It’s strange, the things that trigger one’s memory. As I wrapped a bread roll in aluminum foil to heat in the toaster oven the other evening, my thoughts wandered back to my youth. In the years when I was growing up during World War II and beyond, there were shortages of many items that we take for granted today. One of those was foil wrap. The foil wrap used in those days was tin foil, and tin was in short supply. That set me to thinking about something else–recycling.
Recycling is not a modern phenomenon. It was big during those war years as well. Due to what I assume must have been a shortage of glass, we youngsters—some adults, too—made a good bit of our spending money picking up empty beer and pop bottles from the barrow pits redeeming them at the local pool halls and grocery stores. If my memory serves me, we received a penny apiece for the beer bottles, and 2 cents for the pop bottles. These bottles were sent back to the bottling works where they were cleaned, sterilized, and reused for beer and pop. As I recall, this practice continued for a few more years after the war ended nearly to the end of the 1940s.
One such bottle gatherin’ venture of mine and a cousin’s had a bittersweet outcome. I was probably about eleven or twelve years old at the time. This cousin and I had a little entrepreneurial enterprise going where we would make a weekly run on the back country roads around Grace, Idaho, looking for these coveted treasures. The country roads had little traffic, so our parents assigned us to that area secure in the thought that there was little danger of us getting hit by an oncoming car. Under no circumstances were we to get out on the main highway.
Those country roads yielded enough booty to buy us each a couple of nickel cokes or an ice cream cone or two, but the big lode lay in the barrow pits of state highway 34 and U.S. highway 30 between Grace, Idaho and Soda Springs, Idaho. I came up with the idea one day that we should scour those barrow pits for their treasure. So that’s what we decided to do; unbeknownst to our parents of course. Our country road trips usually took us out west of Grace in the Turner area, a distance similar to that of going to Soda. This was usually an all day trip, so we were in the habit of taking a lunch. My logic was, no one would be the wiser if our regular all day trip took us to Soda Springs instead. We would later learn that this logic was flawed. As is usual with most childhood pranks, we got caught.
Since it was likely that we would harvest more bottles than usual, we figured we needed to increase our load carrying capacity. Our bikes already had a platform on the back fender to which we had fastened a box. We came up with idea of putting a box on our front fender as well. We went to the local grocer and asked him if he could spare a couple of orange crates. As many will recall, oranges came in wooden crates in those days. He told us he was supposed to send those crates back, but he guessed he could spare a couple.
Under the cloak of secrecy—our parents mustn’t suspect what we were up to—we spent the better part of the day fastening these crates to our bikes so they were secure enough to carry the load to which we would subject them. That done, we made plans to get an early start the next morning. This we did, heading out on our new route toward Soda Springs; our parents thinking we were going on our usual route.
Dad was already farming land north of Soda Springs in addition to the farm he owned in the Grace area, which required a commute to the Soda farm. He liked to play poker, and would occasionally stop at one of the pool halls in Soda on his way home for a hand or two. I was often with Dad when he stopped in there, so I knew the bartender in that pool hall. When we arrived in Soda, my cousin and I cashed in our bottles at this same pool hall. What I had failed to take into account with my earlier logic was that this guy would call my mother to tell her where we were.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that when we arrived back in Grace later that evening, we were in deep trouble. As I said at the beginning, it was a bittersweet trip. The bitter was the punishment meted out for disobeying. The sweet was one of the biggest payloads we had ever harvested.
This story in its entirety is one of many of Buddy’s exploits contained in the book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. A copy of the prologue and the first three of his adventures is available (while they last). as a free download. Click on the free download button in upper right of this blog page to receive your copy. One critic said of Buddy, “he will take place in your heart.”