Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Boyhood secrets and old bottles

Rummaging through the items offered in a recent garage sale just down the street from my house I ran across a couple of treasures from the past. The guy running the sale passed into being a senior at least two decades ago and now he was going to sell off his stuff, downsize and move into a small condo. "Everything must go!" the sign said. From a used toilet seat to a brand spanking new, still in the box, lighted dial Princess telephone. I enjoyed the memories some of his stuff brought to mind. He was at the ready with stories surrounding each item too. A pleasant experience. On the back wall shelves jutted out laden with his antique bottle collection. They were for sale too but I got the feeling he wasn't in any hurry to see them go because they were almost hidden behind the clothes rack hung from the rafters. Beer bottles, perfume bottles, after shave bottles, water bottles, whiskey bottles, wine bottles and soda-pop bottles. That's where I ran across something I hadn't thought about since years before my amnesia incident. Dusty, some dead ants inside and with a half dissolved label was an old bottle of "Par-T-Pak" Rock & Rye. One of my favorite flavors when I was a teenager. Maybe the taste wasn't exactly my favorite but the story behind Par-T-Pak brand Rock & Rye was.

The word going around between pre-teen and teen age boys, handed down from older boys as a right of passage was that Par-T-Pak "secretly" made Rock & Rye with Rye whiskey. Whoe! Did you get that? Rye whiskey! In a soda pop that any young boy could buy? And then, just to sort of keep that legend going, several of the store keepers in the neighborhood kept Rock & Rye off the shelves and in the back of the cooler. A guy had to actually request it. Then the store keeper would limit what you could buy, "Only two bottles at a time" they would say. Us guys would go as a group from store to store so we could get enough to last around our camp fire that night. And, just in case you didn't know: Only Par-T-Pak made it with Rye Whiskey. All the other Rock & Rye brands were fake! The story kept going around for at least two years as far as I can remember. None of us guys ever got real drunk because of course, we were "in control!" A couple guys acted drunk though, probably because that was what was expected when you drink Rye Whiskey. You know how peer pressure can be at that age. The, one day the word got out that the government had caught on to what Par-T-Pak was doing with the Rock & Rye and sneaking whiskey into it and they made the company stop making it. What did us guys do? We bought cases of that stuff and hid it out in the woods across the tracks close to where we had our camp fires. Our plan was good but we hadn't counted on someone finding those cases of soda pop and throwing rocks at them and busting them all up. That was the end of our secret. The mystery would always remain though. Mysteries are a great thing at that age.

I didn't buy the bottle but the old guy and I had a few moments there where we both understood. A part of us would always long for a dark night, sitting around a camp fire with a bunch of friends, talking about the mystery of Par-T-Pak Rock & Rye, secret whiskey and why girls were such big trouble.

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