A nickel could go a long way in what my kids always refer to as the “Olden Days.” It could buy a small bag of candy or popcorn at a movie matinee or five black licorice whips or an ice-cream cone or a bottle of pop; soft drinks were a treasure if you had that coveted nickel. The bottles were smaller than today’s bottles. Pepsi cola had a catchy jingle. “Pepsi cola hits the spot. Twelve full ounces – that’s a lot! Twice as much for your money too. Pepsi cola is the drink for you!” I’m pretty sure that’s how it went.
I remember the old chest coolers with the bottles sitting in ice water; their paper labels rinsing off and floating in the murky water, and the cloth attached to the side of the cooler to dry off the bottle and your wet hands. The chest had a door at each end, and the bottle opener riveted on the side with a metal cup to catch the caps.
The soft drink was a nickel if you drank it in the store and left the empty bottle behind. It was seven cents if you took it away, but you got your two cents back when you returned the bottle. Finding a discarded bottle was a thrill - two unexpected cents. Wow!
I’m told that the old victory nickels, common back then, are collector items today. It’s said they are worth quite a few dollars. Who would have ever guessed that a kid with a coin burning a hole in his pocket 60 or so years ago was carrying what one day would be coveted by coin collectors. Go figure!
Summer was always a special time: a season of drippy ice-cream cones and chilled soft drinks with names like Wishing Well, Stubby, Orange Crush, Lemon Lime, Coke and Pepsi. Cream soda was exotic and grape a prize. To latch on to two nickels at the same time could cause quite a dilemma in a young person’s mind. What would it be? An ice-cream cone and a soft drink? A bag of candy and a soft drink? Such decisions were mind-boggling. Candy and ice cream?
But there was another choice too. You could get a comic book: Superman or Batman or Captain Marvel or Crime Doesn’t Pay or Joe Palooka or The Pig and The Seal. You could get Daredevil too and the Torch and the Sub-Mariner (that guy with the pointy ears). A nickel was a wonderful thing!
My grandson dropped a coin recently. When I asked him if he was going to pick it up, he said, “It’s okay, Poppa, it’s only a nickel.” Only a nickel! In the olden days, there was no such thing as “only a nickel.”
That little silver coin could open up worlds to little people just learning to discover adventure. It could entice, tease, and promise wonderful things. In the olden days, a nickel was the reward for two or three hours of work, like cutting the grass with the old manual lawn mower that went clickity clack or for cleaning out the shed or for running errands. No! We wouldn’t ever believe then that a nickel would one day be “only a nickel” or that a penny would be a nuisance. Or that one day lawn mowers would be motorized or that a comic book would cost two or more dollars or that a soft drink would cost better than a dollar from a machine and not a water-filled cooler.
How can the ordinary like a dollar bill with a portrait of King George on it or even a two-dollar bill and, of course, the silver dollar, be taken for granted, and then in a journey of years, suddenly be quaint, rare and collectible? We still have the nickel, but it is no longer held in high regard. It no longer promises or entices.
They may be the olden days in the minds of our children and grandchildren, but to we who walked the hallowed halls of simplicity and appreciation, they are “golden days” when a nickel was king and could lift a child to incredible heights. Golden days - when we were young.
FEBRUARY 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
FEBRUARY 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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