My cousin Chris and I had just come off a serious pop bottle run and were now lounging on the bottom shelf of the magazine rack in Harry’s Chebanse Variety Store. The year was 1969 and it was one hot summer. We didn’t know it at the time, but Neil Armstrong was fixin’ to walk on the moon. 

Our gangly legs were sprawled out into the aisle of the cramped store. We had traded in the pop bottles we had found alongside roads and bridges, plus a few we might have borrowed from the backyard of unsuspecting housewives and were now enjoying the fruits of our morning travails. 

This was a common theme for us over that summer. Cash in hand from bottles, we would buy ourselves each a pack of Topps baseball cards (with the pink bubblegum) which were five cents, a Mars bar, also five cents and an RC Cola for about ten cents at the time. Usually, we could only afford one bottle that we split between us. If I recall, at the time, we drank RC because it came in a 16-ounce bottle, rather than those puny twelve-ounce Pepsi and Coke bottles. 

Anyway, there we sat, enjoying the air conditioning, helping ourselves to any one of the variety of magazines carried at the store. We’d leave chocolate prints on the corners from our Mars-bar-fingers. Chris usually had some on his face as well. 

We only read those periodicals that dealt with some of the more important points in life to 12-year-olds, such as MAD magazine, or Eerie magazine which usually had a picture of Godzilla or Dracula on the cover, or Sports Illustrated if it was baseball season and they had a Chicago Cubs player listed. 

So, there we sat, much to the consternation of Harry’s Aunt Bob who ran the store. She’d throw us out soon or the first time someone tripped over our feet. Everyone called her Aunt Bob, and now that I think about it, I have no idea if she was really somebody’s aunt, nor why they called her Bob. 

Chris looked at me while at the same time holding his hand out, signifying his turn for a swallow.  Grinning, I took one big swig and belched. Aunt Bob gave me a disgusted look.  

Chris says, “Web,” (everyone called me Web when not calling me a derogatory name) “you really think the Cubs can win the pennant this year.” 

I handed the bottle to him as I comprehended the weight of his question. I pondered my answer for a few more seconds, wincing when he wiped the top of the bottle with his T-shirt so as not to catch my germs. I made a mental note to leave some backwash in next time I took my swig.

“Well, Chris,” I began slowly, “it all compends.” (I used the word compends rather than depends. Nobody had ever told me any different.)

“On what,” Chris asked. At this point I should tell you that I really suspected Chris was still a White Sox fan but wouldn’t admit it. He was just warming up to becoming a Cubs fan because they were having a good year. He had to be asking me that question only because he knew more about the Sox than the Cubs, and he was hedging his allegiance. 

“Well,” I began, eating my last bite of that Mars bar, which I can still taste to this day, “if Santo and Banks keeps hittin’ those homers, and Williams and Beckert can keep those battin’ averages up, I think they can.” 

Chris didn’t say anything. I could tell he was thinking. I also noticed he still had his hand wrapped tightly around that RC bottleneck. 

“Oh, and Jenkins’ arm don’t fall off,” I said, reaching for the bottle. 

I was paging through MAD, looking for more Spy v Spy cartoons the editors scribbled on the sides and tops of the pages, when a thought came to me. 

“Chris,” I said. “You a Democrat.”

“Why yes,” he answered indignantly. “I’m no Nixon lover.”

I nodded in unison before asking him another question. “You know why we’re Democrats.”

It was Chris’s turn to think before answering. While he was thinking, I unwrapped my baseball cards to see who I got – a ritual that always had to be done last so as to give the luck to get a Cubs player. I secretly wished to get New York Yankee players too, but never told Chris that, him being a closet White Sox fan and all. At the time, I think I owned about five different Micky Mantle cards. 

Chris answered. “Grandpa Webber said we were. He said if the Democrat party was good enough for those Kennedy boys and that Adlai Stevenson fella, then it was good enough for us.” Continuing, he said, “Then grandpa said President Johnson was the greatest president this country has ever known.” This information from our grandfather made it official. 

I nodded, content in the fact that me and Chris were Democrats, just like the rest of our family. I really had no idea who that Stevenson fellow was, but since I was older than Chris, I didn’t want him to know of my lack of knowledge. But I knew I didn’t like that Nixon guy though, not one bit. Grandpa said so. 

Funny how life changes your perspective on things.