"Don't drag your feet, Rickey."
It was my momma telling me to walk properly, but I always liked to scuff along these old grey boards at Rodenburgs. Those floors had been worn down by years of leather shod feet trampling them. I don't think they had been polished, ever. The pine was laid when the store had first been built. The grain was not just a pattern in some areas, it had become bas relief but was never appreciated for its sculptural quality. It was walked upon only to be noticed by a five year old who was closer to the floor without interest in the shelves full of canned goods. My interest was taken from the floor boards when we rounded the corner and the Cocola machine was in sight. Then I'd start asking for a nickel to put into the slot to get one of those green curved eight ounce bottles full of carbonated sweetness. I'd only recently been introduced to the fizzy sweet liquid and it was a joy to tip the bottle and have the bursting bubbles pinprick across the tongue. I loved 'em.
Rodenburgs was a small grocery store on Spring Street. My mother would take me along when she shopped for the weekly groceries. We'd get a cart at the front door and head for the first aisle on the right. Those old dried pine floors from antiquity would take the wheels of that cart with a hollow rattle as they rolled along. Rounding the corner, I would look over at the counters that reached high above my head,searching for the Shredded Wheat boxes. It wasn't that I liked Shredded Wheat that much, it was the pasteboards separating the wheat blocks I wanted. On each was printed one of my favorite cartoon characters, Straight Arrow. Cowboy by day and indian by night or when a wrong needed to be righted. Straight Arrow! I'd head straight as an arrow for the shelf, stand on tiptoe and finagle a box down. It would fall right into my arms after which I would hand it to my mother.
"Here's the Shredded Wheat," I'd say, beaming with my accomplishment.
"Well, thank you, Rickey," she'd respond. "Any other cereals you want?"
"Can I get some Sugar Pops?" I'd seen those advertised by Mighty Mouse.
"We can try them." I'd look high and low until I saw them far out of my reach.
"There they are!"
"OK. Don't get so excited. I'll get them."
Into the cart they would go. I'd turn my interest back to the patterns in the floor boards since the Cocola machine was still at the other end of the store.
Sometimes the Rodenburgs reminded me of the Old Charleston Museum. It had a musty smell and there was dust floating in the sunbeams that found there way through the windows. The squeak of the floor boards echoed the sounds I remembered from the last trip we'd made to that old fossil home. The walls appeared the same as well with an old faded color that could have used some sprucing up. The smell was a little different though, especially around the meat counter in the cooler section at the back. The meats were separated from the customers by means of glass partitions holding in the cool of the ice lining the shelves on display. When we arrived there I knew the Cocola machine would be next. We'd be sipping on those drinks through the rest of our grocery time.
"Can we get one of those drinks from the machine?" I'd ask impatiently.
"Wait a minute. I have to talk to Mr. D--- about a roast. Sunday's coming and we have to have roast beef."
'Oh, gee. Roast beef. Blah,' I thought to myself. "Why can't we have fried chicken sometimes? All my frineds have it on Sundays. Why can't we?"
"Roast beef is tradition. Your dad has to have his roast beef. There are so few English traditions he can have. You might as well get used to Sunday dinner being roast beef right now. "
She was right. We had roast beef every Sunday for as long as my dad was alive. I might add that it was always cooked well done. We could have soled our shoes with a slice. The only way I ever liked it was two days after when the left overs were placed in a shepherd's pie. At least there was some gravy to give those tough cubes of meat some flavor.
The roast safely in the basket we'd roll over to the drink machine. Two nickels came out of my mother's coin purse to be placed into my hand. Onto my toes again I'd fumble my five cents in and hang on to the lever allowing my weight to pull it down. When my toes touched the floor I could hear the full bottle inside drop into the space below. I'd pick up the ice cold glass bottle and hand it to my mother then repeat the previous action to get mine. With both hands on it I'd slip the top into the opener on the side and pull down. A pop and a fizz would be followed by a clink as the cap dropped into the inclosed basket full of these cork lined bottle caps. My mother would usually catch hers and put it in her pocket. Later she would give it to me. I'd pry the cork lining carefully from the tin cap. After releasing the thin round circle of cork I'd place the cap on the outside of my shirt. The cork I'd place behind the cap underneath my shirt. When pressed into the Coke cap it would hold it in place like a badge. Fridays were always topped off with a Coke badge brightly shining against my chest.
The check out lady would pull the items across the counter, then stop to enter the price into the cash register. A boy behind her would pile the items into a paper bag to be toted to the car. My mother would reach into her coin purse and take out the five or ten dollars, depending on the size of the roast along with extras such as a six pack of beer or bag of candy, which she would hand to the lady. The change she'd place in her purse. She'd take the bag in one hand and my hand in the other. We'd walk to the car and drive home.
I'd always open the Shredded Wheat to remove the pasteboards separating the rows of wheat bricks, first thing, when we got home. They would keep me entertained until I was called for a supper of beans on toast, another English traditon. That one I enjoy.