime in the coin slot and a paper cup would fall down the chute. When the cup didn’t jam, or fall in sideways, I would have myself a tasty drink. A box of Good and Plenty® candy, perhaps some popcorn and I was set for the afternoon.
When the show was over, walking outside was a bit of a blinding affair as my eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight. My pal would usually go his way, and I would go mine.
As I walked down Main Street to my dad’s and grandpa’s office,
I would stop by my uncle’s shoe store to say, “Hi.”
One of my favorite things to do while there was play with the big wooden, shoe x-ray machine, located in the back of his store.
It was really great!
I would stand on the footrest, slide my feet into the slot located at the bottom, bend my head forward and gaze into the viewing portal on the top. There was a large round button to push and, as long as I held the button down, I could look right through my shoes, socks, and flesh to see just how the bones in my feet were arranged. It was like those special x-ray glasses advertised in the back of my comic books. Only this machine was for real! And it worked. In fact, it worked so well that one Christmas I took one of my gifts from under the Christmas tree and found out what was inside ~ without unwrapping all that nice paper and then trying to tape it back together again, as I had done a few Christmas’s before.
After unknowingly soaking up the rampant radiation from that mysterious wooden box, I would be back on track to my destination. After spending time with my dad and grandpa, as well as playing on the big black typewriter, I would bum a dollar, or so from Dad. He was always good about giving me money when I “needed” it.
By now the cherry Coke, candy and box of popcorn had been burned off and I was due for the best hamburger in the Midwest. Another cherry Coke, hash browns, and chocolate malt were usually also on my mind. I would trek up to the beginning of Main Street where a hamburger joint, “The Spot,” was located, and park my skinny little posterior end on one of the high stools at the counter. There was a counter that held about ten hungry souls, along with a few tables that would accommodate two patrons each. As far as I was concerned, it was the one and only place to eat if you wanted the best burgers anywhere on the planet. It was a great corn fed, locally raised, steaming hot, all beef burger on a fresh baked bun, complemented with just the right amount of ketchup, a little mustard, and enough pickle to cover the top of the beef. A simple burger, but the freshness and flavor was knock-your-socks-off, great. The chocolate malts and hash browns were very good as well. That meal cost me, perhaps I should say cost my dad, about eighty cents. Believe me, it was worth every penny. It was the best food in our little town of Atlantic. Boy, what I wouldn’t pay for that now! As far as I know, you just can’t buy food like that in this day and age, at any price.
When sitting at the counter, the food was prepared about four feet in front of you on a typical restaurant flattop grill. “The Spot” was a one man operation, so the same person taking the orders was also the person who cooked the food, cashiered and did the dishes, no plastic, or paper dishes and cups here. It never crossed my mind at the time, but the day would come when I was offered a job there. Would I take that job? Perhaps that will be one of the many things that will be revealed in the future.
Speaking of the future, wouldn’t it be great to be able to get in the Doc’s time machine, get up to “88 miles per hour,” and transport yourself back to the time and place of such good memories, have a taste of the “good old days,” see the sights and smell the aroma of that fifteen-cent hamburger on the grill, be able to talk with those who have left us, and to experience “the good old days” again? (Can you tell I’m a fan of the Back to the Future movies?)
After eating I would walk the five blocks, or so back to the office to pick up my skates and bum a ride to the rink. Most kids were into roller skating and spent many hours each week at the “Playtime Skating Rink.” It didn’t matter if it was in the sub-zero winter, or the hot, humid summer, we would make it to the rink on Friday and Saturday nights. These skates weren’t like the steel wheeled skates that I learned to skate on when I was about five-years-old. Those required a skate key, so you could clamp them onto the soles of your shoes. I’m surprised I didn’t give up skating, as I could never get those steel skates to fasten onto my shoes tight enough. One, or the other, would always fall off before I could ever get up to speed. I’m glad I didn’t give up on skating though, as I have spent many hours over the years staying physically fit while having fun on those eight wheels.
My roller rink skates were a special order through my Uncle’s shoe store. They were a pair of Chicago Skates, carried in a brightly colored metal skate case. I would spend the night skating. There were times when I would get to stay after closing and skate with one of my classmate’s, since her parents owned the rink. When it was time to go home and the skates came off, I felt short and my feet would be vibrating for the next ten minutes, or so.