1961 ROD AND JASON BUY BEER

Jason had been doing well at his middle school. He'd also managed to fall for a girl in his history class. In the autumn of 1961 he started his Freshman year at Lower Merion Senior High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. It wasn't an easy transition, as he was going from an upper classman to a lowly grunt, which carried with it the risk of being punked out. In order to prevent such a situation, he had his parents buy him a barbell set, and for the entire summer prior to entering high school, he and Rod pumped iron in Jason's back yard. They guys had also developed a thirst for beer from drinking Jason's dad's Brand

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The legal drinking age was 21, a distant 6 years away for Jason. Six years seemed like a lifetime to him, and it was much too long to wait. Jason and his friends saw no reason they shouldn't be able to drink beer or hard liquor whenever they felt like it. All these arbitrary rules of parents and adults were artificial and they deeply angered Jason and Jason's close friends. Logical Arguments and appeals to the parents to buy beer proved fruitless. Jason would have to figure something else out with Rod's help. At this stage of their lives there wasn't much that the pair couldn't figure out. it was just another of life's lessons to be mastered. Shoplifting beer or liquor was difficult and carried risk, but it could be done.

         

Both had been able to score some drinks at the Welsh Valley Inn on Bala Avenue after classes in Junior High school. Eventually the Inn got in trouble with threats of their liquor license being revoked, but for two good years Jason and his friends could order mostly anything they wanted to try. The unsaid agreement was, ‘don't ask, don't tell". Unfortunately, an irate father of one of the kids happened into the Inn, saw his son drinking, and the arrangement for serving minors was over. The gross profit of the Inn plummeted to less than fifty percent of what it had been. Al, the owner, told the boys how much he'd miss their patronage and that of their youthful friends, and he expressed the hope that they'd always remember him fondly  and return as patrons once they reached legal age.

One afternoon after high school got out Jason shared his frustration with Rod.

""I'm not even talking about boosting the beer, but paying cash for it. I tried at the Ardmore beverage distributors with a forged note. The guy at the counter said under no circumstances would they sell beer to a minor, not for any reason, note or not."

And the note was carefully crafted, explaining "to whomsoever it may concern: I have sent my son Jason here to purchase a case of Ballentine Ale. I swear under penalty of purjery that the beer is for me and not him. I would come over myself but am down with a migrain headache which the beer will take care of in due course."

It really pissed them both off that in spite of their clever efforts the wondderful bottles of amber liquid remained elusive. On another occasion, as they were leaving the Narberth Beverage company Jason asked the guy behind the counter if he would sell it to avoid being immediately killed for not selling it.

"What the hell's that you say," the clerk yelled.

He started to come from around the counter red faced, swearing. He was enraged, and spittle could be seen spraying from his mouth as he shouted.

‘Who the hell do you think you are, kid? Get the hell out of here!’

.Jason promised himself he would return at some point with a Remington tactical shotgun or his dad's army-issued .45 and see then then how happy the guy would be to make a sale. Hell, he wouldn' t even buy the damn beer then. He'd just take it. Hell, adults just took things and got rich, and he would too. Screw the separate and unequal laws for minors. He even knew a couple of older guys in the neighborhood that were drafted into the army but still couldn't buy a damn beer. That just screamed injustice.

 

The pair discussed possibilities later under the bridge. Rod pointed out that bringing a gun caused the proposed plan to elevate to armed robbery status. They both felt that if caught they'd face a much harsher sentence and might even end up in an adult detention facility with ax murders and savage perverts of all stripes.

Rod agreed with Jason, but he had no good ideas. "Even if we could fake a driver’s license we don"t look old enough."

Rod had turned 17 and had acquired a driver's license three months earlier. Jason was still a year from getting his license, but had already driven around in parking lots on Sundays when his dad allowed him to take the wheel. It gave Rod a thought. Rod pulled out his license and began to study it. Photo ID,s wouldn't be part of a license until the early 1970’s, but the license holder's birthday was on the laminated card which bartenders and vendors checked to verify the patron's age.

Rod said,"My birth year is 1944." If I could change those fours to zeros I'd have a card that said I was 21.

"If you just changed the first four to a zero, the you'd be 61," Jason said in jest.

However, Jason didn’t think much of the idea. "It seemed too obvious. He explained to Rod,

"You would be caught and your license would be taken. Even if you made a presentable faked card you don't look like you're even close to being 21. Instead, let's go down to Connie Mack Stadium Saturday. There’s a Phillys game in the afternoon and we can score some beer there."It'll be easier."

That Saturday Rod and Jason made their way to Connie Mack Stadium by taking the train and then a bus. They'd d each brought 10 dollars. It was enough to get in with enough left over for hot dogs and beer. While standing in line to buy tickets Jason observed the man in front of him take out his wallet, extract some money, and return the wallet to his right side jacket pocket. It didn't fit snugly and about an inch of wallet was exposed.

It was a juicy target. Jason thought, "What the hell, and decided to try his luck as a pick pocket. It was easy actually. People were continuously bumping slightly into each other. Any disturbance the man would feel could be attributed to just being in the crowd and being inadvertenly bumped.

Quickly, Jason reached for the wallet, snatched it, and held the wallet against his right leg so that it couldn't be seen. The man never noticed Jason' s contact, or if he did, he ignored it.     

        

Jason extracted all the bills from the wallet and pocketed the cash. To return the wallet now empty of cash would be unnecessarily risky. He signaled to Rod to move to the left and the two of them managed to get two or three feet to the left of the man Jason had just robbed. Jason then threw the wallet at the man' s right leg just below the knee.

The man was startled and looked down at his leg to see the wallet lying on the ground. Jason carefully averted his eyes to the left.

The man said, "Oh shit!", and picked up his wallet. "I should have put it in my pants pocket." And with that he did, never noticing that the cash had been removed.

The man was startled and looked down at his leg to see the wallet lying on the ground. Jason carefully averted his eyes to the left.

The man said, "Oh shit!", and picked up his wallet. "I should have put it in my pants pocket." And with that he did, never noticing that the cash had been removed.

Jason told Rod not to laugh at what he knew would happen next. Rod wasn' t sure what Jason was up to, but he decided to remain stoic.

The robbed man paid for his ticket with a twenty and received a five dollar bill as change. The man took out his wallet and opened it to insert the five dollar bill. He saw all his cash was gone.

He frantically began looking at the ground for dropped bills and finding none declared, "Oh fuck! What the hell! Some mother fucker has stolen my money! Christ, I had two hundred dollars in there!"You're a bunch of crooks, all of you."

The men around him became angry at the accusations the fat man was throwing at everyone. An older man with an umbrella commented that fat and stupid people shouldn't attend baseball games. At that the robbed fat man swung at the older man; his swinging fist went into the older man's gut. The older man started to double over as fist-a-cuffs from the surrounding men started in a wild melee.

 Jason stuck his foot out in front of the older man who tripped and hit the cement with a sickening thud.

 When the robbed fat man went down an angry cop worked his way through the crowd into the disturbance. Everyone pointed to the fat man as the provocateur and he was led away in hand cuffs, but not after the Philly cop wacked him several times for no good reason with a nightstick.

Jason told Rod to help up the older man. As he struggled up with Rod's help Jason lifted his wallet from a back pocket and shoved it down his own pants.

"Thanks fellahs," the man said. "Let me buy you guys a soda or something."

"We're beer drinkers," Jason said.

The man looked momentarily surprised. "Kind of young aren't you? By the way, my name's Fred, and hell, why not, I'll buy you a beer. Come on, let's find us some seats."

Jason and Rob introduced themselves and the trio made their way down the cement steps past rows of seats into the lower levels of the stadium. Jason was always amazed at how green the grass was at the ball field. At home all he had was a black and white tv. They tood three seats at the end of a row along the third baseline. It was a hot day and everyone was ready for something cold to drink. They could hear someone's clear voice cutting through the din of the crowd: "Heyyyyyyy, get your cold beer....Heyyyyy get your Ballentine. Cold beer here, Who wants a cold beer??"

     

"Three beers here," the older man said. The vendor didn't say anything about Rod and Jason's age as the foaming glasses were passed along. It was at that point when Fred discovered his wallet was missing. The beer vendor stood looking impatiently while Fred fumbled through his pockets. Of course he wouldn't find the wallet because Jason had lifted it and now owned it.

"it's ok, Fred," he said, we'll take care of this round," and he extracted a ten dollar bill which he'd boosted from the fat guy earlier.

"Oh thanks boys," Fred said, "but I have to find my wallet. I'll be stranded here if I don't find it."

Jason stood up. "It probably fell out of your pocket when you fell. I'll go check lost and found."

A few minutes Jason returned with Fred's wallet. He'd removed all of the cash except for $15.00 so Fred could buy them all beers and also have bus fare home. It seemed fair. The guy could still feel like a real sport by purchasing rounds of beer and also be able to get home. In addition he would hopefully learn to pay better attention to the location of his wallet.

Fred was so grateful to Jason for bringing back his wallet that Jason feared the man would hug him or worse, hump him. "You're welcome, Fred," he said. "How about another round."

"Ohh, for certain," Fred agreed, "and don't you kids worry. I buy the beers for the rest of the game."

"You're one great guy, Fred," Jason said. thankful to have found one person among the crowd who had no problem with minors drinking beer. Why couldn't all adults be like Fred. Why couldn't their parents.

       

                   

Nine innings and six rounds later Rod and Jason followed the bobbing red Phillies caps out of the stadium and onto Somerset Street where they waited for the bus to carry them over to 30th Street Station and a Narberth-bound train.

The Phils had beat the Giants seven to six, thanks to a ninth inning home run by Dick Sisler.

"Good game, huh." Rod said as the pair stood smoking by the bus stop.

Jason agreed. He felt the comforting glow that only a gallon of beer could provide. It was just a great day. Had the stadium collapsted on all 20,000 fans it still would have been a good day. That was the magic of beer.

  The guys were silent riding on the bus, basking in their beer buzz. On the way into 30th street station something occured to Rod.  He turned to Jason and said, "you know, maybe we could figure out how to make our own beer."

"Ahh, a stroke of genius," Jason said.

For the first time Rob and Jason knew without a doubt they were on to something, something that could be big.

Maybe something one could start in the backyard.

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