Chicago's the greatest

Chicago's the greatest

Monday, December 12, 2011

Georgie Profile & Charlie Red-Cheeks

Georgie Profile & Charlie Red-Cheeks
By Jon Slone

Something you should know before the story begins; I like quarters.

The reason I have a like-affair (Okay fine, love-affair) with quarters can probably be traced back to one man. And he goes by the name of Charlie McKenney.

(This next bit is me recalling a man from an argosy of mental pictures what have been stored up in my brain for forever and referencing a time between the years of 1976 through 1981)

Picture Santa Claus without his beard and incognito, hiding out in the hallways of a big Baptist church off of Nicholasville road…..that about sums it up. I say Santa more for his genialness and larger than life personality than any weight comparisons. Also, I swear Charlie’s cheeks were rosy every time I laid eyes on him.

Here’s how the quarter thing happened.

As fate would have it, the first pivotal encounter probably went down on your typical Wednesday night supper venue. As a kid (And even now) I loved soda. Sweet tea, milk, lemonade, water and prune juice were weighed and measured and all found wanting. They just couldn’t hold a candle next to a can of frosty-cold Coke or a gelid glass of arctic Mountain Dew fully equipped with those saturated ice particles that gorgeously slither down the outside surface of the damp decanter in a damp decanter soda commercial.

I asked Charlie if I could borrow a quarter and he smiled like you’d imagine Jesus would, from a kid’s perspective that is. He then dug his hand into his clinkety-clank pockets and fetched to the surface, a glimmering and dazzling quarter.

As a quick aside, why do we even say, “Can I borrow something?”

My objective as a 5 or 6 year old was not to temporarily sponge a quarter so that I could make a mad dash for the bank or my Mom’s purse and draw twenty-five cents out to then scurry back to Mr. Mckenney and make good on a sentence that had the word borrow in it.

This is no lie! On my 6th birthday, a friend of my aunts (Don’t know which one, though my mind’s eye is leaning toward Paula) asked if he could (Wait for it…) borrow my tee ball stand. Here is the priceless kicker….He was inquiring about the tee ball stand that I had just received as a birthday present that day!

Who does that?

29 year old man: Wow, cool Stretch Armstrong figure. Hey listen, you think I could borrow that for a few days?
Paula: Sure, that’s not spooky weird at all!
29 year old man: Come again?
Paula: Let’s see, Jon just opened it and they’ve already taken a picture of him with it…..and I’m not his Mother so I really couldn’t say with any certainty….sure, go on and take the little kid’s brand new toy!

Here’s how the rest of that story played out. On August 25th 1976 (The same day that Boston’s debut album dropped….which would go on to sell 17 million units) my tee ball stand left the birthday party and to this day, has never returned.

No lie!

Borrow my butt.

Needless to say, a few months later when baseball season came back around, I was totally off my game. The trauma of losing a birthday present on your birthday and to a creepy, can I borrow that line………well, it was just too much for me to shoulder. I switched to basketball and the rest is slam-dunk history.

Back to Charlie.

With one loaned-quarter transaction under my belt, a week later I asked to borrow another. Charlie smiled and lent me the 25 cent piece. I’m not gonna lie, I was sensing a pattern here.

I ask
He gives.
I need
He supplies.
I stick my hand out
He quarters it.

Not to mention the fact that I was falling for both Georgie Profile and Mr. Red-Cheeks respectively.

From there on out, I would ask for a quarter every time I saw Charlie. Most of the time I didn’t need a quarter at all. I just liked Charlie. It was our, “Hi, how are ya?”

Instead of,

Whut up
Good day
Top of the mornin’ to ya
Fine weather we’re having here.

We had:

Do you have a quarter I can borrow?

Truth is, Charlie looked like he could put a beating on you if he needed to. But that was not the way he operated.

Mr. McKenney was always soft spoken.
He always smiled.
And his cheeks were always red.

(I’m telling you, around him, the only thing missing were the reindeer.)

I saw Charlie a few years back. It was the first time I’d seen him in twenty or so years. It was at our old church. (My old church….his, I’m still going here church) He was in that same kitchen not fifteen feet away from our first encounter some thirty-two years earlier.

I asked him for a quarter.

He smiled as his hand quickly made contact with the interior fillings of his right pants pocket. Immediately, I heard the din of coins as they noisily bunched up with one another. In no time at all, Charlie presented me with a shiny new quarter, as if they just magically materialized within his enchanted pockets.

I now keep that quarter in my car.

I will never spend that quarter.

That’s a Charlie quarter.

Way too special, a Charlie quarter is!

Why am I talking like Yoda?

There in the kitchen, I told Charlie what he meant to me and how I probably loved quarters so much because of him. I also thanked him for never borrowing my basketball goal or my Stretch Armstrong. He was like, what? And I was like, never mind. Then he was like, hey, did you hear about that guy who was stealing tee ball stands? And I was like, huh, what are you talking about?

On a serious note, Mr. McKenney told me something really interesting. He said that for over thirty years, he had been keeping a dollar or two in change in his pocket at all times as a form of ministry. Sure, to help kids in need, but to also have perhaps a small moment to witness to them. To show, in words as well as actions, God’s love by giving what he had in his pockets as well as his time. And just think, I may have been his first customer.

So why presently do I like quarters so much?

I would first have to answer that by saying that there are way more reasons that I am completely unaware of than ones that can be articulated.

That said, two that do come to mind are:

1. I like to do magic with them. Make them disappear and stuff.
2. They transform into dollars real quick, and money is a nifty thing to have around.

I wrote a poem about my love of quarters. It’s in my book, Riggleberry Bloke and other silly whatknots.


Quarter Quarter
Yep I Got’er.
Might just Spend’er
Might Ought Not’er.

I like the Quarter
Said Smorgas Rickly.
It’s right much fun
And it adds up quickly!

Quarterly Quarter me
Scream some and Holler!
Three more Georges and we got us a Dollar!

Stick’em in Loafers
And place’em in Lockets.
They play nice with others
And sleep in my pockets.

Maybe I’ll whip one out to buy Gum.
Or could be I’ll get me a Soda with some.

Quarterly Quarter see
Shouldn’t thee Quarter me?
Rows nice and Orderly.
Borders on Forty-Three!

Sure likes the look of that Shiny new . . .

Hello, I’m Shminkle Shmoo. Smorgas just spotted another Quarter and went to procure it
(That means “Get it”). He told me to finish his poem but I don’t know how to write!
So, see ya later.

Charlie and Sharon McKenney

Jon Loves-Charlie-Red-Cheeks Slone

P.S. Charlie, every time you read this post could you drop me a quarter in the mail?


Great Album!


  1. Excellent my friend. So many good stories about the 'home' we were all fortunate to grow up in. I'm so thankful for great men in our youth like Charlie McKinney. Great job!

  2. Awesome reading! Charlie seems like a great have said so many good things about reading this it's pretty cool :)

  3. What an awesome tribute to a totally wonderful man. Charlie was as good hearted as any man I have ever met and I think that is what made Them such an outstanding couple in our church...all you ever heard was Charlie and Sharon...they were just the go to couple and this wonderful rehendering of a story for a very kind man. I think you did a great job telling this story and drawing us in to the sharings of childhood and the difference that one kind man can make in a child's life...I am happy to have known Charlie MacKinney....and I am proud of you for putting it on paper....I tell you something Jon...sometimes your writing is just transporting...this takes me back to that sweet time at Porter...thanks fo helping me remember....