First things first. Sorry about the lapse between posts. I told myself that I REALLY needed to get the “Subscribe” button working on my blog. So, I’ve done that. PLEASE go ahead and fill that thing out for me, it’s on the right. That will keep you getting these “wonderful” updates coming! Feel free to share with your friends, too, if you have any.
When I was growing up on Long Beach Island, we were… well, we were quite often needing something to do. You know the adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. Well, that’s us. You’ve heard some of the stories, so now to this particular line of thought. A friend recently asked: When did I start drinking…
I’m not really sure. I think it was maybe 6th grade. Steve, my best friend, was living on the ocean in a rental house for the winter. That much I remember. We had Thanksgiving at their house. In our house growing up, as a good Catholic family, kids had wine at dinner on occasion. Usually Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mom had a few small sterling wine glasses – probably cordials – that she would allow us put a splash of wine in, for dinner.
The thing that Steve and I have in common is that our fathers were both very (VERY) frugal. I mean, I’d have loved to see those 2 in a restaurant together trying to figure out how to get the other one to pay the bill. They traveled together in their later years – that must have been fun! Anyway, both families drank “bulk” wine. Back then it came in a plain glass gallon bottle, 4 to a case. It was total crap. But we didn’t care or know any better. Steve, Linda, Burt (Steve’s sister and brother), my brother Hugh and I sat at the “kid’s” table. And we had our own bottle of wine. Burt and Hugh were too young to drink (much), but Steve and I got toasted. I mean, falling down drunk. I didn’t puke, which is a wonder. That was the night that we figured out you could pull the barbecue grill off of the post and light the gas coming out of the post, on fire. It looked like a refinery flaring gas.
Wine was easy to get, we found. Just take and hide an empty jug, and then steal a little at a time from the parent’s jug. Save it up for the weekend. But it was about then that we figured out that nearly all of those homes on the island that are empty all fall/winter/spring also had their own liquor cabinets. And that when the tourists arrive in the late spring, no one remembers how full their whisky bottles were back in September. If people locked their houses, it was just a door knob. Easy to slide a knife blade in to pop door open. And then we had all of the free booze we needed!
Of course, we were idiots. Remember the “Wet Bandits” of “Home Alone” fame? Well, back then all of the telephones were owned by Western Electric, a Bell Company. You rented your phone from the phone company. This was around the time you could start choosing “decorator colors” rather than a simple black phone. Also about the same time they came out with touch-tone, but that’s another story. They were all the same, except the color. And you could mix and match the parts. So, people would arrive back in the late spring, and their phone would be black, the cord yellow, the handset red, the mouthpiece green and the earpiece blue. We thought it was funny. But we sort of gave ourselves away. People quit leaving their booze around…
When I was 16, the drinking age was 18. Yes, I know, it was great then. Sorry. Sucks to have been you if your drinking age was 21. A mile or so down the island was a liquor store. You couldn’t (and still can’t) buy beer in anything but a liquor store in NJ. By the way, that’s not as bad as Pennsylvania, where 2 years ago we needed a bottle of Maker’s Mark, a case of beer, and a 12 pack of Coke, and it took 3 stops. You can’t buy beer in a liquor store in PA. What’s with THAT? So, anyway, we had this local liquor store. They had a small bar attached to it for friends of the family that owned the store. And we found out about it. One at a time, we ventured in, and made friends with all of the old farts in there. “Old craters” we called them. They were probably. 40. Old Craters. But we’d sit and talk with them, and listen to their old stories. And they let us drink in their bar, and no one questioned our ages. Beers were 4 for $1. Pabst Blue Ribbon, in a 7oz Pilsner glass. Life was great.
We got them to sponsor our summer softball team. Basically, it was to pay for the T shirts. I have one of the very few left in existence. Maybe the only one…
We sort of sucked as a team. I mean, we just played to have fun. We finally talked them into giving us a pony keg of beer for each game. This was awesome, except that we started to lose by even bigger margins. We’d barely make it to the 7th inning. So we started inviting the team we were playing to drink too. That helped even things out. Then we got smart – no drinking until the 3rd inning. The other team got shit-faced on the free beer, and we started winning!
Then we made a tragic, tragic error. We started inviting the other team back to “our” bar after the game. Pretty soon, we couldn’t even get into our own bar. Ugh.
(this is the later version – not as rare)
Jan and I were dating, the summer before we got married. She loves to tell this story. She came for a visit, and I told her we were going out to “The Crater”. She’d heard me talk about the bar on many occasions. She was psyched. FINALLY she was going to see the place. We pulled up to the bar and she said “I thought we were going to The Crater”. “We are. This is it.” “Why does it say DeFritas on the sign?” She’s blond. OK, it’s my fault for not explaining it better.
We went in, there were 4 of us. We each put a dollar on the bar. The bartender poured us 4 beers, and took a dollar from Jim. She poured 4 more, and took a dollar from Steve. 4 more and a dollar from me. She wouldn’t take Jan’s dollar. We drank all night on $3! Loved “The Crater”.