The little trail that led through the orange grove to the Jeske house was called Bonnie Cove Lane and was named after Bonnie Lutz who lived just next door to my Aunt and Uncle. Bonnie and her husband, Mr. Fritz, were a jolly old couple who I am still reminded of today every time I see Grandma and Grandpa on old reruns of the Walton’s. Every morning and again in the afternoon, Uncle Paul, Ginger, Charlie and I would walk the trail to see Mr. Fritz and Bonnie, and we would all sit under the shade of a massive old oak tree while I would fill them in on all of the adventures of my day. No matter what time of the day it was, all three grown-ups would take a time out for a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Bonnie would wrap it in paper towel and I wondered sometimes if she thought that she was hiding something from me. Ginger and Charlie would get their treat and I would get an ice cold Coca Cola, unwrapped of course. Nothing to hide there.
The Coke in those days came in the old six and a half ounce embossed bottles and we would play a game where everyone would try to guess the name of the bottling plant city that was embossed on the bottom. I think Mr. Fritz would always get a peek before we came over because he always seemed to guess the right answer. When it was my turn to guess, whether I was right or wrong, the prize was usually a lady finger banana, which he picked from a bunch right off of the tree in their yard. They were small but were the sweetest bananas I ever ate.
I truly loved to visit them and sometimes twice a day was not enough. If I caught a really big fish and Uncle Paul was not within eye shot, I would run with all my might to see Mr Fritz and Bonnie. Having never had living Grandparents, I loved those two people as if they were my own.
We lost Mr. Fritz sometime around 1975. I remember going to see him while he was in the hospital and though I did not get to go in to the room, I was excited that he knew I was there. As we were leaving, I looked up at his third floor room and saw him come to the window and wave at me. It was the last time I would see him alive.
I continued to go to see Bonnie, though less frequently, but it was never quite the same without Mr. Fritz. Bonnie became a little grumpier and I grew to be a little harder to entertain. Still, on the days that we would visit, there was always an open chair and it was as if Mr. Fritz was still there with us, drinking his beer and enjoying good company under the shade of that old oak tree.