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Walt Bodine
Early Years

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Linwood & Troost

It's significant to note, as Walt does in My Times, My Town, that when he was growing up there, the corner of Linwood Boulevard & Troost Avenue was truly the crossroads of the nation.

Two major highways intersected right there. U.S. 40, on its way from the Atlantic Coast to California, traveled along Linwood. U.S. 71 headed north and south across the central United States, followed Troost. Our store was on the southwest corner.
(My Times, My Town)

According to Walt, boredom was never an issue for the children in the neighborhood. Cheap entertainment abounded, whether it was watching the emergency vehicles making their rounds, observing the activities of a local drug house, or peeking at the new Chevrolets.

Listen: Peeking at the new Chevrolets
From Up to Date 12-4-2003

The sidewalks also provided a stage and an income opportunity for Walt and his fellow street performers.

Listen: Staging Mock Weddings
From Up to Date 12-4-2003

At the center of all this was Bodine's All Night Drugstore. It not only provided work for his immediate family but also for relatives who had lost their jobs or, in one case, their farm.

Goings on inside the Drugstore could be as interesting as anything going on out on the street. Walt’s uncle Willie served a dinner to the comedian Red Skelton and a last meal to reputed mobster Johnny Lazia (who was shot later the same night). To keep up with the competition, Walt’s father put an emphasis on customer service. He even went so far as to make a rule: No phone ever rings twice. On an overnight shift, Uncle Willie demonstrated the importance of that rule:

A man entered, pulled a gun, pointed it at Uncle Willie and asked for the cash. Just then the phone by the soda fountain rang. From habit, Uncle Willie told the stickup man, “Just a minute,” and raced over to answer the phone on the first ring. As he took the caller’s order the holdup man stood there with his gun, no doubt thinking, “I’m the bad guy, I have a gun in my hand, and this man goes off and talks on the phone.” All the customers were turning around to look at him. He put the gun back in his pocket and walked out.
(My Times, My Town)

Walt’s father also provided a unique service to customers hoping to avoid a black eye after a fight.

Listen: Four chairs and a bunch of leeches
From Up to Date 12-4-2003

Walt began working at the drugstore’s soda fountain at the age of 15 and quickly became notorious for the generous proportions of his malted milks.

I am sure the fountain never made a dime of gross profit when I was on duty. As a malt lover myself, I always had empathy for people needing a malted milk fix.
(Walt Bodine, What Do You Say to That?)

Read: Walt describes the perfect malted
From What Do You Say to That?

The neighborhood also saw the beginnings of Walt the future news hound and Walt the future broadcaster.

Next > A Nose for News

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