I remember my 10th birthday…and not only because birthdays that end in zero are milestones, but because it was one of the few times I actually went anywhere with my mother. On the evening before the auspicious day, she and her husband loaded me, Merv Fritz, and Wes Roy in their car and took us to a Dairy Queen in the city for banana splits. After the Dairy Queen, we went bowling. After bowling we went to Dog n’ Suds for goodness sake! A little perspective here. These were the “good old days”. Over fifty years ago…before fast food, in the time when families still ate together, at home, while sitting at a table. Then, after Dog n’ Suds, came the really big deal of the evening. We went roller skating! Such an event was huge! Wow! More perspective. Back when Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bee were living in Mayberry, how many times did Opie get to go to Mount Pilot for his birthday? Opie and I had a lot in common. We’d never heard of soccer mom’s, play dates, or that hideous term “Stranger Danger.” We spent summer evenings on the porch, or catchin’ lightnin’ bugs, or at the free movies in the park. We hung out with friends until after dark, and something like a cell phone could only have been used by Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, or Captain video and his Video Rangers.
In spite of all that, the three of us…Les, Merv, and me, in one evening, had been out to eat twice, had bowled for the first time in our lives, and actually hit a surface on roller skates that was something other than pockmarked and broken concrete. And we did that on skates that were shoes, not just clamped on shoes.
Those of you who remember those metal clamp-on skates will recall that you could turn that skate key until the leather soles of your shoes actually buckled under the pressure, and still be walking with one foot while skating with the other if you caught a curb wrong. Of course, if you were wearing your Keds, skating was totally out of the question.
Skating at the rink was amazing! We all knew we could ice skate, but roller skating had always been a haphazard ordeal, riddled with too many variables…but not at the rink. The wooden floor was smooth, ankles stayed straight all by themselves…what a rush! The only bad part of the evening was when the guy playing the music to skate by, called out my name, announced it was my birthday, and made me skate a hot lap all by myself while a couple of hundred onlookers who could not have cared less, cared less. All in all, though, it was a wonderful evening. We got to do neat stuff…eat out…stay up late…and it wasn’t really even my birthday yet. My real birthday wasn’t until tomorrow.
The following morning I got up early. My grandmother was already in the kitchen getting things ready. She had promised to help me with my first venture into the world of entrepreneurialism. I was going to have a lemonade stand. Lemonade card table, actually. I’d already talked it over with the guys at the gas station across the street. They agreed to let me set up by the road on the edge of their lot where the cars entered and left. In the world of traffic dependant business, location is everything. From about ten AM until suppertime, I sold lemonade for five cents per paper cup. After I found out that mentioning it was my birthday increased my purchase ratio, my sales soared dramatically. One guy even laid an entire dollar on me and would not accept any change! By the end of the day, less the cost of three nickel cokes plucked from the ice water of the gas station’s old chest cooler, I was ahead nearly six whole dollars! More money in just one day than Merv made in a whole week on his paper route!
A few years ago, I had occasion to drive through city suburbia and encountered a lemonade stand, complete with banners and flags. I stopped. A small paper cup of the noxious brew was priced at a buck…and was served to me by a young woman who appeared to be fourteen or fifteen years old, a bit aged for the lemonade business. She was wearing a t-shirt, cut-off jeans, a cell phone and an eyebrow ring. She confessed to me that it was not her stand. She was filling in for her little sister while the kid was taking a break. She was twelve. Way too old for something as juvenile as peddling lemonade. At that moment, walking down the driveway from the house, came a young girl. Pre-pubescent, blond, wearing a hot pink tube top, electric blue short-shorts, high heels, dangling earrings, and more make-up than Bozo the Clown…including false eyelashes.
I talked with her for just a moment. This pint-sized replica of a cast member from “Darlene Does Detroit” confessed to me that she was celebrating her tenth birthday. Opie had just met Jon-Benet Ramsey. Slightly frightened, I left. Driving home I realized that in another fifty years, these will be the good old days.