Writing the piece on the Bean Field brought back some more memories of how I and some other kids profited from living near that field. Kids, at least kids back then loved to earn money. It wasn’t given to us, we earned it and we understood its value.
Every year when the field was cut, I and the few other kids in the area knew that the time for the bivouac was at hand. This was an annual event where the army at Fort Dix would pack up and hit the road to Fort Drum. A several mile long convoy of green Army trucks and Jeeps would roll North on Route 17, and exit at our sleepy berg. They always prearranged to overnight in the Bean Field.
All of us kids would watch with excitement as the MPs stood in the street directing traffic; signaling all military vehicles to pull into neat perfectly spaced rows in the field. Once all were parked the soldiers immediately set up their camp. Hundreds of pup tents went up in an instant. Larger mess, medical and command tents were set up as well.
When the dust settled we kids moved in to make some money. We would go from tent to tent asking the soldiers if they wanted us to get them a soda or some candy from the local gas station just down the road.
We seemed to know the limits of what we could carry back, so when the order was large enough from a couple of tents we’d fly off to the gas station and start pumping coins into the soda machine, and we get the candy bars from another machine. We’d swoop back, oddly never forgetting where our orders came from and which soldier got what.
We’d tell them how much the soda or the candy was and they’d usually pay us twice the amount. We never had to add a delivery fee, we worked for tips only. Not so much because we didn’t want the money, but we were kids and didn’t understand what a mark-up was. Plus we got to hang out with real soldiers who had guns and all sorts of cool equipment that kids loved looking at.
When we were finished with the first round, he’d hit all the tents again, and then once more before dark. The next day we’d collect all the empty bottles just before they broke camp and got back on the road. We’d collect and return all the empty bottles and keep the deposit money.
The field was left with flattened grass from where the tents stood. It was also rutted with tracks from all the traffic of the heavy vehicles.
They never stopped in the Bean Field on their way back to Fort Dix. Some kids in New York State got to work them on their return trip. Those soldiers did good things for me and the local kid economy in my small New Jersey town.