They say, “confession is good for the soul”, so here goes. It happened when I was about 6 or 7 and we lived, I think in Beaumont, Texas. We had a good life, but certainly not spoiled. I think dad had a switch in every room in the house. He threatened to put a sign above one which said, “I need thee every hour”. Anyway, we had our share of ‘pine tree tea’.
Well, one day dad took us kids to the ‘FIVE AND DIME’ store. I think it was Woolworths. Anyway, we loved that store. It had EVERYTHING a boy could wish for. The price seemed high to us. 5 cents for bubble gum! Twenty five cents for a pack of baseball cards! It came with a stick of bubble gum as well. Can’t beat that! Candy, little wooden airplanes, plastic airplanes, kites, slinkys, bags and bags of plastic army men, marbles, tinker toys, .10 comic books!!! Going there was heaven on earth to us.
Problem… our weekly subsidy, was .25. We would have gone on strike, if we had thought of that. It wouldn’t have worked. We were just the three of us kids. Not enough for a union. We had to think all week about what we were going to get. Bob and I loved baseball cards, football cards, comic books. We were after Mickey Mantel, Roger Maris, and the others on the Yankee team. When we got one, we would trade back and forth. Spider man and Superman were the comics of choice. First editions and sets… we had ’em. We wanted more.
Problem… we only got a measly TWENTY FIVE CENTS A WEEK. Frustrated? Most definitely. But we had to choose.
On one occasion however, I determined to ‘out fox’ dad. Yep, I had it all figured out. We were at our favorite store. Going up and down the isle. Bob rolled down one isle, Ed went down another, dad was up at the check out area, and I was all by myself (I thought) on my isle. I got what I could pay for, and went to the check out. One by one we paid for what we got. Bob, Ed, and then me… We started out the store, and went to the car.
Now I have to stop here and say that parents are weird. I could almost swear to you that mom and dad had the secret service working for them. Otherwise, how in the world could they know all the things we did wrong?!
“Jack!” Now when I heard that tone of voice used with my name. It only meant one thing TROUBLE. “Come here son.” “Yes dad” I was trying to look confident. (I always failed at this.) “What you got in your hand?” I showed him the things I had legally purchased. (I thought it was over.) “What you got in your pockets?” (I was in trouble.) I pulled out a candy bar.
Trust me, I felt guilty for doing it. I did it anyway. Now I was feeling worse. Dad said, “You stole this?” You know, when dad says that, it sounds so much worse. “Yes, dad” I said. The judgement was passed, and sentencing was immediate… “Well, here is what you are going to do. “You are going back in that store… you will walk over to the manager and hold out the candy bar, and tell him, “I STOLE THIS”, and apologize. RIGHT NOW!”
I cannot tell you the feeling of embarrassment that crept over me. Cold sweats, knocking knees, the whole bit. I never thought of crying “THIS IS ABUSE!” No you see dad was the ‘supreme court’.
I went back in that store, approached a man who seemed quite big to me. He said, “May I help you son?” I took a big breath and said, “Sir, Sir, I am sorry, (holding out the candy bar that my hands had taken), but I took this and didn’t pay for it.” I was expecting something like the police to come and take me to jail or something. But, no police, no reprimand. I guess he figured I was going through enough humiliation. He said, “Thank you son, thank you for doing the right thing.” I gave the not so delicious candy bar to him. Said, thank you, and went back to the car.
Needless to say, I had disappointed dad. I had done worse, I had disappointed myself. Stealing is wrong. Paul said, “Let him that steals, steal no more.” That lesson, has always stayed with me. I have taught it to my kids, and I guess the lesson will pass down generations. (I hope).
I owe dad a lot for this. I would hate to go through life stealing, and eventually thinking I could just take things instead of working for them. THANK YOU DAD FOR CARING ENOUGH TO TEACH ME.
I was a thief… but ‘not no more’.