Metro-East Living

‘About time for a sandwich, Red’

Marie and Bob Tockstein, Terry Mackin’s Grandma and Gramps
Marie and Bob Tockstein, Terry Mackin’s Grandma and Gramps Provided

This daydream is inspired by National Sandwich Day which is Thursday, Nov. 3.

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I knew it was almost noon when my Grandpa said, “About time for a sandwich, Red.”

It was a weekday morning. We were in Gramps’ old car “running very important errands,” as he called them.

“Very important errands” meant Gramps and I driving around Alorton, Centreville, Cahokia and East St. Louis, visiting with his buddies who were also retired or working in a local shop or office.

By noon, we would be back home in the kitchen. Grandma would be making us each a sandwich. Gramps would say, “Go heavy on the ham for Red here, Marie. Growing boy.”

A ham sandwich on Wonder white bread, with a slice of Velveeta cheese, and a squirt of yellow mustard.

Gramps liked home-grown, sliced tomatoes on his ham sandwich. Mine was plain. I’ve never acquired a taste for tomatoes. To this day, I’m not a tomato fan.

Two smells you never forget: The sweetness of your grandma’s kitchen, and the wet, musty smell of your grandparents’ cellar or basement.

Gramps retired as a laborer when I was born in July 1959. I spent a lot of time at his home in Alorton as a toddler while my parents worked and went to school. I was his buddy.

My grandparents’ home was located near the old Cahokia Downs Race Track, off “Highway 460” or what we know today as Interstate 15. Highway 460 was the busiest street in my little world. It often took us what seemed like forever to cross it in Gramps’ old car. So many trucks and cars. Why are they in such a hurry?

Morning car trips with Gramps were a treat. We often went to interesting places. Horse track stables. Police and fire stations. Taverns. Church. Men smoked cigars, pipes or chewed Red Man chewing tobacco. Some mornings, there was a game of cards. There was always a piece of candy or gum in it for me.

“Red’s my bodyguard today,” Gramps would tell his buddies. They laughed like only a group of retired guys laugh when one of the gang is showboating his youngest grandson.

Another smell you never forget: Pipe tobacco smoke while sitting in the front seat of your grandpa’s old car.

Gramps followed lunch with a nap. I watched game shows on TV with my grandma. Or went outside and hunted for caterpillars or locust shells on trees.

***

National Sandwich Day is not a holiday. But it inspired a good daydream for me. It was a much-needed break from the serious noise and opinions about politics and the election.

I’m worn down. Seems like everybody has a strong political opinion. Whew. I appreciate a person’s interest in politics. But I don’t need your guidance or opinions, thank you. I’m capable of making up my own mind.

Thinking about National Sandwich Day was a good diversion from reality. Some other sandwich-related thoughts inspired by the upcoming National Sandwich Day:

Is there any better snack than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? My preference: heavy on the peanut butter and light on the strawberry jam.

Nothing goes better with a bowl of chili than a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) just like we once had at the old St. Philip’s Grade School.

One of my favorite sandwiches of all-time: Bologna, American cheese and crushed potato chips on two pieces of white bread. The crunch makes a difference!

A fried bologna sandwich is well worth the time of getting out a skillet. Especially when you have a thick piece of bologna. You can lightly burn the edges for crispiness. A little better than a fried Spam sandwich.

Why does a hot dog taste so much better at the ballpark than home? Better hold the mustard. I’ll just get it on my new Cardinals shirt.

Am I the only person who orders a BLT, but hold the lettuce and tomato, please?

The secret to good grilled cheese is quality bread and cheese. Sourdough bread and a chunk of Colby cheese hits the spot.

I have strong but non-medical evidence that a juicy cheeseburger is good for the soul.

This Thursday — National Sandwich Day — I encourage you to enjoy your favorite sandwich. Take a break from the election. Turn off your phone. Close your eyes. Think about a simple time when something as simple as eating a ham sandwich with your grandpa was the most important thing in your little world.

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