Tea Room Memories

Like Polaroid snapshots dropped one by one on a table, new memories replace the former. The static, scratchy broadcast of a cheap FM radio which sits high on a shelf behind the ice cream counter adds to the evening din; made worse by the surrounding mountain peaks that bounce the signal. The weak antenna draws intermittent snips, broken pieces of Bennie and the Jets and Love me Like a Rock, but even then, only if the weather is clear and still.

The slam of a screen door and footfalls on the wooden floor in the stagnant summer air evoke visions of a Tea Room where no one drinks tea. A single oscillating fan aided by two ineffective paddle fans force air movement. Vacationers gather to eat sundaes, play checkers or assemble puzzles together.

The adults tap bragging rights, sharing the year’s accomplishments of their children. “Bradley got straight A’s again this year. He won the spelling bee, he’s captain of the championship baseball team, still sings in the choir at church, and since he’s going into sixth grade this year, he’s a shoo-in for the lead in the winter play.  How’s Gregory doing?”

In hushed tones they share gossip. “Did you hear about how that Nick got Susan Wilson—preg.”

“Shush. His mother is coming in just now.”

Occasional titters punctuated with sudden blasts of uncontrolled laughter suggest shared off-color jokes. “Maybe you kids ought to go play shuffleboard for a while.”

The children finish their sundaes and rush outside to the shed beside the courts to turn on the lights and reach through cobwebs for poles and discs, vying for red sticking the opponent with dull black. The buzzing white lights draw swarms of gnats that dip and sway occasionally bombarding eyes of the competitors.

Later, gentle commands float on the humidity from the edges of the yard beside the Tea Room. “Fifteen more minutes. Last game! Remember to put the poles and discs back in the shed.”

Then, “Turn off the lights now. Grab your flashlights. Let’s go.”

Together they plod along the path that leads into the mountain dark back to the cabin.

 

The Bicentennial and the Epic Failure of the Two-Dollar Bill

Celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial on July 4, 1976 included: parades, fireworks, flags, hats, money and all manner of cheesy collectibles.

It was a time of extra pride that we (meaning a rag-tag bunch of farmers to whom many of us are not related, but with whom we stand proudly) had beaten the British. Those orderly-fight-by-the-rules types did not even live in America but nonetheless showed up in their fancy, schmancy uniforms to collect because they had the audacity to think we owed them tax money for the tea.

I suspect that today, any American household with an adult old enough to have celebrated the bicentennial, has some memorabilia lurking under the dust.

If I search hard enough in my house, I can probably find a bicentennial commemorative quarter.  This particular   commemoration for investment’s sake would have made sense except that they minted a billion of the copper-nickel ones and 45 million in “part-silver” for collectors.  Better yet, the government proceeded to sell them for ten more years.

Aside from its Colonial drummer design, the bicentennial quarter is the same as any other American quarter in both physical size and spending power.  The common understanding was that if we saved them, “They’ll be worth something someday.”

Photo Courtesy http://www.garagesalesally.com

My friends and I in our teens at the time, were perhaps the most unlikely group to be avid coin collectors; neither were we informed that “someday” would not likely be in our lifetime.

Today, bicentennial quarters are worth…wait for it…

about twenty-five cents (unless you have an uncirculated one in mint condition, then it might fetch $5 or so on eBay®.) So I asked around to see who might have a stash of them squirreled away.  Result: nada. Even if you had a stash, you’d need someone willing to buy.

Another relic from 1976 that made as little sense then as it does now, is the two dollar bill.  Forget that there was no justifiable need for it, but it appears that no one gave any consideration to the idea that if people began to actually use two dollar bills to pay for everyday commodities, they’d unwittingly bollix a cashier’s job.  And heaven help the dyslexics among us.  That two looks a lot like a five.

Stop the Madness

Cash registers are designed with a money organizer insert containing ten slots in two rows; five long sections to the rear for bills and five short to the front for coins.

At first glance it would seem that the $2 bills would have fit quite nicely.   Not so.

Normally, the $20 bills belong second to the left.  From there are gradually decreasing increments from left to right: $10, $5 and finally one dollar bills.  The reserved space to the far left, or the fifth slot as it were, held personal checks and any bills larger than $20.

Credit card slips and coupons easily slipped in the drawer under the insert until the day’s close of business when counting the day’s receipts.  Not much has changed, except that today, few people pay with cash and fewer with a check.

No big deal you say?  Try this…

The next time you shop and the amount you owe is $5, hand your cashier a roll of pennies, three half-dollar coins, a Susan B. Anthony dollar, and a two dollar bill.  Just be prepared to duck when the roll of pennies comes hurling at your temple.

Two hundred years of not paying taxes for our afternoon tea casually replaced by the coffee-consuming-to-satisfy-the-shareholders that we are today is an interesting trade-off.  Don’t you think?

For more digression, click here.

Not so Smart Car

While driving around town this week, Stick Chick passed a Smart Car as it headed in the opposite direction.

photo courtesy: Ed Yourdon
photo courtesy: Ed Yourdon

It attracted her attention size-wise so she naturally glanced into it as it passed. Much to her surprise, the passenger held a small child in his lap. Truly, there is no place in a car that size in which to put a child unless you attach the child to the outside as a hood ornament (but that may be going a bit too far.)

Stick Chick racked her brain to recall the last time she saw a child riding in a car on someone’s lap. It had been quite a while.

She grew up when seatbelts were mere suggestions of safety…ah the 60s.

In the neighborhoods where she lived, many families had five or six children and one family car, so there weren’t necessarily enough belts for everyone anyway.  If the parents had enough patience, all of the kids might have gotten buckled before exasperation and infighting took over.

Families that were lucky enough to own a woody station wagon would relegate the kids to “the very back,” unless it was full of groceries. There the rear window could be rolled down for much-needed air flow and the very back was considered safest (being farthest from the front windshield through which one could be launched in the event of a car accident.)

photo courtesy www.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/92/1968_Ford_LTD_Country_Squire.jpg
photo courtesy http://www.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/92/1968_Ford_LTD_Country_Squire.jpg

Cross-body shoulder belts had just begun to come into existence. Most seatbelts were thick and sturdy, and could adjust just enough to strap fully across two laps, clasped together with a sizeable metal buckle.

In summer, “buckling up” actually required scootching one’s shorts just right in order to avoid buckle burns and charred flesh.  The kid’s car seat had not even come into use (unless you count a wicker laundry basket lined with pillows.)

Stick Chick admits that travelling untethered, while risky, had its freedom.

Earliest Memory

What’s your earliest memory? Dig deep. Maybe you cannot.

Sounds (music in particular), scents or tactile encounters sometimes trigger memories long since squirreled away of places or events. Browsing a flea market, I leaned in to look closely at an old pram. A whiff brought this memory from my infancy or earliest toddlerhood. I can be sure of my age because the pram in our family could only have held a child not much more than a year old due to its relative size.

photo courtesy: Pretty Willow Prop Hire
photo courtesy: Pretty Willow Prop Hire

The scent of white plastic and age drifts in the summer air unleashing a rush of pictures.

I lie on my back inside my pram looking upwards, its half shield shading my blue eyes from the bright sunshine. The thin mattress and squeaky metal springs that support the frame beneath me cushion the ride. I reach a hand to touch the white mosquito netting that protects me from insects and makes me feel safe. My eyelids fight to stay open, but the motion relaxes me.

While only fleeting, the memory remains steadfast—resurrected from the archives if only for a moment.