If you had to choose one of the happiest times in your life, when would it be?
For me, one was during and after high school.
Last evening my dearest and oldest male friend, Jim, called me. We talked for a long time catching up on our lives over the past several months. Our conversation flowed backward to high school when we went to schools
in adjacent towns, dated the same two girls one after another and worked at similar places during school years and summers -- me at a Dog 'N' Suds and he at a rival A & W drive-in hamburger place
. I got good grades, was active in school activities and student government and had what seemed then a lot of friends
. That's also when my bowling career began
My family lived in a two-story house on land that was peppered with pear trees. My bedroom was upstairs where there was no heat. And as those of you who know northern winters, it got COLD up there. I'd run upstairs, turn on an electric blanket, run back downstairs for 20 minutes or so until my bed was warm then sprint back upstairs and dive under the heated blankets.
My family ate dinners together, each relating how our days went, how school was, getting teased a bit about who my younger sister and I were dating and overall enjoying the family closeness that has disappeared to a great extent today.
In the summers when school was out, Jim and I would both get off work about 3 a.m., go for an early breakfast, sleep a few hours, get up and play at golf
. Not play golf. We weren't that good. But we tried. After a few more hours sleep
we'd be back at work at 4:00 in the afternoon. I still remember Charlie and Woodie and Carol who worked with me for three years making burgers and shakes and watching the carhops carry trays laden with food to customer's cars to hang on one of the car's windows, like the opening scene from the Flintstones TV comedy
and, in some places, Sonic today.
Our boss was Sarkis Emerzian, an Armenian, who taught us the meaning of work
, even when there were no customers, such as during a blizzard. We'd clean the grease pit, break down and clean the shake machine, clean table legs, windows and every other place that could be cleaned. When asked why he didn't just close up, Sark, as we called him, told us that once a business has set it's operating hours, if it didn't stick to them that one day a customer would come by to find the place closed early and perhaps never come back, maybe even telling friends and family to never patronize that business again. He taught us about work, but we also learned of his home country, his mother he cared for in town and how he came to own his own business.
And he was right about staying open. When the crew thought we should close, invariably one or more carloads of kids from school would show up for a Texas burger or pizza burger, fries
After college, when I lived in Illinois near the Wisconsin border and Jim lived over the line about 30 minutes away, I would regularly drive
to his house and spend a weekend with him and his wife Vicki. We'd drink coffee, play cards, backgammon, cribbage and scrabble. Later in the evenings Jim and I would drift down to their finished basement and sit in front of their wood burning fireplace, sipping brandy, playing chess and talking.
That was one of my happiest times.