Our parents did things differently than we do. Which is why it’s fun sometimes to look back to how they lived their lives. That’s what Los Angeles writer Bill Cushing does in this recollection of his father.
I recently approached what would’ve been my father’s 95th year, were he still with us. I long ago left the East Coast, taking up residence in Los Angeles over two decades ago, but a name from my past came up while on my way to work.
The name was Bohacks.
For those not of my ripening age or else not from New York, Bohacks was a chain of grocery stores that dotted the city and stretched across the counties of Long Island. It represented the first serious challenge to the grocery supremacy of A&P and was the go-to market for my family from the time I was in fifth grade until I enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18 and left the city.
What is the connection between a now-defunct market and my now-deceased father? Funny you should ask.
Being on the then-cutting edge of food suppliers, Bohacks not only had its own brand of beer, which ran about a dime a can, but it also ventured into the low calorie market around 1967 when it featured a new beer that promised to deliver full bodied taste with a lowered caloric content. It was for the health-conscious drinker, I assume.
That beer was Gablingers Diet Beer, and it came packaged in a manure-tinted can displaying a black-and-white illustration of its “founder,” although I cannot attest to that.
My dad, ever ready to cut down on calories as long as it meant he could down a brew or two, was one of the first customers for this groundbreaking refreshment, so he made a trip to Bohacks, returning with a six-pack of this latest concoction. Chilling a can down, he settled into his favorite armchair all set to become a beer pioneer.
The adventure didn’t last long. After trying to choke down about half of the can, he finally admitted defeat and poured the rest down the sink, swearing it was the worst beverage he’d ever had and noting how the label claimed that it “doesn’t fill you up.”
“Damn right,” he spat. “You can’t finish the damned thing.”
He never tried that experiment ever again — even though he still had the rest of that six-pack sitting in the hallway of our basement. The prodigal son returned to his preferred beer back then, Schaefer.
He never spoke of the incident again.
Some 30 years later, my parents retired, sold our house, and relocated to Virginia for their retirement.
Still, every now and then (like on this day, for instance), I picture the new owners, having taken possession of my childhood home, cleaning things up and redecorating the structure to their particular tastes.
I imagine that at some point they were puzzled after coming across a set of oxidized cans— probably barely readable because of the crust of rust growing over them— still sitting somewhere near the short set of steps leading out of the cellar and into the backyard.
Bill has a book of poems coming out soon — it’s called “A Former Life” by Finishing Line Press. You can pre-order it now.