Our two sons sure had it good when they were growing up. For example, their mother chauffeured them to school every day in climate-controlled comfort. Compare that to when I was a kid and had to walk approximately 100 miles to school through waist-deep snow. And it was uphill both ways.
    When they were school-aged, our sons each owned enough electronic doodads to stock a Best Buy store. Their rooms looked like miniature versions of the Consumer Electronics Show.      
    Things have certainly changed since I was a youngster. This is something that I was not about to let the next generation forget. I constantly impressed upon our sons just exactly how easy they had it compared to my childhood.     
    “You kids have it so good,” I would bluster. “Back in my day, nobody had a Nintendo. And believe me, it wasn’t easy to play video games on an Etch-A-Sketch. Somebody might shake the Etch-A-Sketch while you’re eating supper and poof. There goes a week’s worth of hand-cranked Mario Brothers.”     
    Whenever I said something like that, the boys would roll their eyes in disbelief. I guess they were remembering all those things I had told them regarding Santa and the Easter Bunny.     
    It might have ended there had my wife, our two sons and I not taken a drive one Sunday afternoon and happened across The Grand Opera House. The Grand is an elegant, fully restored, 19th Century quartzite edifice located in the heart of Dell Rapids, South Dakota.     
    We were given a tour of the renovated theater which is, well, grand. I especially liked the hand-painted sign which reads: “Please use no tobacco in this Hall.” The original owners must have learned the hard way about the stubborn stains that can occur when patrons are allowed to chew tobacco during an exceptionally exciting play.      
    But the best part was in the lobby where sat the holiest of holies: an anatomically correct, fully functional soda fountain.
    I was instantly 10 years old once again. I am carefully scrutinizing the price list above the soda fountain at Tupper’s Pharmacy, unable to decide between using my weekly allowance to buy a soda and a candy bar or blow the entire dime on a comic book.     
    I eventually order a cherry Coke, using the change to purchase a pack of gum. I wig-wag on the barstool as I watch Mrs. Tupper mix the Coke syrup with charged water. She strikes me as a dour woman. Perhaps it is because of all those pesky kids who ignore the sign by the comic books that says, “Nice to look at, nice to hold, but once you start to read, it’s sold!”     
    Or maybe it is due to the stress of running this particular type of business. After all, she and her husband know exactly who in our small town suffers from the heartbreak of psoriasis and who buys Preparation H in the large economy size. They know which high school athlete has had the itch and which minister’s wife comes in regularly to fill a prescription to treat her nervous condition.
    The temptation to blab must have been enormous. It was probably quite a burden, especially when you lived in a gossipy little farming community such as ours.
    But none of that concerns me as I contentedly chew my gum and peruse the latest Superman comic book under Mrs. Tupper’s hawk-like gaze.   
    I snapped out of my reverie. “Climb up onto those barstools,” I told our boys. “You’re about to experience a blast from my past.”     
    We ordered ice cream sodas and watched, fascinated, as the fountain guy scooped and stirred. The boys were amazed. The only fountain ice cream treats they had consumed up to that point were the kind that a machine burps into a cardboard cup. The idea of using metal spoons and glass glasses blew their minds. I told them that this was how things were done back when I was a little nipper.     
    The ice cream sodas – which came with maraschino cherries floating atop a cloud of real whipped cream – were enjoyed immensely. I opted for simplicity of a plain old chocolate ice cream cone, and my wife ordered a butterscotch sundae. The expression on her face when she took the first spoonful was similar to someone who had just heard her numbers called out during a Powerball drawing. Her eyes even rolled back in her head for a moment.     
    As we strolled out of La Fontaine de L’Opera, our sons had gained a new perspective about my childhood.
    “Wow, Dad,” they chirped. “You really had it good back when you were a kid.”
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.