The big red machine.
It was big as a Frigidaire refrigerator. But with one exception. It wasn’t white like the one in my mom’s kitchen. It was a bit bigger but very red. Often found outside on the curbing around a gas station. And scribed across its front in large white lettering was ‘CokeOfCola.’ The front panel operation was most easy to follow. Even me a first-grader could understand what it was trying to tell me. First, Over to one side was a coin slot for purchase. I first remember way back when depositing just one nickel. Five-cents. Then a bit towards the middle was a big gray lever one would shove downwards and suddenly just below in a larger opening with a flap door would come an eight-ounce green tinted glass bottle of Coke. The frosty bottle came with a splined edge bottle cap. Tightly sealed to retain carbonation and coolness. Then one would have to remove the cap in order to drink directly from the green tinted bottle. To facilitate such an operation a person/myself would insert the cap side end into a bottle cap remover just below where it says ‘Bottle Opener.’ Then just after popping the bottle cap one could eagerly drink with poise and panache straight from the bottle. Just like John Wane did in his favorite saloon. Which I did with boyish gusto. Sometimes a frothy foam will rise to the top and you would have to drink the Coke immediately or loose some of the precious liquid. Then when the Coke contents was consumed one would either put the bottle into a slotted wire rack on the side of the big red machine or pay an additional two-cents deposit. Only if you wish to take the bottle with you. I usually didn’t because I seldom had the extra two-cents.
The ‘Big Red Machine” was an icon of refreshment and an oasis found at most gas stations we stopped at on our summer road trip from Los Angeles to Oklahoma and back. Each station stop was just a few minutes. My dad didn’t want to waste time with too much fiddling at each gas stop. In addition to buying a bottled Coke we had to first use the station’s restroom and then rush to the Big Red Machine. Quickly make the Coke purchase, drink it down with in a matter of seconds, put the bottle in to the bottle rack and get back in to the already running car. “Get in now” my dad would command. However, we became accustomed to the routine. Never mind all the slurping, hick-upping, and belching that would occur when drinking a carbonated drink too fast.
One summer about a year later disaster occurred when I discovered a price increase on one of the Big Red Machines. Pasted over the Five-cents price was a piece of paper scotched taped with the bad news. Ten-cents the sign demanded. I had only a nickel. Then I heard my dad yelling, “Get in the car, now! So, off we went with me sullen and distraught. What a way to spoil a summer vacation.