November 01, 2015

A Halloween Text Message

A Halloween Text Message
By John R. Greenwood

The text message came from an old customer/friend of mine. It was none other than the humor packed, and perpetually smiling Ed Sakos. Ed was the owner of Saratoga's famous Mr. Ed’s Hot Dogs, a restaurant that fed thousands of hungry bar-goers and Broadway-walkers throughout the 1980’s. Ed was not only a good customer of mine when I was the proprietor of Price’s Dairy in those same years but he became a good friend. His love of antiques and dirty jokes made my milk deliveries and our daily visits something I miss to this day. Visiting Mr. Ed’s was an experience. The restaurant was narrow, deep and chock full of characters from all walks of life. Lawyers, business owners, policemen, drifters, and alcohol-soaked Skidmore students packed the place from 11am to 3am daily. It was a sad day when Ed escaped the high rent of Broadway and headed out Route #29 to the outskirts of the city and opened Mr. Ed’s Ice Cream Station. The city’s loss was the country’s gain.

Ed and I recently reunited via Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other in years so it was nice to be able to touch base on occasion even if it was electronically. It was 8am Saturday morning when I heard my cell phone buzzing. I was in the middle of something so I didn’t check it right away. It was 9:30 before I actually read the message. It was from Ed. It said, “FYI, there is a Price's Dairy milk box at an estate sale at 23 Elizabeth Lane off Lake Ave.”

I read it, then realized it had been an hour and a half since he sent his message. Damn! That thing will be gone for sure. People descend on estate sales like vultures. There’s no way that piece of Saratoga history will still be there. I showed my wife the message. She said, “GO!” I threw on my shoes, grabbed my keys and literally ran to my truck. I hit Northern Pines Rd like a volunteer fireman on a late night “fully involved” fire call. Vic Price must have been looking down on me today because every light turned green on my approach. I made the four mile drive in minutes. Elizabeth Lane was quiet. I didn’t see any activity at all. Not until I got toward the end of the street did I find a home with a “23” on it and a roll-off dumpster in the driveway. There were only a couple cars parked out front. Either the house was clean as a whistle or I was the luckiest man in town today. 

I headed across the lawn and still wasn’t sure if there was a sale or not. As I approached the house I saw a sign taped on the door leading into the garage. It said, “Come In”. There I found a man sitting behind a folding table and a woman standing there talking to him. I said hello and without hesitation asked if there was a Price’s Dairy milk box for sale. They both looked at each other unsure exactly what it was I was looking for. I quickly explained I’d gotten a text message from a friend who’d been there earlier. It took a second until it registered just what it was I was looking for. The women said,”Oh, the metal box! Yes, I know what you mean. I think it's in the cellar.” The man said he didn’t remember it going out the door so there was a good chance it was still down there. When I explained that I had purchased the business from Vic Price in 1979 and operated it for ten years they understood why I was so excited about the possibility of finding a remnant of my past. As I headed toward the cellar they both smiled and wished me, “Good luck.” 

The cellar stairs were narrow and made a sharp right at the bottom. I turned the corner and there in the dark shadows of #23 Elizabeth Lane was the end of the rainbow and my aluminum Price’s Dairy milk box. It was a lottery winning feeling times a bunch. I was grinning like a kid with a new bike. This time Mr. Ed had me smiling at something more than a man-walks-into-a-bar-joke. 

I wanted to yell out loud but instead I picked up the box and hugged it like a baby. When I got back upstairs to the garage the man and women were thrilled that I’d found my Holy Grail. The story’s ending got even better when I went to pay the $10 sticker price and was informed that everything was half price today! I did a internal fist pump. I couldn’t wait to send Mr. Ed a return text with a photo of my purchase attached.

I want to thank Ed Sakos for thinking about me today. When I asked why he didn’t buy the milk box when he’d been there earlier he replied that he figured I had a bunch of them. Even though I still had a handful of home deliveries when I bought the business in 1979 they were too expensive to maintain. When I went out of business in 1989 I didn’t have any boxes or home delivery customers left. Although I’m sad the era of home delivery has slowed to a trickle I am glad I was able to experience a taste of it. Now I can dust off my Price’s Dairy milk bottle and put it in the milk box where it belongs.
This was turning out to be a very “Happy Halloween.” 

Bonus! With our fourth grandson due in December this child's desk for $10 was the cherry on the top of my day. :)

*I would like to thank Ed Sakos for his text and friendship. I would also like to thank the folks at 23 Elizabeth Lane. In my haste I did not write your names down and in my excitement I could not recall them when I got home. I left you my card so if by chance you read this piece please send me your names so I can personally thank you for your hospitality and for being a part of my treasure hunt.

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