Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Wilt Chamberlain's Restaurant, Boca Raton

As a Hippie staying at Boca Lago in Boca Raton, Florida in the late 70s/early 80s, my only escape was to go down the street to play video games at the arcade attached to Wilt Chamberlain's Restaurant & Bar.  There were games of chance or skill including shooting free throws on a basketball court in the middle of the space. As a reward for ‘winning’  you would get little coupons or tickets that you could trade in for everything from little pieces of plastic junk with Wilt's name to great clothing and hats.

 I could never save up enough of those little yellow tickets for anything good. In fact when people redeemed large amounts of ticket the worker behind the counter would have to weigh them rather then count by hand to determine how many there were. Watching the young man weigh the tickets; figure the amount; print a voucher and then toss the redeemed tickets in the garbage, I wondered ... 'What did they do with the garbage?'

 The next morning I went to back alley of the mall on Glades Road where Wilt's place was and dumpster drove. Right freaking on top of the garbage bin was a plastic bag filled with little yellow tickets and intact vouchers to redeem hundreds of credits.

 That night I returned to Wilt’s operation with and armful of tickets bundled with rubber bands and got me a nice black cotton hoodie and a couple of baseball hats that I would give to my Dad when I saw him.
 The kid behind the counter gave me a voucher for the remaining now thousands of credits and as he proceeded to plop my bundle of coupons right into the the same garbage that I got them from ...  I said to myself “Don’t tell me I have to come back here again tomorrow.”

 The pattern of dumpster diving and redemption went on for a few days. Between Wilt’s and my retrieving and selling lost golf balls to the duffers at Boca Lago Country Club I was, as it were, sitting pretty.

 But as I approached my fifth day and the small amount of little yellow coupons had grown to boxes of tickets that filled my Mother-in-law's little condo that backed up to the 14th fairway, I was having moral crises.  I could now trade my garbage booty in for hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise from not only at Wilt's place but from the other stores in the mall that he had made a deal with.

(To be continued.)


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