In Heaven there ain’t no beer
That’s why we drink it here
And when we’re gone from here
All our friends will be drinking all the beer
In their formative years, children learn all types of cute little songs and finger plays. The one song that stands out in my mind from those times of yours truly is quoted above. Understandably so, the song didn’t plant itself in my skull by traditional means at school, church, or at home.
Instead, it came from the periodic visits made by my family to Shakeys.
For those of you not in the know, Shakeys is a pizza parlor. Back in the 70’s, it was one of two pizza joints that I can remember which served the needs of the small Wyoming town in which I grew up. Shakeys was the place to be on any given night, especially if that night followed a pay day.
Whereas it’s commonplace today, the mere presence of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Dig Dug in the pizza parlor would have presented quite an ugly anachronism. Instead, there was a pinball machine and a window where kids could watch pizza being made.
At this particular establishment, a piano player who went by the name of “Mac” dressed up in the stereotypical vaudevillian garb would sit at the piano on the small stage and lead everyone in the restaurant in a sing along. The lyrics to all of the songs were projected onto to the wall by a slide projector. The one song I remember from those times is posted above.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a slide projector is, consider it the beta version of a media projector.
Children were always invited to stand at the piano with Mac, under the condition that they didn’t touch the piano. After all, the standard rule at the time was that “Polacks see with their hands.” (Here in Texas, we have Aggies. In Wyoming, we had Polacks or South Dakotans.)
I can remember having all different types of get-togethers there. Dad threw a holiday party (back in those days it was called a “Christmas party”) for his employees there one year. That was the first time I ever saw someone order pineapple on a pizza. Given the small town mentality we all had there, the culprit who ordered such a topping was subsequently suspected of practicing pagan rituals.
Sadly, time moved on.
The need for the atmosphere provided by Mac and his piano went by the wayside when arcade games were installed as a precursor to the information age.
It was during that time that I found myself doing some community service work through the youth group at my church. My specific duties were to visit Mac once a week to help him out with his housework, grocery shopping, and negotiations with the Rubik’s Cube.
Years later as I entered high school, the local Shakeys went out of business due to it’s inability to compete with other national chains which had moved into town and offered the ability to deliver.
In turn, the building it inhabited became a pretty darn good liquor store which never carded me when they should have. Even in those days when my buddies and I would darken the door, I couldn’t help but singing that song I had learned at that spot so many years ago.