Do you remember when a Coke cost five cents? I was a “pre teen” at the time. Coke announced that the price of a bottle was going from a nickel to six cents and everybody was in an uproar about it! All soft drinks came in reusable bottles, and the major companies had plants in most towns or regions. Coke, Pepsi and RC each had facilities in Athens. Each Coke plant had customized bottles with the name of the town molded into the bottom. Over time, the bottles became mixed with each plant having bottles returned from other plants. Soon, people started betting on who had the most distant bottle.

Of course, all prices were far lower than today. A hot dog cost a nickel. A ticket to the children’s Saturday morning at the movies was 15 cents. Thus, a quarter dollar got you a ticket to a morning of movies, a hot dog and a coke.

The program always consisted of a block of cartoons, two western staring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Red Rider and Little Beaver, or other popular cowboys and Indians. And always, between the features, one of those cliff hanger serials where the hero was left facing a potentially deadly crisis and we had to come back next Saturday to see how he escaped.

My father worked as a mechanic at the old University Chevrolet Company just west of down town Athens. He worked a half day on Saturdays. So he would take us along with him to town and drop us off at the Strand Movie Theater. We would walk the few blocks back to his job site after the movies were over for a ride back home.

As the oldest of three brothers, I was given the responsibility of making sure we stayed together and no one wandered off. I was charged with taking care crossing the streets, following all the safety signs and obeying the rules. Because we were a rural family, a trip to town was viewed as a somewhat dangerous adventure and we were always aware of that. The danger was more in our imaginations than real. There were no street gangs or such. Our greatest danger was in getting lost or being careless.

Things have changed a lot in the past 60 years. Those nickel cokes are now a dollar fifty. You cannot buy a fast food meal, even hot dogs or hamburgers for less than three dollars. The 19-cent a gallon gasoline is now closer to $3. And there are areas in most towns now where it is not safe for unescorted children, or even adults, to walk safely. And it looks to me like these changes will only continue to worsen.

How will your children describe today’s society to their grand kids 60 years from now? Will government regulators have outlawed all soft drinks and fast foods? Will our national borders be ignored and the streets be abandoned to anarchy? Will all people be dependent on government for every aspect of their lives?

I think it may be that the older of us are lucky we will not be around to experience that!

Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frank@frankgillispie.com. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.

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