Posts Tagged ‘family’

Unlocking Heaven

Monday, August 17th, 2009

church key can and bottle openerThis combination can piercer bottle opener is also called a church key, possibly somewhat ironically. You don’t see these around much any more. I bought a pair at a yard sale still attached to the original cardboard packaging. I’m not sure where the other one is. I have a few bottle openers, but nothing else with the can piercing end.

The church key reminds me of my grandfather. Like most everybody else in those days, my grandparents had a few of these in a kitchen drawer. It was used to open the cans of Ballantine Ale and A&P soda in the refrigerator at their house on Holly Avenue in Queens.

Beer was first canned in 1935, and a church key was required for drinking back then. Although the flip top came along by 1959, in 1967 there were still plenty of cans without one, including Ballantine Ale and A&P soda.  (Cans for the storage of food have been around since 1810, but the can opener was not invented until 50 years later. Prior to that, hammers, knives and rocks were some of the tools used to get at the goods.  In my book, a church key or can piercer can properly be called a can opener too, and that’s what I call it.)

Putting beer in a can doesn’t make much sense unless you have a convenient way to keep it nicely chilled. My grandfather went back and forth between calling the refrigerator the frigidaire and the ice box. Frigidaire was the first modern refrigerator. General Motors made them. A great name, Frigidaire. Even if yours wasn’t a General Motors Frigidaire, you called your refrigerator a frigidaire, later mostly shortened to fridge. I think my grandparents had a Philco at the time. It had a big lever handle that you pulled down toward you to open. It made a clunk sound when you did this.

Every morning my grandmother went to the kitchen and got a couple of eggs and beat them into a glass of milk, and left it in the ice box for my grandfather. She also poured him half a cup of black coffee before making herself a pot of tea and a soft-boiled egg with toast. He would come down and drink the egg in milk and fill the rest of his coffee cup with cold water and drink that.

I know a few other things about my grandfather. He wore a fedora whenever he went out. He thought you went bald by slicking your hair with water to comb it. He gave me my first script handwriting lessons. He liked to sit on the couch, which was encased in thick clear plastic for its entire existence, and watch baseball games and Ballantine ads on the black and white tv while reading Louis L’Amour westerns and smoking Chesterfield non filter cigarettes. He sometimes drank too much Johnny Walker Red. Once when he was in his late 60s or maybe early 70s he beat up a cop. Lucky for him his son-in-law at the time was an officer of the New York Police Department.

But the church key makes me think of my grandfather and beer cans and eggnog in the frigidaire, and long baseball games on tv and jets flying over my grandparents’ house on Holly Avenue in Flushing, Queens. These days I use my church key to open Welch’s grape juice cans. Tip: never carry one in your pocket.

Quick helpful fact: Frigidaire and fridge have a letter d but refrigerator does not.

Best  refrigerated poem.