Chicken Chow Mein

... what a memory!

from Allen MacPherson

I was born and brought up in Melrose and lived there for over forty years. My two daughters were born and raised in Melrose and my two dogs grew up with my girls in Melrose. My wife was born in Winchester, lived in Wakefield, moved to Melrose, then back to Wakefield. She is a Wakefieldian, if that is even a word, which is probably not likely, but her heart is in Wakefield. Boring! Oh yeah, we will be celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary this year. So far, she is ahead in the money that was bet on Melrose-Wakefield Thanksgiving football games. This is probably what kept our marriage together for so very long.

My heart is and always has been in Melrose and some of my most memorable memories are about my times in Melrose as a young boy.

I would like to tell a cute little story about an incident that involved a restaurant that I used to go to. I am sure that most of you will remember the Gold Coin on West Foster Street and Canteen at the YMCA on Friday evenings.

One night after the Canteen dance was over, some of us went to the Gold Coin where, for thirty-five cents, we could get a small drink and Chicken Chow Mein sandwich. What a bargain! Of course, we didn't know it was a bargain, we didn't know anything about that stuff. We were too busy dancing and having fun.

Well, anyway, that particular night, I went in and placed my order. After I had eaten the sandwich and wolfed down the drink, I went to pay for it, but I found that I had no money and my buddies didn't have enough to loan me. As I had already eaten the sandwich and wolfed down the drink, I went over to Mrs. Tai, a very nice lady, as was her husband. I never knew their first names, just called them Mr. and Mrs. Tai. I told her I was sorry, but I didn't have any money to pay for the sandwich and drink. She said, "Oh, you pay me later."

I completely forgot about the incident because this was the last night of Canteen and school was to start the next week. I completely forgot about the thirty-five cents that I owed to Mrs. Tai.

Lots of things changed and happened in my life after that and it was probably twelve to fifteen years later that I went back to the restaurant, completely unaware of the huge debt I owed. Mrs. Tai came over to me and said, "Do you remember me?" I said, "Yes, you are Mrs. Tai." She said that was true and then she said, "Do you remember the last time you came in here?" I scratched my head and then it hit me. I got all red and very embarrassed and said, "Yes, the best Chicken Chow Mein sandwich and drink in the area. How could I forget?" She laughed and said, "That is correct. Is there anything else you remember?" Well, I was dumbfounded and said, "I'm sorry, but what do you mean?"

She reached below the counter, pulled out a shoebox and placed it on the counter. She reached into the box and pulled out a slip of paper. She handed it to me, the big smile still on her face. I looked at the paper. It was a bill that was made out with my first name on it. I never knew how she knew my name, but there it was.....
      Allen. Owes thirty-five cents for Chicken Chow Mein Sandwich and small drink.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a toothpick! I started to laugh, reached into my pocket, counted out thirty-five cents, added twenty per cent for a tip, and gave her the money. She said,"Phew! Debt finally paid in full!"

We both had a good laugh. I sat down in the booth and guess what I ordered?

I wanted to tell this ridiculous, but cute little story I kept in my mind all of these years. There are soooo many more stories from the big City of Melrose, I might write another. Thanks for reading this.

August 5, 2016

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