The summer of 1975 in Southern California my brother Andy and I, as latch key kids, had roaming rights to most, if not all of Orange County. Our day started as Mom left for work at the Bank of America building. She didn't work for Bank of America. She worked for Traveler's Insurance. Monday through Friday she would peek her head into our room to tell us that she was leaving for work. We would make a bleary eyed, grunt like acknowledgment and she would leave. We usually waited to hear the sound of her VW bug chugging away before we got out of bed.
Our routine involved roaming around looking for something to do. Sometimes we would fly kites at the school yard. Sometimes we would roam up and down the tree lined suburban streets looking for new friends. Aimless days of summer, nothing to do except to do nothing.
It was how we met Eck. Eck was his last name. He was an 80 year old man that we came upon while walking around. I remember that we were walking exceptionally slow that day, so slow that Eck called us over and offered us a drink. Back then we didn't have McGruff to warn us about strange old men offering drinks or candy so we accepted two Pepsis. Pepsi with real sugar. Good stuff.
That summer we made it over to Eck's house almost everyday. He would load us up with Pepsi, we would stay around just long enough to annoy him. Eck would sit in his worn out lawn chair chewing plug tobacco and telling us about the good old days when there wasn't much more than orange groves and dirt roads. He would tell us about the old trolleys and how, when he was our age, he would hop on the trolley and ride as far as he could for free. “Now don't get any ideas about hopping on a bus without paying. They'll haul you in for that,” he would say.
It was too late. We already tried it successfully.
We would sit there on his concrete driveway and listen to his stories about watching moving pictures being made in the hills, stealing oranges and watching Disneyland being built as he drove by on his way to work. Every couple of minutes he would spit tobacco juice towards a shrub, which he would always miss. He would continue his story, always a bit of spittle running from the corner of his mouth down his stubbly chin. He would also discard his plugs around the same area, warning us to not touch such a filthy thing.
As life goes, so does time. School started back up and we lost touch with Eck. That summer we had the closest thing to a grandfather we would have until our mom remarried and we inherited Grandpa Joe. I wish we stayed in contact after school started, but we were kids and easily distracted. Anyway, thank you Eck for humoring a couple of latchkey kids. After 35 years you are not forgotten.