There are those great encounters that some experience as children that seem greater than life at the time.
It was an ordinary summer day and as usual myself and other neighborhood kids were outside running around playing like the world was ours. As normal thirst called and I headed home to get a quick drink and a handful of bubble gum. Bubble gum was of course a must have staple to survive then. I headed into the side door entrance that lead to the restaurant kitchen and around the corner into the walkin to grab a sprite. It was midday and I could hear the stir and voices of the patrons. It was unusually loud and not the normal lunch crowd because it was a Saturday.
With inquisitive interest I peered out the dining room door to see a group of patrons and my mother hoovering around a table with a lady and man seated at it. I could only see the back of the mans head from where I was at. While everyone was busy I figured I could sneak around to the stock room and get some extra gum for my friends. I often wondered if my parents every really noticed a missing candy bar or handful of gum when they opened up the boxes for display behind the bar.
I had my gum and was rounding the corner when my mother almost bowled me over rushing into the kitchen with great excitement on her face. Then she said " do you know who is here?" Well of course I didn't I was outside all morning. "Quick go get your football" she blurted as she started the kitchen check. Still standing there completely in the dark with my pocket full of surprise I asked "why?". Getting out two beef patties from the refrigerator (they made their own fresh burgers) my mother said "hurry, quick go get your football because Johnny Unitas is here!"
Now for all of you who don't know, Johnny Unitas was one of the greatest quarterbacks to play football and played for the Baltimore Colts back in the day. He would be the equivalent to today's Brett Farve or Peyton Manning. Oh my God! I couldn't believe it, I ran upstairs to get my football for him to sign. This was so cool! Little did my mom know that I kinda of made a detour through the back yard and around the neighborhood to tell my friends that Johnny Unitas was here in the flesh actually eating a burger at our restaurant with his wife. Before you knew it the dining room was filled with fans wanting to say hi and get autographs.
He was really nice and did sign oddities (footballs, scraps of paper, tee shirts, and even a baseball bat) for all the kids and shake hands with the patrons. They of course seemed very used to this type of greeting and were very humble. His food arrived and we left leaving his wife and him to eat their lunch in peace savoring a fresh burger and what small town fame is all about.
My mother was thrilled that she met him and that he actually stopped there for lunch, but never made a big deal about it and would remember it fondly. Myself and the gang sat for a long period of time that day enjoying the sun, the gum, and sharing the stuff that we had signed by the man with the golden arm.
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6 years ago