Mandy Newham-Cobb illustration
The Red Scooters
When I was nine years old and my little brother, Joe, was seven years old, we both wanted red scooters for Christmas. We first spotted the scooters at Mr. Bill Cobb’s Firestone Store on Main Street in Waynesville. They were heavy metal with bright paint, solid rubber tires, and even a little brake tab to slow the rear wheel.
Every single time we had a chance to talk with Santa Claus, we would both hopefully beg for the red scooters. The more we tried to talk about them at home, the more thoroughly our parents both pretended to ignore us.
At the ripe age of nine, I seriously talked with Santa, taking no chances on the school gossip rumors I heard being often spread about the old fellow’s questionable identity. I had, however, noticed on my own that his memory was quite weak. He continued to repeatedly ask me my name every time I met him. Not a good sign for someone reported to know all about you, including your good and bad habits.
Christmas came on the weekend that year and our last school day was mid-week. Joe and I had to wait until our mother, who taught second grade at our school, Hazelwood Elementary, finished taking down all of the classroom holiday decorations before we could leave for home. On the last day before the two-week holiday, this seemed to delay us forever.
Finally we were ready to go. It was so late in the day that we were going to stop in Waynesville and do some shopping until daddy was ready to go home from work at First National Bank. He could already be waiting for us by now.
Mama parked beside the bank and daddy indeed joined us. What we did was more looking than shopping. Up one side of Main Street, we went with stops at Belk’s, Massie’s, and The Toggery. Then we went across the street to Turner’s Store, where we had our last chance at offering our identity to Santa Claus and to remind him of our order for red scooters.
Then it was on down the east side of Main Street, where we dropped in at both Roy Parkman’s and Joe Howell’s hardware stores before making our own last stop at Eagle’s Dime Store.
In the car and all headed for home, it was now dark and still not even six o’clock. Joe and I were starved. “I’m hungry,” he voiced. “Me too...how long do we have to wait for supper when we get home?”
Mama acted like she ignored us, but we knew she had not when she turned to daddy and made her case. “Joe...it’s awfully late to start cooking supper at home, and, today was a long day at school. How about if we stop and have supper at Charlie’s...we are almost there.”
Sure enough, Charlie Woodards’s Drive-In was just ahead on the left. We knew daddy had agreed when he rolled down his window to signal the left turn. He answered mama, “Lucille, let’s get curb service and take it home to eat...I have some work to do on the treasurer’s report for the Lions’ Club tonight.”
All agreed, we pulled in on the curb service side of the restaurant and daddy tooted the horn.
It was Charlie himself who came out to take our order. We had already agreed and daddy placed the order: four Charlieburgers, four orders of french fries, and four Coca-Colas.
Charlie echoed, “Four delicious Charlieburgers, four taters and four Co-colas...to go!”
In no time the food was back. Mama smiled at Charlie, “That was fast!”
Charlie beamed, “We knowed you was a-coming, Lucille!” He handed a brown paper bag with the burgers and fries in the car window and held out the unopened Cokes held in a row by their bottle necks between the fingers of his left hand.
“How much?” daddy asked.
“Well,” Charlie mused, “Depends on whether you’all got any bottles to swap.” If we had empty green Coca Cola bottles, they were worth a two-cent credit each. If we did not, he would have to charge us the two cent deposit for each of the returnable bottles. Everyone knew that.
We always had bottles. Whenever there were empty Coca Cola bottles, daddy made sure that they were put into the trunk of our car. That way, whenever we happened to buy Cokes, the empties would be with us to swap for the deposit credit.
Being a helpful child, I leapt into action. Without saying a word, I jumped out of the back seat of the Plymouth and headed around to the trunk. You did not need a key to open the trunk of our old car; all you had to do was turn the handle.
I grasped the handle, turned it, and raised the lid. There, before my eyes, I saw in the car trunk...two brand new red scooters!
“No bottles!” I almost shouted as I slammed the trunk lid as quickly as possible. By the time I was back in the car, daddy had already paid the bill and we were quickly headed home in total silence.
We ate our supper in profound quietness. In fact, it was quiet at our house all the way up to Christmas.
Early on the morning of December twenty-fifth, Joe and I were awake. We eased out of bed and I was almost afraid to make the trip into the living room where I knew Santa had left our presents. Joe went straight in there.
“Santa messed up,” Joe called back as he beat me to the Christmas tree. “No red scooters...but it’s okay. Look what we got!”
Santa Claus had brought Joe a train set. It was already set up, all the way around the Christmas tree. One of the train cars had a load of logs on it, and, as the train traveled around the oval track, when that car passed over a special section of the track the logs rolled off onto a log-rack beside the track. He was happy.
I was even happier. Santa had brought me a very-grown-up looking tool set. There was a hammer, a pointed saw, three screwdrivers and a brace and bit with three different wood bits. And, all the tools nested in their own neat wooden box with a carrying handle just like on a real suitcase.
The tools cried out to be tested. I pulled the card table out of the closet and bored several holes of different sizes in the top of it to make sure all of the bits in the brace and bit set actually worked properly.
In a little while our parents got up. They came to see what we got and to watch us play and didn’t even seem to get mad about the card table.
We stopped playing long enough to have breakfast. Mama made pancakes for Christmas morning. Then we opened all the rest of the presents that needed to be opened before going out to our grandparents’ house for the rest of the day with mama’s family.
When all of the presents had been opened, daddy pulled me and Joe aside. “Boys,” he spoke to us in an almost secret near-whisper. “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?”
Joe answered for both of us: “We got things we hadn’t even asked for!” I silently agreed.
“Well,” he went on, “I’m glad to hear that you’re happy. But...I have something to tell you.
“Your mother and I kept hearing you talk to Santa about something called ‘red scooters.’ We didn’t even know what that meant until one day we saw them at the Firestone Store. When we looked at those red scooters your mama said, ‘Oh, Joe...those things are so big! Santa Claus will never get down the chimney at our house with them.’
“So, boys...your mama and I told Santa to bring you something to surprise you, and we bought the red scooters. We’ve had them hidden in the trunk of the car! You can go out there and get them now.”
To this very day, my brother Joe and I still think that was the best Christmas we ever had. We realized that, at his very best, Santa only comes through once each year. And our parents...well, they tried to come through almost every day!