Column: Straw wrappers on the ceiling


I went back to my hometown in Missouri a couple weeks ago, and decided to poke around in some of my youthful haunts. One place was an old fashioned drug store with a soda fountain in the front, high back booths along one wall and a magazine rack in one corner where the owner pretended not to notice neighborhood boys sitting on the floor reading comic books.

The building is empty now, the door locked and the windows long ago shuttered against an improbable future. Its past left for guys like me to remember. What I remember is cherry cokes after school and ice cream sodas at the end of Saturday night movie dates.

I also remember the ceiling. It was one of those sculptured metal jobs with a relief design repeated from wall to wall. But the most memorable thing about it was the collection of drinking straw wrappers stuck to it, hanging down, wafting gently in the breeze from the ancient ceiling fan. There must have been 40 or 50 of them up there at any given time.

It was a contest of sorts. We would traipse in, slide into a booth and order our drinks. When they arrived we would tear the end off the straw wrapper, dip the other end into the glass, aim at the ceiling and blow. If all went well, the wrapper would zoom straight up like a rocket and stick to the ceiling. Many did not of course, and we made a point of retrieving them — a halfhearted concession to civility I suppose.

I have no idea what the owner thought of our antics. I can only hope he smiled secretly, compared them with his own youthful activities, and pretended not to notice.


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