Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Memory is a funny thing. Snippets from the past can lie dormant in the brain for decades until one day, quite by accident, a word, a picture, even a sound can unlock that storage and unleash a wave of sweet nostalgia. It sneaks up on you and quite without warning transports you back to a time long ago, and almost long forgotten.
I don't have a FaceBook account myself. I prefer to piggyback on my wife's account, mainly because it seems like too much work to set up my own. One of the groups I (we) follow is one called "Growing up in Independence, MO." This week, one of the members posted some pictures from the 1960's one of which was of the Mugs Up root beer stand. Seeing the place was the key that unlocked that musty storage locker in my head. We had a similar place much closer, a real classic of the drive-in era, called "Dog n' Suds."
I've lived a lot of places, but Independence was where I've spent the most time, especially my formative years. We moved there from Los Angeles in 1960 not too long after the building containing my Dad's office burned to the ground. We spent the first two years in a rental house before buying a new home on Mark Avenue. Being six at the time of our move, and eight when we got the new place, I hadn't really been old enough to have been vested in Southern California. I do remember how hot and muggy our new home town was, compounded by the lack of air conditioning, which my Dad considered an extravagance until he finally had central air installed a few years later after the onslaught of Missouri summers conquered his fiscal stubbornness.
There were those oppressive summer evenings when we would be sitting in the living room watching TV with electric fans whirring away until Dad would decide that we needed some relief. We'd pile into the car (which was also non-air conditioned) and drive for about 10 minutes or so before pulling into a slot under the garish yellow lights which always seemed to attract a multitude of flying insects. A teenager would come out and take our orders, and return a few minutes later with several iced glass mugs holding that treat of treats, the Black Cow. This was, of course, the same root beer float we could have made at home, but going out, as rare as we did that, made it special.