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Northern Days Gone By: Always buy some lemonade, but never drink it

We boys in 1953 were broke. Not one of us had an allowance. We did not consider ourselves poor, but we had no discretionary money unless our parents or grandparents gave us a few nickels. The nickels we were given on occasion had a bison on one side and a Native American on the other. We had Jefferson nickels as well, but any money to spend on things desired at the corner store was rare.

One day Gary spoke up. Maybe we should set up a lemonade stand at the corner of Sixth Street and Eighth Avenue East. Billy said he could obtain some fruit nectar, lemon flavor. Jimmy could get a large pot, several gallons, and I could provide the sugar, about five cups. Chuck could get the card table and Vance could obtain the paper cups to serve the lemonade in. Ronnie could get the ladle to serve it.

Placing the card table at the corner of the intersection we started to mix it. Ronnie got the hose from a neighbor’s house and we filled the large pot with water and sugar and fruit nectar. We really worked at this, and we knew we could sell it at five cents a cup.

Stirring it with the ladle did not seem to mix it. Chucky had on a short sleeved shirt and he simply put his dirty arm right into the lemonade mix and proceeded to swirl it around to mix it completely. After many minutes of doing this the mixture was ready, but not a single auto stopped to buy, even though the signs hand printed by all of us, taped to the side of the card table indicated five cents a cup. It was not the busiest intersection, and the few cars that passed often waved at us. Then we noticed the mailman coming down the street. As he got near to us we saw him reach into his pocket and then he gave us 50 cents. We hardly see half dollars today in circulation, and to our eyes back in 1953, this was a huge amount of money. We did not know his name, but he paid for a lemonade and then said he was too full to drink any. We thanked him for his purchase. We could go to Tony’s Market, the corner store, at the end of the day, and each of us could buy a Popsicle in our favorite flavor. Mine was banana and others even had licorice. And we thought we would be rich. He purchased 10 cups worth of the product and consumed none of it. The mailman was our only customer.

Thinking back we realized he was simply being kind and generous. I figure he looked at our dirty arms and hands and knew he did not want to drink the lemonade. But he wanted to be kind to a group of 8-year-old boys. He was an anonymous but kind man in the neighborhood, and he rewarded us on that hot day in Duluth. He was caring for others in a way seldom seen today.

You can also do this today. When driving now I often pull to the side of the road when I see youngsters selling lemonade. I often give a dollar to them, and I remember how we boys made our product, how Chucky stirred it with his bare and unclean arm. I never drink the product, ever, but I remember still the kindness of the mailman. You can also fix a good memory in some boys and girls today, a small act binding us all together as citizens sharing life together. Just never drink the product, any excuse will do.

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