I have always imagined to myself that I would have made a great U.S. Senator or Representative or dog catcher, but with a dark cloud hanging over my head, I never aspired to any of these lofty positions. Some might think that having a criminal background might be an asset to the first two choices, but what about the dogs, they deserve better.
in the 1960's, after many years of suffering with 'asbestos on the
lungs', as it was called back then, U.S.Rubber Co. retired Daddy out of
the mill on medical disability. Those few dollars were hardly enough to
run a family with five children, one of which was going to college. That
and the fact that Daddy always provided for his family until he could
no longer draw a steady breath led him into the service station/tire
store business. My 1st cousin, the late Bobby Norwood, was kind enough
to offer Daddy a job. Bobby being the restless soul that he was, soon
wanted to move on to something else and sold his lease to Daddy. This
was the old Gulf Oil Service Station that was across the street from
Smith Gas Co.(propane) and just next to Thompson Brothers Garage.
the service station was an old coke box, the kind that you open the lid
on either side and reached down a picked out the bottle you wanted.
There were Cokes, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, 7Up. Double Cola, and a few more.
They all were 6 1/2 oz. size, because that was all that was made then.
They were also 'returnable' bottles, which meant that you either had to
bring in an empty bottle in exchange for the bottle soda you were
taking, or you had to pay the penny deposit on the bottle.
Since drinks were a nickel back then, if you had 6 bottles rattling
around in your car, you could trade them for an ice cold drink and have a
bottle for your next deposit. Not very often, but if you looked hard
enough, you could find bottles along the highway that thoughtless(and
evidently, wealthy) people had tossed them out of car windows. A short
time scouring the roadside would often reward you with enough money for a
candy bar or a Coke, or if you were really, really lucky--both!
My crime wave begins:
As I mentioned, next to the service station was the Thompson Brothers
Garage owned by Reid and Robert Thompson. I remember Mr. Robert being
the quieter of the two, while Mr. Reid was a joking, fun-loving fella.
That trait surely was inherited by his daughter, Marie Hines, my partner in crime. Yes, Marie and I devised a foolproof plan to lavish ourselves in chocolate and sodas, or so we thought.
Behind the garage and service station runs a small stream and for what
ever reason, over time, people had thrown drink bottles in that stream.
Now, Mr. Reid did not mind that Marie and I looked for bottles to
redeem, he just did not want us on the highway or wondering off. Neither
he or my Daddy cared if we scoured the stream and retrieved the sunken
treasures there. We were close by and it kept us busy. We would walk
along the stream, barefoot and stop and wiggles our toes in a likely
spot, and dig out the bottle if we hit pay dirt. Now that I think about
it, it is a thousand wonders that we never stepped on a single piece of
Being children and not thinking ahead, we soon
realized that the stream was not an endless source of treasure to be
swapped for candy and drinks. Since I have already outed Marie as my
co-conspirator I will not go so far to say the next level was her idea,
thou she was just as game as I was and even shared the blame when it
'hit the fan'.
When our legitimate source of revenue dried up, one
of us hit upon the idea that since both stores kept their bottles out
back, why not get a few from my Daddy and sell to her Daddy and then the
next day reverse the process.
I don't recall which parent caught on
first, whether we kept using the same bottles, or the fact there was no
silt in the bottles as in the beginning, but at some point we got
busted. From that point on neither parent would buy a single bottle from
us even if they watched us pick it up from the side of the road. I had
to start hand-washing cars to get my fix from then on. Marie seems to
have straightened her life out after that and become a pillar of the
I, on the other hand, would love to sell either Mr. Reid or my Daddy just 5 more bottle for one last Snickers!