Scarfing and Smashing Coins

“It’s coming guys!  Get your coins out there now and get out of the way!”

Looking east, we could just see the locomotive making the turn to follow Lakeville Street to D Street where we’d piled our bikes to have lunch and wait for the train.

We weren’t going anywhere, although we all knew stories of guys; bums mostly who did use the freight trains to jump from one town to the next in search of adventure or cheap booze. We talked about trying it one day and bragged about what we’d do if we ever did.

I joined the fun, but knew well that I’d never actually jump a train and just go with it where ever it went. I liked my warm home with food, family, clean clothes and moderate use of alcohol too much to actually put all that at risk.

We set our coins on the track as planned and quickly stepped back to watch and see how this experiment worked.


Petaluma, California in the mid 1960s was a magic place to grow up with good friends, cheap bikes and plenty of free entertainment for a bunch of boys with lots of time on their hands and the freedom to wander as we pleased.

Most of us mowed lawns or did simple jobs to earn a few dollars each week which combined with moderate allowances, gave us everything we needed to wander, explore, dream up adventures and hit the Scarf and Barf restaurant at the corner of D and Lakeville for lunch whenever adventure found us nearby around lunch time.  We’d descend on the place like a hoard of 2-wheeled midget marauders, many of us with playing cards clothes-pinned into our spokes to make that great paper motorcycle sound.

We’d pile our bikes up in the shade on the north side and return to sit against the wall to enjoy our outrageously good-and-greasy burgers and fries. We’d talk about stuff important only to a squad of boys while enjoying their freedom and afternoon and the best burgers around.

If you were there, you know I speak the truth. If you never were, I’m so sorry but you have missed out on one of the most epics of growing up in Petaluma. 

It was years later when I finally heard the real name of the place.  The Snack Bar – seriously!? That name had no spirit, no pizazz. Everyone I knew called it Scarf and Barf, which like any small boy – I loved just the thought of naming a restaurant this and was disappointed to learn that it was only a term of affection that took root and would never let go.

Yes, they likely had other things to order, but the burgers were the reason anyone came there.

Yes, they likely had the first drive-through business model in town, but that was often blocked by a herd of small boys and sometimes their bikes making believe that we were driving-through ourselves..

Yes, like the sign says in the photo, you could get six of these burgers for $1.32 but that was later. I recall once accepting a friend’s challenge to buy and eat all six and it cost me all of $1.  And yea, it took me several hours to even think about ever eating again, but when I did, it was another one of those burgers that I wanted. . .

Scarf and Barf 2

But there was this one day, when we were sitting in the shade and the train came by about the time we were scarfing away and we got to talking about putting pennies on the railroad tracks to squash them because, how cool that would be? So, the next time we were there, we watched and waited and finally were were there at the right time and so, with the train in sight, we dashed out to the tracks and laid down our coins. I alone decided that just a penny was not going to be interesting enough so I invested 11 cents.  Yup, I put a dime on top of a penny to see what would happen.

Once our coins were in place, we scampered back to our greasy bags of food to eat and watch. There was an old train station to our left on the next block where sometimes the train would stop but more often than not, it would continue over to the grain elevator about a mile further west.

This time, we suddenly heard the domino like: bang – bang – bang – banging of the engine braking and this would always ripple back along the line of freight cars as the inch or so of play in their linkage would close and start to slow the cars down for the stop.  Well, shoot!, this meant the train was stopping at the station and we’d have to wait to collect our mashed coins.

So, we just had to sit there, finish our food like civilized feral kids, talk about springing for milkshakes, talk anything else (except for girls) and wait until the train moved on.

It finally did and we waited for the last car to pass and quickly collected our thin treasures.

Hmm — flat, dirty, irregularly oval-shaped and bent sheets of copper. Wow. This was so, unexciting. Whose bright idea was this anyway?

I bent down to find my double stack of a dime melded into a penny. It was different than the others, but whatever I dreamed it might look like, I was disappointed because it just looked like a metallic mess. Okay, “I’m going for the shake. Who’s with me?”

I kept it for a few years in a shallow drawer on my dresser just because it reminded me of that day when my whole world fit in my pockets, on my bike with my buddies making sure we were near Scarf and Barf for lunch and little else in the whole world mattered.

I had realized that the real treasure had been behind me the whole time and I could six of them for just one dollar.


GW bio card 4

19 thoughts on “Scarfing and Smashing Coins

  1. The MacKinnon’s frequented Scarf & Barf often. The oil from the fries would just ooze through the bag. Good memories 🍔 🍟

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember 8 for a dollar in the late 50’s early 60’s. Living in the country, we only got lucky to go to Scarf and Barf after one of my brothers Little League games. Mom didn’t have time to cook up another dinner having already prepared food for my dad and all the hired men at our dairy ranch.

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  3. I remember going there with my Grandpa to deliver their Ground Beef a few times when I was little. I knew the Meat market, but still hadn’t grasped the concept of the fact that what we were dropping off, were the Burgers in the end. Lol
    Same with the Poultry place and when we’d go pick up the Turkeys out at the Turkey Farm before Thanksgiving. It took me awhile until one day BOOM! After the Fire Grandpa went by to talk to the lady there and all the sudden I was like Ground Beef? Hamburgers? 1+1= Ohhhh??? Now I get it! Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great story. Boyhood can be so universal. You really create a time machine with your writing. Thank you

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    1. Hi D&E,
      I don’t recall that we’ve met. You blog name doesn’t sound familiar but I’m glad you found me and enjoyed this story. If you like this voice of telling such stories, there are a bunch of them that I’ve captured in very much the same tone. They’re all in a menu system by my age on my story blog, readable for free that I just enjoy sharing. At the very least you should try my personal favorite about the day a friend and I decided to try riding an inner tube down a steep hill, If you’re from Petaluma, it was the hill behind Grant School in the early 1960s. To leave you without excuse, I’ll leave you the link to get you started. https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/the-inner-tube-adventure/ . Afterwards, you can get more of this fun anywhere in one of the two “I Recall” menus. Thanks for stopping by. Do remind me if we’ve met. I am at that age when reminders are appreciated. All the best.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Gary. Thank you for the warm response. We have not met. I stumbled onto your website thru WordPress. I enjoy your writing. I have several blogs. Two of which are about my youth. I will send them to you soon. Meanwhile, please count me as your newest fan. Thank you. Howard

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Howard and welcome.
        Thanks for giving some shelter to the aging gray matter. I’m still working but took a quick glance at the link you shared. We both are telling stories and those we hope we, or someone recalls from our sub-adult years. I used to tell these stories verbally only until my daughter talked me into collecting them in a story blog. I had no idea how to do this, but decided it sounded like fun (some of the needed learning was NOT FUN but I’m so glad I did this as now their easy to share and I’ve had readers from around the globe and this both mystifies and excites me.
        Good to have you aboard. The voice and model I use is different than yours. Feel free to comment and see if I can defend the direction I chose. All my childhoon and growing up stores are in my “I Recall” sections. = Great to have you along for the ride.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Gary, thanks for the gracious reply. I started to read a few of your Junior High posts. Wow, you are a prolific writer. I like your style, and content! Looking forward to catching up on all your writings. My goal/s in my writing is to write a few memoirs, but in the spirit of getting it down on the page, I chose to share snippets on my blog/s. I have posted my two blogs of my youth on two different Facebook groups that are mostly composed of souls that shared my approximate coming of age time window. I did receive lots of praise. Which is gratifying as a writer. OK, enough about me. So glad to meet you. Looking forward to reading your wonderful words. Thank you :))

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      4. Hi Howard, I just read and really liked your post, “Leo’s Beach”. This was a great image but I have an admin question. I found the [-Like-] button but did not find a comment box. Do you not invite comments on stories? There’s no right or wrong here, but I enjoy the community building unique to blogging and post-comments is where most of that takes place.
        Also, to quote you, “Boys being boys we competed with each other…” and about going after the largest rock, I have to point you at my version of dealing with big rocks as a young boy. Many have argued that I have no business surviving this stunt, but it was SO MUCH FUN at the time.
        https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/the-rock-quarry-adventure/
        Hope you get a huge laugh from this story. I could see a guy like you being there with us.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hi Gary, thanks for your gracious words. Oh, there has been a comment box. Small chance that you aren’t signed in? I will check it out. Thank u

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Hi Howard.
        My but you’ve given me quite a day.
        I’m hopeful that your in an EST time zone and are an early riser. Thanks for the boatload of reads earlier. I do hope you found lots of fun stuff and maybe a few things you didn’t know of value.

        I was planning on sorting out this comment thing today. I would have guessed that I was logged in, but until proven, I’m taking your suggestion as open for study. I think we both use WPress and I’m essentially always logged into WordPress. I start my research with you link.

        Thanks again for all the time you gave me today. I think you are now an expert on my “I Recall” model for certain stories. They’re fun to write but even more fun to share.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hi. You are very generous with your gracious thanks. I appreciate our newfound connection. Looking forward to reading more of your gems! Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Just read! I remember being warned to never go near blasting caps! You were adventurous. Glad you lived to become an adult:))

        Liked by 1 person

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