I used to love those cartoons of Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman. It was a quirky twist on the idea of a boy and his dog.
Peabody spoke with a British accent and took Sherman on adventures in history. They traveled in time with the WABAC (way-back) machine.
They would meet up with everyone from Robin Hood to Wyatt Earp.
If I had a WABAC machine, there are several times in my life I would purposely avoid. At this time of year, I would welcome a chance to go back to the summers of my youth.
One summer, Sonny Bray and I decided to go into the soft drink business. Sonny was the owner of a pretty nice wagon to carry our cargo of assorted drinks, which we offered with ice. We made a little money, but we had a lot of fun.
We pulled the wagon to downtown Social Circle and set up in front of what once was a furniture store. The business owners didn’t see us as much of a threat, because no one said anything.
I convinced my dad that my business would greatly improve if I had one of those change dispensers. They were the kind worn by guys who worked at full-service gas station. At this point, some of you are realizing you’ve probably never seen a full-service gas station. This is a history lesson.
In that great and ancient time, there were stations where a guy would come bounding out the second you pulled in and would pump your gas, check your oil and tires and wash your windshield. A lot of gas station attendants carried a big wad of money in their shirt pocket. On their belt was the shiny chrome change machine. It had slots for quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies. A thumb click of the levers would dispense the right amount of change. No calculators were needed, because you could figure it in your head.
I felt very proud with my change machine, although most of our customers had correct change. Sometimes, they would give us a dime for their nickel purchase and tell us to keep the change. While I appreciated the noble gesture, I was looking for an opportunity to click out a nickel from this mechanical marvel I was wearing.
We were 10 or 11 when we entered our business venture. We didn’t worry about some stranger bothering us. We set up shop on our own and were perfectly fine. That’s the part of this that makes me kind of sad.
My niece, who is about to turn 8, is visiting with us. When we allow her to walk two doors up to my in-laws’ home, we call as she is walking out the door and then someone calls to tell us she has arrived safely.
We live in a world of paranoia. We’re scared of one another and sometimes that’s deserved. Our houses and cars are now equipped with alarm systems. We lock the door the very second we enter the house or car.
I think the downside of my dream of a trip in the WABAC machine, is I wouldn’t want to come back.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.