In which I finally award a silver dollar
Once upon a long ago I got involved in a pleasant public-relations attempt to increase consumption of fresh milk, and while the effect on our public was nil, I got my proper reward in a satisfactory manner. Maine was not a heavy dairy state, but we did supply our local deliveries and have surplus enough to support a daily milk train to Boston.
Stopping at anything that kept a cow, the train would tediously choo-choo to the Hub, gathering cans. It took passengers, but not many. So we did have cows in Maine, and enough so we had an association of dairymen who were taxed at their own desire to finance a little promotion by the Department of Agriculture in the statehouse. The public-relations stunt I got mixed up in seemed like a smart one.
In restaurants, when a waitress asked a diner about a beverage, it was always with, "Coffee, tea, or milk?" Somebody thought this could be changed to "Milk, tea, or coffee," if the waitresses could be persuaded, and that this would increase the interest in a sweet glass of healthy, fresh milk.
A number of trustworthy Maine gentlemen were recruited to carry out this persuasion, and as I naturally qualified, I was one of 'em. I got a supply of wooden nickels, turned out in one of Maine's many spool-wood mills, and another supply of silver dollars. Both of these were uncommon in Maine. We were hep to wooden nickels and seldom saw silver dollars, as we were not a silver state. When a waitress asked us, "Coffee, tea, or milk?" we were to give her a little lecture about good milk, a wooden nickel, and explain that had she said "Milk, coffee, or tea?" we'd have given her a silver dollar.
This was supposed to get every waitress in Maine, in due time, pushing milk as a first choice. It never did, as you can find out yourself by having lunch in Maine, but we operatives gave away a lot of wooden nickels and went around with a heavy pocket of state-supplied silver dollars.
Being a country boy and accustomed to eating with my feet under my own table, I didn't frequent restaurants too much. But when I did I'd have my wooden nickel and silver dollar ready. One day I performed at Westcustago Inn, on Route 1 in Yarmouth, right by the turnoff to go to Prince's Point at the ocean. A lovely place, and it was there still the last I knew. The waitress I had was a relative youngster, jolly with a girlish bounce, fresh from a daisy field in her jaunty dining-room uniform, and pretty (if I may use an old Maine comparison) as a pail of new milk.
She joined in the customary Gemtlichkeit of Westcustago Inn, making things nice, and she asked, "Coffee, tea, or milk?" I gave her a wooden nickel, my milk spiel, and showed her the silver dollar she might have had.
Let us now notice that a good 30 years have passed, and I have not been in Westcustago Inn during that substantial interval. The committee for a reunion of my high school class had decided to get the members together once again to recall old times and brag about grandchildren, and the meeting would be at Westcustago Inn.
Our high school class of 1926 had only 26 members when we lock-stepped forward to get our diplomas, but the years had been kind and we were still a considerable group. We looked at pictures of children, and talked about the things that were, and we had the Westcustago Dining Room to ourselves except for one table in the far corner where some tourists were being fed.
We tried to sing the old school song, but didn't remember the words. It was a bountiful Westcustago dinner, genteel as well as nourishing, and we'd found a couple of our onetime teachers to join us and rejoice. They had seemingly forgotten some seamy incidents.
But the waitress who attended me leaned over my shoulder when the time came, and in a burst of muscular shout she just about took my ear off with, "MILK, coffee, or tea?"
I HADN'T recognized her from so long ago, for she was now a hearty matron in a much larger uniform. I tumbled when she yelled "MILK!" My classmates wanted to know what that was all about, and the waitress stood beside me while I gave a run-down on the old coffee-tea-or-milk stunt.
My classmates obediently admired the happenstance after so long a time, and after some applause for the waitress we resumed the frivolities of our reunion. Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I looked around to find a tourist gentleman who had dined apart at the corner of the Westcustago dining room. He was nobody I knew, but he reached his hand for a shake.
We shook hands. He said, "I couldn't help hearing. Tell me, do you have a silver dollar to give the lady?"
I said I did not, but I planned to find one and get it to her.
The arm of coincidence is a long one, and its accomplishments are never anticipated. The gentleman now said, "Well, I happen to be a coin collector, and I always have some spares in my pocket. Here's a silver dollar for the waitress. Be my guest!"
Before our reunion broke up, I gave the coin to the waitress, and what do you know! She grabbed me in a voluptuous embrace, waltzed me a few steps, and smacked me a walloping great buss that was entirely acceptable. She bubbled, "I've looked forward to this!" To my good wife, who was not a classmate, I explained, "A dollar went a good deal further in those days."