Immortalized in pop culture, the red Solo cup is emblematic of the “party when ready” attitude  of the ‘70s generation. The Solo party classic will hold 10 ounces of liquid and is sold in a 36 count package.

It was Thursday night and my brother was meeting with a few of the neighborhood friends to work on a math problem. “We have two kegs…how much beer is that?” “15.5 per keg…31 gallons!” quipped Stan. “I get asked at the store,” he added. “31 gallons…I need to know ounces…should have paid more attention in home ec,” my brother muttered! “How many ounces in a gallon?” “We could measure it,” Rick recalled a recent lesson from his science class. “Dude…awesome idea!” They relocated to the kitchen where my brother located a measuring cup and gallon container. The crew watched intently as my brother transferred cup after cup of water into the container. “How many was that?” my brother asked as he eyed the filled container. “16!” was the quick response from Larry, excited for an opportunity to contribute. “16 cups to a gallon…8 ounces to a cup.” His fingers rolled over the TI-30 calculator, green digital numbers flashed. “We need 396.8 cups!” my brother proudly concluded. They all looked around at each other feeling satisfied that their education was coming to such great use so early in their lives. The brief silence was broken by Tony…”Won’t people drink more than one beer using the same cup?” Another brief silence before the group huddled back around the calculator…

Texas…the 28th state admitted into the union. Flight time from New York to Texas is approximately 3 ½ hours. My parents drove. Assuming rest and food stops, driving time is approximately 3 ½ days. Add on 3 days at the destination and 3 ½ days back…for a total of 10 days…plenty of time. My brother looked up from the calendar, we have 10 days before my parents return. “We’ll plan and prepare during the week and have the party a week from this Saturday; use the last day to clean.” “Sweet!”

“We should make a list of tasks,” Stan recommended as he looked up from the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass” album he had pulled from the stereo console. “Do you have any better music?”  “We’ll use my stereo…my records are upstairs” my brother responded. “Between all our friends…I’m thinking most of the class could be at the party.” It was 1978, graduation year for my brother. Congratulations class of 1978…all 1000 of you!

In my parent’s absence, my older sister was our voice of reason and common sense. In 1978, she was away at college. The planning continued for hours into the night until one-by-one my brother’s friends “booked” home. Alone in the den, my brother looked at the well-worked list:

  1. Pick up beer and 396.8 100 cups
  2. Buy snacks
  3. Music
  4. PARTYYYYYYYY (collect $ at door)
  5. Clean

“Excellent!” 418 miles away, my parents checked in at the Holiday Inn in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Most of Friday was spent at school, where my brother and his friends continued learning valuable lessons, which each of them, remembering the previous day’s events, reflected upon how they might apply to the current party situation. They reassembled after school to review notes.

“Aren’t you worried something will get broken?” Tony asked. “You sound like my sister!” as my brother wrote “breakables” on the expanding list. “I remember when my parents had a garage sale…they labeled everything, which was cross-referenced to a master list.” “Now you sound like your sister!” Tony retorted.

Each of the friends was given an assignment and they agreed they would reconvene at the party house on Saturday…the Saturday before the party to label household items. 1,061 miles away, my parents drove past Elvis’ Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.

Saturday…the last full workday before the party. My brother and his friends moved from room-to-room on the first floor; the second floor would be off-limits. They stuck labels on each item that included an index number cross-referenced to the master list my brother maintained. Labeled items including furniture and wall hangings were moved to the safety of the basement. My younger sister and I ate our cereal sitting quietly on the kitchen floor. My older sister studied in her college dorm room. My parents crossed the border into Texas…ahead of schedule.

By Sunday, the house was “party ready,” which allowed for a full week of party promotion activities to commence. The ensuing school days were used to “get the word out!” Friends to friends to friends to strangers to friends of strangers…and so on. Word travels fast and broad, but not yet to Texas where my parents were packing the car for the return trip.

The sun rose on party Saturday…the quietness of the morning belied the anticipated energy of the day’s planned event. Inside the party house, one keg sat in an aluminum tub waiting to be surrounded by ice. A stack of red 10 ounce Solo cups sat neatly on one of the hi-fi stereo speakers. Dust floated in the sun rays, which splayed through a basement window highlighting the neatly labeled and placed household furnishings. My younger sister and I ate our cereal sitting quietly on the kitchen floor. The day moved quietly forward, as did my parents.

Implementation of the best laid plan is often met halfway by chaos! Chaos came in automobiles…lots of automobiles…double parked around what the neighborhood referred to as “the big block.” Red cars, blue cars, cars of every color; I saw many sports cars and one Pinto. It was our Woodstock! My brother stopped collecting money halfway in…it became a free party. Free-for-all…and that’s what it was! We all know what happened…we all have stories to tell. I’ll leave it at that!

In hindsight, top weighting the planning process over the cleaning process was a nonsensical approach. My older sister continued to study in her college dorm room. The sun rose on Sunday…another quiet morning.  Inside, the house lay in ruins. Sunday…one day…cleaning day! My father laughed at something my mother said as their car passed back into West Virginia.

One thing must be said about my brother’s neighborhood friends. They were always there for him…through thick and thin. A thick layer of garbage stuck to a thin layer of beer on the floor! As they had in the planning process, they came together one more time – for the cleaning. Each with a distinct task, but also with one common task – getting their story straight! Floors were cleaned, walls wiped down, garbage picked up. The furniture and wall hangings were moved from the basement back to their original places; my brother, holding the master list, directed traffic.

My parents opened the front door. “You’re home early” my brother said as he greeted our parents. “How did things go?” my father asked. My brother looked back at my younger sister and me as we ate our cereal sitting quietly in chairs at the kitchen table. “Good…didn’t it” my brother nervously asked us. I removed a label from the table leg and stuck it on my pajamas.

My parents unpacked the car and within the hour were sitting in the living room relaxing; my brother was working on a math problem at the kitchen table. My father turned to my mother, “How about some Herb Alpert?” He opened the stereo console and there, placed on the turntable, was a lone red 10 ounce Solo cup…the party classic…

My father’s call-out of my brother’s name echoed throughout the neighborhood; in their respective homes, my brother’s friends all looked up in unison…

One thought on “Risky Business!

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