Pepsi Cola & Cars
a vacation from Hamlet
by: Russ Lancaster
In the summer of 1952, between my 10th and 11th birthdays, I had the opportunity to visit Mama Lancaster's house in Louisburg, NC. Mama Lancaster was by dad's mother and though she lived to be 97 years old, she looked older than the hills even back in 1952 when she was but 66. He face was wrinkled and she was slightly bent over whether sitting or standing.
Aunt Marion, my dad's sister, lived with her in an old, two story, frame house on a dirt road just outside Louisburg. There was a great raised front porch on the house overlooking the dirt road down to a main highway just a few hundred yards away. From the front porch, just past the highway, you could see a sawmill with a great hill of sawdust piled up near it.
There were stories told me by my cousins of two boys who had played on the sawdust pile against their parent's wishes and had hit a soft spot somewhere near the top and sunk into the heaping pile of dust. By the time they were found, they were dead, having suffocated inside the pile. You can believe that this particular story, whether true or not, made me know for sure that I was never going to play on that sawdust pile.
There was not much to do for a boy of 10 at that lonesome old place so a game had to be invented. I asked Mama Lancaster for a pencil and piece of paper, went out to that great old front porch and sat back thinking about what to do. My eyes and thoughts kept wandering to the old sawdust pile and eventually back to the main road just in front of it. I was just aware of the differences between Fords and Chevrolets, even though we did not own a car. I remember my dad always wondering aloud which would be best for us if we could ever afford one.
Then my game plan came to me. I would sit out on the porch and count the Fords and Chevrolets that wen up and down the main road to see which were the most popular. It was an all day job plus I had about three days ahead of me with nothing to do but count cars.
My Aunt Marion would come out and check on me from time to time to see exactly what I was doing. I was never to let her know.
Aunt Marion must have felt sorry for me sitting out on that porch from morning until night with nothing but a pencil and piece of paper to keep me company. On the second day, she brought me out a Pepsi Cola. What a treat for a boy like me to be so lucky. After all, a Pepsi cost 5 cents. How could she afford to spend money like that?
The problem I now faced was how to make the Pepsi last a long time so that I could savor the taste as long as possible. I took the problem in to Mama Lancaster and she, as always, knew the answer. Leaving the metal cap on the bottle, she took an ice pick and punched a small hoe through it. Bits of cork fell down into the Pepsi and it began to fizz, bits of foam erupting through the tiny hole in the cap. I stuck my mouth to the bottle cap and just let the cool, tasty foam fill my mouth. Nothing had ever tasted better.
I went back to the porch, Pepsi in hand, and began to resume counting the Fords and Chevrolets for my project. Each time I tilted the Pepsi toward my mouth, foamy pleasure would tickle my senses.
After three days, I determined that Chevrolets were the choice of drivers in the area and let my dad know that it should also be our choice. It was still another year or two, around 1953 before we finally became proud owners of a 1948 Chevrolet. It was a great car, one I will never forget because I had a hand in deciding what kind of car it would be. And.. to this day, I still love Pepsi Cola better than other soft drinks. I just wish Helga would let me drink even one with an ice pick hole through the cap.
Yes, I remember Mama Lancaster and Aunt Marion who have both passed away. I remember my vacation in Louisburg when I was but 10 and I remember counting cars and the sawmill with the story of the two dead boys. I remember it was a vacation, one of the first I remembered ever being on and being away from Hamlet...
But most of all... I remember Hamlet
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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