Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Broadway Kid and the Great Coca-Cola Caper

One day when The Kid was a young boy, probably somewhere around twelve, an idea was hatched to have an adventure. It wasn't The Kid's idea, but it was a long time ago and whose it was has been lost over the years. There were five guys, any of whom may have suggested it. And they all managed to get their parents permission, but whether they told their parents the whole truth has been lost in time too.

It was summer and very hot. Most people didn't have air conditioners back then, certainly The Kid's family didn't. They sometimes had a little electric fan that sat on a table in the living room and sometimes they just waved a magazine back and forth to create a breeze. Sizzling July and August nights were often sleepless matters of tossing and turning and sweating.

The idea was simple, they would camp out. Except they didn't really camp out, not in the sense of pitching a tent in someone's back yard. Instead they met that evening and spent the night in the loft of some garage behind one of the houses on Lancaster Avenue.

These were old houses along that stretch of the Lincoln Highway on the East side of town, some dated before the Revolutionary War. There was a lot of history within those couple of blocks. The Underground Railroad had a stop here during the years before and during the Civil War. There were tunnels beneath yards and trap doors in old stables. There was one house of a friend that had a dungeon in the basement, with shackles bolted in the walls. Who knows what went on there.

Since many of the garages were converted old carriage houses, most likely this building with the loft had been one also.

Now there was The Kid and Stu and Dave and probably Bill and Ted. A least that is the best guess. Five boys that age allowed to be out unchaperoned for the first time, so you know how much sleeping got done. Maybe a bit in the wee early hours before dawn when they all drifted off from exhaustion.

Somewhere in those early hours, as the gross jokes and laughing and making fun of teachers all kind of faded out and everyone grew quiet, The Kid lay on his blanket and listened to the music. One of them had brought a radio, which had played all night in the background, barely noticed. Now in the quiet it was all he heard. Whatever station it was tuned to had an all-night program of Broadway Show tunes. Not just random songs, but the entire original cast albums were played straight through.

The one playing as The Kid first became aware of the music was Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! The Kid was enthralled by it.

When he was back home, he asked for Oklahoma! from his parents and somewhere along the line, they got it for him.

He became an instant Rodgers and Hammerstein fan and he began collecting their play recordings. His favorite was Carousel.

During the fifties he had a good collection of Broadway Musical cast recordings: South Pacific, Allegro, Flower Drum Song, The King and I, State Fair (which was a movie), Cinderella (a TV special), and Sound of Music -- all by Rodgers and Hammerstein. He was never able to find a copy of Me and Juliet or Pipe Dream, their two lesser successes. He did get Rodgers' No Strings.

He had most of Lerner and Lowe's musicals: Camelot, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Paint Your Wagon and Brigadoon.

The Kid had many of the other great and not so great musicals of the fifties. And it was in those days he decided to write one. He thought it would impress a girl.

His play was called, Ya-Ha-Whoey! The title came from the Walt Disney "Goofy" cartoons. In many of those animated shorts, the big dumb dog, Goofy, would fall and every time he would yell, "Ya-ha-whoey!" The Kid and his friend, Stu had one day written a song together based on people falling that used that expression in the chorus and now The Kid incorporated that song into his play.

A man went up to a scaffold real high,
A way to roofs simplify.
Got too near the edge, sweet old guy,
And as he slipped, you could hear his cry:

So, the Kid must confess, he has been a sucker for Broadway musicals ever since. Of course, The Kid was a fan of dance, especially Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp and at one point in his youth wanted to be a dancer. But that's a whole other thing having nothing to do with the big camp out night of that long ago summer.

What does have to do with that night was the Great Coca-Cola Caper.

Sometime late in the night, like one AM, the gang got thirsty. Not far from the roost where they lay was a gas station and in front of the gas station was a Coke machine. The decided to go get a soda.

The machine, about six feet tall, all red with the pictures of Coca-Cola bottles worked this way.

There was a slot where you dropped in a dime (yes, the bottle of Coke only costed a dime then. You could even get some for a nickel).

Below that was a lever and in the middle was a small door. You dropped in your coin, pushed down on the level, opened the door and withdrew a bottle.

Inside the door you could see several bottles lying on their side in a kind of cage. It had this metal framework and when you dropped your coin and pushed the lever, the cage opened enough to allow you to pull out one bottle.

One of the group dropped in a dime and then Ted said, "Wait, let me show you something". He stepped to the front and he pushed the lever down, but he didn't release it. He nodded and the dime-dropper opened the door and withdrew his soda.

"Now watch," said Ted and he slowly allowed the lever to return toward its original position, but not quite, then he pushed it down again. There was a sound of the innards of the machine working and the little pop it made when a new bottle was in position. Another boy opened the door and there was a bottle clear and free of the grid. He took it out. Again, Ted did his thing and at the end all five boys had gotten a Coke on that one thin dime. The gang of thieves walked away into the night feeling very proud of themselves.

Ah, ha, The Kid had been a thief even before he stole those "Girlie Magazines".



Ron said...

Oh God, I could never stand Broadway show tunes. Except for some of the Fifties musicals like "Singing in the Rain" (and that I barely tolerated -I hated Gene Kelly, a vastly overrated dancer), I always felt like the singers were making up the songs as they went along. Broadway musicals, especially the whole cast albums to me were SO BORING. God, I would rather stick pins in my eyeballs than listen to that droning noise.
Speaking of the Great Coca Cola caper, would that be the same "Ted" who took his football home? The "Ted" whose grandfather owned Griffiths Department Store where you stole all those things?

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry enjoyed your post. Things just aren't the same anymore. So what ever happened to the play did you do it or in the joy of childhood it drifted away. Have a great day Joe

Larry, aka The Kid and The Old Goat said...


What are you talking about? I never stole anything from Griffiths. But it is that same Ted. I think it him who knew how to cheat the machine, but it was long ago and maybe one of the other guys knew the secret.


Larry, aka The Kid and The Old Goat said...


Not sure which Joe this is.

I still have the play, of course. It was never staged, but a few of the lyrics I wrote got published here and there.

I lost the music somewhere over the years. I didn't write most of the music. A friend named Robert was doing the score. We worked on it together up in the tower of the george Washington Chapel in Valley Forge, a very spooky place by the way.

Stu and I co-authored some plays a few years ago, by the way.