Letter to the Editor: Old memories of hard winters and soft drinks at Old Brick Store

To the Editor:
Our house was in Shelburne but the sheep barn was in Charlotte. My best friends and fellow hockey players all lived in Charlotte (when the Charlotte skating rink was on the east side of Greenbush Rd. on the north side of the village).

We youths came out on the coldest, bleakest Sundays to push the snow off the ice. Tommy Williams was always at the warming shack first to fire up the oil drum stove. At some point during the day we had a quorum of skaters: Tommy Williams, Bill and Ray Roberts, Ricky Dolliver, very occasionally Bob Booth, and belatedly yours truly, among others, names now forgotten. Between spells thawing out our feet in the hut we would scrimmage until dark. After a couple of years we all ended up comprising the core of Champlain Valley Union High’s first hockey team when hockey garter belts were still hard to find.

But my intention here is to convey a story about the Old Brick Store whose life blessedly goes on with Jolene Kao and family.

So, on many of those bleak, winter, hockey Sundays, we youthful diehards, seeking refreshment, having forgotten to bring lunch, would make our way south, on foot, into the village, the utterly silent and deserted village, grim with the unpeopled greyness of the day before, back to school Sunday, to the Old Brick Store, “Bill’s Store,” to visit the Coke machine that stood on the store’s front porch like a plump, silent ice fisherman.

It took a dime then, as I remember, and a forceful, downward push of a lever to cause one of those blue green bottles of Coke to rumble down to accessibility.

Now here comes the amazing part: Plucked from the machine and held to the light the Coca Cola was liquid, but as soon as we popped the cap in that starkly cold and deserted air, it instantly froze solid in the bottle and could only be drunk after being carefully carried back to the warming hut and admired as an 8-ounce, 7.4-inch tall sculpture for 15 minutes by the heat of the stove.

This for me is an indelible memory of my youth, of my beloved youthful friends, of the existential cold of mid-winter in a little town in Vermont and of the identity of a Sunday-shuttered, red-brick mercantile as a locus of relief.

Under the care of Jolene Kao, may it continue to be so.

Steve Maeck
Burr Oak, Iowa