Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.
Note: notice the item at the top of my narrative. When was the last time that you seen one of these? It's an antique box style soda bottle cooler. There was a major soft drink brand on this side of the machine, but I adjusted it as to not tick off the HubPages editors. I could have kept the soda's name on this very beautiful box and still, not have been in the business of promoting or selling the soda itself. This hub is only about the soda cooler. Nothing else. (Kenneth.)
I lovingly-dedicate (and share) this personal narrative about the one item that I met while attending the farming community school: New Home, where I spent part of the First Grade and again in the Third Grade. My dad and mom moved a lot in 1961 through 1965 during my dad's sharecropping time.
Truthfully, this piece is not about New Home. It's deeper than an inanimate building made from lumber, nails, and paint. This thing had soul, it talked, and knew when I was sad. I can only wish that I am talking about some pretty country gal who caught my eye, but I would be telling a lie if I wrote that shameful statement. I give you my word, the drink box you see in the above photo was instantly my best friend on sight. The very, and I mean very first time we met, my heart raced like Man O' War, one the few horses that won The Kentucky Derby, The Belmont Stakes and The Preakness. Kinda classy, I'd say.
I had begun my schooling years in 1961 when I was seven because when I was six on Nov. 27, 1959, the school term always began in the month of August--thus I had to wait until August of 1960. I was having a great day. No worries, to speak of and when our morning recess came, my buddy, Charles Deline, a local guy whose dad was a corn farmer, invited me to accompany him with the gymnasium to get a cold drink. His very words. Confidentially, I was already struggling with that word, "gymnasium," I thought to myself that Deline meant a snack made from Peanut Butter and Apple Sauce.
Upon going through the west side of the old, cracked wooden door with faded white paint, my life changed on a dime. Charles never noticed. Hardly anyone else who was in the gymnasium talking and enjoying a soft drink noticed. Fact is, I noticed. Then discovered that something inside of me changed. My hands trembled as I slowly made my way over to the drink box where Deline had opened the door on top and choosing his drink selection.
"Charles, is this what I think it is?" I asked sounding much like a stupid seven-year-old.
"(Laughs) what do you think it is?" Charles asked trying to laugh and squint at the same time.
"Uhhh, looks like a place to keep cold drinks safe," I remarked making Deline laugh even harder.
Upon him not laughing (at) me, he explained what the machine was for and that if we had a dime, we could buy a drink at morning recess, lunch, and at afternoon recess. I wasn't a complete fool--for I had tallied up that in order for me to enjoy my choice of delicious soft drinks, my dad would have to give me thirty-cents for each day's drinks. Yeah. I could just hear him when I sheepishly-asked him for this change.
"NO! I am a farmer and not made out of money. Forget it," my dad replied quickly without even talking to me about this great venture that I had discovered at New Home.
"Can you get by with ONE cold drink?" dad asked and I was very shocked I might add.
Dad, turns out was a good egg and gave me a dime for the next day and life was good. But from that time until 10 a.m. the next day, I was in pure torment. I could not wait to taste, and for the first time in my life, a Real, Factory-Bottled Soft Drink in the bottle! Man, I was about to hit the roof with that piece of wisdom. I couldn't sleep for thinking how that first Peach Soft Drink would taste. You've been there.
At recess the next day, 10 a.m., I was set. Ready to hit the gymnasium with my shiny new dime to put it in the drink machine and figure out the maze that the manufacturer designed and then pop the top on the bottle opener on the right side in the front and enjoy a taste that until then, I had only dreamed of.
In went the time. I heard it bounce down into the soft drink machine's inner-gears. I was happy as can be. But when my forefinger and thumb on my right hand touched the top of the Peach Drink to maneuver it down the maze (that any rat would be envious of) and get it out, the bottle would not move. I panicked. Right then and there. The world was ending.
"Chaaarrrleees!" I cried.
"Yeah, what is it?" he asked.
I explained my predicament in detail and Charles advised that we go to Mr. L.J. Ballard, the school principal--for he was older, knew more about soft drink coolers than any of us at New Home did, plus he had snow-white hair. Charles couldn't be wrong.
Mr. Ballard was as patient as the Biblical hero, Job, as he listened to my problem and then hit me with more dark news: "Uh, Ken, I can't give you back the dime, but I can get the drink out for you. Will that work?"
I nodded so hard in agreement that now I know why Mr. Ballard laughed. I probably reminded him of a crazed monkey that was taught to do tricks for money.
With the touch of a Master Educator and Machine Expert, Mr. Ballard had my Peach drink in no time. And friends, when that first sip of cold drink hit my mouth and then down my throat, I almost fainted. The taste was that good. It was so good that I took my time and stretched-out the amount of soda in my bottle--afraid that my dad would not give me another dime for a drink for the next day.
I was right. My dad just gave me twenty-cents so I could have two drinks in a week. That was fine by me. I was learning to be thankful. But something else happened in that next winter that showed me just how alive our drink cooler really was. I ain't kidding.
One bitterly-cold winter morning, it was recess time and all of us hit the gym to talk, eat a snack (those had had one) and me, I was after my Peach drink--a nectar that this seven-year-old had fell in love with on the spot. I forgot who bottled the drink, but I suspected that Jesus might have been working incognito at the bottling company where the Peach drink was manufactured.
Uh, oh! When Bobby Stovall, a fifth-grader ran to the drink box to get a drink, a Pepsi I believe, his eyes grew wide and mouth flew open.
"These drinks are frozen up and Mr. Ballard needs to get them out NOW!" Stovall yelled.
Then came the magic. Mr. Ballard ambled over to the drink box and assessed the situation. Upon reaching into the drink box, the First drink to get out was my Peach drink. I almost fainted. Mr. Ballard walked over to the wooden bench where I was sitting with Charles and a few buddies.
"Here. Drink this," Mr. Ballard said handing my Peach drink to me.
"But, sir. I do not have the money," I explained feeling very sad.
"It's fine. Me and the drink box won't tell. Go on. Drink it," he said in a low voice.
But what made me twice as happy was watching Mr. Ballard hand out the frozen drinks to every student that was in the gymnasium on that bitterly-cold winter morning. We had more fun by trying to get the frozen soda from our bottles.
Life might have been simple when I was seven at New Home, but now at my age, it is the simple things that make me all the more grateful.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery