Growing up in the fifties and sixties was an experience in and of itself, that's for sure. Three TV stations, AM radio, NO remote control (on anything), no microwave and on and on I can go. It was tough! And growing up in Chelsea probably was no different than any other small town around here. We all know that. And being raised in my parent's church affiliation or denomination, the eating of meat was not allowed on any Friday. Mom didn't mind because that gave her the opportunity to create other kinds of meatless suppers. And to be honest, I didn't mind either, EXCEPT THAT ONE DAY!!!
I was about ten years old and it was a nice spring day, perhaps even during the season of Lent. I can't remember that but maybe. 1961 was the year and it was a time when none of us kids had any money to speak of. A couple of nickles in your pocket and you had it made. A bottle of pop and a game of Pin-Ball. What more could a young boy ask for? It was an era actually before McDonalds and all those places and besides there was nothing like that in Chelsea. We just didn't eat out much at all in restaurants. The real "dinosaur era," right?
Anyway to continue my story, one day I had actually "saved" up thirty-five cents. A quarter and a dime. And I had big plans for those two coins. Big plans! This bankroll I had would help me savor my childhood. It did because It's still in my memory banks to this day. With those two coins in my pocket, I entered the only restaurant in Chelsea. The place was relatively empty for a lazy weekday afternoon and I propped myself up on one of those stools right next to the counter. Those stools that you could spin around on. And it didn't happen very often but this time there was no spinning. I reached over and grabbed the menu that was kept between the sugar jar and the salt and pepper shakers.
I examined the menu closely, although it wasn't necessary because I knew exactly what I wanted. It was just fun to look over all the items on it, as I seldom ever had need of one. The lady behind the counter addressed me with, "What'll you have, Johnny?" I proudly announced that I wanted a hamburger with everything on it. Hamburgers cost exactly 30 cents and I still had a nickle for a twelve ounce bottle of Pepsi. Life was good. Now it has to be quickly explained here that this was no ordinary hamburger. It was a regular sized, juicy, all meat "restaurant-ordered" hamburger. Little boys of ten years old seldom had this opportunity. And I couldn't wait.
The moment came. The burger arrived. On a real plate even! This great huge hamburger sitting on a toasted bun completely open with the top portion of the bun residing right next to it. Thick and juicy. Onions, pickles and both tubes of ketchup and mustard just waiting to be doused on top, which I slowly and methodically did. Finally I covered the burger with the top half of the toasted, (I did mention the bun was toasted, didn't I), bun and squeezed it down with my hand. I picked it up, ready to enjoy and relish the next ten minutes of my life......WHEN THE UNSPEAKABLE HAPPENED!!!
My best friend,Tom, entered the restaurant and seeing me chomping down on my first bite exclaimed loudly and dramatically, "Johnny, it's Friday!" Friday? Oh no! Not Friday, I thought. Couldn't be Friday. No! No! No! Now I started thinking.....yesterday was Thursday and tomorrow's Saturday. Oh my God! It is Friday. You can't eat meat on Friday! And there I was with one bite gone. Tom now explained, (as if I didn't know), the whole rule or sin about eating meat on Fridays. Hell! Oh no!! And there was my hamburger, just sitting there wondering if it was gonna be eaten or not. I was wondering the same thing.
The moral dilemma began. Should I or shouldn't I? Did I or didn't I? Well, my friends of this column......That is between me and God!! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org