Stacking bottles


About twice each summer, I use my tractor and rotary cutter to clip the right-of-way along the county road that borders my farm. My father always did this around the home farm where I was raised, so I guess that instilled my need to make the community a little more attractive. 

Last week, as I was performing the last civic duty of the summer, I must have chopped up at least a dozen plastic bottles, and a few glass ones, over the course of one mile of roadside. But, back in the 50s, poor farm kids would make money from some of this litter.

In the 1950s, a bottle of soda pop at Anderson’s General Store cost 10 cents…unless you wanted to take the bottle with you, which would require an additional 3 cents. This was most certainly the reason my friends and I, on the rare occasion of having 10 cents, would always consume the soft drink on the premises. But people with money, as well as idiots, would pay the extra 3 cents and end up discarding the empty, glass bottles in the road ditches. This played havoc on farm tractor tires when the locals mowed the right-of-way. However, those returnable and redeemable glass bottles were one of the only sources of quick income for poor farm kids in 1959.

One Saturday, my good friend, William, came by the house to tell me that his older sister was driving into town that evening. She had offered to drop us off at the movie house, and pick us up after the movie, if we had the 50 cents it took to purchase a ticket. Neither of us had 50 cents, but both of us really wanted to see the latest movie with our hero, Gene Autry. Quickly, we devised a plan.

I grabbed an empty tow sack, from the feed room of the milk barn, and we set out to collect 34 pop bottles. It was 3 p.m., and the general store closed at 5 p.m. If we were going to watch Gene defeat the bad guys that night, we’d have to be quick about it.

If beer bottles could have been traded in for 3 cents, we would have been finished by 4 p.m., but only pop bottles were allowed, and even then, if Anderson’s didn’t carry that brand of soda, the owner wouldn’t pay for the bottle. That’s when we began to curse brands like Bubble-up, Hires and Squirt because we found several bottles of those brands, but they were worthless to us.

We had made our quota of 34 bottles by 10 minutes after 5, but Mr. Anderson, who lived right beside the store, was good enough to open back up to cash in our bottle collection. Turned out that he was a Gene Autry fan, as well, and admired our efforts to raise the needed funds.

William’s sister was impressed by our efforts, as well, and gave each of us a dime to purchase a grape Nehi before the movie. Of course, we weren’t rich or idiots, so we drank the soda on the premises.

Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. Jerry’s daily exploits on the farm are now viewable on YouTube at “lifeissimple678”.To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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