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Nickel Pickles

circa 1944

Walking “Uptown” was a favorite pastime after school.

The walk became a ritual about once a week…usually on Fridays. Maybe it was to recap the week or plan for the weekend. Betty Reeves and I would strike out behind the football field on the dirt road that led to Girard Avenue. The road behind the school was also the entrance to Machine Shop, where we might catch glimpses of boys working on their hotrod cars. We were known to flirt from time to time with our classmates even though we never dated them. None of them were in our youth group at La Jolla Baptist Church. Our dating was pretty much confined to the Saturday night parties at church, a trip to San Diego to Youth For Christ at the 10th and E. St. First Baptist Church, or group dates in homes where we played table games like Flinch and Rook and ate our parents out of house and home.

We gossiped and giggled a lot on those walks to “Uptown” La Jolla. We always passed Conita’s house on Girard and waved to her mother who would be sitting on the couch in the living room just looking out the window. Conita was already working at Bank of America by this time, so we gathered that Mabel was just waiting for her to get home.

Our destination, spoken or unspoken, was Piggly Wiggly grocery store. On top of the meat display case was a huge glass, barrel shaped jar of the best tasting dill pickles I’ve ever had in my life, before or since. They were about five inches long, crisp and tangy, but not twangy!

Now buying a pickle involved pre-planning. Something else had to be sacrificed during the week. It could have been a candy bar, or a fountain coke, or a dessert in the cafeteria lunch line on those rare times when we didn’t “brown bag” our lunches. Whatever it was, we knew we couldn’t have it all, but the sacrifice was worth every crunchy bite of the pickle!

Those pickles lasted all the way home…which was another mile of slow walking, detouring past the USO on the corner of Eads, lugging our notebooks perched on our hips with our weekend study books layered on top. And possibly a sloppy joe sweater draped over the books ever so casually, like we didn’t have a care in the world.

Actually we didn’t have a care in the world. We just didn’t know it then. Every subject we tackled was of earth shattering importance. Would we have enough cakes for the weekend party? Would we get a V-mail from an overseas boyfriend who had just shipped out? Would we ever learn those new “brief forms” for shorthand class? Would “he” call? And would “he” get a 72 hour pass? The “he” changed every week it seemed as we played the field of ample service personnel from the USO. Would we get new “loafers” so we could place a penny in the cuff? Would our mom’s get our new dresses made in time for the next party?

Slow walking and talking and eating nickel pickles. It just didn’t get much better than that.

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