Midnight Chef


I grew up in small towns; New River, Rockport, Swansboro, Raytown, and Fallbrook among them.  There are stories that come out of these little bergs that you won’t hear anywhere else.  Here are a few of my favorites.
 
In Fallbrook, CA there was a burglar, of sorts, who broke into local restaurants in the middle of the night and cooked a meal.  The damage during his visit was minimal but he wasn’t done when he left with a full belly and some gravy on his mustache.  The day following each break in, he wrote a review and sent it to the local newspaper.  In it he described the refrigeration, food storage, ingredient freshness, menu selection, and cleanliness of the establishment.  The restaurant owners were torn between wanting the free publicity and fearing what the burglar would find.  The authorities never caught him. 
 
In New River, NC, in the 1950’s, mosquitos were a big problem.  A USMC jeep would roll through our mobile home park near Camp Lejeune and emit a cloud of DDT.  We kids would run through the cloud and jump out at each other for a fright.  It also coated us with a layer of protection from those vicious insects.  When I told my friend Bill that story, he said, “Well, that explains a lot about you Bob.” 
 
Out in a field on the way into Fallbrook someone dumped a used-up VW van.  A favorite activity was posting a large note on the side of the van.  We saw birthday cards, sayings, marriage proposals, and political announcements.  Then someone got the idea to move it around the field.  We always looked to see where it ended up during the week.  Once it was tipped up on its nose.  The final, mysterious act apparently placed a few sticks of dynamite which then blew it to pieces and Lord only knows where it all came down.  There was just a hole in the ground with burn marks around it.
 
Little League baseball was as big a deal back then as it is now, maybe more so.  This was before we even knew what soccer was.  My blessing was to have Duke Snider as my church counselor at the Fallbrook Methodist Church.  I invited him to watch me play left field and bat.  He was a fielder and slugger for the Dodgers and would later go on to be a batting coach for the team.  I was a lousy batter for the first three years of my “career.”  He came to my game, and after my first time at bat, he called me to the stadium fence and gave me three hints.  In my last two games ever, I hit a double and two triples.  What a great guy Duke was and wise with his advice.  I wish I had asked him three years before that.
 
In these small towns you didn’t have to hitchhike because someone you knew would pick you up.  Violent crime was almost non-existent because everyone in town would know what you did.  That also went for problems in school, who you were dating, and “why exactly were you driving the family station wagon at midnight near the coach’s house that got TP’d?”   Today the closest most of us can get to that sort of fellowship is in our neighborhoods.   Who can you get to know that lives within two blocks of your home?  Great time to take a walk when others are out and about, isn’t it?
 

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