'Geezers Club': Local group grows stronger with free coffee

Friday, February 11, 2011
Solving the world's problems one cup of coffee at a time are, from left, Harold Wiggins, Phil Sanders and Arnold Lilly.

They've been going there for quarter of a century -- about as long as the place has been open -- and they've been buying coffee, but in recent weeks, they've not bought coffee.

It's been free at the counter because of a decision by the chiefs at McDonald's corporate headquarters, and it immediately became an opportunity for generosity among the self-described members of Lewisburg's "Geezers Club."

When McDonald's started its two weeks of free coffee, Jim Bingham, an engineer with offices on Lewisburg's public square, announced that he'd be buying the coffee for a while, but he insisted that the geezers show they're as big hearted as he.

A "Change for the Children" canister was passed around by Bingham, so the money that would have paid for coffee could go to the Tennessee Children's Home in Spring Hill. An undetermined amount of money has been collected by the fellas sharing faith, hope and love, the slogan printed on the can's wrapper. Bingham is offered an opportunity to make an announcement next week after Valentine's Day when the free-coffee offer ends.

Meanwhile, the old boys are asked what they're buying for their valentine gifts. Will it be better because they saved money on coffee for two weeks?

"That's a good question," Phil Sanders said, stalling to have time for a good answer. "I'll buy her a present and it'll be a good one; not necessarily better."

Others shied away from going on record, but a preacher in the group said his daughter has advice for procrastinators who could visit the jewelry shop just up the grade from McDonalds.

"Sometimes they'll bring around a pot of coffee," Harold Wiggins advised a newcomer to the coffee klatch, "but don't wait on it."

The self-described Geezers Club has no charter, but its history includes moving the meetings from the side dining room to the front hall. Why? "Because they built this out here," Sanders explained.

Coffee table talk isn't unique to Lewisburg. These public tables are where network news cameras go to get the local mood if there's a major development - anything from a UFO landing to a volcano eruption, or, more likely, national politics.

"There's a strong West Virginia influence here," retired mayor and part-time pharmacist Bob Phillips said, listing Brax Barnes, Arnold Lilly and Bingham's wife as diluting the purity of the Tennesseans at the table.

And as some discussion included a good film review for "The Alamo" with John Wayne -- aired again the night before on one of the oldies but goodies cable movie channels - the men acknowledged Tennessee's connection with Texas harks back to Davy Crockett.

Discussion shouldn't be called a crock. It was good-natured conversation including no caveat on accuracy at that moment or after publication of this report.

"We'll vouch for it," said someone who declined to be identified.

Another spoke of an associate said to "look like Hitler," and while the comment made an uneven point, others agreed: "Everybody knows him." The remark prompted a decidedly right turn for comments on school textbooks.

"They're trying to change history books," one of the men said.

Family values and relations weren't spared, either, as conversation grazed another conservative political issue when in-laws, outlaws and "a sorry nephew" came under scrutiny before another tangent could be heard. Cattle gates, fences and some sort of portable equipment were mentioned.

Income taxes on Social Security payments was another topic. FDR said in a letter to another politician that the payments shouldn't be taxed.

There were at least a dozen at the tables that morning when those who had to leave were warned: "If you leave, we'll talk about you."

It's true. They did.

Bingham left because it was senior day at Kroger's grocery and he had a passel of coupons.

Once he was gone, the story was told about when he slapped a $20 bill on the table, challenging someone to mount up. Bingham's bike seat is high. The challenge was accepted and the $20 bill is displayed now and again by Brax Barnes.

During a fact-checking call to Bingham's engineering officer, the self-described "Green Geezer" replied, "Now, I've got every reason to rough him up."

Bingham's moniker is based on the green vest he wears when riding his bicycle.

"They were teasing me about how high the seat is. There's a science about that [for power pedaling] and I didn't think he could get his sorry legs up that high."

But Barnes did and rode around the parking lot.

"That's about as close as you can say," the "Green Geezer" confirmed. "But he took it by implication that I was challenging him and I guess I was."

So, Barnes got the $20 bill and Bingham admitted his coffee klatch money-grubber "pleasantly" did rather well given the fact that "the man has only one kidney and is pushing 80."

The attitude exchange got worse that Wednesday. Bingham left the Children's Home contribution can at the coffee house "and he hid it... Anybody who would steal from orphans probably should be put in jail," the Green Geezer said during the fact-checking call.

He estimated the amount of money in the can to be about $10 and reports that the average is $91 when they're delivered.

A roll call of Geezers Club members who got free coffee during McDonald's give-away includes Harold Wiggins, Phil Sanders, Arnold Lilly, Bernard David, Bob Phillips, Brax Barnes, "Lucky Larry" Eastep (because his son is a CPA), Mac Fowler, J.B. Anderson and the "interloper," George Beecham.

(Because of the nature of the interviews, consumption of coffee and liberal application of loose talk, no claim of total accuracy is made for this story other than the fact that they were there and the coffee was free.)