In 1938, the Easter Bunny brought Bobby a brand new red steel wagon. For the next few days, the McNea kids spent their school holiday taking turns pulling each other in it as they tore around the main floor of the house. Once they had banged up the doorways and furniture, not to mention the non-stop shriek of “My turn!”, “No, it’s my turn!” the wagon was relegated to either the basement play area or outside. After that, riding around in it didn’t hold as much appeal for them, so young entrepreneur Bobby found work helping people cart groceries home from the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Once the market days had wound down in the fall, he procured his crate gathering job with Old Man Smith. After each delivery, Bobby imagined that the guy must have had a big movie theater in his basement. He probably had every Charley Chaplin movie filmed in the 30’s!
One particular chilly Saturday afternoon, Bobby had a great run, piling his wagon sky high with more than half a dozen crates! When he arrived at the bottom of the Smith’s Roseberry Place driveway, the old man was standing on the front porch, a newly lit stogy perched between his lips, waving and yelling “That ‘a boy! Good job!” Bobby struggled to pull the wagon up the slippery driveway gasping “Ummm, Mr. Smith, can I help you carry these down to the basement sir?” Old Man Smith stopped and pulled the stogie out of his mouth. With a curious semi-frown he squinted and asked “Why would we want to do that son?”. “Well, I was thinkin’ I could help you to set up your theatre seats. Ya’ know, I have experience.” Bobby squirmed shyly as he glanced back at the wagon full of crates.
Now as it turns out, Mr. Smith knew all about Bobby’s previous home-theatre venture. A smile grew on his face, he started to chuckle, then as usual, he bent over at the waist coughing, hacking, belly laughing, and trying to talk all at the same time. “Why Bobby, that sure is a terrific idea, but the Misses would be pretty damn upset if all you rascals started tromping through our beautiful house so you could watch movies! Common; I’m gonna’ show you to make real money!”
As is turned out, Old Man Smith had a green house out back. He grew celery in the crates. Once harvested, he sold them to the local general store, and ran a stall at the St. Thomas farmer’s market when it was open for the season.
Bobby, on the other hand, realized he wasn’t very interested in growing celery, and definitely had no inclination to garden. He did help stack the crates in the Smith yard. After collecting his wages he ran straight to the five-and-dime where he bought a handful of black balls, contemplating what it would take to get into show biz.