The simple fact was that there we were, there was the ice cream box, and we had a key that fit. We simply took advantage of a situation that was presented to us.
In my hometown, there was a service station, a small cinder-block building with two gasoline pumps with long, pumping handles on the side. It was the smallest gas station in town. It was painted blue and looked like something you’d see in Disney World. Outside in front was a three-lid ice-cream box with a steel bar over the lids and a padlock on the end. Being the only service station of its kind in town, and being close to a bus stop, it was like a landmark and the proprietor was well-known. As I recall, it was known as Jack’s Service Station.
I can recall some details, as bits and pieces of my memory come through. One cold December weekend evening, after a hard day’s work, I caught the bus from town and got off at the service station. It was our usual meeting place, and they were waiting for me. The gas station had been closed for at least a couple of hours. We wandered near the ice cream box. One or two of us leaned against it as we exchanged notes and ideas about shoeshining.
Someone pulled out a key that he had in his pocket and inserted it into the padlock. Lo and behold, the padlock popped open. I was immediately struck with excitement. I didn’t ask questions. We opened the lids. Our conversation changed drastically. There it was for the taking — all the ice cream we could eat, even though it was on a cold, dusky evening. We shivered while we ate.
I distinctly recall stuffing our boxes, hiding our loot of ice cream sandwiches and popsicles. There was one of us, as I remember, who didn’t have a shoeshine box, so he stuffed his loot in his shirt. To disguise it, he found a newspaper, opened it up, pretending to read it, even though it was too dark to read anything.
To us, the service station became a keyword. We must have stopped there several times to enjoy our refreshments.
One probably would feel that we were being mischievous. We were not. We had warm hearts and respect for our fellow man. We were not bad boys. Being only 8 to 10 years old, we had no bad intentions. We were industrious — there were about three or four of us and, like a lady carrying her purse, we carried our shoeshine boxes everywhere we went.
When we visited the ice cream box, we never abused our discovery. We could have emptied and destroyed the box; instead, we were considerate, being careful to return the padlock to its proper place. After the first visit, we ate only what satisfied us and moved on.
Over the years, I tried to justify our behavior. I thought about the gas-station proprietor, taking his inventory, maybe setting a trap for us, but he never did. He probably knew who we were.
In later years, we met at class reunions, kidded each other about the things we did — shining shoes, playing match-stick poker, the adventures of scouting and especially that ice cream box.
Bond lives in Richmond Hill.